Not in the mood for large crowds this weekend, I was pretty much a homebody, reading a lot and watching the latest movies to arrive from Netflix. All three I had seen before, one holding up better than the other two, perhaps, in part, because it was shorter, but largely because it provided a window into how much things have improved for gay people in American society.
I first saw the original Planet of the Apes; did not engage me as much as it did when I regularly caught it on TV as a child. Spartacus, the film I just saw, seemed to require a bigger screen for the second viewing. While many scenes were really quite stirring, the story seemed less compelling given that I had recently a book detailing the actual story of that eponymous slave’s fight for freedom as best as military historian Barry Strauss could reconstruct it.
Here, the protagonists are a gay couple (though not called as much), one, a pretentious, self-important snob (John Dall‘s Brandon) and the other, a neurotic drama queen (Farley Granger‘s Phillip). They decide to murder a friend because they consider themselves intellectually superior. Yet, once they’ve done the deed, Brandon becomes vainglorious while Phillip begins to feel remorse. Yet, his conscience doesn’t make him reflective so much as overwrought. Neither is portrayed sympathetically. Nor should they be, considering what they’ve done.
Sixty years ago, that was how Hollywood portrayed homosexuals. To be sure, there are gay people like Brandon, arrogant, full of themselves, thinking they are better than their fellows. And we do have our share of drama queens–of many sorts. But, while we are far more than those caricatures, such images were all we saw on the silver screen.
Now, sixty years later, we see images gay people portrayed as more than just cocksure killers. We see them as the loyal friend to the protagonist, the supportive brother of a man trying to become a better father and the lover devoted by his partner’s passing.
We’re no longer relegated to the role of the degenerate reprobate.
Now, if a studio tried to make films with such unpleasant homosexuals, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) would be up in arms. The studio in question would pull the film before the first shot was even set up.
Perhaps, then, we’ve gone too far the other way. But, the point remains that in the post –Will & Grace era, we don’t just see arrogant or neurotic homosexuals on screen, we see a much more diverse array of gay people.
Now, it’s long past time for Hollywood to go where no film studio has gone before and offer a positive portrayal of a gay conservative. I just wouldn’t hold my breath on that happening any time soon.