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Just Saw the Movie Philadelphia

December 1, 2009

I was astonished at the extent to which it is designed to be consumed by straight, middle-class, white people. Anything that might rub “normal” straight middle class white people the wrong way has been stripped out of the film.

  • The gay men barely touch one another except in one dancing scene. When they do dance it is like a brother and sister dancing—there’s no passion.
  • They never kiss.
  • There is a “crazy” gay costume party that is not crazy at all. It’s the sort of party my parents would go to.
  • The gay guy is surrounded by normal, middle-class, straight, white family members who love him and support him.
  • There is a roll of 8mm home movie footage of him as a kid at the end that is incredibly stereotypical—it practically could have been filmed in Mayberry.

I imagine my extended family members watching this and thinking, “Yeah, that discrimination against that guy was so unfair. He seemed like a good guy.” But if he had been a transvestite: “That’s sick.”

The lesson to be learned (by white middle class straight people) is this: gay people are okay because they’re normal and just like you.

The coordinate lesson: those gays who are not normal or not just like you may not be okay.

I’d rather the movie had said: being gay is okay even if they are not like you at all.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. sophia permalink
    December 2, 2009 4:07 pm

    who’s parent’s don’t go to crazy gay costume parties though?
    Although when my parents to that they call it a “pagan convention”… and they’re not costumes they’re “robes”.

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    December 2, 2009 5:21 pm

    Sophia: lol about the robes!

  3. December 5, 2009 11:07 pm

    That’s an ongoing argument between queer and LGBT activists about assimilationism — whether “we’re just like you” is a useful political strategy or not. Sure, that might help win gay marriage, but it involves leaving behind all the femme men, butches, trans people and genderqueers, which are precisely the most vulnerable in the face of normalization. And it opens the door for oppression based on all sorts of “differences”.

    I don’t remember much about the movie, except that it irritated me for similar reasons. It was too bland, and if I recall correctly, the gay man was completely passive and at the mercy of the good straight people. Actually, the whole movie could have been about straight people patting themselves on the back for being so open and tolerant. I mean, we were supposed to applaud the lawyer for expressing his disgust for gay men and still defending a gay guy! Ah, heterocentrism. I’d like to believe that it’s only because this movie is so old.

  4. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    December 6, 2009 12:49 am

    “the whole movie could have been about straight people patting themselves on the back for being so open and tolerant”

    EXACTLY! Right on.

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