The Color Wheel


tumblr_inline_n9r48gy4cM1raz8h1Introduction to The Color Wheel:

Some gift-to-mankind of an anon recommended a movie called The Color Wheel a few weeks back. I followed up on the recommendation a day or two later – hoping to like it, of course, but without terribly high expectations. Well, to say I loved it is a comical understatement. I’ve watched it about eight times – I’ve lost count, to tell the truth, and it’ll be a bigger number soon enough – and it has become one of my favorite movies ever.

The Color Wheel is an indie comedy from 2011 filmed in a nostalgic black and white style about two siblings – J.R. and her younger brother Colin – whose lives are one big failure, and who can’t stand each other about as much as no one else can stand either of them. After J.R.’s boyfriend/former professor kicks her out, she asks Colin to go on a short road trip with her to help her move her things. They’re forced to confront the bad decisions that they’ve made,  the reality of where they’re at in their lives, and the fact that maybe they actually get along pretty well.


*cough incest cough*

This movie is the whole package. As I lay out in this post, it fulfills every criteria one could possibly hope to find in their dream incest movie.

I had a request for a breakdown of the scene that leads up to the climax of the movie – namely the consummation of J.R. and Colin’s growing incestuous attraction. So I’ve written it up and I’m publishing it on here since it’s a little lengthy. This is not an analysis of the entire film, just of that one scene. Without the context of the rest of the movie, it’s not going to mean very much. I wholeheartedly recommend this movie to everyone interested in canon incest, so I very much encourage you to watch it.

I wrote this post right after I watched it for the first time and it offers some more non-spoilery details about what to expect from the movie. For those of you who have seen it, this is my tag for commentary of Colin and J.R.’s relationship, and there are a handful of posts in the tag that discuss other parts of the movie (some of them somewhat in depth) in addition to the scene I’m going to analyze below. So even though this post only deals with one scene, there is plenty of other commentary about J.R. to be found on the tumblr.

“Sounds like your kind of guy”:1I was deeply flattered and more than happy to oblige the lovely anon who requested a breakdown of the scene leading up to JR and Colin’s epically epic make out session. I wouldn’t normally feel the need to write any commentary on a pairing that ends up together and so clearly needed to, but The Color Wheel is sometimes so delightfully subtle and with a great movie and a great pairing like this, there’s nothing more fun than teasing out some of the indicators and details from their journey of coming together. The Color Wheel is perfection, if I haven’t made that clear yet, and since my idea of perfection involves a long, winding road, that means there’s plenty to analyze along the way.

23The scene opens on JR reading a book: Astrology and Sexual Analysis. I don’t suppose it’s entirely coincidental that she’s reading something that has to do with sex. I would imagine a book like this talks about how different signs express themselves sexually and which signs are compatible sexually, etc. After her catastrophic encounter with the Professor earlier that day, it’s not surprising she’s turning to the stars to tell her how to do better next time, or to explain what went wrong. It’s unclear exactly what JR’s beliefs are, but she’s clearly interested in spiritual matters. Here she is reading this astrology book, the night before she was reading the Bible at the motel (which she took with her), she has a Star of David hanging from her rear view mirror, and then there’s her crush on Moses, of course.

4 5Colin strikes me as the complete opposite. He’s skeptical of her vision board, and I imagine he’s even more skeptical of astrology. Now, of course JR could have just been the reading the book for kicks – I totally would have – but I imagine her as the type who would buy into it. I like that scene starts right off by quietly reminding us how different they are.

JR has chosen a place to sleep at the cabin – it seems to be a family room or a parlor – it’s not a bedroom. Colin knocks and JR tells him that he doesn’t have to knock because it’s only the two of them.


The crazy part isn’t that she says that, it’s that Colin then apologizes for knocking. Who is this person? What has he done with Colin? Can you conceive of this exchange having happened towards the beginning of the film? I’ll just tell you: no you can’t. JR would have called him ridiculous for knocking, and Colin would have given a 10 minute speech about why it’s important to knock, which JR would have attempted to derail several times by doing an impersonation of him.

They’ve come so far!

6Colin sits on the couch, and JR moves her legs to make room for him after he gestures for her to move them.This isn’t that special, but there are plenty of other places where he might have sat down – including some benches you can see behind the couch – and he also doesn’t even sit at the end of the couch. He sits pretty much right up against her.

7They do have a little squabble over Colin’s phrasing of “Can I put something to you?” which is reminiscent of their earlier bickering. It makes me nostalgic for the times when they fought over every little thing. I think Colin accidentally used an awkward expression because he felt uncomfortable/nervous about what he was going to say. And JR is like, “Just say what you mean.” And if things hadn’t unfolded exactly the way they did, I could easily imagine them having an echo of this argument in place of kissing, with Colin trying to broach the subject but not knowing how to, and JR not having the patience for games or circumventing the issue.

