Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

August 25, 2021

Poly-themed movie 'Ma Belle, Ma Beauty' opens in theaters. "How polyamorous people are dating again after vaccination." And other polyamory in the news

●  Remember the early press last winter about the indie movie Ma Belle, My Beauty? It just opened in theaters in the US and is getting some notice in major media.

– Here are excerpts from the long, positive writeup on the NBC News site, in its NBC Out section: 'Ma Belle, My Beauty' brings queer polyamory to the big screen (Aug. 19)

By Max Gao

...[Filmmaker Marion Hill's] “Ma Belle, My Beauty” — which won the Audience Award in the NEXT category at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and premieres in theaters Friday (Aug. 20, 2021) — follows Bertie (Idella Johnson) and Lane (Hannah Pepper), two formerly polyamorous lovers who reunite for the first time in years at the insistence of Bertie’s husband, Fred (Lucien Guignard).

Bertie and Lane

Two years after Lane gratuitously disappeared from their lives in New Orleans, Bertie and Fred have gotten married and moved to Fred’s family home in the French countryside. ...Fred decides to enlist Lane’s help to get Bertie out of a creative and emotional rut. But when Bertie refuses to buy into Lane’s attempts to re-create their old carefree dynamic, Lane begins seeing a stunning Israeli ex-soldier named Noa (Sivan Noam Shimon), which quickly reignites dormant jealousies.

...Unlike traditional casting processes, in which writers or directors try to match actors with specific characters, Hill said that, while she had an outline for the story, she always intended to collaborate with actors to create characters that rang true to their own experiences. That meant “incorporating parts of their personality, their gender, their background, their race and culture into what was going on in the script,” she said.

[...Said Hill,] “The whole film is referring to this relationship they shared in the past and watching them kind of figure out how to be with each other now. They’re just in this room sharing the most powerful, intimate version of what they have, so that really influenced the lighting, and we wanted it to feel dark and almost chilling.”

In terms of blocking the scene, Hill said it was always important to emphasize the contrasting power and sexual dynamics between Bertie and Lane by showcasing “the subtleties of how their bodies are moving together, how they're speaking to each other, and seeing who is seeming really comfortable in what moment.” ...

“This is them in a vacuum, and there’s no one watching them,” she said. “That scene is our look into the depth of what they have, what they share.” ...

Hill said she also had to do some research about polyamory while she was writing the screenplay. ... “I think what was most eye-opening for me when I was learning about polyamory for the first time was how much of it is communication and is consent-based rather than sex-based,” she said. “I wanted to also kind of explore the beauty of polyamorous partnerships that might not be sexual, like the Fred and Lane relationship, which again comes out of tremendous trust and empathy and kind of the sense of family that, historically, we haven’t really seen when it comes to relationships involving more than two” people.

– And this review just appeared in the Washington Post (Aug. 24): This polyamorous romance, set in the South of France, captures the pleasures of late summer. The reviewer gives it only two stars out of four.

By Ann Hornaday

“Ma Belle, My Beauty” comes pre-drenched in the languid pleasures of late summer; for anyone looking for a respite from and a celebration of the season’s drowsiest dog days, it works a trick.

...Their band is scheduled for a European tour in just a few weeks, but Bertie has been avoiding rehearsals. In an attempt to jump-start her creative juices, Fred extends an invitation to Lane (Hannah Pepper), who was Bertie’s lover in a polyamorous — but decidedly mono-directional — relationship back in NOLA.

Mono-directional because, although Fred and Lane enjoy an easygoing friendship, it’s Bertie they both love. As the hot summer days wear on, the dynamics get dicier and more delicate, with Lane plainly longing to resuscitate what she and Bertie once had, Bertie harboring submerged yearnings and jealousies, and Fred — well, Fred’s just enjoying all the food, wine and music his community has to offer, with an occasional dip in the local river for refreshment.

