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March 15th, 2018

Please…No More Doomed Gay Couples…Okay?

Call Me By Your Name DVDs are for sale now, and I’m not at all sure anymore that I want to see this movie. So, like Brokeback Mountain I may end up giving it a pass.

Like Brokeback, and frustratingly, once again we have the tragically doomed homosexual relationship. A tale as old as time you might say. Or as old as Hollywood at any rate. As far as we’ve come and we still get told our love affairs are doomed. But that’s not the worst of it, at least for me. Spoiler Ahead for those who haven’t already seen the movie or read any of the reviews that go into Timothée Chalamet’s stunning performance, particularly in the final scene.

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Time has passed, and Oliver has told Elio over the phone that he’s getting married. To a woman (the story is set in 1983). So the last scene is the poor kid sitting in front of the household fireplace crying but still trying to keep his shit together while the rest of the family goes on about their business behind him. His first love dumped him, not so much for a woman as for respectability. So really…what was he to Oliver?

Just…a little too close to the bone. I just can’t watch this.

I don’t know that I can ever get to the point where I can watch this movie. I haven’t watched Brokeback either, though I did read the Annie Proulx short story. That was difficult enough. I’m not wanting some superficial junk food romance. I don’t want to be told sweet lies about the inevitability of love, or True Romance Comics stories of how perfect it is. It’s just as false. Heterosexuals get their tragedies, but also their triumphs, because their relationships are seen as legitimate, complex, multifaceted. Ours, as Vito Russo once said, are just about sex. What I’m seeing here is that even when Hollywood grasps that it’s more than that, it still can’t fathom it being more than a summer affair. Well at least it’s not the tire iron.

I have gay friends whose couplehood made it possible for most of my adult life to believe that it is even possible to have that kind of deeply felt, body and soul relationship, not just something I read once in a Mary Renault novel. But I’m in my middle 60s now and all I have to look back on is one strikeout after another after another after another, usually via the agency of some hostile third party that needed a righteousness boost. But I can at least live it vicariously in art, if not in life. It gives me a reason to keep getting out of bed and contributing, in a small way, to the work I do at Space Telescope. It allows me to keep pursuing my little efforts at art while sitting at the drafting table, or walking about with my cameras. But the suspicion keeps nagging at me: what does it really matter? Was I really the kid that was never meant to be born? Is this why I always feel like I’m on the outside of life looking in? I don’t need to be told love fails, my entire life keeps telling me that every waking moment of my day. I need art that reminds me the struggle is worth it, even so.

I don’t think anybody who knows me knows how badly I need those reminders. 

Maybe when I’m ready to watch Brokeback I’ll watch this one. In the meantime what I’ve read of the father’s speech was good. I’ll keep that much of it.

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