Randy Shulman interview with Guin – Metro Arts June 1994
‘Fishing For Answers’ taken from Metro Arts & Entertainment magazine first published June 23, 1994.
Interview by Randy Shulman.
“My mother said she had a vision of a queen when she was pregnant with me,” recalls Guinevere Turner, explaining the origins of her distinctive first name. “But the fact is that my mother was a hippie and was on so many drugs at the time, she was hallucinating.” The anecdote is indicative of the frankness and whimsy inherent in Turner, writer and star of “Go Fish”, a provocative, sensitive and utterly charming film that explores the lesbian lifestyle (it opens in area theatres July I). Recently we sat down with Turner at the Pop Stop and engaged in an anything-goes half hour of conversation. It was one of those memorable interviews where one casts a line and winds up with the most surprising of catches.
RS: This may sound weird, but watching your film , I felt that I understood what it´s like to be a lesbian. Was one of your fundemental goals to make gay men come away with a deeper appreciation of your lifestyle?
Turner: We originally made “Go Fish” for lesbians, thinking it would only play gay and lesbian festivals. We thought gay men wouldn´t really watch it, because, traditionally , gay men don´t go to lesbian movies. Besides, there aren´t that many lesbian movies to see, anyway. But the reaction has been really surprising because a lot of gay men have really liked it. Which makes Rose (Troche, the director) and me very happy. But, to be honest, gay men and lesbians aren´t necessarily coming from the same place or going to the same place. They´re very separate identities.
RS:There is a certain separatism within the gay and lesbian community.
Turner:The very fact that you´re homosexual and I´m homosexual makes us similar. But you likes guys and I like girls. In that way we´re polar opposites. But since neither of us are the “norm,” we´re forced together.
RS:I frequently and unfortunately get the feeling that the gay male community feels the lesbian community doesn´t really like them. Do you get the same feeling? That gay men automatically don´t like you because you´re a woman?
Turner:The vibe I get from gay men has always been that (lesbians are) boring, lesbians are less fun, lesbians go home early, lesbians don´t have much of a sense of humor, lesbians don´t have camp working for us. None of that, of course, is true.
RS:There´s one scene in the film that´s particularly universal, and that´s where one of the supporting characters comes out to her mother. It´s a scene one normally associates with gay men. Rarely do we ever seen an onscreen “coming out” for women.
Turner: There are lots of things that are really universal in terms of just being (homosexual) in this world. The weird thing about “Go Fish” is that we seem to have presented-accidentally-a whole range of universal things. Lots of straight people have said they identify with certain aspects of the film, such as dating and the struggle to find a relationship.
RS: I enjoyed the film´s offbeat sense of style, especially as represented in the conversations between the characters, shot in the style of a group of “disembodied” talking heads.
Turner: We added that after the script was nearly complete. Rose and I had a certain amount of anxiety around the simplicity of the story, so we thought we should play around with it. We just started talking about how much fun it would be to have some of the characters have access to the whole movie as though they were watching the action and commenting on it.
RS: A Greek chorus, in effect.
Turner: Yes. Of course, we never called it that until we started doing interviews. We called them “the commentaries.”
RS: There´s an interesting moment where one of the characters has slept with a man and is subsequently put on trial by a jury of her peers. It raises an interesting question: If a lesbian sleeps with a man, does she lose her sexual status?
Turner: That scene deals with the policing that goes on. We included it because we both felt that, at times, the lesbian community is too harsh on itself and too panicked about identity definitions. Just because you sleep with a man once – even though you´ve been calling yourself a lesbian for five years and you´ve slept with who knows how many women – all of sudden everyone goes, “What the fuck are you doing?! Are you a dyke of aren´t you?”
RS: It gives one the feeling that to be a true lesbian, one almost has to be anti-male.
Turner: To be a lesbian is certainly not to be anti-male. I mean, some of my best friends are guys. They´re just nicer than girls, I think. Girls are so catty. Anyway, I don´t think that scene is about man hating.
RS: I´m only addressing the issue because I´ve encountered a few who seem to automatically hate me because of my gender.
Turner: Well, they certainly exist. But I think it´s a remarkably dangerous attitude, because be too emphatic about hating men is to imply that you´re a lesbian because you hate men and not because you love women. And to be a lesbian because you hate men is ridiculous. You´re giving men power by choosing your sexuality based on the fact that you don´t want to deal with them.
