Monday, 3 December 2007

Big Gay Spy Week Primer

The Vassall case is largely forgotten nowadays. It was a gay scandal of the time, but it gets overlooked because the Profumo affair was even more damaging to the Macmillan government.
However, the arrest and trial of
John Vassall
in late 1962 and early 1963 suddenly made the British public more aware of homosexuality. Since Vassall's homosexuality was the crucial reason for his being blackmailed, and therefore could not be left out of news accounts, reporting of these events in public opened up the possibility of being able to discuss homosexuality. Indeed, in this light, homosexuality became a matter of national importance. Its discussion in this way, however, only served to confirm ideas about the vulnerability of homoxosexuals in society, as explored a year earlier in the ground-breaking film "Blackmail",(1961).
While the defection of Guy Burgess and Burgess Maclean when they were about to caught as double agents in the very early 50s had homosexual aspects, that information was kept hidden from the public at the time. This was because 1) not everything was known at the time by investigators 2) homosexuality would not have been mentioned to the public in that repressed time anyway 3) homosexual revelations in the British foreign and secret services would have been deeply discrediting and humiliating in the court of international opinion.
It would only be when Anthony Blunt was revealed as being part of the same spy ring that there would be a torrent of homosexual spy jokes.
Most of the concern over homosexuals from this period in the 60s therefore splits into two approaches:
1. Homosexuality’s currently illegality only serves to make practicing homosexuals vulnerable to blackmail, and forces poor homosexuals into a twilight, shadowy world.
2.Homosexuals are pervasive and everywhere, hidden away in plain sight, doing good only knows what, and weakening the sinews of the national character. Of course, when cartoonists and comedians try to show these hidden gays, they are still reduced to using the same clich├ęs as usual. Which begs the question of how they could have gone unidentified in the first place? But it’s all a joke, so who cares?
So homosexuals are either: deserving of sympathy as pathetic cases, contempt as natural traitors, or ridicule as sissies.

No comments: