Jean’s eyes were fixed on the television as she waited for the bleach in her hair to dry at the beginning of Blue Jean. She was watching a blind dating show with amusement. Perhaps the simplistic way in which the anchor had put together the entire idea of dating and romance felt ridiculous yet intriguing for Jean. With most elements around her colored blue, the title of the film starts to make sense from the very first minute. But it is not just the cool visual tone that Georgia Oakley wants you to notice, but the blue that Jean feels. The year was 1988, when Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher brought Section 28 that was going to change the lives of so many people in the country. The newly introduced clause prohibited promotion of homosexuality. Jean turned off the radio as soon as the host started to discuss the new law. She was disturbed by it, and she was evidently trying to avoid the hard truth. Jean lights a cigarette and changes the radio channel to sports.
‘Blue Jean’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Jean worked as a PE Teacher, and she was loved by her students. While bonding with students was a rather easy task for Jean, spending time with her conservative colleagues was challenging. She was invited almost every day to join the rest of the staff after work at a pub, but she could not bear the thought of spending a minute more with the crowd. Jean preferred to keep her sexuality a secret to stay out of trouble. Unlike her girlfriend, Viv, who was out and proud, Jean struggled to accept herself completely. She was not ready to confront every other person who stared at her curiously. Staying quiet about herself helped her navigate her day-to-day life with ease. After passing off as a straight teacher during the day, she unwinded at a lesbian underground bar with her girlfriend and her friends. Being with Viv was liberating but, at the same time, a little threatening for Jean. Viv was her unapologetic self, and that did not sit well with Jean’s elderly neighbor. Jean was afraid of becoming a target, and she had managed to spend most of her life living in the closet, but with Viv, putting up the straight act was not easy.
Viv encouraged Jean to own her truth, but for Jean, it was all too complicated. She was afraid of losing her job as a result of the new law, and she was scared of being looked at differently. Even though they were in love with each other, their contradictory approaches to life often led to differences of opinion and arguments. We later find out in Blue Jean that Jean was married, suggesting the extent to which she went to conform to heteronormativity but eventually failed. It was after being legally bound to live a life of lies that she owned the truth and came out to her family. While her sister pretended to be accepting of Jean, in reality, she wanted her truth to stay in the dark as well. Jean and her mother no longer share a comforting relationship; as is evident, her mother never got over her divorce. Jean was essentially alone in her journey of figuring out her life, and even though she had supportive friends, she somehow could not relate to them. They were a lot more open about their sexuality and never felt the need to be ashamed of who they were, but for Jean, living the double life was easier than fighting the entire system.
How Did Lois Impact Jean’s Life?
The new girl in school, Lois, struggled to make friends there. Jean encouraged her to participate in sports, and that did not sit well with Siobhan, a student who desperately wanted to become Jean’s favorite. Things between Jean and Lois got awkward when Jean noticed Lois at the underground pub she frequented. The two worlds had collided, and Jean panicked. She could either help Lois in her journey of self-discovery at the risk of losing her job, or she could act as if none of it had ever happened. Jean chose the latter. Lois felt a sense of relief when she noticed Jean amidst a bunch of strangers, but Jean simply ignored her.
Jean was anxious, and she barely slept that night. After reaching school, she realized that Lois kept her secret safe. Lois decided to join the netball team to build a rapport with Jean. She assumed that Jean was the only person who could truly understand what she was going through, though she quickly realized that Jean was not someone to rely upon. Siobhan was envious of Lois, and she could not tolerate watching Lois and Jean interact. The girls’ locker room was not a safe space for Lois. She was teased and called names. The only time that Lois felt a little happy inside the school premises was when she scored for her team during a practice session. But then again, Siobhan’s hatred for her only got worse.
While Jean could barely stand up to her colleagues, who approved of Thatcher’s decision, she heard of queer people taking over the streets to protest against the new law. She was failing herself, yet she believed she had no other choice. Meanwhile, life was only getting worse for Lois. Siobhan noticed how Lois looked forward to Jean’s approval, and she started bullying her. She was shamed for her sexuality, and Lois was not ready to remain quiet. A fight broke out between Lois and Siobhan, and Jean stopped the girls. She brought Lois to her office and explained how important it was for her to ignore her bullies if she intended to be successful. She warned Lois to be careful, but Jean’s advice did not sit well with her. We can assume that Jean had pretended to be a straight teenager throughout her high school years, and she wanted Lois to do the same instead of being a rebel. Life was easier that way, but Lois was not ready to be a different person to please others.