JR attacking him for his word choice gives Colin second thoughts about asking her what he was going to ask her. I think it’s one part timidity and one part petulance. He avenges himself on JR by forcing her to coax the question out of him, which she does, with just a hint of apology in her tone and enough dutiful curiosity that he eagerly moves forward.

Colin wants to know if JR views him as being the same as the despicable people that were at the party. As he opens himself up more and more and explains that he couldn’t stand to have her look at him with the same kind of hatred as she did the people at the party, and reveals that despite the fact that he eviscerated her at the diner after she called his life pathetic that in fact he had been deeply affected/troubled by what she said, JR becomes more and more determined to reassure him that he’s nothing like those people.

And notice how she bumps her knees against him playfully. They’re so comfortable with each other at this point, except for the sexual tension, of course, which is a form of discomfort but doesn’t neutralize the intimacy they’ve found.

The beginning part of this discussion is the perfect parallel of their discussion at the diner. At the diner they were hardlined in their own positions, and here they’re meeting in the middle. JR is admitting that the idea of an unpredictable life is overrated and there’s something to be said for being secure and stable, and Colin admits that he fears he’s made the wrong choices and that his life is lost.

What I love most is that Colin makes this very much about JR’s opinion of him. He wouldn’t want JR to look at him like that. He wouldn’t want JR to have that kind of contempt for him. She’s his big sister. She’s made mistakes but he cares what she thinks about him more than ever. After this weekend together, even though she’s got a “shambled life”, he cares what she thinks of him.

8And JR keeps setting her and Colin apart from everyone else – “those people are fails”, “those people are losers”, “they’re normal”, “we’re special”. For her, whatever Colin does, he’s exempt from that judgment from her. Even though she attacks him with those accusations earlier (which was just a defense mechanism because he was attacking her, and furthermore, she was only saying those things because she wanted something better for him), once they have a real moment where they’re honest with each other, all she wants to do is reassure him that he’s fine.

They start talking about Kim Thompson and relax into a more comfortable conversation. Even though JR was rooting for Colin to get some “slutty time” with Kim Thompson, she’s put-off right from the start when it actually happens. She comes back to interrupt them, she sets out to make them uncomfortable by asking them what’s going on, and then she vindictively insults Kim (by implying that Colin used her). Here, when Colin says that he owed it to his younger self to make out with Kim, JR is reluctant to agree. (And her reaction is even more disquieted later on in this conversation, which we’ll get to.)

9Colin leans back and JR pulls her legs around and puts them on his lap. YMMV but this is a fairly intimate gesture in my book. At the very least it’s comfortable. Given that it has already been established to at least some degree that Colin…appreciates JR in a sexual way, it’s significant to have her legs across his lap and her butt against his thigh. He’s got his arms crossed, which tells me he doesn’t quite know what to do with them. So he’s at this weird crossroads between being extremely self-aware and being in a relaxed moment with her.

JR goes off on a tangent about how everyone sleeps and how weird that is. (Night blogger in the house!) Typical JR, and the exact reason why I love her and Colin because that’s not the way his thoughts would ever tend. He needs JR there to make his life “kooky”. She ends by saying, “Except sharks.” I think that’s some questionable biology there, but I love Colin’s little smile. He’s amused.

However, Colin’s thoughts are on Zoe, for the moment. And so he can’t muster a good mood. Not that Colin is ever in a good mood, LOL. Zoe is as tied up in this question of Colin’s unsatisfying life as his job as a copy writer for focus presentations is. Every time JR has insulted Zoe Colin has made no effort to defend her. And here he outright says it: the situation with Zoe is “so fucked”. I think a slight breeze of guilt moves past him, but for the most part his lack of contrition is a sign that he doesn’t care about the integrity of his relationship with Zoe. “What about her?” he says. Even if he plans on staying with Zoe, a healthy, functional relationship with her isn’t a priority for him.

A very interesting thing comes up here. JR begins, “It’s a relief to hear you didn’t…”, but doesn’t finish. Colin asks her, but doesn’t wait very long for her answer, and continues speaking about the situation with Zoe. JR does finish her sentence, but very quietly. I believe she says, “love her.” I’m not 100% certain, and it’s not in the subtitles, but I’m going to proceed as if that’s what she says. I do definitely think that’s what she says. It’s a slight possibility that she’s talking about Kim Thompson, but it would make more sense if she were talking about Zoe. So, talking about Zoe, JR says, “It’s a relief to know you didn’t love her.” I think it’s interesting that she puts it in the past tense, as if Colin and Zoe aren’t even together anymore. In a way they’re not, because any illusion of Zoe and Colin as a solid, content couple is totally shattered. (But it would be pretty hard to make that mistake!)

Now, there are a lot of reasons why JR wouldn’t want Colin to love Zoe. JR obviously doesn’t like Zoe, and the feeling is mutual. But the way that JR says it indicates so much more. First we have her not finishing the sentence – she begins the sentence and then has second thoughts about finishing it. And then she finally does finish it, but as sort of a sad whisper. A SAD WHISPER, GUYS. I think this is a really important moment for JR, and I think she’s starting to figure her feelings out. She realizes that she’s relieved that Colin isn’t in love with Zoe because the thought makes her jealous and/or because she wants Colin to love her instead. Maybe it’s merely that she doesn’t want to share Colin with Zoe. But there’s an epiphany in the works.

Colin lies down next to JR on the couch. If you notice, he leaves his feet hanging off the side of the couch, so JR’s legs are still thrown over his. They’re all tangled up!

10JR continues to reassure him that he’s not headed for some sort of middle-aged suburban cliché, and she promises to whisk him away before it’s too late. She says she’ll bring his stupid gargoyles too – but then she corrects herself and calls them his “precious gargoyles”. I think it’s pretty sweet that she did that. “Stupid” just came right out, but she wanted to be supportive and so she changes the adjective to something that isn’t insulting. Zoe won’t let Colin put his gargoyles up in the house but JR even thinks to mention them in this joking hypothetical because she knows how much they mean to him.

JR jokes that she’ll bring Colin to whoever her new “mentor/suitor” is and “we can live in their basement or something”. So even though she’s got this boyfrend she and Colin are the ones living together. JR, I think you’re accidentally showing your cards here, babe.

Colin points out that he and JR only see each other, “like twice a year.” He says this resentfully, but it has been established that JR’s parents are the ones keeping JR at a distance. It’s really their fault. JR actually seems to really love her family and want to spend time with them, but they’re embarrassed of her. Which is what makes Colin falling in love with her that much better. JR is a mess on the outsider, but Colin is a mess on the inside.

God I love this movie!

JR asks Colin was his dream life would have been, and Colin reveals that he had thought about teaching. What I love about this part of the discussion is that JR repeats, basically word-for-word, something disparaging that Colin had said about teaching years and years earlier. Colin is impressed – and dareth I say touched? Yes, I dareth – that JR remembered what he had said so well, and JR says that it “had an effect”. So we have this moment where Colin has to acknowledge that JR actually listens to what he has to say and lets herself be influenced by what he has to say. And this goes back to the very beginning of the conversation, where Colin is afraid of JR judging him and thinking he’s like the people at the party. These two care about what the other has to say, unlike the rest of the world.

JR doesn’t see any room for advancement in teaching, and she basically asks, “Then what?” And Colin jokes that he can then have sex with his students and promise them jobs. It’s a clever stab at JR’s situation (and she takes it in good humor), but what’s really impressive is that he immediately apologizes and says, “I’m in no position to judge.” What a complete 180 from earlier! He’s definitely a pod person. This is not Colin we know and begrudgingly tolerate. (JK we love that loser.)

Colin wanting to be a teacher is very convenient, since the comparison to JR’s ex is immediately drawn. First by Colin, in fact. Eh eh *elbows you*

JR has never thought of Colin being a teacher because of the bad things he had said about teaching, but she takes a minute to picture it and this is the tippy top of the roller coaster because it’s a steep downward slope from here. (And it’s a blast!). “I guess I could imagine you, though,” JR says. And this is when the camera zooms in, which lends it further significance and signals a new stage of their conversation. JR means that she can picture him being a teacher, but Colin can’t resist: “What? Fucking my students?” I think he knows that’s not what she means – though it’s not clear – but this mix of Colin+sex+identity confusion with her ex makes for too much allure and he presses the concept of him being a teacher who has sex with students again. He’s right too, because as we’ll soon see, it gives JR the hots. He’s watching her rather closely.

11That’s not what JR meant, but she goes with it because she enjoys the image.

12This is where she brings up Kim Thompson again: “The way you were with Kim tonight, I can just imagine all the creepy, perverse stuff you’re capable of that I didn’t think before.”

So, in JR’s mind, Colin making out with Kim was something creepy and perverse. It was cheating, but beyond that it wasn’t particularly sordid, especially given the fact that he’d had a crush on her while growing up AND JR had been encouraging him! But I think Colin being with Kim made JR so unhappy when it actually happened that it has become this dark thing in her mind.

It also had another important effect – it got JR thinking about Colin as a sexual being. Of course she knew he was sexually active but she actually has to confront the image of him being sexual. That was just what happened with Kim. This new Colin-as-a-teacher-who-has-sex-with-his-students is just a whole other layer and it’s confusing her.

Again, Colin is watching her pretty closely. He’s interested in her reactions.

And what’s Colin’s response? “Oh yeah? Well you don’t know the half of it.”


13I mean, I think he’s joking around a little, of course, but essentially he’s admitting that he wants her. Of course she’s not in a position to realize that, but as an audience that has seen the movie at least once, we know better.

Colin mumbles something after this, but it’s totally unintelligible. It’s one of the great mysteries of this movie. But it’s absolutely impossible to understand, so I don’t beat myself up over it.

