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Losing it at the movies – not!

[Originally published 1995 |
Updated here 1999.06.20

Like many of you, in May I became an eager cinematic beaver for a week and supported the camera-wielding members of our diverse transgenderist, bisexualist, lesbiana and gay communities by attending the Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival of Toronto. I had to put up with standing in line alongside people I don't particularly like, sitting in the same stuffy cinema with them, and suffering through filmic excess in the name of art.

Don't get me wrong, kids. A handful of films attained a felicitous mixture of smarts, sass, and sentiment. But the fact is that, at the level of cohesiveness, directorial vision and technical acumen, many of the crappiest music videos available on TV beat the tutus off even the highest-budget queer films at the festival. (It doesn't please me to say so, but I call 'em as I see 'em.) There was, in fact, an overlap betwen those worlds: Jeremy Podeswa's video for Change of Heart's "Herstory," in which a certain amour fou between male prisoners is stymied when one of them escapes, made it into the Festival as a last-minute add. It was fine, really, in a Genet/Poison-esque way; it also boasted far superior production values (far less film grain, at least) than the overrated Eclipse. Still, I'd like to ask yet again that directors get their bands out of their videos entirely – think soundtrack, not marketing vehicle. (In "Herstory," Change of Heart actually performs in the jail compound alongside oblivious prisoners!)

Anyway, there I was nursing my film-'n'-video letdown the way others nurse hangovers when, one afternoon near the end of the Festival, my woman's intuition told me to turn on MuchMusic. Lo and behold, there was the rarely-seen Lemonheads video "Big Gay Heart." The song can be found on Come On, Feel the Lemonheads (1993), released after the troupe's one-hit-wonder success with "It's a Shame About Ray" and after Evan Dando got his goldi-locks cut. The video shows the band playing their song in an ordinary bar with a far-from-ordinary audience of numerous dyke couples, a few fag couples, and heterosexualists. We follow two story threads:

The moral of the story? A major-label music videoclip manages to be more emotionally evocative than nearly all the films I saw at the festival. Just imagine the odds: The Lemonheads had to talk the label into producing a video for a gay song and get the finished vid past label nabobs and broadcaster screening committees. Still, they did it, and "Big Gay Heart" trenchantly mines the protofag experience. Cred, it would seem, need not come solely from the street. Edmund White said that a role of gay fiction is to cause the reader to nod his head and think "yes" in recognition. This puny little music video passes that test brilliantly – while a few dozen indie films could not.

It took me by surprise. But art is supposed to surprise. I'll keep watching gay films, of course, but when I want a truly émouvant trip down memory lane I'll replay a little three-minute video and marvel at the power and complexity of "simple" pop music.