"The Celluloid Closet" (1995) is the definitive documentary on the representation of gays in American film over 100 years but unfortunately it is no longer free on the web. Therefore in its place please read pages 315-316 of our textbook and view the "Gay Hollywood" documentary by clicking above. The textbook information will serve as an overview of “The Celluloid Closet."
Although the “Gay Hollywood” documentary focuses primarily on the sexuality of Hollywood actors – “outing” quite a few – it does in a sense allow us to put these actors in the same historically compromised category as the other Hollywood actor demographics we have looked at this Semester.
One noticeable argument in the “Gay Hollywood” documentary that captured my attention is the claim that we, the audience do not want gay actors playing straight leading men because it affects the credibility of the character and therefore our enjoyment of the film.*
It is an intriguing argument but I am not so sure it applies to the sophisticated New York or East Coast movie viewer as much as it would the rest of the country. Even more interesting is the fact that most popular movies about gay characters have been played by straight male and female actors.**
So after reading the text pages, viewing the documentary and reading my “lecture” on this page including the footnotes it is time for you to weigh in on the subject.
. Three Questions:
- It is 2018, same-sex marriage is legal, even verbal abuse against a homosexual is a real crime so does the sexuality of an actor matter or is it your sense that it is ok for a female actor to be “out” but not a male actor?
- Have you ever seen a gay-themed movie? (Memory boost titles HERE.) Was the story a universal one that just happened to be told through a gay lens or was the story specifically gay?
- It is generally believed that the viewer has to identify with the main characters for total box office success of a movie or at least appreciation of the film’s story. Was that the case with your Rom Com? Would the movie’s story be less credible if the male or female lead in real life was an out homosexual?
*Tom Cruise won a $10 million lawsuit against a magazine’s false claim and his lawyer’s argument was that if the audience thought he was gay they would not go to his movies and this would affect his livelihood.
**In addition to the “straight actors” films mentioned in the hyperlink I can add (from memory) “In and Out” with Kevin Kline, “The Kids Are All Right” with Annette Bening/Julianne Moore, “Boys Don’t Cry” with Hilary Swank and “To Wang Foo” with Wesley Snipes/John Leguizamo.