It’s been fun watching Derek Jacobi on Sunday night’s on PBS. First in Last Tango in Halifax where he is a sweetheart of a man. Then in Vicious where he is a parody of a parody as half of a gay couple (with Ian McKellen).
I wrote this in last week’s recap of Last Tango in Halifax.
I know actors love the meaty parts, the villainous parts, because they are so much fun to act. I hope Derek Jacobi enjoys playing the charming and lovely Alan as much as I enjoy watching him at it. Charming, lovely male characters are so rare. We need more of them.
I want to expand on this idea.
Jacobi’s character in Last Tango in Halifax is kind, thoughtful, and generous. He’s supportive of the women in his life and of women in general. He’s the same way with the men in his life. I’m not sure when I’ve ever seen a man written quite this way in a film or TV show. Kudos to the show’s writer Sally Wainwright for creating Alan Buttershaw.
One reason why I love Last Tango in Halifax so much is because the relationship between Derek Jacobi and co-star Anne Reid is rare and beautiful. Not perfect, but perfectly loving. What a rare thing this is to see on television. Why isn’t there more of this? We need so desperately to see men who act this way held up before us as examples.
Vicious, on the other hand, is over-the-top satire. It pokes fun at the way gay men have been portrayed in film and TV for years by taking it to the extreme. It’s ridiculous. It’s supposed to be. The two men have been together for decades, yet can do nothing but cut and jab at each other. Most of the time.
Both of these Derek Jacobi vehicles make a point. They both look at what a man is, what a man should be. One by offering a palpable example of good. One by showing us just how silly past stereotypes are.
It’s delightful watching Jacobi and McKellen do comedy. It isn’t something we see often. But I love the quiet message in Last Tango in Halifax more than the reverse-psychology message in Vicious. Not because Jacobi is playing a straight man in one and a gay man in the other. I’d love to see him play a gay man with as much character and love as we get to see in the Alan Buttershaw part. I have a feeling both he and McKellen would jump at a chance to play a part like that.
A Few Good Men
What we need are more examples of good men – both straight and gay. Good men instead of big-muscled killers. Good men instead of men who only use women as window dressing or as object.
Give us more good men.