I recently rented The History Boys and was especially struck by the matter-of-fact way this group of mostly straight boys in an British "public" (private) school accepted and joshed with and even sympathized with the gay kid among them, particularly his crush on the dreamiest straight guy of the bunch (Dominic Cooper). And at least as much by the matter-of-fact way the gay boy himself, even as he struggled with his feelings, openly talked about his attractions and identity.
It was refreshing to see, and I guess I have to assume it's not wildly implausible for the setting (England) and the time (1983), though the movie (and Alan Bennett play on which it's based) takes place only four years after I graduated from high school.
It couldn't be further from my experience in a private boys' school in the United States, in which heterosexism and homophobia ruled to such an extent that the gay boys either kept staunchly silent and softly invisible or let their peculiarities leak out (awkwardly queer mannerisms, penchants for sketching fantasy characters on every available surface) and were subjected to isolation, ridicule, even cruelty. One boy in the latter category (let's call him M.S.) when confronted with the message "M.S. is a fag" in large letters on the blackboard and all the erasers hidden—as well as a roomful of classmates waiting to see his reaction—had no choice but to wipe the words off with his own '70s-plaid polyester suitcoat.
I watched and said nothing. Guess which of the groups of gay boys I was in.
Labels: actors, adolescence, England, gay, high school, movies, theater