MCN Columnists
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Prop 8 Boycotts: Witch Hunt or Right?

Does the gay film community have an obligation to continue to support a festival and an organization whose head has been publicly called out for financially supporting a proposition that took away their right to marry?

You’d never know it by reading a lot of the trades, who seem by their silence to wish the whole thing would just go away, but the issue of Los Angeles Film Festival Director Rich Raddon supporting “Yes on Prop 8” to the tune of a $1,500 donation is big news that is already dividing the independent film community. Over on indieWIRE today, Eugene Hernandez finally posted a response to the various issues surrounding the indie film community and Prop 8, including the call to boycott Sundance, and the uproar over Rich Raddon‘s donation.

It’s been interesting to see the response around the film community to this issue. Where do those of us who work in this industry draw our line in the sand? In his piece, Hernandez quotes lesbian producer Christine Vachon as decrying any sort of “witch hunt” when Hernandez called her for her take on the issue after reading her Facebook status update, “I wish Rich Raddon did not support prop 8 — but he IS entitled to his opinion and he is entitled to put his money where his mouth is.”

I appreciate Vachon’s position, and agree with it as she stated it, but the other side of it is this: WE are entitled to our opinion about what Raddon’s donation says about what he really thinks about the gay members of the film community, with whom he has to work, and we are entitled to put OUR money where our mouth is by not supporting Film Independent and LAFF so long as Raddon remains at its head.

But my greater concern about all the response to this issue is that, even within both the queer community and among straights who support equal rights for their LGBT friends, I am still seeing an awful lot of comments like this one on Eugene’s post: “That is exactly the reason we are fighting for equal rights, so that people learn that it is not okay to discriminate against others, even if they don’t agree with their life style.” Folks, this perspective, coming from someone who otherwise in their comment strongly supports gay rights, is a part of the problem.

If Raddon had been outed as being anti-Semitic, working for an organization that has to work closely with the film industry, which has a lot of Jews, would FIND have still refused to accept his resignation and been so clearly trying to sweep this whole nastiness under the rug? The problem is, even among supporters of gay rights (and sadly, even within the gay community) there are still those who put comments out there that suggest that being queer is a “lifestyle choice” and not who we are.

Choosing to live in a small house rather than a mansion is a lifestyle choice. Choosing to drive a compact car instead of an SUV is a lifestyle choice. Choosing whether to eat meat or not eat meat is a lifestyle choice. Who we love, and how we love, is not a lifestyle choice, it is who we are, and it’s detrimental to the gay community for people within it to put forth commentary that feeds the perspective of the religious right that gays are “Sodomites” making a choice to go against God and Nature. It’s inherently self-destructive to support that perspective by referring to queerness as a lifestyle choice, and it speaks to the heart of this issue.

If you truly believe that being gay is not a lifestyle choice, but an inherent part of that which makes us who we are, how can you argue that being anti-gay (which is really what Prop 8 is about) is any different than the same proposition would have been if it targeted any other group? And if you believe this, how can you argue that a film festival, which by its very nature has to work with a lot of people in the gay community, can continue to be an effective organization when the person at the top has been publicly outed as financially supporting a proposition that took away the rights of that community? Prop 8 isn’t just about marriage, it’s about equality, about the public perception that gay people are less worthy than straight people to join their lives together. It is, as Harvey Milk might have said if he were alive to say it, about our very lives.

I don’t know Rich Raddon personally, but I believe Hernandez when he said in his piece — which discussed an off-the-record conversation with Raddon in a roundabout way — that Raddon is “… in the midst of a painful and emotional process as his personal and professional worlds collide rather publicly.” Yes, I would expect he is. He works with gay people, he has befriended gay people as a part of his job (and, presumably, on a personal level as well), but when the values of his church collided with those relationships, he made a choice to donate $1500 — not a small amount — to the cause of oppressing the people he works with and calls friends. He chose his church over his gay friends and colleagues, and that choice does speak to how he personally feels about gay people and the issue of gay rights.

And while FIND is absolutely right that they cannot (and should not) fire someone over their religious beliefs, they also refused to accept his resignation, which is a different thing entirely, and in doing so they have squarely put the gay film community and its supporters in a position of having to make their own choice, between backing their own values by boycotting a festival and organization that has supported independent film, or by supporting that organization even though it’s headed by someone whose values are the very antithesis of all they hold dear and are fighting for. Raddon has a right to what he believes, the organization has a right to back him — but we in the film community have a right to say to that organization through our continued support of it (or not) where we stand.

Is it, as Vachon said to Hernandez when he spoke to her, “… fucked up when the left starts acting like the right?” She’s decrying the idea of a witch hunt, and I can see her perspective, but the left acting like the right on this issue, logically, would entail the gay community advocating to pass counter legislation taking away the rights of straight couples to marry, or to redefine marriage as it applies to the Black and Latino communities, who, in supporting Prop 8, willingly got right into bed with the same group of people who have been fucking them over for decades.

Refusing to support an outed bigot running an organization you have to work with is not a witch hunt. It’s taking a stand and saying, I don’t have to give my support to someone who thinks I’m not his equal, period. And Raddon’s donation, whether he had a right to make it or, does say something about his own values and what he really thinks of the gay people he has worked with in his capacity as LAFF director. It makes every gay person in this community who’s had any relationship with him, personal or professional, question his sincerity, question what he secretly thought about them all along.

The left is not acting “like the right” in demanding answers from a person they have to work with and support in his job, should they choose to support LAFF and FIND in light of all this. The onus is on Raddon to tell the gay film community why we should continue to support him when he publicly did not support our rights. He needs to tell the community why we should want to continue to support LAFF so long as he is its head. And Dawn Hudson and FIND need to understand that this issue is not just going to go away based on them making a broadly vague statement about supporting diversity and personal choice.

I’m sorry if Raddon is having a tough time personally at this moment over his personal views and the choice he made, but this will not be swept under the rug. It is not going to go away. It’s not about a witch hunt, it is about supporting those organizations that do support the gay film community for who they are — and not supporting those that don’t. Raddon made his choice; FIND made theirs. Now the rest of us have to search our hearts and make ours.

– by Kim Voynar

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon