Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gay Film

Last night, at the Tuesday dinner I go to with a bunch of men to watch trashy television, I brought up the subject of gay film since I've been kind of wondering about Stinklylulu's questions he posed:

One: what's the most tedious trend in gay film? Two: what work does independent queer cinema have left to do? In short, what do you hate and what do you most yet hope to see?

There were some really interesting and enlightening answers. I was challenged for sure, and as always, that makes you hone your ideas into a more cogent cohesive form. For me, it was the above question that we ended up talking about. Here is a random report as I remember it, and then my thoughts as well.

Two men said that there was not a good gay film between Longtime Companion and Brokeback. We brought up that the current generation (those kids!) didn't really have AIDS as a motivator or looking at their sexuality as a disease to get over (to which Sean replied "Well, good!" which is very true). Someone said they didn't need to see specific gay content, and still others talked about gay actors. Someone brought up that actors should be able to play anything they'd like, and I said Tyler Perry wouldn't cast an all white cast in his film to pass them off as black, so why is it such a thing that straight actors play gay characters and gay actors aren't allowed? One person volunteered that he doesn't buy gay actors as straight once he knows they're gay. I asked why do we allow straight actors to play gay then? Wish fulfillment was his answer, which is probably true--we want to pretend straight actors are gay, but not the other way around. I have a feeling it may be something about emasculating them by coming out as well, though who knows. I think that's another interesting topic, but a side note. And there was a strong voice telling us he liked it when we were more secret, off the map, liminal--finding ourselves as thieves and drunks or on the edges of other stories.

I was asking why we need gay film at all, and I seem to keep coming to the fact that we need to see ourselves, and not just in the "swish'n'fetchit" roles that we seem to suddenly be relegated to. You know, we're the "fairy" godfathers who make sure the straight couples meet, fall in love, and have a tastefully appointed place to go to. That's when we get out of our narcissism or boy chasing. Though never having sex. And, of course, most of the images are completely body conscious. I think it's interesting that two of the most out of character gay men created recently are on "The Sarah Silverman" show, created by a straight woman. And Brokeback was written by a straight woman, adapted by a straight woman and straight man, and directed by a straight man starring two straight actors. My big question is, and still unanswered, why are we seeming to not be telling more nuanced stories? I don't think it's impossible, but I find myself going to European cinema for more interesting portrayals of gays (Adventures of Felix and Bearcub being two recent examples, though I've loved I am My Own Wife, My Beautiful Laundrette, Beautiful Thing). I know this gets into (as was pointed out last night) that I'm thinking there is a "correct" way for us to represent ourselves. I don't. But I do think we have this glut of images that are making us somehow see ourselves as homogenous. And it's fascinating to me that I hear people saying we don't really need gay film, representation, anything since we're everywhere now and people accept us. I don't think that's true. There is still much to be done. But the danger in this is a generation losing its voice and believing what its being marketed--I think there is a danger that by thinking we don't need to tell specifically gay stories that we will lose our voice altogether. There is a new stereotype being created, and we're buying into it. I know this is a problem with representation with any "minority." I also think there is so much homophobia out there, even with ourselves, that we find it challenging still to even see ourselves and our relationships in a serious light.

I also think we need to tell stories that deal with us as complex adults outside of a coming out or disease narrative. If there is anything that irks me about gay film it's that you have to be under thirty and have little body fat to be interesting--unless it's a comedy. I suppose this is just a microcosm of Hollywood, but still--I'd love to see it challenged. One of the most interesting things that was said last night was when I mentioned Robert Patrick's exhortation to younger gay writers to read what's out there already so they don't tell the same story. Someone said "Did he tell you also that he writes porn reviews for {I can't remember the name}? That's what he does to make money." And it's telling. I don't know his life, but I do know he wrote Kennedy's Children, and many specifically gay plays, and obviously doesn't make his living at it now. But for someone who has had a play on Broadway, and writes specifically gay material (like his Decades plays, which I really love), there is not a larger market. Perhaps it is all a question of the market. People have skin in their movies because it sells. Jeff Stryker sells out shows here because at the end he takes off his clothes. That's the world. If I have one wish for queer independent cinema, it's to tell real stories. I know money and sex are great motivators, but I'm hoping we can see more of things when it's not. I feel sometimes that there is a lot of gay content, and it's all the same.

Then again, so is most of Hollywood. So I guess my wish for queer cinema is my wish for all cinema: tell us a good story. Don't bore me.

And you know--this probably isn't even fair and slightly reductive, considering things like "Brothers and Sisters" and "Line of Beauty", but that's English. Anyhow, it's interesting to think about now that content in all media is increasing, and we are finding our place in it. And I don't even have logo, so I'm bad. Or just lucky? Hee hee. More further along.....

No comments: