Saturday, August 7, 2010

Gratitude and Appreciation

In 1982, nearly thirty years ago, I was twenty-two--four years from coming out, a decade from the relationship I'm in now, and light years from accepting myself as a gay man.

I sat alone in a theatre and watched "Making Love," starring Michael Ontkean, Harry Hamlin, and Kate Jackson.  As the article from states below, "Making Love" was " of the first studio productions to present a gay male couple as protagonists."  It was ground-breaking, no question about that.  It presented popular actors of the day depicting a straight married couple as well as a gay couple.

Although awkward in some places, the portrayal of the difficulty two men had giving in to their feelings for each other was, I believed at the time, pretty realistic.  This movie had an enormous impact on me.  It showed me what was possible in a world that was more perfect than the one I lived in, and what I imagined would never happen to me.  

Alone, because I didn't know anyone else who was gay, I went back to the theatre two more times to watch the same movie.  I shouldn't have been surprised by the reactions from some of the men in the audience when they saw Ontkean and Hamlin kiss.  Their disgust was instinctive and audible throughout the hushed theatre.  I sank in my seat, as though I were ashamed for kissing a man myself, as though I were ashamed for being gay.  I was, believe me.  I prayed one day I would kiss a man, and I wouldn't have to feel ashamed.  

The times, they have changed.

This past week, I watched both "Brokeback Mountain" and "A Single Man" on DVD.  Neither one of these two life-affirming movies could ever have been made in 1982.  I can't even imagine how the men in the audience back then would have reacted to Ledger and Gyllenhaal engaged in anal sex in the tent up in the mountains of Wyoming.  To say the least, it would not have gone over well.

"A Single Man" takes the reality of being gay one significant step further.  It alludes to the possibility, and the beauty, of a loving and committed relationship between two men over a sixteen year period.  Yes, gay men aren't just about promiscuous sex, multiple partners, and lonely emptiness.  Gay men can be and are emotionally connected to each other, and their relationships deserve to be respected to the same degree as straight relationships.

I don't want to say that today's young gay men should be grateful movies like "Brokeback Mountain" and "A Single Man" are made, and receive the amount of acceptance they do from mainstream audiences, but they should be.  It's easy to be critical of a movie for any number of reasons, but let's not lose perspective here.

For the first time in our history, we're seeing honest depictions of gay love and loss, and those depictions are as real as it gets.  Furthermore, Neanderthal men aren't sitting in audiences spewing obscenities at movie screens when they see two men embrace and kiss passionately, or grieve over losing a long-time partner, or engage in anal sex.

We've come a long way, baby, and it's our responsibility to support visionary film makers, and actors, who have the courage to take up our cause, even if they're not gay themselves, and to show us as we really are--in an effort to prove that, when it comes to love, loss, and relationships, we're no different from anyone else.        

Harry Hamlin Remembers Making Love

Actor Harry Hamlin thinks starring in the 1982 gay film Making Love may not have been helpful to his film career, but it's something he would do again, according to blogGreg in Hollywood.

Hamlin starred in the film as a writer who falls in love with a closeted and married doctor (Michael Ontkean). "At the time, I had about 70 percent of the people telling me not to do it," Hamlin says. "Hollywood wasn’t ready for the movie at that time."

Though groundbreaking as one of the first studio productions to present a gay male couple as protagonists, Making Love was not a financial success upon its initial theatrical release. “It was probably 10-15 years ahead of its time,” Hamlin says. “I’m not sure it was helpful to my future film career.”

Asked if he'd reprise his character in a sequel, Hamlin says "“If they want to do something about a gay octogenarian, I may be up for it in a couple of years.”

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