Enola 'Gay', as in 'Homosexual'
The outrage over Ken Burns' The War has not yet hit the queer community. Why?
By Andy Campbell,
5:45PM, Mon. Sep. 24, 2007
I'm in a PBS K-hole! Help.
Man oh man, I love public broadcasting, especially when the blockbuster documentaries come along and rile everyone up!
Enter: Ken Burns' seven-part miniseries about the Second World War simply titled The War.
Of course, if you've seen Ken Burns' other documentaries like Baseball, Jazz, and The Civil War you'll know that this queen has an eye for grand and sweeping tales that always end up looking like patriotic fourth of July celebrations. You laugh, you cry, you feel that much better about being an Amrrrcan. Let's not talk about, for instance, the fact that, for, oh, the better part of the last century, jazz was, and continues to be, marginalized by white mainstream cultures unable to otherwise integrate black folks or their art into hegemonic power structures. Why get into such sticky politics when Ken Burns so deftly reclaims it for the nice white liberal audiences of Public Broadcasting (self included)? Thanks, man.
Back to the subject at hand, The War.
One of the loudest critiques of "The War" came from Latina/o communities who were rightly miffed about the exclusion of Latino/a stories from a series that promised to narrate the Second World War from the bottom up. Burns, in response, ended up adding a couple of Latino characters to appease the outraged Latino/a communities.
What's your queer point, you ask?
Well, there really aren't any lesbian/gay stories in The War either. And perhaps more importantly no one seems to be complaining (ahem ahem GLBTQs hello, GLAAD?).
The way I see it (and please feel free to argue), homo sex acts and military operations have historically gone hand in hand.
Exhibit A: The Spartans! And we don't mean like those portrayals in 300.
Exhibit B: The Gay Sailor! Some of this, of course, is delicious queer fantasy. But come on, surely some of those boys on shore leave were making true the adage of "a boy in every port." (It's like Tom of Finland never happened!!!)
Exhibit C: And sheesh, it's not like there are entire books written about the topic of queers who serve – and specifically served in WWII.
But that's not really patriotic now is it? And these are not things people should talk about in a PBS documentary, Andy, where is your sense of decorum?
I have to echo the sentiments of Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez (not only one of the activists who called for the inclusion of Latino/a stories in The War but also an Austinite): as long as gay and lesbian stories are marginalized we remain invisible and policies like "Don't Ask Don't Tell" remain woefully in play... because, you know, there were never any gays or lesbians in the military anyway. Ever. No, really.