The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Jodie Foster coming out

So…Jodie Foster coming out of the closet today gives me a perfect opportunity to talk about why I think that Hollywood’s only real agenda is making money. A couple of my attitudes and observations first:
1) Arts communities typically have more gays, or at least more openly gay people.
2) Hollywood is no different. They’re all over the place, in positions to hire, fire, make movies—all up and down the decision chains.
3) There are virtually no demonstratively gay MALE relationships in movies, in relation to their statistical presence either in America in general, or Hollywood in particular.
4) Female homosexuality is more tolerated than male. In fact, men love fantasizing about lesbians much more often than straight women seem to fantasize about two gay men being together.
5) Far more female actors and singers have “come out” than male.
6) Male stars who HAVE come out, like Rupert Everett, report that it has absolutely damaged their careers.
7) In a climate in which a major Presidential candidate can say that gay marriage “will destroy America” (Mike Huckabee) it is perfectly reasonable to assume that there is a very strong anti-gay sentiment. If someone said “black intermarriage with whites will destroy America” it would be absurd to think they had no negative feelings about blacks.
8) Most people will say that a movie star’s sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Like most will say that they treat and feel about all people equally, regardless of race.
9) Studies of UNCONSCIOUS racial attitudes reveal a much different picture: the 80% negative response, the lack of black male sexual images in blockbusters, the Amygdalic response to the “other.” And the perception of gay stars that if they “come out” it will damage their careers.
10) If Hollywood is driven by political agenda, and gays are disproportionately present in Hollywood, why wouldn’t they present themselves as sexual beings in mainstream movies? Why don’t gay male stars come out?

Easy. They don’t because the primary dictate of Hollywood is to make money. They aren’t being stopped by ‘the establishment.” Hell, in many cases they ARE the establishment. They don’t do it because they want to keep their BMWs and swimming pools. I can promise you that there are HIGH level producers who can get any movie they want made, who are gay, and won’t put those images on the screen. That is nothing but financial savvy. That is not their agenda, and what they put on the screen is MORE conservative than the actual statistical representation…because the risk of an audience NOT coming is more frightening than the risk of “not representing an underrepresented minority.” Even if it’s them.

Hollywood has no identity, no ethics, no morality or politics…any more than Detroit, New York, or Memphis does. Human beings have these things. Corporations have one major thing—the urge to make money. That’s it. Try to motivate a corporation on any other basis, and you’re screaming at the wind.


Mike R said...

>10) If Hollywood is driven by political agenda, and gays are disproportionately present in Hollywood, why wouldn’t they present themselves as sexual beings in mainstream movies?<

How about because it's a thousand times easier to prevent a movie from being made than it is to make a movie?

That is to say, it's not a binary situation: we don't have to assume that it's a choice of [A] "Liberals Completely Run Hollywood and Only Make Films That Advance Their Agenda" or [B] "Liberals Have No Influence in Hollywood, It's All Money." There can be shades of gray.

It's perfectly possible that Liberals are disproportionately powerful enough in Hollywood to stop any pro-Iraq war or explicitly anti-gay film from being made, but not powerful enough to spend 100 million dollars on advancing their agendas with a movie that is going to bomb. Almost no one is going to get fired for not green-lighting a movie after all.

The power to censure can be quite powerful, even if it's not as powerful as the power to create.

Steven Barnes said...

I think that's a good point. It does leave the question about why no one is stopping the anti-Iraq movies, though. My guess is that the anti-Iraq people are pushing harder than the pro-Iraq people. That might relate to both numbers and degree of passion. Not sure how to measure both those factors...but then you'd also have to weigh in on the amount of perceived profit. If we were winning, more people would want to see it. But a war perceived by many to be a quagmire? Much harder to create the kind of gung-ho movie that folks turn out for. That said, after we've been out for a few years, I'd bet there will be plenty of stories of heroic soldiers in Iraq.

Steve Perry said...

Jody came out? Finally?

Is anybody surprised?

Veronica said...

This reminds me of a comment made by a friend some time ago. She felt that gay people would be more sympathetic to the cause of African Americans, because they too, were oppressed. Well, it seems their unwillingness to display images that reflect themselves also applies to African Americans as we see the lack of our images on the big screen. Jury is still out on whether or not they may be more sympathetic, but if they are, seems the bottom dollar still prevails over good sense.

Unknown said...

"Jody came out? Finally?"

She referenced her longtime partner when accepting an award the other day.

"Is anybody surprised?"

Shocked and stunned. Everyone I know was so sure she was straight. I'm sure men will stay away from her movies in droves, now that this revelation has dented her box office sex appeal. :-)

I think Hollywood movies are in some ways more gay friendly than the country at large, as you'd expect in movies made in a relatively liberal city in a relatively liberal state, in an industry where probably a disproportionate percentage of people are gay. There are lots of movies with sympathetic but asexual gay characters (e.g. Rupert Everett in My Best Friend's Wedding), other movies in which supporting characters get happy gay endings with usually less on screen making out than the straight characters get (e.g. The Opposite of Sex, Home for the Holidays), and explicitly anti-gay characters have a tendency to come off looking foolish and wrong. But at the same time, all those gay characters do have disproportionately less sex than straight characters, which obviously doesn't correspond with the real world.

Steve Perry said...

I know a guy who is very proud of his "gay-dar." He's gay, and often points out people to me who are still in the closet. He allowed some years back as how Jodie Foster was not among the straights, and that in the gay/lesbian community circles in which he traveled everybody knew Jody was not AC, but DC.

