Friday, June 12, 2009

Know your lgbt history - Cruising

Just what can I say about this monstrosity when everything else has been said.

I think I have it. Cruising is the worse anti-gay movie I have ever seen. It goes beyond offensive. There is actually an aura of sleaziness that so permeates this movie that if, after watching it, you were dipped in quick dissolving acid and your remains were sprinkled with lime, you still wouldn't be able to get rid of the essence of filth that comes from watching this movie.

Cruising tells the story of a New York City police officer(Al Pacino) who infiltrates the so-called sadomaschistic world of homosexuality in order to find a serial killer of gay men. And this serial killer doesn't just kill gay men, he butchers them slowly and painfully (a point driven unnecessarily by the first murder scene.)

There are no redeeming qualities to this movie. The gay characters are from the pit of a joint fantasy by Peter LaBarbera, Lou Sheldon, Matt Barber, and Donald Wildmon. They are pathetic individuals who, when not being murdered, are either immersing themselves in vile festishes or being intimidated into having sex with police officers.

Even the ending stinks. After Pacino's character finds the killer, we are led to believe that he is taking up the mantle of murder because he can't deal with the idea that he himself might be gay.

Of course the lgbt community raised holy hell when Cruising came out. It was a bomb for that reason and others (the movie just plain sucks).

This scene epitomizes just how bad Cruising is. It's not work safe. I don't know what's worse about this scene; the fact that is dehumanizes gay men, the fact that none of the men in the scene can dance, or the fact that you just know that none of the men are wearing deodorant.

Bookmark and Share


Charles said...

I have never seen the movie and don't want to see the movie. From what I have read about the movie the gay community at the time it was being shot in New York did not like it. They disrupted the production.

Марко Фризия said...

This film was on the other night. It was on one of the pay channels (HBO or Showtime I think). I had never seen it before and I didn't know or remember anything about the controversy about the film. It was depressing and horribly violent. And sadly, I imagine some people at the time thought this film was a "standard depiction" of "gay life." What horrible stereotypes (a gay man getting fisted in a sling in a bar, drugs, promiscuity, etc.)! This film came out when I was 16. I was dealing with "coming out" issues and I was traumatized enough by Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell without adding this film to this mix. There was a disclaimer at the beginning of the film saying the movie was not intended to be descriptive of all gay people. I am glad there are now many wonderful gay themed films (internationally) now and we have more than "Cruising" and "The Boys in the Band" to choose from. Here is an article offering a cultural re-examination of "Cruising":
I also realized that the gay men in this film had no sense of community, no altruism. And that selfishness and atomized existence really bothered me.

Bill S said...

Your line about deodorent cracked me up-sometimes, when I'm watching a movie, I'll be able to smell something (sense memory?) like alchohol, tobacco, etc.; and watching this scene, I do get o strong whiff of body funk. I think the worst thing about that scene is that it's still the best one in the movie. Which gives you an idea of how bad it is.


Don't look now, but a lot of contemporary Gay porn movies have fisting, rape and other degrading scenes not unlike what was seen in Cruising. And if you criticize or condemn them, you are accused of being "politically correct". I strongly suspect that nowadays, edgy entertainment-loving LGBT folk would watch Cruising and proclaim it a revolutionary Gay film.

BlackTsunami said...

Two things - a lot of heterosexual porn films contain those things also. Just wanted to make that clear so no one thinks that only gay porn films contain those things.

Secondly, I would have to totally disagree with you there. I strongly suspect that many lgbts nowadays would look at Cruising like a relic and not feel the same sense of anger that many lgbts back then felt. But I think that very few would call it edgy. They would see it as it is - a mean spirited unfair denouncement of gay men.

Anonymous said...

I read the book...and like many books at the time it was meant to be provocative...I know that there was alot of protests by several groups, it's not that different than the myriad of books, films, etc. depicting brutal horrific murders of women...on Lifetime.

Kelly Hogaboom said...

I just found this article vis-a-vis an article at Scott Clevenger's blog.

Have you heard of or seen The Celluloid Closet? I thought it was such and interesting film. And even though the documentary discusses many films, I remember being very shocked and disgusted by what I was seeing in the clips of Cruising. So many gay men and women have been abused, degraded, tortured and murdered in films and many of these films have exploited this as grossly as they can, sometimes broadly hinting these people deserved it.

Thanks for the article.

BlackTsunami said...

Hi Kelly.

Yes I am very familiar with the movie The Celluloid Closet. And I read the book ;p

Both were the inspiration for Know Your LGBT History.

Kelly Hogaboom said...

I figured since you had such an extensive body of work in writing about films, that you'd likely heard of it.

Thank you for telling me about the book! I was not aware that was the source material. I just put it in my library queue.

