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Givenbak

Proposal For LGBT Week in June

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> {quote:title=Givenbak wrote:}{quote}Many people still remember "Squeal like a piggy" from Deliverance as shorthand for male rape. A recent neologism like "having a Bareback Mountain moment" stands-in for a homosexual relationship between two non-effeminate men. As society evolves, word vacuums get created and filled by shared cultural events. These are the things that I look for and document.

I think you mean "Brokeback Mountain". ;)

 

...but you're right: Some gay-themed films have become cultural references...terminology taken from certain movies, like the two aforementioned movies. Unfortunately, they often end up being used in a less-than-complimentary manner by some...I've seen many a reference to "Brokeback Mountain" used in an almost derogatory way.

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Actually I choose "Bareback Mountain" specifically because it was a favorite derivative used by Rush Limbaugh among others.

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Just took down this book from the shelf. It's called Passing Performances: Queer Readings of Leading Players in American Theater History. Quite a scholarly tome, edited by Robert A. Schanke and Kim Marra, who were professors of theater in Iowa at the date of the writing (1998).

 

Here are a few chapter titles:

 

Alla Nazimova: The Witch of Makeup

Staging Heterosexuality: Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne's Design for Living

Kit and Guth: A Lavender Marriage on Broadway

Monty Woolley: The Public and Private Man from Saratoga Springs

Mary Martin: Washin' That Man Right Outta Her Hair

 

also chapters on Cheryl Crawford, Margaret Webster (the director and daughter of Dame May Whitty), and artists from earlier generations.

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Don't forget The Changing Room: sex, drag and theatre by Laurrence Senelick -it's still the standard reference.

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I was never very impressed with the movie Brokeback Mountain. To me the story was dated when it was released. The people I would meet that felt it was ahead of its time or it was enlightened where way behind the times in my view. i.e. they had a view of gays from the 50s instead of a contemporary view. So if the movie was released in the 60s I would of been impressed.

 

But hey, I live in Laguna here in So Cal. Maybe if I grew up in an area where people are openly anti-gay I would feel differently.

 

I have always wondered what the actual gay community felt about the movie.

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"Brokeback Mountain" was set in 1963, so of course it reflected those times. I would have had a problem with it if were trying to push a more modern "agenda" (as some like to say). Yes, the characters move forward in time, but you don't suddenly undo or overcome years of negative reinforcement. Life then always had the potential for tragedy for gay people, both in terms of physical harm and in terms of the kind of isolation and unfulfilled lives we see in these characters. For me, the most telling scene was Ennis's memory of his father taking him to see the corpse lying in the ravine of one of the older gay men who had tried to "set up together". About as clear a warning as a young boy could receive, especially since the father's knowledge of where to look probably implicated him in the crime. I was a young man in 1963 and the tentativeness of their reaching out to each other and the conflicted relationships with women ring absolutely true to me. Both Annie Proulx and Ang Lee did a great job of telling it like it was. To judge the movie as being unenlightened by today's standards is just wrong. It takes enlightened minds and an enlightened artistic vision to be able to parse so well the hidden meanings of another era.

 

Edited by: DougieB on Jan 7, 2012 9:19 AM

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"Brokeback Mountain" the movie is very different from the short story- I don't think there is no "agenda" involve in a story about people who are unable to love because of societal prejudices. Its a beautiful, brilliantly acted movie- that is of course if you look at it with "agenda" free eyes.

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I didn't write my original post very well. I wasn't judging the movie as much as the people's reaction to the movie when it was released. I was just somewhat shocked that many people were surprised about the events in the movie. i.e. that they were not aware of these type of events and the struggles that you mention. It would be like watching Mississippi Burning and wondering 'did whites really treat blacks like that'.

 

I just wish a movie like Brokeback Mountain would of been released in the late 60s. The fact that it had to wait 40 years and then was considered to be bold is just hard for me to accept. But this is a reflection of America and not the movie. Just got done reading about the up coming NH primary. We have someone running for the President that still appears to not 'get it'.

 

 

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I think maninstream audiences and Hollywood producers are still uncomfertable with a love story about two gay men. That is why you still have a lot of indie gay films but very few if any major studio films- the exception this year was " J Edgar" which at its core is about the lifelong relationship between Hoover and Clyde Tolson.

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> {quote:title=jamesjazzguitar wrote:}{quote}

>

> I have always wondered what the actual gay community felt about the movie.

