Film Companion Publishes Homophobic Article

Urgh, I hate responding to stuff! It’s always so mean, picking apart some other writer’s words. But in this case, it is hate speech that has been given a platform by a site I respect and which I know many of you read, so I feel a moral obligation to discuss it. (thank you for the link Alisa! Otherwise I would have remained ignorant/the article would not get the response it requires)

There’s a lot of writing on Indian film I disagree with, but it is rare for me to actually call something out. If it is from a source that is obviously going to be terrible, that I will assume no one takes seriously enough to be dangerous (for instance, the TOI reviews), I won’t waste the time trying to point out the obvious. If it is sincere and well-intended, I will let it go and hope the writer does better in future.

But in this case, it is an article from a source that is generally respected, that has influence in the world among opinion makers. It can be legitimately dangerous if it presents inaccurate information. And it is from a writer (and editors) who clearly did make even the smallest attempt to learn more about this topic before publishing a piece. They did NOT try their best.

Here is a link to the original article: https://www.filmcompanion.in/war-yash-raj-films-embraced-gay-desire-hrithik-roshan-tiger-shroff

Here are a few quotes I want to pull out to start:

” a homosexual reading of the film, War

” The chemistry between Kabir (Hrithik Roshan) and Khalid (Tiger Shroff) felt palpably homoerotic

Most gay relationships have a wide age gap, the older partner playing both mentor and lover to the younger one who is often coming to terms with their sexuality, shedding the internalized homophobia, and the gearing up towards a confrontational coming-out

” Shahani felt this film’s homosexual agenda was quite apparent. “

” Shahani and his partner stared at each other in the theater- is this movie actually about… gay men? “

” This reading of gay desire, too, comes from that. When a production house that has peddled in heterosexual coupledom collaborates with some of the most bankable stars of our time to produce a thinly veiled gay love story, we’ll take what we get. “

In subtlety…lies the dignity.

Here are the issues with those quotes.

First, there is the reliance on the words “homosexual” and “gay” rather than “queer” or “same-sex”. Saying “a homosexual reading” means, what, gay men are the only ones who can see the film that way? This is what “queer” is for, it means a general description of a way of interpreting art that does not follow the typical gender binary and man-woman romance format. Saying “homosexual reading” is like saying “womanly reading” rather than “feminist reading”.

Image result for kabir singh
Can you imagine Film Companion publishing a piece which talked seriously about a “girly reading” of Kabir Singh?

Similarly, “homoerotic” means sex. As in, Hrithik and Tiger’s relationship in the film is clearly and only erotic. Versus saying their relationship felt palpably “romantic”. Would you say that the relationship between Katrina and Ranbir in Jagga Jasoos felt “palpably erotic” or would you simply say it felt romantic?

The phrase “homosexual agenda” was used in the context of describing an impression of the film passed on to the author from an acquaintance who researches LGBT issues. I feel safe in assuming that is not a phrase the acquaintance himself would have used, but rather the author’s translation of what he said. “Homosexual agenda” is hate speech, pure and simple. I am going to assume the author was unaware of the history of that term, how it is a phrase used to describe an imagined conspiracy of queer people against the rest of the world, and how that imagined conspiracy was used to excuse terrible acts of hate. I am going to assume the author used the phrase simply because he had heard it somewhere before and thought it was correct. But ignorance is its own sin. By repeating hate speech without interrogating it, you help it maintain legitimacy. I am shocked that someone writing a professional piece would use such language, and that a professional website would publish it.

And then there is the other sentence describing the experience of this acquaintance when watching the film. Is this film about “gay men”? No, it isn’t. Nor is Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayange about straight men. Or Sultan about Muslim men. A film can’t be “about” an essential element of a character’s identity. That is, it can be about “the gay experience” or “the problems faced by Muslim men in India today”. But saying it is merely “about” a single aspect of the character’s identity just reveals that for this particular viewer, that aspect is all they can see. They don’t see a romance, or an action film, or a coming of age story. The just see GAY in big blaring colors that cover up everything else. This is not a film about “gay men”. This is a film about “two men falling in love”. Or a film with two main characters who might be gay.

