In his article Friedkin’s Cruising, Ghetto Politcs and Gay Sexuality, Alexander Wilson analyzes the complex extratextuality of the film Cruising. Hundreds of gay men protested the filming of their film in a gay area of the West Village, but not all gay men agreed to boycott the film. Wilson writes, “The demonstrations against Cruising were the subject of considerable controversy within the gay community. More than 500 gay men were paid $50 a day- more if they appeared semi-nude or engaged in sex- to participate in the film as extras” (100). Wilson also includes the accounts of a few of these extras from the film in his article. One extra said, “The whole gay movement is about freedom of expression… All gay people are not the same. It’s important that people see this segment of gay life. We’re everywhere” (103). To support this exrtra’s views, Wilson argues, “Not surprisingly, the defensiveness of many of the extras in Cruising is couched in thre mystificatory terminology of ‘free speech’: ‘Even if Friedkin is doing an exploitation film, he has the right'” (101). The film clearly divided the gay community with some believing that not only does the director have the right to make this move, but that this was a sector of gay life (not a representation of all gay life) that needed to be shared, while some found the material offensive. Either way, it is important to understand that gay men, who at the time were well aware that their community was misunderstood and feared material that damaged their reputation, did not have a direct say in the film. Wilson notes, “What these arguments overlook is that the power to censor is not ours in the first place. It rests ion the hands of the State and those who control the media” (102). Today (well tensions are high between Hollywood and the State), the powers controlling the media are much more understanding of gay culture, the current most notable example of course being this year’s best picture. But, it is sometimes easy to overlook the struggle between gay communities and gay representation, because I did not grow up in a time when gay culture was misunderstood for the most part. It seems so simple, but the disclaimer put in place at the beginning of Cruising (the film is “not intended as an indictment of the homosexual world. It is set in one small segment of that world, which is not meant to be representative of the whole” (99)) is crucial to help naive audiences not view this as Homosexuality.
Wilson, Alexander. “Friedkin’s Cruising, Ghetto Politcs and Gay Sexuality.” Social Text 4 (1981): 98-109. JSTOR. Web.