Bil Browning

Who can you name?

Filed By Bil Browning | November 12, 2007 12:20 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: African-American, Latino, movies, Rod McCullom, stereotypes

Good friend Rod McCullom has an article at AfterElton.com today about gay African-American and Latino roles in the movies that is definitely worth a read.

2007 has not exactly been a banner year for the portrayal of gay characters on the silver screen in the U.S. Indeed, the small screen has become the go-to medium for quality gay characters, from the wonderful array of portrayals on Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters to the budding gay teen romance on As the World Turns. But if there is a relative drought of mainstream gay characters in film, the current landscape for big-screen presentations of black and Latino gay characters is practically barren. In fact, except for the upcoming release of Maurice Jamal’s Dirty Laundry, “it’s barely a landscape,” notes veteran television producer Kevin E. Taylor. “It’s a window garden at best.”

So that got me thinking, what movie characters could I think of that were openly gay and African-American or Latino? Um, yeah. Not so much... Hollywood from Mannequin was about it. (While I realize he's hideously stereotypical, he still remains one of my favorite queer characters. I watched that movie over and over just for him. In fact, I did store window design for several years right out of college and thought of him often.) Does Kiss of the Spider Woman count? How about you? Before reading the article, how many characters can you name off the top of your head?


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None that are prominent figures in cinema. It would help if gay Hispanics and blacks decided to stop pandering to their nigh theocratic communities and came out of the closet.

Wow. I've never been accused of "pandering to my nigh theocratic community" before. That's definitely a new one.

We're out of the closet, Lucrece, and we're doin' quite fine. Actually, this recent study, the only one on the subject, says that latino gay men are more likely to be out than white ones.

Don't worry, we don't have any plans to take on your eternally backwards leaders and uncivilized culture and make them as advanced as we are.... But please, ask your other gay, white friends to stop pandering to their leaders like Fred Phelps and James Dobson and come out of the closet!

Sorry I can't give you the character names but I can tell you some movies that included them:

Philadelphia (Latino)
As Good As It Gets (African American)
To Wong Foo (Latino and African American)
Rent (African American)
Broken Hearts Club (African American)
Birdcage (Latino implied, even though the actor wasn't)

And two feature length films from this past weekends LGBT festival:
Itty Bitty Titty Committee
East Side Story
The former had a Latina character, the later focused on homosexuality in the Latino community.

It’s really hard to get mad at you for that comment, Lucrece. "Stop pandering to their nigh theocratic communities" sounds like a phrase that Paris Hilton would trademark. That's hot!

Boston Butch | November 12, 2007 1:44 PM

A film from the late 70s, Paul Mazurky's Next Stop Greenwich Village. The African-American gay character, named Bernstein. (Shelly Winters the young Christophen Walken and Jeff Goldblum are in this film!)

Also, more recently, Saving Face, which made the rounds of the LGBT film festivals, featuring two Chinese-American lesbian characters in the lead.

I completely forgot about To Wong Foo, Kevin. But you have to admit, they were stereotypical gay mean. After all, all gay men are drag queens, right? And I was always a little confused by the movie - were they supposed to be drag queens or actually transgender? They never really were "men" at all which would lead one to transgender...

Alex, it is not nice to take words out of context. It is plain obvious that I was referring to closeted Hispanics and blacks.

As for your presented study, it is hardly representative of the Latino community. I doubt they properly sampled most of South America. If you'd bother to come down to Cuban-American Miami, Kendall, and Doral, the situation you would see is quite different.

It also seems you have more of a short-term memory, seeing how you quickly forgot previous arguments we had were it was obvious I'm Hispanic, of over 17 years living in South America, not your merely Hispanic-by-blood, American-born, Spanglish speaking Hispanic. Assumptions about identity are fun to you, though, aren't they?

Also, just to clear up some ignorance: There is no distinction between Hispanic and white/black. Hispanic is not a race category; it is an ETHNICITY category. Now that we got that tired old bit of MSM misinformation out of the way, let's move on.

Since no one has mentioned it yet, I get credit for naming this one:

No one less than Will Smith played a gay black man, Paul, who claimed to be Sidney Poitier's son in Six Degrees of Separation (1993, also starred Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing). Channing walks in on him while he is apparently getting head from a white guy who turns out to be his NYC street trick (and then does a full monty scene --- the trick, not Big Willie). Then Sutherland and Channing do some background checking and find that Poitier's children are all daughters and Paul is a fake --- albeit a harmless, lovable fake.

Here's the movie info at imdb.com

(Rumor has it that Denzel Washington advised Smith that doing the role would be career suicide ... and that shows what Denzel knows about modern Hollywood.)

I don't see Isaiah Washington's role on Spike Lee's "Get on the Bus". And anything Rupaul's done, like the gay counselor in "But I'm a Cheerleader".

None that are prominent figures in cinema.

... commented Lucrece. In contrast, the list by Kevin F. includes roles played by: Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., James L. Martin, and then I added Will Smith.

If these men aren't "prominent figures in cinema" try inviting them to your next party and (if they show --- Good Luck!) see what buzz it generates.

P.S. Another movie to name: The Wedding Banquet in which the groom was a Chinese-American gay man.

Of those you mentioned, A.J., which were not superficial representations, present in mainstream American film culture, and did not possess a downplayed role, where any male on male action or expression was thrown out without caution. I'll find you hard-pressed to say any of those, with the exception of Antonio Banderas in Almodovar's films, which are more of a cult following than anything else. As for leading, complex, and majorly important gay characters that are not kept low-key, I don't see any major actor playing a fully expressive and well-rounded gay male character.