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June 13, 2008
When the BBC says LGBT, they mean it
June releases cover every letter of our alphabet soup, even Q, A and I
BBC Home Video knows what you want, baby, and they’re giving it to you all month long.
No, the British Broadcasting Corp.’s consumer product arm is not getting into porn or “marital aids.” They have noticed that June is Pride Month, and have a slate of DVD releases that should whip the LGBT community into a frenzy. And when the BBC says “LGBT,” they mean every letter of it.
Taking those letters in that order, the first of these releases is Daphne, a biopic covering the years in writer Daphne Du Maurier’s life between the time her husband returned from World War II until she wrote the short story “The Birds.”
In that time, Daphne (Geraldine Somerville) met and fell in love with her American publisher’s wife, Ellen Doubleday (Elizabeth McGovern).
Ellen is everything Daphne is not--self-assured, free-spirited, and very American.
Daphne, on the other hand, is very reserved, very concerned with propriety. So, although she feels like a “boy in a box,” and the very sight of Ellen makes her heart feel “like an 18-year-old boy again,” she is very circumspect in her dealings with her inamorata.
When she eventually does make her move, she is rebuffed, though in the kindest, gentlest way. Doubleday is no stranger to the “third sex,” and although she cannot love Daphne the way Du Maurier loves her, she keeps her close as a friend and offers her full validation.
Daphne later embarks on a relationship with a similarly vivacious, albeit British, actress, Gertrude Lawrence (Janet McTeer), who takes her fantasies and makes them flesh.
BBC Home Video then turns their eye on gay men with Tchaikovsky, a two-part docu-drama from 2007 hosted by conductor Charles Hazelwood.
In between Hazelwood’s narration and walking tour of locations from the composer’s life, Ed Stoppard portrays Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
As a young child, Pyotr was sent to a boarding school for potential civil servants in the czar’s government, sent there by his beloved mother, who died of cholera when he was 16.
Years later, Tchaikovsky himself died, with his brother Modest attributing his end to the same disease that took his mother. However, tongues were wagging, and suicide is the whisper making the rounds.
Did the composer believe that death was the only
way out for a gay man in an age when discovery
meant exile to
Perhaps the best of the slate of releases is The Buddha of Suburbia, the 1993 adaptation of Hanif Kureishi’s marvelous novel.
Kureishi deals extensively with sexual and ethnic
minorities in his work, as well as the class struggles
Much like My Beautiful Laundrette, an earlier adaptation of his work, The Buddha of Suburbia deals with a young South Asian, Karim Amir (Naveen Andrews). He’s a British-born young man, with a Pakistani father (Roshan Seth) and a white mother (Brenda Blethyn).
Despite being Muslim, his father is presenting himself as a Buddhist guru, while carrying on an affair with curvaceous dilettante Eva (Susan Fleetwood), whose son Charlie (Steven Mackintosh) is about Karim’s age.
Karim is in love with Charlie, an attraction that leads him hither and yon either to please or to spite the white boy, depending on the state of their relationship at the time.
Along the course of the four-hour miniseries, Karim beds many a person, but seldom really gives of himself. He reaches pinnacles of success, never really knowing what it is he wants to do or wants to be.
Kureishi’s writing is incredible, as is the cast assembled by director Roger Mitchell. The soundtrack, replete with period songs from the early 1970s through the end of the decade, adds a voluptuous quality that is difficult to qualify or quantify.
That brings us to the T, which, in a month commemorating the Stonewall riots, is the most important letter in the alphabet soup that is our community.
It would be difficult to transition in 1945’s Britain, and 1880s Russia was not the place to try on a frock if you were possessed of a penis. The glam rock that suffused much of Buddha of Suburbia lent itself more to messing about with gender roles, but in the end, it was the drag queens and transsexuals at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 that sparked the LGBT civil rights movement.
Not coincidentally, the next Pride Month release from BBC Home Video is Stonewall, director Nigel Finch’s final film. While it marked the end of his career (he died in 1995 from AIDS), it marked out actor Guillermo Diaz’ rise to fame.
Diaz plays La Miranda, a Puerto Rican transvestite who hangs out with her friends at the Stonewall Inn, occasionally breaking out into Bollywood-esque lip-syncing numbers.
When she meets Matty Dean, an overeducated country boy new to the city, she takes him under her wing, even helping him get bailed out when the bar is raided by the cops.
The two feel those first stirrings of love, but Matty is also being pulled by the assimilationist forces of the Mattachine Society, whose goals of acceptance for gay folk are noble, but their insistence on a non-threatening face for the movement marginalize La Miranda and her friends.
The film climaxes with that dark day in 1969 when Judy Garland lay dead, and that bright night when a drag queen stood up and said, “No more.”
Of course, there are other letters that often get tossed into the mix--A for allies, I for intersex, Q for queer or questioning or both.
In the interest of full inclusion, the BBC also released Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Everything, a boxed set with every season of the seminal comedy and every special, along with outtakes, bloopers, the sketch that spawned the show and two additional pieces from French and Saunders.
It’s massive, and among those nine discs are just about every gradation and permutation of queer that one could imagine. Patsy alone covers half the alphabet, having undergone gender reassignment, dating men and women, practically being married to Edwina.
Saffron only once makes her mother Eddy happy, when she lies and says she’s lesbian. Interestingly enough, while Edwina would be happy with a lesbian daughter, she doesn’t seem as pleased with her gay ex-husband and his partner.
For fans of the show, and that seems to be much of the gay community, this is the ultimate present to get yourself for Pride Month. The damned thing is even in a silver quilted jacket, just like Jennifer Saunders wore in an episode! What more could one ask for?