CAPSULE: Kirby Dick who wrote and directed THIS FILM IS NOT RATED, an angry examination of the American film ratings board, brings us an exposé of Congressmen who repeatedly vote against gay rights but who are secretly gay themselves. Dick looks at the damage they have done to the lesbian and gay community and gives the evidence that they themselves are gay. While the film is full of some very cogent arguments, there are major flaws in his case. Dick is missing a vital link: the fact that someone who is privately gay should necessarily determine how that person votes on legislation. And by not making that case the film frequently comes off as a piece of malicious vengeance against politicians who do not vote the way he would like. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
Kirby Dick makes angry documentaries. He made TWIST OF FAITH about the hypocrisy in the Roman Catholic Church over the sexual abuse scandal. He made THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED about the American MPAA system for rating films and the inaccuracy of their ratings. The current film OUTRAGE is about Congressmen who, under a "family values" stance, vote repeatedly against gay civil rights, yet who are purportedly gay themselves. This documentary gives the names of right-wing lawmakers who are gay yet repeatedly oppose pro-gay legislation.
Dick methodically presents police recordings, interviews, and shows documentary data that his targets really are gay. I will not repeat names of people he is "outing" here, and that limits what I can say about this film. But it is not my place to "out" them in my writing. People who do speak cogently that I will list include James McGreevy and Barney Frank, both publicly gay.
The problem with this film is that there is a gap in its logic. And that gap is very hard to fill, but is central. Kirby Dick had not really made a case that closeted gay politicians who vote against pro-gay (or anti-anti-gay) legislation are guilty of wrongdoing. He has shown they are not voting their sexual preference, but not that they are not voting their conscience. The gap is that Dick does not show that anti-gay legislation is materially wrong. I may feel that it is wrong--and I generally do--but if he overtly says that it is wrong it very much changes the focus of the film. The burden of proof is on Dick, and OUTRAGE becomes a film taking a side on legislation. That may seem like a small gap, but it is central.
The film makes the assumption that gay politicians have a responsibility to be in favor of pro-gay legislation, regardless of their opinion of it. Saying that gay legislators have a responsibility to vote some particular way just because they happen to be gay is really an unintentional attack on gays. It is saying they should be voting their sexual preference rather than voting on the merits of the issue. And it is telling the American people that they feel that gay politicians, openly or not, have a responsibility to be biased. It is looking at gay politicians who keep their sexual preference private and criticizing them for not being biased in the way that the way the filmmakers say they should be. And at the same time it is spitefully "outing" gay politicians who are not joining the cause of gay civil rights.
Perhaps not surprisingly this work has the same weaknesses of Kirby Dick's THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED. Both films are giant ad hominem arguments. His assumption is that people who vote in ways he does not like, in congress or in the MPAA, have unproven ulterior motives. He does make a case for why he believes that, but he does not show that these people are voting in bad faith. OUTRAGE documents Kirby Dick's own rage at the men he outs. There is no attempt to make it balanced. And his film, while engaging is the weaker for that fault. I rate OUTRAGE a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1049400/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/10011262-outrage/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2009 Mark R. Leeper