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Old 12-10-2008, 12:51 PM   #1
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i kissed a man (and i didn't even throw up!)

i haven't seen "Milk" yet. we will. but, inevitably, as with BBM, these kinds of things still come up, and it's still the biggest hurdle we have to overcome. despite all the intellectual-ish, truth-y rationalizations about gender roles, and redefinitions of this or that, or even the canard of the "right of the people to vote," or the Bible, or whatever else, it really does come down to the excessive discomfort many feel at even the mildest, most PG-rated expressions of physical intimacy between two members of the same gender, especially men, that isn't meant as a lesbian-for-your-eyes-only tease to straight men. it's still the "ick" factor.


Quote:
Why Can't A Kiss Just Be a Kiss?
He Locked Lips in 'Milk,' Now He Should Zip 'Em

By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 9, 2008; C01

Poor James Franco. (And poor Sean Penn. But for the moment, poor James Franco.)

In the relentless publicity interviews he's been doing for his new movie, "Milk," there's plenty to ask about his performance as the neglected lover of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, the gay rights martyr. So what does every interviewer -- from David Letterman to the Philippine Daily Inquirer to public radio's Terry Gross -- want to discuss most, over and over and over?

The kissing.

Wasn't it really difficult to kiss another man? Implied: Without throwing up, seeing as you're so obviously straight? What were you thinking as you kissed? Did you rehearse it? What was it liiiiiike?

Underlying the questions (and the answers) is this notion that a gay kissing scene must be the worst Hollywood job hazard that a male actor could face, including stunt work, extreme weather or sitting through five hours of special-effects makeup every day. We live comfortably, if strangely, in a pseudo-Sapphic era in which seemingly every college woman with a MySpace page has kissed another girl for the camera; but for men who kiss men, it's still the final frontier.

There's a whiff of discomfort of the Seinfeldian, "not-that-there's-anything-wrong-with-it" variety. It's a post-ironic, post-homophobic homophobia, the kind seen most weeks in "Saturday Night Live" sketches or in any Judd Apatow movie.

Judging from their interviews over the years, actors who have filmed scenes in which they have pointed a revolver at someone's head and pulled the trigger still think gay kissing is the grossest thing they've ever had to do for a movie. Franco has tried to walk a fine line of laughing along in such interviews, while pointing out that "Milk" is essentially a movie about fighting for acceptance. He's had to rehash the same kissing stories again and again:

No, he and Sean Penn did not rehearse the kissing. Yes, one scene involved more than a minute of continuous kissing with Penn on Castro Street in front of hundreds of people. Yes, there were breath mints. Yes, it was strange, but no more so than a scene in which he had to cook dinner, which he would never, ever do in real life.

"I didn't want to screw it up," Franco told Letterman on "Late Show" last week.

"See, if it's me, I'm kind of hoping I do screw it up," Letterman shot back. "That's what you want, isn't it?"

"To screw it up?" Franco asked.

"I mean, do you really want to be good at kissing a guy?" Letterman said as his audience howled with delight.

"If you wanted, I'd be willing to kiss you right now," Franco offered. (And then he kissed Dave on the cheek. Cue more screams from audience.)

"This kind of thing goes on any time there's a movie where two men kiss; and whether it's a gay audience or a mainstream audience, it's something everyone wants to know about. It's titillating," says Corey Scholibo, entertainment editor for the Advocate magazine.

"At a certain point, the joking about it . . . just isn't funny anymore," he says. "And it's disappointing for gay people. It's especially not as funny as it might have been a month ago, before Proposition 8 was passed," amending California's constitution to forbid gay marriage.

"No one ever asks Neil Patrick Harris what it's like to play a straight guy who sleeps with lots of women" on the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother," Scholibo says. "No one ever asks him how 'gross' it is to kiss a woman."


To answer this, Scholibo takes off his gay media hat and puts forth the biggest academic "duh" in cultural studies: "Everything in culture is rooted in the idea of masculinity, patriarchy . . . hegemony. You have to be disgusted by two men kissing, otherwise there goes [your] masculinity. If an actor were to say he enjoyed a scene where he kisses another man, then he's somehow less of a man."

Straight actors who've taken on gay roles usually give the same answer -- a combination of disgust, bravado (resolving to get through it and earn their paycheck) and the sure-is-weird feeling of stubble not their own.

"Soon as they say 'cut,' you spit. You want to go to a strip bar or touch the makeup girls. You feel dirty. It's a tough job," Chris Potter, an actor in Showtime's "Queer as Folk," once told MSNBC. (Another actor from that show, Hal Sparks, was more circumspect: "Definitely there's an ick factor. It's a little bit like French-kissing your dad. When you don't have the internal impetus that makes you gay in the first place, you're kind of flying blind in that area. I don't get it. But then that's even more evidence, I think, for the argument that people should be allowed to be who they are.")

