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Categories: Features

This month The Spread is featuring new guest writers from the globe. Here Eric Fulcher explores Homosexuality in the Media…

The first time I can recall hearing the word “gay” in a film was by Natalie Wood in West Side Story. When South Park was played on my TV, I became more exposed to all sorts of profanity and phrases, but had no better understanding of gayness or gaydom.

As a heterosexual, gay slurs don’t really bother me. It’s like snow on the windshield; it gets wiped away. Being gay has been removed from the taboo category. Watch BRAVO, Teem NICK, and any major network and you’ll see homosexual characters. Men and women galore.

But why? Why is it mostly the stereotypical molds I see on screen?

Most homosexuals I’ve met, regardless of sex, could not be labeled a gender, or as colloquially put: wearing the pants, butch, catching, pitching, etc.

From the perspective created by my lifestyle of the past twenty-five years, I’m starting to see gay as a marketing ploy. It’s nothing new or necessarily disrespectful. It’s a way to get people to see movies.

“Dallas Buyers Club”

“Brokeback Mountain”

“Philadelphia”

“Milk”

“A Single Man”

“The Birdcage”

“Boys Don’t Cry”

“The Kids Are All Right”

These all won or were nominated for top honors at numerous award ceremonies. These are just some I remember. If you go to Thebacklot.com (such an apt name) you can find a list of the Top 100 Gay movies, via voting. There are some that ought to be examined. One could make the argument for Transamerica as well.

This is not being pointed out in a negative light but to acknowledge that the subject seems to strike a chord with the pathos of the masses. Not all gay films are good. Remember the Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Movies are letting the idea of being gay enter the minds by choice.

The idea of being gay is still hard to tolerate for some people, let alone interaction with a homosexual. When my uncle appeared at my father’s second wedding in San Francisco with his boyfriend, my grandfather decided not to speak to him. Before his death, he only spoke to his youngest son when concerning grandma’s Will in arbitration.

I suspect seeing a gay character on screen, especially in comedies such as The Bird Cage is a way for some to get a dose. However let’s be real: movies are not an accurate representation of life. TV doesn’t even come close. Ask a scientist his opinion on CSI and you’ll get a heaping dose of reality.

Being gay is nothing new. It’s been around forever, in every culture, even in other species. Yet the popularity of being gay is probably higher than ever. I say this based on opinion, not from conclusion of a research study.

From shows to movies to the Olympics, the gay factor emerges and is rejuvenated whether by someone coming out (most recently Ellen Page) or from criticism (Sochi). Even cultures that are against homosexuality allow gay activities to persist, such as Bacha Bazi in Afghanistan.

Film takes us away from our lives, and allows us to witness something different, albeit usually fabricated or embellished. The struggles the gay community has faced from all corners of society is comparable to that of women and those of colour, though equating such struggles is an argument meant for the educated.

With the gay community becoming stronger by coming out and joining movements such as It Gets Better, Time to Thrive and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the possibilities and opportunities have not reached their zenith. There is more to come and movies will continue to touch on this subject.

Success is accomplishing something. Fame is good marketing. By broadcasting, endorsing, promoting and showing movies that involve gay characters and gay themes, the benefit go beyond awards. It’s understanding.

You can’t make someone accept anything. A bribe is face value acceptance because it doesn’t change what one actually believes.

But by witnessing someone’s story, you can at least see where they came from and more importantly where they are going.

With Michelle Rodriguez announcing a relationship with Cara Delevingne, Ellen Page coming out, collegiate football athlete Michael Sam going public, there’s no way around it: gay people will be on screen.

Whether they’re playing heterosexual or homosexual characters remains to be seen.

Keep calm. It gets better.

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Christabel Samuel is a writer, director and editor. Having graduated from University College London with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Film Studies she is now a self-taught filmmaker, writer and perpetual learner. She won funding in 2011 for Lust in Translation and has gone on to judge at the London Film Festival, been appointed Head of Film for The Book Magazine and is currently editor-in-chief for The Spread.

Posted on Mar 4, 2014

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