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Hoover Hush-Up
October 9, 2011 4:27 PM   Subscribe

Though the posters and trailers promise quality performances, Clint Eastwood's biopic J. Edgar seems intent on skirting certain issues in the former FBI director's personal life. The JEH Foundation is already denying the "rumors" louder than ever, but so far there's little indication that they've got anything to fear beyond a little hand-holding. QUEERTY asks: if Clint Eastwood is cool with homos, why is he freaking out about J. Edgar not being a gay movie? Despite the tame promos, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black insists that the gay subplot makes up "about a third" of the story. Meanwhile, an upcoming memoir by former Hollywood pimpster Scotty Bowers is rumored to contain a firsthand account of a gay weekend getaway with Hoover and company.
posted by hermitosis (81 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
hermitosis: "Clint Eastwood's biopic J. Edgar seems intent on skirting certain issues in the former FBI director's personal life. "

Oh come on, you made this entire post to make that pun.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:33 PM on October 9, 2011 [29 favorites]


Hoover previously
posted by jeffburdges at 4:34 PM on October 9, 2011


And it was worth it!
posted by villanelles at dawn at 4:34 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jedgar in dress, Simpsons style.
posted by 445supermag at 4:36 PM on October 9, 2011


Dating is difficult, black people and white people are different, airplane food is unacceptable, some people are gay.
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:37 PM on October 9, 2011


It seems like a)his being gay/a crossdresser is secondary to his impact on history, and Eastwood, being a film director of considerable quality, is concerned that the public is focusing on the wrong point or
b)there's genuine concern about the marketing angle.
posted by medea42 at 4:39 PM on October 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Dating is difficult, black people and white people are different, airplane food is unacceptable, some people are gay.

Obviously you don't understand why it's important that history correctly acknowledge that homosexuals have existed in positions of power throughout history. It's vital, when a group has been so reviled and so hidden and so persecuted for so long, that we take an accurate accounting as facts become known, because otherwise, the "some people are gay" thing has this odd sudden start point in the history books.

The truth is, gay people have been influential and powerful all throughout history, and it's only the fact that they've been loathed for so long which has kept homosexuality from being a normal part of the record of human history.

I hope this movie does, indeed, explore in a historically factual way Hoover's homosexuality. We need to have these things added to the largely expurgated historical account so when we finally do come to the inevitable end point of acceptance, that "some people are gay", then we aren't lying to ourselves or making false assumptions via the history we are taught in schools and through our media.
posted by hippybear at 4:43 PM on October 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


I read the script some months back. There was definitely some very gay stuf in there, with Hoover kissing and frolicking with his life partner. Unless they cut it out of the final print.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 4:44 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a difference between something being secondary and being completely whitewashed out of focus. If the movie deals with the issue the way the screenwriter claims -- as a secondary focus -- that's perfectly fine. If the movie ends up looking way more like the trailer -- all wink-wink, nudge-nudge -- then it is complicit in the perpetuating the attitude that these aspects of a person's life ought to remain hidden, even in an exhaustive look into their mind, life, and career.

If it's just the way the movie is being marketed, then they're being awfully silly. Who do they think they're protecting, and from what?
posted by hermitosis at 4:45 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


It seems like a)his being gay/a crossdresser is secondary to his impact on history

It hardly seems secondary if (and I recognize that we're clearly in the land of if) the nation's top law enforcement official for decades, who was utterly ruthless in maintaining his position by wielding blackmail material against everyone of significance during his time, was simultaneously concealing a secret, the merest whiff of which would have ended his career in an instant.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:46 PM on October 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


Fuck Clint Eastwood.

No really, fuck him. He's a great director. I loved his movies. That was until I saw Million Dollar Baby. Eastwood's character, of course, has to kill the protagonist, because she has suffered a spinal cord injury and of course everybody knows people like that are better off dead.

Also the depiction in that movie who receive public assistance (Swank's character's family) was awful as well. Like something outta a freaking tea party ad.

Dude has some issues to sort out. And because he's not a drunken psycho a la Mel Gibson, he's going to keep getting to make movies that hinge on really gross ideas about people who are not like him until he dies. Because he's Clint Eastwood.
posted by angrycat at 4:49 PM on October 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wish there was a way to see this old Frontline, it really broke the crossdressing story and had lots of interviews:

Feb. 09, 1993
The Secret File on J. Edgar Hoover
For nearly 50 years, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover amassed secret files on America's most prominent figures, files he used to smear and control presidents and politicians. Frontline reveals how Hoover's own secret life left him open to blackmail by the Mafia and offers a startling new explanation why the FBI allowed the mob to operate unchallenged for over two decades.

posted by 445supermag at 4:51 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also the depiction in that movie who receive public assistance (Swank's character's family) was awful as well. Like something outta a freaking tea party ad.