Didn't affect my enjoyment of her movies, any more than it did me liking Ellen DeGeneres -- once she stopped pounding the out-of-the-closet-I'm-gay! drum so loudly.

(There only one sin in comedy, and that to be not-funny. There was a time when Ellen wasn't, and it cost her ...)

Unknown said...

File this under the "Iraq War = Vietnam II" (something I'm not convinced of, btw), but I suspect that we'll only see pro-Iraq War films once the war is finished. The only pro-Vietnam film made during the war was "The Green Berets" - and it was, really, a Western set in a jungle.

Anonymous said...

Everyone I know figured out a long time ago Jodie Foster was gay. Her coming out is no big revelation.

Look she kind of strutted it like Liberace and his sequined outfits. So it wasn't hard to add it up.

I'm just waiting for a certain Hollywood leading man to finally come out. You know the one that SouthPark showed hiding in the closet.


Frank said...

Josh said

Way to report Republican talking points, Frank.

That's just dismissive. Besides, I'm not a Republican

It's actually more efficient.

How do you know that?

And you people still want to attack Iran.

Who's "you people"?

I certainly don't want to attack Iran. And I don't think it's necessary to physically attack them. At least not in the foreseeable future (i.e. before January 2009)

But nor I do think that "negotiating" with Iran is the answer. Europe has been negotiating with them for years and hasn't got anywhere.

And I would point out, again, that negotiation is not what got them to stop their nuclear weapons program in 2003.

One thing we can do is get Iraq's oil production up full speed and convince China they can get what they get now from Iran from Iraq instead. Then perhaps we'll be able to get them on board with UN sanctions. Of course that would still leave Russia.

Another fruitful path now that France and Germany are being lead by US-friendly chief executives is to perhaps get them to agree to sanctions.

The next step, if these fail, is to interdict their gasoline supplies. That would put the squeeze on their economy in a big way. But that is an act of war, even if we do not physically attack.

But make no mistake, I don't care who is in the White House, be it a Republican (except, perhaps, Ron Paul which is unlikely) or Clinton, or Obama, or even Edwards, Iran will not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapon capability. Even if it means war.

Comes down to it, a lot of the support base for that move is motivated by racism against Arabs and hatred of Islam.

Clearly you do not understand the politics of the situation. If we can not hold the center, it will be the Arabs that begin an arms race against Iran.

First, realize that Iran's population is not Arab, they are Persian. This makes a difference because countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt are Arab and they are not thrilled about being dominated about a new Persian empire.

They have already put the IAEA on notice that not controlling Iran will force them to start their own nuclear programs.

The only one displaying prejudice here is, um, you.

Steven Barnes said...

Trust me: Jodie Foster coming out was big news to lots of people. Did it make a difference? I suspect it might among that group opposed to gay marriage. Would gays be more likely than straights to empathize with blacks? Yes, but there's still a disconnect: I've had black gays tell me they'd rather be gay in a black world than black in a gay world, for just that reason. There's tons of homophobia among blacks, who, one would think, would be "more understanding" due to their own oppression. Doesn't always work that way.

Steve Perry said...

The thing about being narrow-minded -- homophobic, racist, sexist, whatever -- is that it tends to put everybody not in your family/tribe into the category of "other," and automatically label them as inferior.

The only way we ever get past this is to expand the tribe to include more diversity, and the two main barriers to that are ignorance and stupidity. The first you can cure, if people are willing; the second?

Ain't no cure for stupid.

Steven Barnes said...

As stupidity cures go, the dirt nap works pretty damned well. I don't try to talk sense to people any more. I just talk, and notice who listens.

Steven Barnes said...

Let's see. John Travolta is pretty close to out. My guess is that Cruise is bi. I know people who've noted his relationships with both sexes. My guess is that he wouldn't come out unless his leading man days were done. It could cost him tens or hundreds of millions of dollars--and I really can't think of any reason he should. Hell, if black people could pretend to be white, there'd be a LOT fewer black people walking around. Believe it.

Anonymous said...

In fact, men love fantasizing about lesbians much more often than straight women seem to fantasize about two gay men being together.

Allow me to introduce to you the concept of fanfiction, specifically slash. :) The shonen-ai trope is very much alive and well in Japan, and is becoming more and more popular in the US. It might seem as if it's less popular than lesbian porn for heterosexual men, but I suspect that's to do with the female preference for written porn rather than visual.

Unknown said...

Dec 2nd issue of Entertainment has two good articles on these issues: movies about gay people and Iraq themed movies.

they asked why there are so few gay blockbusters and they explain why the iraq themed movies are not big hits (like Robert Refords movie which have hugh critical acclaim but are blowing hard at the box office)

Steven Barnes said...

I'm very familiar with fan fiction. And I stand by my belief that women are less interested than men in watching two members of the opposite sex make out. That doesn't mean that some don't enjoy it, but the numbers just aren't there. There's tons of romantic/sexual books for women. The very fact that you had to reach for something as "underground" as fan fiction makes my point for me.
I'll read the Entertainment Weekly article, but my guess is that they'll miss the elephant in the living room, the same way whites never notice that black men tend to be less sexual than whites, straights tend to believe they are more open to gays than they really are.

Anonymous said...

Steven, the statement about introducing you to fanfiction was a little bit of a joke (hence the smiley). I was fairly sure you were aware of it.

I disagree with you, however, in that fanfiction is underground. Perhaps it used to be that way, but it's becoming more and more mainstream. As Middle America grows up with internet access, it becomes far more commonplace to interact with their favorite media by participating.

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