Take refuge! Gay marriage is upon us! And the sky's not falling -- how strange! With closed minds creaking open, more and more gay-friendly young adults reaching voting age, and legislators finally standing up for equal rights (go on with your bad selves, Iowa and Maine), the perfect stage is set for the release of Outrage. Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick has taken on the failure of the American movie rating system in This Film Is Not Yet Rated and child abuse in the Catholic church in Twist of Faith, so he is no stranger to controversy. And he's really asking for it with this new documentary, which exposes closeted lawmakers who promote an anti-gay agenda to cover up their own gay sexcapades in airport restrooms or in "alleys behind abandoned synagogues" (former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey totally went there).
Outing someone is often a malevolent act perpetrated by bitchy bloggers and trashy tabloids, but Kirby Dick's exposé is less about unwarranted attacks and more about tackling hypocrisy. He's not taking every rumor from Capitol Hill and slapping it on the movie screen nor is he going after every closeted gay person of power, only those who breed homophobia through their voting records to protect their heteronormative façades.
There has already been a backlash against this movie, most alarmingly captured as a DC newscaster threatens to punch Mike Rogers (a blogger featured in the film) on live television. What seems to drive that specific threat is the newscaster's paranoia over his own guarded secrets. Other negative responses stem from not understanding why Dick would go after closeted men for what they do in private when they're not hurting anyone. But the reality is that they are causing harm.
Anyone who believes that the recent rise in gay hate crimes has no relation to the bloated anti-gay rhetoric propagated by certain conservatives should get an award for delusion. We've seen how scary things can get when politicians prey on the public's ignorance and prejudice in a quest for power. Just think back to McCarthyism or, more recently, the McCain/Palin rallies. Or, say, Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. George Bush's campaign manager at that time, Ken Mehlman came up with the cynical idea to use gay marriage as a way to flame the fervor of evangelicals and secure their votes. And Mehlman is gay himself!
Dozens of similar cases exist on Capitol Hill and Outrage's sole purpose is to find these men and hold them accountable. Several politicos are exposed in the film, but two superstar hypocrites are specifically targeted. The first is infamous toe-tapper and former Idaho senator Larry Craig, who was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover officer in a Minneapolis airport bathroom in 2007. Despite this imbroglio and another sex scandal in the '70s that involved young pages, Craig still asserts that he is not gay. And, beyond all reason, his beard (uh, I mean his wife), pretends to believe it. A commentator in the film sums it up pretty well: "That's some weird shit!"
The other politician Outrage focuses on is Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who supported Propostion 2 in 2008, which banned gay marriage, and also favored the gay adoption ban. Like Craig, Crist hides behind a woman when the rumors get too hot or some political gain is at stake. Kirby Dick asked one of Crist's former "girlfriends" for her story and she replied, "Call me in ten years and I'll tell you a story." When McCain was looking for a running mate, Crist not only found another beard, but proposed to her. This didn't quite work as planned because a deranged aerial huntress trumps a closeted gay, yet he still had to marry the poor woman to keep up straight appearances. And now he has his sights on a 2012 presidential run. What could go wrong?
Although the film criticizes these men for their double lives, its primary concern is not to condemn them, but to showcase how damaging the closet can be to one's psyche and to the political process. Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey speaks openly about the harm done to his soul as a result of lying to himself, his wife, and his constituents. Along with the always amusing Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, McGreevey declares that coming out was the best thing he ever did for himself, not as a politician, but as a human being. Another former closet case featured in the documentary, one-time national field director for the RNC, Dan Gurley, abandoned his divisive anti-gay politics after his Gay.com profile was made public and has now become vice chairman of a gay-equality group. Like an apple a day or daily vitamins, accepting yourself and coming out is good for you!
Act Up founder Larry Kramer says that "activism is about anger" and the documentary supplies its audience with a sufficient dose of outrage to leave the theater and do something, maybe even come out themselves. This is a movie about taking action and realizing that the cost of the closet is too high. Harvey Milk wrote in his will: "Let the bullets that rip through my brain smash every closet door in the country." Some closet doors remain intact, but more and more of them are coming off their hinges and, someday soon, Harvey will get his last wish.