Ged Gillmore performed a social experiment on his mates. He took them to see a movie. While they all enjoyed it immensely, every one of them was annoyed.
It wasn’t my fault. It was Lauchie Belrose’s fault. Lauchie’s dad is a member of Sydney Cricket Ground, which means Lauchie was going to get five of us tickets to the third day of the fourth test against India. So, not just a day out with the lads, but a day out in the Members’ stand. Shade all afternoon, full-strength beer served in glass, lots of women, and hardly any queues, what’s not to love? You do have to wear a collar, but that’s an advantage I reckon because as soon as you start greying at the temples, you look better in a shirt than a t-shirt. (Trust me, I normally only see this group of mates when we surf together on a Saturday morning and all of them are looking better on this day than they ever do in trackies or a wetsuit.) Anyway, there we all are–Tom the Pom, Andrew, Mikey and me–hanging around at my place because it’s closest to the ground—when Lauchie turns up with a bad look on his face. He’s hardly through the door before he breaks the news.
“Dad’s using the tickets. Some sort of an emergency with an important client. He’s taken them and their wives out for the day to help sort it out.”
Tom, never a great one with bad news, swears loudly and looks around for something to kick (his own living-room has dents in all the walls) while the rest of us raise a collective groan.
“I’ve taken a day off work for this,” says Andrew, who’s really high up in something financial which none of us understand. “I’ve cancelled meetings with clients.”
“At least you’re still getting paid,” says Mikey, a kitchen fitter. ‘”’m down a couple of hundred bucks.”
Lauchie makes noises about his dad’s work crisis being really important and them having had an argument about it until Tom swears again. I try and move the conversation on.
“Well, what will we do instead then?”
A day in the pub is out, given three of us are on New Year’s detoxes and Lauchie doesn’t drink, with the italics whispered in a “know what I mean” kind of way. The ocean’s like a mill-pond, so there’s no point in getting our boards. And it’s too hot to do anything else. Twenty-eight degrees in the shade and only ten in the morning.
“What about a film?” I suggest. “The Chauvel’s just across the road. Come on, it’ll be cool at least. We’ll go and see a movie, then we can find somewhere for lunch and make the best of being dressed up.”
It was as I watched them talk themselves into it–or talk themselves out of all other options–that I thought of my little experiment. What was the worse that could happen? It would, at the very least, take the heat off Lauchie.
So ten minutes later we’re crossing the road (desperately ignoring a workman telling us what lucky buggers we are to be off to the cricket, have we heard the score, isn’t it going to be a great day of sport) and, then, paying our way into my local cinema.
“Pride,’” says Michael. “Never heard of it. It’s not an art-house movie is it?”
“It better not have subtitles, “says Andrew. “I hate subtitles.”
I just smile and shepherd them all into the dark auditorium.
You might not have heard of Pride either. I hadn’t heard of it myself until I read the story that US distributors have been criticised for removing all references to its gay storyline from any marketing. (The movie tells the story of the unlikely alliance between gay rights activists and striking coal miners in the UK in 1984.) Presumably the marketers were hoping the quality of the heavily-awarded film would win over audiences who wouldn’t normally consider going to see a ‘gay’ movie. I wanted to see if their approach made sense. Would four unsuspecting Aussie blokes be happy with the surprise?
Fast-forward three hours and we’re sitting in the new café on Coogee Beach. Andrew isn’t exactly shouting at me over his lunch, but he is pointing a chicken-leg aggressively.
“I can’t believe you took us to see a gay film!”
he says for the third time. The others are onto the stage of laughing about it. I ask Andrew if he enjoyed the movie.
“He cried through half it” says Tom. “And he clapped at the end.”
It’s true. There was spontaneous applause when the credits began to roll and we all joined in. I’ve not seen that in a cinema before.
“I’m Greek,” says Andrew. “We’re passionate. We cry at the football. But I still can’t believe you took us to see a gay movie.”
I tell them about the story of the US distributors and the accusations of dishonesty and homophobia. Ask them if they’d have gone to see it if they’d have known the storyline.
“Nah,” says Michael. “No way. It’s not like I’m gay.”
“Someone might see you going in there and get the wrong idea,” says Tom.
I ask him if he was worried about being spotted at Guardians of the Galaxy in case someone thought he was a man kidnapped by aliens and fighting to save the universe. This prompts a chorus of laughter and raised voices until a group of women at a nearby table look over at us with raised eyebrows. I don’t want the lads diverted so I say
“OK, how about this. Which of you went to see Brokeback Mountain?”
“That’s different.” Lauchlan this time. “Brokeback Mountain was the perfect date movie. It showed you were down with the gays and had a sensitive side. And, for some reason, women found it a real turn-on watching Jake Gyllenhall pash Heath Ledger. I saw it three times, did the trick every time.”
So would Pride be a good date movie?
They all do that funny thing with their mouths which means ‘no’ but they don’t want to say it.
“It is a great movie,” says Michael. “And I did really enjoy it. I mean, it’s inspirational, and yeah, I laughed a lot. But it’s not that. I let Michelle drag me to Brokeback Mountain because I knew it had all that scenery in it, you know I love the Rockies. And Ang Lee’s a good director. But Pride’s about old ladies as much as it is about anything gay.”
“That’s the gayest thing about it” agrees Andrew, his mouth half-full of chicken now. “All those cute little jokes, and the gay clubs, and the ‘winning them over with dance’ scene. It’s not exactly like there’s any sex scenes in it.”
And on this they all agree. It’s not any of them are anti-gay, it’s just they have a different sensibility (my word, not theirs) to the target audience of the movie. And yet, they all loved it. So, were the US marketers right to remove any gay references which might have deterred my friends from watching a film they all enjoyed? I don’t think so. Not because the action was homophobic, but more because the marketers are not saying on the label what’s contained in the tin. You lie about the film you’re selling and you’re in danger of your audience walking out soon after the film has started. And there can’t be much worse publicity for a film than that, can there? Although it would make a good news story I suppose, which means people would be more likely to write about it.
D’oh! Now I get it.
“You know’,”says Tom the Pom, not for the first time. “You are the dumbest smart person I know.”
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