Now, I think the use of the word perverse here is interesting. Perhaps it’s not significant, but we’ve heard the word once before in the movie – Colin told JR that she was “a hot commodity in the world of perverts”, and now Colin is self-identifying as a pervert. Just sayin’! And even without JR bringing the word “pervert/perverse” back into the discussion, it was already interesting that Colin indicated that JR was prone to being the object of perverted desire, because of the eventual incest.

OK, I will freely admit that I don’t quite understand JR’s vibrator story. (If that could be called a story.) At least, I don’t understand why it’s a part of the movie or a part of this conversation. It does lead to the “scent-free vagina” exchange where JR tells Colin that his future daughter may have inherited this quality from their mother, bypassing quite ostentatiously – and significantly – any discussion of JR’s own vagina and it’s aromatic qualities, since she is a direct descendant. Perhaps that was the whole purpose.

Or perhaps it was all about the part where Colin says he hasn’t been able to get an erection ever since JR mentioned their mother’s vibrator (which JR never actually got as far as mentioning, so obviously this is a lie/joke), and JR then asks Colin if he had an erection while making out with Kim, and Colin is awkward about it and doesn’t want to answer, which makes JR feel embarrassed about asking.

The exact meaning of all of this isn’t clear to me but the general trend of the conversation towards more sexual matters is pretty obvious and intentional, and the “molestation” discussion (somewhat parallel, since it involved them personally and sexual things) at the car earlier that day was light and easy, whereas there’s obviously quite a lot of tension building in this discussion and it’s full of mines of awkwardness and embarrassed retreats.

JR laughs disproportionately hard at his “butt cracks” pun. She might be laughing hysterically because of all the tension but it’s obvious she does find the joke funny. This will be important in a moment.

14 15Colin is just watching her, smiling, so happy to see her laughing. He smiles so rarely, which makes the few moments when he’s really truly have fun so much more significant.

The joke and ensuing laughter does nothing to dispel the tension, however, and once JR has her breath back she takes a turn down a road they will not becoming back from. There’s a substantial charge that manifests when JR begins speaking again. The image of Colin as a teacher/professor obviously hasn’t left her mind, and the lull in the conversation gives her the opportunity to abruptly change the subject and go back to that topic, which I’m guessing she had been semi-desperate to do all along. She would have steered the conversation back there no matter what. From the way she begins talking about it, you can tell she has been thinking about it this whole time and the fantasy had already started in her head before she begins spinning it out loud.17

She begins painting the picture of him as a professor. Colin only ever said “teacher”, but she imagines a professor, which is important because of her ex. JR obviously has a thing for professors. But she makes this very specifically about Colin. She talks about his stupid clothes – specifically naming his jeans from earlier in the movie that she disapproved of – and she again mentions the gargoyles. And she mentions him being awkward as part of the fantasy as well. This isn’t just any fanstasy/scenario – she’s picturing Colin.

Colin has spent a lot of this discussion studying JR very closely, but both of them close their eyes while she weaves the fantasy, becoming invested in the story and it probably helps them to forget a little where they actually are and what the real life situation is. In a way it’s kind of wonderfully ironic, because Colin looks like he’s falling asleep but they’re both electrified.

16JR is almost breathless as she speaks, our first hint that she’s more than a little turned on.

The girl/student in the fantasy starts out pretty generic, and I think JR meant for her to be generic at first, JR becomes that girl more and more as the story goes on. First JR says that Professor Colin appreciates the girl because she’s the only one in the class who laughs at his stupid jokes. And just a minute or two ago we had JR laughing really hard at one of Colin’s stupid jokes. (And as we learned from Zoe and at the party, no one else particularly likes Colin’s jokes.)

Our second hint that JR is more than a little turned on is when she starts brushing her nipple with her finger as she talks about the pin that Professor Colin gave to the girl. (This was the point when I was watching the movie for the first time that I knew something for sure just had to happen.) Stimulating herself like that while Colin is lying down next to her is bad enough, but she’s actually thinking about him, we know that for a fact!

18The part of the fantasy about the empty seat and the girl arriving just as the movie starts and the popcorn without butter is all rather specific. At this point JR has definitely moved on from some run-of-the-mill teacher/student fantasy and made it into something that appeals very specifically to her. The part about the movie and the address on the rough draft highlight the forbidden nature of the teacher/student relationship, which obviously has a parallel with an incestuous relationship. JR is a hot commodity in the world of perverts and she keeps falling for guys she’s not supposed to be with.

The final part of the fantasy has the girl arriving at the professor’s house for their first sexual encounter (one supposes) – and of course JR and Colin are at the same threshold. JR describes the girl as punctual, ready, fun, a good person, and destined for success – all qualities JR wants for herself, particularly the last one. There can be no debate at this point that JR has made herself the girl in the fantasy. She goes on to say, “And you guys get each other, which is so rare. And it just, I don’t know, it just makes sense.” If anything in the fantasy she described applied to Colin and JR, it’s that. Colin and JR get each other now, and they just make sense.

19“That’s what it would be like if you were a professor, I think,” JR finishes.

