While Friedkin’s adaptation of The Boys in the Band hit the big screen in 1970, a year after the revolutionary Stonewall Riots and the formation of the gay liberation front, the original play, written by Matt Crowley, opened earlier. The play launched a year prior to the aforementioned, displaying the daring choice to present to an American audience which was not so accepting of the LGBT community. Just two year later, however, at the birth of gay rights, I highly doubt the law discouraged the populations’ homophobic views, making Friedkin’s version equally courageous. In my opinion, this makes both pieces integral to LGBT history.
However, many would disagree.
Upon watching the film in the late 21st century, on one hand, I understand why people would do so. It enforces a selection of stereotypical gay characters. To name a couple, Emory (Cliff Gorman), being the most notable, plays a camp queen who is outrageously effeminate whereas Michael (Kenneth Nelson) plays a self-loathing and self-conscious homosexual who is undergoing psychoanalysis for the shame he feels for his sexual orientation.
On the other hand, the viewer must take into account that this play and film were shown at a time when gay and lesbian characters were only used on television as fetishized objects subject to mockery and derision. They were solely used as jesters on the side-line to entertain the kings and queens that were (and are still) so prevalent on mainstream media.
Friedkin’s adaptation ridiculed that. At a time when all gay men were homogenised as flamboyant, effeminate and sensitive, The Boys in the Band displayed a variety of different homosexuals, where gay men watching could at least identify with one of the characters.
When watching this film, watch it with the release date in mind, then only will you understand how monumental it may have been for many young gay men to see respectable gay protagonists portrayed in mainstream media.
The Boys in The Band
director WILLIAM FRIEDKIN
director of photography ARTHUR J. ORNITZ
cast KENNETH NELSON, LEONARD FREY, CLIFF GORMAN, LAURENCE LUCKINBILL and FREDERICK COMBS
words PRIYESH PATEL
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