If you’ve seen any of the high-profile gay-themed movies from 2011—from Beginners to J. Edgar—you may have noticed they have one thing in common: the gay sex takes place in the dark (or not at all). Ramin Setoodeh interviews actors, directors, and writers to find out why gay sex is the last taboo in Hollywood.
By now, you’ve probably heard about Shame, this generation’s Last Tango in Paris. Michael Fassbender plays a single (and often naked) Manhattan bachelor named Brandon obsessed with sex, and the movie offers a voyeuristic look into his anonymous encounters with various women. One afternoon he even has sex with a pretty blonde prostitute against the window of the Standard Hotel, for all of downtown New York to see.
On another drunken night, Brandon wanders into a gay club. He’s so desperate for sex, he’ll sleep with anybody—even a man. The scene is meant to illustrate how depraved his character has become, but the moment is a turning point for another reason. For the first time in the film, Shame is ashamed to show you what Brandon experiences. In a dark underground corridor, a guy unzips Brandon’s pants … and the camera cuts away. The screen fades to black.
Gay sex is the last Hollywood taboo. When Ellen DeGeneres came out of the closet as the first openly gay sitcom star in 1997—and her fictional self followed suit—a parade of gay characters came after her. There was Will & Grace, and Carrie Bradshaw’s Sex and the City sidekick, Stanford. In movies, the gay best friend became a staple, from My Best Friend’s Wedding to Mean Girls.
Yet none of these characters do what gay men do. As Hollywood portrays it, the homosexual man is, astonishingly, sexless.
If you can’t name any great love scenes between two men in hit films or TV shows in 2011, it’s because there weren’t any. Last summer, Justin Timberlake experienced all the benefits in Friends With Benefits, while his gay pal (played by Woody Harrelson) was sidelined. On Glee, Kurt finally lost his virginity to his boyfriend—off camera, to the frustration of many of the show’s fans. When Christopher Plummer came out of the closet in Beginners, he signaled the occasion by wearing purple (his younger boyfriend hovered in the background). Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hoover in J. Edgar had a hot male companion (Armie Hammer), but he exchanged only a single kiss with him.
The film’s screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for his Milk screenplay, says that a love scene would have been too revisionist historically. “I certainly didn’t want to see J. Edgar doing it,” says Black, who is gay. “In the 1930s, oftentimes, a loving relationship with gay men was never consummated.”
Max Mutchnick, the co-creator of Will & Grace, remembers attending a party the night before the show’s pilot was filmed. Mutchnick recalls being told by (the also gay) director Joel Schumacher: “Whatever you do, don’t make it too butt-fucky. Don’t let anyone in the audience think about butt fucking and you’ll be fine.”
Mutchnick continues, “The sad reality is, if you’re in a theater and they show gay sex, someone in the audience will shout, ‘Ewww!’”
That’s the crux of it. Studio executives aren’t necessarily homophobic, but the film business is in a financial slump and averse to risks even in the best times. Though gay marriage is now more accepted across the United States, the industry is driven by tickets sold to straight men. That’s why lesbian sex gets a pass: when Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis spend a steamy night together in Black Swan, it helps sell tickets. There’s no similar financial bump attached to gay male intercourse. As one producer noted, anal sex is still considered something out of the ordinary, anyway. In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the anal sex scene is part of a rape between a man and woman—existing as a symbol of sexual sadism.
As Vito Russo’s significant 1981 book The Celluloid Closet argued, Hollywood has always had a complicated relationship with gay men, keeping actors in the closet and stereotyping feminine men. For a long time, the Hays Code banned gay characters from even being in the movies. When they finally appeared, they did so with a vengeance in the underground queer films of the ’60s and ’70s. These movies had a lot of ground to make up for, which explains their pornographic tendencies. Andy Warhol’s 1964 short film Blowjob lived up to its title. Saturday Night at the Baths (1975) featured another early depiction of gay sex. Even in the controversial Cruising (1980), starring Al Pacino, gay sex was recognized as an important, defining part of gay male culture—the film features a graphic orgy with a fisting scene.
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meh, what do you think, ontd? discuss!!!
plus, what is your favorite gay-themed movie? suggest/recommend etc...