Apart from her friends, Jean enjoyed spending time with her nephew, Sammy. Jean read “Alice in Wonderland” to him, and he loved her bit of the reading session, but his father believed it would make his son less masculine. He instead asked Sammy to play outside, even though he preferred listening to the story. Jean’s sister expressed discomfort with having Sammy over at Jean’s place when Viv was around. She was afraid of the negative influence that a lesbian relationship could have on Sammy. Clearly, the people Jean had around while growing up forced her to hide her true self, and they would have still preferred her to live a lie.
At the pub, Jean noticed Lois there once again. She was mingling with her friends, which made her feel all the more uncomfortable. After the game of pool, Jean followed Lois to the washroom and asked her to never enter the club again. It was her safe space, and Lois was not welcome there. She threatened to drop Lois off the team if she decided otherwise. Viv watched Lois and Jean together, and she assumed Jean was cheating on her. Viv could barely relate to Jean’s conflict when she discussed the entire situation. She believed it was Jean’s duty to be someone Lois could look up to, but for that, Jean had to accept herself. After regularly coming across judgmental comments from strangers, colleagues, and family members, Jean did not believe that the world had any place for queer individuals like her. How could she comfort Lois when she herself preferred living a double life?
‘Blue Jean’ Ending Explained: What Changed Jean’s Mind?
When a gay magazine was found on her desk, Jean assumed that it must have been Lois who did it to embarrass her. Her colleagues started to discuss her personal life, and they wondered if Jean was indeed a lesbian. A colleague of hers decided to sit through her class, suggesting that they were not sure if Jean could be trusted to be left alone with her students. After the practice session, Siobhan approached Lois in the shower, and Jean watched them kiss, but as soon as Siobhan heard others enter the locker room, she accused Lois of sexually assaulting her. Jean knew that it was consensual, but she was afraid that siding with Lois would get her in trouble. Lois’s sexuality was not a secret even in the school staff room, and speaking in favor of the lesbian student after a gay magazine was found on her desk would only make her case worse. So when asked about the incident at the principal’s office, Jean lied and blamed Lois. Lois could not believe that the only queer person she knew in school would turn her back on her. That evening, Jean joined her colleagues for a drink after school. She was desperate to prove that she was straight, and she did one thing after another to confirm it. Soon the guilt started to overwhelm her, and she decided to fix the damage. Lois was not interested in listening to Jean; she was disappointed in her. Viv broke up with Jean; she could not live with someone who was not ready to accept herself. While Jean proposed they run away for a better life, Viv was happy in her present.
In order to make those around her feel comfortable, Jean started to lose herself. She failed as a lover and as a teacher. She had lost her integrity and could not think beyond herself. While thousands of queers took to the streets to protest, Jean was ashamed that she could not even provide support to a 15-year-old struggling with her identity. At Sammy’s birthday party, when a man consistently made regressive comments and went on to assume that Jean was a heterosexual woman, she stated that she was lesbian. The visible discomfort no longer bothered her, and she sensed a huge weight lifting off her chest. After a long time, Jean finally felt good about herself. She experienced the joy of standing up for once and the pain of not allowing herself to be the person she always wanted to be at the same time.
At the end of Blue Jean, Jean decides to meet Lois once again. This time, she took her to a queer house party. Jean knew the importance of a safe space and support system, and she wanted Lois to be around the right crowd. Lois learned about the Bog Fund, where queers with stable jobs, such as Jean, contributed to making the lives of lesbians from underprivileged backgrounds a little smoother. She realized that even though Jean failed her more than once, there was a reason why she desperately wanted to protect her job. Viv and Jean never got over each other, and Viv noticed how Jean was making an actual effort to become a better person. The next morning, while driving to school, Jean felt like a new person altogether. Instead of the news on the radio, her focus was on the graffiti that called out the government for its regressive approach. No matter how hard the government tried to ostracize them, it was impossible to wipe them off. Jean was confident now; she no longer cared about making an impression on others. She was out of the closet, and she was ready to face any challenge that came her way.
Blue Jean documents Jean’s conflict to perfection. We could sense the fear Jean felt, thinking how her truth could offend others or change the way they looked at or behaved with her. She wanted to live a peaceful life, but at what cost? In search of peace, the world she loved had started to crumble. Conforming to societal norms could never bring peace to her. In the end, Jean had to make a choice since her conscience made it impossible otherwise.