So since queer media has been a popular topic on this blog for the last few posts and we’ve had so many excellent discussions…and it’s obvious that Ars Marginal is the latest victim of the EVIL HO-MO-SAX-U-OWL Agenda (GAY MEDIA? OH NOES!!!!!), I thought I’d post a movie review on a gay film and follow suit, since all the other cool kids are doing it.
Neo’s Law #7: It’s not enough to be right about the argument. Your methods and motives have to be on point.
You’ll see what I mean.
So recently I caught the film adaptation of the play Fixing Frank. With it being a gay film, I feared it was going to suck. And not in the scintillating hawt man-on-man action way either. Sadly more often than not, gay media plays to the worst stereotypes and does more damage than the right-wingers could ever dream.
However in this case, I was pleasantly surprised and was glad that I was wrong. This was one of most cerebral gay films I’d seen in ages. With three of the most morally dubious and questionable men, what was kinda disturbing to me was that the film’s most sympathetic character was the “villain.”
Synopsis (courtesy of IMDB): Gay journalist, Frank Johnston sets out to write an expose on Dr. Apsey, a therapist who claims to convert gays to straight. Enlisted by his psychotherapist boyfriend, Jonathan, Frank finds that Apsey may not necessarily be a quack, after all. The reason for Frank’s seeing Apsey becomes blurred is it for the article or for personal reasons? As Frank falls under Apsey’s spell, his relationship with Jonathan deteriorates, and a fierce psychological tug of war erupts between the two persuasive doctors over the heart and mind of Frank. Frank must make decisions that eventually explode the lives of all of them.
Frank is a puppet. He’s basically the kind of person that allows anyone to pull his strings and manipulate him, whether it’s his boyfriend Jonathan or to some extent Dr. Aspey. Because developing a spine and standing on his own two feet like a real man is just too much for him. He typically reminds me of the legions of shallow 20-something pretty boys I’ve encountered too often in the gay community. Those who rely on their looks and charm to get them what they want without ever having to develop any form of character or fortitude. Like a coward he’s a little boy looking for a “daddy” or a “master” to control him. This is why he’s a habitual liar and not just as an investigative journalist. In fact he’s not even an investigative journalist. At most, he’s written articles for fairs and garden shows and an expose on a doctor’s controversial therapy is far out of his purview. We have his boyfriend Jonathan to thank for manipulating Frank into doing the article. And manipulates Jonathan does. He emotionally blackmails Frank from everything from threatening their relationship to telling Frank that he’s a bad gay man who’s not truly dedicated to gay rights like Jonathan is for not going through this scheme.
Of course Frank can’t even keep his cover five minutes into his visit with Apsey. He’s a liar who lies just to lie. Like a small child who fibs and fibs and fibs. This pattern continues when his relationship with Jonathan deteroriates or it looks like he’s finally gaining a spine, I should say. And just when it looks like Frank is going to finally learn to be his own man, by the end of the film he reverts to form and runs back to Jonathan. I think the story would’ve been a lot stronger had Frank stayed alone to find himself.
Jonathan is an ass. And even that’s being too kind. If I had to pick a villain of the three (and admittedly a strong argument could be made for all three characters), for me it would be Jonathan hands down. He also epitomizes the faux anti-oppressionists I’ve seen too often. The type who talk a good game but whose actions do more harm than good. Douchebags who sitr drama and commit heinous acts under the veil of anti-oppression. We see this all the time with certain organizations. In short, he believes that because he’s “fighting for gay rights,” he has an all-access pass to show his whole ass, to hell with who he exploits or any other repercussions. Sure he might be right about the argument as far as fighting for gay rights goes but it’s the way he goes about it that’s reprehensible.
You see Jonathan is a little less than forthcoming with Frank. And by less than forthcoming, I mean he’s a lying bastard. It isn’t until Frank has revealed himself to Apsey, that we learn that Jonathan has been harassing Apsey and stealing his clients . When Jonathan also props up Frank for this latest scheme, he also fails to disclose to his lover that he had filed a complaint to the board to get Apsey disbarred. Of course with Frank not knowing this information, he’s essentially walking into a minefield and one phonecall to his publisher from Apsey about such an underhanded ploy could cost Frank his career as a writer. But Jonathan clearly shows he couldn’t care less about Frank or anyone else. In fact he views Frank as more of a possession than an actual partner deserving mutual respect. Because Frank is so weak, that’s probably why Jonathan chose him in the first place.
Jonathan serves as proof of my original point. It’s not just enough to be right about the argument. You have to be on point in your motives and methods. Otherwise you will fail and fall everytime, not to mention undercut the very righteous cause you purport to support. Trust, if there is a villain of this story, it’s Jonathan.
Dr. Apsey is a fascinating creature. While he’s an ex-gay therapist, he’s not a religious zealot, a homophobe or a bigot. He couldn’t care less if a person is gay or straight, he genuinely only wants them to live happy and healthy lives, be it gay, straight or anything else. In fact several times, Apsey calls Frank on his destructive behavior and tells him that it would be destructive gay or straight. In some respects that makes Apsey the most sympathetic and in other respects, the probably the most dangerous. Having had a younger brother commit suicide because he couldn’t reconcile being gay, Apsey was inspired to develop this therapy for gays who are at risk. Apsey only offers his therapy as a choice. He’s not out to force it on anyone who doesn’t want it but he doesn’t want anyone to share his brother’s fate.
While I disagree with Dr. Apsey on many issues, I can respect him for making what he genuinely believes is a good faith effort to help others. Where he fucks up royally is allowing himself to get involved in the Jonathan-Frank drama. After being bullied, stalked, and repeatedly harassed, I get him wanting to fight back or prove his point (and what better way than making a believer out of his enemy’s lover). However Dr. Apsey should’ve simply reported Jonathan to the bar and been done with it. In any event I’m a bit more sympathetic to the guy (Apsey) who might be doing the wrong thing for the right reasons in good faith as opposed to the other guy (Jonathan) who’s doing the right thing (and even I would argue that he isn’t) for the wrong reasons, for sinister motives.
Intent alone isn’t magic, no. But I do believe it is telling about the characters we’re dealing with.
I think I really enjoyed this movie most of all because it really forced me to think on a myriad of issues, long after it ended. And I don’t think you can ask for much more from a film.
For me personally, this movie hit home for a number of reasons. You see while I’m out online, in real life, I keep my orientation on a need-to-know basis. It’s not out of shame or lack of sense of self but the sad fact is, it is a survival tool. Someone knowing I’m gay can make all the difference between being denied for a job, being denied medical attention, or someone trying to kill me. But more than that, I like being treated like a human being.
As a double minority, yes, I still have racism to contend with but most people are totally comfortable with me being a person of color, (provided that I: don’t exceed whites in anything, don’t date, sleep with or marry a white woman or in my case a white man, keep white people fee fees as my top priority, remember my place and don’t dare consider myself on equal footing with the white folks). But let me tell you what happens when people assume I’m straight. People go out of their way to greet me. Supervisors applaud me for the excellent work. Co-workers and peers invite me to come hang out with them after work. I’m considered one of the boys. Not only am I respected but I’m actually liked as a human being. Women shamelessly flirt with me and colleagues male and female alike try to hook me up with a single lady in their life because I’m such a wonderful guy.
And when they find out I’m gay……
I get the silence. And the looks, the glares. The whispers. I get lectured about how I’m going to hell, and these holyrollers are even more irate when I explain that I worship the same God they do and he loves me for who I am because I’m made in his image. I’m forbidden to discuss any issues pertaining to my crushes/relationships/sexual conquests. It’s not that they’re homophobic, they just find me and mine sick and depraved and they don’t want to hear about it, but they’re totally not homophobic. After all, they just adore their hair stylist Pierre and they just loooooooove Will & Grace. And let’s not discuss how I’m not permitted to go within 20 miles of children. Because we’re all a bunch of predators.
And then folks wonder why LGBTQs stay in the closet.
To quote Brian Kinney, “It’s not lying if they make you lie. If the only truth they can accept is their own.”
So when folks admit that they hate being gay, sadly I get it. I understand. In this world life is easier being heterosexual (note I didn’t say better, but easier). I may not agree with reparative therapy but I can understand why someone would want to take it. To be clear, by no means am I advocating reparative therapy because I don’t. But if someone genuinely believes that’s the best course of action for their life, then I understand and respect their decision. I don’t agree with it, but I understand.
You see I fight for freedom of choice. I believe that people have the right to live their lives as they see fit, even if I don’t agree with their choices. It’s when they try to force their beliefs and choices on others when the line gets crossed. And that’s when the oppressors should be stopped at all costs. This is why I will passionately stand tall for those who choose to stay in the closet, as long as they aren’t oppressing other LGBTQs and making with the hypocrisy. When we don’t blink an eye at the blatant discrimination LGBTQs face: queer bashings, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, transphobia, donating blood, we don’t get to get pissy because someone doesn’t want to endure such rebuke. When the world constantly re-emphasizes the mantra that you’re inferior, you’re depraved and some kind of freak of nature, how do you think certain LGBTQs are going to react.
The truth is, we live in a broken world. And Frank isn’t the only one who needs fixing.