Image result for blinded by the light
Look! A film about brown men!

And then we come to “gay love story”. Why does it have to be a gay love story? As though “gay” is an adjective that changes it from a “normal” love story to a “gay” one? Why can’t it be a “love story between two men”? Or, simply, “a love story”?

And then there is the conclusion. “In subtlety…lies dignity”. Okay, now I understand. This author is uncomfortable with obvious films, with stories in which men kiss, or dance together. They can be gay of course, he has no problem with homosexuals, so long as they don’t rub it in his face.

I could have overlooked all of those other examples. Tone and word choice can be accidental or misinterpreted (although “homosexual agenda” is pretty terrible). I myself, I am sure, have said phrases off and on that are not quite right in my own writing.

But there is one example that made me sit up and take notice. Which is so incredibly out of bounds and dangerous that Film Companion should issue both a retraction and an apology immediately:

Most gay relationships have a wide age gap, the older partner playing both mentor and lover to the younger one who is often coming to terms with their sexuality, shedding the internalized homophobia, and the gearing up towards a confrontational coming-out

“Most gay relationships”? Like they are this specific subgenre that we can identify and categorize in the same way we would any other rare and aberrant behavior???

“the older partner playing both mentor and lover to the younger one who is often coming to terms with their sexuality “. So, gay men are pedophiles? Is that what we are saying here? Or if not that, something frighteningly close to it.

“shedding the internalized homophobia, and the gearing up towards a confrontational coming-out”. It’s nice to know that every single gay man in the entire world has the exact same journey to follow. Every gay man has internalized homophobia. Every gay man will have a confrontational coming out. That the norm is that gay men will be hated, and will hate themselves. Luckily, they have their much older lover to groom them, seduce them, and eventually welcome them to the homosexual agenda.

Image result for love scene made in heaven
Well, this can’t be two gay men, they are both the same age, they fell in love as teenagers without going through a clear identical journey of internalized homophobia and coming out. No, this must not be a “gay love story” or a show about “gay men”, this must be something else.

I have no idea what strange hate-filled medical text the author pulled that statement from, or perhaps it was words of wisdom passed around locker rooms. In any case, it is not a statement that should have passed through the hands of any editor, and made its way into print on a website that claims to be more than a right wing mouthpiece.

It is the hate speech that bothers me most in the article, but the actual content of it is also disturbing. The article argues that War is an unusual film because it presents a relationship between two male leads which could be read as romantic, for the first time ever in mainstream Hindi cinema. Maybe for the author this was the first time, but for people who have any sense of the LGBT community, either as a member or an ally, this is part of a long long LONG history of Indian film. I had no idea of the blindness that was possible, even among a young educated urban person who writes for a film website. The article specifically argues that:

Yash Raj was finally coming out of the closet

Here are the YRF films that have been wildly accepted as inviting a queer reading:

Silsila (Amitabh and Shashi shower together and make a joke about dropping the soap)

Yeh Dillagi (Saif and Akshay were such a popular romantic pair in the 90s, Ashok Row Kavi wrote an article about it and Saif supposedly punched him for it)

Dhoom (the bromance between Uday and Abhishek)

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (Preity’s best friend is gay with a crush on Bobby Deol)

Tashan (Saif and Akshay, again)

Dil Bole Hadippa! (Rani and Rakhi Sawant have a sexy love song together)

Gunday (the film invites a queer reading to such a degree that the two stars joked about it on the promotional tour)

Image result for ranveer arjun

The queerness of those films varies, but Silsila and Gunday at least are unquestionable. To ignore them, to not even reference them, tells me that the author of this article is entirely closed off from any sense of the queer community in India, and queer film watching.

I find that both alarming, and fascinating! That there is ignorance of such depth it does not even realize its own ignorance. That there was no author at the site better qualified, that this author and his editors never realized the massive gaps and inaccuracies, that this whole arena is so completely unknown.

If I ever need to try to explain to someone in the West how shockingly amazingly blind even the most educated urban and progressive Indian person can be to LGBT issues, I can site this article. So in that way, I am glad it exists. But in every other way, not.

