However which way you look at it, same-sex parenting remains a hot topic at the moment. 2015’s Nasty Baby– which has recently received a special edition digital release – puts the theme right out there in the open, with a dark surprise that no one sees coming.
Sebastian Silva’s Chilean American drama film centres on a trendy gay couple living in New York, trying for a baby. To do so, they enlist the help of friend and neighbour Polly (Kristen Wiig), who offers her body up for artificial insemination. Silva himself plays lead character, Freddy: a hip, hot-headed artist and European immigrant, whose short temper gets the better of him on more than one occasion. Being the closer of the two to Polly, he’s the first to take a fertility test. After his sperm count comes back low however, it’s left to his partner Mo (Tunde Adebimpe), to make the all important deposit.
Mo is the ying to Freddy’s yang. He’s restrained and secretive, if not slightly conservative. Freddy, on the other hand, is fiery and impulsive. His desire for a child of his own forms the basis for a perversely surreal short film he’s working on, entitled ‘Nasty Baby’, in which he plays a grown man pretending to be an infant. Mo by comparison internalises his feelings about parenthood, believing A.I (artificial insemination), at least initially, to be wrong.
Polly is as progressive as Freddy. More of a hippie than a doctor, she potters from place to place on a scooter, rocks gypsy skirts and natters on about her biological clock as if it were about to stop at any moment. But it’s her carefree attitude to life, combined with Freddy’s, which gives the film a blissful free flow in its early chapters – until the arrival of Bishop that is.
Bishop (Reg E. Cathey) is the local loon: a mentally ill Brooklyn resident who pokes his nose in everyone’s business. If he’s not selling junk on a corner, then he’s helping people park their cars. Freddy takes an instant disliking to Bishop’s street cleaning ritual of setting off a tree blower every morning at 7am. After confronting him about it, Freddy is greeted with a barrage of homophobic abuse which continues on for the rest of the film.
As forward thinking and gentrified a borough like Brooklyn might be, it will always, like most cosmopolitan places, contain some degree of prejudice or discrimination. Through his loathing of homosexuality, Bishop comes to represent New York’s underbelly of hate towards liberalism: that deep, dark voice which rejects anything arty or risqué. It’s his intervention which completely alters the tone of the film, taking it from indie comedy to grim drama in the blink of eye. As the tide shifts, the film becomes less about making life as taking it.
For a low budget release, Nasty Baby raises brave questions on bold topics. Artificial insemination for example is played out as a game of “who has the strongest sperm”, with egg donor Polly labelled a “semen vampire”. Her remark to Freddy, “we’re gonna be trendy”, as a white woman soon to have a black baby, offers telling insight into how casual we’ve become as a society about procreation these days. For Mo’s sister (Marsha Stephanie Blake) however, the very nature of A.I is unnatural. Commenting on the trio’s inability to have a child she says:“maybe there’s a reason it hasn’t happened yet”. She adds: “ Maybe it’s normal in NY “. But what is normal these days exactly? Freddy makes the important point of highlighting that it’s just as natural for a child to grow up with two dads as one with a mum and a dad.
“Children of gay fathers are as well adjusted as those with heterosexual parents,” read a Daily Mail article on same-sex parenting earlier this month. An online survey carried out across 47 states in America found a whopping 88% of 732 gay fathers consider their children to be neither unhappy nor depressed. Just last year, Sir Elton John got into a row with Dolce and Gabbana over a similar topic, after the fashion house openly expressed resentment towards gay adoptions. Right now the possibilities for same-sex parenting are wide. At least in the western world, kids are free to be raised by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, with parental arrangements including adoption, donor insemination and surrogacy . Nasty Baby is just one side of the argument.
Catch the full movie now on wearecolony now.