Everything Everywhere, All At Once LGBTQ Personal Essay
“Wait,” Everything everywhere all at onceof Jobu Tupaki (a to be interdimensional unequaled cosmic power and chaos, covered in blood and glitter, having just killed three men) said to his mother. “In this universe, are you still hooked on the fact that I like girls?”
This was the moment that hit me like a spear in the chest. I sat up straighter. My eyes widened and immediately filled with joy. How could I have prepared myself for this moment, when a young woman asks her mother to see her as something other than just queer?
Evelyn Wang (played by michelle yeo), who saw someone who looks like his daughter – but definitely isn’t his daughter – commit a handful of murders, doesn’t respond, but continues to drag her husband’s unconscious body (Waymond Wang, played by Ke Huy Quan) to security. Jobu (or Joy Wang, depending on which universe we’re in; both are played by Stephanie Hsu) follows Evelyn, annoyed and bewildered. She’s just several non-living people. She broke the laws of physics, space and time, and her mom is hung up on the fact that she’s gay? At that time, I sided with Jobu. There’s so much more interesting to this scene than the main villain’s implied campy quirkiness. But to have this fear, this homophobia, expressed so casually, so blatantly, so dismissively, hit harder than I ever imagined walking into Everything everywhere all at once.
I had to go out twice with my parents. The first time was in 2013 when I graduated from college, when I was off my parents’ payroll (just in case, you know), when I had my first real work and had just moved nearly 1,200 miles north of my rural southern hometown. They were helping me move, and as we passed the LGBTQ center, my dad said something about “all the letters” and asked what Q stood for. I explained, and he just shrugged, indifferent.
Later that day, I told my dad about it while we were sitting in a cafe that I identified as gay. My dad (bless him) didn’t look surprised at all and just nodded. I was always a tomboy, I hated dresses, I was a sportsman. His sister (my aunt) was a lesbian, in the sense that the first people are lesbians when pronounced “roommates”. When my mom came back with our coffees, he said to her, “Robin, did you know that Lin is Q?”
My mom (bless her) just smiled and said “Of course! They’re very cute!” I don’t know if she misheard or didn’t want to hear it. I don’t know if it was a mistake or not, although I’m pretty sure it was just because that she had never thought of it in her life. I explained that dad meant queer, like in most girls.
After Evelyn realizes that the Alpha version of her daughter is an interdimensional evil, she imagines that Jobu Tupaki is in control. his Joy Wang of the universe. When she convinces herself that Joy is more or less possessed by this alternate version of her daughter, the film turns inward (and outward, and everywhere else) as a slow archeology of Evelyn and Joy’s relationship. .
There’s a part of Evelyn that’s convinced that Joy is possessed. because Joy is cheerful. For Evelyn, Jobu’s homosexuality is something totally separate from his joy. The fact that her daughter is gay is not part of who she is, but an addendum, like a footnote, added after she put all these expectations in place for her daughter. Because Evelyn just can’t figure it out, Joy’s homosexuality is entirely part of another universe.
When I came out to my mom as transgender, she needed more than a footnote to really understand what I was trying to say, what I was trying to tell her. A little like Everything everywhere all at once is a film about the failure of explanations, I realized that I could never really tell my mother who I was. Being non-binary and transgender was not a footnote to my identity, but something that described my entire life until I had the vocabulary to identify it. I’m so much more than my gender identity (I haven’t broken spacetime yet, give me a few years), but it cast a shadow over my entire life, for me and my mother.
No explanation can show Evelyn who Joy really is. Instead, as Evelyn and Joy play high stakes in the multiverse, Joy shows her again and again who she is and who she isn’t. I understood this as a queer child who struggled, and sometimes still struggles, to talk to his parents about what it really means to be queer. I try different approaches. I’ve given away movies, I’ve given away books, I’ve even had conversations when something pop culture happens. My parents are great; They try. But there’s still something fractured about my identity – something about being trans that separates me from the child I was, when I was always the same person. I’m not a fractured thing, I’m just trying to get them to understand me. Maybe that’s my problem; I want them to understand something that I struggle to understand myself.
My mother, like Evelyn, still doesn’t understand what it means to have a transgender child. I know she mourned the girl who only really existed in her idea of me. I know she dreams of the grandchildren I will never have. I know that in another universe, in another timeline, maybe she would have decided that kids weren’t worth putting her extremely stressful career as a military officer on hold. But she didn’t. And now, at least in this universe, she’s stuck with me. She doesn’t understand, but she tries. She’s a good mom. A big. And, much like Evelyn, a badass.
She writes my pronouns on sticky notes and puts them on my picture. All the different versions of me scattered around the house, all the snapshots of my life captured in a single second within the same universe; “They’re happiest when they’re sailing”, “Their dog’s name is Zigzag”, “I love them.”
Despite the universes between Evelyn and Joy, the horribly mismatched burst of identity and understanding, love is what binds Everything everywhere all at once together. Evelyn is ready to risk everything, the whole world, the whole universe, the whole cosmological existence to understand her child. As I said in my opinion, this film does not ask you to understand it. Not really. It is a tribute, a satire, a comedy, a romance and a drama. It’s all because everyone is all those things, because through it all you can see pieces of yourself between the cracks of spacetime. All you really need to know is that Evelyn loves her family and will do anything, at all times, to protect them.
I also know it from my mother. I know we will always struggle with our own expectations of each other. In our own lives, generational bets are being made that wager on whether or not we disappoint each other at some point, but we love each other. And for us, as for Evelyn and Joy, that’s enough, even without really knowing each other. Love is more than enough. That’s all.
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