TS Slaughter isn't afraid of offending people. The Gays, his second feature film, is inspired by the stereotypes of gay culture, and by 1950s TV sitcoms.
The Gays is an intentionally offensive, though quite hilarious comedy about a suburban family of gay man. Parents Rod and Bob Gay (Frank Holliday, Chris Tanner) raise their boys Alex and Tommy (Mike Russnak, Flip Jorgensen) to seduce their friends and engage in all manner of sexual game-playing. Bob, a transvestite, claims to be the boys' actual mom -- it was an anal birth!
The film is a series of vignettes often done in the style of TV sitcoms from the 1950s--imagine Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show or Leave It to Beaver performed with an all gay cast. There's also a flashback sequence to the day dear old mom first gave birth--it's presented as a side-splitting spoof of The Exorcist. The dialogue is graphic throughout The Gays, but how else are Mom and Dad going to prepare their boys for the world?
The Gays is definitely not your average suburban family. TS Slaughter now chats with SFGN about his film, and explains his views on the gay community.
SFGN: Do you worry that viewers might take offense to the film?
TS Slaughter: Everything offends someone. Just the fact of a person being gay offends a lot of people, so you have to be pretty thick skinned to get through life as a gay person. Lots of queers seem to be in denial about that basic fact. They act like everything's ok as long as we keep up the pretense of respectability by calling our lovers "partners" and having fabulous gay weddings. But it's true: our very being is offensive to lots of people, no matter how we try to minimize this reality. Given that basic truth, one of the things we can all do for ourselves as gay people is insist that our viewpoints are valid even though they are not mainstream.
SFGN: Your sense of humor is certainly different and quite bizarre.
TS Slaughter: As a filmmaker I feel the need to insist that my warped sense of humor and abrasive social critique are just as valid and worthy of airtime as anyone else' point of view. I write and make films about what I see around me, and do not and will not apologize for my brutal honesty and scathing satire. That's part of why the theme song for The Gays includes the refrain "The Gays need not apologize to you". I see it as a sort of national anthem for all us queers, even though it's also meant to be funny and edgy too.
SFGN: How would you describe The Gays?
TS Slaughter: The Gays is a raunchy, twisted, irreverent radical queer take on American TV sitcoms of yesteryear, especially those that portray the nuclear family. From the normal (The Brady Bunch) to the bizarre (The Addams Family). It's not a linear story but a series of comic vignettes portraying the bizarre family rituals of a dysfunctional gay family of four whose members think they are normal.
SFGN: Is there a hidden message in The Gays?
TS Slaughter: There are several messages that come to mind. One is that LGBT people should not be ashamed of who we are even if we behave, from a socially conventional perspective, outlandishly and irresponsibly at times. If straight people can do whatever they want and not apologize for it, then so can we. And since we have historically been oppressed by straight people, they should be able to handle some satire directed at them. Like the line "heterosexuality is not proper dinner table conversation, son", which father Rod Gay utters witheringly to his son Alex.
SFGN: That's quite an envelope pushing message. Is there anything else you're trying to say?
TS Slaughter: A related message is that we should revel in our naughtiness. We've fought too hard for the right to be sexually and socially liberated people.
A third message is that as gay people we should be nicer to each other than we typically behave. The film shows a lot of bad gay male behavior towards other gays, especially when it comes to dating and sex. And that's all too common in real life, unfortunately. This behavior stems from internalized homophobia. Gay men have been told that we're all just sissy garbage by the rest of the world since birth, so when we grow up, we take it out on each other.
SFGN: What do you hope LGBT viewers will take from all this?
TS Slaughter: I hope the film raises awareness by reflecting our darker behavioral patterns and worst instincts back to the LGBT audience in a satirical way. At the same time I know the truth hurts, so I know lots of viewers will object. So be it.
I'm not fond of gay culture as it is now. Like I said before, we could treat each other a lot better than we do, and we'd all be a lot better off emotionally. Too many of us go from rejection by our families to rejection by each other.
SFGN: Anything you'd like to add?
TS Slaughter: I just want to say to the few queer critics I've read who say they can't imagine who the audience for The Gays is: it's precisely for you, if only you could admit it.
Slaughter tells SFGN that like his previous film, The Gays was self-funded. He now has several more projects in the works.
To order a DVD of The Gays, or to watch it at Vimeo on Demand, please visit: www.thegaysmovie.com