Monday, August 18, 2008

126. Mamma Mia

I was trying to figure out a way to tell this story without making the title of the movie involved obvious, but I can’t figure out how to do it so… yeah, I saw Mamma Mia the other night with a friend, and something happened that bothered me and I just wanted to get it off my chest. My issue is that people who know me and read this would immediately be able to tell who this story is about, but honestly, almost no one who knows me personally reads this blog anymore, so I think I may be safe. Besides, I just need to vent and maybe get some opinions from some of you as to whether or not I’m over reacting.

I’m also going to have to spoil a minor plot point, something I usually never do, but let’s face it, if you’re going to see Mamma Mia, you are not going to see it for the intricacies of the ‘plot’. You are going because you, like everyone else in the Western World, either secretly or proudly love ABBA. So, I don’t feel too guilty.

So yeah, I saw Mamma Mia with someone who I consider a dear friend. Before the movie started she told me about an interview she had seen with Colin Firth where he had been quite reluctant to talk about his role in Mamma Mia, almost embarrassed by it, and had said it was the scariest thing he had ever done. Now, I suppose I should tell you my interpretation of this, which is that he is nervous about his singing and dancing skills. Every Hollywood actor I’ve ever heard of doing a musical has said that doing a musical was the scariest thing they’d ever done, so I didn’t really see this statement by Colin Firth as anything unusual. And having seen the live show, I was pretty sure that what he was embarrassed about would involve sparkly spandex and disco dance moves. Besides, I don’t actually believe that he is embarrassed by his role in Mamma Mia, I think he was just being self-depreciating. Of course, this could just be my bias. I admit to having an irrational love for Colin Firth due to the fact that he played Darcy in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (not the crappy Hollywood version that came out a few years back, but the good 5 hour one). He was so good in that that I think I’d forgive him almost anything.

Anyway, so the movie goes on and it’s all fun and ABBA and then, towards the end of the movie (spoiler alert!) it is revealed that Colin Firth’s character is gay, and my friend beside me bursts out laughing and leans over to me and says “No wonder he’s embarrassed by this role”.

Now, this is a friend who knows me well, and who knows I’m gay. We’ve talked about it, we’ve cried about it, we’ve prayed about it… and she says this to me. I was shocked. The movie continues and then, at the end Colin Firth comes out in the aforementioned sparkly spandex and dances along to some ABBA, and I turn to her and I say “I think this, if anything, is what embarrassed him.”

The movie ends, and everyone is smiling and humming Dancing Queen, and she again says “No wonder he wanted to distance himself from that role, eh?” and I decided to give her a chance to maybe revise her opinion so I said “Well, yeah, I mean, no one looks good in sparkly spandex, and let’s face it, while I love him, he’s not the best dancer or singer, is he?”

Her reply? “Yeah, and turning out to be gay… no wonder he was so embarrassed.”

I should have said something, I know… I’m a coward. I was angry, but I hate conflict. And I don’t think I could have replied in a nice way in my angry state. She knows me, she knows I’m gay and she twice implied that being gay was something to be ashamed of. I tried to give her an out, but she wouldn’t take it. And I admit it, I was hurt. She’s my friend and I love her and by saying someone would be ashamed of playing a gay role, it sort of implies that she would be ashamed of me, or at the very least that I should be ashamed of myself.

I drove her home and silently stewed (well, not so silently, we actually managed to have a very nice conversation in the car while my mind was doing back flips), thinking things like “Do you seriously think that Colin Firth would not have known his character was gay before he took the role? And if he didn’t want to play gay he could have just said no, I mean, he’s Colin Firth, he can afford to let a role or two pass by…” and “How could you possibly say that to me? Twice?” Instead of telling her how I felt like a grown up I started injecting my gayness into the conversation. She mentioned My Fair Lady and I mentioned my long-time crush on Audrey Hepburn, which I think made her uncomfortable so she started talking about Kathryn Hepburn which… well, that’s a no brainer… I had a huge crush on her too – she looked so hot in all her pant suits! Kathryn Hepburn was the epitome of classy-sexy, but I digress. Anyway, I did that a few times, just wanting her to know that I was not ashamed, that I didn’t think there was anything to be ashamed of. And then we were at her door and she went home and that was that.

