IN THE MAINSTREAM – RICH PASCHALL

LGBTQ in cinema, by Rich Paschall

We don’t need a declaration from an orange politician to know that June is the national Pride month. There may not be Pride parades this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that followed, but we have a Pride list of movies for your viewing enjoyment. Stay home, save lives, watch movies.

For this list, we have chosen films that have made it into the mainstream of cinema. Most enjoyed wide distribution and many found commercial success. There are many award winners including some that received Oscars at the annual Academy Awards. You should be able to find all of these screen gems on DVD or online.

In some of these movies, gay issues are the main topic. In others, it is just a part of the storyline and not necessarily the main theme or focus of the film. I have seen all of the films on the following list, or I would not have included them. There may be many other commendable films that could easily be included. Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review site, has a list of 200 best LGBTQ movies of all time, although many are foreign films that would not be considered mainstream here.

However, I will start with an honorable mention from the foreign film category and offer you the critically acclaimed Brazilian film, Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho, entitled “The Way He Looks” for American audiences. The feature is based on the hugely successful 2010 short film that instantly went viral on YouTube. It now has over 8 million views and you can find it here, although I recommend finding the feature-length film.  The language is Portuguese. Both the short film and the feature have English subtitles.

Now grab your popcorn and be prepared to be entertained by some of the best movies ever made. A few are of historical interest, so you may learn a little history along the way. When I compiled the list there were 20, so I decided to rank them all.

20. Weekend. (2011) The British feature concerns two men who meet and spend the weekend together. After that…well, there will be no spoilers today.
19. The Children’s Hour. (1961). Based on the 1934 Lillian Hellman play, the film downplayed the whispered lie about a gay love affair between the two female teachers. Audrey Hepburn and Shirley Maclaine star. The film was nominated for five Oscars.
18. I Am Michael. (2015) The biographical drama concerns a gay activist turned Christian preacher. James Franco stars as the conflicted main character.
17. Dog Day Afternoon. (1975). Based on the true story of a bank robbery gone wrong, Al Pacino stars as real-life Sonny Wortzik trying to steal money for his transgender mate’s surgery. It was nominated for five Oscars, winning one.
16. I Love You Phillip Morris. (2009) Based on the true-life story of the con artist Steven Jay Russell and the man with whom he falls in love in prison. Jim Carrey gives a strong performance in comedy-drama.

15. The Crying Game. (1992) The tense drama is set during the conflict in Northern Ireland. A member of the IRA promises to protect Dil, the mate of a rival fighter. The film picked up six Oscar nominations, winning one for Best Screenplay. The story included an element most audience members did not see coming.
14. Mysterious Skin. (2004)  Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an early film role as a male prostitute. Set in the 1980s, the storyline follows two friends’ lives and their separate paths following a childhood incident. It’s not for the squeamish.
13. My Own Private Idaho(1991) The cult classic stars River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as street hustlers and friends.  It picked up a variety of Film Critics and Film Festival awards.
12. Another Country. (1984) The British historical drama stars Ruppert Everett and is set in public schools in the 1930s. The story concerns the openly gay student, Guy Bennett, who is based on the real-life spy Guy Burgess.

11. Howl. (2010) James Franco stars as Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg. The experimental film style concentrates on Ginsberg’s poem of the same name and the 1957 obscenity trial that followed. The reenactment of the Six Gallery Reading in 1955, spread throughout the film, is often illustrated through animation. Franco also relives a Ginsberg interview where his comments about the poem and the trial are being recorded. Franco carries the movie as Ginsberg with his top-notch performance.

Like many good movies, we are ending with a cliffhanger. The top ten movies will be up tomorrow, but you can start on this list today. The above includes comedy, drama, and comedy-drama. There is romance and there is history. There is mysterious skin and there are mysterious people.

For a look at the trailer of any of the above movies, just click on the title. If you want to play them all and get a sneak peek at tomorrow’s list, click here.

SENDING A LETTER HOME

This week on SERENDIPITY we talk about taking a look backward at your younger self. What advice would you give? Here is my look backward as crazy and uncomfortable as it may be. 

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

At 14

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends, and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt-ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girlfriends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  Well, I guess I am not certain about that, however.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest time in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NEIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photoshopping now but you will know that they did a great job of airbrushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the downtimes that will follow, I need to tell you this one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it gets better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich

See Also: “A Glance Backward,” Serendipity, teepee12.com Sunday, February 21, 2021.

STONEWALL UPRISING – Rich Paschall

There will be no Pride Parades this year, but for 50 years gays had taken to the streets, first in rebellion, then in celebration. Last year on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall we looked at the story of the Uprising. Be sure to click “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story.

THE PROMISE OF LOVE

Here is the last of the 4 stories of what may be a South American love story. This time we switch back to Jon’s side of the story. Click on “View original post” at the bottom to go over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story. If you missed the previous stories scroll down the page to “I LOVE YOU” or see the links at the bottom of this story.

