I don’t make my movies for gays only
We talked to Bruce La Bruce about German sexuality, feminism and political correctness
Internationally acclaimed writer and film director, Bruce LaBruce is no stranger to controversy. He’s challenged societal taboos in his work, sexualizing everything from racist skinheads, bloody corpses and old folks too. He recently finished shooting, The Misandrists, a film about a secret cell of radical feminist terrorists, intending to overthrow the patriarchy and usher in a new female world order. The Misandrists is a prequel to The Raspberry Reich, about a revolutionary gang led by an East German dominatrix claiming that heterosexuality is a social norm created to oppress society. The Raspberry Reich was inspired by the German radical leftist group, the Baader-Meinhof Gang. We caught up with LaBruce about gay male misogyny, political correctness and Germany sexuality:
The Misandrists is a prequel to The Raspberry Reich. How does the film lead to the homosexual revolution in The Raspberry Reich?
It’s not really a prequel, it’s more, if anything, a sequel. I just say it’s like a loose companion piece to The Raspberry Reich. With The Raspberry Reich, the idea was that it was about homosexual revolution so Gudrun, the main character, was a heterosexual woman who believed the only solution to revolution was homosexual revolution. She would make her straight followers have gay sex with each other to prove their revolutionary commitment but I got some feedback from some lesbian friends and people online and whatnot, complaining that I didn’t really include lesbian sex or lesbian revolution.
As a gay man, why is feminism important to you?
Well, in the 80s my closest allies and friends were female of different sexual persuasions and we were always aghast and disappointed by the misogyny in mainstream gay culture: the polarization and segregation of the gay and lesbian worlds…which had some cross over. There were popular dyke nights at bars in Toronto in the 80s, but only a small section of the cooler queer guys would go to the dyke nights. So it was partly that; it was the realization that the gay movement has always pretty much been an upper-middle class, gay, white, or middle-class, gay, white male phenomenon, and that it has a lot of the same problems as the patriarchy, which is racism, sexism, privilege: white-privilege, class privilege, you know.
Why do you think there is a lot of misogyny within the gay community?
Well, I think it’s partly a reaction against one’s own femininity if one’s a man. You know, femininity in men is reviled easily. Part of the acceptance of homosexuality now, more in certain Western societies, is that they conform to certain standards of masculine behavior. It’s still the extreme queers or the extremely effeminate men, as well as the extremely masculine women who are kind of ostracized and questioned. So it’s partly a failure to recognize or embrace one’s own femininity and I think it’s also maybe because certain gay men who only have sex with each other have an ignorance about the female body or a kind of alienation from the female body and so some of them express it in a negative way, which I think is really, you know, infantile. Literally infantile.
In The Misandrists what are you saying about feminism?
Well, that’s a big question. Like Raspberry Reich, it’s a critique of certain styles of radical feminism as much as it embraces a lot of feminist thinking, so it’s a fine line that I tread. Some people thought that The Raspberry Reich was a really severe critique of the radical left, which is was but that doesn’t mean I’m not sympathetic with the ideals of the radical left. I am but it can become as oppressive in its own way as the radical right so I like to point out all those contradictions. I think it’s like a polemic and it makes people aware that if you’re politics become doctrinaire or entrenched then they become ineffectual because you have to exist in a fluid, real politic where things are changing all the time and you can’t just be reactive, you have to be proactive and adapt to certain realities. You can’t just apply the same formula to every situation.
Is there a commentary on political correctness in this film?
Oh yeah, for sure. The very film itself: the fact that I’m a gay man making a film that has explicit lesbian sex in it is really a provocation on a certain level that will raise a lot of protest, or certainly eyebrows.
You once mentioned that gay men are uncomfortable seeing cunnilingus and explicit lesbian sex. Was that something that you thought about when making this film?
I never make films for a gay male audience. I would hope that there are gay men that are open minded enough that they would want to see a movie about lesbians that includes explicit lesbian sex. I know that there’s a lot of queer men that will appreciate the movie and there’s a transgender subplot in the film so it really addresses a lot of those issues. I think there will be lesbians who will really appreciate the film and others who will hate it but I’m not concerned with a gay male audience in particular.
As well as The Misandrists, how many other films have you shot in Germany?
The Raspberry Reich, Otto, Pierre Lunaire, and then some parts of Skin Flick.
Does German culture influence your work?
Yeah, for sure. It’s a very political environment. There are constant protests as you know, you know, leftist protests. The pro-refugee movement is amazingly strong in Berlin and the feminist, queer and anarchist communities are very strong.
Has German sexuality influenced the film at all?
Yeah, it’s influenced all my films. I was doing the same thing in Toronto in the early 90s. In the mid to late 80s, I was making sexually explicit short films, which is how I met Jürgen Brüning who has produced nine of my movies…It goes back a long way, but of course that sexual energy of Berlin is so strong. When I first came to Berlin I met so many people who had the same kind of idea of using explicit homosexuality or sex on a social level as a kind of expression of gay and queer radicalism so I just felt that I was on the same wavelength already as a lot of people that I met in Berlin.
Interview: Mike Miksche/Hier die deutsche Version
Photo: pro-fun/Mario Fonfara
The Misandrists is currently in post-production and the movie will be finalized by the end of 2016. The film is being made despite its budgetary constraints. You can donate and help fund the project via Kickstarter here.
A portrait of LaBruce: