Ask the Flying Monkey (August 19, 2008)

Have a question about gay male entertainment? Ask
the Monkey
!

Q: Billy and Alec
Baldwin are so pro-gay, but their brother Stephen definitely isn’t. What gives?
Monty, Chicago,
IL

From left to right: Billy, Stephen & Alec Baldwin

A: Stephen, who played a straight guy in a love triangle
with a gay guy and a girl in Threesome (1994), was “born
again” after 9/11. Unfortunately, his politics also took a decidedly
conservative turn. He even endorsed far-right anti-gay nut-bag Sam Brownback
for president last year, despite the fact that Brownback doesn’t believe in
evolution. Meanwhile, Billy, who currently plays a politician in love with a
transgender character (played by Candis Cayne, the first openly transgender
actor in a regular TV role) on ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money, is
famously liberal, just like his brother Alec.

“I really do love and admire all that’s come out of
[Stephen’s] Christian beliefs,” Billy Baldwin tells AfterElton.com. “It’s just
that there’s three or four things that I’m not down with. And I’ve warned him,
I’ve said, ‘You need to know if you say something and I don’t agree with it and
somebody asks me about it, you have to be prepared for me to let people know how
I feel. And you gotta be prepared for the gloves to come off.’ And right now,
with gay marriage, that’s one of the ways. Another one is when he says to me,
‘If you don’t believe what it says in this book [The Bible], then you’re not
going to heaven, you’re going to hell.’ Then I don’t want to go to that heaven.
I don’t want to go to that place with the people who believe what [he] believes.”

How did Billy come by his famously liberal beliefs and his
pro-gay politics? “Part of it is my education, my upbringing, the values
instilled in me by my parents, part of it was the community I was raised in,
and part of it is the creative arts community,” Baldwin says. So why did
Stephen turn out so differently? “My brother Stephen has always been
non-political or apolitical his whole life. He doesn’t have a lot of experience
with politics. My brother Alec and I went to university, we both graduated, we
both have degrees in political science, we both worked in Washington on Capitol
Hill, we’ve both been very active in political organizations. Stephen is sort
of naïve and inexperienced, not in all of life, but he’s not as experienced or
knowledgeable [about politics].”

Incidentally, Billy Baldwin has yet to play a gay character (though he’d be willing).
He did play the male partner of Sherilyn Fenn’s bisexual character in 1993’s
gay fave Three of
Hearts
.

Q: I’m a big fan of
Robert Gant and enjoyed him in Kiss Me Deadly. What’s he
got coming up next? – GantFan, Key West, FL

Robert Gant in Kiss Me Deadly

A: Gant’s career has
flourished, putting proof to the lie that you can’t be openly gay in Hollywood,
even as he continues to play both gay and straight roles. He got a lot of
attention from his boy-toy-to-a-really-older-woman role on
last season’s Nip/Tuck, and the Flying Monkey definitely
enjoyed his recent here! TV movie Kiss Me Deadly co-starring Shannen Doherty — sort of a gay Bourne Identity,
except with male nudity (not Gant, alas).

“Right now, I’m filming this new series for the BBC, called PAs, which stands for ‘personal assistants,’” Gant tells
the Monkey. “Over here, though, the term is synonymous with Executive Assistant
(or secretary), not the kind of personal assistants we have in Hollywood!
Started shooting in early June and wrap mid-September. It’s a one-hour dramedy,
and I play Rock Van Gelder, the Texan-born boss of the place they all work.
Think Desperate Workwives, if you will.
Much more to share, but suffice it to say that I’m having a blast. From a
personal standpoint, it’s very cool to be playing the romantic straight guy
again! The show airs this October in the UK. Not sure when it hits
BBC America or DVD, but I think our LGBTQ peeps are gonna dig it!”

Next Page! Which team does Guillermo Diaz play for? Also, is Brian Kinney as bad as Buffalo Bill?

Q: Your discussion of Weeds made me think
about the actor
Guillermo Diaz who plays drug dealer Guillermo
Gomez. I read somewhere Mr. Diaz was openly gay, but I could not verify
that. Is it true? It seems interesting that he has played mostly
thugs and tough guys throughout his career. If he is
openly gay, it has not hurt his ability to be cast in non-gay roles. – Joey, Portland, OR

A: Diaz is definitely gay, and you may have read that right
here on AfterElton.com when we interviewed him in 2005. And
he’s another openly gay actor who has found great success playing straight and
gay roles (his most famous gay role might be La Miranda in Stonewall [1995]).

But Diaz’s career has probably never been hotter than it is
right now thanks to his break-out turn as Guillermo (ironically named before he
had been cast in the part), Mary Louise Parker’s coolly charismatic (and
adorable) drug dealer on Weeds. In other words, it’s the
perfect time for another full-length interview with him. We’re working on it!

Guillermo Diaz

Photo credit: Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

Q: I know there has been a lot of
controversy over the years regarding movies such as The Silence of the Lambs, Basic Instinct, Dressed to Kill, The Fan,
and Cruising. I
actually have all of them on DVD and as a 37-year-old gay man, they never
really have bothered me, content-wise. For me, characters such as Buffalo Bill,
Catherine Tramell, Douglas Breen, Bobbi and the killer(s) from Cruising represent one
character and one character’s actions only. The filmmaker’s never imply that
these people represent the gay community as a whole. I wonder if the same
people who protest these films also protested Queer as Folk, which to me, not only showed the lead
adult having sex with a minor, but also showed him to be rampantly promiscuous
without any feelings for his partners. This show was produced by two openly gay
men. Did they get the same kind of scrutiny the others did? – Keith, Arlington, MA

A: Want to
open that can-o-worms, eh?