No, it was actually a perfect depiction of the 417 area code.
posted by asockpuppet at 4:52 PM on October 9, 2011


445supermag: it's available via torrent if you look for it...
posted by hippybear at 4:55 PM on October 9, 2011


I don't know--we are writing as if Hoover's homosexuality were a confirmed fact, but the evidence looks pretty shaky to me.
posted by LarryC at 4:59 PM on October 9, 2011


I don't know many pairs of confirmed bachelors whose lifelong friendships are so strong that they plan to be buried side by side. For closeted gays, that was one of the benefits of living in a society with limited technological means -- it was much harder (though not impossible) to gather indisputable proof for the ages about these kinds of things, even if hundreds of friends and colleagues "knew firsthand" or "always suspected" or whatever.
posted by hermitosis at 5:10 PM on October 9, 2011


[Deleted a couple of comments. This thread will go way better if it doesn't turn into a general referendum on how straight people would like gay people better if only. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 5:21 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know many pairs of confirmed bachelors whose lifelong friendships are so strong that they plan to be buried side by side.

I have no opinion on weather or not J Edger was gay. He was an asshole.

But, for the record. If I was unmarried and had a very close, non gay, male friend whom I loved I could see being buried side by side. Not everything has to have a sexual angle.

Now, perhaps Hoover was gay, and perhaps he was a colossal hypocrite, it wouldn't surprise me about the hypocrite bit.

I think if the movie addressed the issue as it is, strong suspicions, but still some uncertainty, that would seem fair.
posted by edgeways at 5:26 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I was in 11th grade I took a fantastic US history class, the culmination of which was a required term paper. I was doing some boring paper about the brief socialist history of the US, and while researching the Wobblies I wandered into the library's section on Communism where I stumbled into J. Edgar Hoover's Masters of Deceit. It was fantastic, this crazy primary source about how the communists were organizing in secret cells to overthrow America. I read it cover to cover that day, then started reading about Hoover, and before long my history teacher suggested I change the topic of my paper and I got to learn all about Hoover.

Also when I was in 11th grade, I was figuring out I was gay. And some time in my research on Hoover I uncovered the rumours about him and Tolson. Naturally there was no documentary evidence, Hoover was way too smart for that. But the fact of their relationship was plain enough for anyone to see, and enough rumours about parties swirled about that there was a bit of colour.

And weirdly, I took Hoover as a sort of gay role model. Not directly: I had no desire to be like him, either as a political animal or a repressed homosexual. But the contradictions of the man, the power he wielded while sharing this weird thing in common with me, being gay. It helped me understand myself some. Sort of an anti-role model.

It seems like a very odd choice to do a biopic on Hoover and not talk much about his homosexuality. Maybe they have so much other material that it didn't fit? Or maybe there's so little documented to rely on to make the story, what can you do other than have Tolson strangely lurking about? It'd be a shame if it were just made into the smirking joke that is all the acknowledgment Hoover's cross dressing gets right now.

I think it can be a great movie even if his personal life is never once mentioned. But oh, what a better movie it could be if they work that part of his personality in to the story.
posted by Nelson at 5:29 PM on October 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


Obviously you don't understand why it's important that history correctly acknowledge that homosexuals have existed in positions of power throughout history.

Certainly. But, in this case, what if they're complete assholes?

Y'know what's weird, there's lots of "sure, historical person 'X' was gay" given historical person X lived over a thousand years ago.
Somewhere in the timeline that went away until fairly recently when it was accepted (sorta) that some people were gay.
And right now (excepting the usual gang of morons) there's this sort of zone socially in the U.S. where all those people were heroes or celebrities, Harvey Milk, Ellen DeGeneres, etc.

This though, I mean J. Edgar Hoover was a fascist dick. COINTELPRO and the mafia ties alone are worth a series of films on what a major league bastard he was, not to mention how half-assed he "arrested" Alvin Karpis or the whole JFK thing. Can anyone who brutally harassed MLK be at all sympathetic in retrospect?

Really, the least interesting thing about the man was his sexual orientation and if I were gay I wouldn't claim the guy as one of my own. "Hoover? Hell, no, straight as a rail. Went out with Dorothy Lamour, right?"

George Takei on the other hand is a stand up guy who I'd want to be associated with (were I gay or Japanese-American, although I think we have the same taste in clothes)

As have Jews and Black People. Why are gays more special?

The redundancy there aside, they're not. They get persecuted just like Jews and Blacks. This is why it's important to have that visibility as a "normal" member of society in whatever position so that it can be a trait that is unexceptional.

On the other hand, perhaps I just answered my own question there. Hoover could be gay (or black or Swiss-German) and a megalomaniac asshole just like anyone else can be.

(Although were I German I'd try to downplay that element behind Hoover. Been tagged enough with the megalomaniac label.)

What floors me is that there is a "JEH Foundation." What's the party line there? Oh yeah, our guy kicked the shit out of blacks, couldn't get it together to properly arrest one guy in the field with weeks worth of set up and scores of agents backing him up much less apprehend someone without shooting up the neighborhood and killing innocent civilians, regularly helped organized crime, illegally wiretapped and sabotaged civil rights workers and dissent groups, suborned perjury and forgery and may have planned if not aided and abetted murder and assassination by quashing proper investigation, but hey, at least he didn't suck anyone's dick.

