Contentious filmmaker Bruce LaBruce last came at us with The Raspberry Reich, which focused on gay “terrorists”. Now, LaBruce turns his iconic eye to a seemingly unrealistic, and quite timely, topic: zombies.
Otto; Or, Up With Dead People revolves around the titular, undead Otto (Jey Crisfar), who’s trying to find his place in a world where zombies have become common place. While humanity has learned to cope with invasive flesh-eaters, they’re none-too-happy to learn that the latest wave’s a bit lavender.
Endangered, confused and fighting his zombie urges, Otto falls in with a Medea, who’s making a flick about revolutionary gay zombies fighting back against roving anti-gay militias. The movie, which premiered earlier this year at Sundance, represents a huge step in LaBruce career, which started with Queercore fanzines and a little movie called No Skin Off My Ass.
Unlike some independent filmmakers, LaBruce’s career has only grown in recent years, which affords him higher budgets and more intricate aesthetics – designer Rick Owens did all the costuming for Otto, which artist Terence Koh co-produced. Despite his success, LaBruce stays true to his message: assimilation sucks. The director widens his directive in this offering, however, taking on a broader consumerism and corporation-saturated society.
Our editor spoke with LaBruce this weekend and the gents hit the obvious talking points – conformity, the devolution of gay activism – but also get deep into some other issues, like Internet-based bitchey, where LaBruce stands on bareback porn and how the Canadian government may soon start hampering films like Otto.
Andrew Belonsky: Did you know when you were a kid that your life would take an artistic direction? Is that something you always wanted to do: write and make movies? I know you started as a writer first.
Bruce LaBruce: Well, I don’t know. It’s sort of all tied up with me being gay. I knew I was gay always, so the artistic impulses were sort of part of that, I guess.
AB: When you say that you always knew you were gay – do you remember when you first knew what gay was? Obviously we’ve all had an alienation or difference that we can’t really pinpoint, but do you remember specifically when you knew what gay was?
Blab: Not really. The gay part was always being more girl identified. In first grade, I had a birthday party and I realized that it was all girls. In terms of having to deal with the actual gay identified thing, I guess you kind of start dealing with that in high school, but when I was in high school there was no possibility of being openly gay. It was this whole series and network of denial. Everyone knew the gay kids were gay, but they couldn’t say they were gay – the parents knew, the siblings knew and all the classmates knew, but there was this conspiracy where everyone doesn’t talk about it. In retrospect, it is pretty damaging, because it sets you up for all sorts of lies in your life.
AB: This has come up twice in recent interviews. One was with a politician named Jim Neal, who was once married to a woman, and he told me that some voters talk about how he was deceiving his wife and was a liar. Then I was talking to another politician, Jason Bartlett, and he just came out and we addressed the same thing: not being forthcoming. This man has been silently out for years, but he never told his constituents. In your opinion, is that sort of behavior a lie? If I’m a politician and I’m open with my friends and my family, but I don’t tell the people who are voting for me, is that a lie?
Blab: Well, it’s much more complicated when it’s a politician. Anyone else but a politician, I would say “no,” because – you know, I support the closet on a certain level. I think people should have their personal choice and I think it’s different for every individual. Even to be silently out, live your life and let everyone draw their own conclusions, I think is a perfectly legitimate way to go. It just gets too complicated when you’re a politician, because there are issues that come out that are specifically relevant to your sexuality. There’s the whole phenomenon of politicians overcompensating and becoming homophobic with their voting record because they’re hiding.
AB: I’m actually surprised to hear that you support the closet in some respects. Obviously people should have agency over whether or not they’re outed –
Blab: Yeah, I’m totally ambivalent about outing. I know for some people it comes down to a matter of not wanting to be forced into identity issues and they’re expected to, you know, become part of a community or to start identifying themselves as “gay” in terms of certain choices or the way they conduct their lives. I totally sympathize with people who don’t want to do that. I think sometimes it’s really difficult to do this ritual thing, entering the community and all that without starting to adhere to certain identity issues. Probably a good way of avoiding them is to not come out and be private about it. I totally respect that.