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Off-Broadway producers have found that homosexuals will flock to plays about themselves. Yet most dramas about deviates are written for heterosexual audiences. The New York stage currently offers John Osborne's A Patriot for Me, Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band and John Herbert's Fortune and Men's Eyes, a 1967 drama about prison life. Revived last week in a new production, it has been rewritten so that a scene of forcible sodomy that used to take place out of the audience's sight is now grimly visible (though simulated). In movies, too, homosexuality is the vogue: Staircase, starring Rex Harrison and Richard Burton, Midnight Cowboy and Fellini's forthcoming Satyricon. On the lesbian side there are The Fox, Thérèse and Isabelle, and The Killing of Sister George.
The quality of these works ranges from excellent to nauseating. But it is a fact that treatment of the theme has changed. "Homosexuality used to be a sensational gimmick," says Playwright Crowley. "The big revelation in the third act was that the guy was homosexual, and then he had to go offstage and blow his brains out. It was associated with sin, and there had to be retribution." These days a movie or play can end, as Staircase does, with a homosexual couple still together or, as Boys in the Band winds up, with two squabbling male lovers trying desperately to save their relationship. Beyond that, the homosexual is a special kind of antihero; his emergence on center stage reflects the same sympathy for outsiders that has transformed oddballs and criminals from enemies into heroic rebels against society in such films as Bonnie and Clyde and Alice's Restaurant.
Is there a homosexual conspiracy afoot to dominate the arts and other fields? Sometimes it seems that way. The presence of talented homosexuals in the field of classical music, among composers, performers, conductors and management, has sometimes led to charges by disappointed outsiders that the music world is a closed circle. The same applies to the theater, the art world, painting, dance, fashion, hairdressing and interior design, where a kind of "homintern" exists: a gay boss will often use his influence to help gay friends. The process is not unlike the ethnic favoritism that prevails in some companies and in big-city political machines; with a special sulky twist, it can be vicious to outsiders. Yet homosexual influence has probably been exaggerated. The homosexual cannot go too far in foisting off on others his own preferences; the public that buys the tickets or the clothes is overwhelmingly heterosexual. Genuine talent is in such demand that entrepreneurs who pass it by on the grounds of sex preference alone may well suffer a flop or other damage to their own reputations.
THE DARK SIDE OF LOVE