On top of that, hell, anyone who's pulled their head out of their ass since the 50's knows you don't have to be gay to like wearing a dress.
The first time I saw Eddie Izzard in a clip from The Riches I almost didn't recognize him. It's everyday stuff.
The wiretaps, illegal breaking and entering, calling MLK's house at 2 a.m telling his wife they've got pictures of him with another woman, scaring his kids at school, yeah, pisses me off a bit more than a guy wearing a skirt.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:33 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's important because someone who kept secrect files on everyone may himself have an " open " secret that, if not for position, would have been used against him and ruined hus career. That should be pointed out.
posted by The Whelk at 5:33 PM on October 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also Nelson nailed it for me. (Thanks)
I suppose villains can be more interesting.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:35 PM on October 9, 2011


What floors me is that there is a "JEH Foundation."

No shit, same here. There aren't many people i consider irredeemable and just lacking any good qualities (although Rove and Cheney are there too), and i have to wonder who feels compelled to defend Hoover after history showed his actions to be as messed up as they were.
posted by usagizero at 5:41 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most people don't know this, and you wouldn't guess by reading the obituaries, but J. Edgar dropped acid before he took down Al Capone.
posted by crunchland at 5:43 PM on October 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


The most interesting thing about Hoover's story is that there are many who have an interest in portraying him as definitely homosexual, or definitely not. A depiction of a homosexual Hoover would certainly make for a juicily ironic twist to the story, but the big problem is that angle is pretty thinly sourced.

It seems a disservice to honest storytelling to make a definitive assertion one way or another. Does working in Hoover's homosexuality as a given make for a better story at the expense of historicity? I'm not sure portraying Hoover's power and malevolence is dependent on his presumed homosexuality. However, I think just the rumor of homosexuality, which Hoover most likely knew about, is plenty juicy enough, and may even account for his behavior.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:53 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also the depiction in that movie who receive public assistance (Swank's character's family) was awful as well. Like something outta a freaking tea party ad.

Oh boy yes to that. I am a huge Eastwood fan, but that hillbilly caricature was the abominable low point of an awful movie in which only Morgan Freeman was allowed to keep his dignity.
posted by spitbull at 6:06 PM on October 9, 2011


Certainly. But, in this case, what if they're complete assholes?

It's important to know about the powerful assholes as well as the powerful heroes. If the only images we have of homosexuals across history is about the ones who are nice people, we're doing as much a disservice to true understanding as we are if homosexuals are portrayed exclusively as demons.

History is not tarnished by knowing that Roy Cohn was gay. It won't be tarnished by knowing that Hoover is gay. It will only be a more complete, honest portrayal of the full rich diversity of human history, and the closer that comes to truth, the better off we all are.
posted by hippybear at 6:07 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Will any amount of gay subtext result in DiCaprio doing anything more than squinting and smoking to signify "look at me! I'm actoring!" in this one?

I hope so but I suspect not.

(and no, Gilbert Grape was almost 20 years ago and therefore inadmissable)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 6:12 PM on October 9, 2011


The stress of acting is compressing Dicaprio's head into a perfect square, the quoting his his way of reliving the pressure.
posted by The Whelk at 6:22 PM on October 9, 2011


Obviously you don't understand why it's important that history correctly acknowledge that homosexuals have existed in positions of power throughout history.

Yes, actually I do.

But the guy was a total hippopcrite, and a big douchebag on top of it. He screwed people out of their lives and livlihoods for the very things he kept close to his vest.

I dunno. The guy want's to put on a dress and have sex with his young male assistant? That's his deal. Me? I love a pair of nice pegs in some fishnets and high heels, but that's just me. Six to one and pick em whose the bigger perv.

The guy was just a liar, and he should get held to that same standard the way Clinton did with his blues. Swear if Clinton just would have come out and said. "Yeah, it was awesome. I got a sloppy blow job from an intern and I'm creating a Cabinet Post for this shit." All would have been understood. Barney Frank was my rep when he came out, same as Gerry Studds. They both just sad "Yeah, so I'm gay, and I nailed a staffer years ago. Sorry bout that."

You think I didn't vote for them both the next election? It was over and done.


If there is a statue of FDR in a wheelchair. no reason there shouldn' be a statue of JEH in his dress right on front of FBI Headquarters. Seems fitting.
posted by timsteil at 6:25 PM on October 9, 2011


timsteil: I think you're responding to my response to someone who isn't you as if I was responding to you. Sorry that you took it that way.
posted by hippybear at 6:30 PM on October 9, 2011


timesteil sez:
"Swear if Clinton just would have come out and said. "Yeah, it was awesome. I got a sloppy blow job from an intern and I'm creating a Cabinet Post for this shit."...
If there is a statue of FDR in a wheelchair. no reason there shouldn' be a statue of JEH in his dress..."


I fully support the erection of a statue of showing Clinton getting lewinskied.
posted by 445supermag at 6:48 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's possible to say anything definitive about Hoover's sexuality. In order to assume he was gay, it seems to me, you have to think that everyone fits tidily into one of a limited number of categories of sexuality. He never married and he had an intense attachment to another man, so he must have been sexually attracted to or involved with men. But he could have been asexual. He could have been attracted to women and so ashamed of his dirty sexual urges that he didn't act on them and instead relied on people to whom he wasn't attracted for emotional support. The truth is that we'll never know, because he didn't leave behind the kind of evidence that would tell us.

