- “Queer Eye” star Karamo Brown recently told INSIDER that he thinks the beloved film about a gay relationship, “Call Me by Your Name,” is “problematic as f—.”
- Brown, who has worked with survivors of sexual assault as a therapist and social worker, believes that the movie glorifies “predatory behaviour.”
- “It looks like a grown man having sex with a little boy. And for me, I just was not OK with that,” he said.
- Brown also said he’s “tired of this continued narrative of pretty white boys as the only representation of the LGBTQ community.”
“Queer Eye” star Karamo Brown believes Luca Guadagnino’s beloved film “Call Me by Your Name” – which details the love story of 17-year-old Elio and his father’s 24-year-old graduate-student assistant Oliver – is “problematic as f—.”
“I’ve worked with many survivors of sexual assault, especially in the LGBTQ community, which oftentimes goes unreported. And so the minute I saw that movie, I thought, ‘Here we are glorifying this sort of relationship,'” Brown, who is a licensed psychotherapist and social worker, told INSIDER while promoting his partnership with Ford.
“I know we’re calling him a college student, but it looks like a grown man having sex with a little boy. And for me, I just was not OK with that. And I was like, ‘Why are we pretending like this is OK in any sense? Fashion or form?'”
The film, which is based on André Aciman’s novel of the same name, stars Timothée Chalamet as Elio and Armie Hammer as Oliver, who were respectively 20 years old and 30 years old while filming the movie.
Brown said that, for him, the optics of this casting makes the story feel more uncomfortable.
“I haven’t read the book, but I understand that the college student character is like, 19 years old [Editor’s note: Oliver is 24 in the book]. And so the relationship between him and this 17-year-old boy – I guess it ‘makes more sense,’ and I’m doing air quotations there,” Brown said. “But there is predatory behaviour there that I see, especially in the movie, where Armie Hammer looks dramatically older than this young man.”
“I think to myself, ‘If that was an older man, or a perceived college student who looked that much older with a 16 or 17-year-old girl, we would have all had a hissy fit.’ We would have recognised that this is a problem. But for some reason, because it was two men, we’re just like, ‘Oh, well this is just exploration,'” Brown continued.
Hammer himself seems aware of this criticism: He has cited age of consent laws in the film’s defence, pointing out that in most US states, the age of consent is 16.
Indeed, the story takes place in Italy in 1983, where the age of consent is 14. As Slate points out, same-sex age of consent laws have historically been higher due to homophobia, but that doesn’t appear to have been the case in Italy.
Of course, legality doesn’t automatically make something ethical. But Slate senior editor Jeffrey Bloomer noted that the relationship between Elio and Oliver is clearly consensual and, “in any case, this is a fictional depiction, not an ethical endorsement.”
“We need to resist the revulsion that often comes with thinking about sexual relationships outside the idealised ‘charmed circle‘ (of the straight, married, same-age sort) and consider the specifics of the situation,” Bloomer wrote. “That’s not to give cover to pedophilia or any other form of violation, but to acknowledge that human desire can be far more complex and intractable than we might like to admit. Not every relationship removed from our comfort zone is abuse.”
Brown doesn’t simply take issue with the characters’ ages, however.
He also expressed frustration with the expectation that queer people should simply be “thankful” for any type of representation onscreen, regardless of whether it’s undercooked or problematic.
“I’m tired of this continued narrative of pretty white boys as the only representation of the LGBT community,” he said. “Every movie is like, ‘Look! I’m a pretty white boy and my life is hard but maybe it will get better!'”
Brown noted that neither Chalamet nor Hammer are gay, to the public’s knowledge, which is another source of discomfort for the marginalized LGBTQ community.
“I understand this was based on a book, but what about if that would have been a young woman who was a lesbian? Why couldn’t it have been a young trans man? Let’s get more representation,” he said.
“I talk about this a lot with trans actors,” Brown continued. “Give trans actors the opportunity to play trans people. They already aren’t given the opportunity to play other roles, and especially when you have brands like Victoria’s Secret saying, ‘We don’t even want them walking in our runway show,’ and now we’re saying they can’t even play their own authentic experience?”
“It’s the same thing if there’s a gay role,” Brown said. “There are so many talented – and popular – gay celebrities. Why not pop one of them in there?”
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