Saturday, 23 March 2013

Film: Hooray For Hollywood!

No matter who we are, no matter what we are, no matter where we come from, we learn about ourselves and each other in two ways. The first way is what we hear – in our families, from our friends, and from our schoolmates. The second way is what we see – on television and in the movie theater. Now, there is not much any of us can do about what people hear from families and friends, but there is a whole hell of a lot we can do about what people see.
The images that impacted me as a teenager had lasting influences on my entire life and I bet that is true for most of us. What we see in the media today affects everybody, whether it’s film, TV, radio, magazines or the internet. What the media says about your sexual orientation, and the color of your skin, and the shape of your eyes, and your ethnicity… what you look like, what you weigh, what you wear, how poor you are, how awkward you are, how educated you are, and how different you are… this stuff really sinks in. What we see teaches us about how to feel about ourselves and how to feel about each other.
And now, I’m talking about kids who are gay and I’m talking about kids who aren’t gay. One group needs affirmation and the other group needs education. And, if I’m being honest, neither of those issues are high on any movie studio or TV network’s agenda…

The Celluloid Closet was made almost 20 years ago and certainly attitudes have changed, but maybe not quite so much as you or I would want or hope. Television has been much more progressive and credit has to be given to producers like Max Mutchnick and David Kohan and Ryan Murphy for really changing things.
Now movies need to catch up. There are magnificent movies being made about gay subjects with gay characters, like Brokeback Mountain and Milk. Anyone would have been proud to have made those movies. I know I would be. But when you think about some of these films, even our favorite ones, there is a theme that runs through them.
Brokeback Mountain, Milk, Boys Don’t Cry, Philadelphia, The Hours, Gods and Monsters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Single Man, My Own Private Idaho, Cloud Atlas – in all these movies, the main character is murdered or martyred or commits suicide or just dies unhappily. And there are far more pernicious and dangerous images that confront gay kids and their parents: the lesbian murderer, the psychotic transvestite, the queen who is humiliated and sometimes tossed off a ship or a ledge. It’s a big joke. It still happens.
How many times have you heard a character imply to another that the worst thing about going to prison isn’t being locked up for the rest of your life, it’s the homosexuality? And old stereotypes still exist. The most benign stereotypes would have a gay kid believe that they will end up being the asexual, witty best friend of the pretty girl, or a drag queen, or a swishy hairdresser. The list goes on.
Of course, there are great images, too, like the family in The Kids Are All Right. The way the boy in Perks of Being a Wallflower and the middle-aged man in Hotel Marigold and the 75-year-old man in Beginners come out to a better, richer, more fulfilled life. It’s treated as a celebration.

And real credit has to be given to the filmmakers of ParaNorman, Chris Butler and Sam Fell, who had the first gay character in an animated movie, and he was the football hunk and it was totally incidental to the plot.
Now it’s time for all of us to take that step. Not every gay character needs to be defined by his or her sexuality. Can’t being gay just be one stitch in the fabric of someone’s life? Can’t we depict men and women who just so happen to be gay – perhaps a lawyer or soldier or business executive or scientist or engineer…
We need to create an atmosphere that encourages people to speak up, so we get this right.
How about next time, when any of us are reading a script and it says words like fag, or faggot – homo – dyke – take a pencil and just cross it out. Just don’t do it.
We can do better and we will do better. We have to. If we just think about that kid in North Dakota, or their parents, we might just do it a little differently.

Amy Pascal, chair of Sony Pictures, in a speech given last night.
Via Hollywood Deadline.

Thought this was interesting - but more because of who said it, than what it says.
It's a bit simplistic and resurrects a rather tired 80s argument about "positive images" in popular culture.
Haven't we got over this by now?
How can you show the fact of homophobia if someone can't say a word like "faggot"?
How can you film a movie about the life of Harvey Milk if you don't have him dying at the end?
And don't get me started on characters "who just happen to be gay"...
Can you imagine how arse-achingly awful a film about some nice gay men having a nice time would be?

PS For the record, can I stress that I find gay men who think they're saying something stunningly original and "radical" by complaining about non-existent gay straw men who they claim are arguing for "positive images" in popular culture as painfully tedious as anal bleaching. 


  1. "Can you imagine how arse-achingly awful a film about some nice gay men having a nice time would be?"

    The Kids Are All Right? The way they treat the help ...

  2. I haven't seen it - are they "nice"?
    Or are you being sarcastic?
    Will - of & Grace fame - I guess he was "nice"...

    1. They are absolute caricatures of Hollywood liberals but the Messicun gardener? Treated like shit. No one noticed in reviews I saw.

  3. That gay lad from the cartoon sure looks to be likes he's fighting stereotypes.

  4. Tell no one ( french movie ) encompases the real world of the coruption of wealth,murder,everlasting love,and betrayal (how the fuck do you spell that?) Where the strongest,most intelligent character is the realistic dyke (without any shitty usa crap.)

  5. Derek Jarman had a similar experience with Sebastiane. He was criticised for showing homosexual desire in a negative light. Some thought that Sebastiane's refusal to bow to the advances of Claudius due to his religious fervour were demeaning in some way.

    Jarman took the point and his homosexual characters were never apologetic in the same way.

  6. "Can you imagine how arse-achingly awful a film about some nice gay men having a nice time would be?"

    Yes, I expect it would be. But what if their being gay were not the plot, just an incidental?--I'd like to see a remake of Genevieve in which the winning couple was gay...

  7. Can you tell us more about your experience of anal bleaching?

    1. I was just trying to think of something that would be painful and tedious - thanks for arseking.


  8. Have you seen "Ka-boom"? I love it!