Later on, I was thinking about it, and suddenly I realized I understood the ‘pride’ movement very clearly. (Which is kind of appropriate considering that Pride in Ottawa is this coming weekend.) It’s a reaction to enforced shame. This is probably obvious to most of you, and I suppose if I’d thought about it I’d have come up with that myself, but I hadn’t really thought about it until the other night, when I experienced it for myself so directly. Seriously, in the car on the way back from her place I found myself thinking things like “I’m going to tell everyone that she knows that I’m gay so that she knows I’m not ashamed or embarrassed.”

I don’t know if anger is the right response, but it is better than shame. I remember the first time I reacted in anger to something racist that happened to me… it’s hard to imagine now, but prior to that, I’d reacted as if somehow I had done something wrong by being the wrong colour, that it was my fault that I wasn’t white, that I had something to be embarrassed about because of my race. I don’t know what turned the switch for me, but in university something happened as a result of my race and my response was basically rage. When I calmed down, I realized what a huge step that was, I was no longer ashamed of who I was and that was a good thing.

Anyway, that’s what happened. It upset me, and I’m not sure if I’m over reacting, so feel free to chime in.

Oh, and Mamma Mia is fun, you should see it.


diane said...


I think you had a perfectly honest and natural reaction to what your "friend" was implying. It sounds to me like she needs to look inside herself and re-evaluate her mores. Comes across a bit two-faced, if you don't mind my saying.

BTW - you can tell her Colin Firth's first professional role out of Drama school was a gay man, Guy Bennett in "Another Country" on stage. He played a gay character in "Relative Values," a sexually ambiguous man in "Apartment Zero" and bisexual in "Where The Truth Lies" This gentleman is anexceptional actor and has a long an varied career. It was the singing and dancing that was scary, and likely equally so. (you're right, he can't dance this type very well but has done excellent work in period piece dancing - P&P, Valmont, etc.)

diane said...

I forgot to mention I have been to Mamma Mia! 7 times.

Sandra said...

Augh, I'm sorry this happened to you. I was going to say what diane said, and that he's also signed on to be in Dorian Gray in a role I understand to be a gay man. (Plus he played the lover of a cross-dressing Rupert Everett in St. Trinian's, whose character was ostensibly female, I hear).

The short version of this is, it was definitely NOT the gayness that had him 'embarrassed'. I hate conflict too but it sounds like you and your friend need to have a chat.

And... I loved the P&P mini (especially CF's Mr Darcy, SIGH) and Mamma Mia!, too.

Michelle said...

No. You're not overreacting. Your friend's comment was at best thoughtless, at worst... well, that's for you to decide.

Glad Mamma Mia! was a hit, though. I enjoy ABBA and should really go see it.

ArmoredCity said...

:( :( I'm's so awful when when your friends turn out to be not as supportive/accepting/whatever as you thought they were.

I think that you should tell her asap how it made you feel (eugh, I know that hard, though...) I had a friend who would say things like that with some frequency, and I could never bring myself to say anything, so in the end we had a huge Megaconflict instead of what could (maybe) have been a few small manageable ones.

1. Colin Firth turned out to be gay? How in the world did I miss that??

2. The BBC Pride and Prejudice was SO INFINITELY SUPERIOR to the recent film. CF was a way better Darcy than whoever played him in that entirely blah movie.

3. I loved Mamma Mia!, esp. Meryl Streep singing her spleen out on Winner Takes It All. She looked like she was having a blast through the whole movie.

Casandra said...