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51 thoughts on “Film Companion Publishes Homophobic Article

  1. How is Silsila queer? Amitabh and Shashi are brothers in it right? That would be incest, and don’t think Yash Chopra would ever show that in his movies.

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    • Queer film theory uses a tool called “against the grain” reading. Queer content is so rare in films, and so hidden, that it must be pulled out moment by moment rather than seen as part of the whole film. In Silsila, while the rest of the film positions the two them as brothers and does not necessarily imply a queer reading, the shower scene in isolation invites a queer reading. I don’t know if that scene was intended to be read that way by Yashji, or if it was a joke Amitabh and Shashi came up with together, or if there was someone else on set who suggested it. But however it happened, it is a firm and memorable part of Queer film history from India. If you read pretty much any article about Queer Indian film, you will see it referenced.

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      • I disagree with the reading for “Silsila”. I am not sure why academic reading has to be against what one would normally decipher from a scene, but this particular one – the director didn’t lean the way of queer (especially since they’re brothers). At this rate any harmless fun scene between men would tend to misconstrued for “queer content”. While there is nothing wrong with queer content, there should also be nothing wrong with showing normal heterosexual friendship between men as well.

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        • Why would it be misconstrued? Few academics orcritics believe in authorial intent reading only, especially in film; and even if you do, who is the author of that scene? Why is it the director, out of all the people working on the film?

          Even if you ignore the purely textual reading of that scene which is explicitly gay, and go for an authorial intent interpretation: Shashi played explicitly queer and gay characters before and after this film, and he at least would 100% know what kind of jokes drop the soap jokes are in the US; Amitabh is probably metropolitan enough to know. What is their influence on the film?

          Funny that you say “normal” to refer to heterosexual readings and relationships. What makes heterosexuality in films normal, and queerness abnormal to you? Why should other people agree?

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  2. I’m so upset by this. What a terrible review and the part about ‘most gay relationships ‘ makes me spitting mad. This indeed has been used as a way to incite violence against gay men and it’s so disturbing. Thanks for calling it out.

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    • Calm yourself, remember, “in subtlety…lies dignity”. Ugh. That conclusion just made me what to organize a Pride Parade outside his door.

      On Mon, Oct 14, 2019 at 11:34 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Perhaps, but it was unfortunate in context of the conclusion of this article to have that be the take away. You know? If it had been the exact same language at the start of the article, establishing the history of queerness in Indian film, that statement, and then an explanation of how War gracefully implied a relationship without labeling it, it would feel completely different.

          Which is just to say, following the theory we are now working on that it was an editing problem and not a writing problem, it could be his words that were given a whole different meaning purely by their location.

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  3. Ps I didn’t search but have you reviewed Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga? I just saw it and was blown away by its sensitive and realistic portrayal of growing up Lesbian in a culture that doesn’t accept it, bullying and the relationship itself.

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  4. ‘If I ever need to try to explain to someone in the West how shockingly amazingly blind even the most educated urban and progressive Indian person can be to LGBT issues, I can site this article’…….the replies/responses to this article in FB & Twitter will provide a good idea of long long away is for Indians to even accept that a mainstream movie could have some homoerotic undertones,let alone for somone to use the right terminologies/phrases and do a politically correct discourse on it. I think it is comparable at some level(nope, definitely not hate speech) to this blog using the term Indian movies for Bollywood/Hindi movies & perpetuating the idea among new viewers that Indian movies is same as Bollywood movies. A radical idea has to start somewhere and gain traction before it can be penalized for using the wrong semantics.

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    • As I say, the tone and word choice are one thing (and I am sure my own writing would not stand up to that level of analysis), but that single statement in the middle is something entirely different. If it was merely a matter of tone and a few words, I would let it go. But the “Most gay relationships” part is completely unacceptable and made me go back and look at the rest of it.

      On Mon, Oct 14, 2019 at 11:45 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. I don’t really have a problem with referring to the relationship or the desire as gay or homoerotic; it could be better, and same-sex is more inclusive, but as long as it’s about the relationship and not the characters, it’s not the worst.