“Sounds like you’re kind of guy,” Colin says. And “Your Kind of Guy” is the title of the chapter, BTW. Colin says it lightly, as if it doesn’t mean anything, but it means everything and JR knows that.

20“I guess he is,” she replies. And I love her phrasing, because it shows that this is something she has just discovered. And it’s her way of telling him, “Yes, go for it. Lips are ready to receive.”

Cue k-i-s-s-i-n-g.21

I’m not going to cover the rest of the scene, though there are a lot of small things to notice and appreciate about the rest of the scene. I’m crazy about the Jeannette bit, and the camera panning a little to show that Colin’s arm is thrown over JR’s chest, and then Colin whispering, “Good night, Jeannette,” at the end, because he’s such a glorious effin’ mess of guilt and shame and happiness and terror and confusion. JR’s just like, “Yes, thank God, something good finally happened on this trip from hell,” and Colin is like, “Being this is in love with my sister is a serious fucking problem.”

I hope there were one or two things in there that you found interesting, Anon! I tried.


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6 Responses to The Color Wheel

  1. hoagie says:

    So I decided to watch the movie before I read your article and holy crap this movie is soooo good! seriously I’ve watched it twice now and I still cant believe that not only was it excellent but it didn’t portray the siblings as evil or mentally ill. It seem like a lot of the things you cover that actually have incest in them always portray the characters involved a less than morally upright individuals. Sure Collin and J.R have their problems but they seem like normal people overall to me plus I think its obvious that the writers wanted to the audience to root for J.R and Collin getting together. I have to admit that I love the fact that its set in Pennsylvania too, at one point Collin even has a Wawa bag which made me laugh.

    There are somethings about this scene that I think you missed although I’m a little nervous to tell you about it because I think there’s a good chance that I’m wrong and reading way to much into it, but something tells me you’d want to hear it even if its just my rambling. During the party its revealed that J.R couldn’t read until she was ten and that Collin was the one that finally taught her how to (man they have crappy parents!) I’m sure you already knew that but you didn’t mention it here and I think it makes J.R’s fantasy about Collin being a a teacher a lot more complicated.

    Another thing I think you missed or overlooked was J.R’s ring. The shot that shows her touching her chest while lying next to her brother is centered on the ring while she talks about the pin the professor in her story gave to the student. This is the same ring that J.R wears the entire movie and refers to as a wedding ring when they’re checking into the motel. To me, that shot suggests that maybe Collin gave her that ring back when he was teaching her how to read. She says that the student complimented the professor for his pin and that a few weeks later he gave her one that was similar. J.R’s ring depicts Moses holding the ten commandments so maybe her preoccupation with Moses was influenced by Collin. Like I said I could be reading way too much into it and be dead wrong but I think its something to think about.

    I don’t really agree with your interpretation that the couch scene is a eureka moment for J.R where she realizes that she wants her brother. I think there are a few scenes before then that suggest she loves her brother more than she would care to admit. To me her story about the professor and his student (which like you said starts out pretty generic but gets more and more specific as she goes along) feels like an indirect way for J.R to list the benefits of them being together as a couple. My interpretation probably doesn’t make much sense but that’s how I took it. I’m probably going to watch this movie a couple more times and my interpretation could definitely change, there are so many little but significant things to keep track of in this and it feels like you would have to watch it multiple times to have ever a good grasp of it.

    Even though this article is only meant to cover the scene in the cabin I’ve seen your Tumblr posts where you talk about the ending so I have to talk about it. I agree that there is no reason to show the door opening other than to suggest that Collin chased after her. The look he has when he’s holding zoe is telling too, it looks like at the very least that he is questioning the sustainability of their relationship if not outright wishing it was over. Even without those two factors I would still be optimistic about Collin and J.R since the scene in the begging shows that Zoe and Collin’s relationship isn’t healthy plus the part where Collin describes their relationship as fucked. So I think its inevitable that Collin and J.R will end up together.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Brills, Hoagie!

      I am so excited that you 1) watched the movie before reading my article and 2) loved it, and 3) brought so many insightful observations and discussion to the table!

      The Color Wheel is remarkable for a number reasons, not least of all is the fact that the movie wants us to want Colin and J.R. to get together. Not only is the movie sympathetic towards their incestuous relationship, it treats the incest as the happy ending. You’re not wrong about most of the canon incest examples that have come up on my blog(s). Canonically incestuous siblings are typically any number of negative adjectives – villainous and/or mentally unwell being two of the most common. It’s not my preference to cover relationships like that, it’s a question of what’s out there. I love The Color Wheel that much more for shattering those conventions.

      Don’t be nervous about sharing your thoughts! If I’ve overlooked something then I am eager to fix that – I want the commentary to be as thorough and as accurate as possible. And if we disagree about how something should be interpreted or how far to take an idea then I’m happy just to have another opinion on here and glad of the discussion. You’re absolutely right – even if it’s just you rambling or even if I think there’s evidence for a different interpretation, I still would love to hear you out every time.

