“Nothing is permanent”
It’s a shame that films like Sal Bardo‘s Pink Moon are necessary for some to realize the true value of human life, but that’s the world we live in. Even with the Supreme Court ruling for same sex marriage throughout the United States, we are a long way towards equality. Many Republicans still refuse to budge on the topic, for all intents and purposes making a return to the White House a tenuous proposition at best. And you surely know someone whose knee-jerk reaction to two women or two men kissing in public is to wrinkle his/her nose in disgust and possibly turn to you for confirmation. Homosexuality still keeps some at arm’s length from accepting a member of the LBGTQ community as human—as someone worthy of their own rights. But what if the tables were turned?
This is the main conceit of Bardo’s film: a world where heterosexuals are the second class citizens and abortions are outlawed due to the fact reproduction is obviously rare as a result. I feel a bit weird relaying this information because I do think not knowing helps you to appreciate the filmmaker’s gradual reveal, but it is spoiled in the synopsis so perhaps it doesn’t matter as much as I think. There’s something to our uncertainty of this point, though, because we see Ben (Brandon Tyler Harris) with girlfriend Emily (Cole Johnston) first. They’re naked under her covers, frightened at her mother’s knock on the door because they don’t want to be caught. It seems like a “normal” reaction until much later on when the rules of this world come into focus.
It’s a testament to Bardo’s construction that it takes so long to understand. Everything seems like it’s anchored in our dimension, even when Ben inexplicably is found in Leo’s (Adam Jepsen) bed shortly thereafter. Here’s a homosexual boy caught in a heterosexual relationship, unsure about coming out of the closet. It makes sense until Leo’s buddies are the ones who jump Ben on his skateboard yelling an obscenity like “Breeder” in his face. A switch is flipped and we realize the prejudice has been reversed—everything that has happened thus far becomes reinterpreted through this different lens and epiphany hits. How do you force a bigot to understand what they’re doing is wrong? You put them in the victim’s shoes. You show them what it’s like and hope they don’t default to, “But that’ll never happen.”
I liken Pink Moon‘s success to an exercise my art teacher had us perform when we became too close to a drawing. He’d say turn the page upside down and acknowledge the isolated proportions/composition. Our eyes get so attuned to creating resemblance that we lose all sense of perspective and scale. The same can be said for those who see homosexuals as lesser than themselves. They need to turn it around and look at the issue without labels. They need to see happiness and human beings, realizing they’d never allow someone else to prevent them from pursuing the life they deem owed to them. So why are they doing it to others? We watch Emily’s mother (Sandy York) scold her and say she’d never build a family with a boy and we think it’s absurd.
That’s the point. It is absurd—but not because heterosexuals have the right to breed. It’s absurd because everyone does. There’s honesty to the performances and story because they’re everything we know to be true. We can relate to these characters on both sides, empathize and vilify in equal measure no matter what side we’re on. So when the roles are exposed as reversed, anyone with prejudice has to start looking inward to question motives and see they are the villains. This is easier said than done, but Bardo definitely has something here to start bending perception and forcing those incapable of open-mindedness to see the complexities of what they so blindly believe. There really is no difference between this world and ours. They’re both wrong and it’s our task to change them.
Watch Pink Moon for yourself here.