Monday, 13 February 2012

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.

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.

I emailed our film critic David Ansen, the artistic director of the Los Angeles Film Festival, to ask whether there was gay sex I had overlooked in any recent movies. He wrote back: "There were actually movies this year with gay sex but really nobody saw them because they only played film festivals, like the very sexy Christopher and His Kind, which was made for Brit TV, and the still unreleased Leave It on the Floor, a musical with an all-black cast about the voguing world. Or James Franco’s experimental student film about Hart Crane, which has very explicit gay sex in it. The movies with gay sex tend to be ghettoized as gay films and not seen by crossover audiences."

When you ask gay screenwriters and directors to name the most explicit gay sex scene in a mainstream film, they often gulp in silence. Then they name 2005’s Brokeback Mountain. But that tent scene between Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger is still relatively tame. "I don’t think I would say Brokeback Mountain, because it’s not that explicit," says B. Ruby Rich, the film professor at UC Santa Cruz who coined the phrase New Queer Cinema. "We’re in the post–Brokeback Mountain moment. Even a film like Gus Van Sant’s Milk is astonishingly chaste. The actual life of Harvey Milk was drastically different than that, given it was the ’70s in San Francisco and men were fucking in every doorway."

Real societal change is always the product of the stories we see. In 1967, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner made interracial marriage normal just months after the Supreme Court ruled that anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional. That’s why there’s more at stake in this gay-sex debate than just the titillation. If Hollywood refuses to push boundaries, to make more people comfortable with something that a segment of America is still uncomfortable with, gay people remain second-class citizens. "Here’s my thing with gay sex," Dustin Lance Black says. "In terms of sex, we get plenty of that every day in our own lives and thrown on the Internet. I feel like what I’m really interested in is gay romance." And that’s the real problem with no gay sex. You can’t tell a real love story if nobody is doing it.

Source:  Why Does Hollywood Hate Gay Sex? by Ramin Setoodeh