I think it would be fine if a biopic depicted him as gay, because I give biopics a ton of artistic license when it comes to matters of interpretation. But I don't think they're obligated to go with that interpretation.
posted by craichead at 6:55 PM on October 9, 2011


We don't know what's even in the movie, let alone if Hoover was gay. Could we at least wait to see what's in the movie? Have any of the writers of the linked articles even seen the movie?
posted by Ironmouth at 6:58 PM on October 9, 2011


Will any amount of gay subtext result in DiCaprio doing anything more than squinting and smoking to signify "look at me! I'm actoring!" in this one?

THANK you. I thought I was the only one who can't stand that rat-faced git.
posted by Gator at 7:16 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


we are writing as if Hoover's homosexuality were a confirmed fact, but the evidence looks pretty shaky to me

You try holding the camera while staying hidden in the bushes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:19 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mister Steadicam.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:20 PM on October 9, 2011


You have to be honest when you approach history. You can't say "this guy makes my group look bad. Ignore him. He's terrible." You need to talk about how Andrew Jackson is basically Hitler to the Cherokees, or how Lincoln (himself of a vaguely ambivalent sexuality) was quite racist and largely indifferent towards the plight of African-Americans until very late in his life.

J. Edgar Hoover was a brilliant, twisted, powerful and insecure man. For good or ill (and mostly ill) he shaped America throughout the 20th century. He was possibly gay as well. All of these things need to come out, regardless of how we feel about them. Our modern-day commitment to honesty stands in stark contrast to the fearful paranoia that Hoover unleashed upon an entire nation, and, ultimately, against himself.

Understanding J. Edgar means destroying him, and that is a Good Thing.
posted by Avenger at 7:21 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


No really, fuck him. He's a great director. I loved his movies. That was until I saw Million Dollar Baby. Eastwood's character, of course, has to kill the protagonist, because she has suffered a spinal cord injury and of course everybody knows people like that are better off dead.

This is so wrongheaded, I don't even.
posted by eugenen at 7:31 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid in the 70s, if I heard any adults talking about Hoover, it was in reference to the general assumption that he was self-loathing denier of his blackness, and therefore a reviled traitor for his persecution of the Black Panthers and Dr King.

I didn't know about the gay rumours until that exposé biography in the 90s.
posted by droplet at 7:42 PM on October 9, 2011


Yeah I agree with Ironmouth, this post presents a pretty poor argument. As far as I can tell it's just publicity for the movie. I mean, the guy who wrote the script for Milk worked on this movie—he's hardly going to be whitewashing Hoover's sexuality.

As evidence against this we have a Daily Mail article based on the theatrical trailer and some stuff said by Clint Eastwood, probably blown out of proportion. The director, producers and studio know that characterising the movie as a story primarily about a gay man will hurt ticket sales. I'm not saying that they're going to gloss over that aspect of his life in the movie proper; I think they don't want it to take over and define pre-release publicity.

It's not that cinema-goers are necessarily homophobic, a lot of people just don't go to the movies to have their ideas about historical figures and social values challenged. They'd rather sit back and relax rather than worry about some transgressive political message, real or imagined.
posted by quosimosaur at 7:49 PM on October 9, 2011


It's not that cinema-goers are necessarily homophobic, a lot of people just don't go to the movies to have their ideas about historical figures and social values challenged.
I don't think there's anything super-challenging about the idea that Hoover was a closet case, at least among the kind of people for whom he's one of the great villains of 20th century American history. I think that's actually sort of a standard part of the narrative, whether it's a way to use homophobia to discredit Hoover or a way to use Hoover to argue that the closet causes dangerous pathology.
posted by craichead at 8:00 PM on October 9, 2011


No really, fuck him. He's a great director. I loved his movies. That was until I saw Million Dollar Baby. Eastwood's character, of course, has to kill the protagonist, because she has suffered a spinal cord injury and of course everybody knows people like that are better off dead.

Don't let the facts get in the way of a great rant, but Paul Haggis wrote the script. Not Eastwood. Eastwood didn't commission the script. Nor did he come up with the story. And anyone who thinks that Paul Haggis would let a director change his script has not a clue about how movies are made.
The writer on the Hoover film is Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the Milk movie.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:12 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cross dressing =/= gay.

Most transvestites are hetero.

I think that people are looking way too far into the gay/cross-dressing thing. Being closeted, I think, is more than compelling enough without delving into what was in Hoover's particular closet, be it cross dressing, homosexuality, or being an extra-terrestrial.
posted by porpoise at 8:28 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not that cinema-goers are necessarily homophobic, a lot of people just don't go to the movies to have their ideas about historical figures and social values challenged.

Do people really not know Hoover was gay?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:47 PM on October 9, 2011


GAY IS NOT = CROSSDRESSING!

Furthermore, the entire "Hoover was a crossdresser!" rumor may have originated from a single source, with a hatchet to bury.

On top of that, hell, anyone who's pulled their head out of their ass since the 50's knows you don't have to be gay to like wearing a dress.

Kudos, Smedleyman. But plenty of those people still post online.

