The whole gay thing

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Clapham Junction
Centrepiece drama in Channel 4’s 40 Years On strand, commemorating the anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, written by Kevin Elyot, who may or may not be gay (I hope he is) but certainly hates Metropolitan middle-class dinner-party types, a bunch of whom form the hub of this five-stranded narrative. At two hours long, this was a slow-paced but well-constructed story, most of which – necessarily – happened around Clapham Common (not Clapham Junction, but perhaps that made a better title), except the bits that happened on Hampstead Heath, just to confuse everybody. Anyway, I won’t spoil it for anyone who taped or Sky+-ed it, but there’s a violent incident that unites all five, seemingly disparate, stories, and that’s the kind of drama I like. Solid performances from Rupert Graves, James Wilby (a class reunion from Maurice!) and Paul Nicholls; a rather hyseterical one from Phoebe Nicholls (not Cates, as I orginally wrote), which really unbalanced the climax of one of the strands, and one or two smaller ones that strayed into caricature, such as Samantha Bond’s paper-thin, self-deluded liberal fraud and Neil Pearson’s venal, bored commissioning editor. Congratulations to Elyot for getting a drama commissioned by Channel 4 which opens on the Channel 4 building and shows said commissioning editor, idly tapping his BlackBerry, dismissing Graves’ writer around an enormous, caricatured boardroom table, because his proposed drama is about gay people (“Aren’t we over the whole gay thing?”). How self-referential is that? Anyway, no commissioning editor would play with his BlackBerry while talking to a writer, nor do Channel 4 use huge boardrooms for one-on-one meetings with writers, but the point was made. This was not a documentary. And you’ve got to watch out for a young actor called Luke Treadaway, who, fortunately, was not as young as the character he played, who was 14 and got up to some of the most graphic, horse-frightening shenanigans, which was nothing we haven’t seen on Channel 4 before. He’s 23. One problem for me: I know that certain aspects of the gay lifestyle are played out in the shadows, despite decriminalisation, and some of them in public toilets (I’ve been down in the famous ones in Clapham Common that featured here: a bit like descending some stairs into the 1950s), but Clapham Junction lingered somewhat on this aspect. Even the gay wedding, which gave celebratory heft to the subject, involved one partner getting off with a waiter at his own reception. It seemed to be suggesting that gay men can never commit, which surely isn’t the case? Anyway, vividly directed by Adrian Shergold (who did, among others, Births, Marriages and Deaths) and packing a few surprises. And depressing as hell, which must have been the point.

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40 thoughts on “The whole gay thing

  1. Phoebe Cates? That can’t be right surely, but IMdb refuses to enlighten me with a full cast…I watched it out the corner of my eye as I was working and found it very bleak and depressing. And difficult to follow, but then I suppose I wasn’t following it…

  2. Phoebe Cates? That can’t be right surely, but IMdb refuses to enlighten me with a full cast…I watched it out the corner of my eye as I was working and found it very bleak and depressing. And difficult to follow, but then I suppose I wasn’t following it…

  3. Did you see “Short Cuts”, where the violent incident (earthquake) suddenly corresponded all the disparate characters and storylines? We had a toilet like that in Hong Kong till about 2 years ago when they ‘made it safe’. I haven’t found a replacement since then. I guess I’ll always have my memories.

  4. Did you see “Short Cuts”, where the violent incident (earthquake) suddenly corresponded all the disparate characters and storylines? We had a toilet like that in Hong Kong till about 2 years ago when they ‘made it safe’. I haven’t found a replacement since then. I guess I’ll always have my memories.

  5. I found the whole thing one of the most depressing couple of hours I’ve ever seen on television. I canvassed some opinion over dinner last night with two gay male friends:M: ‘It said that all gay men were interested in was sex.’P: ‘And your point is…?’M is 50, P is 33. Does this mean there’ an age thing going on there?

  6. I found the whole thing one of the most depressing couple of hours I’ve ever seen on television. I canvassed some opinion over dinner last night with two gay male friends:M: ‘It said that all gay men were interested in was sex.’P: ‘And your point is…?’M is 50, P is 33. Does this mean there’ an age thing going on there?

