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Ledger's legacy?

Friends and family said farewell to Heath Ledger in a private memorial and funeral service in his hometown of Perth, Australia, over the weekend. Most of us will remember him for his consummate performance as the repressed ranchhand suffering an unfulfiiled lifelong love affair with a fellow cowpoke in Ang Lee’s "Brokeback Mountain." And at least according to the good people of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, who believe that Ledger is “in Hell” (because he “got on that big screen with a big, fat message: God is a liar and it’s OK to be gay” ) and who threatened to demonstrate at his memorial service in LA, not to mention the boorish Fox news creep John Gibson, who observed that “Well, he found out how to quit you,” the apparently heterosexual Ledger has become a kind of gay symbol. Indeed, many who were moved in a more positive way than the Westboro folks and Gibson (as if they even saw the movie) by Ledger’s role, myself included, thought the film might be a breakthrough and lead to more films on the subject. So far, by my latest count, the number of such films is: zero.


Why is this?  When I interviewed Ang Lee a while back for his film “Lust Caution," he also expressed bewilderment and dismay at Hollywood’s failure to follow up. “Maybe they’re waiting for a good script,” he suggested, unhelpfully.

Maybe that's about to change. In Gus Van Sant's upcoming film "Milk,"  Sean Penn plays the openly gay San Francisco city supervisor  of the title (first name Harvey ) who was assassinated in 1978 -- much to the rejoicing of the good people of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka -- and is currently burning in Hell with Heath Ledger. On the other hand, maybe the cause of gay characters in movies will be irreversibly set back by Woody Allen’s new movie “Vicki Cristina Barcelona,” in which the former auteur and aging perv will be filming some girl-on-girl action  between his current fetish, Scarlett Johansson, and Penelope Cruz, followed up by a threesome including Javier Bardem.

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