Now, as for the gay rumor... Lived with a man for decades. Shared a house. Vacationed together. Rode to & from the office together. Buried together. To recycle a Larry Craig joke, J. Edgar Hoover may not have been gay, but the man he had sex with sure was.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:57 PM on October 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Do people really not know Hoover was gay?

I'll admit as an Australian I have no idea what people in the States generally know about Hoover. The point I was making has nothing to do with his actual sexuality and all to do with the difference between marketing a film as a story about 'that guy who liked having sex with other men' versus 'g-men vs mobsters (shoot-outs and period costumes incl.).'
posted by quosimosaur at 9:13 PM on October 9, 2011


I don't think anyone is looking for a depiction of Hoover as "that guy who liked having sex with other men." What they are looking for is an acknowledgment of what is known (officially or otherwise), and what would definitely be shown if he had been unambiguously straight.

If this was a movie about a straight male political figure, attention would be paid to his long-term partner wife in the story because it is seen as a comment on the protagonist. Can you reasonably argue otherwise? (There are movies out there like Frost/Nixon in which the women are relegated almost entirely to the sidelines -- but that was based on a play, and plays frequently only have a handful of characters.)

Anyhow, it's possible that the movie will do exactly this. And it SHOULD, if for no other reason that this is an aspect of Hoover's life that has never been rendered dramatically, tastefully, and so publically. It would be a conspicuous absence in anyone's case, though especially here. But so far the filmmaker and the promotional team seem to be intent on reassuring people that it's not what the movie's "about." Okay, fair enough. But because of their deliberate de-emphasis, it's starting to seem a bit like an elephant in the room, which was basically the idea behind my post.

posted by hermitosis at 10:00 PM on October 9, 2011


Nelson: "...I stumbled into J. Edgar Hoover's Masters of Deceit. It was fantastic, this crazy primary source about how the communists were organizing in secret cells to overthrow America."
Fred Cook's book "The FBI in Our Open Society", 1953, page 17, asserted "Levine's article charge that the Communist Party, USA, was so weak and so largely composed of FBI informants that it was no threat. However, Mr. Hoover, Levine claims, called it a threat to justify huge budget requests."
Hoover's Masters of Deceit was published in 1958.
posted by millardsarpy at 10:49 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldnt put anything past promotions people, and I would never judge a movie based on the promotional material. Just gives you a lot of ways to end up wrong.
posted by smackfu at 11:04 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I first learned about this from one of the 'Big Book Of....' things.

Also, Canton Everet Delaware
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:23 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now, as for the gay rumor... Lived with a man for decades. Shared a house. Vacationed together. Rode to & from the office together. Buried together. To recycle a Larry Craig joke, J. Edgar Hoover may not have been gay, but the man he had sex with sure was.

What about close male friends? He could have been gay, but I've got male friends who I'm pretty damn close to, and despite the public pronouncements of love and constant flirting we're not actually together.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:24 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


If there is a statue of FDR in a wheelchair...

If you were referring to another statue I'm not aware of, my apologies, but the Washington FDR monument actually does NOT depict him in a wheelchair. It just shows him seated, and they actually leave the nature of the chair itself somewhat vague by throwing a huge-ass cape on the guy.

In fact -- and it kind of echoes this discussion -- I remember there being this huge back-and-forth during the creation of the memorial, over whether to depict him standing or in the wheelchair; he did use one, but the entire administration went to great lengths to disguise his wheelchair use and paralysis, going so far as to have a few press appearances where he could "walk" to a podium for the few steps he was able to manage. The memorial finally compromised by just putting him in a regular chair (and sticking Fala next to him as well, for the Cute factor).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:00 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


No really, fuck him. He's a great director. I loved his movies. That was until I saw Million Dollar Baby. Eastwood's character, of course, has to kill the protagonist, because she has suffered a spinal cord injury and of course everybody knows people like that are better off dead.

Don't let the facts get in the way of a great rant, but Paul Haggis wrote the script. Not Eastwood. Eastwood didn't commission the script. Nor did he come up with the story. And anyone who thinks that Paul Haggis would let a director change his script has not a clue about how movies are made.
The writer on the Hoover film is Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the Milk movie.o, Clint gets a pass for making a movie that strongly insinuates that once your spinal cord is toast, you should pull the plug?

Fuck Paul Haggis. Fuck Clint Eastwood. And if you, gentle reader, think that folks with spinal cord injuries should be murdered because they are good for nothing, come on up to Philly. I'll learn you from my wheelchair.

Christ on a sidecar.

posted by angrycat at 7:01 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, my astonishment that somebody would defend Eastwood for making that evil piece of dreck interfered with my use of italics.
posted by angrycat at 7:02 AM on October 10, 2011


My point is, if Paul Haggis had written a snuff film and Eastwood directed it, shame on both of them. I'm sure Clint has enough dough to not make movies he doesn't want to.

