Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Gay Defence of The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game is a movie about a gay man. Naturally there is interest from gay audience as well as gay critics. Can it stand as its own story or must it represent a gay culture that is fast changing with both more gay rights in some countries and more gay persecution in others? How can one objectively write about it as a gay person.

The Imitation Game is one of my favorite films of 2014. I love it because it tells a great story and tells it well. It takes a historical anecdote and weaves a thrilling yarn out of it while shining light on the people involved.It is a story about a heroic man whose heroism went unnoticed for many years.

Alan Turing is someone whose name we should know. However because of the secret nature of his mission during the war and because the world is full of homophobia, he was vilified into suicide and died in obscurity. This movie reverses that and tells his extraordinary story.

The movie shows us Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch as an adult) during three periods in his life. During the War where he led a group of scientists in breaking the German Enigma code and helping win the war for the Allies; after the war when he was arrested, convicted and driven to suicide for being gay; and when he was a teen in boarding school and fell in love for the first time with a classmate.

The movie so far has gotten average to good reviews and is pegged to be a major Oscar contender. The critique about it the drives me crazy is that it is not gay enough, that while outwardly against homophobia it doesn't show enough of Turing being gay or even being persecuted for being gay. I can understand the latter to a certain extent but definitely not the former.

I get the disappointment. I had expectations too going into the movie. I thought Matthew Goode was playing Turing's love interest. I thought we might get a grand tortured love story at the center. But that is not Turing's story. The movie tells the stoy of his accomplishments without diluting the fact that he was gay. A central theme throughout is that he's a man of secrets trying to solve the biggest secret of all. And Cumberbatch delivers in his performance, this is a man very uncomfortable in his skin because of the secret he's carying around. The weight of that is evident in every frame he appears in. I didn't need to see more. I complety related as someone who carried their own secret for many years. Any inappropriate glance or whisper might have meant a life on the margins or even worse for Turing.

The Guradian reviewer claims the movie "doesnt allow him to be gay". What did they want? A fabricated love story? A quick romp in the hay? He was deeply closeted, I don't think that would have fit his personality nor the time he lived in. Other reviewers have made the same claim. The movie doesn't shy away of showing him fall in love. Yes it's a very chaste one sided infatuation from a love struck teenager but there's no evidence that he had a greater love in later years.

I wish the movie had shown a bit more of the homophobia in 1950s Britain. Did we need a sympathetic policeman at the time of showing his persecution? Probably not. Did we need to see the "lewd action"he was arrested for. Maybe. I wanted more hammering of the injustice that the British government and judicial system levelled against Turing. But I get it. The balance is there. Yes I would've liked to see more time devoted to how he dealt with the last chapter in his life. But maybe that would have taken away from spending more time showing us how he got to be a hero in the first place,

Maybe in this day and age we should expect more. I'm all for Alan Turing's name heard around the world. And I think this movie represents him well while thrilling and entertaining the audience. It is not the movie everyone wanted; but it's a great movie on its own terms.

I ask all these gay nayasers how many gay heroes with compelling stories that are not about coming out do we have? Let's celebrate this one. Should we question and ask for more? Absolutely. However this has enough virtues to be celebrated. Its merits as a movie are subjective and in the eye of the beholder but its celebration of Turing is undeniable.

1 comment:

Film Runner said...

The problem with The Imitation Game is that it ignores that Turing was pretty openly gay his entire life, particularly at Bletchley, where no-one gave a dam about you sexuality because there was a war on (source: my tour guide there). Also the reason the police arrested him is because he freely admitted to them that he was in a a relationship with a man when he reported the burglary at his house (the burglar was known to his boyfriend).