by Shelly Roberts
Read this and tell me what you think:
"In the current Warner Brothers movie My Fellow Americans, lesbians and gay men play a vital role in saving the lives of two former presidents. James Garner (as the Democrat) and Jack Lemmon (as the Republican) portray the two former leaders who are forced to go on the run after the cover-up of a scandal involving the current president (Dan Akroyd), leads to attempts to assassinate the two. At one point, Lemmon and Garner duck into a West Virginia gay pride parade to escape the bad guys. When one of the parade participants (who is in a marching band entirely made up of drag versions of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz) befriends them, he arranges for a group of Dykes on Bikes to take them to safety. At the end of the ride, a lesbian gives Lemmon a freedom ring (gay pride) necklace, and Lemmon notes that after spending time with the lesbians, he has rethought the issue of gays in the military and thinks that "the military could probably use several of those women." Later in the film, the Marching Dorothy heroically returns.
Please let Warner Brothers know that their non-exploitative and jovial inclusion of lesbians and gay men in My Fellow Americans is appreciated."
Transitions are confusing.
There. I've said it and I'm glad.
Or in this case GLAAD. As in the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. which self-defines as "the only national lesbian and gay multimedia watchdog organization. GLAAD promotes fair, accurate and inclusive representation as a means of challenging all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity."
This is from one of their alerts.
A good and helpful organization over all. But apparently also having difficulty with transitions. Reading their special alerts and operational manifesti, I am lately reminded of the poor TV anchor who has broken the latest disaster, but has too much air time, and no news to follow with. You can practically feel the poor patsy making it up as s/he goes along, inventing details, escalating the importance of minutia, and interviewing random passersby, to fill.
Sometimes it seems GLAAD seeks media gay bashing of major proportions, real or imagined, and escalates its importance to fill its agenda, which is to find discrimination, then slay it. Or laud it's absence.
Just on the face of this alert, we have, as I read it, a movie with a parade full of drag Dorothys, leather lesbians on Harleys, and an aging misogynist making bad stereotypical jokes about us.
Am I hallucinating here? Isn't this what GLAAD is usually up in arms about? Don't they usually incite personcotts over these kinds of movies?
Only now we are supposed to cheer Warner Brothers for, what? Oh, yes. "Non-exploitative and jovial inclusion of lesbians and gay men."
I'm confused. Enough so that I went to see this light little flick. Paid my own money. (Although, not wanting to take out a second mortgage to buy the theater's, I did bring my own popcorn. Shhh. Don't ask.. Don't tell.)
And, yup. GLAAD's description is absolutely accurate. Up to and including the fact that the hero is a definite Dorothy. The only difference is that we don't die in the end. That's it. Our most extreme images, our only representation, win the day and save the respective derrieres of the film's big-name protagonists.
Okay, so the film is aimed at Seniors, using cliches and terminologies that 70 and 80 year old's can relate to. For a change, we seem to be on the right side of the dramatic tension for this demographic, which does have the most trouble reversing their long-taught unpleasant beliefs about us.
But did I miss something here? What exactly is it I'm cheering about?
Well, okay, the idea of an Oz marching band playing Over The Rainbow IS kicky. I hope baton carriers everywhere are rushing to buy bolts of blue gingham. But non-exploitative? Wake up and smell the latte.
In the absence of actual lesbian and gay leadership to tell us what we're really supposed to think as we transition from outlaw underground to mainstream commonplace, GLAAD tells us this is good. And I admit it. I'm baffled.
About the best thing I can say about this movie is that it's cute. Lemmon and Garner are always a treat to watch, even if the material isn't exactly Mr. Roberts (no relation) or a Polaroid commercial. And, mercifully, most people won't plunk down good bucks to bother.
As I said, transitions are confusing. I can't figure out whether I'm actually supposed to thank Warner Brothers for this cartoon depiction, or picket them. Just because they don't kill me. Especially in an age when I thought what we were after was non-exploitative and jovial inclusion in federal and state laws, not caricature myth continuations with unexpected happy endings, as bones to our own "watchdogs."
One thingI am certain about. Although amusing, this is one movie I found with not all that much to be GLAAD about.
Shelly Roberts is the author of the #1 best-selling Roberts' Rules of Lesbian Living. Spinsters Ink.
© 1996. Shelly Roberts. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.
©1997 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.