Bruce Kessler, director
The Gay Deceivers (USA; 1969)
Original lobby cards
The Hollywood B-Movie The Gay Deceivers (1969) attempted to capitalize on the cultural and sexual changes of the late 1960s. In particular, the film played upon male anxiety about the loss of patriarchal power brought about by the rise of feminism and the increasing sexual fluidity of the culture. It also tapped into men’s fears about being sent to die in Vietnam. In the film, two straight men pose as homosexuals in order to avoid the draft, but eventually decide that it is better to go to Vietnam than to have society believe you are gay. The picture mines much of its humor by exploiting well-established Hollywood stereotypes, including the identification of male homosexuals as hyper-feminine sissies who wish to become women.
The Gay Deceivers’ conflation of homosexuality with femaleness is on display throughout the film’s promotional materials. These lobby cards feature one of the straight characters from the film, Elliot, holding a pillow and pursing his lips effeminately. The film’s promotional materials also prominently feature the symbols for man and woman and utilize the tag line, “Is he or isn’t he?” as if his implied homosexuality might actually make him female. The tagline, however, does not seem comfortable existing in a state of ambiguity, as the copy continues, “Only his draftboard and his girlfriend know for sure.” Possibly fearing that it may seem too subversive, the tagline must clarify Elliot’s heterosexuality by referencing his girlfriend. Similarly, one lobby card reinforces this heterosexuality by providing a posed image of Elliot flanked by bikini-clad women, another features Elliot nearly naked next to a woman in a towel, and yet another has Elliott embracing a woman. Such advertisements suggest a confusion and discomfort regarding homosexuality.
The cultural anxiety about homosexuals in the military, which the film exploits, was a topic in many gay publications at the time. The below cartoons appeared in the June 1967 issue of the Kansas City gay publication The Phoenix. The cartoons satirize many Americans' discomfort with gay soldiers by taking common homosexual stereotypes to ridiculous extremes.