Posted on 6/09/12 09:14 PM
Have you ever been called a "homo?"
This isn't just a question for those among my audience who choose, however sinfully, to lie with a man as they do with a woman. (Or vice versa, I s'poose, though as far as I can tell, the bible's okay with dyking out.) This is really for anyone. And I don't mean in jest, by a friend, like you're looking at some bath oils and commenting on how fabulous they are and they call you a "homo." No, I'm asking, "Has a complete stranger ever come up to you and said, 'homo,' as though that was a complete sentence?"
See, it's never happened to me, and it just sounds odd that it's happened to anyone. It's not that I'm surprised at the homophobia--someone yelled "faggot" at me once from the inside of a moving car. Or at least I think it was "faggot." It may have been "pancakes," but by the time I thought to explain the Doppler Effect to them and ask them what exactly they meant, they were long gone. The "faggot" didn't even make any sense in context, as I was neither having any sort of gay moment nor dressed as a cigarrette.
No, I'm talking about being specifically called "homo." See, "faggot" I can see, or the more informal "fag," as they sound like proper insults. I myself prefer "shirtlifter" for its' classiness or "cocksucker" for its' accuracy, but "faggot" would seem to be the go-to phrase for inferring someone has an alternative sexual orientation. "Homo" sounds too vague, as it could stand for anything--"homo sapien," which we all are, "homo erectus," which we once were, "homogenized," which my milk is, "homonucleus," which--well, you get the point. Just calling someone "homo" out loud, and not in jest, comes off as silly, and matters are not helped by the two rhyming "o" sounds that give the thing a downright jovial, bumbling Fatty Arbucklesque tone.
No, the only time I've ever heard "homo" uttered in a homophobic sense is in gay-themed movies where gay writers are writing one-dimensional straight characters as total 'phobes. Or '80s teen comedies, but they exist in their own universe and were never meant as representations of reality. It seems like every time a character in a gay-themed film is supposed to come off as a jerk, it's all "homo" this and "homo" that. C'mon, guys, give it up and break out the "fag"s already.
It's not too bad in Hate Crime, as there's enough of interest elsewhere to forgive the occasional tresspass. "Homo"-spouting jerkwad Chris Boyd (Chad Donella) moves next door to nice, well-to-do gay couple Robbie and Trey (Seth Peterson and Brian J. Smith) in the suburbs. After Chris scowls a lot and stalks them a little, Trey goes for a walk in the park and finds himself beaten and put into a coma. Everyone suspects Chris, but nobody can prove it, and the detective on the case (Giancarlo Esposito) seems to actually think Robbie did it for the insurance money.
From here the film becomes kind of a low-rent, queer Death Wish, as Robbie and Trey's mom (ex-Ferris Bueller mom Cindy Pickett) team up to get revenge. Still, it's a film more intent on dealing with emotional reaction to crimes like this than becoming an outright exploitation film, so the plot twists are kept to a minimum and the bazookas are kept in the closet.
That said, the film's major plot twist can be seen nearly an hour before it happens, just because it becomes obvious when the gay bashing isn't shown that there is, in fact, a plot twist to come and there's a limited number of other characters to accuse. It also relies on that old standby of American Beauty syndrome--those that come off as the most homophobic are, in fact, closet cases--that sounds a lot better in dramatic context than it's ever been proven to be in reality. (If anyone can show me different, send me a link--I'm not talking about some anti-gay politician cruising gay web sites, I'm talking about actual, scientific, statistical proof that homophobia is likely to cover up for homosexuality.)
Still, the cast is very good, and the relationship at the film's center is convincing enough for the act of violence to have a real emotional impact. Strong support from the likes of Lin Shaye (as a neighbor), Bruce Davison (as Chris' pastor father) and Susan Blakely (as his mom) help quite a bit, as does Esposito's detective, who presents a more genuine portrayal of the subtle homophobia that's more prevelent than the aggressive hatred on display in most films of this sort. Hate Crime isn't a perfect film, but it's a step in the right direction, and I'd like to see more like it.
As Hate Crime is to the vigilante revenge film, Hard tries to be to the serial killer film, but it fails almost so spectacularly that it made my head hurt. The plot concerns a closeted police detecive (Noel Palomaria) who ends up meeting up with a serial killer (Malcolm Moorman) that ties him to a bed, steals his badge, and gets away, leaving the badge in the mouth of his next victim and, yep, causing the detecive to become a suspect and forced to out himself to prove his innocence.
Getting back to the "homo" rant, Hard sets itself up as a statement on how gay cops are treated by the force but soon belabors the point to where it defies all rational reasoning. Watch as the detective finds "FAG" painted on the back of his car--the first day he's outed. Did someone actually take the effort to go to the store and buy paint just to desecrate his car? This seems like an awful lot of effort to take, especially by characters who have been kind of set up to not really give a shit about what other people do.
Meanwhile, the serial killer sub-plot manages to get sillier and sillier in a valiant attempt to outrage the audience. The killer stalks and kills "teenagers" (or at least overage actors playing teenagers) in his abandoned warehouse (!) after raping them, all while living with his married lover (likable Michael Waite, in the film's best performance), whose 11-year-old kid he molests. He also puts a staple gun to the cat's head for no particular reason. While this does lead to the insanely horrific line, "At least I loved you enough that I didn't kill your son after I raped him," which caused me to burst into a giggle-fit (I am so going to hell.), it doesn't really make any sense at all, especially at the end of the movie where the killer tries to explain himself.
See, whenever a serial killer tries to explain his actions, the writer has to be very careful. The explanation doesn't have to make sense from a rational standpoint, but it does have to make sense from a logistical standpoint through the killer's eyes. If the killer doesn't have a logistical reason to kill, just make him a generic crazy guy and have him shot.
The killer here explains that he is "saving [the victims] from a life on the streets," which I suppose would make sense if he only killed street kids. He doesn't. He kills random hicthhikers, he molests kids, he staples cats, he torments cops. He could have said, "I saw their head-flesh as the gateway to the planet Zssonytnx and I knew I had to destroy it with my super-Earth sperm by jamming it into their skulls," and it would have made perfect sense, at least from his point of view. The actual reasoning? No sense at all.
The irrational script is the major reason Hard is so awful, but it's not as though it would be great even if David Mamet had stopped by to do a rewrite. You'd still have to put up with the mediocre acting, lack of genuine suspense and a completely unsympathetic lead character. In the end, Hard is worthwhile only as a curiosity with its' desperate attempts to shock that end in snickers rather than gasps. It's not even as fascinatingly bizarre as Cruising or as nihilistically depraved as Frisk, so even among the limited genre of gay-themed serial killer films, Hard just isn't worth a look.
I'm all for making more exploitation films with gay themes, but unless there's something behind them other than, "gay people are good and homophobia is bad," it's probably better that they shy away from the commentary and go straight for the jugular. We homos deserve a good slasher film eventually, after all.