Its been awhile since I've done anything like a movie review so I think its due. Yesterday Jay and I were lamenting the lack of good t.v. shows to watch so we dipped into our netflix stash. Now Jay has a bit of a standards problem when it comes to movies...and especially movies with gay content. If it self labels as gay, he gets it. This has exposed us to some real awful movies...but also some real hidden treasures. It turns out that Jays movie addiction can occasionally be a good thing. It was under these circumstances that we discovered "Wrangler, Anatomy Of An Icon".
The movie is a documentary about the life of porn icon Jack Wrangler and his beginnings in an upperclass Hollywood Family under his real name of Jack Stillman and his journey to find himself as a man, apart from his family and domineering father. His journey eventually leads him to the porn industry where he crafts the persona of Jack Wrangler and begins to live out a fantasy that doesn't end when the camera's stop filming.
While there will be nothing explicit in this blog post, if you are uncomfortable with the topic of pornography...now is your chance to turn back.
Teaser Trailer for the movie:
O.k...you get the idea...the typical 70's porn cheese fest. But the important thing about this movie is not so much what Wrangler made, as who he was and the effect he had on the rest of humanity. You may think.."what kind of positive effect can porn have on anything?"...well...some back story..
Born Jack Stillman, Wrangler became aware during his teen years that he was gay. He was the Youngest of three siblings and the only boy. The movie goes into detail about his less than stellar relationship with his father, who wanted a more masculine son, and Jack's attempts to win his love through his achievements. Wrangler talks at great lengths about being seen as a "sissy" in his fathers eyes. One of the major themes that runs through the entire movie is Jack's attempts to prove himself...first in his fathers eyes...then when that failed, in his own. It was actually his thirst for approval that ends up landing Wrangler in Porn.
Spiralling downward in the entertainment industry, Wrangler ends up being a gogo dancer in a stripclub. From there he is offered a part in a play where he plays and ex-prostitute from Arkansas who goes to California to become a bad GoGo dancer. This part resonated with the life that Wrangler was living so he took on the part...and its heavy nudity. This brought him to the attention of producers for Magnum films who cast him in "Eyes of A Stranger".
Also shown, is Wranglers move into making straight pornography and his marriage to singer Margaret Whiting, who was 20 years his senior. Both of these events rocked the gay community, who accused Wrangler of never really being gay in the first place. Wranglers relationship with Whitting is shown in all is complications...the odd, the akward, but also the beautifull. It is shown as a relationship between two people that are more alike than they are different....and more importantly...that love defies all our attempts to define it....What the movie does not cover, is that Jack Wrangler recently passed away at the age of 62.
The funny bit, is that the film discusses the Jack Wrangler Character as being the first one to show gay men as a generall audience that they could be other than what they had been taught. According to the film, so many messages that gay men recieved about how to be were effeminate ones. Then came along Jack Wrangler and blew the doors off what people percieved as being gay. He offered a hyper masculinised view of homosexuality. Here was this guy that was hypermasculine and buffed (for the day). He was confident in his sexuality and had no problem being gay and he got what he wanted. Gay men got a new way to look at their possibilities and who they could be. They also got the chance to see that being gay isn't a predetermined set of traits...its what we make of it.
So...considering the films assertion that Jack Wranglers character brought about a type Masculinisation of the gay community or at least a breaking of stereotypes....and considering that my own stereotypes where blown away by men that in all likelyhood where familiar with his films....did I owe my new outlook on being gay to Jack Wrangler as well even though I had not seen his films? Was his impact thus, that it rippled out a generation later?...that it continues to ripple outward?
But that is my round up of "Wrangler, Anatomy of An Icon". I recomend the movie as a peak through the dark curtain of gay history and a view onto a unique man who defied stereotypes in every way imaginable.