“That’s not how it works in real life. People don’t fall in love with strangers that change them.”
This is Zaynab’s plight as she unwillingly sits in front of a Pakistanian soap opera with her mother.
Zaynab carries a slightly defeatist (or realist, depending on your perspective) disposition when it comes to relationships. A temperament that many queer people carry when it comes to dating, especially nowadays. “Strangers don’t just meet and love in fall,” Zaynab argues as she sits back on the couch and folds her arms, her physical disposition matching her emotional one.
That’s until she meets Alma…a stranger that changes her life.
Signature Move is the indie-feminist-romantic-comedy that you didn’t know you needed, but much like Alma did for Zaynab, it will probably change your life.
I mean, where else will you see a Muslim and a Mexican making out as “Girl” by The Internet serenades you in the background?!
Between the comedy, music, and all around general comfort of the film, there are plenty of reasons to love Signature Move. Let’s talk about just a few.
1. Queer & diverse storytelling
During a time where both Muslims and Mexicans have been assigned the undeserving labels of criminals, monsters, and inhuman, Signature Move centers the full humanity of a queer Pakistani and Mexican-American woman, letting the audience witness the intimacies of their lives, occupations, family structure and relationships, and native languages and romantic and social lives.
2. Decentering whiteness and maleness
When you think of romantic comedies, you probably think of (white) boy meets (white) girl, they date/hook up, they fight, big romantic stunt, they fall in love, ride off into the privileged sunset together.
Signature Move really shakes the table in regards to all of that. It removes the white gaze that is so commonly found in American cinema. From the respective native languages being spoken to Lucha Libre wrestling, I appreciate Signature Move telling an unapologetically authentic story without trying to uphold white supremacist standards and without seeking white supremacist approval.
And the same goes for decentering maleness. This film was written by, directed by, and starred women and women of color. It showed women in all forms – authoritative, submissive, aggressive, bold, intelligent, comical, traditional – whole. Hell, there was only one male speaking role, the bartender (who was a snack, btw).
3. Queer safe spaces
For what seems like forever, at least from my knowledge, queer safe spaces were (and still are) few and far between. A bar or club or party or bathhouse or etc. were the only places a queer person could go and be their complete selves. Because of exclusion from the cis-hetero-normative world we live in, queer people have always had to create community.
We see amazing and unusual illustrations of this in Signature Move. The wrestling arena serves as a safe space for the queer women in this film. Zaynab spends a lot of her time there. Yes, she is training, but it’s inside those ropes where she works through her emotional and mental discrepancies when it comes to her sexuality and relationship (or lack of) with Alma. The wrestling arena is where Zaynab and Alma had their date night, and where Zaynab received her mask, an important symbol in the film.
The wrestling matches not only serve as a safe space for the queer women in the film, but also their families. It’s where Zaynab’s and Alma’s mothers meet for the first time. It’s where Zaynab’s mother went her only time outside of the house that we get to witness. It’s where Zaynab and her mother finally reconnect and come to an unspoken mutual understanding.
To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with bars or clubs or bathhouses etc., especially when it comes to safe spaces for queer people. Respectability politics be damned. Those spaces were built out of necessity. If it wasn’t for that gay bar or club, some queer people would have no place to be/feel safe and meet other like-minded people. But this film offers an alternative safe space for queer women to meet, network, socialize, and maybe even fall in love like Zaynab and Alma. (Although we don’t see or hear much about it, I think that Alma’s bookstore also serves as a safe space in the film)
In the times we are living in now – under this current bigoted administration – Signature Move is a breath of revolutionary fresh air.