for my class on Homophobia, analyzing homophobia
's roles in the movie, and giving a summary
of the plot
Internal and external feelings of homophobia can make life difficult for gay people, and this is especially true of gay youth. During the years when gay youths are developing an identity for themselves, feelings brought on by homophobia such as shame, self-hatred, doubt, confusion, and fear are all obstacles for understanding one's own sexuality. Get Real is the story of two such gay youths in England. Though their lives are tied very closely together, these two young men are at different stages of identity development. Ultimately, the fear and pressure experienced by these boys from within themselves and from society and peer pressure force them to go their separate ways despite their love for one another. Get Real is a prime example of the power of homophobia and the effects it can have on gay relationships.
Get Real is based on a play written by Patrick Wilde. It follows the life of Steven Carter (played by Ben Silverstone), a young gay man in his awkward high school years. Steven is very aware of his homosexuality and accepts it, but in the beginning of the story he's only out to his best friend Linda. His promiscuity at times leads him to a local men's toilet in the park where he picks up men, most of them far too old for him. One day, though, Steven is in for a surprise when the man he was sneaking notes to in the next stall was John Dixon (played by Brad Gorton), a fellow student at Steven's high school, referred to by Linda as "sex on legs". Everyone at Steven's high school likes John, and John is a very popular track star. When John realizes who Steven is when they meet up after their conversation in the stalls, he gets defensive. He says that he was just curious, and looking for fun. They end up going back to Steven's house, where they get very close for a moment and are about to kiss. John immediately freaks out and runs away. After several weeks, though, John gets drunk and returns to Steven, and they kiss. They talk for a long time about John's first experience with a guy and how he ran away that time as well, and finally they have sex. They decide to start a secret relationship.
Amidst the relationship, various subplots are taking place. Jessica, one of the girls who works on the newspaper with Steven, develops a crush on him. Steven is submitting an essay for a local contest, and when he gets frustrated about not being able to say what he really feels, he crumbles it up and throws it away. His dad finds it and enters it in the contest without Steven's permission. The essay wins the contest and gets put in the school's newspaper. Steven is so upset that he writes another essay about being gay and slips it into the paper anonymously. Jessica soon figures out that it was Steven that wrote it. The school refuses to print the essay, but the head editor Wendy is so angry that she decides to print a page with only the word "CENSORED" across the page. The whole school is in an uproar about what the article could be, and it doesn't take long for word to get around that it was about being gay.
Meanwhile, Steven and John carry on their secret relationship, and John is very mean to Steven at school. He refuses to talk to him, and then yells at Steven when he tries to approach him. John continues to date his supermodel girlfriend, and one night he blows Steven off to be with her. Steven comes to John crying, and John professes his love and says that he'll do anything for Steven. They begin talking at school, and John dumps his girlfriend. When they spend the weekend together, John's homophobic friend Kevin stops by and sees the two of them playing some games in the pool, and is very confused by it. Time goes on, and when the censored article becomes the talk of the school, John worries that he may be outted. John and Steven have an argument in the locker room, and Kevin catches Steven crying as he holds onto John's shirt. John returns and tells Kevin to go outside while he takes care of "the queer". John and Steven pretend to fight, but then are caught in a close embrace when Kevin runs into the locker room. John pushes Steven into the locker and kicks him in the stomach for real in front of Kevin.
The conclusion is Steven's acceptance speech for the award his paper won. In his speech, he comes out to everyone, including his parents, and then leaves as everyone applauds his honesty. He goes to find John, and they sit down together as they realize that there's no hope for their relationship anymore. Steven, being out of the closet, and John, being unwilling to be out of the closet, couldn't be seen together anymore. They told each other how much they loved each other, and then they said their final goodbyes.
This movie provides great examples of homophobia. Steven's experience of homophobia is mostly external – the abuse he receives from John because of his homophobia, the restrictions put on him by his parents because he was in homosexual hangouts, and the pressure placed on him to bring Linda to the school dance and to the wedding he had to go to. Steven feels very comfortable with his own sexuality. He has accepted it, though he finds it hard, and identifies himself as homosexual when asked by John. He is ready to come out of the closet, and he is ready to have a relationship that he can tell people about. He doesn't like being forced into the woods where the police raid all the time because of the "perverts" that engage in homosexual activity there. This homophobia was very difficult for Steven, certainly, but I would argue that it is ultimately John's internal homophobia that was most destructive to the two boys' relationship.
John had a great sense of shame and self-hatred that he made obvious throughout the movie. He was scared to be seen with Steven, even just talking to him. It required alcohol for him to act on his feelings towards Steven. He tells a story of the first guy he ever had a sexual encounter with, and he says that he ran away because he didn't want to be a homosexual. He blames the fact that he was aroused by the man on the alcohol and on the romantic setting. Initially he doesn't even believe that he is homosexual, but rather that it is just a phase that he's passing through. He engages in immersion into heterosexual situations – dating a supermodel, going to school dances, being a part of the track team – to make himself seem heterosexual. He uses all of these strategies to cope with his homosexual feelings and tries to deny them. When he begins to see Steven, though, he realizes that his feelings can't be denied. Yet, his shame is so great that he is unable to continue the relationship when he thinks that others will find out. While external homophobia is a cause of internal homophobia, if John did not feel the way he did about being gay and being open about it, Steven and John could have made the relationship work.
Some other examples of homophobia and heterosexism present themselves as well. In the beginning of the movie, Steven plans to meet this one man outside of the men's restroom in the park. The man never shows, and Steven later sees him at his dad's work with his wife and kids. This man is quite possibly bisexual, and like John is too ashamed to admit his homosexual feelings to his wife in a way that might be healthy for both of them. Also, Steven's high school is homophobic and heterosexist. They refuse to print the article to acknowledge the presence of gay students at their school. They hold dances where every guy had a girl and every girl had a guy. Sports and activities such as track and the newspaper club have strict gender roles – only men were on the track team, and except for Steven and his friend, Mark, only the girls were in the newspaper club. Mark complains about how hard it is for him to get a date with Wendy, something completely insensitive to Steven because Mark doesn't realize just how hard it is for Steven to be a gay youth. There really is no mention or noticeable presence of any other homosexual students at the school, something that makes Steven's feelings of solitude more pervasive to the viewer. In short, in this small, homophobic town, it's really no wonder why Steve and John were unable to make their relationship work.
I personally got a lot out of this movie. There have been times that I have been put into the same position in my relationships, and I know exactly how Steven feels. I am very glad to have escaped those relationships emotionally intact and have now found someone else who's as comfortable with his own sexuality as I am with mine. Get Real is a real vindication for those of us who have experienced the problems homophobia can cause first-hand. Though in some ways watching this movie made me sad because I know that there are gay youths out there every day going through this same thing, in some ways it made me happy because I knew that I was able to survive through those situations to a better life now. I can only hope that any gay youths having trouble with homophobia can find the support they need in movies such as Get Real to tell them that they aren't alone out there, and that they will get through it. In some ways, it is ironic, because by making a movie about fictional homophobia, it helps to defeat the homophobia that exists in the real world, and that's what I hope that the viewers get out of this movie.