Interview by Ralph Edelstein.
Maud Wiemeijer is screenwriter and has created and written the online series ANNE+. In ANNE+ we follow the turbulent dating life of a lesbian student in Amsterdam.
Which taboos are you breaking?
Well, I think I am not really consciously trying to break taboos. I find it especially important that there is representation of lesbian girls in Dutch films and shows, because there was very little representation before. When I was young, I really wanted that representation. When there were lesbian characters in films or shows, they often only had one storyline, about them wrestling with their coming out or their forbidden love. Pretty stereotypical. With ANNE+, I want to show that it is fun to be lesbian.
You are saying that you couldn’t find lesbian representation when you were younger. Can you explain this?
When you hit puberty and are still in the closet, and you see nothing that you can relate to, then you feel very lonely. Especially if all your friends relate to types and characters. It would have helped me a lot if there were more films with characters that I could relate to. This would have helped me to accept myself and to come out of the closet sooner.
Why is it so important that more lesbians are represented in media?It’s a bit of a stupid word, but to normalize lesbians. To show that we are just as much part of society as anyone else and cannot be ignored. I feel that this is especially important for young girls.
What kind of reactions do you get on the street or in public transport?
Girls often thank me, because the series helped them to get out of the closet. Hannah, the main character of ANNE+, gets similar reactions. But heterosexuals also come up to us to let us know that they recognized themselves in Anne. We are telling a universal love story. I’m glad to see that the series is relatable and relevant for many people.
What kind of problems do you run into as a lesbian in 2019?
I wouldn’t call them problems, but what strikes me is the difference in acceptance of lesbians and gay men. Many people find lesbians attractive, they view them in a sexual way and find it sexy when two women kiss. This comes with a lot of catcalling and harassment. This is unavoidably linked to being openly gay. But you know what? I live in the Netherlands where everything is relatively good. It could be much worse.
Do you realize what you are saying? You’re normalizing negative and antisocial behavior …
Yeah… crazy, isn’t it? That I accept that this is something that I have to deal with…
That means that there is still plenty of work for you to do.
Exactly. You know what it is? These sorts of things are daily struggles. People think that coming out is a one-time thing, but as a lesbian you have to work on this every single day. We are not there yet. I’ve recently started to force myself to speak up when I hear a homophobic comment. Like asking “why did you say that?”. I don’t like doing this at all, but if nobody does it then nothing will change.
Are there taboos that you do not (yet) dare to show in the series?
No, not at all. But we wanted to make a series that everyone could watch, and, in the Netherlands, there are many rules about what you can show regarding sex and age that you have to take into account. Season 1, for example, is fairly modest, but if there will be a season 2, we may want to push the boundaries a bit more. A good example is the restriction of 18+ that YouTube put on one of our episodes, because it showed a nipple for a few seconds. The strange thing is that viewers were the ones that reported this. That surprised us. Although, it’s possible that these people just have something against the show. But to come back to your question, no, I’m not writing with any restrictions. The ideal situation of course would be to write whatever I want.
What does feminism stand for according to you?
I feel that we are once again, in a powerful feminist wave. A few years ago, I noticed that the younger generation had become a bit lazy and outdated regarding feminism. But now, women make sure their voice is heard and they use the rights that the previous generations have fought for. Unfortunately, this fight is still necessary. Women still have to work twice as hard to be taken just as seriously as men. We earn less, we aren’t being taken seriously, we’re catcalled on the street…These may seem like small things, but they really impact the daily lives of women. I also believe that women have an internalized sexism towards themselves. Women often find themselves too fat, or too stupid, or not interesting enough. They feel that they have no right to certain things. That is what we are brought up to believe. These patterns are deeply rooted in our society. We have to unlearn them and that is not easy. Amy Poehler summarizes it perfectly: “It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.’
Want to know more about Yoni? Read our story.