Hey man I was just wondering what your take was on the whole controversy around the age difference in Call Me By Your Name and people deeming it as pedophilia because it portrays an adult man pursuing a minor? I know you loved the film so am interested to hear your opinion on the topic.
I didn’t answer this question when I first received it at least two months ago because it’s a complicated issue and it demands that I go into things I wouldn’t normally go into. That said, since this movie means a lot to me and it’s going to be a big part of movie culture for the next year or so, I want to take a stab at answering this.
First of all, I think personal experience dictates a person’s perspective on anything, especially art. That means that if for any reason Call Me by Your Name is triggering or makes you uncomfortable based on your own experiences or feelings, you should do whatever you need to do to stay away from it. I do not believe that gives you the right to say that those that do support the film are supporting pedophilia or glamorizing rape.
That said, I’m seeing a lot of moral absolutism when it comes to the discourse around this issue. It’s an innate human desire for every issue to have a clear “right” and “wrong” but that’s just not the way of the world. Personally, I’m not keen on people who aren’t able to admit to or identify when subjects are more complicated than a simple dichotomous answer. This is especially frustrating for me given the subject matter. Would it suddenly be OK if Elio’s character were 18, instead of 17? Because “that’s what the law says”? If we follow that train of thought, we fall very quickly down the rabbit hole that depends on laws dictating what is and is not “right” - I think we can all easily admit that the laws are a poor judge of this.
Even more than that, I think that calling the relationship depicted in the story “predatory” shows an astounding lack of critical thinking and analytical skills. It’s that straight-forward. It’s like when you’re in high school and you have to write a paper about the book you were reading for class. Say the thesis of this paper is, “Oliver is predatory character” - ok, sure, show me the evidence! But guess what? It’s not there. I’ve read the book twice now and there’s not enough textual evidence to support that claim.
To arrive at the conclusion that Call Me by Your Name depicts pedophilia means that you would first have to strip away all the necessary context within the film that defines the relationship itself.
As someone who has experienced first hand what it’s like to be groomed by a pedophile and then be abused for more than a year, it’s offensive to me that people are lodging this claim against the movie. This is a movie that celebrates what it’s like to be in love. I’m not asking you to agree with me or share that experience with me. I’m not even asking you to change your opinion on the film because that’s your right just as much as it is mine. That’s simply how I feel about it.
Context is everything. Moral absolutism is dangerous.