Roland Emmerich has been explaining his reasoning for having a white, cisgender lead in his Stonewall movie, responding to criticism that the film whitewashes the real-life importance of people of color and trans people to the 1969 riots.
However, his comments to Buzzfeed are more likely to further anger those railed against him than to mollify them.
He says, “You have to understand one thing: I didn’t make this movie only for gay people, I made it also for straight people. I kind of found out, in the testing process, that actually, for straight people, [Danny] is a very easy in. Danny’s very straight-acting. He gets mistreated because of that. [Straight audiences] can feel for him.”
Perhaps even more problematic is that the articles notes. ‘Emmerich, for his part, thinks that Ray and the other street hustlers benefit from Danny’s presence, even after Danny leaves the Village to begin his freshman year at Columbia. “They learned something from Danny — that you can make it, that you can study, you can maybe have a more regular life,” Emmerich said. “I also don’t have the feeling at the end that they are so much on the streets anymore.”’
Well it’s nice that in Emmerich’s world, the lessons of assimilation and an oddly imperialist attitude are alive and well, and it’s not even worth suggesting that if the ‘street’ people can learn something from Danny, he should probably be learning an awful lot more from them.
However it does seem the gay director is perhaps reflecting his own conflicted attitudes, which he’s then transferring onto the whole LGBT community. He says, “When a gay person is attracted to somebody, that doesn’t mean that they love somebody. That doesn’t mean that he gets loved back. Even me, all my life, I would love somebody, and that person would be … straight, and he couldn’t love me back. Or he was not as courageous, maybe, as I was, in fulfilling sexual needs. There’s a lot of people who are just afraid of society and how they get ostracized.”
It’s a strange attitude, which seems to want to be as close to straight as possible, while also rejecting it – or at least accusing people who don’t share what he wants as not being ‘corageous’ enough to go against societal norms.
I’ve been advocating sitting on the fence about Stonewall, as much of the anger started being vented before anyone had seen the film. However while I still haven’t viewed the movie, I’m starting to accept Emmerich wasn’t the man to handle the tale, as the more he talks, the more problematic his views (which get extremely close to self-hating) seem.
Unfortunately though, when he talks about having a ‘straight-acting’ lead as a east ‘in’, he’s reflecting the perceived economic realities in Hollywood (that’s not to say it’s right, but it is how it’s seen by far more than just Emmerich), if they’re hoping for mainstream success. It is sadly true that it’s incredibly difficult to get anything made that reflects true diversity if you want more than a micro-budget, as fearful money men won’t stump up the cash, whether they have any right to be fearful or not. On this score, Stonewall is more symptom than cause.