When I was maybe 12 or 13, I read a book called “The Tomorrow File” by Laurence Sanders. Sanders was more famous for his somewhat tawdry crime thrillers – “The First Deadly Sin,” etc. – that predated the many similar series by authors like Jonathan Kellerman and Mary Higgins Clark that dot the bestseller lists these days. The novel is essentially science fiction in that it is set in what was then the near-future (sometime shortly after the year 2000) and supposes all sorts of fascinating things about the future – that men and women will be referred to as EMs and EFs (text acronyms perhaps?), that an addictive but not-harmful substance will have been included in almost all foodstuffs by some big corporation so that everyone in the world now craves it (caffeine? High-fructose corn syrup?), etc. etc. There were dozens of things like this that seemed completely plausible.
One point in the book – key to the plot but also not emphasized as revolutionary – was that in the future, men and women having relationships with people of the same sex would be as common and accepted as people having relationships with the opposite sex. Even to a kid raised in middle-America in a Catholic, very Republican household, this seemed to make sense to me. Still new to the universe of sexual dynamics – and probably not yet aware of what “queer” REALLY meant, I didn’t really see why this wouldn’t happen. Two humans, each with a heart and a soul and a mutual attraction, what exactly would be the harm if they happened to be the same sex and happened to fall in love with each other?
I thought about this book as I read Bruce Miller’s open letter to those who walked out of “The Little Dog Laughed.” If I were as good a person as Bruce, I might have been able to write the even-handed and rational response that he did. Unfortunately, personally, the whole thing infuriates me. It just kills me that – for instance – Virginians passed the imbecilic law relating to same-sex partnerships. It seems to be such a misdirection in terms of what government should be about or even be concerned about. My fury redoubles when I talk to several people I know who are true small-government Conservatives who think the law is stupid as well. If people both liberal and conservative saw it as stupid, how the hell did it pass? Do people really think homosexuality is just going to go away? It has been part of the human condition for thousands of years and ridiculous proscriptions against it have just caused heartache and pain. And still, gay folks keep on loving each other. People! Just deal with it!
But really, the fury about all that fades quickly for me. After the anger comes the curiosity. I wonder: did the people who walked out of the show think they were OK with homosexuality but then actually seeing two naked men embrace pushed them over the edge? Did they purposely disregard all of the warnings about the content? Are they dumb, oversensitive or in some way, striving to get somewhere and yet not quite there yet?
In the end, this ongoing discomfort or contempt or whatever regarding homosexuality just makes me tired. Thirty years ago, “The Tomorrow File” saw this as being no big deal by now. So why is it still such a big deal? When I wrote my review about the show, I didn’t even really want to play it up as being a “controversial” play. It doesn’t seem controversial to me. It seems like a fairly real story – if exaggerated for comic effect – about relatively real issues (given of course that it’s about Hollywood…) To me, two men struggling with the possibility that they might be falling in love and the contingent professional fallout seems more relevant in today’s America than some story about a mythical, iconic America – like a strong, heterosexual couple working a small farm or something – that I think barely exists anymore.
Anyway, I ramble in part because I am exhausted from these last couple of days before the “Peter Pan” opening last night. It all went off quite well and I’ll have some more thoughts on that after a good long nap.