Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Valentine's Day Postscript - Coming Out

In my next post I review Valentine's Day, a film which I did not, by any stretch of the imagination, enjoy. But I wanted to make a special point about the section fo the film that disappointed me most.

In the film Eric Dane's star quarterback holds a press conference to publicly announce that he's gay. This conference is not brought on by the imminent outing by the paparazzi, but comes at the point where he is between contracts and is not willing to hide his personal life anymore.

The movie not only makes the decision to come out seem trivial but almost makes it seem unnewsworthy. To the extent that the first press question is from Jamie Foxx asking if this meant that Dane was retiring - the predictable response "I'm Gay, and I'm Gonna Play".

Coming out is never easy. Every time you meet someone new you are, in effect coming out. Often it is a non-issue, sometimes not. Even today, at my temping job, I was at the receiving end of some barbed jokes about my sexuality. There was no malicious intent behind the comments and I do not suspect any homophobia from the gentleman involved but that is not to say the comments don't in some way belittle me and all lesbians and gay men.

For such a high profile sportsman, such as the character Dane was playing, coming out would likely lead to a horrendous amount of abuse and, given he wasn't signed to a team at that point, may also be the end of his playing career. By presenting this skewed version of coming out the film does no justice to the many players of all sports who are making that tough decision every year. The film even flinched from his happy ending, when his partner returns at the end of the movie thay are the only couple not to kiss.

I want a world where there is no discrimination based on sexuality, but we must accept that homphobia exists and perhaps the film would have been better served if there was greater realism in the way it dealt with this issue. I wanted to see how Dane made his decision to come out - in fact I actually want to see a film which honestly looks at how someone's life would change in these situations.

I don't know what it's like in America, but here in the UK in the Soccer Premier League (our most watched game) there isn't a single out gay player. In fact there has only ever been one in the history of top flight football. That player, Justin Fashanu, faced extreme abuse from other players, managers and fans - even his own brother publicly disowned him. Fashanu committed suicide in 1998.

Here in the UK the Football Association has begun a campaign to remove homophobia from the stands. Here is the viral advert they have made to publicise the campaign I warn you it sets out to be shocking.

The FA have chosen shock tactics to not only reflect the attitude that persists in the terraces but also because they have struggled to find top level player who would be willing to be the front of the campaign. I'll say that again - the perceived abuse from the fans would be so bad that no straight footballer is prepared to front a campaign against homophobia for fear of becoming a target.

I hope that this video is a start, I hope we can elimated homophobia from football, I hope Hollywood can reflect the burden gay players have more accutrately and I sincerely hope that one day an out gay man will be scoring the FA cup winning goal.


Alex in Movieland said...

Nice writing. Obviously, so true.

Not to sound like a xenophobe, but I always had a feeling that Brits and Italian str8 men are the most homophobic, racist, aggressive human beings :) not all, but there seems to be a culture for violence and intolerance, especially in Italian. That's why I'd never want to live in Italy.

that being said, I imagine coming out is never easy. I haven't done it with the family because there are bigger elephants in the room and usually nobody gets in my business. About rest of people: I don't care and I wouldn't hide it if asked.

I don't think I have much against silent homophobes. U are allowed to think whatever u want in your head and choose who u talk to or not. It's the violent ones and drive me nuts.

TomS said...

Great post here, and an interesting clip. Americans are just irrational sometimes...and although this has an R-rating, the studio's eye is on high-school audiences, who would be alienated if word of mouth spread about gay romance.

While I see some progress in some demographic groups, sometimes the atmosphere in a theater in a gay-themed film is disheartening, and scary.