  7. I loved it, although it was pretty bleak. It seemed pretty accurate from my experiences as a gay man.Clair, your friends comments that it seemed to say that all gay men are obsessed with sex are fair. However, surely a drama herladed by Channel 4 as being their flagship programme to mark the 40 year anniversary of the legalisation of homosexuality was going to focus on this.Did anyone see 4’s documentary on last night? I think it was called How Gay Sex Changed The World. That was really interesting. And how charming did David Furnish seem to be? Who would have thought?!

  8. I loved it, although it was pretty bleak. It seemed pretty accurate from my experiences as a gay man.Clair, your friends comments that it seemed to say that all gay men are obsessed with sex are fair. However, surely a drama herladed by Channel 4 as being their flagship programme to mark the 40 year anniversary of the legalisation of homosexuality was going to focus on this.Did anyone see 4’s documentary on last night? I think it was called How Gay Sex Changed The World. That was really interesting. And how charming did David Furnish seem to be? Who would have thought?!

  9. To be honest I switched after about half an hour, as I thought it was quite depressing viewing.I’m not sure I see the sense in ‘Gay’ week, either. What are we gaining by watching a week of programmes pointing out that some people are attracted to those of the same sex? I’d like to think society no longer has a problem with understanding homosexuality these days.Why couldn’t this drama be shown as it stood, without having a week of programmes to back it up?Also, I have no problem with dramas like this, but judging by the people I know, gay men are fully rounded individuals, not sex-obsessed stereotypes.Chris

  10. To be honest I switched after about half an hour, as I thought it was quite depressing viewing.I’m not sure I see the sense in ‘Gay’ week, either. What are we gaining by watching a week of programmes pointing out that some people are attracted to those of the same sex? I’d like to think society no longer has a problem with understanding homosexuality these days.Why couldn’t this drama be shown as it stood, without having a week of programmes to back it up?Also, I have no problem with dramas like this, but judging by the people I know, gay men are fully rounded individuals, not sex-obsessed stereotypes.Chris

  11. Chris,Surely there is nothing wrong with a season of programmes celebrating the anniversary of such an important event.I think that is the point of “Gay” week, not to highlight the fact that some people are attracted to members of the same sex.And yes, I am a fully rounded individual (literally by the amount of weight I’ve gained these last 2 years!) but this season of programmes is specifically concerned with legalisation of sexual activity so it is entirely appropriate that it refers to the subculture of gay sex, specifically cruising and cottaging.

  12. Chris,Surely there is nothing wrong with a season of programmes celebrating the anniversary of such an important event.I think that is the point of “Gay” week, not to highlight the fact that some people are attracted to members of the same sex.And yes, I am a fully rounded individual (literally by the amount of weight I’ve gained these last 2 years!) but this season of programmes is specifically concerned with legalisation of sexual activity so it is entirely appropriate that it refers to the subculture of gay sex, specifically cruising and cottaging.

  13. Ahhh, that makes more sense then.I do apologise for not having read Andrew’s post properly, too.As I say, bad day at the office and all that…Incidentally, I once read an interview with Peter Tatchell, where he said that cottaging should be made legal.As much as I believe in liberty for the individual, and have nothing against what consenting adults choose to get up to, I take slight issue with this.If it illegal for anyone to have sex in a public place, then why should this be changed for gay men to have sex in public toilets?I understand that this is part of gay culture, but wanting to make it legal goes a bit too far, I feel.

  14. Ahhh, that makes more sense then.I do apologise for not having read Andrew’s post properly, too.As I say, bad day at the office and all that…Incidentally, I once read an interview with Peter Tatchell, where he said that cottaging should be made legal.As much as I believe in liberty for the individual, and have nothing against what consenting adults choose to get up to, I take slight issue with this.If it illegal for anyone to have sex in a public place, then why should this be changed for gay men to have sex in public toilets?I understand that this is part of gay culture, but wanting to make it legal goes a bit too far, I feel.

  15. Also, I would like to apologise for using the term “Gay Week”.Looking back, it sounds terribly dismissive of me, and not what I meant at all.I’m going to go home now, before I cause any more offence!Sorry.

