It's very hard to write a story about homosexuality, conservative activists, hypocrisy and politics without veering into religion -- at least a little bit. Sure enough, the Washington Post piece -- in the Style section, naturally -- about filmmaker Kirby Dick's new documentary "Outrage" punches many of the buttons that you would expect to be punched. Here's some key lines, for context:
Documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick's latest expose, "Outrage," promises to be a PR nightmare for certain closeted gay politicians. He names names. He interviews their alleged sex partners. He portrays these officials -- overwhelmingly Republican, with anti-gay voting records -- as hypocrites of the worst sort. ...
The closet, he points out, forces those who engage in homosexual acts to lead lives of elaborate deception, to betray their spouses, to seek anonymous sex. Conservative public officials who are gay, the film argues, adopt protective camouflage by opposing any legislation -- HIV/AIDS funding, benefits for unmarried partners, same-sex marriage -- that might identify them as pro-gay: It's a tactic that sets up an interior war against their essential selves.
The film is a work of advocacy media, of course. Kind of like, "Hillary: The Movie." We're pro-free speech around here, so Dick is free to sell his product in the marketplace and people -- inside and outside the gay/lesbian/bisexual community -- are free to criticize it, too. The Post piece shows some of that debate and that's important.
But I digress.
Another piece of this report interests me and methinks I see a ghost. This is not, you see, Dick's first film of this kind, as a heterosexual, married man who is openly part of the gay-rights movement.
"Outrage" will initially open in five cities before wider release. It is Dick's ninth full-form documentary in a career that has largely focused on sexual behavior and, more recently, sexual hypocrisy. His last effort, "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," explored how the movie rating system forgives "Saw"-variety violence and gore while punishing nudity and whoopeemaking. His Oscar-nominated "Twist of Faith" (2004) focused on pedophilia in the Ohio priesthood and how the Catholic Church stonewalled abuse victims. In other films, he has chronicled the work of a sex surrogate ("Private Practices," 1986) and the extreme masochistic acts of a friend who was dying of cystic fibrosis ("Sick," 1997).
Dick is consistently digging away at topics linked to morality, media and public life. If someone was making a career out of that on the cultural right, journalists would, I am sure, look for signs that he is linked to Dr. James Dobson's empire or some other religious institution. That would be an appropriate question to ask.
As it turns out, the Style crew provides quite a bit of information on Dick, but nothing about his religious background or beliefs. Are we to assume that, since he is the "son of public school teachers" that he is an unbeliever, a Unitarian or some other variety of freethinker who is anxious to attack the hypocrites on the moral right?
So, let me ask: Where is this filmmaker coming from in terms of faith? Is there a ghost in this artist's motivational closet? Or is this a story in which there are religious believers on one side and not on the other (as folks on the right would like to imagine)?