With the passage of Proposition 8, according to the Los Angeles Times, Hollywood has been suddenly compelled to do some soul searching, with entertainment big shots coming under fire for contributing to the “Yes on 8” campaign. A-list gays have also been dragged into the controversy as they decide where they stand on the issue.
The Times doesn't really go into it, but Proposition 8 has finally forced Hollywood, which has always been uncomfortable with homosexuality, to come out of the closet and examine its true attitudes towards gays and lesbians and the struggle they fight.
The real attention grabber of the piece, though, is the hand-wringing by A-list gays Bruce Cohen, Christine Vachon, and Bill Condon, who sound like apologists for straight, entertainment industry honchos who donated to the “Yes on 8” campaign.
Make no mistake, Cohen, Vachon, and Condon have been important contributors to the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the mainstream. Cohen, in fact, worked in some kind of capacity on the “No on 8” campaign, he's been politically active for the gay rights cause for years, and, as a movie producer, helped Gus Van Sant to finally get Milk made. (Read Variety Managing Editor Ted Johnson's very interesting column on Milk, Prop. 8, and lessons to be learned from the film and assasinated San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk.)
But it seems very odd they bring up freedom of speech and religious beliefs as valid reasons to donate to such a mean-spirited and possibly illegal ballot measure as Proposition 8, which eliminated an existing right for gays and lesbians throughout the country to legally marry in California. If you take it one step further, then voting “yes” on Prop. 8 based on religious beliefs wasn't such a bad thing either.
Taken as a whole, the sentiments of these A-list gays are eerily similar to the leaders of the “Yes on 8” campaign, several of whom I interviewed a few weeks ago and had absolutely no grasp of that uniquely American concept called the “separation of church and state.”
That'll probably cause me some grief, but so be it. Bigotry under the guise of anything is still bigotry–plain and simple. There are no shades of gray, which openly gay film director Gregg Araki makes perfectly clear in the LA Times story.
What's also interesting about the piece is the generational gap on full display. Vachon, who's in her mid-40s, says straight Hollywood doesn't understand that the gay rights movement is a civil rights movement. She must not be talking about young straight folks. I talked with them as they marched in the streets with their gay and lesbian friends, and without any prodding from me, they immediately said the gay rights struggle is a civil rights struggle.
And Condon, another older gay, describes the people who have been spearheading the boycotts–who are mostly young folks, whether he knows it or not–as an “off-with-his-head” crowd…as if they're a pack of out-of-control crazies. When you think about it, though, a boycott is one of the more civil ways for political payback. And exactly what does Condon want people to do in protest? March down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood for another week?
After reading the LA Times article, I won't be surprised to soon see angry movies by young queer and straight filmmakers taking aim at the older generation. (Tip to those young directors and writers: Check out Gregg Araki's The Living End…it's one of the most pissed off films ever.) Matthew Mishory, an openly gay, 26-year-old filmmaker, has two films hitting the streets soon, one of which, titled A Non-Issue?, examines the modern gay rights movement. He also recently blogged about his own take on the Proposition 8 fiasco.
Added all up, a thinking person has to wonder…maybe certain folks in the entertainment industry felt comfortable donating to the “Yes on 8” cause because their homophobia has been tolerated by their gay counterparts for far too long. If so, straight Hollywood aren't the only people who need to search their souls–gay and lesbian hot shots also need to look within.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.