Today we have an interesting and heated debate between Rock Legend Elton John and Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the topic of homosexuality. The kerfuffle started when a Russian film distribution company cut a sex scene out of the film Rocketman, which is the story of Elton’s life.
Full disclosure: I have not seen this movie, so I don’t know what they are talking about. I also have not seen the Russian version, so I don’t know if it was dubbed or subtitled. According to this source, the Russian distributor cut out 5 minutes of footage depicting gay men kissing. “The film’s final statement was also edited to say John had established an AIDS foundation, instead of saying that John lives with his husband and children.” This to comply with Russian legislation which bans homosexual imagery or information about “alternate lifestyles” when children are present. Which implies, logically, that the Russian film was a “general-viewing” type thing, in other words not labelled as “Adults only”. Not there were any pornographic images, apparently. No actual sodomy. Just men kissing, and the implication that two guys can get married and adopt children. Which, by the way, they can’t do in Russia. Two guys can live together and be gay in Russia, no problem, but they wouldn’t be allowed to adopt children.
Anyhow, Elton was very upset about this Russian censorship and what he considered deleting an important component of his life story. Namely, his identity as a homosexual and the love and happiness he has found with his partner and children.
What happened next was that President Putin was asked about this situation during an interview with the Financial Times. This was a very small part of the overall interview, but resulted in some juicy soundbites that everybody snapped on, like a dog to a snausage:
“The liberal idea has become obsolete.” [Putin is talking about unrestricted immigration.]
“Traditional values are more stable and more important for millions of people than this liberal idea, which, in my opinion, is really ceasing to exist.” [Here he is actually talking about homosexuality and ALT-genders.]
Putin’s sound-bites sent liberals into a frenzy. Elton John who, in the past has enjoyed a love-hate relationship with Putin, addressed to the Russian President this open letter via Instagram:
Dear President Putin,
I was deeply upset when I read your recent interview in the Financial Times. I strongly disagree with your view that pursuing policies that embrace multicultural and sexual diversity are obsolete in our societies. I find duplicity in your comment that you want LGBT people to “be happy” and that “we have no problem in that”. Yet Russian distributors chose to heavily censor my film “Rocketman” by removing all references to my finding true happiness through my 25 year relationship with David and the raising of my two beautiful sons. This feels like hypocrisy to me.
I am proud to live in a part of the world where our governments have evolved to recognise the universal human right to love whoever we want. And I’m truly grateful for the advancement in government policies that have allowed and legally supported my marriage to David. This has brought us both tremendous comfort and happiness.
A key word in Elton’s cri du coeur was the word duplicity. Elton apparently struck a nerve there, since duplicitousness and hypocrisy are two things highly despised by Russians. Putin in particular prides himself on his transparency and lack of guile.
Just to rub it in, Elton posted a picture of his happy family with the word “CENSORED” plastered over it. Which, by the way, is not an unfair call-out per se, since Russian media does indeed censor such images, at least in the presence of children. In Russia the legal age of adulthood is 18. Which means that anybody below that age should not have it brought to their attention, that homosexuality exists among humankind, nor that certain governments permit same-sex marriages to be registered, and even allow gay couples to adopt children, if just having cats isn’t enough to satisfy their maternal/paternal instincts. Russian schools do have a form of sex education in the curriculum, by the way (since 2012), but it is a pretty shabby affair, mostly dominated by the teachings of the Russian Orthodox Church. Which focuses on the usual Medievalist combination of “abstinence” and anti-abortion rhetoric instead of safe sex or trying to prevent pregnancies in the first place. Homosexuality is not even mentioned as a thing, it goes without saying. Hence, Russian teens are not at all savvy about sexual behavior and left to the tender mercies of the priests and their own peers.
Is There A Linear Progression To Enlightenment?
A deeper issue is the whole concept of “Enlightenment” or “Progress”. Western progressives are used to thinking, and believing, that there is a steady progression of thinking within mankind. Humans used to be savages, women were treated like chattel. Eventually and gradually, people came to realize that women are equal to men. By the same token, homosexuals are people too and should be granted the same rights as heterosexuals, even if they are in a minority. Nations like the United States underwent this change in thinking over a period of about 50 years. The “Gay Liberation” movement was sort of an add-on to the Women’s Lib movement. As society became more tolerant, Americans started to believe, with the fervor of the converted, that other nations must follow the same path in their thinking and legislation.
