The New Gay Film Firebird and Gay for Pay
From what I’ve read so far, the premise of this film reminds me of a short story I once edited for an author named Curtis von Dornheim who was in his 70s. You can look him up. He’s still on Amazon. I edited him for around 10 years and he passed away in 2015, and I know he had someone taking care of his copyrights. He was most known for his spiritual awakening books, and I only edited them because I love anything dealing with the spiritual or supernatural. He also became a very good friend. And it wasn’t easy to edit him, but I also enjoyed his stories about being a gay man years ago. He wrote all his work out in long hand in a notebook, in scratchy cursive, as the spiritual guides helped him along, and I would have to type it all up and then edit. Again, it was such good material I couldn’t say no.
The reason I mention Curt is that he wrote one short story that reminds me of this new gay movie, Firebird. Just from what I’m reading so far. I haven’t seen the film yet so I don’t really know the storyline in detail. Here’s a link, if you are interested in where you can find Curt’s work.
With all that said, the movie Firebird has a basic storyline focused on two gay men when the love between two men was considered scandalous and dangerous. The first mistake they made for me in promoting the film was comparing it to Brokeback Moutain. At the time BBM was released I didn’t appreciate the fact that it was gay content written by a straight woman. Even back then, at that time, I knew from working in publishing there were thousands of other gay male authors with stories just as good who were overlooked. I also didn’t like those straight actors who played gayface in gay-for-pay roles. I remember arguing about this with an angry lesbian who saw nothing wrong with it at the time because cultural appropriation was not a thing back then. And gay men had no voices.
But I won’t judge Firebird on a bad PR firm. So far, I know that one of the male stars of Firebird, Tom Prior, is openly gay, but I’m not sure about the other one. Oleg Zagorodnii who is a Ukrainian actor who talks about the attack on Ukraine by Russia. In fact, there is absolutely no information about how he identifies at all, online, which leads me to suspect he’s probably straight playing gayface. But I could be wrong and I’m keeping an open mind. Ukraine is not exactly great in gay rights so maybe he can’t come out officially. I don’t want to assume anything like those people on Twitter.
The period piece is based on a true story during the Cold War and “follows a handsome, soulful young soldier named Sergey,” played by out actor Tom Prior, “who embarks on a clandestine sexual affair with Roman, a charismatic fighter pilot on an Air Force Base in occupied Estonia; at the height of 1970’s Communist rule.”
Here’s the rest. It’s all publicity, but it goes into more detail. I’m not making any strong comments until I learn more.
As a side note, the director of the film is Peter Reban who is also an openly gay male activist. It sounds very promising to me. And I’ll make a point of seeing this. It’s a 2021 film that was just released internationally in April 2022.
Book Review for French Braid by Anne Tyler and When a Straight Woman Writing Gay Characters Works
I read my first Anne Tyler book in college in my sophomore year and from that day on I’ve been hooked. After I read that first book I went out and read every other book she wrote. And over the years, I’ve waited with patience for her next book, which usually takes about 2 years. I think she’s in her 70s now and she’s still dropping books that are as good as anything else she’s ever written. As an author, she’s one of my heroes and she is one of the people who has inspired me to write fiction. And I am fully aware that the content we write is totally different, but I’m talking about her tight writing style and her need for less is more. In my case, I noticed so many romance authors writing this awful flowery narrative, and ridiculous dialogue that almost always contained said bookisms. And I wanted my gay romances to do just the opposite. It works most of the time with my readers who know better, but some readers simply do not understand word economy.
Well, Ms. Tyler’s latest book title, French Braid, was astounding for me because she wrote about two gay characters, in the most subtle, tasteful way. And it’s fine that she did this. She didn’t culturally appropriate gay men and she didn’t steal gay culture in any way. She simply added two gay men into her book and there’s nothing wrong with that. It works. It’s okay to add gay characters but it’s not okay to appropriate with entirely gay content. Leave that to the gay male authors.
With no spoilers, French Braid focuses on another Baltimore Family and how it evolved over the years. With a few exceptions, I think almost all her books are set in Baltimore. I think French Braid covers about 60 years. And the magic is that Tyler can turn something as perfectly ordinary as a French braid…even the gay couple…into something fascinating. She handled the disappointment that can happen in marriage very carefully, with her two characters Robin and Mercy. Robin adores Mercy, but Mercy is a bit self-centered, and in many ways, she has every right to be. They have three children, two girls, and a boy, and their lives are examined, too.
At times it’s complicated; at times it’s not. The writing, as always, is smooth and neat and tight and it’s a pleasure to read. I truly couldn’t find one single thing that offended me. A lot of people have mentioned the cat in the story and that turned them off on Mercy, but I found it to be an honest gesture and a human gesture. And I think Mercy did the right thing. I think she’s a true artist at heart.
I would recommend this book to anyone. There’s a reason why it has received so many excellent reviews just here on Amazon. Here’s a link to French Braid.