The Straight Face of LGBT+ Cinema
Mikhail Hanafi

I am drawn back to the all-but-forgotten Canadian gem “Outrageous!”Seeing it in 1977 as a straight young guy, with my younger straight friend, it was affecting and funny, in sincere if exaggerated ways — but based on a Margaret Gibson story of her time living with Craig Russell, the charismatic and legendary drag performer of the movie itself, the real-life ties make any criticisms of the movie’s characters ring false. In that time, decades before a Matthew Shepard story would have made page two of the Local section, I suspect the stereotypical traits of gays were as much about consolidating tribal identity and safety, as revealing any ‘genetic predispositions.’ And Russell is the star, not merely performing in drag but singing all the varied celebrated voices as well, as he did for some time after on stage, before dying of AIDS complications in 1990.

The Boys in the Band from 1970 (staged in 1968) seems more dated and cliched now, with subgenres of “sincerely conceived stereotypes”, theatrical devices, arguments, tantrums, reveals, and more. “The film was perceived in different ways throughout the gay community. There were those who agreed with most critics and believed The Boys was making great strides while others thought it portrayed a group of gay men wallowing in self-pity”(wikipedia). Before there was a Priscilla, Wong Foo, or Drag Mork, “Outrageous!” deserves fresh examination as a breakthrough on multiple levels.

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