Week 7: Cruising

This week’s reading was about the production and reception of Cruising. Initially the film was met with much opposition from the gay community. It was seen as cinema that would perpetuate and support hatred and violence against gays (Guthman). What I found interesting was that this resistance caused a lack of character development. With the creators afraid to delve deeper, specifically into the main character’s psyche, the film lacks a lot of reflection or exploration. In attempting to not upset the community it intends to depict, the film therefore became diluted. Not to mention his altering of the ending murder, which is intentionally ambiguous so as to not implicate a possible member of the queer community. Guthman suggests that this is to distance the gay community from the notion of inflicting true violence. On the other hand, Wilson asserts that director, William Friedkin, did so out of his own lack of resolution and confidence to stand against protesters, attempting to appease everyone in the process. Nevertheless, the altering of scripts and characterizations continued. Friedkin even went as far as to place a disclaimer in the beginning of the film, clarifying that the film only represents a segment of queer society and is not reflective of the greater whole (Wilson). Even so, the film was criticized and vehemently opposed.

This opposition is particularly intriguing as it comes from people who hadn’t even seen the film yet. Defending their community, they jumped to defeat any misrepresentations and negative portrayals. But I wonder if opinions of the film would have been different had they waited to see it before protesting. Maybe the topic would have been more clearly represented. On the other hand, I definitely think the queer communities relentless presence during the films production protected the content, at the very least halting it from straying into severe homophobia. This is not to say, the film does not have its faults considering it was produced in what is still a strongly heteronormative industry.

I think the greater issue resides not only in Cruising’s queer representations, but in its proposition of censorship issues in regards to queer content. Guthman seems to advocate for the idea that the public (specifically the queer public and its allies) should be at the forefront asking and asserting for such changes. Meanwhile, Wilson claims that it isn’t so much the public’s job, but one of the state and media controllers. Maybe, when looking towards future endeavors, the effort for just representation is a combination of the two. I think there is a need for the power which larger entities have in enforcing equality, but there is also a vital need for the passion and direct involvement/experiences which the public provides. Overall, a societal effort is needed to correct queer misrepresentation, putting just depictions in its place.

Works Cited:

Wilson, Alexander. “Friedkin’s Cruising, Ghetto Politics, and Gay Sexuality.” Social Text. Number 4 (1981): 98–109.

Guthmann, Edward. “The Cruising Controversy: William Friedkin vs the Gay Community.” Cineaste. Volume 10, Number 3 (1980): 2–8.


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