Is Hollywood on lavender alert? After decades of slow and steady improvement in depicting queers on-screen--front indie films like Maurice and Boys Don't Cry to well-intentioned major studio flicks like Making Love and Philadelphia and groundbreakers like In & Out--Hollywood seems to be living in terror of showing intimacy between two men. Lesbian intimacy is even less visible, unless it's presented as seedy sport for straight men.
Catwoman gives Halle Berry a mincing coworker who is so outlandishly gay (clapping his hands girlishly and cooing over "man sandwich" Benjamin Bratt), you don't know whether to be angry or embarrassed. Troy features two of the most famous male lovers in history--Achilles and Patroclus--and pretends they're just really good pals. De-Lovely tackles the life of Cole Porter by finally letting the composer (a wry Kevin Kline) be seen chastely in bed with men but implies that the real love of his life is his wife, Linda (Ashley Judd).
And upcoming movies seem to threaten just more of the same. It's two steps forward, one step back: Hollywood is tackling more and more gay subject matter, but sometimes in a way that denudes it of meaning or substance.
Acclaimed British writer Andrew Davies finishes a new film script of Brideshead Revisited, and the dream cast includes Jude Law as the teddy-toting Sebastian and Paul Bettany as Charles Ryder. Then Davies happily describes his work as "darker" and "more heterosexual" than the classic" miniseries and Evelyn Waugh's novel.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger set hearts aflutter by agreeing to star in Ang Lee's drama Brokeback Mountain, based on the short story by Pulitzer Prize-winner E. Annie Proulx. Currently in production, it's about two modern cowboys who are passionately in love with each other but tragically unable to make it work.
Gyllenhaal further warms the cockles of our heart by telling Canada's Calgary Sun it would be no big deal to kiss a guy in a movie and that "every man goes through a period of thinking they're attracted to another guy." Then he spoils it later by saying to another paper that the gay love scenes might be toned down and that Lee had made the claim that two men herding sheep was far more sexual than two men having sex on-screen.
Up first is Alexander, Oliver Stone's epic about Alexander the Great, one of the most famous bisexuals in history and a man who conquered the world with his male lover and military general Hephaestion by his side. Colin Farrell, who plays the title role, spoke charmingly to Entertainment Weekly about his well-reviewed drama Home at the End of the World--then launched a clever preemptive strike on complaints about Alexander (due November 5 from Warner Bros.).
"I don't have a kiss with Jared [Leto]," Farrell told EW, referring to the actor who plays Hephaestion, "but I have a sex scene with the woman who plays my wife. And there will be blue murder as to, Why do we see him have sex with Rosario Dawson, but we don't see it with [Leto]? Nobody will stop to think; they'll only see what's on the surface."
Alternately, in the new drama When Will I Be Loved, directed by James Toback, Neve Campbell has a steamy lesbian scene, and no one blinks twice, except perhaps the always excitable Toback.
What's going on? With gay people kicking ass on reality and game shows; with gay characters so common on sitcoms and dramas on prime-time broadcast and cable TV that you can barely keep track of them all; with Ellen DeGeneres the darling of daytime talk; with Broadway flooded by queer-friendly musicals like The Boy From Oz, Hairspray, and Avenue Q; with authors such as Allan Gurganus, Sarah Waters, and David Leavitt treated as major talents rather than ghettoized in the "gay" section; with out pop stars like Rufus Wainwright and Scissor Sisters becoming matter-of-fact; with scenes of men kissing men and women kissing women featured routinely on the local news as people fight for their basic civil rights, why is Hollywood so timid? …