Review: "The Butch Factor"

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What do you think of when you hear the phrase “gay man”? Stereotypes would insist that such individuals are sissified and campy, along the lines of Paul Lynde.

Christopher Hines’ documentary “The Bull Factor” is designed to pull down the dreary stereotypes and show that gay men come in masculine shapes and sizes – blue collar workers, law enforcement officers, rugged athletes, rodeo cowboys and gym rats who could intimidate anyone by the sheer presence. The men interviewed for “The Butch Factor” speak frankly about their sexuality and how they are perceived. For the most part, it is not an issue – and if it was an issue at one time, these men have been more than able to erase whatever negative concerns their heterosexual colleagues may have felt.

In concept, Hines’ production is worthwhile and, perhaps, a little sad. At this late date, it is a shame that gay men have to push back the dreary stereotypes and show they have the physical and emotional maturity to handle the worst of life. With the possible exception of the Islamic community, no other demographic has to put up with the shameful profiling and stereotyping that continues to plague the gay community.

Indeed, one of the more uneasy aspects of the film is its focus on so-called gay leagues for weekend athletes (in this case, San Diego-area flag football players). The men interviewed here seem more comfortable in the self-segregating confines of their league, which calls to mind the homophobia is still prevalent within American society.

The film also provides an awkward balance via the token presence of a couple of decidedly non-masculine gay men (they appear to be chosen specifically for their effeminacy). Whether intended or not, the film seems to promote a view that being a “straight acting” gay man is, ultimately, more rewarding for one’s personal and professional pursuits.

But “The Butch Factor” quickly becomes repetitive and boring. The point gets dulled as the film drags on, and In a 76 minute running time, “The Butch Factor” repeatedly goes in circles, proving its thesis endlessly long before the closing credits.

The DVD release for “The Butch Factor” includes an interview with David Kopay, a former San Francisco 49ers running back who came out as being gay in 1977 – five years after retiring from football. Kopay’s presence offers a reminder that the sports world is still extremely comfortable in allowing gay athletes the ability to be themselves.

"The Butch Factor"
2009, Documentary, 76 minutes
Directed by Christopher Hines
Released by Wolfe Video

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