I appreciate articles like yours to form a historical perspective. Often in discussions about things like this I hear people claim such-and-such "isn't that offensive" or "shouldn't be a big deal". Which kind of makes me crazy because it seems those people are (willfully or no) ignorant of history.


BlackTsunami said...

thanks for your compliments Kelly ;p

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of the movie in a way. I agree about much of its horror and sad story, but, like Friedkin's other story of internalized homophobia - "The Boys in the Band", it reflects the times and external perceptions of our Gay fathers and grandfathers.
But, I didn't know it was in some ways a documentary. This puts a whole new spin on it for me.
Check out:
From the website and presskit:
"Cruising," ...written for the screen and directed by William Friedkin, is a murder mystery based on a series of brutal killings of homosexuals which took place in New York City from 1962 to 1979. William Friedkin's original screenplay, based upon Gerald Walker's 1970 novel Cruising is patterned after actual crimes. Characters and events have been drawn from the files of the Homicide Division of the New York City Police Department, the Medical Examiner of the City of New York, the District Attorney's office, and from the documented experiences of undercover police assigned to track down the killers.
The backgrounds for the actual- slayings- and for-.'the film are the S&M heavy-leather bars and sex clubs clustered along the waterfront of the West Village and the Central Park cruising area known as the Rambles.
Veteran New York City police officers Randy Jurgensen and Sonny Grosso, who served as technical advisers on "The French Connection," collaborated with Friedkin again to assure the authenticity of dialogue, locations and events.
... While the action in "Cruising" is patterned after a variety of crimes which took place over the course of nearly two decades, Al Pacino's portrayal of Steve Burns closely parallels the experiences of Randy Jurgensen in his undercover assignment.

Sage said...

I was going through your wonderful archival repository here Alvin in the equally wonderful "Know your LGBT history" and came upon this clearly titillating entry.

When this film came out in 1980, I was a seminary student studying for the priesthood in Northeastern Iowa. Five years later, after having graduated from the seminary and also doing a bit of time in the monastic cloister as a catholic monk, I was living La Dolce Vita in Chicago as a proud openly gay man who was finally free to enjoy everything I had been denied while studying for the priesthood.

I made friends with another ex-seminarian. We became inseparable. We were not lovers. It was simply a very wonderful friendship. One night this friend dared me to accompany him to what was then the premiere hardcore leather bar in Chicago--Touche'. I took him up on the dare. Again, this was in 1985. Tocuhe' had a famous/infamous "backroom." We both nervously entered the backroom. From this initial experience I can tell you that this clip that is accompanying your narrative Alvin, is 100% accurate in terms of what I witnessed at Touche' that night. In fact, the scene in the movie is tamer.

Several years later I entered the gay BDSM/Leather/Fetish community full force myself. I was an active member in the community for many years. It is a very misunderstood sub-community in the LGBT communities. I have no need to act as an apologist nor defender of it here in this context however. I left the community 3 years ago because I no longer found my personal values to be in alignment with what I view as the values of the community. I still however, have many friends and associates who are actively involved. Things have not changed that terribly much in the community, even though HIV/AIDS is far more prominent than it was in 1985. In my farewell to the community in 2008, I embarked on a worldwide tour visiting BDSM friends in the community who lived in NYC, London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Belgium and France. In each city and country in 2008, one could still easily find scenes extremely similar to the one in the 1980 "fictionalized" clip--except with heavy condom and other protective gear usage.

The rallying cry of the entire BDSM community including its straight and lesbian and trans counterparts is "Safe, Sane and consensual." I can honestly tell you as someone who was intimately involved in the community for many years, the vast majority of the people in the community take this call very seriously. The gay, male BDSM community was hit harder than any other sub-community of the LGBT communities in the first 15 years of the pandemic than all other sub-communities combined.

I am glad "anonymous" spoke of the documentary element of "Cruising." I always knew about that and it is an important aspect of this film that has been conveniently forgotten over the 30+ years since its release. Part of the reason this film was so maligned in elements of the LGBT community when it was was released was because it was released during the beginning of the Reagan era. This was a time when the LGBT community was very preoccupied with assimilation. And all of the elements of the community that were deemed a threat to middle American acceptance of us--flamboyant drag queens, transgender girls, openly effeminate gayboys and men, leatherfolk, people living with AIDS, radical faeries--were all vilified because of the conservative agenda of "upstanding" gays of the times to "fit in." The time period in which this film was made was an extremely tumultuous time for the LGBT community. This film cannot accurately be assessed without examining the contextual and historical backdrop of the times in which it was made. There are still some dramatic homophobic/heterosexist elements to the film that cannot be denied. However, when examined through the proper lenses, I believe this film becomes far less problematic than most want to believe.