    But the tone is just AWFUL, aside from the actually insulting and aggressive generalisations about same sex relationships and gay men. And then the “not that there’s anything wrong with that!” bit. If you actually want LGBT+ friendly and explicit films, why bludgeon even a bit of subtext in this way? Even without the awful statements, this is not being supportive, but actively detrimental to LGBT+ friendly cinema; and with those kinds of ideas, the lives of LGBT+ people.

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    • What’s frustrating is that I could see a far more interesting article that could happen. Did you catch the bit suggested by the actual LGBT+ researcher that the focus on duty and career is often an excuse used by gay men to avoid marriage? That was interesting, and a take on the film that hadn’t occurred to me. I would have loved more discussion like that about the elements that relate to the specifically Indian gay man experience. I wish someone would write that article.

      And this part is just silly, but I did a double-take when I saw someone referred to as a “partner”. I’m not used to that any more! I’ve gotten used to “boyfriend” (or girlfriend) and then “husband” (or wife), poor “partner” has kind of fallen by the wayside. And isn’t that nice?

      On Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 5:12 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • That’s funny, because over here partner (a borrowed English word!) is now the preferred word for many people, including straight people.

        I would love an actual Indian LGBT+ take on this movie, especially if it has touches of realism like that. Does it even read this way to them? But instead we get this hateful nonsense.

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        • Maybe it’s because Americans just looooooooooove to get married? Or are creepily okay with “boyfriend” “girlfriend” even when they are middle-aged?

          On Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 7:57 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Even before gay marriage was legally recognized here, I knew all sorts of people who got married. Which is the opposite of registered partnerships, all the religion and hoopla and none of the legal stuff. We just like weddings!

            On Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 8:43 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Filmikudhi did some great research described in another comment that makes it look like FC possibly took a good article and twisted it so much in the editing process that it is now unrecognizable.

            On Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 9:52 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I checked his twitter at some point when I was trying to click through to the article and, at that point at least, he had not posted a link to the article on his own twitter account. I’m curious if he still hasn’t and, if so, perhaps that indicates he is disavowing the article?

            I would, if I were to write something about Indian film and I found the editor had rewritten it and inserted terrible stuff in the middle.

            On Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 10:03 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • I’ve noticed partner used more by straight people lately too, in some circles at least. It’s interesting because until you get to know someone a bit you often don’t know if the partner is same or different sex. No more easy assumptions.

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      • the focus on duty and career is often an excuse used by gay men to avoid marriage?

        You could write a whole article about this trope in Indian films. For example, Alok Nath as a bachelor uncle raising his orphaned nephews and the joking around about his love for Reema Lagoo and how no one was threatened by it because maybe he wasn’t sexually in love with her and everyone understood that.

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        • Yes! There’s also a familiar film character of the hero’s best friend/hero’s father’s best friend who has never had a family of his own and somehow just gloms on to theirs. It’s always treated as “how lucky we are to have this wonderful extra person in our lives”, which is nice, but also, what is up with that? Like, Bobby in Rab Ne. What was up with him?

          On Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 12:06 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I had one of those uncles and when he died we met his long-time companion who’d been kept completely out of the family loop. It was really sad, actually. The poor man got no say in the funeral arrangements and my other uncle threw away their love letters because they were sexualy graphic. I feel terrible for every person in that situation.

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  6. After reading this article I had to research the author. On one hand the paragraph about “most gay relationships” made me furious, but then as you mentioned, the quote from Parmesh Shahani, Head of the Godrej India Culture Lab was surprisingly insightful. Which made me wonder where is this author coming from? Is the author just ignorant? Or was the author’s voice changed by the editors of FilmiCompanion get the Indian audience to accept that this movie was a love story between two men?
    I think you would find the author’s other writings interesting. Here is a link to his personal blog: https://rustedbling.wordpress.com/page/1/ and here is an article he wrote on Section 377: https://livewire.thewire.in/gender-and-sexuality/section-377-not-just-colonial-relic/.

