The elixir of role-playing: Notes on Outrage

In its own modest, shoestring, digital video way, Kirby Dick’s documentary Outrage has more to tell us about the screwed-up priorities of closeted gay careerists (and the dangers that their priorities create) than even Tony Kushner’s much-ballyhooed play Angels in America. Outrage gets to the heart of the matter much more succinctly as well—at least more so than Mike Nichols’s bloated, miscast Kushner adaptation for cable a few years ago.

The movie begins, somewhat less than promisingly, with audiotape of Senator Larry Craig’s arrest for “seeking activity” in an airport washroom. Underscoring the Miranda reading and the former senator’s protests of innocence, composer Peter Golub’s ominous piano and strings music strives too self-consciously to evoke an atmosphere of dread. Outrage doesn’t need these stage cues to do our reacting for us, because the other sounds and sights are potent enough. Moments in, there’s footage of Craig at an outdoor rally in his native Idaho, speechifying under a clear blue sky to reassure his constituents of his steadfast devotion to God, Country, and all things Heterosexual. Somewhere among the crowd, a man’s cajoling voice pipes up, “C’mon, Larry, be gay!” in much the same tone that someone might proffer, “Be black, baby!”

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