July 8 2005

30 Days, Episode 4:Straight/Gay

Sorry for the delay folks. The day of the London bombings didn’t seem like the best day to post something so trivial as a summary of a reality show.

This week on Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days, 24 year old Ryan Hickmott, a devout Christian, former Army soldier and conservative from Michigan, travelled to San Fransisco’s Castro district to live with a gay man. Let’s see, last week we had a devout Christian, this week we had a devout Christian…are we noticing a trend in Morgan’s test subjects? Ryan will be living with Ed Coller, a 38 year old gay marketing executive during his time in The Castro.

Within minutes of Ryan arriving, he is already realizing he’s not in Kansas (Michigan) anymore as Ed has a large mural of a naked man in his bathroom. Quite amusing. It doesn’t take Ryan long to realize just how out of his element he is when Ed takes him for a walking tour of the district. We are even treated to what is sure to be a classic line from Ryan “So… right now, I’m standing on the gayest place on earth?” Oh Ryan, you’re so witty.

Ed takes Ryan out for dinner with a group of his gay friends, and more brilliant comments and questions fall from Ryan’s mouth. Gems such as being homosexual is a choice. Now, while you may agree or dis-agree with this on a personal level, is it really wise to say such a thing when sitting at a table full of gay men? Perhaps in a one-on-one conversation, but a full table? Not so bright are ya Ryan? Yeah…we already realized you weren’t.

Seeing as God is so important to him, Ryan is taken to both forms of what passes as “church” in the gay district;the gym and an actual church. We are told that gay men refer to the gym as “church” because they go religously. (please, someone not let Ryan ever deliver information like this EVER again) The second church is a gay church led by Pastor Penny Nixon.

Ryan is not sure what to think of a situation where one can mix God and homoseuality in the same thought process since the Bible says it is wrong. Cue Morgan giving us an education. Although Jesus never says anything about it, Leviticus does: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind. It is abomination.” This is one of the most controversial pieces of the Bible, or so we are told. So in all of his confusion, Ryan decides to go to private meetings with Pastor Nixon, you can pretty much hear the wind whisteling through his ears as everything she says goes in one ear, and out the other.

The most confrontational the entire episode got was when Ed took Ryan to a gay bar. This is where Ryan really started to lose it seeing shirtless men, men in chaps and the last straw, when a gay man put his hand on Ryan’s shoulder! Someone call the authorities! This ended up in a heated confrontation with the gay men, who informed Ryan that if he was so uncomfortable, he didn’t belong there, and should leave. He did, and got a well deserved talking to from Ed for his troubles.

To make up for the bar experiance, Ed took Ryan to some place he thought he would be more comfortable, to join a gay softball team. Ryan was immediately shocked at how manly the gay captain was because he didn’t fit any of the sterotypes of a gay man by sounding masculine. Yes…he really said this.

I’m going to start skipping a few things because quite frankly, they were boring. He conitued going to see the Pastor, whose final argument for him about the bible saying homosexuality is wrong;why does he follow that so closely, but it was ok for him to carry a gun as a soldier and potentially kill someone. The bible say’s killing is wrong, so why can he ignore that section. You could almost see the smoke coming out his ears as he tried to wrap his head around that concept. His defense was “Are you saying this country shouldn’t defend itself?” I wanted to smack my own forehead after that one.

Ryan also decided to pass the time by getting a job while there, and went to work for A G Ferrari’s, a wine and cheese store. He went on to learn more about wine and cheese than he ever cared to know, and found it odd working with a gay man as his boss, but somehow he muddled through it.

There were three events that seemed to finally get through to that mass in his head that passed for a mind. He visited the gay chapter of the American Legion . These were retired, gay soldiers going back as fas as World War II. He could relate to them as he had served in the Army, but he still didn’t like the ideas of gays in the military, even after listening to them. Upon getting home he told Ed that he respected everyone he met there, but “just because I respect someone, doesn’t mean I want to shower with them.” That sound you heard while this episode aired was me repeatedly banging my head against the desk. Oddly, the resulting concussion made Ryan more tolerable.

Ryan went with Ed to his mom for Mother’s Day. Getting a chance to see how his family treated him no different than his hetrosexual brothers seemed to make an impact on Ryan. He asked Ed’s mother how she accepted it, and she said it made him no different, and to her, why should see talk to her son about his sex life, because he certainly wouldn’t talk to her about hers. I liked mom.

The “moment of enlightament” came from his visit with the local chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). One father there shares a story with Ryan of how his daughter came home from her first semester in college, and told him she was gay. He asked her how she knew, and she replied with “How did you know you were hetrosexual?”. Smart girl. The father never felt anything but love for his daughter, and supported her in this, but he feared the life of discrimination she now faced. He can not figure out why though, she should be denied any of the same rights her two hetrosexual brothers enjoy, such as marriage. I swear you could almost see the light bulb go on above Ryan’s head.

As Ryan’s time in The Castro wound down, he decided to have a cheese and wine party for all of his new friends. Everyone he had interacted with from the Pastor, to the softball captain to the members of PFLAG attended. He read them a little speech he wrote (“See Spot Meet The Gays…Spot Doesn’t Like The Gays”) about how they had changed him and he would try to be more understanding in the future.

He departed The Castro with a hug to Ed, and headed home to the farm. His family wasn’t quite sure to recieve him as he showed the pictures of everything, and the dad was visiablly uncomfortable, but Ryan said he wouldn’t mind going back for a visit someday.

Which I hope at some point Morgan does do a “Did This Really Change Them” episode. It would be down the road a ways, but I would love to see it. Next week, two fossil-fuel loving friends live “off the grid” for 30 days.

Personal note, expect my reality reviews to be a bit more snarky in their humor from now on. I was getting bored with writing dry recaps. If it bothers you a lot, leave me a comment.

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