But I imagine this doesn't scan for quite a few people. There wasn't a huge outpouring of rage in reaction to that movie, although there was quite a bit from the disability community. My guess is that it didn't scan because many people are ignorant to believe that yes, killing Swank's character was a just and honorable thing to do.
posted by angrycat at 7:07 AM on October 10, 2011


Angrycat, I would have to rewatch MDB, but weren't her wishes to be taken off the ventilator? I believe she could only blink her eyes to communicate. So, to many viewers the carrying out of her wishes was a just and honorable thing to do. I understand your sensitivity to the topic of disabled rights, but those rights should include being allowed to die when you no longer can do it yourself, the decision up to the disabled.
posted by WilliamMD at 7:48 AM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


My point is, if Paul Haggis had written a snuff film and Eastwood directed it, shame on both of them. I'm sure Clint has enough dough to not make movies he doesn't want to.

But I imagine this doesn't scan for quite a few people. There wasn't a huge outpouring of rage in reaction to that movie, although there was quite a bit from the disability community. My guess is that it didn't scan because many people are ignorant to believe that yes, killing Swank's character was a just and honorable thing to do.


Ridiculous hyperbole. She begged him to do it. She was biting her tongue to try to commit suicide in the hospital, and the hospital was stanching the bleeding. It was obviously the hardest thing he had ever done in his life -- because he loved her, felt responsible, and wanted to grant her last, desperate request.

Just -- I don't know. Honorable -- I think so. But then I also think people should be able to make their own choices in these circumstances, and that to help them is not "murder."
posted by eugenen at 7:51 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Angrycat, I would have to rewatch MDB, but weren't her wishes to be taken off the ventilator?
I would completely agree if she were a real person, but she's not. She's a fictional character, and the screenwriter decided to have the character make that choice.

(I haven't seen the movie, so I can't comment, but I know a lot of people in the disability movement found it really offensive.)
posted by craichead at 10:04 AM on October 10, 2011


I would completely agree if she were a real person, but she's not. She's a fictional character, and the screenwriter decided to have the character make that choice.

I don't get this argument at all.
posted by eugenen at 10:34 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


A friend begs you to kill her, and you do it? Just because?

A point of fact is that most people post-spinal cord injury experience depression.

But did he ask her doctors to give her a psych eval, help her through her depression?

Did he start asking her nurses to treat her pressures sores? (sores which would only occur in a very bad hospital environment).

No. He offed her. In spite of his relationship with Catholicism.

It is a steaming pile of pernicious crap. I have people tell me, I would not want to live in your position. This is not just Eastwood. It is an aspect of societal attitudes towards the disabled that Clint Eastwood endorsed.

To return it back to the gay or not gay Hoover thing: If the whole problem is that the proof is iffy, why is Clint's back up on it? Why not just say, the historical record is shaky. Full stop. No, his interview with the FPP is THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE GAYS

Just as MDB was not about the value of people with spinal cord injuries. You make a fucking movie that touches upon areas that make you feel uncomfortable, either be a good artist and try to do the best you can in making an honest movie, or just step the fuck out.
posted by angrycat at 10:52 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would completely agree if she were a real person, but she's not. She's a fictional character, and the screenwriter decided to have the character make that choice.

That's pretty much how fiction works, unless you think Eastwood's character should have turned to the audience and asked "What do YOU think? Should I pull the plug?" And then we could all vote.

It's preposterously unfair to Haggis and Eastwood to conclude that they support mandatory euthanasia of the disabled based on this movie.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:54 AM on October 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


The crux of the Eastwood character's decision was that logic and love seem to demand that he off her, in the face of his Catholic teachings.

It was completely medically unsound. I am not calling Eastwood a proponent of euthanasia. I am calling him an irresponsible filmmaker who should have known that the plot perpetuated a harmful societal idea about the worth of the disabled.

If I write a book about WWII that gets a bunch of historical shit wrong, I am a crappy writer. If I am a filmmaker who wildly misses the mark when it comes to medical issues in such a way that it makes the disabled look better off dead, then I am a crappy filmmaker.
posted by angrycat at 11:00 AM on October 10, 2011


So why DiCaprio as the lead? Has he just become the Official Go-To Guy For Biopics since The Aviator did well?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:34 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I write a book about WWII that gets a bunch of historical shit wrong, I am a crappy writer. If I am a filmmaker who wildly misses the mark when it comes to medical issues in such a way that it makes the disabled look better off dead, then I am a crappy filmmaker.

I disagree with both propositions. I also disagree with the premise of your second statement (viz., that the movie "makes the disabled look better off dead"), but more fundamentally I disagree that writers or filmmakers working in fiction have some obligation to abide by historical facts or express your preferred views on political issues.
posted by eugenen at 11:38 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's pretty much how fiction works, unless you think Eastwood's character should have turned to the audience and asked "What do YOU think? Should I pull the plug?" And then we could all vote.
I am saying that we're not dealing with a real person who chose to die. We're dealing with a person making up a story who chose to make up a story about a disabled person who wanted to die. That's a story that seemed compelling and resonant to the writer, who as far as I know is not paralyzed, and to audience members, most of whom do not have similar disabilities. Many people who are actually disabled found that portrayal offensive, because they don't see their lives that way and feel that pop culture discussions of disability disproportionately depict disabled people as people whose lives aren't worth living. They are not angry at the fictional character, because she doesn't actually exist. They are angry at the people who concoted the fictional category, because the story they chose to tell is one that they think reinforces pernicious stereotypes.
posted by craichead at 12:24 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


A friend begs you to kill her, and you do it? Just because?

