My initial, knee-Jerk reaction to the notion that many films have latent homosexual subtexts was similar to that of Alexander Dot’s- that people were looking for things that aren’t really there. However, after further thought and reviewing the preponderance of evidence supporting this notion, it makes a lot of sense. In some cases, like Saturday Night Fever, the argument could be made that these “alternate interpretations” may serve better as primary interpretations after all.
The suggestion of gay male spectators opened an entirely new take on the cinematic experience than how l, and apparently many others traditionally approach film in the critical sense. While it was not surprising that people of different backgrounds interpret different cinematic experiences differently- a point raised in every one of my film classes to date- I usually assumed that these interpretations were Just small differences on opinions of the film. However, I never considered that ones sexual orientation might lend them to experiencing an entirely different movie than I would have viewing the same film.
Before the consideration of gay male spectators and textual flexibility, I know for certain I would not have picked up on he nuances that may have referenced Tony’s sexuality in Saturday Night Fever. I would’ve considered his reluctance to gay-bash or his refusal of the woman throwing herself at him as attributes of a nice guy trying to do the right thing, or something similar. Certainly, I’d be even more oblivious to many references in movies such as Speed or Abram Stoker’s Drachma or another one of Keenan Reeve’s movies should I be unfamiliar with the infatuation with his mysterious sexuality.
It is also interesting that we might apply this gay male spectators not only to plot points or ways we perceive movies themselves, but our opinion of the effect of a even film on culture or society as a whole. We can see the differing of opinions upon examining films such as Bareback Mountain or Boys in the Band. In the case of Boys in the Band, someone conditioned to the mainstream heterosexual narrative might miss the sort of “faux-progressivism” that someone with more experience with homosexual texts might pick up on.
Many with aforementioned experience might challenge the notion that Boys in the Band serves as a film that progresses the cause for homosexual equality. On its surface, it appears to be an early film that features a mostly gay cast and highlights trousseaux observer that might be enough to say “Hey look, this movie is about gay people! It must be really progressive! ” This may sit right on the limit of what this viewer of the time could tolerate seeing on the big screen because of their background/preconceived opinion about homosexuality, and surely even proved too much for many of these viewers to handle.
However, a audience member more experienced with LIGHT cinema could argue that the lack of any real depiction of intimacy between these characters combined with the perpetuation of the stereotypical miserable and troubled homosexual may serve more as a detriment to he LIGHT community than an advancement in their strive for equality. This dichotomy in the heterosexual and LIGHT community and their understanding/interpretation of different cinema works also manifests itself in the case of Bareback Mountain.
I know that personally, both not having seen the film and being mostly influenced by the mainstream narrative at the time of its release, my thoughts concerning Bareback Mountain fell somewhere along the lines of “a really good, groundbreaking movie that showed two manly cowboys as homosexuals and their struggle with society. I never considered, prior to our reading, that there was deviance from the original short story or the film played into melodramatic conventions that may have taken away from how “groundbreaking” it was.
The growth of these alternative readings of films is important to the advancement not only of the critical process of reviewing cinema but for the integration of “queerness” into society as a whole. I believe the more widespread these readings become, the more normalized we can treat homosexuality as a society in general. Surely movies like Bareback Mountain and Boys in the Band may have their horologists, but their mere existence draws attention to issues that many in the mainstream may not have considered before.
I believe, in turn, this may lead people to a greater understanding of LIGHT texts, and lends itself to the greater acceptance of deeper readings of movies such as Speed or Saturday Night Fever- that more people may accept the permeation of “queerness” throughout massive aspects of our culture. I can be used as a prime example- my background did not lend me to many of these readings I was completely unaware of, and now I’m aware of an entirely new context which I can view films and approach them critically.