A Change of View

A short family story

The extra bedroom had been turned into a den or office of some sort.  It was supposed to be a place to work or study, but actually it was just a place for Rob to hide out from the family.  In there he could read or daydream or actually make use of the computer he was determined to learn more about.  This determination did not go much farther than turning it on, looking at the home page and checking his email.  Rob did not get much email.  His friends knew he rarely read them anyway.  Rob did not have to use the computer much at work, and used it less at home.

Books, creative commons license

Over time the den had become cluttered with books and magazines.  That was Rob’s doing.  “These are the things to be read,” he thought.  The internet contained sound bites and headlines and celebrity pictures and Rob was convinced it held little value for him.  You might say Rob was a bit of a throwback to a previous generation.  The passing years had confused him and upset the neat world order in the family of Rob.  So, he needed his refuge to occasionally escape his modern family.

He had a conservative wife with conservative looks and conservative taste.  Despite her ever youthful appearance, she was likely better suited to  the era of black and white television than the present day.  She did not seem the daring young girl Rob married over three decades earlier.  There were also two teenage children, a boy and a girl.  Rob recalled how he used to call them his “little prince and princess.”  Rob’s neatly appointed wife thought he carried on with the “prince and princess” thing too long.  Becky continued to be “daddy’s little girl” and certainly acted like a princess, but Josh had transformed into someone else.  Until now, Rob had no idea how the world of Josh had changed.

This particular Thursday evening Rob sat alone in the den waiting.  He had come home to do something he had never done before and now he was waiting.  He looked up at the clock and it revealed the hour was closing in on 7 pm.  His teenagers had not arrived home and his ever patient wife was just starting to make dinner.  They were all going to keep him waiting.  On most days he would not sit in a room with just a low watt energy-saving bulb burning and do nothing but wait, but that was his mission now.  He was unsure what he would say when the waiting ended, his mind was actually rather blank and his face was free from expression of any kind.  He looked rather like an old soldier who just had a mortar shell go off nearby.  He waited in stunned silence.

Earlier in the day Rob was talking to one of the other dads at work.  The other dad was much younger and that may have been the reason he was more in tune with the teenagers and the internet.  “Do you ever watch You Tube videos? ” the younger dad had asked.  “No,” Rob replied, “I am not sure if I have ever seen one.”  “Here is one you will want to see.  Search this title.”  He handed Rob a piece of paper.  “It is important.  Do it today.  Here too is the ‘username’ of the one who posted it just in case you have any trouble finding it.”  The younger dad would answer no questions and would not say anymore on the subject.  Rob had put the folded up piece of paper in his pocket and did not take it out until he reached the den.  Once there, he went immediately to his desk, turned on the computer and sat silently.

As he waited for the computer to start up he read the few words on the paper over and over.  Could this possibly be some sort of joke?  Would they all laugh about it tomorrow in the company break room?  Would this just be a few minutes of needed entertainment?  When the computer was on, Rob searched for the title.  At first he was confused and a bit nervous.  There were so many videos with similar titles he was unsure what to pick.  Then he noticed the user name and started scrolling through the titles looking for the right one.

When he located the name that matched the one written out for him, he clicked on it quickly, before he could change his mind.  He watched the whole thing and when it was over, a single tear rolled down his cheek.  There was just one before his tears and his mouth dried up and his palms began to sweat.  In his 50+ years he had never felt like this before, ever.  When the clock stuck seven, the computer was still on and Rob was still silent.

Soon after the seven o’clock bells tolled for Josh, he opened the front door and came strolling in.  When he passed the door of the den Rob yelled, “Josh, get in here.”  Josh had never in his life heard such a sound come from his father.  As a matter of fact, Rob had never heard such a sound before either.  Whatever was the cause of this greeting, Josh knew it could not be good.  He stuck his head through the doorway and said, “Yes, sir” in a timid little voice left over from his “little prince” days.  In his 17 years, 3 months and 2 days, Josh was never this nervous, even when he broke Mrs. Applebaum’s car mirror playing baseball in the street.

Broadcast Yourself

Broadcast Yourself

“Come over here,” Rob commanded.  Josh walked over and stopped across the desk from dear old dad, who just lookd old at the moment.  “No, over here,” Rob said, pointing to the floor next to where he sat.  Josh came around the desk as Rob made ready with his new knowledge of You Tube.  When the little prince was in place, Rob clicked on the video and Josh knew immediately what was on the bill.  His heart and stomach tensed up as if someone was strangling them from inside.

“Dad,” the little prince squeaked.  “Quiet,” Rob growled in returned.  And so for the first time, father and son watched a You Tube Video together, all 8 minutes and 22 seconds of it.  When it was over and an uncomfortable few seconds had passed, Rob said, “Go,” in a soft voice that gave away hurt and betrayal.  Josh rushed from the den, ran to his room and slammed the door.  Rob emerged from the den to find his pretty wife rushing to the scene.