There's a lot of shorthand there. The trainer/fighter relationship is one of the deepest there is. It's not like a team coach who's got 20-30, etc. people to worry about. It's one on one. And Eastwood's character would have known her better than her own family and better than she knew herself.
And it's demonstrated in the film that he does.

What's important in the film is that he does not know that he made the right decision. I think a lot of people took away from it that he did. I think it is genuinely what she wanted. And he knew that.
Whether it was right for her to want that is a different story.

I think some people can deal with life in that state. Some can't. And there are people who do create those kinds of bonds.
I think I, and other people, may have the resources to continue to live a fulfilling life with a spinal cord injury. Maybe. Physical courage isn't an issue for me. But I know many people who are far stronger than I am in many other ways.

In the film, she didn't think she could go on. And Eastwood's character had no resources there to help her. Sure Catholicism, but it's clear he's not getting any real answers from that even though he's not given up trying.

And the core of the film is tragedy. All she had was boxing, in that she found self-worth and recognition and forged an identity.
Some people don't have the courage or the resources to continue after a devastating loss. And I think that goes with the themes of throwing in the towel and having one more fight left in you.
Eastwood's character had issues about not throwing in the towel in time. Swank was all about second chances. And in the end those roles were reversed. Eastwood had to throw in the towel on a fighter who didn't have the heart to continue.

I understand the rebuke from disabled folks. But it reminds me of self-made people arguing that anyone can get a good education and make themselves a success.
Well, yeah, you can, but not everyone has that kind of strength. Sometimes when you're broken you stay broken. I can take you to the VA and show you men of extraordinary courage and resilience who have overcome tremendous odds and adapted to new bodies who can't bring themselves to walk out their own front door.
And there aren't enough people to help them. Even when they have great family support, not everyone has the mental capacity to bring to bear what is required to pull them out.

I think that was Eastwood's character. He was totally lost at the end. So much so he vanished. There was more ambiguity in the film than a lot of people who saw it might have thought. So, blame them, but the film itself was solid in dealing with how fighters and trainers think and how it is similar to a surrogate parent/child relationship.
Closer in some ways. But also detached in others. I mean, what if that was his actual daughter? Would he have done it? Would people have felt the same way about it? Probably not. And yet, that's sort of what happened with his own daughter.
And a disabled fighter has unique challenges. Not just the loss of physical expression, but the mindset.
Look at "Danger" and Big Willie. Scrap respects Danger over Big Willie because he's willing to carry on. Maggie wasn't, in the end. And it's meant to reflect Dunn's relationship with his real daughter in the sense that she too abandons him even though he wants what's best for her, again - the morality of it aside, the character(s) don't have the juice to deal with the situation and pull a happy ending out of it.

But it's a difficult film, and I agree a lot of the audience had a pat reaction which was my misgivings with this (Hoover) film (although again, Nelson covered it as far as my thinking went).


It will only be a more complete, honest portrayal of the full rich diversity of human history, and the closer that comes to truth, the better off we all are.


I agree. Although see the above. I don't know that that is what people will take away from it.
Has anyone noticed that having certain kinds of information, traits, rumor, whatever, flourishes best when it's indeterminate rather than solidly confirmed either way?

For example:
However, I think just the rumor of homosexuality, which Hoover most likely knew about, is plenty juicy enough, and may even account for his behavior.

I don't like the idea, but it seems valid enough. People like the "juicy" bits. Reminds me of an SNL skit where the host was interested in titillation and innuendo but when the characters said "Ok, let's make it." he got all bent out of kilter. The idea being the actual sex is less titillating than allusion to it.

For a long time homosexuals were considered a security risk. Still are to some degree. Ok, why? Well, because they can be blackmailed by threatening to out them because people think being gay is morally wrong. Why not remove the social pressures and allow otherwise talented people to serve who are openly gay and so make it not wrong? Can't. Why not? Because other gays who are closeted might get outed, which is a security risk, which means they're immoral because they're endangering the program. Nice bit of Catch-22.

There is a big sexual component to power seekers that is related to social pressure. I don't know that it has to do with being gay exactly. Plenty of gay folks seem content to hang out at Starbucks or wherever and do regular everyday things rather than clandestinely dominate law enforcement agencies and persecute people.

Did Hoover get twisted by going through the system and being subject to pressure or was he twisted in the first place? I'd lean towards the latter.
His passion was going to be driven into manipulation no matter the nature of his sexuality.
Are people going to walk away from a film thinking that? I dunno. Same catch-22 as above I suppose. People lug in their preconceptions whatever the film has to say.

If anything though I suppose being gay would make him sympathetic because of the element of persecution. It's the only thing I can think of that is sympathetic about the guy really.
There again, I'm pretty far from dealing with the realities of that, so some of the complexity might be lost on me. Is "aww, poor guy" the reaction someone wants when looking at Hoover dealing with his sexuality and society?
I'm not premising anything there, just admitting to ignorance.

I liked "The Aviator" only because of the direction. I mean it's a solid film. But Howard Hughes was sympathetic, to me, only because of his obsessive-compulsive disorder. His love for flying, experimentation, pushing the envelope, all that, while I could relate to it, didn't do it for me because he was pretty much such a bastard in other regards.

