Roger Ebert Home

Sidestepping some gay questions

From Brian Shapiro, Encino, CA:

In your review of "The Wise Kids" you state that nobody is set up as a caricature or a sitting duck. But you also described several characters in the movie that, from those descriptions, I would pretty much consider caricatures. The most devout person, you said, turns out to be the one who deals with the fact that he is gay. This seems like its drawn from the stereotype that people who are devout are using their faith to cover up a struggle with their sexuality. The person who objects to him, you said, offers nothing but quotes from the Bible. That seems to be drawn from the stereotype that people who disagree have no rational basis to what they believe and offer nothing but Bible quotes. The main character in the movie also apparently hasn't realized he was gay all long until some later moment in his life, leading to a question-begging situation, which I'm assuming from your review was never analyzed in any meaningful detail. Now that this man sees he's gay, is he going to try to become part of a gay relationship? Would that be an actual change in who he is, or being honest with who he was all along? Would deciding between one or the other option in that question, in fact, be a choice? Tell me if I'm wrong, but from your review it seems that the movie just prefers to hammer its stereotypes in a subtle way instead of in a blunt one.

If some visitor from an alien planet were to come down to Earth, only having known our culture from our movies and our television shows, he would think the devout evangelical Christians, who actually make up a small percentage of the country, are the biggest problem in our society today. After seeing "Easy A," he would think that high schools across the country are plagued by mean, two-dimensional bible-thumpers who won't leave people alone, and that the students are all social conservatives and care about things like abstinence. After seeing "Glee," he would think that Chastity Clubs are the biggest problem in high school and that jocks that bully gay kids are influenced by religion. And then, if he were to see "The Wise Kids," he would probably think it was safe to surmise that this film was somehow represented a microcosm of America: that the whole country was comparable to a Baptist community that is struggling with the existence of some people being gay; and that the country is afraid to admit gay people exist.

If you don't exclude movies and television from our culture, though, one would easily see that those who preach and prosthelytize the most are those who write these type of movies; those who set up religious Christians, not gay people, as a negative moral example. Sometimes that is dealt with in a blunt way, like on shows like "Glee," and other times its done in a gentle way, that give people who share the faith the feeling that they are caring and concerned about the people they stereotype. But the fact is that none of the people who actually identify with the group portrayed are impressed by this; and in fact, consider it patronizing. They're curious how they have any power over how any young people think, given that most children today are raised by the television and movies that preach in the opposite direction, and classrooms that teach things opposite to their beliefs.

In fact, they're curious why anybody worries about their opinions at all.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

Latest blog posts

Latest reviews

MoviePass, MovieCrash
The Beach Boys


comments powered by Disqus