Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Holding Out For a Hero

I was watching an older interview with Fred "the Hammer" Williamson about the European low-budget B-cinema industry of the 70s and 80s because, well, why on Earth wouldn't you want to watch an interview with Fred "the Hammer" Williamson about The European low-budget B-cinema industry of the 70s and 80s?! I mean, really.
Williamson didn't disappoint, either. He spent 99% of the interview talking about himself with all of the hyperbole and bravado that you would expect, all the while puffing away on a cigar and leaning back in his chair like he had James Bond in front of him, dangling upside-down over a tank full of Great White Sharks.
Please, Hammer. Don't hurt 'em.
It was beautiful!
At one point, in referencing 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982), Williamson described his co-star, Mark Gregory, using a term I had not heard before. He said that he "left no footprints in the snow." Williamson kept saying this over and over, and I finally got the meaning when he explained that he had to teach Gregory how to walk and look tough.
"Left no footprints in the snow."
"Light in the loafers."
"Confirmed bachelor."
Pick a euphemism: Williamson was letting us know that Mark Gregory (nee Marco di Gregorio) was gay. He even said - without a hint of irony - "not that there's anything wrong with that" or words to that effect.
It was an "entertaining" interview, to say the least.
There's no snow. I'm still confused.
It did get me thinking, though: how far are we, at this point, from having a big-screen, gay action hero in this country - not a straight or asexual hero played by a gay actor, but an honest-to-goodness, this-is-the-hero-of-the-film-and-when-it's-over-he-gets-to-kiss-the-guy lead character.
Yes, we do have John Barrowman's inimitable Captain Jack Harkness, the immortal omnisexual of Torchwood, but - apart from a limited, one-night-only showing of the premiere episode of the final season - Captain Jack has been limited to the small screen. Jack was also an import from the UK, where they are a good decade ahead of the U.S. in portraying homosexual relationships as something other than a punch line. If Captain Jack had made his debut on an American television program instead of the BBC's Doctor Who, would his same-sex relationships have made it past studio executives? Or test audiences? Hard to say.
He is smoking that cigarette with his entire face. Now, that's acting.
I will be curious to see if NBC's upcoming Constantine series will omit the Hellblazer character John Constantine's bisexuality in the comic books as was done in the 2005 Keanu Reeves film of the same name. Mystique's canon bisexuality in the comics certainly hasn't made its way into the X-Men movies. Jennifer Lawrence, the latest actor in the role wasn't even aware of this aspect of the character until it was brought up to her in an interview.
The closest we have come to a gay action hero as far as I'm aware has been Perry van Shrike in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but, first, he wasn't the lead, and second, there was a degree of tokenness about the character. He was called "'Gay' Perry," after all.
Strong, gay characters have been a part of action films for decades, but usually only in the role of the villain. A near exception is Dwayne Johnson's aspiring-actor thug in Be Cool, who is redeemed by the end (even if the actor's over-the-top performance is not).
My mistake. This picture is obviously from
VH1's Behind the Music: Los Umbrellos.
Will we ever get a Romancing the Stone with a John Wilder the novelist instead of a Joan (as played by Kathleen Turner)? Or perhaps instead of Michael Douglas's swashbuckling rogue, Jack T. Colton, it's Jacqueline.
Are we ready for that movie yet?
A 2013 poll found that 59% of Americans felt that gay and lesbian relations were morally acceptable - an increase of 19 points from 2001. So, the question is: how many more points are required before a homosexual main character or characters doesn't have to be relegated to art-house drama?
Or maybe a better question: do you wait for the points to change, or do you change the points by making the movie and showing audiences that it really is morally acceptable?
Yeah, I already know the answer.
But this conversation isn't over.

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