So here you have the same sort of deal, an otherwise repulsive sort of character who has to contend with potential social exploitation (being gay isn't an illness of course, but I can see similar patterns with people attempting to manipulate Hoover the way they attempted to manipulate Hughes).

And there again, I don't know. Perhaps it is true that understanding Hoover (et.al) exorcises those demons.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:42 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


(BTW, sorry I sound a bit disjointed. No sleep and I haven't used regular English in a bit.)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:49 PM on October 10, 2011


....Can someone let me know when we start talking about the J. Edgar Hoover movie again? I'm going down the hall to get more Doritos.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:53 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


What about close male friends? He could have been gay, but I've got male friends who I'm pretty damn close to, and despite the public pronouncements of love and constant flirting we're not actually together.

I think you're sorely mistaken if you believe that your behavior with your friends in 21st Century Australia in the circle you run with, probably being young and attached to arts communities and such (you ARE a music reviewer, right?) can in any way be transposed to 1920s through 1970s Washington DC FBI/political circles.

Your here and now is entirely different from his.

Perhaps it was all just brotherly affection and people are seeing smoke where there is no fire. But I'll tell you this -- Hoover would have (and likely did) fire people for providing as much evidence of homosexuality as he exhibited during his life, and that's even with leaving out all the rumors of doing drag at parties. Those who protest too much... well, anyway.
posted by hippybear at 3:18 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen MDB, but I think Eastwood has demonstrated enough dignity, humanity, and skill that he can be forgiven for this lapse. Or did we already hate him for the facist Death Wish? I can never keep track
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:31 PM on October 10, 2011


Death Wish? That was Bronson. You're thinking of Dirty Harry, but we forgive him that because of Unforgiven, in which he played a version of that same character as an ultimately-miserable straight-up psychopath, in a world where violence actually had consequences.

Also, he made not one but two ridiculous movies co-starring a beer-drinking orangutang. Aww!

Always glad to be the voice of 'we'.

posted by hap_hazard at 3:51 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


If anything though I suppose being gay would make him sympathetic because of the element of persecution. It's the only thing I can think of that is sympathetic about the guy really.
There again, I'm pretty far from dealing with the realities of that, so some of the complexity might be lost on me. Is "aww, poor guy" the reaction someone wants when looking at Hoover dealing with his sexuality and society?
I'm not premising anything there, just admitting to ignorance.


Check out the portrayal of Roy Cohn in Angels In America. There is nothing about him which elicits sympathy.
posted by hippybear at 7:15 PM on October 10, 2011


Huh. I was under the impression that the current state of opinion was that: The specific allegations that Hoover was a homosexual have been discredited, but there remains a popular narrative that casts him as gay.
posted by klangklangston at 7:34 PM on October 10, 2011


Now, as for the gay rumor... Lived with a man for decades. Shared a house. Vacationed together. Rode to & from the office together. Buried together. To recycle a Larry Craig joke, J. Edgar Hoover may not have been gay, but the man he had sex with sure was.

What about close male friends? He could have been gay, but I've got male friends who I'm pretty damn close to, and despite the public pronouncements of love and constant flirting we're not actually together.


Lovecraft In Brooklyn, sure, they could have been just close male friends... if they'd acted like you and your friends do. Which was completely different from what they did do.

I'm assuming that you haven't singled out any one of your close male friends to live with for decades, sharing a house, vacationing exclusively together, riding everywhere together, working together all day, eschewing the private company of women entirely, and have picked out side-by-side burial plots together.

If you have... well, surprise! - that thing you do with your close male friend at night, when you're both naked? - it makes you gay.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:31 AM on October 11, 2011


Angrycat--Swank's character asked him to kill her. If Eastwood's character had ignored her request, I'm sure there would be 1000s/100s/dozens of people angry that a MAN did not take a WOMAN's request seriously.

He didn't make the movie you wanted. Too bad.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:52 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry I started the derail folks, and I don't want to contribute to it anymore, but you, Ideefix, have very *curious* ideas about things. And when I say curious, I mean 'Wow -- you think that? Really? Okay then, dude.'
posted by angrycat at 4:49 AM on October 12, 2011


angrycat, perhaps you could have discussed those curious ideas with ideefix in memail instead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:53 AM on October 12, 2011


No I will not. Ideefix's comment was so foul I have no desire for any interaction with him/her. Why should I memail somebody who has told me that it is fine to off a disabled person if she asks him too?

I will not let such a vile sentiment lie unchallenged on metafilter.

This idea is as foul as any demonization of any other minority group. It has been expressed repeatedly in this thread. It is disgusting. EmpressCallpygos, you do not have the authority to silence my response to it.

But I am out of this thread, as reading this toxic shit is not good for my peace of mind. And yeah, if anybody wants to memail me with something that doesn't reek of eugenics, by all means, have at it.
posted by angrycat at 5:40 AM on October 12, 2011


For the recod--I never gave any opinion about Eaatwood's character's actions. i simply explained what happened in the film.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:38 AM on October 12, 2011


it is literally okay to off anyone for any reason
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:14 AM on October 15, 2011


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