We loved it, and from what I've read many were hopeful it would win Best Picture, which it didn't. It DID win for Screenplay Adaption, and Ang Lee won for Best Director.

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From what I read on the IMDB boards for the movie, it seems a lot of the straight audiences "didn't have a problem with the gay subject matter" (so some have said)...yet they felt the movie "dwelt too much on the romance" part of the story. Hence, they're really saying they were uncomfortable with the gay subject matter.

 

When I went to see Interview With The Vampire back in 1994, it was immediately acclaimed by the gay community as one of the gayest vampire movies ever made by a mainstream studio...if only for what was suggested and implied rather than being overt. All I know is that as I sat there watching with a friend, when the scene with Antonio Banderas and Brad Pitt came up where Antonio is leaning in VERY close to Brad's face, and telling his character how much feeling and what a soul he has for a vampire, they're an inch away from the possibility of liplocking (which never happens), and Antonio says "You...are beautiful" (referring to the other character's emotions and soul). The implied sexual attraction there was so strong, as I turned and looked at the audience behind me, it was very obvious many were becoming uncomfortable with that scene.

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Interesting post. This reminds me of the time I first saw the movie GHOST, when it first was in theatres back in 1990. I was living in Chicago at the time and spent an afternoon at a movie theatre downtown in the financial district where there were many upscale stores and wealthy movie-goers.

 

There is a scene, after Patrick Swayze's character has been killed and Whoopi Goldberg goes to visit Demi Moore, who plays the grieving lover. Supposedly, Swayze is talking through Goldberg in a pivotal scene, and he wants to kiss Demi once more using Goldberg's body.

 

I remember the build-up in that scene, and there comes a point where Goldberg leans in as if she's going to kiss Demi Moore. Of course, the filmmakers cheated and just as the lips are about to lock, it cuts from Goldberg to Swayze who has completely possessed her body, and we see him kiss Demi.

 

There was a woman in one of the seats behind me. And when, for a split second it looks like Goldberg and Demi Moore are going to smooch, this lady shouts out, for everyone in the theatre to hear, 'Oh God, they're not really going to kiss, are they?!' You could've cut the tension with a knife. We were all on the edge of our seats waiting to see how the scene was going to play out.

 

It was obvious that movie watchers back then were not comfortable with a love story that had any hint of lesbianism in it.

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When it came to the Whoopi-Demi kiss, many in the theater audience I saw "Ghost" with roared like they were riding a roller coaster ... despite the fact that there's no lesbianism in the scene at all -- it had been clearly established that Goldberg was an unwilling tool controlled by Swayze's spirit.

 

 

Givenbak,

I'd be curious how your project would address "questionably queer" characters like Kip Lurie (played by David Wayne) in "Adam's Rib," described by Vito Russo as "a yardstick sissy par excellence."

 

 

Despite Kip's overtly heterosexual drooling over Hepburn's Amanda (like a basset hound over a bowl of Alpo), Adam (Spencer Tracy) impugns him for lacking masculinity (claiming that Kip wouldn't have far to go to be a woman), presumably on account of Kip's catty comments and grandiose gesturing. A sissy, yes ... but gay ?

 

 

TCM's article on "Adam's Rib" contributes two other clues: that the Production Code Administration "cautioned against making Amanda's songwriter friend, Kip, come across as gay," and that Kip "was modeled on Cole Porter, who, though happily married, was also gay." (Does that mean "married and also gay" or "like Kip, also gay" ?)

 

 

Seems like your approach to LGBTs in film -- "My particular focus is finding the origins of cultural symbols for the homosexual -how it is that we come to recognize them in images, words and music..." -- will help differentiate between "sissies" and gay men.

 

 

I'd also be curious to hear Givenbak's thoughts on Julian Eltinge's films and career vis a vis today's transgendered community. (Eltinge's career as the "Tootsie" of the 1910s would make an interesting biopic starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.)

 

 

EltingePoster.jpg

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ValeskaSuratt

I believe, in terms of our modern thinking, and our need to classify things as we do in botany, you are right. The sissy and gay male are different. A sissy's chief characteristic is effeminacy, and that is independent of sexual orientation. Nowadays we have created terms like metrosexual to refine this distinction. Gay, however, seems purely understood to refer to people who are same-sex oriented – they may or may not have effeminate characteristics. This need to polish our understanding of homosexuality and create new definitions simply reflects the process of how we refine this understanding as it is revealed over time. Moreover, that need to polish is how fifty terms for "gay"at the turn of the century have grown to over a thousand now – for good or bad.

