Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Art or Message?

I wanted to like it.  I really did.  And, to a degree, I did like it.

Until near the end, when I didn't anymore.  And then I had to decide:  do I mention it on my blog and make you, dear reader, aware of it, or do I pass it over, like I have other things before?     

From time to time, I receive email requests from people who've produced something.  Either they want me to take a look at something.  Or they want me to listen to something.  Or they want me to read something.  In almost all cases, they want me to recommend it on my blog, whatever it happens to be.  Which I'm happy to do, IF–and this is a big IF–it's something I feel good about on a personal level, or it's consistent with what I try to do here at "This Gay Relationship."

Sometimes, the decision to publicize or not to publicize is a difficult one, because, as a writer, I consider myself to be a creator too.  I know how challenging it is to create something from nothing, let alone to risk putting it out into the world, hoping it not only reaches an audience but does some good too.   

That was the case recently when I received an email request from the producer of a short film.  Over the course of about fourteen minutes, the film features two Jewish families, both with two parents and a son.  One family goes over to the other family's house for dinner.  While the parents socialize downstairs–getting progressively drunk and talking about socially sensitive subjects, as people often do–the one son takes the other upstairs to his bedroom. 

The son whose bedroom they are in looks about fifteen or sixteen years old (I don't think he has anything to shave yet).  The other son wears sideburns, so I'd guess he's in his early twenties.  At any rate, I did not think they were equal in age, which may or may not have been a concern for the short film's producer.

In the bedroom, the older son eventually reveals to the younger that he's just come out to his parents.  They talk briefly about how that went.  One thing leads to another, and, despite the mother of the younger son saying to her guests that her boy is something of a player with the girls (at fifteen or sixteen?), the older son kisses the younger.

So far, so good.  I was okay with all this, because it didn't feel awkward or out of place.  Plus, the two actors who play the sons do a realistic, sensitive, and compelling job (unlike one of the mothers, who, I believe, is way over the top).     

Rather than the two boys talk about being gay, or "I think I might be gay too," the older son ends up asking the younger if he wants to hook up–then and there, in the younger son's bedroom, while their parents are downstairs.  The next thing we see are the two boys in shadow, engaging in oral sex.


How I wish a different creative decision had been made here.

I see why the producer had the two sons engage in oral sex:  Because, near the end of the film, as the dinner party comes to a close, the younger son's father goes upstairs to his boy's room, opens the door, and discovers what's going on (which, judging by the look on his face, he's not too pleased with).  The father seeing what's going on between his son and the other one is the climax of the film (if you'll pardon the pun).  If this hadn't happened, perhaps the producer thought his short film would have been pointless.   

But it felt wrong to me.  If the father had caught his son kissing the other one, I believe a similar point could have been made, and I would have thought it was more realistic, under the circumstances.  But, really, did they have to hook up?  Was the right creative decision made for the two sons to go from scarcely being comfortable enough to kiss each other one moment to engaging in oral sex the next?

That's where this short film fails for me, even though it's apparently won a number of awards, and it's being used as the catalyst for helping people reveal something difficult.  Unfortunately, it plays to the stereotype that, apparently, two males, no matter what their age and specific circumstances, are more likely to hook up, given the least interest or opportunity, than not.  And that doesn't work for me.  Nor is it consistent with the message I try to put across here in my blog.

I wish the producer of the film hadn't been lazy, hadn't fallen into the usual trap.  I wish he would have challenged himself to maintain the innocence of the two sons, while at the same time still get across the point that it's difficult to come to terms with being gay and to come out.  I wish he wouldn't have perpetuated the same old stereotype that all two males have on their minds, if they're the least bit inclined, is to have sex together.   

This short film had me, and then it lost me.  It's too bad.  I'd like nothing more than to provide a link here, so you can view it for yourself.  But I can't recommend it.  I wish I could.

If you're an artist, and your intention is to change minds about what it means to be gay–garner a little understanding, maybe even a little empathy–then for goodness sake, make better creative decisions.  Handle your subject in a more restrained and respectful way, and not in a way that probably most people already expect.

Just saying… 

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