    I don’t think the author is ignorant. I suspect this article was heavily edited by FC yet attributed to the author. I also suspect, like MKP said, FC mistakenly thinks this article is very progressive and bringing a radicle idea to the forefront. All of which makes this even more frustrating and sad.

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      • It would explain why it felt like there were sentences here and there that leaped out as good, and the rest wasn’t. If it was two voices fighting with each other.

        Oh well, glad I titled the piece “Film Companion” instead of calling out the author by name!

        On Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 9:54 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Thank you so much for doing that research! I was already mad at the FC editors for publishing this, but now I will be extra mad and assume they are the ones who twisted the light fun tone and actual good content that is sprinkled in, into something terrible. I wonder if that “most gay relationships” sentenced started out as a jokey thing about club culture and “daddies” and they said “no, you have to inform the audience and not assume they know the references” and it turned into this disgusting scientific sounding thing?

      It’s especially frustrating because I have been so enjoying how the love story is treated in the regular reviews, just as this light joking discussion thrown into the middle without all the weight of labeling and explaining to people. Why couldn’t this article have been like that? Didn’t they already publish a Bardwaj Rangan review with a light touch?

      On Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 9:29 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • The Bardwaj Rangan review was so much better! I honestly think the older film critics are deeply uncomfortable with the whole thing (wtf was up with Anupama Chopra getting inserted into that article for no reason?) but they couldn’t deny the subtext was there so they hired this poor kid to write the article and it turned into this smirking creepy thing.

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        • That seems extremely possible. I haven’t tweeted this post to FC or the author (because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings), but now I almost WANT to tweet it at the author with a tone of “so sorry, your words got butchered and I am aware of that even if no one else is”.

          It’s also something that maybe is easier to handle if you are just describing what is in front of you in context? You can simply say “Hrithik and Tiger have crazy chemistry” if you are writing a review, there is no need to explain what you mean by that or anything else, it just is what it is.

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          • The author is gay. It is very clear based on his personal blog. The author has also studied and researched homosexuality and Section 377 in the Indian historical context and potentially even as part of film, art, fiction, and poetry. The Sec. 377 article looks like it’s a shortened 1-page summary of his longer thesis as part of U.C. Berkeley’s South Asian Studies degree.

            I think FC picked him to write this piece because of his education, research on this topic, and probably because he is gay. And then someone with no knowledge of the subject asserted their oversight and butchered the piece.

            I see this especially in two places. First, when he is talking about this being a first for Yash Raj. I wonder if he was trying to say that in the past when Yash Raj has depicted gay romance, it is when it is often portrayed at best, as a strong male platonic bond (i.e. best friend or brother) or at worse, a joke or cringeworthy stereotype. Second, I see this in the ending about subtlety. This sincerity and romance could only be portrayed because it was implicit and not explicit. Those two thoughts make sense to be in a different article.

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          • I would add on the comment about dedication to work often being camoflauge for Indian gay men, and the way he describes the fight scenes as dance scenes. I can imagine a fun mostly light article with vivid imagery, and a simple statement about how presentation has moved forward over time and what makes this different. But the thesis statements ended up buried somewhere in the middle, and the light fun commentary got bludgeoned into heavy handed statements.

            I am so happy I have my own blog! I never want to write for an editor again!

            On Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 11:55 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yes!! The fight scenes being dance sequences. Have you seen Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle? If you haven’t, you absolutely should!!! Hrithik has s Dr. Smolder Bravestone’s power of the smolder and Tiger has Ruby Roundhouse’s power of dance martial arts!

            Also, sorry about all the typos. I am typing on my phone because for some reason when I use my desktop, I can’t comment in the right place after a while.

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  7. That paragraph on the age gap being the norm is quite startling. You could give the author the benefit of the doubt over semantics, cultural differences in vocabulary etc, but that one statement shows the whole article up as being ignorant and distasteful.
    Re the word ‘partner’, it’s widely used here in Australia where it’s not uncommon for couples to live together without marrying.

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    • Yep, looking more and more like “Americans just like to get married” is the real reason. But weddings are fun! And you get to have a big dress and party and stuff. And then you call each other “husband” and “wife” and everyone knows where they stand.

