The 1997 film In&Out, directed by Frank Oz gives a comedic example of what might happen to a small town man when he is outed. Howard Brackett finds that his so-called ordinary life falls apart when he’s “outed” by a former student. This student announces to the world at the Oscars that Howard is gay, while accepting an award for portraying a homosexual in a movie. Howard lives in Greenleaf, Indian a typical American, conservative, small town. He’s soon to be wed to his fianc? who’s been with Howard for three years, but has been trying to get Howard all her life. With the perfect timing of Howard being announced gay only days before his wedding, he’s destined to find what his true “preference” is. The movie uses this quest of self-discovery to say that homosexuality can be most often judged by appearance, gestures, and attitude.
There’s a scene where Howard is riding his bike, which is his main source of transportation, and almost crashes into a news reporter, Peter, who’s been following Howard around for the last few days just so he doesn’t miss anything that happens to him. He’s following Howard because he thinks it will be a great story. He also feels bad for Howard since he has to put up with all the rumors, and everyone saying he’s gay.
This is when Peter decides to talk to Howard about his problem. At first Howard completely denies the fact of being gay, to Peter and everyone else. Peter explains to Howard that he is gay, that one day he just got sick of everything, talking low and changing pronouns so he just came out. He basically said he was sick of acting like a heterosexual and following all the do’s and don’ts of manhood and that he wasn’t being true to himself. He tells Howard not to care what others think, to just be your self. To prove that he’s right about Howard, Peter kisses him and Howard doesn’t even back away or try to stop him. From this Howard realizes somewhat who he really is. But he still isn’t sure, so he goes home and tries to prove to himself that he’s straight.
Everything that this movie has to say about masculinity is condensed
in a single scene in which Howard tries to prove to himself that he is a man’s man. He plays an instructional cassette tape that is supposed to make him a more masculine man by a series of questions and tests. But after Howard plays the tape, it only puts more of his belief into the fact that he is actually gay. In fact why would Howard even have the tape if he didn’t question his sexuality?
He proceeds to play the tape and in doing so he is instructed by a voice that is obviously macho and rugged, to “Stand straight and tall” which requirement Howard thinks he conquered. In fact he hasn’t, for the tape replies “Are we a little tea pot?” and Howard realizes that he is bent to one side and has a hand on his hip. The tape asks Howard if he is dressed in the appropriate manly attire and it seems that way at first. Howard is wearing a flannel shirt and jeans and boots, but he has his sleeves folded up and his jeans are way to tight, he seems to neat and proper to be straight.
The tape then goes on to instruct Howard to say certain phrases, “Yo! Hot damn, What a fabulous window treatment” Howard says all of these but the tape reveals he is wrong again no man would say what a fabulous window treatment, a nice window treatment is not something a man would pay attention to. Up until this point Howard knows that he hasn’t done good on the test.
The tape then tells Howard there is one more test, dancing. “Truly manly men don’t dance” the tape says it then plays really upbeat music. Howard hears the music and he tries not to listen. He battles with himself not to dance so he shakes and moves around a little bit, but he doesn’t dance. The tape then tells him “At all costs do not dance, bite someone, kick someone. Men don’t dance they have bad backs! Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t dance, he can barely walk.” After all this Howard just can’t fight it any more, so he dances to the music and he loves it. From this he realizes that he can’t hide who he is anymore, he has to tell everyone that he is gay.
This movie uses stereotypes as supposed telltale signs of homosexuality. If a man decides to dance to a song he likes, does this make him gay? If he likes a certain movie or even Barbara Streisand or just talks a certain way does this automatically make him a Homosexual? Why is it that men are judged for being true men only if they dress a certain way, act a certain way and speak a certain way?