Tag Archives: movies

Are gay groups the voice of the gay population?

In a word, no. I’ve never liked the word lesbian or queer but I do include bi women. I can’t speak for trans or men but I suspect some of them will agree.

Much of the talking is done by community leaders, and it’s not the voice of many of us. Note I don’t call rainbow people a community – I think we are diverse and it’s like calling women a community. There are communities about being LGBT etc but not all of us answering to those letters are in them, or feel part of them. We feel in general that a few are speaking for the whole and that those who attend Pride and similar meetings are not reflective of the non-straight population, and so are not the best place to find out what our needs and views are.

I have heard it said publicly that gay people don’t like the gay section of the libraries, bookshops etc. I’d like to counteract that by saying – thank you to those who have one for making books about gay issues easily findable. However, the books and films are of a particularly ilk – often small press/indie film studios which are low quality and the women are quite often depicted as butch and in the gay scene. I’d like to see the much broader range of books about gay people double shelved so that they’re in the main section so everyone can discover and enjoy them, and they are displayed somewhere so gay people can browse easily (same with films). By putting gay books in a gay corner, it means they get a small circulation and so are not very viable. And isn’t (or shouldn’t) the point of many gay media materials be to integrate and be better understood with/by wider society?

I’d like to illustrate with an example from two film festivals, both in the same city over the same summer. The Lesbian and Gay one showed in a 30 seater screen in the arts cinema as one off showings at obscure times, all to ‘visible’ lesbians, and you’d probably feel uncomfortable trying to go to a movie if you didn’t match the sexuality/gender. Then I went to two films at the International festival, also about gay women. The multiplex large auditoria were packed with all kinds of people. As the female filmmakers said in their Q and A, it is a story about love for everyone – but they just happen to love each other. People had come to see a good story, not a ghetto special interest film. Things like Brokeback Mountain and Tipping the Velvet prove how well a gay storyline can do if shown to a wide audience.

I’ve also heard it said that the angst ridden storylines are not reflective of us. Again, I’d like to contradict by saying that sadly for many, it is real and this is ongoing due to the community itself as much as the (happily improving) outside world. I don’t think that all the storylines should be about suffering, but generally – stories are about conflict and tension – it’s what makes them. (I say this as a writer working on publishing a book soon on this kind of subject). First love, coming of age, personal epiphanies are the stuff of stories for everyone. It’s something we can all relate to, but like a religion, it’s true that the content needs to go beyond the initial stage and reflect the rest of lives (ie sermons about conversion don’t help you move forward spiritually once you have come to faith). But for many, it is a vital and ongoing stage that happens not just to teens but people at all ages (also to friends and families).

I don’t have a problem with being gay being classed in the issue section of books; it is one, sadly, for many. And even if all society accepted it, it’s still confusing and it is helpful to know you are not alone and where to go for support should things be hard for you. And that as sexuality is fluid, it’s not a case of come out and that’s it – I say it’s pin not nail the tail on the donkey, and it’s nice to have books and films which reflect those changes too.

What has been hardest for me (and others I know) is the sense of otherness from the rainbow community. Instead of coming home, it feels like another group to have to conform to or be other there too. Despite the talk of diversity, I’ve found the gay communities I’ve met to tacitly expect conformity and to be as didactic as any religious group I’ve been part of. And many have also had prejudices, eg “real lesbians not bis”!!

I feel strongly that being gay (or trans etc) is not an identity, it is not who we are, but just one aspect of our personalities. I have found so many of the rainbow gang want it to be the distinguishing defining factor, the thing we most put forward about ourselves.

And I sense a lot of anger and prickliness from LGB etc people during this transition to greater societal acceptance, and I think that is counterproductive.

It’s also more complex than being simply an existential statement – sexuality and friendship and their changing boundaries are fascinating and not always compatible with the definition of “fact”.

I too would like to see positive resolution to any stressful story, but I also think expecting to be embraced in the short timespace of a teen novel is unlikely, sadly, for some. I know people who’ve been waiting decades for their families to come round, and I’d rather equip people to handle that not everyone is supportive from the start than to expect it and be surprised when it doesn’t happen; but to obviously encourage wider society to offer that support from the outset.

I think we are in a transitional time and there’s often clunkiness and imbalance while things change, just as equal opportunities and political correctness goes too far, they are trying to address important matters. I think some gay people are expecting too much of a change too soon, and if they came out long ago, or benefitted from more supportive modern attitudes, it might be that they cannot understand the need for some of these story lines. I’d ask them to be patient as society continues its vast shift towards acceptance.
I’d also like to ask that communities don’t dish out otherness and judgement to their own. Rainbow colours really are about the whole spectrum, so we should move on from simply shades of pink to embracing and listening to all the shades, instead of creating a double bind that causes marginalisation and confusion to continue, even in countries where diversity is openly celebrated and protected.

