Monday, December 04, 2006

Fictionalized homosexuality? No problem!

Actor Tom Cavanaugh, probably most famous for his eponymous role in Ed, is currently filming a movie about an ex-pofessional hockey player who is gay. This article from the Toronto Star writes about the groundbreaking aspects of the film which focuses not just on the star's homosexuality but that of a young boy whom he and his partner have recently taken guardianship of.
The big issue of course is a gay hockey player. No male professional hockey player has ever come out--during or after his career. Cavanaugh said he himself was shocked to read that his character, Eric McNally, is a gay man.
But the more shocking aspect to the film, according to those involved, is that the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs agreed to let the team name and logo be used in the film. Some filming will even take place at the end of a Maple Leafs practice session.
I agree with the general sentiment that this is pretty big news. The NHL and Maple Leafs could easily have said no and probably no mainstream press would have ever picked up on it and the movie would have come out with a fictionalized team name and logo.
Whether this opens the door for a male hockey player past or current to "come out" remains debatable. A fictional gay character is a lot more palatable than a real one--especially in a comedy.
That brings me to my next point which is how do we even know the film will do a good job in its treatment of homosexuality? Will it rely on stereotypes and poor parodies? Will it do enough and do well enough to actually engender changes in opinion?
This statement by the producer,Paul Brown, makes me a little suspect:
"It's a very roundabout way of tackling issues. If films become issue driven, the broader audiences for the most part become turned off of them. When you watched Bend It Like Beckham, did it become an issue movie about interracial friendships? To me, it didn't because it worked on so many levels. It became a movie about two girls on a soccer team. To us, that's sort of what we're trying to achieve."
I abhor this line of reasoning. Every film has an issue whether it's a drama or comedy or memoir, etc. If I had a student write that Bend it like Beckham was a movie about two girls on a soccer team, I would fail that student. Brown is wrong in his assessment--two girls playing soccer is where the movie starts--not what it becomes. If you pitch "two girls on a soccer team" it isn't going to go very far.
It's what happens to the two girls on the soccer team that makes the movie. What BILB became was a movie about ethnicity, generational divides, sport and homosexuality, gender equity, interracial dating, and probably more that I am forgetting at the moment.
I certainly hope the movie Breakfast with Scot becomes so much more than just ex-hockey player (who happens to be gay) raising a boy (who happens to be non-normative in his sexual expression). I'll have to wait over a year to find out though. The movie is scheduled to be released next Christmas.

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