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger fielded kissing questions a thousand different ways when "Brokeback Mountain" was released in 2005. After the stubble answer ("One word," Gyllenhaal told People about Ledger's face: "Exfoliate") and the ooky answer ("That why we had stunt doubles," Ledger quipped about the love scenes to CBS's "Early Show"), after all the stale "I wish I knew how to quit you" jokes and the "Best Kiss" prize from the MTV Movie Awards, Gyllenhaal finally started telling interviewers that it was like kissing anybody else -- "like doing a love scene with a woman I'm not particularly attracted to," he told the London Telegraph.

Rex Wockner, a syndicated San Diego journalist who for nearly two decades has diligently compiled a weekly "Quote Unquote" column of people talking about gay-related topics, shared some of his favorite "kissing" quotes from celebrity interviews. The most common theme? Weirdness, revulsion and finally surrender.

Here's macho man Colin Farrell, talking about his gay love scenes in "Alexander" in 2004: "I didn't enjoy kissing the men any more than I am sure a gay guy would enjoy licking a woman's [bleep]. I find it repulsive when a guy's stubble is pressed against my lip."

Dennis Quaid told the Associated Press in 2002 about getting it just right in "Far From Heaven": "By Take 3 it was just fine, just another scene. We both went after each other like a couple of linebackers to begin with. And [director Todd Haynes] had to, like, stop . . . and say, 'Hey, it's a '50s screen kiss, okay?' "

Toby Jones seemed over the moon in 2007, discussing his kiss with Daniel Craig in "Infamous," the other Truman Capote movie: "I've never dreamt that I would kiss James Bond. . . . Now I've done it, I can say that I hope I am the first of many. . . . It was slightly abrasive, but ultimately rewarding. And neither of us are gay." (Not that there's anything -- eh, you know.)

Women actors who've kissed other women in love scenes, meanwhile, sound like an enlightened other species in interviews about kissing. For them, it's no big whoop. The men, on the other hand, talk as if they've outdone themselves and are now ready to accept their golden statue.


"These answers do often sort of seem to play to the assumed homo-discomfort of the audience," Wockner says. "I mean, a long, long time ago, I kissed girls. It wasn't gross, it just wasn't all that interesting. But kissing a guy for the first time, that felt very different. So if these actors were being fully honest, rather than going for laughs or guffaws or playing to the assumed gay-kissing phobia of the audience, [they] would instead say, 'You know, it was just sort of uninteresting, sort of not really anything. . . .' "

Kissing, after all, is kissing, and it feels great.

Unless it doesn't.

Time Out Chicago: Has every interviewer asked you about kissing Sean Penn?

James Franco: Uh, yes. [Laughs.]

Time Out Chicago: And you say it was uncomfortable because of his fake moustache?

Franco: I told that once, and yeah, I mean, I don't want to make it sound like -- I feel bad -- that kind of makes it sound like it was the worst thing in the world. It wasn't.



first off, props to James Franco.

secondly, can anyone continue to argue that homophobia -- especially towards gay men -- is absolutely rooted in sexism? it has nothing, but NOTHING to do with any sort of morality or tradition or even religion. that all these things are brought in to excuse the adherence to patriarchy that has so benefited men for, you know, 5,000 years of evolution and human development.

i'll also add that, to the straight girls out there, a good test of a man is whether or not he's homophobic. if he would refuse to see, say, "Milk" or "BBM," even if you begged him to do so.

if he does refuse, he likely hates women.
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Old 12-10-2008, 01:03 PM   #2
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It's ridiculous, and it's unfortunately the way society thinks. Hopefully, in 20 years (actually, hopefully way less than that) we'll give the idea of actors playing gay roles in movies/TV about as much thought as we now do about interracial couples in movies/TV. I'd venture to say that 30, maybe even 20 years ago, it was still considered a huge deal to have a couple of different races appear on screen. It's ridiculous and sad, but it's the truth. Also, I can't wait to see MILK, and if Sean Penn doesn't get an Oscar nomination, there will be hell to pay. And to your last question, if my boyfriend was the type of guy who refused to watch MILK or Brokeback Mountain, he'd be done. I don't do homophobes.

On a side note, Irvine, if you missed The Daily Show last night, Jon owned Mike Huckabee on gay marriage. Mike Huckabee Pt. 2 | The Daily Show | Comedy Central I was literally cheering by the end of it. It illustrates perfectly while as much as I may like the Huckster as a person, his policies would set our country back about 50 years.

