It was not that long ago that you never saw gay kissing in the media. But the times they have a’changed and now it’s even common to see straight people, typically those in the entertainment industry, enthusiastically same sex kissing each other for the cameras.
The most recent example of this occurred at the Critics’ Choice Awards on 17 January where Christian Bale made out – “twice (!)” as some outlets breathlessly expressed it – with Adam McKay, who directed Bale in The Big Short. Bale also pashed the movie’s screenwriter Charles Randolph at the same event. For the record Bale, McKay and Randolph are all married, to women.
Bale had won Best Actor in a Comedy and in his acceptance speech he explained their PDA – “We all really got to know each other very well on this film”. “That’s collaborative love between Christian and I,” McKay elaborated when the film picked up a Best Comedy prize. “Don’t judge it! It’s what fuels movies like this.”
Cole Delbyck, an entertainment writer for Huffington Post did, however, have an opinion. “We don’t judge the “love” between you two, McKay. We judge you for trying to make a gag out of two men kissing.”
I also find them guilty – guilty of “same sex stunt kissing”. These weren’t spontaneous kisses that came from a sense of camaraderie or celebration between men comfortable enough in their heterosexuality to plant one on another guy. They were done consciously and for attention. The Big Short is up for several Oscars, including awards for directing and writing. They need the press and same sex stunt kissing gets press.
The men kissing at the Critics Choice Awards all knew that the sight of straight guys passionately kissing each other would be shocking enough to draw eyeballs, but acceptable enough not to cause them bad publicity. Best of all, there was no risk to their heterosexual reputations because everybody knows they were just wearing gayness like a costume.
Usually it’s women engaging in this sort of behaviour. One of the more famous incidents came at the 2003 VMAs where Madonna frenched both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. A few years later Katy Perry made her career off the back of I Kissed A Girl and I Liked It, even though her love life indicates she doesn’t.
But these are just people showing off, right? And doesn’t same sex stunt kissing actually help us by making it look respectable?
No, in fact it does just the opposite. As Delbyck noted, this type of behaviour reduces same sex kissing to a gag. I’d go further and say it reduces it to a freak show, it reduces US to a freak show.
The costume analogy I made earlier is an apt one because after those stunt kisses Christian Bale, Adam McKay and Charles Randolph all threw off their “gay attire” and went home to their wives and their lives – their straight lives, with all the privileges that affords them. They won’t get fired for being gay, they didn’t have to fight just to get married to the one they love, when they kiss their spouse in public they’re not risking rebuke or worse, violence and death. If gay men had kissed passionately like that there would be complaints, even today, that they were throwing their sexuality in the audience’s face. But this kind of sideshow – it’s just a bit of fun.
But there’s an even more sinister unspoken message being communicated here. When straight people same sex stunt kiss they’re actually telling the world that you can choose to be gay. “They’re not really that way” people will be saying to each other in their living rooms. “They just chose to kiss another guy in a romantic way”.
Is that a tenuous link to make? Perhaps. But insidiousness isn’t always obvious and mockery can come from the unlikeliest sources – even from straight men who probably thought they were doing “the gays” a service by engaging in some man on man action.
In ONE MILLION DOMS Dominic Sheehan comments about political stuff. Yes, the title is a parody of One Million Moms. Yes, he has kissed many men. Yes, he liked it.