Taking aim at the hypocrisy of closeted politicians

Does a politician's right to privacy trump the wrong of hypocrisy? Documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick thinks not.

He doesn't care about the sex lives of politicians. But he cares that when a pol's sexual orientation is secret, often shame and self-hatred color his voting record. Dick is outraged when closeted gay politicians vote against gay marriage, against the right of gays to adopt, and against funding for HIV/AIDS. He's so outraged that he has made a movie exposing the disconnect between what these men practice and what they preach.

Barney Frank, a congressman from Massachusetts, is one of the gay political figures who appearin "Outrage."

Despite its title, Outrage is calm, riveting, and provocative, taking pride in officials who come out and and taking aim at those who remain closeted. The film saves most of its ammunition for the media's "orchestrated conspiracy," creating a double bind that perpetuates the double lives of these men. Yes, they are all men, and with the exception of Ed Koch, former New York mayor, all are Republicans. (Why should we care? One, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who recently married a woman, is a leading GOP candidate for president in 2012.)

Dick, whose prior documentaries include This Film Is Not Yet Rated, a trenchant and amusing take on the double standard of the motion-picture ratings board, is ambivalent about his role in "outing" closeted politicians.

Beltway blogger Michael Rogers, on hand to furnish color commentary on who's in the closet and why, considers the question of whether outing is a form of sexual McCarthyism. Is it the closeted practice or the outing that perpetuates the climate of shame? Certainly, whenever a James McGreevey or Eliot Spitzer admits his hidden sexual practices, he must take the media walk of shame.

Rogers' answer to the chicken-or-egg question is that the goal of outing is to expose political hypocrisy, not sexual orientation. To this end, Dick provides each closeted politician's voting record on gay rights; most of them show that he is voting against his own self-interest.

"Sometimes self-hatred is the greatest love of all," commentator Bill Maher (in a clip from The Larry King Show) says of this apparent hypocrisy.

McGreevey, the former New Jersey governor who was married and came out, serves as the film's object lesson on why it's best to be honest about the personal and the political. Lying about your private life makes it easier to lie in your political life, he says. Always tell the truth; as a character in a David Mamet play once said: "It's the easiest thing to remember."

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl.

Outrage (2009-II)

Directed by Kirby Dick. With Barney Frank, Tanner Barklow. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 30 minutes.

Parent's guide: Unrated ().