Ever since Milk, we’ve been hotly anticipating the next major disappointment in gay cinema. This year, the great contender arrives, and we’re impatient and sweaty at the thought of it. It can be nothing if not a complete disaster, a two-hour long confusion of professional flaws with buried motives, a tender love story aborted at the moment of heat–
It’s self evident: Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar has us on tenterhooks.
For many reasons. There’s the promise of a sensitive and even interesting interpretation of transvestitism in the character of Hoover. His story introduces a rare imperative for Hollywood—cross dressing as a major plot point that can hardly be ignored or converted (as it usually is) into a punch line. To make a movie about J. Edgar Hoover is to be forced to take his transvestitism somewhat seriously—if only for five minutes. Which leaves us wondering, how will it be done? Will it be a fleeting moment—a suggestion—lace hems in the periphery of a shot, a flashback? Will it go the expected route and try to find ‘causes’ linking to some traumatic incident in his childhood? Most likely. Hollywood is a fan of ‘causes’. Or will it simply not make an issue of it at all, and treat it as a not especially important quirk nor a comic detail? And we can’t even imagine the level of taste or tastelessness which will accompany the gay subtext–or, with any luck, supertext–that must act as the inevitable accompaniment to the political story.
But none of this really matters. What’s more important is how Armie Hammer, the Adonis set to play Clyde Tolson, will be used. As in, will he be completely wasted? Some muted sex scenes in the dark, a la Milk, and then a chaste kiss in daylight? Or will Clint—and Hollywood—surprise us, and open the floodgates of Sodom? It’s anyone’s guess. Whatever it is, disappointment or godsend, how can we not be preemptively obsessed with it?
So do your worst, Dirty Harry. Do your worst.