One Foot In, One Foot Out: Bogie’s Dilemma and the Movies That Inspired It2
By Ariel Nishli
Bogie is confused. Confused about everything it seems, except his sexuality. The star of KoldCast TV’s new comedy series Acting Out, Bogie is a neurotic, wildly insecure, pastel wearing, high-pitched archetype of the modern gay man. In attempting to break out (pun intended) as an actor in Hollywood without being typecast as, well… gay, he’s decided to “fake it straight”. Bogie’s taken on quite the arduous task, especially as someone who elicits the adjective “princess” from a perfect stranger.
A fool’s errand it seems, but Bogie may not be above the designation. He remains frozen for almost a full minute like a deer in headlights after his indifferent best friend catches him in the buff, bent over on the living room floor. Bogie was rushing out of the bathroom, sans wiping, to answer an important phone call à la George Costanza. To his boyfriend’s Ernest Hemingway reference, Bogie wonders to himself, “Who the hell is that? Is that a person or a band? Quick, change the subject!”
Acting Out – The Manager: Part 1
Not every gay man can have the intellect of Truman Capote, but they can all share their stories. The controversy universal to gay men coming out of the closet has provided much movie fodder for Hollywood in the last thirty years, as the real story of gay life in America became public and continued to evolve. In February 2012, Washington and Maryland legalized same-sex marriage, and the issue is now back in the courts and on the ballot in several more states.
That Acting Out’s protagonist is stepping back into the closet is a testament to the changing landscape of gay society. Instead of Bogie owning his homosexuality in the neo-traditionalist way, he’s already out and about – and it’s no big deal. Amongst friends and neighbors, he shines as the supreme queen his precious heart yearns to be. Bogie’s self-imposed dilemma, rather, is whether he’s too gay for an industry saturated with his type, or more accurately, his stereotype.
Little Bogie’s situation is kind of like the second cousin to resenting the “minority” label tied to someone’s achievement in your minority group. The first African-American, Jewish, blind, gay or vegan Secretary of Agriculture need not necessarily be designated as such, but they always are. Now that you’re wondering, there’s been one woman and one African-American to hold the position in its 123-year history.
Its human nature to point these things out and the truth is we’re nowhere near past addressing them. Society’s progress is measured by the changes – for better or worse – that it undergoes. When something is no longer taboo, it’s the new norm. Historians are left with the task of analyzing the forward progress or retrograde slide set in motion by the issue.
As silly of a goose Bogie may be, he’s a fool triumphant in the meritocratic theme his character unknowingly touts, that an actor (or someone seeking any type of work for that matter) should be judged on their talent and drive, not their sexual orientation. Throughout the show, the young effeminate is routinely told to “just be yourself” by his well-meaning friends. His trigger response is a steadfast “no”; keeping the audience in grips about the dramatic question his rather stuck character poses: Will Bogie ever take the leap into the self-acceptance required for him to evolve beyond his defining gay stereotype?
Acting Out – The Manager: Part 2
Several stars have set the stage for our flaming friend in notable “coming out” movies over the last twenty years. Some are serious, Oscar-worthy dramas. Others are laugh-out-loud romps. All tackle the same question: On what side of the closet door should you be?
Tom Hanks in Philadelphia (1993)
Hanks won his first academy award for his performance as an HIV-positive gay man suing his former law firm for discrimination after they fire him upon learning of his sexual orientation and disease. The film broke ground as one of the first mainstream movies to address homosexuality and AIDS. Denzel Washington also stars as a homophobic man who grows into acceptance through Hanks’ plight.
Robin Williams in The Birdcage (1996)
This rip-roarious movie must have been the true inspiration for Bogie. Williams had people saying “Fosse, Fosse, Fosse!” for months after his incandescent role as Armand, a gay middle-aged nightclub owner whose son is marrying the daughter of an ultra-conservative senator. Armand has to play it straight when the senator, Gene Hackman, and his wife come to visit. Can’t take anything away from Nathan Lane either, who was equally hilarious as Williams’ flamboyant partner.
Kevin Kline in In & Out (1997)
Klein plays a closeted small town high school teacher outed on national television by a former student. He’s just as shocked as everyone else in town, and awkwardly tries to assert his straightness to his fiancé and the entire community. The one person he can’t fool is a quite manly and gay Tom Selleck, who plays a reporter waiting out Klein’s wedding. As he expects, instead of saying “I do,” Klein gives in with an “I’m gay.” The movie ends with the entire cast dancing to the Village People’s “Macho Man,” so it’s ok.
Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain (2005)
The late, great Ledger plays Ennis, a cowboy who finds a star-crossed lover in fellow rancher Jake Gyllenhaal. Their secret romance begins in 1963 and spans decades as neither man can break through the threatening societal mores. Gus Van Sant’s haunting love story was nominated for the most Oscars for any film that year and went home with three Academy awards. Italian audiences everywhere were confused when a state-owned network aired a censored version of the film, cutting all homoerotic references.
Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007)
With the exception of the ambitious Reign Over Me, pretty much every Adam Sandler movie is a box office smash hit. This one comes with a social message! Sandler plays Chuck, a firefighter who does his best friend Kevin James solid by marrying him so Kevin can claim his kids as beneficiaries on his life insurance policy. Sandler’s a womanizing man’s man, and in trying to “play it gay”, he is delightfully awkward. Memorable quotes include “Gay guys know how to dance good. It’s like the law or some shit.”
For more fabulous movies, check out gay pop-culture site AfterElton’s list of the Top 50 Favorite Gay Films!
Ariel Nishli has a big apple in his heart but moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry after graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2007. He started in the motion picture literary department at ICM before moving on to feature film development at Parkes MacDonald Productions. Ariel’s wardrobe has steadily devolved from designer suits to worn out slippers, as he now focuses on screenwriting and freelance writing.