Monday, March 19, 2018


Jen Sookfong Lee.GENTLEMEN OF THE SHADE. My Own Private Idaho.  ECW, 2017.

I special-ordered this book because I too am writing about movies and their influences upon individual growth. I call mine GOING IN. I also wanted to read Gentlemen Of the Shade because I too was obsessed with this movie, and with River Phoenix, when I first saw it, in the 1990s. And I'm 30 years older than Ms Lee. 

Jen Sookfong Lee's essay about My Own Private Idaho reassures me that what I am doing is different. Mine is Creative Non-Fiction, Hermit Crab. I do not try to place the movie in a cultural context, usually. Rather, I'm interested in the individual watcher, the movie's (the story's) influence upon the individual. I am interested in how movies are one of the few ways we learn about emotional intelligence. 

Ms Lee's interpretation seems to say that watching the lost boys on the street expanded her personal horizons, letting her know there were more options than she had been aware of previously, and that it is cool (all the pretty boys do it) to choose alternatives. I am as I said 30 years older and less interested in permission to rebel. Permission to choose. Yes. Of course. I had a professional curiosity (as a caseworker at the time) in how young people choose prostitution. I was more interested in Gus Van Sant's answer to the more important question: "What happened to you?" What brought you to this place? I think that's the answer to one of her unanswered questions. Why is this not a "gay" movie? Because the boys are not necessarily there because they are gay. They are there because they have been abused. Finally, someone has broken that link in art which implies that abuse causes homosexuality. 

As I was reading about the cultural context, I was also thinking: Where's Midnight Cowboy? That too, a generation earlier, is about prostitution and brotherly love.

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