Time Capsule from 1961 Documents Changing Views on Homosexuality

Still from title sequence of The Rejected, 1961.

It aired on KQED over half a century ago. The Rejected (1961), a documentary thought lost, was recently unearthed at the Library of Congress by the nobly persistent archivists bent on finding and preserving obscure films. Originally produced by KQED for National Educational Television (NET) -- the predecessor of WNET -- the documentary first aired on Sept. 11, 1961, on KQED Ch.9 in the Bay Area. The Rejected attempts to find a humane, "objective" and unemotional take on "the problem" of homosexuality -- at that time, a revolutionary approach to the subject.

Members of the Mattachine Society, still from <i>The Rejected</i>.
Members of the Mattachine Society, still from The Rejected.

1960s television looks a bit like filmed theater. In The Rejected, authority figures -- doctors, lawyers, priests and government officials -- address the viewer while looking directly into the camera, citing studies, legal cases and figures from the Kinsey Institute. They proffer their opinions to what would seem to be an uninformed, naive audience.

The lack of color (both literally and figuratively), suits their place in history. These experts are surrounded by something impenetrable, a future full of knowledge and experience that was just out of reach. A notable exception to this crew are members of the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights groups in the country, who attempt to dispel myths surrounding the homosexual community.

Margaret Mead and objets d’art in <i>The Rejected</i>.
Margaret Mead and objets d’art in The Rejected.

These men in suits (and Margaret Mead!) are all phantoms now, preserved under studio lights with the clinical cases they make for and against (male) homosexuality. (Nary a lesbian is imagined or mentioned.)

Despite some antiquated lines of reasoning that can sound both specious and portentous, and the intermittent quality of the film transfer, you'll watch The Rejected until the end, marveling all the while at how long ago and far away the opinions within it sound today. After the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage (due later this month), we may similarly ask, "What will the people of 2065 make of our current expertise, our consciousness, our compassion?"

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Watch The Rejected in its entirety at the San Francisco Bay Television Archive.