A friend and I went to see the film, A Single Man. The review said the story was about "inconsolable grief." We went to the 5pm showing on a week day and given the subject matter of inconsolable grief, I shouldn't have been surprised that we were two among four people in the audience. Also, the film is about gay lovers, and there are still many folks who think men kissing, even in their own bedroom, is so repugnant they obviously wouldn't be eager to pay ten dollars to see such a horror enacted in cinematic glory on the silver screen. Well, their misguided and fearful notions cause them to miss out on a brilliant experience. A Single Man is the best movie I've seen in ages, a poem of lyrical, astonishing beauty in scene after scene.
If you plan on seeing the film, I won't spoil it by saying anything more about the story, except that the screenplay is based on the Christopher Isherwood novel.
The production design is by the team who creates sets for the terrific TV series, Mad Men.
After the film was over, my friend and I sat there, rapt. I thought how wonderfully the theme(s) would add to my college Critical Thinking class curriculum; I might want to assign the novel and watch the movie with my students. I was thinking of the artistry, the beauty, the depth of thought and feeling in the film.
I mentioned my plan to my friend, who is also my colleague, who is also bisexual.
"Maybe not the best idea," he said.
"Why?" As soon as I asked the question, I realized the answer was the same as to why such a small audience for this film. Not the subject matter of grief, but that men are in love with men. Years ago, I wanted to use the story by Annie Proulx and the film, Brokeback Mountain, in my classes. For two previous semesters, I had used the screenplay and the film, The Laramie Project. It was relatively successful, but a lot of work on my part, getting the students to move past their fears (their silliness, their embarrassment, their hostility, their denial) regarding homosexuality. I abandoned the idea of using Brokeback Mountain.
I left the theater troubled by the fact that it's so difficult to use these works of art in a community college English classroom with its various population, including fearful communities of religious and conservative mind-set, or just dumb-downed brainwashing for generations. It's a despairing testament to the lack of progress we've made in the evolution of consciousness. Year after teaching year, it gets tiring pushing that same boulder up the same endless mountain. No wonder the title, Brokeback Mountain. The weight of repetitive thinking based on the same illusory fears breaks me.
I'm afraid, too, of the work it takes, of dealing with the conditioning and skewed logic, which I don't have much patience for anymore, afraid of suddenly blurting out in the middle of a classroom discussion that's been circling around the same dead conclusions, usually based on religion: "Oh for the love of God, Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Alpha and Omega, start thinking for yourself."
Like the battle over gay marriage. For Life's sake, let people marry each other. Is that so hard to allow? It's absolutely ridiculous, the absurd idea that somebody or some law gives adults permission to marry. Now, who has that authority, Kafka?
A Single Man is a beautiful film. I wish I could share the beauty with my students. Maybe next year I'll feel differently and not so weary of the heavy thick boulder of fear. Maybe the world will grow up a little more. Little by little. "All moves slowly in the soul."
I guess so.
Causes Susan Browne Supports
Run Together, A Race to Raise Money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society