Pretty Boy: a less than pretty depiction of intolerance

Pretty Boy sees one father’s attempt to have the ‘gay fucked out’ of his son backfire. This short is a long’un, but it’s worth watching the whole thing because it’s so thematically important.

Sean did not have a hand in picking out his birthday present this year. After weeks of watching his son come home from school bruised and battered, Sean’s father tries to address the matter and disguise his solution as a gift (two birds, one stone, aye?)He rents a motel room and kits it out with a prostitute, whose job that night is to remind Sean that he is straight, which sex will surely convince him of. It’s nice that it’s in an effort to protect his son from future torment, but therein the problem lies. Sean’s father knows he’s a target because he’s gay, and to him that is his son’s issue, and not the issue of the bullies. This has consequentially impacted Sean’s own self-worth, whose warped sense of identity is made clear in one of the opening scenes as he stares despondently and questioningly into a mirror, examining the scars that his sexuality etches. It’s an iconic image and one we’ve seen before in relation to LGBT issues (Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful, circa 2002, anyone?) As he hides the marks of discriminatory abuse with make-up, he also hides his sexual orientation from his father and the world, particularly the world of Catholicism (he pauses at the sight of Crucifixes and prays to God that his affliction will “go away”).

A prostitute named Kate is the unlikely figure that prompts Sean to embrace an identity that he has thus far condemned. Even if he hasn’t always known that the ‘something’ that was different about him was his homosexuality, he has been frustrated since he was a child at what he knew was an imbalance, a frustration he released as long, great shouts in his back garden. Kate can relate to this pain of being outcasted, as she faces prejudice daily for her choice of occupation. She has learnt to not let it bother her, as she tells Sean following their trip to the supermarket marked by the disparaging looks and comments of shoppers. In her own way, she pleas with Sean to do whatever the hell he wants, just as she has: “if you want to eat a pumpkin muffin, you eat a pumpkin muffin.”

In this one encounter, Kate has offered Sean more nurture and support than anyone else in his life, it seems. At least since his mother passed. She takes on this motherly role, as Sean displaces her own currently unreachable baby, who she works only to provide for. Kate demotes herself from prostitute to kissing mentor, as she advises Sean imagine it’s his crush, David. It’s a touching and powerful scene. Sean appears genuinely happy, finally, and the events with Kate inspire him to come fully clean to his (already well aware) father. He’s given the confidence to do so on account of what Kate encourages: “Walk out the door if the family you were born with aren’t who you should be with. Because there’s a family out there for everyone, even for you, my pretty boy.” So, either his father will be there for him in his honesty, or he won’t.

Pretty Boy appeared at festivals across the U.S. and writer/director Cameron Thrower has a lot of other projects in the works. The acting in this was pretty impeccable, which enabled it to transcend the clichéd-ridden image of a hooker with heart. That was dangerous territory, but the script was well-written enough to avoid a predictable product. Which is a relief, because it’d be sad if this important film for the youth of today (especially the struggling youth) was written off for falling victim to stock characters. Particularly as America’s new Vice President Mike Pence advocates for gay conversion therapy, something Sean’s father would probably invest in too. The premise of the film is original and it’s done originally, and I recommend.

Jenni D'Alton

Jenni is a recent graduate from Dublin, Ireland, where she studied English, Media and Cultural Studies and finally the years of watching movies and television from her bedroom (what became known as the 'cave' to her unsupportive friends) paid off, because she could actually put her lazy hobby down to "research".