Plus, sometimes people are accepting on a personal level but judgmental on an abstract level, and they don't make an immediate connection when they say things. We all have a hard time seeing our own stereotypes, and we don't THINK. We just say things and don't THINK. Maybe I sound like I'm making excuses for your friend - not trying to. We just say things and don't think. Given how much time it sounds like you've spent together on this specific issue, VERY INSENSITIVE. Sounds good to be reasonable and understanding, of course, but my stronger reaction is "HOW DARE SHE?!" I'm a seether too. I have to go away and let the wounds heal a little before coming back to something with a friend. Seeting takes a lot of energy, but it is safer!

[[I'd like to email you, JJ, if you're open to that. I like reading blogs, just not into posting comments - too disconnected for me. A temporary email address for me is]]

Ruth said...

Wow, I did not get Mamma Mia at all. I don't know whose idea it was that we all needed to hear Pierce Brosnan sing, but, yikes. No.

I wasn't happy with the CF thing at the end just because, even in hindsight, there's not really any character development that would take you there. It's like there was a gap in the story, or did I miss something?

Anonymous said...

Hi JJ,

I wanted to send you a (non public) message, but since I can't figure out how, I hope you don't mind me posting here. I just found your blog recently after googling "evangelical gay Christians", and being directed to your post on 'visiting cornelius'. And then of course I was intrigued by your blog, and have been reading more.

Reading this post.... oh my dear, I am *so* sorry you had to sit through that and listen to those hurtful words repeated by a friend. I can't claim to know how much that hurt you, but I imagine the deep to be very hurt since it came from someone so close to you. I am so glad you were able to see through her words and realize the inappropriate and offensive assumptions/insinuations she was making. I think it's okay that you didn't choose to directly call her on it- I think the most important part is that you were able to see the truth for yourself.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how much I felt for you reading that. I'm sorry your friend caused you so much pain.

If you ever need to vent, I am happy to listen for you. (

Sending hugs and good thoughts your way!

Brian said...

I agree with Ruth that there was no plot development to reach the conclusion that they did in the movie with C.F.'s character, however, I think the entire premise/plot/whatever you want to call it of the movie was horrible. The music was great, but the implication was very offensive, and I think that your friend focused completely on the wrong subject matter.

A Christian should have first been appalled by the "free-love" ideology and the fact that the girl's mom was a slut and proud of it. Although I was caught off guard by C.F.'s character at the end, I think the Christian movie-goer should have walked out at the very beginning due to the content you first come across, and C.F's character would have never been a point of contention. I know I left wondering why I hadn't left, but truthfully, the movie was well written with the music to support it...and I think it does reflect very well the current values of our society...that is VERY anti-family.

The "plot" set a strong tone from the very beginning, and I cannot see anyone taking offense at C.F. without having first taken offense to the opening song.

Just my opinion.


Anonymous said...

I just happened upon your website (was actually below a picture of Kathryn Hepburn I was looking for). Anyway, the pain reached out to me and I wanted to offer some directions from which you may find some relief. I only read very little. I am a student of Abraham and we know how important it is to feel good. If I were in your shoes and conflicted and knew what I knew I would read Neal Donald Walsh's Conversations with God and then, if it resonates, I would begin a study of Abraham during which you would discover how wonderful you are and that there is nothing you have ever done that should cause you shame or remorse. Blessings to you. EternalBeingofLight.

HammyCatra said...

I happened to come across your blog while googling - Momma Mia and gay character. I wanted to know if it was Colin Firth who played the role of Harry. (Saw the play the other night and I couldn't remember who played who in the movie. I'm random like that)


I think you're blog is very inspirational to those going through difficulties associated with being religious and homosexuals.

It's well written and honest.

I'll give you're friend the benefit of the doubt and say maybe she meant it more that the 'perception' in Hollywood is it is 'embarrassing' to play an orientation that you aren't .. or playing into gay stereotypes "flamboyantly gay" not that that means they shouldn't eventually think Hey that comment might have bothered you, but, you also have to try to speak up in the moment.
People aren't mind readers. We make mistakes and we only learn if you realize there is a problem.