Hollywood’s Rock And Archie Held Hands Together. Will Nigeria’s Tom, Dick And Felicia Ever Get To Do The Same?

Hollywood’s Rock And Archie Held Hands Together. Will Nigeria’s Tom, Dick And Felicia Ever Get To Do The Same?

Ryan Murphy finally debut his first Netflix project, a limited series called Hollywood which delves into the intricacies and biases behind filming in the Golden Age of Hollywood. It explores the “what ifs” of a less-oppressive film industry, following real-life actors into this alternate reality.

Hollywood is not so much a retelling of what happened as it is a story of what could have happened if the film industry hadn’t been so oppressive. What could have happened if, say, actor Rock Hudson had come out as gay? What could have happened had women be able to run movie studios? What could have happened if coloured people had been given the filmmaking opportunities they deserved?

“I wanted to do a show about buried history,” creator Ryan Murphy told the New York Post. “I wanted to give some people who were dealt a terrible hand by Hollywood a happy ending. And I wanted to ask a big, revisionist history question, which was: If these people who were allowed to be who they were in the late 1940s and get that image up on the screen, would it change the trajectory of Hollywood and would it trickle down and change my life as a gay kid growing up in the 1970s who felt that I had no role models?”

So while some of the people and events are grounded in truth, it’s the outcome of these events that changed, creating an intricate domino effect to speculate how the industry could be now.

Of particular interest to me (of course) was Rock and Archie’s relationship.

Rock Hudson was a real-life actor of the 1940s, who was rumoured to be a closeted gay man throughout his time in Hollywood. However, his sexuality was something he — along with Henry Wilson, another real-life character from Murphy’s show — worked hard to keep under wraps. So much so that when a magazine threatened to reveal Rock’s homosexuality in an exposé in 1955, Henry stalled them by disclosing the secrets of some of his other clients (namely, that Rory Calhoun had spent time in prison and Tab Hunter had been arrested at a party). That info was enough to keep Rock’s secret out of the papers.

It was even reported that Rock’s marriage to the woman who would shortly become his ex-wife, Phyllis Gates, was designed to throw the press off the scent so he could continue living as a closeted homosexual. He never remarried after his divorce from Phyllis in 1958.

Because Rock’s homosexuality was such a secret, it also meant that none of his potential partners were known, and so, it is unclear if Archie, his lover in the series, was based on any specific person in his life.

“Fifty percent of it is based on reality,” Ryan said, according to The Cinemaholic. “The show is a blending of real-life people I’ve been obsessed with since I was kid: Anna May Wong, Hattie McDaniel, Rock Hudson, Vivien Leigh, George Cukor. All of their stories and almost all of the things that they’re involved with are pretty accurate and heavily researched. And then the fictionalized people around them, many of them are based on real-life characters.”

So Archie is likely based on a secret partner that Rock had, either before or after his marriage, though there isn’t an exact person in his life Archie can be derived from.

But their relationship, as it initially was, interested in me in how reflective it is of most gay relationships in Nigeria currently. (Y’all know me: watching gay-themed Western television means I am almost always looking out for the ways they reflect my life as a gay Nigerian. And Hollywood was no exception.)

In the beginning, Rock – when he is still Roy Fitzgerald – seeks out the escort services of Archie, who is trying to make ends meet while waiting for the script he sold to Ace Studios to get made into a film. The fear and hesitation that the largely naïve Rock shows during that first time he spends with Archie, even though it isn’t my reality, echoes the realities of some of the men I’ve been with: men who realize that they have a lot to lose, should their homosexual affairs be made public, but who cannot shut down those desires and can’t help the need to be with a fellow man.

But no scene is as resonant with me as the one where Rock and Archie first discusses the possibility of being a relationship.

“So what are we then – boyfriends?” a hopeful Rock asks, because he is clearly very smitten by Archie, who he has had sex with twice. He represents that meager ratio of optimistic gay Nigerians who yearn to have what they see other (heterosexual) Nigerians having around them, even in the face of all the reasons why they can’t have that.

Reasons that the cruelly-realistic Archie sets out to emphasize in order to disabuse Rock of the idea that they can ever be in a relationship: “Boyfriend?” he says with a sardonic chuckle. “Can folks like you and me even have a boyfriend … A boyfriend’s somebody you take out on the town, show him off on your arm. You and I can’t do that … Boyfriend. That just ain’t our destiny.”

 

As I matured into a young adult homosexual, this was something I heard a lot in the gay community. I’d find myself wanting to be more than a casual lover with a boy I’ve been sleeping with, only to find him telling me that we couldn’t be that way because society forbids it.

“If we can’t be in a relationship that will eventually lead to us getting married to each other, if the only people we’ll ever end up getting married to are women, then what’s the point of getting serious with each other?”

This question was expressed in different variations that ranged from genuine doubt and sadness to a ready excuse to not commit to something that will undoubtedly require a lot of work to maintain.

However, the more I matured, the more I saw that these fears are largely insincere, because gay Nigerians can in fact have serious relationships if they are determined to. And even though I know of and have heard of same-sex couples in Nigeria who have been in years-long relationships, some of them more privileged than the average Joe even going on to have actual families, with children and such, it is not quite the same as how Hollywood tells us the trajectory of Rock and Archie’s relationship went. Both men aren’t content to simply live together and present themselves to the world as good friends; they want to “go out on the town, one showing the other off on his arm”.

