Saturday, January 06, 2018

An Out of Touch Criticism of "Call Me By Your Name"

It seems that increasingly many younger gays are utterly oblivious to the reality that many of us older gays grew up in.  They seem oblivious to the reality that for many of us up until 2003, even having a physical same sex relationship put one at risk of a felony conviction.   They also appear oblivious to how much religion has lost its grip over the lives of Millennials compared to those of my generation growing up.  In a recent post, I praised the movie "Call Me By Your Name."  Indeed, Gay Star News, a British LGBT outlet, rated the film as the top LGBT film of 2017.  Similarly, every gay man of my age that has seen the movie has loved it.  Yet in a commentary in The Advocate, the case is made by a young writer who from what I can discern is considerably younger than my youngest child, argues that this exceptional movie isn't a "gay movie" since the main characters do not display a "gay identity."  Here's a sampling of what in my opinion is utter bullshit from someone who is clueless of what life was like for so many of us:
The film is typical of our fetish for straight-acting romance, here presenting a sort of country house fairy tale in which the two leads just happen to be men. It is a summer-affair flick, but with two cocks instead of one. . . . . in its high-class, pastoral isolation, Call Me by Your Name depicts an enchanted utopia where the social realities of gayness cannot intrude.
For gayness itself — gayness as a way of feeling, a way of engaging the world, an identity, a community threatened by disease and violence — has been carefully pushed into the closet. . . . . It is reckless to praise this move as a progressive step toward a post-gay cinema, a stance that toes the line of homophobia. Are AIDS and bullying and fem affect mere distractions from some imagined purity of straightened-out desire? These so-called distractions are simply too gay. They uncomfortably remind us that we are more than our “sexual orientation” alone; we are a community, a subjectivity, a culture, an identity.  
A cosmopolitan, intellectual milieu fills the sun-bathed, Fascist-era villa of Call Me by Your Name as bits of Greco-Roman art, German literature, and Italian cooking decorate the frame — but the queens are for sure locked in the closet.
The attitude of this piece may ring true with young, often self-absorbed young gays who never experienced what those of us in older generations lived through - and which many closeted gays in red states continue to live through.  Go to any gay hookup app and you will find large numbers of still closeted gays married to women who still cannot accept a gay identity as a result of religious brainwashing, fear of job loss, or a financially ruinous divorce from the opposite sex spouse they deal with.  And this true in 2018, so imagine the realty for so many thirty-five (35) years ago when the movie's story is set. 

As the name of this blog underscores, I did not "come out" until mid-life (in fact, I was 49) and even then it took a considerable period of time to achieve a "gay identity."  Like so many of my current circle of gay friends, I married (some friends married more than one woman), had children and only after years of denial faced the reality of our sexual orientation.   For many of us, the story line in the movie is what we felt but never acted upon.  I hope that Call Me By Your Name will secure a wide heterosexual audience and that just perhaps, it will help to further open minds and hearts. 

Meanwhile, those, like the youthful author enjoy the benefits others achieved for them (and from my experience based on my local community often do little to support the larger LGBT community) while lacking any perspective  on what times were like thirty five years ago or what will be viable outside of theaters in major urban centers in blue states.   It is noteworthy that many of the comments on The Advocate article take the author to task as I do.  

I would urge every LGBT individual to encourage their straight friends to see the movie.  It underscores how there is so much more to love than mere physical connection and it might give cause them to think about the harm that an anti-gay society needlessly does to so many.

1 comment:

candideinnc said...

As an older man, previously married to a woman for 15 years, two kids, I can truly identify with what you say. Two other points. Many of us stayed out of a sense of duty and responsibility for our families. We were actually committed to the relationships, despite our natural inclinations.

Secondly, for those of us in the marriages, there was not only an undeniable sexual attraction and sense of loss, but also a feeling of absolute isolation. I don't know how to explain to someone who hasn't been there how absolutely alone we felt in our closets. It was suffocating.

I am now of an age where the sex is not the attraction that draws me to my husband. But the companionship is something what only he can provide. The gay rights movement--which I too, was a member of--was undeniably part of our lives. The political and social community were part of our lives. But the quiet stories of finding a perfect love, at least for me, were also part of our lives. I have not seen this film yet, but I do look forward to it.