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Monday, March 06, 2006


Gaybashing at the Oscars

Whatever the pundits say about last night's Academy Awards, do NOT, for a SECOND, believe that Crash won Best Film because it was actually best. Last night wasn't about the films (or their quality) at all. What happened last night was a lesson in homophobia, plain and simple.

Here's the facts: Brokeback Mountain has won more awards than any film since Schindler's List in 1993, including 98% of the Best Film awards since last fall. Its loss is unprecedented in Oscar history.

Here's another fact: Somewhere around Christmas, Brokeback moved beyond being a mere film...it became a cultural touchstone, a nationwide water cooler topic, a social event that overtook the media and politicized the struggle for gay equality in a new way. Like The Passion of the Christ in 2004, Brokeback was no longer simply a movie...it was a cultural phenomenon.

Except for one thing: Passion was about Jesus, and Brokeback was about faggots.

And most Americans, including those in Hollywood, do not like faggots. Sure, they pretend to like us -- I even have a few straight friends who have joined in the struggle for gay equality -- but by and large, most heterosexuals are homophobic. Insidiously so...this isn't Fred Phelps or Rick Santorum, who are blatant and obvious. This is about smiling to our faces on the street, and privately wishing we'd just go away, thinking we're too sex-obsessed, and worrying about having their children around us. (This is similar to the way white people talk about blacks when there aren't any blacks around. And don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.)

In January, the backlash started. Internet jokes about gay cowboys. Insulting, homophobic crap like Brokeback to the Future and Brokeback Bunnies. Off-color remarks on Leno, Letterman, and SNL. Even Brokeback's stars started to make fun of the film, with Heath Ledger unforgiveably acting like a swishy queen when he presented an award at the Golden Globes. Suddenly, it was acceptable for straight people to laugh at gays, because Brokeback's cowboys were just so damn ridiculous. And we homos -- desperately seeking validation -- laughed along with the straights, to show that we could "take a joke" (as a co-worker told me, after I said his cornholing cowpoke joke wasn't funny). It was the giggly, insecure humor of 14-year-old boys who can't deal with sex...but America is hardly a bastion of maturity these days.

At the same time, "The Year of the Queer" started gaining media traction. Brokeback, Capote, Transamerica....the gays are taking over Hollywood! (Three measly films...Jesus muthafucking Christ, people.) Suddenly the press was no longer reporting Brokeback's record-setting screen averages; the stories complained that the film hadn't made $100 million domestic, which meant, of course, that the $80 million it had made was a dismal failure.

By early February, the quiet, underground bitching had become the background chatter of Hollywood. Gene Shalit called Jack Twist a "sexual predator." (Chris Matthews and Richard Roeper started trashing the film from Washington and Chicago, too.)

And then Crash won Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

was a good film, full of the easy polemics that pass for progressivism in Hollywood. Supporters were emboldened to offer Haggis' ensemble drama as an alternative to the gay cowboys, and the media, hoping for a horse race, began to cover it as such.

For Oscar voters, it was all too easy to check off Crash on the secret ballot...to allow discomfort with gays and irritations with all of Brokeback's acclaim to take over. Plus, no one would ever know they were homophobes, because it was PRIVATE.

But Brokeback is no longer merely a film, it is the clarion call for equality for a generation. Its loss isn't just a stupid trophy; it will be rightly seen as a victory for the anti-gay religious right, who has been waging a war against it in the media. I'm sure that James Dobson is dancing in the streets.

I am appalled that Hollywood succumbed. I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. I believed that, despite its subject matter, the quality of Ang Lee's film would carry the day. I believed that straight people could, for once, look past our sexuality and see the humanity in our experience. I believed that this was a watershed moment in our popular culture, a chance to talk about something serious in mass-media art.

I was wrong. The world hasn't changed, and queers are still disgusting perverts that straights wish would disappear. Homophobia is alive and well. And if anyone tells you that Hollywood is liberal? Tell them how completely fucked-up and wrong they are.

And if you disagree with me? Fine. Enjoy your fantasy.

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