Readers may recall my recent Pub post where I discussed gay romance film the ‘Weekend’, which was slated for release in theaters across Italy. Directed by Andrew Haigh, the character based drama revolves around the brief but intense weekend relationship between an art student (Glenn) and a part-time lifeguard (Russell). Unfortunately for those wishing to see the film, the Catholic Church owns the vast majority of theaters in Italy and their film evaluation committee deemed the film indecent and did not approve of its message. As a result, it was limited to only 10 screens.
Contrary to the claims made by the Catholic Church in their attempt to justify censoring the movie, the ‘Weekend’ was not about gay sex and drugs. Yes, there were scenes of drug use. Yes, there were scenes of sex. But if the Bishops thought sex and drugs were the themes of the movie, I really have to question their skills at evaluating what a film is about. An honest appraisal of the film would lead to the recognition that it involves two complex, multi-faceted gay characters (who happen to have sex and do drugs) struggling with their identities. Instead, the committee viewed the movie as a film about gay men having sex and doing drugs, and I suspect they treated those actions as defining traits of the characters. That does a disservice to all those involved in making this film because there was more to the film and the characters than sex and drugs.
To be sure, yes, many gay people enjoy sex and many gay people partake of drugs. But that’s not unique to members of the gay community. Heterosexual people like both as well, but they don’t find themselves defined by either. No, heterosexual people still get to be loving family members, productive members of society, people with intellect and skills, and more. They are viewed as people with a range of emotions and desires. In short, they are viewed with complexity. Meanwhile, gay people have our humanity stripped away by reducing us down to a collection of stereotypes. We’ve been told that we’re sexual deviants who are concerned only with the pleasures of the flesh. We’re not viewed as loving family members (indeed, we’re often viewed as if we aren’t part of families) or contributors to society. That contributes to the demonization and marginalization we face across the world. Characterizing us as deviant, abnormal or “the other” makes it all the easier to deny us the basic rights all humans are entitled to. Such efforts have been occurring for some time now, and the Catholic Church has been responsible for much of it, fighting a culture war against acceptance of gay people. You know, because god hates fags (oops, I’m mixing up my hate-filled religious organizations). Thankfully, in various parts of the world-the best efforts of the Catholic Church and other religious institutions aside-the perception of gay people has seen a progressive (if uneven) evolution. Many who previously saw us in a negative light, have come around to view us more favorably. While far stronger than I and many others would like, the cultural influence of the Church seems to be diminishing. And though the power of the Church in Italy was strong enough to almost completely censor ‘Weekend‘, it wasn’t enough to stifle interest in the movie. In fact, despite being banned in most of Italy’s theaters, the Nottingham-set film proved to be a surprise hit on the 10 screens it was shown on.