At its best, “Ma Belle, My Beauty” perfectly captures the casually cosmopolitan rhythms of expat life at its most bohemian and low-key sybaritic. ... Reminiscent of the sun-kissed films of Eric Rohmer, “Ma Belle, My Beauty” is a movie best appreciated simply by sinking into its sensuous pleasures, rather than expecting narrative novelty or emotional fireworks.

Indeed, what story there is in “Ma Belle, My Beauty” turns out to be blandly conventional, despite its unconventional contours. The relaxation that Hill conveys so well eventually gives way to lethargy, as Bertie and Lane’s psychodrama plays itself out. Although Johnson and Pepper are terrific actors, Hill hasn’t given them much to portray as characters; the depths of their bond and betrayals are kept vexingly opaque.

Rather than a meditation on desire, “Ma Belle, My Beauty” becomes a portrait of how people simultaneously crave intimacy and keep each other at bay. Viewers may wish there were more to it, but what’s there is teasingly intriguing. “Ma Belle, My Beauty” may be a mere bagatelle, but it’s a diverting and attractive one.

Unrated. In English, French and Spanish with subtitles. Contains brief strong language, nudity and sexuality. 93 minutes.

– Trailer:

[Director ]Marion Hill ... feels stretched thin in the end product, and it’s the writing that ultimately suffers. The performances are wound tight and the setting is undeniably gorgeous, but Ma Belle, My Beauty feels uninterested in its characters’ motivations and their main source of conflict—how to manuever the complicated cogs of the polyamorous machine.

A Beautiful Depiction of Love in Its Many Variations

By Dan Skip Allen

I've been watching movies for quite a long time and I've seen a lot of films come out. Usually, you hear about great films because of word of mouth, but sometimes they slip under the radar. Ma Belle, My Beauty is one such film.

...[Marion] Hill demonstrates her ability to ramp up the tension throughout the film through various conversations of what the motivations between the women truly are. Why did certain people come back? To make up for previous mistakes or get into new relationships that tear down the previous ones? The dialogue works so well among all the cast. The actors can believe what they are saying. The passion that stems from it is incredible. 

This is one of the most realistic films about love and its many variations I've seen in years. ...

ScreenRant (Aug. 22):

Marion Hill Directs Delicate, Honest Romantic Drama

By Ferdosa Abdi

Director Marion Hill does a lot with a little to transport the audience to this place and to be with these characters through effective visual storytelling and sound design. It is as if Hill was a documentarian embedded amongst a lively community and just happened to have an interesting story unfold before her camera. ...

Hill does well to not force feed her audience the backstory for this throuple. Casual conversations between the characters reveal the three were in a polyamorous relationship — specifically, Bertie was dating Lane and Fred, who were not romantically involved with each other. Although Lane and Fred don’t ever get romantic and remain in a platonic friendship, there is mutual respect. For those who are unfamiliar with polyamory, this is perhaps the most straightforward depiction that doesn't try to justify any of these character’s choices or judges them.

...What’s beautiful about this film is the delicate and honest depiction of people grappling with their emotions and not necessarily going about their problems the “right” way. Many people are Bertie, bottling up tough emotions, withdrawing, and not seeking help. Many are Fred, outsourcing help, attempting to roll past any inconvenience with a smile on their face for the sake of those they care about. And many people are Lane, simply deflecting, running away, and being somewhat reckless with other people's feelings. ... This film is not just a love story, it’s a story about love.

The Daily Californian, the student newspaper of UC Berkeley (Sept. 1):

By  Chloe Forssell

One of the bigger disappointments in the film is the degree to which Hill misses the mark when it comes to the polyamorous relationship. Hill works so hard to create a script that doesn’t sensationalize a polyamorous relationship that the potential for deeper conflicts is zapped out of the narrative. There is no room for the relationship to breathe and no chance for nuances; this film could have broken ground, but instead, it fell flat. 

Hill herself says polyamory is “a world in which respect and communication and self-love are the driving force. Those are things people in all relationships should be thinking about more. For me, it’s expanded how I move through the world generally.”


On to some other poly in the media!

