The part of the late winter, that time just as the winter’s frost gives its final kisses to the ground goodbye, is perhaps my favorite to return southern Connecticut: to the aquarium my mother took me to, splashed in homosexual blues, lesbian purples, and bisexual penguins; to the bookstore nearby, the Book Barn, lovingly named for the area on the farm where my queer ancestors squirreled away to discuss Judy at Carnegie Hall and have orgies scored to Maria Callas; and, of course, the pizza joint from that cult Vincent D’Onofrio movie from the 1980s co-written by the guy who also wrote Driving Miss Daisy.
But my visit last week was more somber, despite the sun blanketing my subject and me, letting the grease on her crust shine like sweat. She was a little coy, giving monosyllabic answers, or perhaps this was because her olive-shaped mouth was obscured by ill-placed peppers. Once we were joined, outdoors for safety measures, by a couple of others who had also been shaken by last week’s proceedings, the pizza from Mystic Pizza felt more at ease with a sense of support behind her.
“Once this one warms up to you, she just melts in your hands,” the Furby from Uncut Gems cracked, bringing with her a pile of napkins to handle any excess cheese and sentimentality. The greeting card from Easy A opened her mouth, presumably to agree, but closed it again.
“Firstly, I don’t know why a gay male HUMAN is writing this piece. But also, I just want to make it clear that I have no shame for who I am, I live my life with pride for my life, my decisions, the people who I love, the toppings I bring to the table,” the pizza from Mystic Pizza began. The greeting card from Easy A opened her mouth again and shut it again, at the risk of falling into repetition.
These Lesbian Inanimate Objects had been under intense scrutiny from the internet over the past week. When a Netflix social media account decided to compile a list, in Twitter thread form, of the various cameos from these lesbian inanimate objects in film, the thread, which has since been deleted, was met with backlash, including claims of “a poor substitute for actual lesbian and queer femme representation”, “a death knell to the unbearable rhetoric of visibility couched in neoliberal politics”, and “exclusionary towards dishware”.
But when the various Lesbian Inanimate Objects originally agreed to participate with the Netflix LGBTQ community leader, it was under the auspices of being under a consultancy role for future programming on the platform. “I wanted to see more Furbies in cinema, there’s such a great history to Furbies, but I feel like the industry is dominated by stories of Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch dolls,” the Furby from Uncut Gems told me. “I thought this was going to be such a wonderful opportunity to show audiences that there isn’t a single way to be a Furby.”
This kind of anonymity for the roll was important for the pizza from Mystic Pizza, who had already experienced pushback in the late 1990s when they had expanded into the frozen foods market. “That was really a tough experience, you know? I got burned,” she told me. “You want to show people who you are, and be honest with it, but you either get to be honest or you get to be available in 4500 grocery stores across the country, not both.”
“This was my life! And I wanted it back. I thought this was the way, low key but, like, that could shape how we talk about pizza in film,” the pizza said, getting so heated her cheese was bubbling. “I just felt that when that thread went up without any of our consent, I felt — ”
“Blindsided!!!” The greeting card from Easy A finally opened up her mouth and had something to say, and said it with gusto. “I think seeing yourself is really so important, but so often I feel like movies appropriate what we greeting cards have to say.” The greeting card from Easy A felt two gut punches in the last month, the first being a line about grief in the Disney+ show WandaVision. “Look, no offense to Paul Bettany, but my great great great grandmother, Geraldine Hallmark, she had that ‘what is grief’ line embossed in gold on her back like it was the original tramp stamp.”
The pizza from Mystic Pizza interjected, “I think they just want to use us without really understanding what our role is in these works or how our presence shapes the rest of the story.” She pointed to a podcast episode that did just this with “care and humor”, and continued, “I mean, the tweets themselves admitted that they would not explain our identity. I feel like it should be my choice to explain or not explain myself. We didn’t get to be our whole selves.”
I asked them how they would have handled it, and they all initially agreed that transparency as to how their identities were going to be used was the first part. “It’s the memes,” the greeting card from Easy A said resignedly. “Our gayness, and gayness itself, has been flattened into a meme.” I asked her if there was anything wrong with gay memes. She retorted, “Is a meme a mirror or just the way you want to see yourself?”
“I think what the greeting card from Easy A means,” the pizza from Mystic Pizza began, trying to defuse the situation, “is there no sense of experience or life when we got cataloged as Lesbian Inanimate Objects. Like, I don’t need my mother, the №10 Mystic Pizza Special, to see all these retweets online; but it just seems a bit empty to me. That a meme’d version of gayness is just, like, social media capital. Like being outed for clout.”
As the air got chillier and the sausage began to freeze on the pizza from Mystic Pizza’s face, I had hoped we would leave on a more positive note. This experience seemed to have shaken the three of them who were willing to go on the record, so much so that both the Furby from Uncut Gems and the greeting card from Easy A’s batteries needed replacing. The greeting card from Easy A was succinct, “I don’t care about visibility, I care about access, resources, and infrastructure that won’t fit in your poc — ” The late afternoon wind took the words right out of her speaker, and she was picked up by a parking lot attended that threw her in the trash. I was then questioned by the owner for loitering and asked for my ID when a few of the other (I should mention maskless) customers noticed a young man talking to some inanimate objects. I told them we were all part of a beautiful community of pride, a history of solidarity and inclusivity, and I was fined $75 for public intoxication. But the ticket I was given, bent and creased at the top, I think he may be, well, you know…