  16. Also, I would like to apologise for using the term “Gay Week”.Looking back, it sounds terribly dismissive of me, and not what I meant at all.I’m going to go home now, before I cause any more offence!Sorry.

  17. Peter Tatchell is, in my opinion, a menace to society. He also wanted the age of gay consent lowered to something ridiculous like 12 or 14. (Perhaps I should have checked this fact before I typed it in a frankly Cavalier fashion.I’ve had some great fun cottaging but I do recognise that it is clearly indecent for anyone of any gender or sexuality to get their rocks off in public even if it is immensely enjoyable.Incidentally I find the rather romantic terms used for these activities in gay sub culture to be hilarious. Cottaging and Cruising sound so charming. Dogging, Swinging and Wife Swapping sound anything but!

  18. Peter Tatchell is, in my opinion, a menace to society. He also wanted the age of gay consent lowered to something ridiculous like 12 or 14. (Perhaps I should have checked this fact before I typed it in a frankly Cavalier fashion.I’ve had some great fun cottaging but I do recognise that it is clearly indecent for anyone of any gender or sexuality to get their rocks off in public even if it is immensely enjoyable.Incidentally I find the rather romantic terms used for these activities in gay sub culture to be hilarious. Cottaging and Cruising sound so charming. Dogging, Swinging and Wife Swapping sound anything but!

  19. Thanks herbalicous, I think next time I write a comment I’ll give it five minutes before I hit the ‘publish’ button!I’ve had sex in a nightclub toilet before, but I didn’t really find it that exciting to be honest – especially when the bouncers burst in, punched me in the face and kicked me and my girlfriend out of the club.Maybe that has dampened my enthusiasm for such things somewhat…I also feel that Andrew should elaborate on his Clapham Common adventure. Is ‘descending into the 1950’s’ some kind of euphamism???Chris

  20. Thanks herbalicous, I think next time I write a comment I’ll give it five minutes before I hit the ‘publish’ button!I’ve had sex in a nightclub toilet before, but I didn’t really find it that exciting to be honest – especially when the bouncers burst in, punched me in the face and kicked me and my girlfriend out of the club.Maybe that has dampened my enthusiasm for such things somewhat…I also feel that Andrew should elaborate on his Clapham Common adventure. Is ‘descending into the 1950’s’ some kind of euphamism???Chris

  21. Oh god that was depressing to watch. I suppose the point was “look” Homophobia still exists!” but it was laid on so thick and with hardly any sympathetic characters. I did a mental tick box throughout off all the gay cliches I hadn’t done but always see on these things: The only one I had done was the wedding. Meh! How tiresome and un-dramatic. Unlike the aforementioned Short Cuts which was brilliant.

  22. Oh god that was depressing to watch. I suppose the point was “look” Homophobia still exists!” but it was laid on so thick and with hardly any sympathetic characters. I did a mental tick box throughout off all the gay cliches I hadn’t done but always see on these things: The only one I had done was the wedding. Meh! How tiresome and un-dramatic. Unlike the aforementioned Short Cuts which was brilliant.

  23. No, really, those toilets at Clapham Common, next to the tube station (which may have been closed down for all I know) really are like toilets out of the 1950s. The fact that secret goings-on occur down there just makes those activities feel more illegal (as they would have been in the 1950s) than illicit. That’s all I meant.

  24. No, really, those toilets at Clapham Common, next to the tube station (which may have been closed down for all I know) really are like toilets out of the 1950s. The fact that secret goings-on occur down there just makes those activities feel more illegal (as they would have been in the 1950s) than illicit. That’s all I meant.

  25. I’m suprised Yvette Fielding and her mob haven’t tried to do one of their ‘Most Haunted Live’ efforts from there – I’m imagining her crawling on the floor from trap to trap with one of those heat seeking infra red cameras, only to happen upon the ghost of a bowler hatted cove from the war, seeking a bit of 21st century rough through the glory hole…

  26. I’m suprised Yvette Fielding and her mob haven’t tried to do one of their ‘Most Haunted Live’ efforts from there – I’m imagining her crawling on the floor from trap to trap with one of those heat seeking infra red cameras, only to happen upon the ghost of a bowler hatted cove from the war, seeking a bit of 21st century rough through the glory hole…

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