Categories: Discussions

Homophobia in the Media’s Treatment of New Ginsberg Movie

So Daniel Radcliffe is going to play Allen Ginsberg in a new movie, called Kill Your Darlings. The movie is about the murder of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr, a story which is part of Beat lore.

Yet for some reason, when you search for news about this announcement on the internet, it seems that there is a varying level of interest in the subject matter. More high-brow publications are fascinated by the story of Boy-Wizard-Turns-Beat-Poet, whereas at the other end of the scale, there is astonishment that this wholesome young man is portray – gasp! – a homosexual.

Ok, so Allen Ginsberg was gay and was not shy of making that fact known. David Kammerer was also a homosexual, and as the victim of the murder central to the movie’s plot, it is not homophobic at all to mention that the movie will likely contain some references to homosexuality. Indeed, Radcliffe himself mentioned to the French media that he would be playing “a gay character” in his next movie. Yet, the media seems disproportionately interested in this fact, as though there is something seedy or twisted about him (apparently inseparable from his most famous role) playing a gay man.

Let’s take a look at some of the media coverage.

The news appears to have been broken by Twitch, which – along with a few other publications – reported the story responsibly, mentioning that Radcliffe had claimed he was playing a “gay character” in his next movie (although mistakenly refers to Carr as Kammerer’s lover). We also have an announcement from the UK Press Association. It also does not play up the gay angle, and only mentions that his character is a homosexual in relation to what Radcliffe told the French press.

Daniel Radcliffe is apparently going to play beat poet Allen Ginsberg in his next film.

The Harry Potter star was quoted in the French press last week saying that he would very likely be playing a gay character in a film to be released in 2012.

Now movie blog reports he has been cast in Kill Your Darlings, a thriller based on actual events, and centred around the relationship between Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Lucien Carr.

Carr is credited for connecting writers Ginsberg, Kerouac and William S Burroughs but is best known for being found guilty of the murder of his lover David Kammerer in 1944.

The film is to be directed by script writer John Krokidas and previously began production in 2009 with Captain America’s Chris Evans, Jesse Eisenberg and I’m Not There’s Ben Whishaw attached to play Kerouac, Ginsberg and Carr, respectively.

It is not known if any of these actors are still attached to the project.

James Franco recently played Ginsberg in biopic Howl, released last year.

There is some more responsible reporting from The Guardian, which only mentions that the movie involves a “gay stalker”, which is true and central to the plot of the film. NME mentions the “gay stalker” and also references Radcliffe’s hint at a “gay character”.

At the other end of the spectrum there is The Sun, which unsurprisingly revels in playing up the gay angle. The sensationalist title reads, “Potter’s Dan Radcliffe to Play Gay Poet”. The article then focuses almost entirely on the fact that Radcliffe is playing a homosexual character, implying that there is something wrong with this, and something wrong with homosexuals. It mentions that Ginsberg was “openly gay” as though this is something we should still be shocked by, and even sinks as low as to dredge up rumours that Radcliffe himself is a homosexual. The language used to describe is “battle” against being thought of as gay, and the fact that they think it is worth mentioning that he supports tolerance towards homosexuals is appalling.

His new role is a brave move for the star, who has battled rumours that he is homosexual.

He has also donated cash to a US charity that promotes tolerance towards gay men, lesbians and bisexuals.

In March 2010 he denied being gay following internet speculation about his sexuality.

That this is even worth mentioning shows a worrying degree of prejudice on the part of the writers and editors… although given the history of the “news”paper, it is hardly a surprise.

We also have some shoddy reporting AceShowBiz, who deem the gay element of the film so important that they place it firmly in the title of their article. The article then focuses on the fact that Ginsberg was a homosexual, implying – as did The Sun – that this makes him an unwholesome, undesirable character to play. But how much stock can you put in an article written by someone who fails to realise that Ginsberg has been dead for more than a decade (“…is a gay rights activist…”) and stated that Kammerer and Carr were “lovers”, when in fact Kammerer’s obsession with Carr was entirely one-sided.

The HuffPo also falls into the trap of referring to Kammerer and Carr as “lovers”, and also calls the movie, “gay-themed”. I can’t say that I’ve seen the screenplay, but I’d be surprised if it was gay-themed, whatever that means. More likely it’s a movie about a pivotal event in literary history, focused on a murder. I doubt that they’d refer to any other thriller as, “straight-themed” or play up the sexuality of a couple of heterosexuals.

Towleroad quite likely has the best headline relating to the Radcliffe/Ginsberg story, saying: “Daniel Radcliffe to Play Allen Ginsburg (sic) in Gay-Themed Thriller”. So not only have they fallen into the trap of assuming this movie is all about homosexuality, just because it features a gay character, but they have misspelled that gay character’s name!

A website called Fansshare evidently seems set on claiming that worst title award, with: “Daniel Radcliffe to Star in Gay Movie”. That seems a little misleading, as though Radcliffe were starring in a gay porno. The article then says that he “has to portray a gay man,” which is just awful phrasing, and then has a whole paragraph devoted to whether or not he will have to kiss another male. One can almost hear the editors tittering in the background.

The website FilmSchoolRejects sadly states that it’s wrong for actors to play gay characters at the risk of setting a bad example for kids: “…now he’s playing a homosexual drug addict. That’s a little much for someone who, just a few months ago, was an idol to little kids. How about we dial it down a notch Daniel?”