For people who believe in that form of logical progression of society, from Darkness to Light, Intolerance to Tolerance, Putin’s off-hand comment about the obsolescence of “liberalism” was like a slap to the face.
Gay activists, shockingly, come face to face with the reality that certain cultures are just stubbornly “traditional” and don’t want to hear their point of view. Even worse, there is the implication that the legislation achieved in Western countries, is simply a flash in the pan, and could be reversed at any moment. Rather than humanity marching forward into this beautiful future of enlightenment and tolerance, there is the implication that societies will turn backwards: Back into the past of intolerance, hatred and darkness, the dominance of religious elites and the burning of witches. That’s a scary thought. What is to stop even Western societies from regressing once the Apocalypse arrives? Returning to the Middle Ages, or worse. A time when women were locked up in harems and “sexual perverts” were burned at the stake? And the reason why I keep mentioning women and gays in the same sentence should be obvious: All issues of sexuality, even male-on-male homosexuality, ultimately tag back to the issue of women, and their status in society. They all tag back to society’s attitude about the role of women, the role of religion, and the raising of families.
Okay, so we saw how Elton zinged Putin by calling him “duplicitous”. Putin responded … and this turned out to be a pretty good discussion. As happens when honest opinions are exchanged by men of good will who treat each other with respect. Putin is not one of those crude haters whose response to Elton on Twitter was just “Shut up, faggot!” No, his response was thoughtful, if not necessarily what Elton wanted to hear. See, Elton John is an artist, and a rather great one at that, but he is an artist, and artists tend to think with their emotions rather than their reason. Putin is not an artist, he is a politician, but not a crude nor ignorant one. This is what he had to say about the matter yesterday. The Russian President was in Osaka, Japan, at the time (Summit of 20 Nations) when asked, at a press conference, to comment on Elton John’s remarks, and his accusation of Russian duplicity:
“You mentioned Elton John. I respect him very much, he is a genius musician. He comes to play in Russia sometimes, and we always love to listen to him. But I think he is mistaken, I have not exaggerated anything, we truly do have a calm and accepting attitude towards the representatives of LGBT society. A truly even-handed and non-prejudicial attitude.”
Putin went on to say: “Now it is true that we have a law, that people are always dinging us for: This law forbids the propaganda of homosexuality among minors. But you know, the minor can grow up, become an adult, and then he can decide what he wants to be. Just leave the children alone.”
Putin went on to complain, that the LGBT society acts too aggressively, in trying to force its views onto the unwilling majority. The Russian President then could not resist some trolling and poking fun at Western excesses, how much things have gotten out of hand [and he is right here, things have gotten truly ludicrous in this arena]: “What don’t you see nowadays? Five or six genders now? Transformers, trances, I don’t understand any of it any more!” [laughs]
While no children or animals were harmed in the course of this debate, neither were any minds changed. But that people can just talk about it, well, that’s a start.
Who is to Blame?
In her piece on this issue, VZGLIAD reporter Natalia Anufrieva pointed out that the editing of the Rocketman film, the thing that started this whole discussion, was not really that egregious, it did not censor the key arc in the film, which is the story of Elton’s search for same-sex love. Nor did it cut scenes involving abuse of alcohol and drugs. [O what will the children think! Cover their tiny eyes!]
Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Culture (headed by Vladimir Medinsky) washes his hands of the “censorship” charge and tries to lob the blame onto the film distribution company. Which, in turn, just shrugs and says they were only complying with Russian law. And, before Westies get too heated up about this issue, they should try to remember a time when Hollywood also had “standards”, for example, you were not allowed to show even a married couple sleeping in a double bed, they had to lie in twin beds!
And don’t even think of Hollywood movies depicting homosexual behavior until, maybe the late 1960’s. According to the “Progress marches on” philosophy, Russia is 40 or 50 years behind the U.S. in this regard. (Saudia Arabia maybe 1,000 years.) That is to say, if progress does march on. Or is “liberalism” truly dead, and will “traditional values” just prevail, in the end, as President Putin has implied? In which case, Rocketman will just have to go back into his closet.