Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Toilers and the Wayfarers

I decided to my film review on a film called “The Toilers and the Wayfarers”. It is an independent American film that was released in 1997. The story is about two friends, Dieter and Phillip, in a small midwestern town who are both secretly gay, but can't be open about it because of their small town's conservative values. Coincidentally, a lazy and rebellious relative from Germany comes to live at Dieter's house which then leads them to all end up in a big city where they try to find their true identity.

The film is riddled with different ideas, representations, references, and confusions regarding people's personal masculinity as well as the judgement of others.

One of the first striking incidences where someone's personal masculinity comes into conflict with their life is when Dieter's friend Phillip tries to kiss him after they lock eyes. They kiss for a split second until Phillip seems to become disgusted and leaves his friend out in the forest. Phillip calls for him to come back while yelling that it was only a joke, but Dieter never turns around. Phillip ends up disappearing for quite some time, while Dieter claims that the situation disgusted him. Dieter's attraction to men as well as his friend Phillip, certainly creates an internal struggle for him. His father is very conservative and macho as well as physically abusive. He ends up calling Dieter's straight friend a “faggot” because they hang out too much. The small town's heteronormative expectations certainly plays a part in this, too. Later in Dieter's sexual maturation, he becomes sexually active with Phillip. So , it is safe to say he wasn't actually disgusted by their quick kiss, but more disgusted in himself.

Another instance that I would like to discuss further, is how close, but non-sexual same-gender friendships can make people uncomfortable. They also can make people assume it's sexual, because the thought of two men who are extremely close emotionally can be seen as anti-masculine. The mysterious German relative, who is much older than Dieter, begin to have a very close relationship. They talk about everything and spend lots of time together. To have that kind of relationship without being sexual or gay seems impossible for many. Male friendships are a commodity, in a sense, that are often regulated through certain actions to keep the popular image of heterosexuality alive. When someone rejects this and has a more intimate than usual, albeit non-sexual, relationship many people tend to make assumptions. The father begins calling the German relative, Udo, a “faggot” and begins to worry that he and Dieter are sexually active. Strangely enough, it is his own son with same-gender attraction and there is no sexual relationship between them.

Thirdly I am going to discuss how having homophobic understandings of masculinity create tension that is completely unnecessary which can destroy families, who otherwise, might be much healthier. When Dieter runs away from home without ever letting his family know where he is, he becomes a gay sex worker. He eventually is caught up in a sting operation by police officers. The police officers identify him and call his parents who are at first relieved to hear an update about their son. Then they hear how he was soliciting sex to men and refuse to come pick him up. They apparently miss their son enough to be excited to have a police officer call and say that they have him in their custody. But, their homophobic bias leads them to destroy any relationship that they could have recreated with their son. So, the homophobia of the parents not only hurt their son, but hurt their own quality of life by making it seem unthinkable to have a healthy relationship with him.

Overall, I enjoyed how the film showed how certain ideals of masculinity expectations can harm various aspects of peoples lives. For instance, homophobia can hurt more than just gay people, but it can also ruin the relationships and potential friendships of straight people by having expectations of a masculinity that doesn't include certain natural human experiences. 

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