On another side note, I am heavily attracted to James Franco, Sean Penn, and Emile Hirsch who is also in MILK, so my reasons for wanting to see this aren't all pure.
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Old 12-10-2008, 01:03 PM   #3
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I like the point that they would never ask a gay man or woman what it's like to play a straight person...
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Old 12-10-2008, 01:10 PM   #4
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That's very interesting

I remember watching the Oprah show about Brokeback Mountain and all the giggling and joking made the show such a joke, and I would imagine it was very offensive to gay people. You'd think the Oprah audience might be a bit more enlightened-and that Oprah would be too. I haven't seen Milk, I want to but it's not playing yet at my local theater even though I've seen the trailer there numerous times.

Personally I see nothing "icky" about it-an icky kiss is an icky kiss straight or gay. It just depends upon the kiss, not the kissers.
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Old 12-10-2008, 01:16 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by BonoVoxSupastar View Post
I like the point that they would never ask a gay man or woman what it's like to play a straight person...


there's a very funny sketch bit from "The Big Gay Sketch Show" on LOGO where they take gay actors and try and have them consider taking straight roles and where they teach them to kiss people of the opposite gender without being revolted by it. there's a wonderful line where the acting teacher tells a very butch lesbian, "just think of all the great straight roles there are out there ... like ... Ghandi, or Erin Brockovich."
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Old 12-10-2008, 01:20 PM   #6
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I do see the kissing Spicoli thing-that is weird

YouTube - Late Show - Prelude to a Kiss
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Old 12-10-2008, 01:24 PM   #7
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I do see the kissing Spicoli thing-that is weird

YouTube - Late Show - Prelude to a Kiss
That was awesome. I read somewhere that in his OUT magazine interview James talked about how Sean Penn texted Madonna after their kissing scene and told her that he just kissed a guy and it made him think of her. Sean and Madonna, I'm still rooting for those 2 crazy kids. Also, I want to have James Franco's baby, like now.
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Old 12-10-2008, 01:28 PM   #8
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i'll also add that, to the straight girls out there, a good test of a man is whether or not he's homophobic. if he would refuse to see, say, "Milk" or "BBM," even if you begged him to do so.

if he does refuse, he likely hates women.
Sort of related to your statement, I made a very pleasant discovery recently. This guy I've been seeing off and on for several years now called me a few weeks ago, and told me he'd just finished e-mailing a radio station's morning host to express his displeasure with a statement the host had made. I asked what the statement was, and he started with "you know about Prop 8, right? The DJ said...". At that moment, I inwardly cringed and thought "please don't say anything stupid that's going to make me hate you." We'd never specifically discussed human rights, but he always seemed intelligent and enlightened, despite definitely being a guy's guy-type. He went on to tell me that the DJ had dissed Melissa Etheridge for a statement she made right after the Prop 8 results, and he wrote to the DJ saying that his comment was offensive, and he might want to rethink his stance. Needless to say, I was very relieved. Further, I learned a few days later that the DJ had written back basically defending his comment, and now my friend has boycotted the station.

Men who are secure enough to actively stand up for the rights of others are incredibly attractive. And, I bet he'd be more than willing to see Milk.
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Old 12-10-2008, 01:45 PM   #9
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You'd think the Oprah audience might be a bit more enlightened-and that Oprah would be too.


it makes me wonder what Gayle thought about that show.
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Old 12-10-2008, 01:52 PM   #10
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i'll also add that, to the straight girls out there, a good test of a man is whether or not he's homophobic. if he would refuse to see, say, "Milk" or "BBM," even if you begged him to do so.
I've never dated a guy who wasn't extremely progressive in this respect. I lose all interest in them if they have any latent bigotries or sexism. I also have a couple of extremely close male gay friends and my favourite roommate of all time is a lesbian, so frankly I have no interest in anybody who would not welcome these people into their lives with open arms and completely free of judgment.
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Old 12-10-2008, 02:06 PM   #11
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I've never dated a guy who wasn't extremely progressive in this respect. I lose all interest in them if they have any latent bigotries or sexism. I also have a couple of extremely close male gay friends and my favourite roommate of all time is a lesbian, so frankly I have no interest in anybody who would not welcome these people into their lives with open arms and completely free of judgment.
I agree. My ex-boyfriend had no qualms about homosexuality, and had gay friends. All of my guy friends are the same way for the most part. 2 of my best friends from college are gay, and they became friends with all of my straight guy friends as well. It was never an issue for us. I was never worried about my girlfriends reactions, but I was curious to see how the guys would react and was pleasantly surprised. Even my grandparents who still think homosexuality is a sin (something I've been trying to change their minds about) became friends with the lesbian couple that used to live across the street from them.
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Old 12-10-2008, 03:02 PM   #12
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I like the point that they would never ask a gay man or woman what it's like to play a straight person...
so Hollywood has a DADT policy?







(let, me cruise with that thought for a moment )
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Old 12-10-2008, 03:09 PM   #13
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i haven't seen "Milk" yet. we will. but, inevitably, as with BBM, these kinds of things still come up
I did see both films,

I think Milk may be the best film I have seen this year. ( I have not made my list yet )


Brokeback was a true story about about fictional characters.

Milk is a true story about real people.

I Brokeback attracted a younger audience than Milk, there was really no snickering or laughing I heard during Milk.

I did hear some audience reactions? during Brokeback.
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Old 12-10-2008, 03:25 PM   #14
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I Brokeback attracted a younger audience than Milk, there was really no snickering or laughing I heard during Milk.

I did hear some audience reactions? during Brokeback.


i heard some too. it was most upsetting, though i did notice that it all stopped as the film gathered pace (as it does beautifully) and then the audience was absolutely silent the final 45 minute of the film, and particularly the last scene where Ennis visits Jack's parents -- now that scene is a masterpiece if ever i've seen one.

anyway ... i heard the snickers coming from my fellow gays, especially the scene where Alma mistakenly sees Jack and Ennis kissing. my thought was that we are so predisposed to cartoonish expressions of homosexuality -- many produced by the community itself with it's love of camp and absurdity and also the very complex defense mechanisms and ironization of the emotional aspects of our lives that many of us live through -- that the reaction to a serious, lustful scene of same-sex passion was to laugh. because we were uncomfortable. and because "the birdcage" -- which i love -- was, up until Jack and Ennis, probably the most truthful gay couple put to the big screen.

i didn't laugh, but the only time i think i had seen a graphic same-sex scene up on a screen was during one of those documentaries that i know you enjoy watching. only this documentary didn't have any girls in it.

it's kind of a sad commentary, i thought, that the response to the dramatic depiction of the emotional aspect of same-sex love was uncomfortable laughter. though that lessened as the film went on. and then we were walloped at the end. and i think that's one of the brilliant things about the film -- it puts it all up there, the bodies and the hearts, the passion and the anger, that we all know goes into deeply felt romantic relationships. the story is absolutely about homosexuality, it is about the dead life one leads when one lives in the closet and in the shadows of a lifetime of bitterness and regret. though it's universal, the story is impossible to tell with out gay characters. and i've actually haven't been able to sit through it a second time because, now that i know the ending, i find every single scene so wrenching with tragedy and shattered dreams -- after a glimpse about how life could be, recalls the famous Springsteen line, "is a dream a lie if it don't come true / or is it something worse that sends me down to the River" if we view the River as Brokeback -- that i can barely stand it.

it sounds like "Milk" is a much different film. the only negative reviews i've read of it (and they weren't all that negative) have been in the gay press, criticizing it for being too paint-by-numbers-biopic and many point to the Oscar winning doc from a few years ago, "the life and times of harvey milk" as a better film.

but i do look forward to seeing it, assuming i can finally get a weekend free of work.
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Old 12-10-2008, 09:07 PM   #15
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Women actors who've kissed other women in love scenes, meanwhile, sound like an enlightened other species in interviews about kissing. For them, it's no big whoop. The men, on the other hand, talk as if they've outdone themselves and are now ready to accept their golden statue.

"These answers do often sort of seem to play to the assumed homo-discomfort of the audience," Wockner says.
It's probably true what it says about women actors--I really wouldn't know, as I don't follow either Hollywood or TV much--but, in light of that "assumed discomfort of the audience" comment, I do recall being in a doctor's waiting room not long after Boys Don't Cry came out and there happened to be a couple magazines, I think maybe Vogue and In Style or something like that, with Hillary Swank on the cover. I was interested in the movie, which I hadn't seen yet, so I glanced at the articles to see if they'd have any info of interest about it, and it turned out they were both basically fluff pieces with lots of posed photos and this unmistakable undertone of: "Don't worry! The REAL Hillary is a girl's girl just like you! And when not forcing herself to look all butch in the name of art, she just loves to glam it up with couture gowns, designer jewelry and soft pretty makeup, as shown here! Isn't she lovely, folks?" Which may well be true, but the emphasis on 'showing the real Hillary' struck me as rather silly; she's an actor, it was a role, and it's her job to have a strong feeling for and effectively convey the character--not herself--onscreen. Granted, that was a transgender character not a lesbian one, but I'm still kind of reminded of that when I read some of those quotes in the WaPo article.

Maybe their agents advise them to do or say this kind of "redemptive" PR stuff afterwards... On the bright side, though, the more prominent straight actors take on gay roles, then the more audiences will grow accustomed both to seeing same-sex love (not just *wink, giggle* PDA) as an equally worthy narrative, and also to seeing that no, it's not some unfathomable imaginative leap that straight actors must grit their teeth and swallow their "pride" to achieve.
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