 

 

Historically speaking though, back when things weren't so well defined, sissy did mean what we now call gay. In fact, the very first use of "sissy" in print was levelled at Oscar Wilde. The first use of its prototype "sister" was levelled at John S. Fiske. Both men were homosexuals. In point of fact, the first use of fagot in print was defined using sissy: 1914 JACKSON & HELLYER, A Vocabulary of Criminal Slang, p30, s.v. Drag, Example: 'All the fagots (sissies) will be dressed in drag at the ball tonight.'

 

 

So, to understand the Adam's Rib sissy, one can look back and see that he quite neatly fits into the cultural portrayals that precede him. Historically speaking, the idea that effeminate men adore women had existed since at least the late 19th century. One of Oscar Wilde's enduring legacies is his famous adoration of Lilly Langtry cemented in the public mind by George du Maurier's cartoon of him where he stares thoughtfully into a vase of lilies. I have several examples from the turn of the century where the defining characteristic of the Mollycoddle, Masher, and "Ladies' man" is not only their effeminacy, but their inability to do anything more than gaze at women. They can never consummate their affection. This hints at a sort of third sex status, meaning effete or unable to reproduce physically, which of course was also the telltale sign of the homosexual. One vinegar valentine states, "Don't try to be a masher, and stand on street corners to ogle girls. Be a man."

 

 

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Well if the movie wasn't about the "romance part" what would it have been about? There wasn't any other major plot elements so to me anyone that would complain about that just really didn't want to see a gay romance.

 

Isn't the main question how much a gay romance should be different or not to a hetro romance? Take the HBO series 6 Feet Under; Yea, central to the story of a lead character was a gay romance but the series handled this as an everyday type of event. I think the fact one guy was black and the other was white was a neat 'trick' that added even more confusion for audiences.

 

To me this romance was mostly just about two people trying to make a relationship work that just happen to be gay and of different races. Their relationship was as loving and screwed up as all the other male female relationships the show featured. I found that great.

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I remember how uncomfortable people in the audience were when *Sunday, Bloody Sunday* was shown in the early 70s. There were some gasps in the audience when Peter Finch kissed Murray Head, despite the fact that the film was advertised as a bisexual triangle.

 

Givenbak, when talking about 30s movies, I think the Production Code wanted "sissy" turned into "prissy" (some of the same behavior, but in a non-sexual context so that the general audience wouldn't have to read this as homosexual). I like to describe some of the pre-Code examples as "swishy," meaning sissy or effeminate and definitely homosexual, like the tailor who really enjoys measuring Jimmy Cagney for a suit in *Public Enemy*. The gay audience would always understand the swishy or sissy or prissy characters to be gay.

 

There are jokes in many films of the era about men who engage or appear to engage in behavior that isn't considered masculine. For instance (sorry, I can't remember the film title) a man says to a girl applying for college, "Sit down, young woman," and Edward Everett Horton sits down.

 

Givenbak, you mentioned investigating contemporary reviews, etc. If you read filmlover's great 1939 day by day series in Your Favorites, it's noteworthy that a Minneapolis reviewer commented on how one action film was part of MGM's campaign to "defeminize" Robert Taylor. That it's a Minneapolis newspaper makes the comment even more interesting.

 

 

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TCM's "Screened Out" festival was in June 2007 -- probably not long enough ago for them to consider programming a month of LGBT titles again without a major push such as a new book being released on the subject matter. As it was, Richard Barrios' book of the title was promoted that month and Richard made a great guest host with Robert introducing and commenting on that month's films.

 

TCM.com used to have a page listing all the titles screened during that festival, but the page seems to have been removed. Three promotional videos are still on the site, however. In the search field in the upper right corner, click on "Site" and key in "Screened Out."

 

June is traditionally a festival month focusing on race, ethnicity or other specific social category. Recent Junes have focused on Arab images, Asian images and Native American images. I've always found them fascinating and tremendously educational, although some guest hosts have a bit more to offer than others.

 

The list that started off this thread is terrific -- some of them are scheduled with some frequency but many are completely unknown to me.

 

Edited by: NewYorkGuy on Jan 12, 2012 4:51 PM

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I just caught an interesting movie on HBO Latino "El Cuarto de Leo" ( Leo's Room) (2009) about a young man coming to terms with his sexuality.

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