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Saturday 10 October 2009

Proclamations of the Red Queen

8th October 2009

Review: Shank (2009)

Posted by: Craig Young

At Outtakes 2009, Shank (UK, 2009) provided a disturbing look at the intersection between ‘underclass’ affiliation and homosexuality. How realistic is it?

movieshank21.jpgFor those who haven’t seen it, here’s a plot summary. It focuses on the plight of Cal (19), who participates in a youth gang with Jonno and Nessa, who are hiding their own secrets. Cal is first seen having sex with teacher Scott, before he then assaults him. The gang then attacks Olivier, one of Scott’s students. However, Cal is strongly attracted to Olivier, turns on his erstwhile friends, takes him home and has sex with him- whereupon they enter a relationship. Shortly afterward, Nessa and Jonno break into Cal’s flat and find a cellphone record of his earlier gay sex with Scott, which provokes homophobic reactions in them. The two try to have sex in a graveyard, but it is obvious that Jonno is suppressing his own homoerotic interest in Cal. They assault and abduct Olivier, forcing him to lure Cal to a secluded area. I won’t give away what happens next…

But what does Shank say about homosexuality and economic marginality? Never the twain shall meet? Cal uses opportunist interpersonal violence to achieve petty criminal goals and initially submerges his own sexual and emotional needs as a young gay man before he meets Olivier and ultimately chooses him over his gang affiliations.

It’s not the first time the vexed question of gay underclass life has been posed. In Shameless (Channel 4, UK), there are at least four such dysfunctional denizens of Chatsworth estate in Manchester. Ian Gallagher has now reached twenty. He tended to have relationships with older men, is out to his family and is now employed as a barman. Mickey Maguire is the offspring of drug dealers and has a gay uncle- his dad’s twin! He’s aggressive, violent, paranoid and has a hard time dealing with his gay sexuality. He writes smut and went to polytech to do film studies. Of the two, he seems less reconciled with any apparent contradiction between class and sexuality.  Ian must have got the gay gene from his mum’s side, given that Monica is bisexual and left her no-hoper alkie husband Frank to take up with a lesbian truckie before returning to the gormless git. Unfortunately, aforesaid lesbian truckie is pining for her and is becoming increasingly like a dyke version of Frank (scary…)

Is it that way in real life? In some cases, underclass origins and gay sex tend to be splattered together with the lubrication of excessive amounts of alcohol consumption. Indeed, alcohol and severe drug abuse may lead to a situation where the alcoholic or drug-addicted individual prioritises their dysfunctional family/whanau or alcoholic/drug abuser networks and engages in interpersonal violence against other community members, verbal abuse or other antisocial behaviour, probably due to the fact that early intervention didn’t occur in their past lives to provide them with different role models.

Problem is, in our own post-deviant LGBT communities, we’ve come to be less tolerant of the above harmful and antisocial behaviour from individuals who refuse to change their behaviour. Do we therefore need upskilled LGBT welfare and social services to deal with these individuals, if, like Cal ultimately does, they do want rehabilitation and mainstream social existence? What happens if they refuse such intervention and remain habituated to their criminal and antisocial networks?

What boundaries can and should LGBT communities set in such circumstances?

See Shank’s trailer here:


Ren Walters: “Shank” Sight and Sound 19.10 (October 2009): 74-75.

Shameless linksite:

Tags: Politics

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