“Every time I step out of the door, I start lying to the world,” Archie tells his female boss, Avis, as he reveals his intent to come out of the closet. “It’s weighing on me. I ain’t gonna do it no more.”

And so, they do something that no one could have ever done in that period of Hollywood: they step out onto the Academy Awards red carpet and they hold hands. The Oscars commentator can be heard saying in increasing astonishment: “And here’s Meg screenwriter, Archie Coleman. And whose hand is he holding? Why, it’s not a ‘she’ but a ‘he’! It’s newcomer, Rock Hudson!”

This, among all the other revisionist stories Ryan Murphy tells with this show, is the reset button that I began to wonder about in my reality as a gay Nigerian living in Nigeria. To hope that I would wake up one day to find that my entire reality has been altered to start all over again in a retelling where I no longer have to hide would be fantastical and expecting too much from the Universe – but, what about this reality maturing into a time when we no longer have to hide?

What about this reality becoming, really soon, a time when someone like me can show up in the public with my lover on my arm – in Archie Coleman’s words – “holding hands together, telling the world we refuse to hide”?

Written by Pink Panther

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9 Comments

  1. Mitch
    May 07, 10:22 Reply

    We all wish for this.
    But, the system here needs to be changed first.

    We’ve started the work.
    But, it’s our kids who’d reap the benefits.

    Truth is, I loved the happy endings everyone got in Hollywood, even though Dick Samuels’ was short lived. But, as much as we wish for things to change and put in the work (for the very minute few of us who do) for things to change, we won’t see that kind of progress. Not now.

    The violence of homophobia needs to be combated first. Not by denying our truths or by showing publicly that we exist, but by quietly, each in their own little corners, in their own small spaces, teaching those around us that being gay isn’t wrong. No more shutting up while people around us spew homophobic crap. We just have to teach people that we are no different from them. And, as much as we can, help those struggling with accepting themselves to come to their truths quickly without first taking the tortuous circuitous path through self-loathing and internalised hate.

    If we can do this, half the war is won. Because the next part isn’t really our job. It’s the job of the government. But, seeing how our government doesn’t give two fucks if the masses live or die, it falls back to the people to channel that rage they feel for the government, that rage they feel over their poor estates in life and use it to better themselves. Not to mistreat people (because that’s the whole point of step 1: reminding them of the basic and intrinsic decencies nature has imbued man with and getting them to not just acknowledge but accept and respect it) or make victims of those they perceive to be more disadvantaged than them, but to genuinely work and strive to better their lot.

    Only when this is in motion can we even start to talk about having the SSMPA and other draconian anti-gay laws in the country repealed and replaced with gay-friendly laws. Only then can we have the freedom we seek.

    Because, if by some freak chance, the SSMPA is repealed now and replaced with a gay-friendly law, it wouldn’t mitigate the violence of homophobia or homophobia itself. Instead, it’d push them underground where, rather than just openly express disdain and take out their frustrations on LGBT people, they’d morph into a killing force – an anti-gay version of the Ku Klux Klan.

    And that would be much worse.
    Because they’d kill with impunity.
    And with the inept police system we have here, they’d keep getting away with it.

    We lost the 60s and 70s, decades when the civil rights movements were sweeping across the globe. Now, a step by step tackling of the problem is the best way, if not the only sensible way, to get what we want, what we need as LGBT people in this country. Anything other than that is just wishful thinking.

    • Pink Panther
      May 07, 12:59 Reply

      ALL OF THIS!!!

      The violence of homophobia needs to be combated first. Not by denying our truths or by showing publicly that we exist, but by quietly, each in their own little corners, in their own small spaces, teaching those around us that being gay isn’t wrong. No more shutting up while people around us spew homophobic crap. We just have to teach people that we are no different from them.”

      AND THEN THIS ESPECIALLY!!!

  2. Sylva
    May 08, 03:47 Reply

    Good day,I must say God bless you for the good works you are doing…..please Benin city is on fire as far as the LGBT community is concerned……
    Guys are been arrested daily by a particular area command at Airport and are detain for days till they give names of other TB guys…..and as we speak police has over 100 names,phone numbers,Facebook ID’s of over a 100 guys and they go after one by one…….
    Since 3 days I haven’t been able to sleep after my friend was arrested in my present at his shop for no reason….they almost took me along if not that I gave them a fake name and the woman next shop play along to say am her kid brother…….they bail this guys with 50k and above……..Please we need help in Benin…..every member of TB community now lives in fear not knowing who to trust anymore….
    Thank you

    • Pink Panther
      May 08, 07:44 Reply

      This is very distressing. Please send me an email if you can, so we can figure this out.

    • Mandy
      May 08, 08:23 Reply

      This is so terrible. In a period when we are supposed to be discovering our humanity in this country, Nigerians stay proving how evil we are by carrying on victimizing gay people. SMH.

    • Seth
      May 08, 09:57 Reply

      What in God’s name is this?! The world is battling a global pandemic but the NPF stays being trash! I’m so furious at this!!

  3. Mandy
    May 08, 08:25 Reply

    As for me, the hope I have for this gay future is sure. I believe that this time will come for gay people in Africa (Nigeria). History has recorded that no social oppression stays secure eternally. At some point, humanity will find its way.

    I just don;t hold out much hope that Obinna will hold hands with Chibueze and Felicia with Sandra in my lifetime.

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