Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Line of Beauty

Ron and I saw The Line of Beauty the other night. It's a three-part mini-series that had been offered on the BBC. We saw it through NetFlix, one of the greatest inventions in the world.

It's the story of Nick Guest, a gay grad student, who is befriended by (a very straight) Toby Fedden, the son of a rich family and the child of an ambitious father who's a member of Parliament. Nick is from the middle class, and is awed by the extravagance of the Fedden household. He quickly becomes part of the household.

So it sounds very much like some other British dramas, but the denouement here is painful to watch as Nick gets undone. It's the Icarus story. But it's a type of hubris that could easily be walked into. Were I Nick, I'm not sure that I would have done anything differently than he.

The most shocking part of the story is the absolute stigmatization of Nick's homosexuality. Throughout the drama, Nick has to account for the closetedness of others, and in fact as a gay man, I cut a lot of slack to other gay men who are closeted. But then, in the end, we're accused of being deceitful, dishonest because we either kept it a secret, or kept someone else's secret.

Of course, the people who accuse Nick of this dishonesty don't want to know he is gay or if they do, they don't want it to be known. Nick, and gay people generally, are forced to collude in this ugly secret, ugly only because straight people persist in stigmatizing homosexuality as degrading, unnatural, perverted, whatever - and because straight people are held captive to this belief, a belief not supported by fact, a belief that is false on its face.

So in the tale, Wani dies of AIDS and to the very end cannot tell his Lebanese Gazillionaire father that he is gay. Leo dies of AIDS and cannot tell his religious mother that he is gay. Gerald accuses Nick (and all homosexuals) of insinuating himself into his family just so he can destroy the family that he cannot have. This story sounds absurd, unreal. Except that it isn't. I know from my own experience that my straight friends don't quite "get" me because of my homosexuality. And I know that they do not value my relationships and my family in the same way that they expect me to value theirs. And I know that they think AIDS is a gay disease. And I know that they think I'm a fucking pervert.

And every gay man and every lesbian and every transgendered person and every bisexual need to get very, very angry. I flout my life so that if "they" (and here I'm being paranoid, but not really) ever come to get me, they'll have plenty of reason to.