Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That…
Gosh darn it, but I liked In and Out (starring Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, and Tom Selleck). Sure, it’s kinda hokey and a little cliched, but Kevin Kline creates such a sweet character as a Midwestern schoolteacher so repressed that he doesn’t even realize he’s gay that I couldn’t help but love him. The film’s humor — though hilarious — is broad enough that its characters are almost caricatures, but it does make discrimination against gays look ridiculous. Of course, In and Out was preaching to the choir with me, and the yahoos that need a kick in the pants probably wouldn’t be caught dead with a ticket to this flick.
But I must ask: Is it just the over-the-top humor, or does In and Out really seem to imply that a man who is neat, sensitive, and sophisticated must be gay?
If I really believed this, I think I would have slit my wrists long ago. And yet, why do I find myself discussing this very possibility with fellow single females on a regular basis? Why does it seem that any man who knows how to dress himself with a little flair inevitably is a friend of Dorothy’s or is being dressed by his wife? Where did this idea come from, that any man with a little culture must be gay?
Manliness seems to have gotten redefined — by whom, I haven’t a clue — in the last 25 years or so. Real men don’t read poetry. Real men don’t express emotion. Real men don’t dance. Real men hoot at football games and chug beer and drive loud cars with air fresheners with half-naked chicks on them hanging from the rearview mirror.
Maybe straight men were feeling cornered. Gay men were suddenly announcing that they’re here and they’re queer from one side, and women were standing up and demanding to be heard, so men decided they need to regroup and redefine themselves as not-gay and not-women. So stereotypes somehow got assigned: straight men behave one way, and gay men behave another way (women were still a mystery).
So today, most men feel they have to tow the sexual-preference line. Straight men think they have to behave like macho boors lest they be considered “not real men.” Like there aren’t any NFL players who are gay. I’m sure openly gay men feel the same pressure to conform to the gay stereotype of the prissy, Barbra Streisand fan that In and Out perpetuates.
In fact, In and Out would have been a much braver movie if Kevin Kline’s character had come out as straight. All the sweet, gentle, sensitive men of the world need to stand up and say, We’re here and we’re not queer. And let’s hear it for all the beer-swillin’, football-lovin’ gay guys.