Tuesday, January 06, 2015

CBS Films Straight-Washes 'Pride'

It was hard for a gay when I was a kid. I mean, I didn’t see myself on TV — there was no Will & Grace and Ellen or Cam and Mitchell, no Queer As Folk or Looking. The only remotely gay-ish characters were generally played by Terry-Thomas onscreen or Paul Lynde on television, so I thought being gay meant I had to wear paisley and ascots and velvet smoking jackets and talk with a lisp and call myself a “confirmed bachelor.”

That wasn’t me, but those are the only images I saw because The Gays were often scrubbed from movies since it was assumed that Mr. and Mrs. America didn’t want to see that kinda stuff when they went to the picture shows.

So it was common for gay characters and gay stories to be scrubbed clean of The Gay; gay characters were changed to straight, or the fact that they were gay in the books on which the films were based, was simply left out of the film adaptation altogether.

Like Corporal Fife in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line. In the book by James Jones, you find Fife bunking in a shelter tent next to Private Bead, and the two decide to, ahem, “help each other out” one rainy night. Not so much in the film.

And what about Justin McLeod in The Man Without A Face? In Isabelle Holland’s book, the disfigured lead character was definitely gay, but when it came to selling the book to Hollywood, and noted homophobe Mel Gibson, who would direct the film and play McLeod, the character was suddenly heterosexual.

And we cannot forget the character of Ruth Jamison in Fried Green Tomatoes. In Fannie Flagg's 1987 novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe there is a very clear intimate lesbian relationship between Ruth and her girlfriend Idgie but suddenly in the film Ruth is hung up on a boy.

Even Ben-Hur was supposed to be gay! When it came to writing the script for the chariot epic starring Charlton Heston, Gore Vidal made note of a romantic connection in Lew Wallace's 1880 manuscript between Ben and his friend Messala. But, according to a letter Vidal received from Heston, he and director William Wyler wanted the gay erased from the script. Heston would not be playing gay.

Paul Newman’s Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was alleged to be gay, grieving the suicide of his ‘friend’ Skipper’ but the film remains ambiguous; Newman’s Brick is just a drunk.

And what about Celie in The Color Purple? In the film, Celie and Shug steal a kiss, though Whoopi Goldberg, who played Celie, says the kiss was simply about “love and tenderness ... It has nothing to do with lesbianism. It has to do with, her eyes are opened, now she understands." Funny then, that Alice Walker's novel takes the relationship a lot further than a kiss.

See what I mean, though? The Gays have been straight-washed from films for years; made straight, or maybe just made lonely and desperate for affection so they might share a kiss or a hand job to stave off the isolation. But times have changed, right? There are all kinds of gay characters in films; hell, there are entire films made about The Gays, and it’s a good thing.

But then, please to explain this: an LGBT film, with real LGBT characters, based on real-life LGBT people, has been closeted for its DVD release in America.

The film is a British import, Pride, based on the true story of a group of English gay and lesbian activists who stood in solidarity with coal miners during a 1984 strike. But the artwork, and the synopsis, for the film have been straight-washed for the American public for some reason.

The original synopsis for release in the UK, says:
“PRIDE is inspired by an extraordinary true story. It’s the summer of 1984, Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers is on strike, prompting a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists to raise money to support the strikers’ families. Initially rebuffed by the Union, the group identifies a tiny mining village in Wales and sets off to make their donation in person…”
But the synopsis on the US DVD box says: 
“PRIDE is inspired by an extraordinary true story. It’s the summer of 1984 and much of blue-collar Great Britain is on strike. For one tiny Welsh village, the strike brings unexpected visitors – a group of London-based activists who decide to raise money to support strikers’ families and want to make their donations in person.”
And what about the artwork? The UK version — at the top — clearly has a sign about LGBT support of the miners, but the US version — at the bottom  has the sign removed; erased. No gays.

A rep for CBS Films, which acquired US rights, said the company is looking into the situation — which reads as ‘Oops, we got caught and now we’ll back-pedal” — and makes note that their website for the film keeps the LGBT in it.

How is it that we’re in 2014, and a major film-distribution company wants to straight-wash the gay references from a film that is based on a true story about gay people? And don't think the irony of straight-washing a film called 'Pride' is lost on anyone.

We think we’ve come so far but we’re still being marginalized by some folks who wish, maybe, we didn’t exist; at least when it comes to making them some money.

via THR and Mental Floss


Isobel Tolley said...

Are we on about the same Terry-Thomas? Dark hair, thin moustache, upper class English accent?

Just amused me because in old British films he's always the stereotypical 'ladies' man.' Odd how the same act can come across differently in two cultures.

viktor kerney said...

That's not good

Raybeard said...

Very sad.
When I was growing up the only gays one saw on film (where it was always only implied, never expressly stated or seen) was as a murderous psychopath or as a tortured victim or clown who wished s/he didn't have this 'burden' to bear, implying that it would have been far better to have been heterosexual. This is, incidentally, now the state that Putin's Russia is in where for a public portrayal of gays to be tolerated it has to be a negative one. And so here, apparently coming from approximately the same mentality, in 'Pride' we have a feisty group of young(ish) gay militants who won't be cowed into thinking that they are inferior because of their sexuality, proudly asserting their intrinsic equality - then only for the portrayal of that very same value to be erased in the visual presentational package of this film.
There are more than enough individuals around who'd dearly love to doctor or airbrush out of photos what they consider 'undesirable' elements, in the manner of the old Soviet Union or present-day China and North Korea. Do we have to pander to bigots so much that we feel we ought to do it for them?

Btw: I also don't ever recall thinking that any given Terry-Thomas' character was gay. But now that it's been dropped into my mind it'll probably be lodged there so firmly that in future I'll be looking for little hints and 'signs'.

the dogs' mother said...

Interesting history and surprising present day doings.

Sadie J said...

I had read this earlier and wondered what the point of it is; after all, the story remains the same. I would think they would almost be more afraid of a back-lash of people who start to watch the film thinking its going to be some feel good movie about finding pride in oneself (or some other such rubbish) and instead they feel tricked because it "spreads the gay agenda". This is America--you know there's a group that would/will see it that way! I'm probably related to a few.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I've been lurking here for awhile and felt like saying something. You've got me watching Project Runway again, but I digress. I just watched this movie on On Demand last week. It is wonderful, touching and funny! Too bad people have to second guess themselves. I saw the title and immediately thought gay pride, so why hide it? I guess it's better to be a slasher flick.

Bob Slatten said...

Thanks for lurking and thanks for commenting.
Yeah, it boggles the mind that in 2014 this can happen, especially with a movie called 'Pride.'

Professor Chaos said...

Shame on them.

mistress maddie said...

I agree. We have come far, but can't help but wonder if we will ever really be accepted. 2014 and look at how some still view our afro American citizens. Shameful.

Mark in DE said...

That is so crazy!!