Now that the razamatazz of the Oscars is over for another year, it’s good to look back and reflect on what was achieved. The fact that many of the films nominated had gay content shows how advanced we have become when it comes to gender difference.
Of the eight films nominated four of them had gay themes ‘The Favourite,’ ‘Green Book’ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Vice’ while ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me,’ Lee Israel’s ‘Memoirs of a Literary Forger’ saw Melissa McCarty nominated for Best Actor for her role as the lesbian writer who turns to forging the letters of the famous when her own books are rejected. Taken individually, the five films nominated are interesting for what they have to say about society as it presently stands.
‘The Favourite’ is a role reversal film in that instead of a powerful man and two women in a ‘menage a tois’ it has two women – one high born and calling the shots but constantly having to watch her back. The other aristocratic but living in reduced circumstances – both vyiing for the favors of Queen Anne (too dumb and too ill to realise her power).
In ‘Green Book’ a black homosexual with a high IQ forms a friendship with a male heterosexual who can barely read or write. The pertinent point comes when the gay man has to make a phone call to his friend Bobbie Kennedy in the White House to get him out of jail.
In ‘Vice’ Dick Cheney’s daughter is in a gay relationship and the fear is that if the truth comes out this will harm the father’s political ambitions.
Rami Malek won the Best Actor Oscar for his role as Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody. Mercury who came out as a gay man in the 1970s was fueled by sex, drugs and rock and roll before dying of Aids in the 1990s. Due to the wonderful music legacy that he left behind Mercury has become an inspiration for many gay people whose experience of the gay life may not be quite as glamorous as it is portrayed on film.
Oscars 2019 was a revelation in that not only did it produce films of great entertainment value – great scripts and great acting – it also proved that films with gay themes can also produce great box office success.
The world it seems has come a long way since ‘Different from the Others’ – the world’s first gay film – was released in 1919. This film with a homosexual theme relates how a music teacher is blackmailed when his relationship with one of his students becomes known. Contrasting the anti-homosexual atmosphere of 1919 with the attitude towards same sex couples today we have come a long way when it comes to recognising difference. Or have we? In many ways yes. In others we are still stuck with the same century old mindset.
Witness the reaction to ‘The Outsider’ program in England where children were removed from school because the parents objected to them being taught about same sex couples. At the same time we have gay factions run ‘outing’ campaigns’ against those in denial about their sexual identity. Many of these campaigns are far from transparent and often have agendas that are not open to public scrutiny. Blackmail looms large in homosexual relationships – a hundred years later the sexual act between gays is still regarded as shocking by many. If one looks at it objectively, however, it soon becomes clear that it’s not the gay aspect that bothers people but the sexual aspect.
As the writer Anne Enright explains in her short story ‘Pillow’ when a child asks the narrator what homosexuals do, the narrator tells her they ‘stick their things up one another’. That’s what many non-gay people find objectionable; and that’s because much of what humans do sexually is bad – pornography, prostitution, child sex abuse.
Children around the world sre exploited for sex so before we say that everyone can do whatever they like we need to take on board what this means in reality – perpetrators of child sexual abuse have been publicly shamed by the baying mob. This is how people react to those who commit what the Catholic Church used to refer to as ‘improper acts’ before it was hoisted by its own petard.
Wouldn’t it be better if we tried to understand why certain individuals behave as they do before we revile them? And isn’t that what Oscars 2019 did for us – they showed us another side to life we may not have known about, and surely we are better of because of it.
Many well-known people are gay. The actor Stephen Fry did much to expose the abuse that LGBT people are subjected to in Russia and India, while the writer and broadcaster Graham Norton has interviewed many gay actors and writers on his television show.
Ireland’s Taochigh Leo Varadkar encouraged debate when he and his partner were invited to lunch by the American Vice President Mike Pence – well known for his anti-gay stance – during the St. Patricks Day celebrations.
In a recent television interview the Taochigh said ‘Instead of aligning ourselves with any one particular party, we should try to work with them all.’ I think that’s a good premise on which to go forward and I look forward with anticipation to Oscars 2020 for further enlightenment.