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DVD extras

 I love to watch these. Having them must enhance DVD saleability. If you are not interested, you don’t have to see them and rarely pay more for them, unless it is a deluxe edition. But it means that for those wanting to learn more about the film, that there is something in the DVD that is not to be had in the cinematic experience. A DVD without extras is, to paraphrase the musical Annie, a night without a star. It is not something I will buy or even borrow.

I often find these extras disappointing and frustrating. I wish I could feed this back to film distributors so I am writing it here.

I guess that like other viewers, I watch extras right after I’ve seen the film, or perhaps the next day. When you’ve seen a film you are then in the mood to hear more. Perhaps you have to take it back to a video shop or library soon. I’m not going to load up a DVD to see a few minutes of a featurette on its own, especially as getting the DVD player warmed up and sitting through the pre menu screen adverts takes 5 mins. Having sat through trailers at the cinema, I do not expect to do so again at home – it’s what a DVD (as opposed to watching it broadcast on television) is about. These actually serve to annoy audiences into not watching DVDs. Although this is not a personal admission of it, I wonder if this fuels piracy, where presumably adverts and trailers are absent.

So why do DVD extras have so much of the film in and why do they share so much of the same material? This is not the synoptic problem of the gospels – we are not hypothesising about the existence of Q source here. I’m simply asking, why bother your audience with extended sequences that they have just seen, and have three featurettes using the same quotes and clips? It assumes we’ve forgotten the film or the previous featurette and it assumes we must watch them over an interval of time, which is unlikely.

Perhaps most viewers have not been on a film set, but we have all seen these action behind the scene shots of people rushing round with cameras and fluffy booms. We also know that this is not a real fly on the wall insight into how a film is made or what working on that particular set was like. Such images take up valuable space and time and add nothing to our understanding of the film or TV series. What I like to see is a coherent explanation of the film’s genesis. Featurettes are often jumbled, not really explaining where the idea came from. I am interested in the historical research behind films and why choices have been made to depict in that way.

I’ve listened to many commentaries and been impressed by few, often giving up. There seems two kinds of commentary. The first is a group of cast and crew being silly together, talking over each other and praising each other. There is little value in these. Then there is the solo commentary. But this has the danger of being a monotone. Lectures and speeches are usually shorter than a feature, and the speaker on DVD extras often aren’t gifted at engaging us with a monologue. Often it’s the director giving the one person commentary, and there’s often self indulgence there which is chief reason I’ve heard that people switch off. Directors often say inaccurate statements – eg the King’s Speech’s Tom Hooper speaks of a major location being in a Georgian building, which for anyone who knows about architecture, is blatantly not. We come to what is the function of a commentary, and there may be at least two answers. Perhaps there needs to be two on a DVD: the anecdotal or technical one, and one which is more a commentary in the scriptural or literary sense. I want to know what’s really going on in the scene – what’s the subtext I missed? How does all the elements of the scene (known as mis en scene) help build up an image or message? Like a good cryptic crossword nothing should be wasted and the choices of clothes, framing, music and set design will all enhance the mood, character, emphasis and perhaps even plot. Partly, I want to make sure I don’t miss anything, and also I like to fully appreciate the work of all the departments.

 In film, too much is made of the director. Producers are very keen to appear in DVD extras as their role is less recognised to the audience. It feels they are desperate to come to the camera and make their efforts known. Harshly, I don’t often share that, especially as they take screen time away from other departments. Film is collaboration and it is what each person brings that has made that film what it is. I like it when each team or head of department can introduce themselves and their vision. But it would be better to have documentaries broken down into chapters, or just have shorter ones. I hate starting a featurette, unsure if this is six minutes or an hour, and having no idea what it will cover. The most important person of the crew is the one that most gets overlooked. The King’s Speech is an example of how the writer was featured so little that I couldn’t work out his accent. It’s the script that attracts the talent and money to make a film. Although the final product will be down to all those contributing and ultimately overseen by the director, the script is the basis of all they do. It is also likely to be the part that has taken the longest, being written rewritten and developed long before the preproduction starts, having been fought to be made perhaps over many years, and then rewritten again, even to the last minute. And yet the scriptwriter is not the name attached to the film we as an audience will know.

So I would like:

no trailers at the start

clear timings of each extra and what it includes, breaking long ones down; no clips unless it illustrates a point

no footage of filming unless it clearly shows something particular and informative to allow all departments to speak, especially the writer

Commentaries with different purposes, and an awareness that silly repartee has little interest to those outside

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