Now that I´m a public lesbian, I feel like some people are waiting for (me) to put on the lesbian show. It´s been fun because the… straight press that I´ve dealt with seem to be intimidated by me. No one´s ever been intimidated by me before. They´re like, “Oh, my God! We´re talking to a lesbian! Maybe she hates men! And here I am this straight man interviewing her!” I have a lot of fun with that.
RS: Do you plan to pursue an acting career?
Turner: I didn´t, but much to my surprise, that´s what´s happening. I´ve already gotten offers from two major talent agencies, ICM and William Morris.
RS: I could see Hollywood transforming you into a glamorous actress. Do you feel that would be a sell-out?
Turner: There is no “out” lesbian actress. Period. Can you think of one? There isn´t. I´m so far out there´s no getting back in. So, to me, no matter what kind of doll Hollywood would want to turn me into, the fact that I´m a lesbian will always be known.
RS: What I´m trying to address is straight society´s stereotypical image of lesbians, which is the “butch” look. You´re very much the antithesis of that.
Turner: It´s been very interesting to see, as a result of this movie, who is being pursued as an actress. Me. And only me. I´m being made into the star and I feel like it´s because I have this crossover look. As happy as I am that I may have an acting career out of all of this, it´s upsetting to me to see exactly how the system works.
RS: What happens if you get offered the female lead in the next James Cameron film playing opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger…
Turner: Oh, how scary…
RS: Would you turn down the role?
Turner: If I really want to be an actress, it´s only to make money. I´m a writer. Being an actress… sounds fun and glamorous, but it´s not where my heart is. Also, if I waited around for a lesbian part, I would have no career.
But I would not want to be known as a lesbian actress. I would want to be known as a good actress, and then, if anyone asked if I were a lesbian, I´d say yes.
Actually, I´ve enjoyed the whole experience so far. I´ve enjoyed saying the word lesbian to people, and watching people who can´t say the word. Lesbian, for some reason, is a really hard one to get out of people´s mouths. I don´t think I´ve ever heard my mom say lesbian. Gay is much easier for people.
RS: Because gay is so quick. Wouldn´t it be better if the whole gay and lesbian movement just folded under one word? Queer, perhaps?
Turner: Queer´s a good word because it represents (the whole spectrum). It goes into transgender and bisexual. And it´s more fun in a broader sense. But queer doesn´t represent the gay Republican, for instance. He´s not queer. He´s just gay. He´s a homosexual. Frankly, I´ve coined a (slang) term for lesbian: I think if gay men get to be fags, lesbians should be “fun.”
RS: Fun? So you´re fun.
Turner: Hi, mom, I´m fun.
RS: Well, that´s nice dear. I´m fun, too. Now, let´s go take your bath. Speaking of words, I love the scene where the Greek chorus is talking about the various terms for vagina. Honey pot, bearded clam and so on…
Turner: Someone just said to me the other day, why didn´t you use the word pussy? And I was like, “I dunno. It just didn´t roll. It didn´t go in.”
RS: So what do you call a vagina?
Turner: It depends on the person I´m with. With different girlfriends, you call it different things. But hardly any women I know have a word that they´re really comfortable with. And vagina is just not a good word.
RS: Well, penis is no great shakes, either.
Turner: But dick, I think, is good. But there isn´t a female equivalent for dick.
RS: Let´s say you become a Hollywood actress, how do you feel about the possibility of teenage boys fantasizing over you?
Turner: (Laughs.) Um, I don´t know. That would be weird. Actually, since I´m naked on the screen in a movie that´s about to be released in 40 cities, I think I´ve pretty much given up my image already and people are reacting to it in ways that I can´t imagine. So it doesn´t really even bother me, it´s out of my control.
RS: Well then, how do you feel about prospect of young lesbians fantasizing over you?
Turner: That´s great. I think young lesbians should have more objects on the big screen to fantasize about that are real, that they know are lesbians, (and) that act like lesbians. The notion of a young lesbian seeing this movie and finding it sexy and being into it, and it giving her strength, well… that, to me, is wonderful.
Thanks to Kent for info.