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Gag reflex

Gag reflex

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Gays have been on multiplex screens plenty lately--but usually just so they can creep out the straight guys

Forget Brokeback Mountain's depiction of widespread 1960s gay loathing, The 40-Year-Old Virgin's gleeful, mocking "You Know How I Can Tell You're Gay" game and Wedding Crashers' homo-hitting-on-Vince-Vaughn moment. Those were good films that knowingly depicted homophobic fear for what it is: ridiculous, or, in Brokeback's case, tragic.

For 2005's most monumentally dopey examples of cinematic gay panic, you have to dig deeper into the dark discount house of the year's stupidest films. In The Man, a terrifically unfunny comedy that came and went earlier this year, Samuel L. Jackson played a character who knows exactly what he wants, and that's no dudes touching him. As an ATF agent who gets mixed up with dental equipment salesman Eugene Levy, Jackson is the most bizarrely homo-obsessed human being in American movies of 2005. His Shaft-to-the-nth-power is so hung up with being the Man of the title that his barked dialogue consists mostly of telling Levy to "Shut up" or "Shut your mouth" or "Shut your ass up" and then, failing that, telling him, "You are my bitch." He questions Levy's marriage to a woman and recoils in drama-queen disgust at the thought of anything resembling physical contact with another man. And he's one of several male protagonists in this year's films who showed, in word and deed, that being perceived as "that way" is the most terrifying plot development of all.

Eddie Griffin in Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo is the most benign of the bunch. His pimp character is not only mistaken for a murderer of male prostitutes but also erroneously labeled as gay in a running gag. But the movie's script is so muddled, witless, and confused about its own subject matter that it's easy to assume it's on Griffin's side. Of course it's better to be a murderer than a man-lover! Everyone knows that. He has a final-scene change of heart, becoming pimp to a stable of gay prostitutes, but by that point the movie's loyalties are so indecipherable that trying to figure them out is a loser's game.

In John Singleton's tough-guy manifesto Four Brothers, the youngest brother is a sensitive musician type played by newcomer Garrett Hedlund. Naturally, this must mean he's queer, and his three siblings (former Calvin Klein underwear model Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, and Andre Benjamin) do their best to bust him for it in tones that more than suggest that he'd Better Damn Well Not Be. Singleton's ham-fisted movies have never been gay-friendly (or woman-friendly, for that matter), and apologists may point to his characters as the culprits and not him, but you get the idea watching Four Brothers that Singleton's never bothered to sit down and think it through. Ever.

But back to Jackson and Levy, because there's no loophole for them, no mistaking the point of The Man and its characters' constant jockeying for position as alpha male. There will be no hugging of Sam Jackson here. None. Try it, and he'll make sure you get sodomized. That's right--in the movie's flabbergasting final moments, minutes that make it something of a perverse must-see, Levy tries to hug Jackson goodbye and is literally carried off by airport security guards for a body-cavity search while Jackson looks on with evil satisfaction. And it's a Celluloid Closet moment if ever one existed.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Dave White