In an interview on the homosexual subtext of Rebel Without a Cause, Ethan Hawke made some interesting comments about the significant drop in homophobia in his teenagers' generation.
Hawke has four children all together, and two of them are teenagers. In the interview with movie critic Peter Howe, Hawke spoke about how his teens' generation has grown up with the normalcy of gay characters.
It's been fascinating to me. One of the biggest differences I think between my generation and my kids is that they have almost zero homophobia. They've grown up thinking that it's not a big deal to have gay characters on TV or in movies like Boys Don't Cry or Kiss of the Spider Woman.
There are all these things that started this (gay acceptance) ball rolling, and now people are really comfortable talking about it. I think you'll see a lot less teen suicide in the coming years. I really do believe that.
I actually think Hawke is right, although if his teens are cisgender and straight, I think "almost zero homophobia" is a bit too generous. The underlying frameworks of oppression are the most insidious, and because they are hidden, they can be the hardest to fight and expunge. I'm also not willing to say "a lot less teen suicide in the coming years," but I'm certainly hoping that we will see fewer LGBT related suicides in the future.
I would agree with Hawke that generation Y and younger will mostly likely have, as a group, significantly less homophobia than previous generations. And I agree with Hawke that as pop culture access through television, movies, and especially the internet has allowed even young people from conservative environments to engage with LGBT characters, celebrities, and even peers from around the world in a way which was just not possible before, this access has become a real part of the driving force in this progression.
However, for a film buff and actor, I'm surprised at the fact Hawke seems to have not realised that Brandon Teena, the real life trans man portrayed by Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry, was from all accounts heterosexual. Hawke seems to be making a very common mistake and conflating gender identity and sexual orientation. Teena was neither a gay character, nor, again by all accounts, a gay man. Hawke probably meant LGBT character, and he'd be right.
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