This post is the latter.
I still haven't seen the movie "Milk." I've been meaning to for a while. In fact, I was in San Francisco when it debuted at the Castro Theater, although I didn't find out about that until the following morning, in the Chronicle. But last week, my boyfriend and I went downtown to one of (only) two theatres in metropolitan Washington that is screening the film. The woman in front of us in line got the last two tickets.
So I still haven't seen it. This weekend, I'm going to get there an hour and a half early, since 45 minutes isn't apparently enough. We weren't the only people turned away, either. I think the movie theater could make some more money with additional screenings, but supply and demand isn't the subject of this post.
Today's Washington Post ran with an article on that subject. It responds to the question that everyone in America, apparently, wants to know: what's it like to kiss a guy?
And the title of the article says it all: Why Can't A Kiss Just Be a Kiss?
James Franco has been fielding questions left and right about his on-screen kiss with Sean Penn in Milk. And after reading some of the questions, I agree with the writer. And I'm offended.
First off, I've never been a fan of Letterman. When I do watch late night television--and that's not often--I watch Leno. I always found Letterman to be in bad taste and quite uncomedic. I mean how desperate can you be for jokes when you have to resort to "will it float?" I'll make sure to steer clear from now on.
"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.
Well, yes, Mr. Letterman. I suppose an actor playing the role of a gay man would actually want to be good at it--that's what it means to be a good actor, to be good at portraying something you aren't. And what's wrong with that? Is James Franco suddenly to be shunned because he didn't vomit afterwards?
Mr. Letterman might have been making light of the situation the only way he knows how, but his tasteless jokes suggest something more. They suggest that there's something to be horrified about for any straight actor handling this situation.
The article's author, Hank Stuever, makes this point very poignantly.
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.
To put it in perspective for those of you who bat for the other team (after all that's how it appears from my dugout), the article entices the reader to think about how it must feel for those of us in the GLBT community:
"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."
And from personal experience, it is gross. I don't know why. It just is. It always has been. But I don't expect my heterosexual readers to agree with me. And that's fine.
Perhaps the most mature of comments I've heard on the topic come from (heterosexual) "Brokeback Mountain" star Jake Gyllenhaal, who talks about his on-screen kisses in "Brokeback" by saying it's "like doing a love scene with a woman I'm not particularly attracted to."
Exactly. At least one good thing's come out of all this:
I can finally stop saying to Letterman, "I wish I knew how to quit you."
I assure you, that won't be a problem anymore.