Notes on "Notes on a Scandal" and "The History Boys"The other night I finally saw the movie people have been buzzing about for a couple of weeks now, Notes on a Scandal. It's beautifully acted and expertly told with an absolutely stunning Phillip Glass score by the way. But I couldn't help but be bothered by the perpetuation of the predatory evil lesbian stereotype in the the character of Barbara Covett, played by Judi Dench. Don't get me wrong, Dame Judi gives a stellar performance deserving of all the accolades she has received lately including her Oscar nomination. But I thought this kind of stereotypic role was a no-no these days. Has GLAAD had anything to say about this I wonder?
About six months ago I was similarly bothered by the depiction of a lonely, old, predatory gay pedophile in last year's Tony Award Winning Best Play, The History Boys. That had not one but THREE generations of pathetic homosexuals in it. Even the youngest of them, a gay teenager coming of age in the 1980s, a boy completely at home with his own sexuality and somehow accepted by all his straight school mates for it, falls into the same kind of sad, reclusive existence as his history teacher. We are led to believe that this boy's only eventual sexual contacts are unrequited affairs on the internet in which he poses as a teenage girl. Not a far cry from his history teacher, a man more than fifty years his senior, whose only sexual gratification comes from giving boys rides home on the back of his motor cycle while he takes the opportunity to fondle them. The third in the trio is another teacher, about 30 years old, who allows himself to be seduced by the most attractive of the underage boys in exchange for academic rewards.
I do not dispute that these kinds of men exist today, but when THREE gay men are represented in such a light in the same piece, one has to believe the playwright is trying to make a point--even if he himself happens to be a gay man.
Coincidentally, both Notes on a Scandal and The History Boys are British pieces. Could that, I wonder, have something to do with it? Just asking.