Bread. July 2007
Entertainment news: Ian McKellen
I don't think Yawning Bread has
ever carried entertainment news. I wouldn't know Posh Spice from tumeric.
But in the last few days, I have received 3 emails asking whether actor
Ian McKellen ever made it to a gay bar and what else he said on the
The readers were following up on the mention I made of him in the article This month, the Christian rightwing finds 3 more villains.
Well, the short answers are Yes and Yes. Below you will find eyewitness accounts. However, as I set about organising my thoughts before typing words out on my keyboard, I realised that this is more than just entertainment news. These accounts hint at a larger story, and my thoughts on this score will bring up the rear of this essay.
But first, the blow by blow account of Ian McKellen's discovery of Singapore, in the best tradition of entertainment news -- the minutiae of celebrities' lives. As you may recall, McKellen was asked in a TV interview on Tuesday, 17 July 2007, what he hoped to see in his free time in Singapore.
He replied, "I'll be rather controversial. I'm a gay man, and I gather that that's not quite the proper thing to be although maybe the laws are going to change and I do hope they do change. I've been looking for a gay bar, if there's such a thing. So that's what I've been looking for.... If you've got any ideas...."
On Thursday [corrected: Friday] evening, he found his gay bar. Here's a report posted on Signel, the gay email forum:
McKellen was not just the celebrity receiving acclaim. He was an agitator in his own right. Earlier in the week, he told Class 95 radio, "Just treat us with respect like we treat everybody else and the world will be a better place, I think."
"Coming to Singapore where unfortunately you've still got those dreadful laws that we British left behind ... it's about time Singapore grew up, I think, and realised that gay people are here to stay."
Then he did an interview with Reuters . To the question whether he was aware that Singapore senior statesman Lee Kuan Yew has said it would be difficult to repeal the law on sexual acts between men because of popular opposition from the country's conservative majority, he responded, "Yes. Then he must expect gay people not to come here, he must expect gay people to emigrate, he must expect no company to have their gay employees work here."
That Reuters report was distributed around the world.
Sunday, McKellen went to watch the
latest play by Alfian Sa'at – the guy the Ministry of Education felt was
unfit to be a teacher. The eyewitness account continues:
* * * * *
As McKellen said to Reuters, "As a gay man invited here with the full cognisance of the government, how can they not notice that my right to have sex [is] inhibited by the country?"
"This happens to be a law that I find personally offensive," he added, "and I don't think it should be on the statute books."
Few heterosexuals understand this. Why must gays be so gay? they tend to ask. Why must their gayness and the the law matter so much to them? Why can't they be like us?
Doesn't it sound like Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady --
So McKellen lands here, he reads the highly prejudiced letters in the press, he mixes with gay Singaporeans and hears their stories. He watches a gay play in which Section 377A of the Penal Code is discussed.
What do you think he's going to say about Singapore after he's left our shores? He, the celebrity with huge access to the media all over the world?
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