Are Carol Aird and Therese Belivet Gay or Bisexual in Carol?

Carol Aird and Therese Belivet’s relationship forms the heart of the 2015 romantic drama ‘Carol.’ The former is a glamorous woman seeking a divorce from her husband, Harge, while the latter is in an uninspiring relationship with her boyfriend, Richard, who wants to marry her in France. When the two meet in the Frankenberg’s department store, where Therese works as a salesgirl, there are signs of instant chemistry between them. They befriend one another and rely on each other’s presence in their moments of crisis. Carol and Therese’s sexuality is an essential part of the film, which portrays an intimate connection between two women in the socially rigid era of the 1950s. Even though Phyllis Nagy’s screenplay doesn’t explicitly label them as gay or bisexual, there are enough plot points for viewers to give a thought about their sexual orientation! SPOILERS AHEAD.

Carol and Therese’s Sexual Orientation

Carol and Therese have complex identities when it comes to their sexual orientation, but they are primarily gay. Phyllis Nagy, who wrote ‘Carol,’ previously revealed that the two protagonists are lesbians. “[The characters’ lesbianism] is not an issue. It’s not talked about. And when it is, it’s talked about as the state of normal. All the women, [including Abby], are lesbians. And I think it’s very potent. You’re just looking at any relationship,” the screenwriter told The Guardian.

When Carol and Therese encounter one another in the Frankenberg’s store for the first time, there is a lingering look by Therese when she notices Carol standing at a distant counter. As they converse, there is a palpable tension in the air, which is charged even further by their awkward interactions. Both women seem to feel a longing for the other, but it is disguised under a friendship blanket at first. However, throughout the narrative, this friendship is peeled away to bring forth the real nature of the two protagonists, which they have hidden from everyone else.

While Carol is interested in dating Therese, she is also in the middle of divorce proceedings with her husband, Harge. The two have a daughter named Rindy, for whom Carol has a deep affinity and love. Carol’s marriage with Harge can be seen as a result of the societal expectations of her time. She lives in a hostile environment where she has to consult a psychologist because of her intimate relationships with women. It is highly unlikely that she had an opportunity to explore her feelings and understand her sexuality before marrying Harge.

As Carol and Therese’s bond grows deeper, they get entangled and intrinsically linked in one another’s affairs. They have a genuine connection and a physical attraction, which culminates in them having sex in a motel in Iowa. Therese, being the younger of the two, is more nervous and full of trepidation but all the more willing to consummate their love. On the other hand, Carol at least had one previous female lover and is more experienced than the former. When they do not have to abide by social or moral restrictions that have been imposed on them by society, it is clear that the two are gay. This is made all the more apparent in the later parts of the story.

Carol and Therese Ultimately Embrace Their Sexuality

When Carol’s custody battle for Rindy begins to fail because of the evidence Harge has on her same-sex relationships, she decides to embrace her sexuality and stop hiding it. She willingly accepts losing custody of her daughter to her husband on the condition that she can visit her occasionally. All this is done so that she can get back together with Therese, from whom she flees away, fearing that people might be spying on them. The act of closeting herself only makes her sure that she should embrace what she is rather than punish herself for it.

Meanwhile, Therese’s relationship with her boyfriend, Richard, is also complicated. The pair seem to engage in warm and lively talks daily. However, there is no sign of sexual chemistry between them. In fact, Richard wishes to consummate his love for her after they get married properly. He prides himself on the fact that Therese is a virgin, unlike the previous two girls he dated, with whom he had only sexual relationships. But while Richard holds hopes for a future with Therese, the latter feels suffocated and unexcited about being with him. When the chance to go on a road trip with Carol arises, she leaps upon it without a second thought. The pair may have had relationships with men, but it is only due to the traditional aspect of the era.

The circumstances surrounding Carol and Therese force them into a complex environment where they must adapt to survive. In conclusion, even though Carol and Therese have had straight relationships in the past, they are both gay.

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