Queerly Ever After is a bi-monthly column where I take a look at LGBT+ films that gave their characters a romantic happily-ever-after. There will be spoilers. Also, don’t forget to buy your Queerly Ever After merch right here.
In keeping with the Shakespeare theme from my last entry, this week I am going to cover Were The World Mine, a musical adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, albeit a significantly more loose adaptation than Private Romeo was of Romeo and Juliet.
In Were The World Mine, directed by Tom Gustafson, Timothy (Tanner Cohen) is a bullied, gay high school senior at an all-boys private school. When he is cast by his eccentric English teacher, Ms. Tebbit (Wendy Robie), as Puck in the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which the whole senior cast is required to take part in, he discovers his own inner Puck. One night, while reading through his lines at home, the words magically disappear and instead become the potion to create the play’s love-pansy. Now, armed with a flower that will make anyone fall in love with the first person they see, he decides to use it on his crush, school jock Jonathon (Nathaniel David Becker), who may already be developing feelings for Timothy.
Keep it Gay
Just as Jonathon and Timothy are about to kiss, the other boys start to bully him, so he decides it’s their turn to experience his life and sprays the flower into the eyes of his fellow students, while Ms. Tebbit, the real Puck of the movie, watches on amused, causing all the boys to fall in love with each other. Deciding that the whole, homophobic town needs to change, Timothy goes about putting the potion on a handful of the townsfolk, including the macho, homophobic rugby coach (Christian Stolte), making him fall in love with the school headmaster Dr. Lawrence Bellinger (David Darlow), and his mother’s boss Nora Fay (Jill Larson), making her fall in love with his mother, Donna (Judy McLane). He does also accidentally spray his best friend Frankie’s (Zelda Williams) boyfriend Max (Ricky Goldman) with the flower, leading Max to become enamored of Timothy.
By the end of the movie, Ms. Tebbit convinces Timothy that free will must be restored, and during the finale of the performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a restorative potion rains down onto the audience as well as the cast, making them return to their selves, albeit having learned a lesson about homophobia. Sadly, he also has to administer the remedy to Jonathon, but as it would turn out, the love potion only amplified the feelings that Jonathon already had for Timothy and he is still in love with him.
The Thing About Consent
Overall, I did enjoy this movie. It was fun to watch Wendy Robie, who many will recognize as Nadine from Twin Peaks, have a blast in her mischievous role. That being said, there was a glaring thing that stood out to me, the issue of consent. Anyone under the influence of a spell can never truly give consent, at least in the case of the Shakespeare play, the potion is never placed upon someone to make them fall in love with the spell-caster, but here, Timothy uses it to enthrall his crush Jonathon.
Did Jonathon already like Timothy? Yes, but the spell still affected his behavior in ways that made the beginnings of their relationship too much of a power imbalance. It could have been interesting instead to explore how, because Jonathon already liked Timothy, the potion would have no effect on him, explaining that it can’t make you fall in love with someone you are already in love with. Yes, this movie came out in 2008 when the conversation around consent was different than it is today, but that will never be an excuse. After all, isn’t a movie timeless when it transcends the boundaries of its own time?
In Conclusion: Were The World Mine
This is ultimately an enjoyable musical rom-com, and fun adaptation of a Shakespeare classic. It is not without its flaws and its missteps along the way, specifically in regards to its lack of acknowledging how the love potion negates a person’s autonomy and thus cannot give consent. It’s a can of worms that I don’t think was actually taken into account when making this movie, but watching it from a modern lens, it stands out.
Were The World Mine premiered at the Florida Film Festival on March 31, 2008, it came out in the UK on May 18, 2009. For all other release dates, see here.
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