Okay, think
about what you’ve written: literally all the big-budget Hollywood movies until,
perhaps, Philadelphia
in 1993 that featured major gay male characters portrayed them as insane
villains and serial killers. Worse, these movies often played on the audience’s
fears of gay people and discomfort with behaviors that violate gender norms,
using people’s prejudice to make them hate the villain more, and make the
audience feel better when the hero finally vanquishes them (usually violently
killing them). Furthermore, for decades, Hollywood refused to show even the
briefest of romantic kisses between men, but had no problem showing scenes of
explicit, violent gay male rape and suicide — again, usually to freak out the
audience a la Deliverance (1972).

Clockwise from top left:
Michael Caine in
Dressed to Kill, Ted Levine in Silence of the Lambs,
Sharon Stone in
Basic Instinct, Al Pacino in Cruising

You don’t
see a problem with that picture? You can say these filmmakers are not implying
that these individual characters represent the gay community as a whole, but
what if the only African-American characters Hollywood ever showed were black
men who rape white women? Stingy Jewish men who cheat people? Chinese men who
speak with funny accents and plot to take over the world? You, and Hollywood,
could say, well, these only represent these characters, not all black or Jewish
or Chinese people. But the fact is, these portrayals would be deeply,
profoundly offensive and racist, reinforcing the most insidious of stereotypes.
And for people who don’t know any actual out gay people, these gay portrayals
really do shape attitudes. Why not hate gay people, and vote to deny them all
rights, if they’re all just serial-killing freaks anyway?(And for the latest example of this check out our review of The Clone Wars.)

I’m all for
gay characters having flaws, but there has to some semblance of fairness and
balance first. Otherwise it’s just attitude-shaping propaganda. (For the record,
Hollywood’s shockingly anti-gay history is all exhaustively documented in Vito
Russo’s book, The Celluloid Closet.)

But as for Queer as Folk, the Flying Monkey inches
closer to your POV. I went to see the first four episodes of the British
version with a group of three gay friends. As I was watching it, I felt myself
growing literally physically sick to my stomach. When it was over, three out of
the four of us thought it was horrible, just the worst, most appalling
representation of gay people imaginable — gay life as seen by Pat Robertson. We
didn’t know any gay people like the self-centered jerk that is Brian, and we
didn’t want to know them. Ditto for the rest of the superficial, whiny,
sex-obsessed lot.

Next Page! Where are TV’s "manly" gay men?

 

But one of
the three of us liked the show and thought the other three of us were missing
the point: the show was a fantasy, a soap opera, and the characters were as
“real” as the ones on Melrose Place.
The show was designed specifically to provoke and shock and scandalize — a
variation on reclaiming the word “queer” or “faggot.”

People have
since told me that the American version eventually humanized the characters.
Maybe so, but the Monkey didn’t stick around long enough to find out.

Queer as Folk’s Brian Kinney (Gale Harold)

Q: I have a question about us gay men
that love to be men and are still so proud to be gay. To be honest, I don’t
think I have ever seen them on television or in movies. The strong and heroic
men always seem to hate themselves and hide it well, and then the over the top
characters are everywhere. Apart from Torchwood, what
about us? – Felix

A: Hmmmmm,
this seems to be the week to poke at the bees’ nests of long-simmering gay
disagreements.

The Monkey
hears this a lot: traditionally masculine gay men are under-represented on
television because Hollywood likes their gay males flaming. But is it true? In
the Monkey’s experience, most gay men do fall toward the masculine end of the
male spectrum — though probably not in the same percentages as straight
men. But isn’t that what we see more of
on television these days, in shows like Brothers &
Sisters, Greek, As the World
Turns
and Six Feet Under? Characters like
Oliver Platt’s limp-wristed (and, bizarrely, Emmy-nominated) Freddy Prune on Nip/Tuck are few and far between. That said, keep in mind
that, when it comes to stereotypes, our minds tend to play tricks on us: when
we see a minority that confirms a stereotype, the stereotype makes a strong
impression. When we see a minority that conflicts with a stereotype, we tend to
discount it, because it’s the “exception that proves the rule.” So there may be
more “manly” gay men on TV and in the movies than you’re aware of.

Incidentally,
can you tell that the Monkey has a masters degree in psychology?

Clockwise from top left:
Greek’s Calvin, B&S’s Kevin, Nip/Tuck’s Freddy Prune,
ATWT’s Luke & Noah, Six Feet Under’s Keith & David

As for all
our more effeminate brothers, first, the Monkey takes exception to the
implication that these folks can’t be “men” and that they’re not “strong.” But
as for their prominent placement on reality television, the Monkey thinks this
is solely due to the nature of the shows that have broken out, which have
tended to be design or hairstyling shows (professions that, yes, probably
attract gay men who tend to be a little lighter in the loafers). But the Monkey
thinks this is undeniably a good thing, because unlike TV portrayals past,
these effeminate folks are real, three-dimensional people who are (more or
less) allowed to be themselves for a change.

Finally, could the current
state of affairs also have something to do with the fact that traditionally
masculine gay men are less likely to be out? Why is it that there is only one
openly gay male athlete competing in the Olympics right now? Yes, it’s probably
harder to be an out athlete or an out firefighter than it is to be an out
hairstylist, and I’m not trying to “blame the victim” here. But isn’t part of
the problem the willingness on the part of some traditionally masculine gay men
to “pass” in order to make their lives easier? (An exception is gay folks in
the military: if they come out, they lose their jobs.)

Have a question about gay male entertainment? Ask
the Monkey
!