Equality

NY Mirror

by

Ten years ago, ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ might have had queers in the street, screaming ‘Not another gay sociopath!’ Today, the gay press has validated the movie as a penetrating study in intimacy problems—and really hot to boot. In a gushy ‘Advocate’ cover story on Matt Damon, the magazine presents the flick as both a homoerotic feast for the senses and a sensitive take on the gay experience (though the thought- provoking piece does address the stereotyping issues and also points out that Ripley can’t be intimate with either sex—not that he seems to want to be with women). In between comforting Damon because gay rumors have “disparaged” his relationship with Ben Affleck, the Advocate reporter says that, by adding a boyfriend for Ripley and enhancing the material’s gay subtext, director-adapter Anthony Minghella actually makes the character more human and the film “more resonant for a contemporary audience” (even if, as the writer admits, that opens the door to controversy). So we should thank Minghella for giving us a gay killer?

Absolutely, the movie’s defenders say, because it provides a deft comment on panic, oppression, and self-loathing. Well, while all this hoopla has opened my faggy eyes, the gay media’s unmitigated lust for the movie—a response which Miramax must be creaming over—could arguably be another form of panic, oppression, and self-loathing. We’re all practically throwing parades proclaiming that we’re so happy to have this lovable gay nut on our screens—and while we’re at it, maybe we should give The Silence of the Lambs a retroactive GLAAD award.

As sleekly and hypnotically made as Ripley is, why should we be so thrilled with the premise that it’s so angsty to be a status-challenged gay—and yes, I know the film’s set in the ’50s—that an aggressively striving twerp would turn cuckoo-deadly about it? (And don’t start naming real-life instances—a movie about Cunanan would not be hailed as a gay breakthrough.) Of course this scenario could and does happen, but not anywhere near as often as it does at the local cineplex! Besides, the self-loathing angle might make more sense if, like the right-winger in American Beauty, Ripley went over the edge specifically because he’s tortured about his sexuality. But while this Oprah-style Ripley does dislike everything that makes him different, he turns to violence when his advances are spurned by his cute crush (played by Jude Law). He’s a dewy-eyed predator who simply doesn’t get the wealthy, charismatic love interest and lifestyle he wants. This might hint at being a comment on closety disturbance—Ripley’s been found out and rejected—but mostly it just leaves you feeling the guy’s a twisted sister, another in Hollywood’s long line of queens so put upon that they become the oppressors, brazenly disrupting lives and even ending them to suit their neurotic needs. (Sure, I do cover some homo murderers and their victims myself, but I also manage to throw in thousands of types in between.)

Interestingly, a writeup in the gay weekly New York Blade News lionized the movie too, but not necessarily because it’s a comment on queerdom. They’re happy that the flick excised the homophobic epithets leveled at the character in the book, and that now “Ripley’s pathology is no longer connected to his sexuality.” So he’s a killer who just happens to be gay? Is that better than the kind who’s acting out his sexual self-loathing? Gee, I can’t decide, so I guess I’ll just have to kill you! (But by the way, isn’t Damon dreamy—and after all, the character’s such a doll because it’s not like he premeditated that murder or anything, right?)

Lest anyone think I’m second-guessing The Advocate because I contribute to Out, let me confess that I did notice when the latter publication praised the talented Mr. Alan Cumming for announcing himself as pansexual, and suggested that Cumming’s “refusal to be bound by one orientation may be what allows him to play sexuality in so many different keys.” So an actor might display a wider range if he could only be bi or maybe vague instead of just plain gay? Gee, listen up, Rupert Everett!

A few issues ago, The Advocate—no, I won’t shut up—featured a whole other conversation piece: Will & Grace costar Megan Mullally‘s declaration that she’s sort of bisexual (a bit of a shock since we were all busy looking to other folks on the show to come out). Well, since then, there’s been a hurricane of cover-ups designed to bind Mullally to one orientation—namely, hetero. A tabloid promptly quoted people saying Mullally’s the straightest person imaginable and juggles men like crazy, and then an interview with the actress in one of the dailies didn’t even mention her sexuality revelation, though it did quote her saying, “I’m really ‘out’ about my age.” Do you bi all this?

Moving on to more concrete announcements—and lighter notes—I’m totally out about the fact that the Broadway production of Waiting in the Wings has its goofy charms, even if, just as the recently exhumed Sail Away seemed to be Noël Coward’s Love Boat, this is definitely his Golden Girls. During the intermission the night I saw it, TV legend Joe Franklin exclaimed, “I love it! I love it!” then thought about it and said, “Fair! Fair!”

There was a mad crush at the Any Given Sunday premiere party at the appropriately named Exit—unfair, unfair—where one of those power-mad doormen was screaming at the attendant throng to back up “or no one’s getting in!” (That sounded OK to me.) Even poor Roshumba was being urged away from the entrance and almost manhandled by this freak. (“She was about to say, ‘I charge extra for that,’ ” her publicist told me later.) An event-flack saved the day for Roshumba, but with no such lifeline offered, I went home to put a piece of cheese in my butt and see who comes first, Stuart Little or Mr. Jingles. (Hey, am I dysfunctional enough for Matt Damon to play me in a movie?)

This might be the right time to reveal that in the upcoming flick Black and White, Robert Downey Jr. portrays a late-blooming guy who realizes, “I am a cum guzzler!” Moving right along, swallow this: In his new show, Much Ado About Everything, Jackie Mason refers to Siegfried and Roy as “two fageles and a tiger—and the tiger’s a fagele too.” And he disappears even faster than Stuart Little or Mr. Jingles.

Meanwhile, tigress-scandal gal Roxanne Pulitzer—who’s going to be a grandmother—called in the middle of her fourth messy divorce to promise me she’ll never get married again. The prize Pulitzer added that if she does ever plan to sashay back down the aisle, I should race to Palm Beach and strap her to the bed. Hopefully her next husband won’t do so first.

Finally, right here is where there was supposed to be a glowing little interview with Catherine Keener, who was such a revelation as the manipulative cum guzzler in Being John Malkovich that I was dying to effuse over her even more than gay bar rags have been doing over Ripley. Alas, her people refused to let it happen. Fair? Fair?


musto@villagevoice.com