Funny Games is a relentless film capturing a family’s plight while two twenty something yuppies hold them hostage and play mind games with them for an entire night, betting the family they will all be dead by nine o’clock the next morning. The reaction of the audience to violence is a huge motif throughout this film. Several times throughout Funny Games the “fourth wall” is broken and the main antagonist, Paul, addresses the viewer asking things such as “Who do you want to win? Who do you think should be killed first?” By addressing the viewer he or she becomes an actual participant in the movie; they become actual witnesses to the violence portrayed.
During the end of the film, there is a dialogue between the two villains where they discuss whether or not film is just as real as reality since the events are happening right in front of the viewer. Peter debunks this theory but since Paul has been addressing the audience throughout the movie, he proves that the film’s reality is just as real as the audience’s reality. Just because you are watching it through a projection does not mean it is not true, and if this is the case, does that make us true sadists for actually sitting through this kind of movie? You can turn off the film at any time, but instead we sit through it, exposing ourselves to relentless violence.
One of the most compelling moments of the film is when Paul forces Naomi Watts’ character to say a prayer while her arms are bound. After this happens she grabs a shotgun and shoots Peter, killing him. Paul, in a fit of rage, hits her with the butt of the gun and “rewinds” the actual movie back to the scene where she is praying. By doing this, the ultimate outcome of the movie completely changes. Peter does not die and they kill her instead. When one gets consumed in a movie, he or she can almost forget that what they are watching is actually a movie, and by rewinding the scene Paul proves this to the viewer.
This film is a commentary on the violent world in which we live in. During one part of the film Paul makes a false confession that he and Peter are victims of consequence: gay criminals that are drug addicts and have incestuous relations with their parents. Then a moment later, he retracts that statement and says that they are both jaded with the monotony of existence and that is why they torture bourgeoisie couples staying at their fancy lake homes. These characters are not real. They are merely archetypes of different people who are the type who commit such atrocious crimes. Both can be explanations of why our culture is such a violent one. We blame brutality on video games and the media and our boring lives when the fact of the matter is humans are just a violent species. Wars are not a contemporary invention; they have been around since man has used weapons. When we subject ourselves to this violence by actively going out of our way to witness it, does that make us any better than these archetypes?
Throughout the 1996 film The Birdcage, the viewer is bombarded with many stereotypes of both the typical “gay man’s” persona and how men should act in our society. To sum up the plot, Armand, owner of the hip, Miami drag club The Birdcage, and his cross dressing life partner Albert, learn of the news that their son, Val, which they both raised together is planning to get married. Further complicating this is the fact that Val is engaged to a Senator’s daughter…an ultraconservative Republican senator (Keeley played by Gene Hackman) whom was recently entwined in a scandal surrounding the death of his partner in the Coalition for Moral Order. What ensues is a complex plan to hide the truth of Val’s parents’ homosexuality from the Keeleys, which is no easy task. Albert is pretty much trained to become a “real man” after having a nervous breakdown, overhearing that Val did not want him to be involved with meeting the Keeleys at all.
The Birdcage differs from Big Eden in many different ways. In both films homosexuality is somewhat portrayed as something one should not be ashamed of, but The Birdcage places its main characters, specifically Albert, back into the proverbial closet. After all, Armand is the owner of a very successful drag club, but that can not be known to the Keeleys because lord knows what kind of effect cross dressing has on family values and what not.
Henry Hart, the main character in Big Eden is not exactly the stereotypical flamboyant gay male character we see in many movies or television shows. Yes, Hart is an artist and lives in Manhattan, a city in the foreground of acceptance, but he is not the “typical queen” audience members are usually bombarded with. In fact, it is safe to say that there are no flamboyant characters in Big Eden, which is somewhat comforting. What a concept, there are normal gay men that want nothing more than to be in a loving relationship! The typical gay male character the American public is much more used to is usually an over the top, somewhat asexual but extremely feminine and more than willing to buy the latest pair of Jimmy Choos.
The Birdcage does a great job of instilling stereotypes of homosexual men. Albert is extremely feminine (after all, he is a drag queen) and ready to become hysterical at the drop of a pin. Acting as a masculine man turns out to be too much of an arduous task for Albert to accomplish in order to impress his future in-laws so he must resort to his cross dressing to win them over.
Big Eden takes place in a town where every character seems to be very accepting of homosexuality. Watching the film, I was very surprised that every character was as open to the idea of men being together sexually as the next one. Then again, I suppose the setting of Big Eden is a metaphorical Eden, a place where even though people may choose to love someone of the same sex, they will still be loved, appreciated, and tolerated in society. Throughout Big Eden, the main character Henry Hart, is confronted by multiple characters to come out to his grandfather, who presumably raised him since he was a child. There is a definite lack in homophobia in the movie, and even though Hart never does tell his grandfather about his sexuality it is understood that no matter what he will always love him. The Birdcage is a bit different. This movie takes place in Miami, which is portrayed as a gay melting pot. The only characters unfamiliar with this kind of lifestyle, it seems are the ones from out of town: Senator Keeley and his wife. Though there is not any outright homophobia in The Birdcage, certain stereotypes about conservatives and their moral codes are made throughout the movie. When it is finally revealed to Val’s fiancee’s parents that Albert and Armand are in fact two men and Albert is the star of the drag show, the senator can not even grasp this fact. His ignorance and denial completely prevents him from seeing the whole truth.
Though homophobia is somewhat exhibited by the Senator’s conservative, and naïve, moral views, it is not at all implicit and the issue is definitely skirted in The Birdcage. In Big Eden, homophobia is something that is non existent in society. In the article Non-Discrimination and Sexual Orientation, Jack Donnelley examines the basic human rights people that are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered are entitled to but often times do not receive. Donnelley states
“human rights rest on the idea that all human beings have certain basic rights simply because they are human. Human rights do not need to be earned. And they cannot be lost because one holds beliefs or leads a particular lifestyle, no matter how repugnant most others in society finds them.”
This paragraph may seem like an ideology anybody can get behind, but the unfortunate fact is that homosexuality is not only frowned upon in many places still, even in this day and age, but it is considered a punishable crime in several countries. In some of these countries the acts of violence committed against gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, and transgendered people are taken upon fellow citizens instead of government officials. In many countries, homosexuals are not allowed past customs because they are perceived to be a threat to public health or morals. Gays are still extremely discriminated against in one of the richest, most developed, not to mention dominant countries in the world: The United States.
Atrocious crimes committed against homosexuals, though less frequent than in previous years, are still happening in a country where most can proudly say “all men are created equal”. In 1998, Matthew Shephard, a gay young man, was murdered because of his sexuality by two men he encountered at a bar. Shephard was left to die, hanging in a field for hours before he was found. In many states, the government still denies homosexuals rights straight people are just given, for example, the right to adopt, marry, share insurance benefits under the same plan, etcetera. All of these issues are skirted as if they do not exist in both The Birdcage and Big Eden. Homophobia is extremely present in the American public as well as the right wing government and it is something that should be mentioned. One can even argue that The Birdcage presents homophobia and homosexual stereotypes as comical.
No loose ends are tied in the end of The Birdcage. It is never clearly stated whether or not Senator Keeley and his wife accept their new in-laws as what they are: a gay man and his cross dressing life partner. Even the fact that they are Jewish seems to offend the politician. One woman attending the wedding asks which one is the mother, further exemplifying the fact that you can not teach an old dog new tricks and the “old” way of thinking will be around to stay for some time.