      On Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 10:05 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  8. On this subject here a quote from an interview (I have only this quote out of a forum):

    “A lot of people have picked up on homoerotic undertones between Khalid and Kabir – the way Khalid looks at Kabir the first time he sees him getting out of that chopper, Khalid saying, ‘Get in line’ when a female agent says she’d like to marry Kabir. Was there a subtext there or are people reading too much into it?

    Siddharth Anand: It’s because Khalid looks up to Kabir that you get that vibe. I wanted to portray Kabir as a little larger than life and you can only do that through the eyes of another protagonist. If Khalid looks at him with awe, you as the audience will look at him with awe. So that’s what we had to do. He’s looking at him like a fan would. The fact that Hrithik looks the way he does is also why you feel that homoeroticism. Even the men who are looking at him are going, ‘Oh my god, how good looking is he?’ You can’t help but look at him with lust. I’m glad it’s a talking point but it wasn’t intentional at all.”

    I don’t buy the last line…

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    • I found that quote super interesting too, and in fact I am thinking I need to do a quick sort of misc. post about that interview and a few other related things that have occurred to me.

      On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 9:19 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  9. I think it’s possible that the original sentence might have said
    “most gay relationships on film”
    instead of
    “most gay relationships [period]”.

    While “on film” might still not be true, I know that it’s been a complaint broadly and over time. I didn’t see the movie “call me by your name” for that reason, i.e. perpetuating that trope in the absence of other films not perpetuating it.

    But I agree that the statement as printed is next-level offensive.

    As for the other statements, I cringe, but I also know there are differences between Indian English and American English. If i tell you that I passed out in 2013, you’ll think I fainted in 2013, whereas an Indian will think I graduated college in 2013. And the idea of queer vs gay is not yet adopted by most people worldwide, though I agree that it should be.

    While I do think it’s fair to judge film companion and the author, imo it’s not fair to judge 1 billion plus people on the basis of this article. After all this is the same country that brought you Made in Heaven, with some of the most honest and advanced gay or queer content I’ve seen on film.

    TOI has far more readers than Film Companion, so i’d get on that if they are perpetuating homophobic ideas. But perhaps they are preaching to the choir, so maybe a more uphill battle to fight that fight.

    What I find ironic is that the homophobic people I know, or even the “don’t ask don’t tell” types, claim that they didn’t notice any queer content in the movie. To my mind, if I were homophobic, I would be hypersensitive to queer content,
    such that I would boycott this film and encourage my phobic friends to do the same.

    Your response above, deriding the Indian intelligentsia idea of its progressive self, does have a little bit of “white is right” or “west is best” patronization to it. I do think there are side effects to the way the west is headed. For example, in the 80s, both men and women wore equally short running shorts as daily sportswear attire. Today, men’s shorts are like burkhas for their legs, whereas women’s shorts mimic underwear. In the 80s I could wear long shorts because I felt like it. Today if I wear long shorts it signals that I’m queer or gay. But I wear them anyways because I prefer long shorts and because I don’t want to be a prisoner of the western codification of clothing choices. I can’t wait for the day when queer is 100% accepted *and* we can wear whatever we want to without it being a socio-political statement. And when i can see men’s quads again on a daily basis. 😉

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    • I want to talk about the older man-younger man trope though because I think it’s being framed in the worst way possible, as predatory and borderline pedophilia, when in many ways it’s the byproduct of gay/queer people being closeted. If you don’t know anyone in your age appropriate peer group who shares your sexuality and you don’t have access to a larger community of gay/queer folks, the relationship with the older person who has traveled that road before takes on a different significance. Now with the internet young people do have access to age appropriate queer communities so I think the dynamics are changing. I’m speaking as someone who isn’t super versed in gay issues or queer theory but I have seen this play out with people in my real life. Also, the author is addressing the dynamic in the film between two consenting adults with an age gap, not a teen/adult. Anywho, this stuff is complicated and if I’m way off base someone should call me out.

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      • I think the problem is with how the statement is phrased, but it is an argument that requires careful phrasing.

