Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Generic Genres and Gender

I am currently at work today while my partner is resting at home and watching Wedding Wars, the campy movie starring Rob Lowe and Sean Maher.  (update : Oops, was it Rob Lowe or John Stamos!  I think I got it wrong)  In a recent post, I was musing about what makes a movie a "gay film" and I found myself wondering even more about that today.

Must homosexual situations always be present for a film to be considered a gay film?
And is that actually a good thing?

Part of what made my growing up tougher was the lack of positive masculine gay role models that I could look up to.  The closest I could remember at that time was Tom Hanks' role in Philadelphia where he played a gay guy with Aids who sued his company for discrimination.  Other than that, a large majority of gay characters I could watch were the extremes of campy femininity or closeted self destructiveness.

It didn't help either that locally back then, the concept of gay was not as broad as it is now.  The term bakla, which is generally used to refer to homosexual men, was actually much more defined as referring to a man who acted effeminately and tended to cross dress and carry himself with overly expressive theatrics.  Such a representation was made most popular by Roderick Paulate and the comedic characters of Dolphy, Joey de Leon and many many others.    The idea of a masculine gay guy was practically unheard of.  (Just as practically all lesbian characters back then were tibo, the women who tended to wear jeans and polo tee shirts with the sleeves rolled up and on their head, concealing the bun of hair, a cap worn backwards.  So for a long time, I didn't even think I was gay.  I didn't even think the term bisexual would apply to me.  All I knew was, I wasn't straight.  And I wasn't gay.  What I didn't realize back then was, I just wans't gay that way.

Even now, the image of the bakla and the tibo are still perpetuated on local television and movies.  It is only thanks to much more modern works like Carlo Vergara's Zsazsa Zaturnnah that the idea of a masculine guy who likes another man is being given some screentime (or in Zaturnnah's case, screen, stage and print time).

It makes me wonder when does something become labelled as a gay show or movie.  Is it simply the presence of campiness?  (And as a friend of mine put it, pag gay roles pero sobrang serious... art film yan, hindi gay film.)  Does having a gay lead automatically make it a gay show?  Ellen and Oprah's shows have a huge set of differences, but most people would easily say one is a talk show and the other is a gay show.

Is it the presence of gay themes and topics?  What then does that make Modern Family, since the show does have sharing the spotlight a third of the time a gay couple.  Part of what makes the show excellent for me is how they tackle gay issues and show such problems ain't limited to homosexuals.

Does it really boil down to the presence of gay sex?  Queer as Folk is definitely considered by some as a gay show.  Queer Eye is too but doesn't exactly have sex (although it does discuss sexuality and attractiveness a lot).

How does one define better this genre?  Should it even be considered to be a genre the way westerns are?  Does it empower to say Torchwood is a gay show with its sexually explorative charcters?  Or does it limit it to an unnecessary perception when it would be better to say it is a science fiction show.   Should the "gayness" of a show matter at all?  Do we want to make it a genre or subgenre of its own?

Or wouldn't it be nicer to have any show with gay elements still recognized as what they are in the standard definitions of entertainment - be it action, comedy, science fiction, or drama.

Sometimes I personally feel that removing the need to call any show or film "gay" would be better.  Not out of shame or anything similar.  But rather, so the film can be seen for what it is, and the gender of the characters be accepted as that and not highlighted like some circus freak being given the spotlight.  Torchwood for example is good campy sci fi.  Jack Harness being willing to sleep with anything, male, female or alien, is just an additional detail.  Caprica is doing well without having to overly highlight that one of the Adamas is gay.  Modern Family too nicely has the campiness without having to alienate others by calling it a gay show.

I can understand the want to be proud of being gay.  And in many ways, I can imagine others would argue I don't see the need to be too vocal about being proud since I am still in the closet.  But sometimes I think in all the calls for equality and equal rights, what many mistakenly are expecting is actually special treatment.

And with that kind of an expectation, we end up alienating ourselves from the world we're hoping to be accepted as equals.

It is possible though that I had horribly misinterpreted things.  Not being a scholar of gay culture and gender politics, I speak merely from things I had experienced and observed.  But I guess that's the point of having these things in a blog.  If anyone would love to share their own views, do feel free to leave a comment or two. :-)


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