Overall, coverage of this breaking story has been embarrassing. If you search Google News for “Daniel Radcliffe Allen Ginsberg”, you will be hard-pressed to find a source that doesn’t play up the gay angle. More worryingly is the number that includes “gay” in the title or subtitle of the article, highlighting the importance it holds to the author or editor of that publication. That sexuality is such a big deal in 2011 is a damning indictment of our society, and media outlets do us no favours by displaying their shock when a young man – a hero to children! – decides to play a homosexual character, or jumps to the conclusion that a movie featuring a gay character will inevitably be “gay-themed” or just plain “gay”.

Then again, look at these articles. They basically plagiarise one another, contain numerous glaring factual inaccuracies, refer to “Ginsburg” as a “beatnik” (a derogatory term), and often refer to Radcliffe as Harry Potter. Are these professional journalists that are writing? Are they responsible, intelligent bloggers? Does it appear that anyone has cast any form of editorial eye over these pieces of shoddy reporting? No. Perhaps Google “News” should have more stringent criteria for the reporting that cluttering my feed.

David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the founder and editor of Beatdom literary journal and the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs the Weird Cult and World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller. His next book, High White Notes: The Rise and Fall of Gonzo Journalism comes out in November, 2021.

View Comments

  • Oh my god! How dare they post that crap about Allen Ginsberg and Daniel Radcliffe?! These f*****g idiots have no idea how offensive all of this is! And they couldn't even bother to spell Allen's name right. (See this is why we need to revive the Beat Generation. Stupid people like these reporters need to learn how important it is to tolerate one another.) Just like in the '40s, there is supposedly something wrong with being homosexual or bisexual or just plain different. I, for one, actually want to see Kill Your Darlings because I am increasingly interested in the Beat Generation and its legacy, not just because it has "gay themes" in it. And just because it has two guys kissing doesn't make it the devil's work or a bad influence on kids! If anything, we need to follow Allen Ginsberg's teachings and just love each other-both physically and emotionally. I know I'm getting kind of swayed on this comment, but I love these poets. Mr. Ginsberg's like the grandfather I never got to have. All I can say is these "news" papers and websites need to clean up their act because it only encourages discrimination.

    • thanks for your comment, Katheryn.

      as you see, we do our best to ferret out the schmucks and show things as they are in the true light of day. news sources are inherently corrupt, as they are tools used to control the masses. if we disconnect the tv set, half the battle is won!

    (By the way, I know it's used as a derogatory title, but I hate that it's meant to be offensive. Don't we have enough negativity in the world? So, I encourage everyone who cares about the BG to flip the term around and wear it with honor. We shouldn't be offended just because the narrow-minded conformists tell us to. That just seems kind of counter productive of everything we stand for. Plus it really pisses authoritarians off when they see you're not put down.)

    • i met a number of Beats, like allen ginsberg, william s. burroughs and peter orlovsky...but i have never seen a Beatnik in real life. the closest i ever saw was maynard g. krebs, as portayed by bob denver on the dobie gillis tv series. the classic beatnik has a beret and cigarette holder. i never saw a photo of any of the aforementioned wearing a beret!

      if you care what authoritarians think, you should rethink how you liive. you should care about how you live and say 'fuck all' to what anybody else thinks. to act a certain way in reaction to authoritarians (squares is a better word, for me) means that they have you on the run, since you actions are not true - but in reaction to a negative entity. learn to say fuck authority and fuck what anybody thinks. if you know what is righteous, what others think is of little import. if you care about how they look at you - they already have you 'put down'. you are playing THEIR game. play your own game and make you own rules. better yet, have no rules.

  • Fuck you homophobes!
    I'm all for the Beat Generation and this display of rude disregard for a group of men who changed what was acceptable in society. They couldn't even manage to spell Ginsberg's name right!

    • Sorry! I meant to say this rude display of disregard is disgusting. (My key board is effed up.)Sorry for the mistake!

  • mine is effed up ever since i spilled the cider on it...people who are intolerant of others are simply idiots. hitler was homophobic, too. a lot of people so screwed up by society that they do not even know who they are and are afraid if they get too close to somebody who is gay, that it will turn them gay or something. fools!

  • I agree with all that you said regarding making such a big deal about an actor playing a gay character; but then you do an about-face to defend Lucien Carr and call David Kammerer a stalker who tormented a young man totally against his will. I assume you've seen the film by now (and perhaps even read a little history) and realize their relationship was a little more complicated than that. I think it is very naive of you to accept the accused's defense alibi as the last word on what actually happened. Lucien Carr used the "honor defense" to keep from getting convicted of first degree murder. That was his story; and understandably, he stuck to it for the rest of his life. However, none of us can know what actually happened between them when they were alone, as they often were. I don't know about you; but I rarely spend quality alone time or go for long walks with people who stalk me.

    • None of us do know what exactly happened, but we do know what likely happened, and that was Carr killing Kammerer in self-defense. Carr played with Kammerer and that wasn't right. I didn't mean to suggest that it was such a simple matter. Carr was a troubled and troublesome young man, and did stupid things. He ended up being in an awful situation (most likely, and as you point out we'll never 100% know) and he did something drastic. He probably had to, but maybe not. In any case, he went to jail and came out a more mature man. Kammerer was unfortunate because he needed a lot of help and in the end he ended up dead in a river.

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