VT&R: Stop Making Gay Movies for Straight People
VT&R: Stop Making Gay Movies for Straight People
A Weekly Column by Matthew Hawkins
Fuck Call Me by Your Name. Fuck Brokeback Mountain. And kind of fuck Moonlight too. Fuck all the other half-assed portrayals of modern gay culture. I am sick of gay people being played by straight people, written about by straight people—as if there is a shortage of talented gay artists. The whole culture has become a weird piece of flamboyant furniture in America’s mismatched living room. To this point, gays have been accepting of any seemingly positive portrayals of them in pop culture—even if it didn’t necessarily tap into an accurate representation of what it is actually like to live within the gay community. However, I think we can do better. We deserve more than just a simple attempt at inclusion. We deserve to be depicted properly and by our own.
First of all, if you enjoyed and or connected with Call Me by Your Name or Moonlight, good for you; run with that. (And if you enjoyed Brokeback Mountain, fuck you). But I’m about to throw some troubling things at you about these films: The author of CMBYN, André Aciman, is a straight man—he has a wife and children. So, you might ask: what gives him the right to write about the gay community? What gives him the confidence to believe that he could capture it properly? This is my theory: only a straight white man could honestly feel empowered and intelligent enough to properly capture an experience in which he frankly, knows nothing about. (I know it’s become all too typical to attack straight white men, but they’ve had it too good for too long.) The two actors playing “gays” in CMBYN are also straight. The film’s director, Luca Guadagnino, defends this by saying that the film isn’t about being gay, it’s “about the blossoming of love and desire, no matter where it comes from and toward what.” And my response to that: yeah, okay. He seems to have no problem marketing it as a gay movie.
As for Moonlight, the directors and actors are straight. However, the screenplay was written by a gay male. And from my perception, this shows in the genuineness of the film. It tackles issues like sexuality, masculinity, and homophobia within the African American community. And it does it well and authentically. As I am not a part of the African American community, this topic was something I knew very little about and watching Moonlight allowed me to see a realistic glimpse, to understand and sympathize (at least a little), and most importantly to learn about the presence of gay culture within the black community. Ultimately, this is what a film about a minority should do—it should allow the majority to learn about the minority and what makes them human and what makes them alien from that majority. Although, Moonlight is a fantastic film for many reasons, they should’ve used gay actors. It was a gay film, written by a gay man, highlighting a gay experience. Moonlight is certainly deserving of the praise it received, but it is also deserving of this criticism.
And Brokeback Mountain: the book was written by a woman—a lesbian woman, but still not a gay man. The film adaptation stars two famous—notoriously straight—actors. In the climax of the film, they have anal without using any lube. Any gay man knows all too well that where there is anal there has to be lube. Lube is simply not an option, but a necessity. A world where lube isn’t required for anal would be nice, easier, cheaper and less sticky, but unfortunately that isn’t the real world—the film isn’t giving the real gay experience. So yes, the simple inclusion is a positive for the gay community, however it is only inclusion to an extent. We miss a lot of the intricacies of the community. We get snippets of it, but we don’t get down and dirty with it.
All of these films show gay culture, but at a safe—straight—distance. The sex scenes in all of them are vanilla at best. For example, during the hand job scene in Moonlight, the shot is from behind the two “questioning” characters. The camera, as suggested by nuns at a catholic high school’s homecoming, leaves room for Jesus. Essentially, these “gay” films are made by straight people to be consumed by straight people. And to this point everyone has loved it. The shots are detached because being gay is now, for the most part, domestically accepted, but only to an extent. CMBYN is the worst at this. They hardly show anything at all. When questioned, the director said he didn’t include sexually explicit scenes he “didn’t want the audience to find any difference or discrimination toward these characters.” Let me spell this out: Luca Guadagnino didn’t want to make the gay movie gay by including gay sex because it would have made non-gay people uncomfortable. And who can blame him, gay sex is still largely seen as taboo, a rebellion against society, “unnatural,” and “gross.” (Especially if you watch Fox News or go to church.)
These films are nominated and win countless awards because most straight people love to feel inclusive and progressive. Gay men support these movies because they are a step in the right direction. But ultimately, as a society, I think we are ready to take bigger steps. I am tired of seeing the over told challenging, but ultimately successful coming out story; I’m sick of two straight guys experimenting on each other’s giant bodies on screen; And I’ve had it with straight people making art based on how they perceive—fetishize—my community.
I want to see anal projected in high definition at AMC—with all of the weird sounds and primal yelps that go accompany it. Sex is just sex: anal, vaginal, oral. Bodies are just bodies. If we can show straight sex and portray it in a realistic way—why can’t we do gay? I want to have art that my community and I can connect with. I want us to be portrayed as more than just for a nod to a minority, or for a gay film to be made for more than just a shew-in for an Oscar nomination. I want to be more than just a G.B.F. in the chick-flick. I want us to be portrayed as what we are—people—a talented group of people at that. As gays, we have to speak up and reject mere inclusion—we have to tell our stories—we have to demand that our stories are told.
If you are looking for an accurate portrayal of modern gay life in western society I would recommend the film Weekend. Although, one of the actors in the gay relationship is actually straight, the other actor and director/screenplay writer are gay. If you are looking for something to read I suggest I Used to Like You Before I Knew You So Well by James Allen-Hall. It's honest and real and written by a real life gay person and extremely easy to connect with for gay people. Each of these are not your stereotypical coming out story, your average media which is aimed at explaining the gay experience to a majority straight culture. They present gay culture honestly. It's real and it's raw and it's really raw. They bypass the initial explaining of gayness to the straights to give a more in-depth and accurate portrayal of what the gay community is actually like. The need for inner-gay dialogue through art is needed more now than ever. Essentially I'm saying that good modern gay art should be, well, gay, and actually made by real gay people, about realistic gay situations that happen in the gay community.
However, if you do happen to be straight or experimenting or whatever, and have recently become interested in giving anal sex the old college try; I suggest using Astroglide. It’s not the best, not the most expensive—but it gets the job done. And I suggest using a lot of it. Like, a lot a lot.