Channel 4 commissioned Kevin Elyot to write a screenplay celebrating gay pride. They should have read his plays first. He wrote cynical tales about cruel, self-loathing gay men. No surprise that the characters in Clapham Junction are a mix of predators, victims and sociopaths. We follow their interactions on the day of a lethal gay bashing. It stuffs in so much tragedy that it’s practically camp. Elyot was making a point… with a sledgehammer.
Here’s my spoiler filled recap. This film is full of triggers.
Act One: Men
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want it to be a rose tinted view of gay life but the sheer grinding bleakness of the piece astounded me.Leigh Holmwood, The Guardian
Scene One: A Wedding.
NICE GROOM: I’m so happy we can get married!
MEAN GROOM: Me too. Excuse me a second. Hey cater waiter! Fancy a shag?
(They shag. Waiter takes Mean Groom’s wedding ring.)
Scene Two: A Public Toilet
RUPERT GRAVES: James? I haven’t seen you since Maurice.
JAMES WILBY: Quiet! I’m married and closeted.
RUPERT GRAVES: Funny that a gay story from 1913 should be happier than one from 2007.
Scene Three: A Park
JOHN: So, what do you do?
THIEF: I seduce guys, then beat them up.
(Thief beats up the John. Takes his money.)
Act Two: Minors
Scene Four: A Dinner Party
STRAIGHT GUESTS: Gays don’t have problems any more.
RUPERT GRAVES: That’s not true. Gays still have plenty of problems.
STRAIGHT GUESTS: You have a randy teen son, right?
MEAN MOM: Yes. He’s a precious little angel.
STRAIGHT GUESTS: Isn’t your sketchy neighbor a pedophile?
MEAN MOM: Gadzooks! I’ll bet my randy teen son is having filthy gay sex with my sketchy neighbor right now! I’m leaving!
BORED DAD: I hate my wife.
Scene Five: An Apartment
RANDY TEEN: Knock Knock. I’ve been staring at you for weeks. Fancy a shag?
SKETCHY NEIGHBOR: No! Go away! I know I’m the responsible adult here but if you kiss me, I won’t be able to resist!
(Randy Teen kisses him. Then tops him.)
SKETCHY NEIGHBOR: This is porn. Are audiences allowed to watch this?
RANDY TEEN: Sure. The character’s 14 but the actor’s 21. Enjoy!
MEAN MOM: Knock Knock
RANDY TEEN: Hi mom. I was just returning a pen I borrowed.
MEAN MOM: If by pen you mean PENIS! You filthy gay neighbor! If I learn you were having filthy gay sex with my precious little angel I’ll have you arrested! Filth!
BORED DAD: Sorry neighbor. My wife is the worst.
Act Three: Murder
Scene Six: A Park.
(Waiter is attacked by anonymous bigots. The Thief finds him.)
THIEF: What do we have here.
WAITER: Help me!
THIEF: Nope. I’m going to take your ring and leave you to die.
RANDY TEEN: Hi neighbor! Fancy another shag?
SKETCHY NEIGHBOR: No.
NICE GROOM: Dear, why was a thief caught wearing your wedding ring?
MEAN GROOM: Zoinks!
(Bullies chase a gay teen down the street and break his violin.)
RUPERT GRAVES: You see? I told you gays still have problems!
State of the Nation
No one criticizes, say, the vast quantity of crime drama in which heterosexuals do violence to each other, as indicative of how awful straight people are.David Peschek, The Guardian
Channel 4 responded to criticism of the film by stating the murder was inspired by a true case from 2005. This is true. We know homophobic violence still exists. But the criticism was actually of the sinister gay characters. The program aired on the 40th anniversary of the UK’s decriminalization of same-sex relations. It seemed like Elyot was shaming the gay community for their selfish, wicked ways. Though I’m not sure what he was trying to say by romanticizing statutory rape.
It reminded me of Rosa von Praunheim’s 1971 film It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse But the Society in Which He Lives. He scolded gay men for their political complacency. Vitto Russo wrote that the movie “infuriated most American gays with its highly dogmatic, almost dictatorial litany of accusations lodged against bourgeois homosexuals and their self-destructive lifestyle.” The difference is that von Praunheim owned his statement while Channel 4 played coy. Perhaps they retroactively realized what Elyot had written and went into damage control mode.
I don’t find the lessons of Clapham Junction useful. I can only recommend it for the guest stars and the softcore sex. The Guardian found the penises gratuitous but they’re one of the film’s few selling points.