      The connection you’ve made between Colin teaching J.R. to read when they were kids and J.R.’s-professor-lust/Colin-as-a-teacher-fantasy is genius. I didn’t give Colin’s attempt to embarrass J.R. at the party a second thought, and I’m so glad that you did. I’ve always believed this was a very tightly written script with a reason behind every action and line but I’m not nearly clever enough to sort it all out. Thank God for the help!

      The ring is an equally impressive piece of insight. Even though it was lie, as soon as she said it was her wedding ring the ring took on a new meaning. Every time the ring is at the center of the shot or J.R. plays with it we can wonder if it’s significant. In the shot you are talking about, when J.R. is touching her chest, you’re quite right that the ring is at the center. I’d be inclined to say it’s merely a coincidence, especially since the most important part of the shot is J.R. touching her chest, but it’s very interesting the way the camera follows J.R.’s hand as she lays it down at her waist/thigh when she’s done, which is something I have always wondered about.

      Did Colin give her the ring? I’m not sure I’m convinced but the only thing in the movie to suggest otherwise is just the simple fact that it was never stated. It’s a perfectly valid headcanon as far as I’m concerned and could very possibly be true. I had no idea that her ring was Moses. (This just shows how little attention I’ve paid to the ring. I’ll look more closely the next time I watch the movie.) This is very interesting, because if her ring has Moses on it, and J.R. has a crush on Moses, then she already associates the ring with desire/love. So when she says it’s her wedding ring, it’s that much more complicated. And she wears the ring all the time like a wedding ring, which I just realized. I would think that an interest in Moses would come before a gift like that, but whose to say. It’s definitely something to think about.

      As for when J.R. became aware of the exact nature of her feelings – and Colin too, for that matter – I have no entrenched stance. I like that I’m not sure, which makes each rewatch that much more compelling. My writing may have had the tone of an assertion but I am not committed to any one interpretation where this matter is concerned. I could make a case for the idea that J.R. doesn’t quite know what she’s feeling until she’s just about leaning in to kiss him, but I I could make a case for the idea that J.R. had some inkling even before the movie started. Likewise, I could probably make the case that she figures it out at the party. I love the light hand that the writers used, giving us that kind of latitude.

      Personally, I prefer a slow progressive realization with her not fully grasping the nature of her feelings until basically the last minute, but that’s just my preference, I certainly don’t think it’s the only valid interpretation or a better interpretation. I guess I just enjoy it when the realization process can be stretched out as much as possible, even though I think it’s sort of hard to believe, generally speaking, that people aren’t more aware of their feelings. I don’t think I could ever be in love with someone and not realize it. But J.R. and Colin aren’t very self-aware. In a way that might be what it comes down to – how much sexual tension and awkwardness can there exist between them with it still being possible for them not to realize what they want, according to the viewer’s beliefs. For me, I love the idea of them having an interaction that’s fully saturated with all of this tension and sexualization and jokes and comments that all but explicity state how they’re feeling, but for it all to still be on a subconscious level. One of my favorite things about incest is that the characters will continue to make excuses to themselves until it’s past the point of ridiculous because the idea of incest is so anathema.

      J.R.s “I guess he is” reply working as evidence that she’s recently realized her true feelings could still apply even if the realization had come earlier on the trip.

      I love the idea of J.R. using the story/fantasy as an indirect way of pitching an incestuous relationship to Colin. I think that would be really smart writing. Almost too smart for me to believe it was intentional – so it’s a credit to you in any case. I for sure agree that when she lists the benefits at the end – “they get each other”, “It makes sense”, etc. – she’s intentionally talking about her and Colin. In my opinion the story would not have rambled as much if she knew exactly what she was doing when she started out, but that is J.R.’s style.

      I’m really glad you disagreed because I am fascinated by these new ideas you’ve introduced. I was desperate for a stimulating discussion of this movie and I have been truly blessed by everyone that has brought their thoughts to me.

      As for the ending, I think there can be no debate any longer about the meaning of the door opening. Everyone came to same conclusion. It was my first thought as well I was just too guarded and gun-shy to accept such a happy ending. As we just discussed, this sort of thing is so rare as to be essentially non-existent.

      If you read this post, you might recall that I mentioned how I could imagine Colin’s journey might have been meant to take him back to Zoe, that was mostly just me being brainwashed by so many movies where anything and everything happened except for incest endgame, no matter how little sense it made. I agree with you completely – the movie did everything it could to show that Colin and J.R. were compatible and that they were not incompatible with everyone else, including Zoe, Kim Thompson, and Professor Neil. So even if Colin wasn’t chasing after J.R., he and Zoe were headed for splitsville no matter what.

      • hoagie says:

        Its been a few days and I’ve watched it a few more times and I’m starting to agree with your take on it more and more. My idea about J.R’s ring was probably just wishful thinking since there isn’t much to support it other than the way the camera follows J.R’s finger while she talks about the pin the girl in her story received. I just really liked the idea of J.R keeping and treasuring a gift from her brother but never acknowledging it or speaking to him about it until that moment.

        I thought what you wrote about J.R having that moment of clarity where she realizes her feelings on the couch was your definite take on what happened but I reread your commentary and saw things like “I think” or “maybe” (oops) so I kinda put words in your mouth on that one,sorry.

        I agree that the idea of being in love with someone and not realizing it is pretty outlandish, in my experience being in love is about as subtle as a hand grenade but an incest paring is probably one of the few scenarios where I feel like that could happen since one or both people involved could be in denial or trying to suppress their feelings. Now that I have had some time to think about it, the couch scene being the point where everything boils over and they stop pretending that there is nothing going on between them makes sense.

        The party scene keeps drawing more of my attention every time I see it because that’s when I think you start to see J.R’s feelings on full display. Besides the obvious things like when she interrupts Collin and Kim while their making out or when she freaks out over Collin being tripped and goes into nurse J.R mode the scene when Kim first approaches Collin is really interesting. Right after J.R tries and fails to act like a news caster in front of everyone Collin comes up to her and asks to leave. While J.R is speaking to him about the party or his pineapple she seems happy and even smiles a little but the second Kim approaches them J.R stats to look annoyed and upset. When Collin gets Kim to laugh J.R tries to put end to the situation and brings up the embarrassing fact that he had a crush on her when he was younger and that he saved swimsuit pictures that they took on a trip including pictures of his sister. Holding onto revealing pictures of your sister is weird but isn’t telling other people about that weird too? I guess that J.R is trying make her brother look creepy by bringing that up but it almost feels like she’s telling the other women there that if you want my brothers attention your going to have to compete with me. Then when that fails and Kim and the other woman (was it Julia?) say they don’t mind she stands there and starts to pout until Collin retaliates with another embarrassing childhood memory.

        Sorry for throwing my inane ideas at you after such a weird span of time but I really wanted to talk about this movies some more and I can’t just go up to my friends and be like “hey do you want to talk about some obscure indie movie with incest in it?” Because the inevitable answer would be “No dude I really don’t”

        • Shipcestuous says:

          Again, I just have to say that it makes me so happy that you enjoyed the movie enough to watch it several times and that you want to talk about it. There’s no expiration date on my willingness to discuss anything on this blog, least of all Colin and J.R. I think all of us interested in incest narratives suffer from a lack of people to talk to about it and I am more than glad to fill that role.

          I think the ring being a gift from Colin is a great idea. I don’t think there’s necessarily evidence of that in the movie, but like I said, there’s absolutely nothing to contradict it either. J.R. had to say pin so that she could touch her chest, but perhaps there had originally been a different gift in mind, one that would have formed a more explicit connection to Colin and J.R. I also love the idea of her secretly treasuring a gift from Colin – and even more I think that would be totally in-character for her and in line with the current situation of their relationship. One of the most significant things, and something I haven’t really discussed with anyone – is the fact that J.R. invited Colin to come do this with her. In that morning scene at the Avalanche Motor Lodge Colin is trying to get J.R. to tell him why she picked him and she never says (although her answer of “because you have nobody important to tell” could be true, but I think she was trying to get a zinger on him after the way he had been relentlessly insulting her during that entire conversation). That reminds me a lot of this headcanon of the gift.

          Don’t feel bad about interpreting what I had said about J.R. sort of having an epiphany during that scene on the couch because that was definitely the impression I gave. I was absolutely putting forth that idea I just hadn’t committed to it.

          Speaking generally about almost any pairing, I’m constantly torn between wanting the realization that they’re in love to happen at the last possible second and finding it totally ridiculous that they’re not more aware of their feelings. I love your simile of love being as subtle as a hand grenade. It’s true. But it’s like you said – if that’s ever possible, incest is where you’d be most likely to find it since there’s such high motivation to suppress their feelings or deny what they’re feeling.

          I am thrilled by your take on that scene from the party. I haven’t talked about the party too much (on tumblr either), but I think it’s one of the most subtly written parts of the film and I think a lot of the intentions of the writers were lost on me, so I’m grateful for your ideas. As I’ve reached the point where I’ve seen the movie a bunch of times, I become more interested in trying to untangle some of the meaning of the scenes at the party as well. Obviously everything after Colin trips is hugely shippy (for lack of a better word), and Colin and J.R. can’t help but show their preference for each other at that point. But what comes before that is far more obscure.

          I do think J.R. was relieved to be talking to Colin after failing so miserably at her impression of a news anchor. She was amused that he brought a pineapple. I agree – there’s a hint of a smile there as she thinks about her stupid brother and his stupid pineapple. Julia is standing there the whole time but Colin and J.R. ignore her while talking to each other. When Kim and “Laurie the Nurse Lover” walk up and ask J.R. who her friend is, I do think J.R. is a little annoyed that they’ve come up and interrupted the conversation. (J.R. has been shown to have never liked Kim Thompson – which is interesting because of Colin’s long-time crush on Kim! And remember when J.R. said that Kim was the hottest girl in school except for her?)

          And Kim says, “Who’s your friend?” J.R. acts a little weird here, I always thought. Now, she probably is just surprised because she expected Kim to recognize Colin (Colin clearly expected this), but I think she acts like Kim’s implying that Colin is her boyfriend. J.R. does this several times at the party – when Chris (aka “Wheels” – the man in the wheelchair) says that she and her friend looked uncomfortable, and then when Kim walks in on J.R. nursing him and asks if she’s interrupting anything. Every time J.R. gets sort of squirrelly like she has been caught doing something bad and is trying to reassure them that she’s not doing something bad.

          I think you may have totally changed my interpretation of this scene!!!!!!! When J.R. announces Colin’s former crush on Kim, I had always assumed she was just trying to get the ball rolling between them. Revealing a former crush like that can often be a sort of pick-up line, and in this case it even works that way. Like Colin makes that joke about how he used to look different because he didn’t have drink spilled on him, and J.R. sees that maybe Kim is receptive to Colin because she’s laughing flirtatiously, so she decides to catalyze things by revealing Colin’s crush.

          But somehow I never paid close enough attention to J.R.’s reaction. She’s amiable enough when she “introduces” Colin, but from there on her face is a series of eyerolls and annoyed frowns. She pretty much glares while Kim and Colin talk. And then when Kim and Laurie begin laughing hard and flirtatiously at Colin’s joke, J.R. becomes very annoyed, and then she comes out with the story of the photographs that he kept, which could be interpreted as her actively working against any kind of Colin/Kim hookup by 1) making Colin seem creepy, and 2) asserting herself as a rival – and the stronger candidate – for Colin’s affections. And J.R. could be doing that either consciously or just as sort of knee-jerk reaction to her displeasure at seeing Colin and Kim flirting.

          I’ve always found it VERY strange that J.R. told the girls that Colin even kept the pictures of her. I just assumed that it was clunky expositional dialogue to reveal that Colin’s attraction to J.R. (again, conscious or subconscious), dates back to high school or before. But that line works much better as J.R. already attempting to sabotage Colin and Kim. But then the part that doesn’t work as well is when Colin later tells her that he’s got a chance with Kim and J.R. seems really excited for him. Though since she was getting ready to say that they should leave, maybe she’s just feigning some excitement for him. Even prior to him being tripped she probably already realizes that she owes him big time so maybe she’s just doing something good for him for that reason.

          I didn’t think of J.R. trying to sabotage Colin and Kim’s hookup until it was actually happening – when she comes back with the bottle of water and interrupts them for no good reason and then everything that follows that. (Like I wrote in this entry, my impression was that J.R. was trying to get Colin something that would make him happy – Kim – but once it was actually happening she realized how much hated how it made her feel and tried to stop it. Though she didn’t need to – Colin realized it wasn’t what he wanted either.)

          Well, this new interpretation makes me very happy! It’s much shipper than the other one and I think it makes more sense. I think at the party J.R. is sort of torn between wanting Colin to get some sort of reward for all he’s been through on the trip – Kim – and her own dislike of Kim and not wanting Colin and Kim to hook up (because she wants Colin for herself).

          Thank you so much for your comments and discussions and your interpretations!!!!

  2. conchord says:

    I really enjoyed your analysis of this scene from Color Wheel, and I was wondering if you know what JR and Colin say to each other while they’re kissing? It’s a very short exchange, but I’ve never been able to tell what they’re saying. Also, do you think they actually had sex during that scene? The camera never drifts down, but there are a lot of noises going on in the background beyond them kissing. Thanks in advance! Loving your site as always (though I’m still anxiously waiting a sequel to your amazing iCarly fanfic ha ha).

    • Shipcestuous says:


      I’m so glad you enjoyed reading what I had to say about that scene from The Color Wheel.

      If I am understanding you right, then in the exchange you’re wondering about JR says, “Can you call me Jeannette right now, please?”, and Colin says, “No one has called you Jeannette since you were 11,” and then JR says, “Just do it,” and Colin says, “Ok, Jeannette.” I did that from memory, so it’s not verbatim, but that’s the gist of it. I’m sorry if you’re talking about something else they say, but that’s all I can remember that they say while they were kissing.

      The question of whether they had sex or not is one that still plagues me. I would say that they probably didn’t have sex because it doesn’t seem like they ever mess with their pants, and JR was wearing pretty tight pants that would have been something of a struggle to remove or lower. I think it’s possible they sort of dry-humped? It definitely seems like they orgasm, which is why I think that’s probably what happened. But it’s not totally clear. And then there’s the whole question of whether the two of them standing outside naked was a dream or not.

      I’ve been thinking about iCarly a lot recently. I’m so flattered that iSteal Spencer Back was so well-received. Thank you!!!

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