The film "The Kids Are All Right" extends American open-mindedness to same-sex unions, but not to allowing teens to have sex and drink wine. Some things are sacred, after all!


The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, July 13, 2010. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at

Same Sex Marriage - Yay! Teen Sex and Wine - Nay!

Critical and audience reactions to the new movie, "The Kids Are All Right," have been extremely positive across the country. This is a testament to most Americans' open mindedness and willingness to accept new lifestyles.

The film portrays the same-sex marriage between two women (played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) and their family life - they have two children - in very positive, human terms. And they actually show Bening and Moore having sex!

Well, not actually. It is aborted sex performed out of sight (no, orgasm isn't experienced - shame on you!). The demure female-on-female sex is opposed to the energetic sex between the male lead, Mark Ruffalo, and several women. I mean, let's not get too open-minded .

But I was mainly interested in the depictions in the film of the lives of the two teens, Bening and Moore's son, age 15, and their exceedingly appealing daughter, age 18.

Although the couple have a non-traditional marriage, and they are in every other way admirably open-minded, they observe the American taboo on youthful drinking. In meals throughout the film (including the promotional clip shown on TV), while the adults drink wine, the teens pointedly drink water.

Okay, that's the American way. Only the daughter then goes to a party and has a couple of drinks, becomes somewhat intoxicated, misbehaves (mildly) sexually, and then drives home. The film observes the riskiness of the American approach to kids' drinking, and then forgets about it. Although her parents are aware of this life-endangering behavior, they drop the subject and it isn't discussed again.

And, oh, the 15-year-old snorts cocaine. But that's clearly meant to be a one-time occurrence, unlike wine-drinking. The adults think drinking wine while dining is good and right (although Bening drinks too much). But the idea that adolescents should learn to drink wine - like, say, they do in Spain (where the drinking age is 16) - is simply inconceivable. In the case of an 18-year-old girl who got drunk and drove, this means proceeding as a virgin in moderate drinking to college, where she will have to find her own way in that binge-drinking culture.

That's not the only area in which the comely daughter is a virgin. At an age when most American teens have had sex, she hasn't been kissed. That's what the party drinking was for - to steel her to kiss her boyfriend - and she clearly wished it would have gone further. Meanwhile, her slutty, sex-minded girlfriend is portrayed as emotionally crippled. Clearly, delaying sex until - love and marriage? - is the right way to go, even though that American ideal has long ago been passed by the wayside of teens' actual behavior.

It's interesting to know that American attitudes can grow to incorporate lesbian love, but that teen sex and wine drinking will always be outside the pale. We're Americans, after all!