        I am not an expert on queer theory (beyond the Indian side of it), nor on queer issues. But I know that both Lesbians and Gay men have long been suspected of “converting” and “seducing” young people. Not necessarily before them come of age, not pedophilia, but taking a nice young woman (or man) who should be a wife and mother and turning her into something strange and unnatural. I don’t think it is safe to say anything that could come close to implying that is a reality of the world, that older gay man are going out there looking for young men they can bring along on a coming out journey.

        To make an argument like that specifically in this context, what you would have to clarify is that you are talking about the way gay male relationships are often portrayed on film, and you are not making a judgement on that but simply pointing out that portrayal is similar to the portrayal in this movie. Saying either that it is reality (and not film) or that it is “good” in some way for films to show it that way, is no good. I think I would not even include the second half of the statement about internalized homophobia and coming out, because that opens up needless questions. Merely saying that popular culture usually shows gay male relationships between an older man who is confident within himself and a less secure younger man would cover it.

        Since you mention your own personal experiences, I can share that in my personal experience growing up in a small city in the midwest in the 80s and 90s, the gay couples I knew were the same age as each other, married (in their hearts if not legally), and usually raising children. Today living in a large city, at least half the same sex couples I know follow that same pattern. Some of them did have an older experienced “guide” and a first relationship, but that was because they came out late in life and their “guide” was someone their own age. It might have been different in larger cities, or among more famous and visible people, but the kind of every day folks I knew/know don’t follow that pattern at all. The few that come closest are ones who acted as mentors to young queer people thrown out of their homes, not a romantic relationship but a parental one. I’m not an expert on this topic, but from my own experience, that is what I have seen.

        On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 3:32 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Hmm. In this case, I think maybe I was playing the “white is right” card in a conscious way. Film Companion has an overall tone of trying to imitate western film criticism. Almost every review compares an Indian film (to its detriment) to a western film. The founder and chief Anupama was western trained and her books were published in the west. So fine, if they want to join this club (and if the readers of the site want to join this club), if they think it is a club worth joining, than the best tool I have is to use my white privilege to convince them they need to do better before they can join.

      Which I think I can morally allow in this instance. Because I think I am right in a universal ethical way to a degree that is greater than the damage inherent in playing the white privilege card. You should not write about a topic as loaded as this, on a forum that has power, without seriously considering the effects of your words. That one phrase in the middle, combined with the overall tone, means that it IS worthy of being called out using whatever tools I have at my disposal.

      I would not feel I had the right to call it out if it was written in a different forum for a different audience. If I think about it like medicine, and I am a western trained doctor, I have no business correcting someone practicing Ayurvedic medicine or trying to take their patients. But if I see a doctor practicing western medicine, with patients lining up and trusting him to treat them in a western way, and he is causing harm, than I do have a duty to interfere.

      Thank you for the comment! You really made me think!

      And to your point, I don’t know if you have seen this post yet, I wrote it a few days back on the way I DON’T think western film critical techniques can be used on Indian film: https://dontcallitbollywood.com/2019/10/11/hindi-film-101-love-between-men-in-indian-cinema/

      On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 3:18 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  10. As a straight woman, I am aware how uneducated I probably am on queer theory. So there were certain things in the article that didn’t bug me, like the consistent “gay” labels. But I have to agree with you that the paragraph describing “most gay relationships” made me want to claw my eyes out. Clearly the author (or the editor, if the rest of the comments are true and this article was heavily edited by FC, that’s extremely unfortunate) has little to no concept of gay cinema. Brokeback Mountain, Love Simon, Blue is the Warmest Colour all disprove this, and to make such a blanket statement like that really shows pure utter ignorance.

    I think the “erotic” label, though, is also a problem in Western cinema. I’ve read a few things that have said gay and lesbian relationships are more fetishized and are seen as more sexual than romantic. So, while still a problem, that language doesn’t surprise me at all.

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    • Yeah, you are right, the “most gay relationships” line doesn’t even work if they had put in a modifier explaining that it is about film relationships not real ones.

      On Sat, Oct 19, 2019 at 6:29 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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