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Just Leave Out the Icky Part

Timothy Kincaid

October 31st, 2007

martian.jpgWhat would you do if there was a charming little story about an orphan kid who thought he was a Martian? You’d make it into a movie, of course.

But what if this was a family movie and one of the characters was gay? Oh, you’d just remove that icky part, of course. Does it matter if the story is semi-autobiographical and based on a the difficulties of being a gay father to an adopted son with serious abandonment issues? Nah, just make him straight. It’s much cuddlier.

From Vue Weekly:

Really, how can you not love a little boy orphan who truly believes he’s from Mars and travels inside of an cardboard box with the warning “FRAGILE: Handle with care” on it? David Gordon (John Cusack) certainly can’t. In fact, this celestial orphan named Dennis (Bobby Coleman) might be the perfect match for science fiction writer David.

That is the sole premise of Martian Child, based on the award-winning novelette by, and about, sci-fi author David Gerrold and his experiences as a single adoptive dad. The only major difference is this family film leaves out the part where David is gay, and instead makes him a widower with an attractive “friend,” Harlee, played by Amanda Peet.

Awww. How sweet.

Maybe he and his father can go to a Save Marriage rally in the movie as well. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

Reviewer Omar Mouallem, who has no problem with this minor revision, tells us

But like the orphan in the box, it’s not humanly possible to dislike Martian Child. Not even a little.

Oh, I don’t know about that, Omar. I haven’t even seen it and already I dislike it more than a little.

You see, Omar, I’m not all that fond of when heterosexuals take the contributions and sacrifices that gay men and women make – often times because of the humanity and compassion that comes from being made to feel like an outsider – and pretend that the very attributes that taught this person compassion are icky and nasty and to be hidden.



October 31st, 2007 | LINK

Fair, but I think you’re taking my can’t-dislike-it comment out of context. About the gay theme, well, I wasn’t concerned. Maybe I should have been, but I understand that movie producers in the family movie genre have a lot to protect — so it comes as no surprise. They also changed the name of the author to save face, therefore they can apply the “inspired by” attribute, instead of “based on.”

But my comment, my can’t-dislike-it-not-even-a-little-bit comment, was referring to the lack of conflict in the film, how confrontations are easily resolved, and the how it’s more about charm than plot. That was the context.

Bruce Garrett
November 1st, 2007 | LINK

Gerrold, alas, seems to approve the deletion. At any rate, he doesn’t even mention it in his own review. He does however, say this:

Sean and I have now joined that select fraternity of people who have had parts of their lives put up on the big movie screen for millions of people to share. And a lot of those millions of people will form judgments about what they saw. Maybe they’ll like it, maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll be generous with their understanding, maybe they won’t. But I don’t think either of us has anything to be embarrassed about.

But they won’t be forming judgments about Your lives David. It’s someone else’s. Some widowed heterosexual guy and his son they can easily and comfortably relate to, and then come next election day, go vote away the right of same sex couples to marry and adopt.

When they made the dad in that film straight, they labeled Gerrold’s own family “unfit”. It just breaks your heart because it looks like this is a really touching story. I’m going to see if I can find the book for sale somewhere because I definitely want to read it now. But when a movie has a lie like that at the heart of it, then its touch is false, all its sentiment, fake.

November 1st, 2007 | LINK

Gays can’t be in a family film.

Gays don’t have families, we just pop up out of the ground after a hard rain.
We never adopt or have kids of our own, and even if we did, that automatically means they are less human because they don’t have a “real” family.

would anyone be okay if the character had been say, black, and they changed him to white? Would it be okay if the character was Jewish and they made him Catholic?

Steve Chase
November 24th, 2007 | LINK

Based on what I know about the industry, changing the hero from gay to straight has much more to do with audience demographics and the projected revenue streams than it has anything to do with taking out the icky parts. It isn’t about deciding that gay people are unfit or anything else. It’s all about what they think they can sell. The book didn’t sell as well as it should have because it was marketed as a story of gay adoption instead of a story of a dad and his son becoming a family. That was probably why the studio changed the dad from gay to straight. This movie succeeds because Cusack and Coleman are so good; but I think it would have been better if the filmmakers had trusted the source material more.

August 14th, 2008 | LINK

Sorry to be so late to the party, but in response to Jason’s comment of “would anyone be okay if the character had been say, black, and they changed him to white?” I’d like to remind folks that the SciFi Channel did that to Ursula LeGuin’s Wizard of Earthsea novel when they put it on the small screen. Ms. LeGuin was incensed.

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