I first saw this film back in July. I was very much impressed with its affirmative message about homosexuality and gay marriage. It got its theatrical release in October, just two weeks before the Nov. 4 election. This would be of no consequence, if, in California, the piece of legislation known as Proposition 8 weren't up for a vote as well, a vote that could have ramifications across the country.
For those who don't know, Proposition 8 is a bill in California that seeks to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry by amending California's Constitution to say marriage is only to be between a man and a woman. Gender-neutral language in the state's current marriage statutes and a California Supreme Court ruling gave same-sex couples the right to marry earlier this year. Following that Supreme Court ruling, it's estimated that over 11,000 gay couples got married during the summer of 2008. Proposition 8 is the initiative that will be placed on California's General Election Ballot this Nov. 4. If Proposition 8 is passed, then no more will be allowed and those 11,000 unions may be considered null and void.
Emmy-winning comedienne Ellen DeGeneres married lesbian actress Portia di Rossi, and they are one of those 11,000, so obviously, they are against Proposition 8. California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is against Proposition 8. Senator and Presidential candidate Barack Obama is against it. A lot of famous celebrities like Steven Spielberg and Brad PItt have come out as being against Prop 8, even shelling out tons of cash to aid the cause of stopping Prop 8 from getting passed.
Some activists like Andy Humm and Ann Northrop have spoken of using the outcome of the vote on Prop 8 in other states. The hope by Humm and Northrop is that the initiative will be defeated and that gay marriage will remain legal in the Golden State, and then using that as a precedent to take to other states. Some on the east coast were mentioned. Nevertheless, just as Oliver Stone believed the release of his biopic on George W. Bush, weeks before the election, might have a greater impact, so might director Stewart Wade of this entertaining comedy.
I met director Stewart Wade wants to facilitate that is through the establishment of a Gay-Straight Alliance at his fictional Walt Whitman High School. Like some of the characters in this movie, I barely knew what a Gay-Straight Alliance was beyond what its actual name implied.
I had first heard of a Gay-Straight Alliance six years ago on the ABC TV series Once and Again. The first Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA, in the United States began in 1998 in San Francisco as a way of combating homophobia in local schools there. GSA's had already existed in Europe decades prior. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, formed around the same time as another independent group. Eventually, most of the GSA's started associating with the network to ensure that schools and communities were safe and welcoming environments for gay and lesbian young people.
This October, which the Equality Forum deemed gay history month, the Ad Council premiered a TV commercial starring Hilary Duff was premiered on the airwaves. The commercial is dubbed "Think B 4 You Speak." In the commercial, two girls describe a piece of clothing that they don't like by saying, "That's so gay." Hilary Duff then approaches them and says that it's insulting.
Sixty-eight percent of young people frequently or often say "that's so gay" to describe something they don't like. Forty-seven percent use the term "faggot" or "fag" to describe someone that don't like, typically for reasons other than their sexuality. Yet, only 13 percent of students say they actually dislike LGBT people. Therefore, the phrase "that's so gay" is only homophobic by proxy. The Ad Council in conjunction with the GLSEN created the TV spot as a way of enlightening young people on the homophobia that may not be overt or even intentional but yet still exists.
No doubt the level of homophobia among young people is very low. Yet, if you look at the number of hate crimes committed, a good number is perpetrated by youths. Of course, it starts out as teasing or bullying but can always escalate. And, a lot of that is built out of ignorance or prejudices that are reinforced and never challenged.
The GSA hopes to end that by opening up dialogues where homosexual and hetereosexual people can bridge gaps through talking and expressing true feelings. Through that, it builds understanding and compassion instead of bigotry and hate.
When I met him in Philadelphia, Wade told me that the company distributing his movie made a school outreach deal. Wade said he had already screened the movie in local schools with great success. He found that young people responded well to the story and the characters.
TRU LOVED imagines how one Gay-Straight Alliance might play out. It's a teenage Will & Grace meets The DL Chronicles. It centers on a group of kids led by Najarra Townsend and Matthew Thompson.
Najarra Townsend plays Gertrude or "Tru," a teenage girl who's just arrived at a new school and instantly takes a liking to Lodell, played by Matthew Thompson, a black teenage guy who's the quarterback of the football team and probably the most popular kid in school.
After a while, Gertrude comes up with the idea to start a Gay-Straight Alliance. Why she does so is both personal and powerful. Through Wade's movie, stereotypes are shattered. We get to a point where we can't tell who's gay and who's not, and that's a good thing. In fact, the movie opens on a wildly, hilarious fantasy scene that completely normalizes gay lifestyle.
Gertrude dreams her life. Most of it resembles the look of those old 1950's black-and-white sitcoms like Leave It To Beaver (1957) mixed with cheeseball like of some 80's sitcoms like My Two Dads (1987), except everything is queer. It becomes "Leave It to Two Beavers" and "My Two Dads Who Sleep Together."
Yet the film is never crude or gross. It's suitable for teenagers and is totally on par with those family sitcoms. This movie also boasts an amazing supporting cast including Alexandra Paul, Jasmine Guy, Nichelle Nichols, Alec Mapa, Joseph Julian Soria, Tye Olson, Bruce Vilanch, Jane Lynch, and David Kopay, the first man in the NFL to come out as being gay. Wade's film is one of the funniest films I've seen all year. It had me laughing. It shocked me. It's nicely sentimental with a great message that I hope everyone sees.
Five Stars out of Five
Rated R for language
Running Time: 1 hr. and 42 mins.