Boy Erased: A Homosexual Dad Scared of Witnessing his Kid Follow his Path. (1400 Words)
It has become very difficult in 2018/19 to point at a homosexual man and say that he is so as a consequence of a trauma. There doesn’t seem to be room enough for a morbid homosexuality and a healthy one in our cultures. It used to be considered always morbid, now it is always healthy. I’ll leave you free to reflect upon the reasons behind this state of affairs.
Still, it is undeniable that a lot of homosexual men have become so following mistreatments, sexual and psychological abuse and when watching a movie about the coming out of a homosexual man, it is often relevant to wonder whether we’re talking about a healthy homosexuality or a morbid one, the result of a trauma… especially when the main character’s first sexual experience is being raped by a man.
Garrard’s rape by Henry is also problematic in that it happens after the two boys have spent the evening together, ran and panted together, played video games and chatted, when everything seems to be headed towards this final sexual encounter. You don’t rape someone who welcomes you in his bed. If Henry sexually assaults Garrard it’s because the boy is opposing the turn of events. Garrard wasn’t attracted to his friend, nor was he ready to have anything happen between them.
Another problem surrounding the rape derives from the fact that nobody ever knows about it and that the boy doesn’t seem to be that shaken by it. I’ve even read of a review from an abysmally stupid critic who concluded from this that Garrard, thanks to his male privilege, actually recovers from getting raped just like that. It’s official, rape is more traumatizing for women than men. And the same-sex aspect doesn’t even seem to enter into consideration for that person. Ugh.
Meanwhile, in the world of people who were lucky enough to be born normally intelligent, either this rape has serious consequences or the movie is quite flawed.
My point here is that if this rape seems so inconsequential it’s because that’s what’s going to make Garrard become homosexual. Before that moment, he’s not. The psychological scar that the rape leaves is Garrard’s homosexuality.
Garrard isn't homosexual. He is raped and raped by someone of a gender he's not even attracted to sexually.
How is that possible from a narrative point of view ?
Boy Erased is the story of a young man who is being suffocated by his father’s constant intrusions in his life. Marshall Conley is a priest and as such he feels entitled to give his opinion about everything and this as if he was the voice of God. That’s enough to drive anyone crazy or murderous.
The first indicator of Garrard’s homosexuality is his incapacity to get erect while making out –a behaviour that his father suggested on the same day– with his girlfriend in his new car, –offered by his dad on the same day– after an evening spent swimming at the lake… an activity suggested by the father. Marshall Conley is constantly invading his son’s privacy in order to make him respectful of God’s expectations. Obviously, as a rebellious act aimed at testing his father’s love, Garrard is going to behave in a way that challenges the words of God.
If Garrard was gay, this scene would have shown him not being truly interested in his girlfriend while having a super fun time with his male ones. Instead, we witness him trying hard to reach the girl while being slowed down by the boys, they're an obstacle he has to get rid of and his girlfriend is slowly turning away from him because of this. He is missing an opportunity.
At the beginning of the movie we’re not even told that Garrard is going to the institution because he’s gay, he could be an alcoholic, a drug addict, a gambler etc… and we don’t even know what kind of institution it is. For a moment I thought he was going to a special school in order to become a priest. What a coincidence, the son of the priest has to take part to a gay conversion therapy assessment program and it resembles priesthood.
Even if it makes everything look more subtle, it actually isn’t very logical from a structural point of view to have made secret the reason why Garrard is brought to this place. If truly the centre or the story was, “he’s gay and he’s going to be tortured for it,” it would have been important to state his homosexuality first. For example, Garrard should have been sent there because his parents caught him kissing and holding hands with a boy. And then, his stay at the institution should have followed a “love VS oppression” type of narrative, allowing the spectators to witness how the homosexual boys find strength and support in their love for each other.
Instead, Garrard gets raped by his roommate. Oups. And his homosexuality is actually never stated. It is built, step by step, brick by brick. He shows tenderness and empathy for the other boys and we interpret it as indicators of it, but they are in a very threatening and painful situation. Of course he is moved by their suffering; of course they show tenderness and compassion towards each other.
Later on in the movie he sleeps with a beautiful young man; how curious that he should literally sleep with him. They hold hands tenderly and just sleep in the same bed. No sex, not even a kiss. As far as I am concerned, tenderness between men is far from comparable to homosexuality.
And then, there’s Garrard’s secret story that we expect to be about two men and which end up being about a boy and girl.
Just like with Call Me By Your Name, as soon as you dare question the main character’s homosexuality, it becomes quite obvious that it’s actually very relevant to question it.
Oliver seduces the girl with whom Elio was very probably going to make love for the first time: his last-summer girlfriend. The coincidence isn't suspicious and everything is fine and nothing is ever hurtful in fineland.
A disquieting aspect of Boy Erased also comes from the fact that all adult male in this movie is gay. Victor Sykes is homosexual or a former one. His macho friend Brandon, is homosexual too. And the secret element to the story is that Garrard’s father is and that his behaviour is shaped by his fear that his son might become gay too.
And so, this movie that is supposed to represent how homosexuals are oppressed by a society ruled by heterosexuals and the hate of homosexuality, actually only displays homosexuals oppressing heterosexuals.
Garrard is fishing hard for his father’s confession. Why is he so easily convinced that his son is homosexual ? Why doesn’t he ever consider the idea that nothing happened or that Garrard could have been sexually assaulted ? Because he is convinced that just like him his son is “possessed by Satan.”
At the end of the movie when Garrard tells his dad “I’m your son and I’m gay and neither of these two things are going to change” he actually heal his dad’s wounds because the man is going to have to accept that homosexuality is not evil and thus he’ll have to accept his own.
Boy Erased is the story of a boy who explores his father deeper self.
When it comes to the mother, she is, as usual with wives of secret homosexuals, frustrated and borderline incestuous. She captures Garrard using her desire to protect him as an excuse. She doesn’t want him to live the house because she is lonely and desperate.
The father is too tough on the boy's masculinity while the mother is a bit too soft to say the least.
The sole way that Garrard will find in order to escape this suffocating environment, a father who wants to control his life and a mother who doesn’t him to leave, is to become a homosexual. I’m not saying it’s a choice, I’m saying that were his natural desire to grow up and become independent brings him.
But the happy end of the movie, would have been the Dad asking him “what happened” and Garrard finally being given the opportunity to talk about the abuse he’s been a victim of. But for this to happen, his dad would have to accept his own homosexuality and then accept that his son was raped because of it, that which is very unlikely. And so, at the end of the movie Garrard is homosexual as in stuck into homosexuality. But he was a heterosexual boy and his homosexuality is an alienation. Through rape, the boy he raced, erased the boy he truly was.
I think that, along with Call Me By Your Name, Boy Erased describes how you can bring a heterosexual boy to become homosexual.
In the former, heterosexuality is subtly forbidden and homosexuality praised as superior. The boy looks for his father’s love inside homosexuality.
While in the latter, heterosexuality is put on a pedestal and artificially forced onto the individual, making homosexuality a safe haven where to hide. The boy is not looking for his father’s love in homosexuality, he’s trying to make his father feel loveable.