I went to see the Brighton Youth Theatre Group’s production of Legally Blonde last night following the glowing review that G-Scene gave it, but I came away very disappointed. Whilst the performers worked very hard to bring this rather embarrassing piece of theatrical froth to life, I came away very offended at the unpleasant stereotypes portrayed.
Unsurprisingly, one of the main sources of comedy is the camp gay character working in the hair salon (surprise, surprise) swooning at the sight of the very masculine straight guy in his over-tight shorts, whilst running around filing his nails and constantly proffering his backside in a provocative way. Once again we see gay men satirised in the manner that makes them look safe and comical as was so eloquently expressed in the documentary The Celluloid Closet.
As a young man I saw the preening Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served and the snide characters played by Denis Price, and could not understand how that related to me as an ordinary man who was attracted to other men. Because of this, and other negative gay characters in films and television, I didn’t dare come out until I was in my late twenties when I saw that there were other more ordinary people like me.
I know that this is a controversial topic amongst LGBT people, but this a conversation that we need to have? We still are fed a diet of gay stereotypes in shows like Vicious, but those oppressed tend to take on the values and aspirations of the oppressor, so we make ourselves funny in order to be acceptable to the straight community.
I am not saying that BYTG is deliberately setting out to advocate this kind view of gay people as a way of procuring cheap laughs, in fact I’m sure that this is far from the truth, but surely in this day and age, particularly in a city with the demographic of Brighton, they should be more sensitive with their choice of production and the message that they are sending out to young people.
Keith Shepherd the chairman of BTG said that he witnesses much worse overt sexual behaviour by gay men in Kemptown and he may be right, but Kemptown is not a youth organisation deliberately setting out to attract young people.
We all love a bit of camp, but when it is coming from a youth group dealing with people at an impressionable age, are these really the kind of stereotypical attitudes that we want to imply are acceptable in the 21st century.
Or will we forever have to see ourselves portrayed in this way. I hope not.