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Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Hullabaloo


Saturday, May 23, 2009

 
Saturday Night At The Movies



The bi-curious case of the closeted Republicans

By Dennis Hartley
























If you want to know about the gay politician
If you want to know how to drive your car
If you want to know about the new sex position
You can read it in the Sunday papers, read it in the Sunday papers

-Joe Jackson



Speaking as the court jester, class clown, resident buffoon (take your pick) here amongst the otherwise accomplished and well-respected political writers at Hullabaloo, what I am about to do could be construed as tantamount to biting the hand that feeds me, but please know that I do it out of love. Think of it as an intervention. My esteemed colleagues have a dirty little secret, and I’m going to out them, right here and now. OK, are you ready?

Hypocrisy is their bread and butter.

There, I’ve said it. Mind you, this “hypocrisy” of which I speak is not in reference to what they write, but what they write about. Because let’s face it-if hypocrisy did not proliferate in politics like the weeds on the banks of the Potomac, digby, dday and tristero would not have much to write about. And I’ll wager that they would sleep better, stop yelling at their TVs, and not have to keep their blood pressure pills in a Pez dispenser.

Political hypocrisy is certainly nothing new, nor is it a particularly partisan phenomenon when one is speaking in general terms. However, one of the biggest head-scratchers in recent years is revelation after revelation concerning closeted Republican politicians who refuse to publicly address gay rights issues and have a record of consistently voting down legislation that would benefit the LGBT community. The explanations for this contrarian behavior may not be as cut and dry as you might think, according to a fascinating, provocative new documentary from filmmaker Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated).

Dick grabs your attention right off the bat during the opening credits of Outrage, with audio excerpts from the police interrogation of Senator Larry Craig (after his infamous arrest for “homosexual lewd misconduct” in a restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport). It soon becomes clear, however, that the film is not going to be merely a collage of sensationalistic “outings” or a prurient rehash of high-profile media circuses like the Craig case. Instead, the film specifically targets those closeted politicians who play the charade by cloaking themselves in the traditional “family values” stance of the conservative Right. It’s not about calling these public servants out on the fact that they are living a lie in their personal life, per se; rather, it’s an attempt to illustrate how this type of self-deluding behavior by people in positions of power can ultimately contribute to the continued socio-political suppression of their own community.

The director finds a perfect framing device by profiling Blogactive’s Michael Rogers, who has been on a diligent one-man crusade to out every closeted politician who has voted down gay rights issues. There are also archival and new interviews with the likes of ex-New Jersey governor James McGreevey (who outed himself after resigning his post), the former Mrs. McGreevey (you go, girl…ouch!), current Florida governor Charlie Crist (who continues to adamantly deny the undeniable) and Congressman Barney Frank (who offers the most pragmatic perspective on the issue). In one of my favorite scenes, Dick very cleverly parses the by-now-familiar footage of McGreevey’s final press conference as governor by deliberately zooming in on his wife’s blanched, incredulous facial expression (I think I now understand what they mean by “looking daggers”) There are some surprises as well, like several hilarious, well-chosen Freudian bloopers by TV anchors (Dick, like Michael Moore, does not forget to entertain, as well as outrage).

From what I understand, most of the “outings” in the film are already old hat in the gay press. However, strictly speaking as a sympathetic yet blissfully oblivious straight guy with woefully underdeveloped Gaydar, I have to say that a few of the revelations in the film were news to me, like former NYC Mayor Ed Koch (if I may quote Douglas Adams: The mere thought hadn’t even begun to speculate about the merest possibility of crossing my mind…) and Fox News anchor Shepard Smith (well, we DO call it “Faux” News- maybe I shouldn’t be so shocked about any of those bozos being exposed as a sham, eh?).

The film also gives a little historical perspective on the phenomenon as well; particularly in regard to notorious McCarthyite Roy Cohn (playwright Tony Kushner briefly discusses the fictionalized Cohn character he created for Angels in America). Curiously, the most dangerously powerful closet case of all time, J. Edgar Hoover is not mentioned. Then again, Dick may not have even known where to start; Hoover’s decades-long reign of hypocrisy could easily provide enough material for a Ken Burns-length miniseries in and of itself. I think the most important thing I took away from this film was that anyone who would lie to themselves (about anything of conscience or consequence, not just sexual identity) ideally should never, ever be entrusted to power over the lives of others. Which begs a question: If that credo could be magically imposed, how many people would be left in government? Do you think we could count them on more than one hand?

Previous posts with related themes:

Milk

The Hoax/Color Me Kubrick


And one more thing…

In light of this being Memorial Day Weekend, I just wanted to give a shout out to a worthy organization that could use some of your help-specifically, your movies. DVDs4Vets is a clearinghouse that accepts donations of DVDs, which are distributed to V.A. hospitals for use by soldiers recovering from traumatic brain injury and other serious wounds. If you’ve ever been hospitalized, you know how interminable and disheartening it can be; popping in a movie can be a great way to cheer yourself up and help take your mind off your predicament for a spell. The organization is non partisan, and they do not solicit financial assistance. Please check out their website for more info.


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