“What’s up with you two?” she said.  “Did the prince do something wrong?”  Rob gave his response a moment of thought and said, “Why didn’t we have kids sooner in life?”  “YOU did not want to,” she laughed.  “You said we should be financially sound before we started a family.”  She was right, of course.  That is exactly what he said.  He said it many times throughout the first dozen years of their marriage.

“I think teenagers were not as difficult years ago.  There just seems to be so much more to deal with now.”  The pretty little wife with the perfect hair and the perfect smile looked puzzled, but Rob said no more about it that night or for many nights to come.  He had no idea how to tell her that the little prince had come out as gay to the entire world by way of a You Tube video, but was unable to find a way to tell his parents.

Separate Is Not Equal

The Case for Equality

Segregation in the United States was struck down in the landmark decision in Brown versus Board of Education (Topeka, Kansas).  The court held in a unanimous vote that the policy of separate but equal was inherently flawed.  This set aside an 1896 ruling that allowed for separate black and white schools, not to mention other institutions.  By 1954 the court had realized the flaws of the earlier thinking, perhaps marred by personal prejudices, and ruled against the notion of separate but equal.  The establishment of two separate classes of people meant by its very nature that they were unequal in standing.

Despite the high court ruling, discrimination and segregation continued to exist throughout the 1950’s.  In fact it took federal government intervention in the 1960’s to force the end of segregation at some southern schools.  Governors Ross Barnett of Mississippi and George Wallace of Alabama famously tried to stop integration of universities in their states and maintain segregation.  While Governor Wallace remained popular in his state, Barnett, an avowed segregationist, was a one term governor.  Ending segregation by court ruling, did not change the opinions of many.

The prejudices of earlier times continued to plague the following decades, court rulings not withstanding.  It was impossible to erase generations of discrimination with some decisions of the court.  Indeed, many grew up learning discrimination and hatred in their own homes.  It would not so easily be set aside.

While a variety of equal rights were secured through the remainder of the 20th century by court ruling and legislation, there was one area where discrimination was being written into state laws.  Indeed the fear card started to be played anew when rights for certain citizens were being discussed.  It started when the Hawaii Supreme Court held in 1993 that the refusal to grant same-sex marriages was discriminatory.  In the years that immediately followed many states, including Hawaii, wrote laws to ban same-sex marriage.  In 1998 voters in Hawaii gave the legislature the right to define marriage as an opposite sex couple.

The systematic adoption of such laws across the country set up two classes of people.  The 104th Congress piled on in 1996 with the now infamous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  This law institutionalized discrimination and denied basic benefits to same sex couples that were provided to opposite sex couples in almost a thousand laws. This included estate benefits or right to inherit, joint tax filings, survivor social security benefits, and so on.  The very establishment of another class of citizen would be the eventual downfall of DOMA.5doma

The federal government had always held that whoever a state recognized as married was married, but then they tried to deny benefits under DOMA to those a state found to be married.  The most egregious example was brought to the attention of the high court in United States v. Windsor.  It was a fight taken up on behalf of an elderly woman whose marriage in New York did not seem to matter to the feds when her partner died and they took everything.  They did not recognize her right to inherit.  Either the feds recognized the marriages that were recognized by states, or they did not.  They could not have two classes of citizens.  The court saw DOMA as “a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment” and struck down some of its provisions.

Despite this ruling, as well as overturning California’s attempt to ban gay marriage through Proposition 8, there are still a majority of states that declare that a particular two people in love are not equal to another two people in love.  It is the case of setting up another class of citizen.  Apparently, many states are still under the notion this is OK.  People talk about the institution of marriage as if some God came down from on high with a set of rules about this.

Yes, I already know what some are thinking, but since I do not know ancient Aramaic, I will not pretend that the interpretations and translations of the Bible handed me by the religious right are necessarily correct.  Nor do I buy into any of the other scare tactics they use to convince us to set up a separate class.  That separate class thing just does not stand up against any test when Supreme Court justices have to sit and listen to it.

In the new political climate states are introducing “religious freedom laws” and “bathroom laws” that are discriminatory at their cores.  They allow for setting up separate classes and separate treatments of various people, not because of criminal activity, but for who they are, who they love, who they identify as.  Will the current high court strike down this discrimination, or institutionalize it as present leaders would like to do?

My Story, A Letter Home

Not so long ago in A Glance Backward, I wrote about The Letter Q and the letters it contained from authors who wrote to their younger selves.   Below is a letter I wrote and put up here almost two years ago following the inspiration given by that book.  After posting the importance of Your Story this week on Serendipity, I thought about this again. Following the inspiration from another blog, I offer it up once more.

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girl friends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  I guess I am not sure about that, however.

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest times in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NEIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photo shopping now but you will know that they did a great job of air brushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the down times that will follow, I need to tell you this one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it gets better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich