The Gays’ Gaze: You Should Know Why Your Macbook Is Gay
By Sophie Lilla and Nicole Boyce
The Gays’ Gaze is a queer entertainment column — the most NYU (but not the most Gallatin) thing to ever happen.
The Imitation Game tells the heartbreaking story of Alan Turing, a closeted gay man who also happened to invent some dope technology that saved a lot of people during WWII. We’ve got Twitter because of him.
The English Turing invented what is known today as the computer. His algorithmic breakthrough allowed for the Allies to win World War II, but apparently saving the world from the Nazis means nothing if you’re caught doing some homo stuff on the side. Once Turing has literally Saved The Entire Planet from Destruction, he is imprisoned for indecent homosexual acts. The English government gives him a “choice” of jail time, or two-year hormonal castration. He chooses castration and commits suicide soon after.
Now, we didn’t even know who Turing was before this film, because we’re not scientists, but what we also didn’t know was that the guy that created the computer was gay. And that’s some ancestral stuff that we should probably know.
When our culture writes history, we tend to write out queerness. Any subversive activity gets forgotten or undermined as time goes on. We are taught that queerness in history was just “something they did then” or an experimental “phase.” They weren’t dating, they were just really really close friends. Shakespeare dressed up as women because of practicality reasons! It wasn’t gay! It was the 16th century!
But here we are in the 21st century and things aren’t much better. It wasn’t until 2013 that the British government issued Turing an official pardon, and it definitely wasn’t just because the film was going into pre-production and gaining press buzz. The Turing family rightfully rang the freaking alarm on the British Government, asking where the pardon was for all the other 49,000 men who were similarly tried and convicted for homosexual acts? Turing is only deemed a person deserving of human rights because of his contributions to an institution like the military.
The majority of the film revolves around Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, attempting to build a machine that can crack secret Nazi codes. We learn throughout the film that the machine is named after Turing’s boyhood crush, Christopher. They do lots of cute things at their British all boys high school together — like sit under trees and gaze into each others’ eyes. In fact, it’s Christopher who first gets Turing into code breaking. But, like most queer movies, they die tragic and sad queer deaths.
This is another type of erasing, similar to what happens in textbooks and in history. There are very few queer films that end without a death, suicide, rape, or (at least) heartbreak. And while the argument could be made that this is an accurate representation of the oppression that queer people have to live with in order to ensure their survival, the message it communicates is one of melo-dramatic martyr glorification. From Blue is the Warmest Color to Boys Don’t Cry: if you’re queer, happy endings aren’t in your horizons. “It gets better” doesn’t sell DVDs. Go figure.
The film didn’t skirt around Turing’s queerness, and for this it deserves some praise. But it did give the impression that it was exploiting Turing’s homosexuality for Oscar bait. In the end, the film only ended up coming home with the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Keira Knightley should’ve won for Best Jawline (as she should every year), but we’re still waiting on the Academy for that one.
RATING: 3 out of 5 Ellen Heads