Dating multiple partners was hard enough before a pandemic. With vaccines in arms, the community is adjusting to its new normal.

Kasia Popova /Adobe

...Now, with vaccines in arms, the community is starting to feel safe enough to start dating again.

"This time last year, every visit with a partner was a complex calculation of risk and timing," says Praveen, a Bay Area polyamory veteran of five years.

"We had to book Airbnbs out in the country to navigate one of my partner's testing schedules as an essential worker."

...Partners had to ask themselves tough questions: Do we want to continue our relationship virtually? Should we break up? When can I kiss you again?

Trust [is] the name of the game.... Nearly everyone asked variations of "Are you vaccinated? Do you want to come over, or should we go for a walk?"

But in many ways, the poly community was better prepared for these conversations than most.

Conversations about STD transmission are commonplace between non-monogamous partners. The preventative measures that stop chlamydia from coming home applied well to COVID-19. Frequent testing, open conversations and non-judgmental disclosure are the cornerstone tools for keeping all partners healthy and safe.

"We had a situation for a while where we all got tested for COVID-19 about every other week.  My primary partner and I would go once every two weeks. Our partners were both getting tests weekly," said Eric.... "We never spent time out of one another's homes. We got to be intimate quickly because there literally was nothing else to do but watch Netflix and have sex. Now we actually go out to places, have social gatherings and introduce them to our friends."

...For many polyamorous people, the transition back to dating is as difficult as stopping in the first place. Partners express increased intensity in feelings of jealousy or anxiety after a long period without change.

"We're all trying to put the constellation of our relationships back together while still being mindful that most of us are different than we were a year ago," says Rachel, an Atlanta-based queer and polyamorous dater....

●  Someone who never imagined that poly relationships would work for her found herself in the middle of them working: I am in a polyamorous relationship with my boyfriend and his girlfriend (HuffPost, April 23, recently reprinted other places). 

I never planned on it, but it’s where I am, and more and more it feels like family.

Placebo365/ Getty
By Rebecca Jane Stokes

For the past two years, I have been the third member of a polycule ... a cute name for a network of people who are connected through their romantic partners in a polyamorous relationship. In our case, my boyfriend has a girlfriend. She is not my girlfriend, but we do get along really well.

When I started dating my boyfriend, I was on the rebound. ... His profile was direct. He was in a polyamorous relationship with his live-in girlfriend of eight years. That was something Becca the Serious Dater would have viewed as a dealbreaker. But Becca on the Rebound thought, “Eff it, we won’t be together long enough for any of that to even matter.” ...

The joke was on me: Rob and I connected in a real way, and we decided to give the relationship a shot. I learned really fast that to Rob ― and to any polyamorous person worth their salt ― openness and communication are key. To that end, it was important to Rob that I meet his other girlfriend pretty quickly. After about a week of dating, he invited us both out to dinner where we got to know each other.

I anticipated a weirdness like none I had ever known before … but it didn’t happen.

I kept telling myself that the second this felt strange or bad I was done. It’s a mindset I still keep, and I’m still waiting to feel like this is all too much for me. Feels like I’ll be waiting a while! ... I’m living the non-monogamous life, and to be honest, it’s pretty different from what I expected.

I like to describe non-monogamous living as an umbrella. That umbrella covers all sorts of people who engage in anything other than monogamous relationships: swingers, polyamorists, those in open marriages, those in open relationships and more.

...When I stay at his place, I sleep in the same bed with him and his other girlfriend. He’s in the middle (in utter heaven). We all think female-male-female threesomes are hot, and we do from time to time have sex all together, though it’s more common for us to have sex separately, if adjacently, to each other.

We are all allowed to date whomever we want to date. If we are going to have sex with someone with whom we aren’t in a committed relationship, condoms are a must. If we plan on beginning a relationship, we introduce that person into the dynamic relatively quickly ― it just works easier for us. ... This is the relationship that works best for me, and I’ll talk about this stuff to anyone who will listen. 

...I have to say that when I want to talk about my boyfriend, I feel exceptionally spoiled to have another woman I can turn to WHO TOTALLY GETS IT! AND HIM! ...

Notice how she called polyamory just one thing under the umbrella of consensual non-monogamy, alongside "swingers, those in open marriages, those in open relationships, and more."

Good for her. I'm a lifelong word person; since 1973 the world has paid me a good living to edit text to be more precise, clear, and incisive. So I was long concerned that as the polyamory movement grew and popularized, the meaning of "polyamory" could blur and come unmoored from our movement's powerful ideas, leaving no word to google them by.

I'm less worried now, because media new and old — under the watchful tutelage and corrections by so many of you! — have been trained to get the concepts right: if it's polyamory it's fully informed, fully consensual, ands carries an ethos of mutual respect and good will throughout a romantic network, at least as the ideal. Nowadays the media usually get this right by themselves.

●  For instance, Lifehacker is a popular site for everyday shortcuts and explanations: The Difference Between Polyamory, Swinging, and an Open Relationship (May 21)

By Sam Blum

...Polyamory “is a form of consensual non-monogamy (CNM) with emotionally intimate relationships among multiple people that can also be sexual and/or romantic partners.”  The whole enterprise functions according to “shared agreements about sex and relationships” between the people [says ] Elisabeth Sheff...  “Dating as a polyamorous person means you’re not looking for just one person to share a romantic or sexual connection with.”  Obviously, this dynamic necessitates a lot of trust, communication, and consent between all parties. If jealousy starts to arise, which is understandable for most people, it’s likely to erode the trust necessary for such an arrangement to function, so experienced poly people in successful relationships become great at communicating what they want and need from everyone involved. ...

Open relationships are a bit different, in that the term usually applies to [less intertwined] sexual endeavors. ... Typically, open relationships function according to strict rules . ... 

Swinging typically involves a monogamous couple searching together for a sexual partner who isn’t involved in their relationship. ... Swinging can be a lifestyle unto itself. And in fact, many of its adherents refer to it as exactly that. ... While it definitely borrows some aspects from open relationships, swinging is purely transactional and, as a result, naturally thrives within its own particular communities.

“Swingers are typically heterosexual couples and individuals with a variety of forms of ‘swapping’ or exchanging partners.” ...

While all of these relationship categories are contingent upon the preferences of those involved, there’s one overarching theme uniting them: Trust. It’s imperative to be respectful and get the consent of everyone involved in any relationship, no matter how many people are involved. 


And some random bits:

●  Sign of the times: Investment News, for financial planning advisers, presents An Atlanta adviser takes pride in serving polyamorous clients overlooked by traditional planners (Aug. 13).

●  Sara Valta, Finnish cartoonist whom we have seen before, has started a weekly autobiographical Polyamory Comics about her communal vee. That link is to the English version, but she's got a book of them coming out in Finnish.

BTW, the Queer Comics Database has a polyamory tag, though it's often applied for flimsy reasons.

●  So it's not just me and mine! I ran across this from Page Turner of Poly.Land: Most of the Polyamorous People I Know Are Some Degree of Demisexual (Jan. 4).

● The British tabloids, as they churn out endless happy-polyfamily profiles, aren't always just spotlighting the young. A middle-aged and elderly triad (56, 45 and 69) got featured in the Daily Mail: Woman who lives with a polyamorous couple reveals she has a 'sex contract' that schedules sex with the man on set week nights, his girlfriend on a Friday and dates as a trio on Mondays. They're in Portland, Oregon:

Cliff, Melanie, Charity

And okay... for the record... here some of the many other tabloid profiles since my last batch. I've long since quit trying to keep track of them all.

–  Inside the fascinating life of California woman who raised a son with TWO live-in lesbian lovers in the early 1900s after marrying a man to get pregnant. A California man found a century-old family photo and investigated his unusual forebears. He said he "wanted to shed light on lesbian erasure in family histories."

That's it for now. Love to you all.

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