Hollywood, as a powerhouse of entertainment, relies on viewership in order to expand and catalyze production. To secure viewership, Hollywood has developed a fascination with depicting controversial subjects. Although in the long run these depictions can skew the reality of the subject due to unorthodox presentations. Hollywood has given birth to the idea that “dumping on gays is still one of Hollywood’s liveliest sports” (Guthmann, 7) based on its cinematic trends and viewer feedback. This viewer feedback proved that, “general audiences find it easier to hate gay character’s” (Guthmann, 7) thus providing a selling point for their products. Rolling off the idea that Hollywood has the potential for such misrepresentations leads me to the belief that Fox and His Friends was a portrayal of Fassbinder’s hidden, perhaps reactionary intentions to the politics of the time. Its presentation of a retro gay world of stereotypes, its drift away from conventional melodrama and its down to earth, explicit nature provides space for the viewer to be critical and “challenge hegemonic social and sexual relations” (Wilson, 98). Although Fox and His Friends, a German film and not a direct product of Hollywood but that of German cinema, still attempts to counter global misrepresentations of the gay community and indeed does attempt to counter dominant ideologies. Fassbinder shedding light on the backstage of the life of gay men was an attempt to neutralize homosexuality. Although one cannot say that the same intention was evident in William Friedkin’s, Cruising he did indeed intend to sell, “one segment of that world (homosexual world), which is not meant to be representative of the whole” (Wilson, 99) through his narrative. While both films focused on similar content, they were treated completely differently upon production and release. Fox and His Friends received negative feedback on its overtly homosexual nature and failure to pay respect to the initiatives of gay activists, yet it was not followed by riots and demonstrations from its production phase till up and after its release like Cruising was.
My understanding of this is alluded to the fact the Fassbinder is a gay auteur of cinema and his experience as a gay man himself, helped shape certain aspects in the film appropriately, when advocating for such matters. On the other hand Friedkin is a straight, white male with different ideals and history in terms of experience with queer productions in the industry. The gay community believed that he would completely misrepresent gay life due to being a novice in this cinematic realm, which would lead to inexpert exploitation and potential objectification. This was only enforced when in the discourse of his film we encounter, “cops beating up gay suspects apparently as a matter of routine” (Wilson, 99). Shedding light on the oppressed and marginalized gay community and presenting it in such a fashion left the majority of gay spectators extremely aggravated, only enforcing their early allegations.
Guthmann makes an interesting point that in Western cinema, “coming out and being associated with gay projects are still great concerns” (Guthmann, 7). Therefore if the right, and by right I mean “credible individuals” are unable to rise to the occasion due to systematic oppression leads me to my next question, will we ever face a credible, worthwhile and societally accepted, cinematic product of gay nature?
Guthmann, Edward. The Cruising Controversy: William Friedkin vs. the Gay Community. Cineaste. Volume 10, Number 3 (Summer 1980): p.2 – p.8.
Wilson, Alexander. Friedkin’s Cruising, Ghetto Politics, and Gay Sexuality. Social Text. Number 4 (Autumn 1981): p.98 – p. 109.