Another day, another "down low" topic. You may have already heard some early controversy about actor-director Bill Duke's new film project Invisible. The full-length indie feature follows "Dutch" a handsome, young family man who becomes involved with a male partner. That one night of passion leads to a possible lifetime of suffering after his f-buddy is diagnosed with HIV. You're lead to believe that Dutch practiced unsafe sex; we see him consumed with rage because he learns that he may have contracted the virus and passed it on to his wife. (View the trailer here.) At best, the chain of events may seem somewhat believable if the trailer also had not portrayed him as a physician. Being married and a doctor you'd think he'd wrap it up, right? (Maybe his dl jump-off was just too hot to pass up.) But we'll suspend disbelief because the filmmakers want us to see that this is an educated, professional buppie who made a bad decision.
The material may seem rather contrived, but the trailer seems ... decent. The dramatic voice-over, actors, staging and editing are quite appropriate for a Tyler Perry film, minus the gospel-track. But when the trailer ends, the screen fades to black and presents a rather alarming quote about the "down low": "Women, mostly African-American, don't know these men's secrets. 70% of these women have contracted HIV or are dying from AIDS." Those stats are highly inflated and the sensational trailer is creating buzz:
One of the first to note the inflated 70 percent statistic was Keith Boykin. His best-selling Beyond the Down Low is about to be published in paperback, and, as most of you know, the book deconstructed the myth that the dl is the primary catalyst for black women contracting HIV. Keith wrote Duke Media to request clarification:
Entertainment and education are not mutually exclusive. They call it "infotainment", and one of the first rules should be to "do no harm." In other words, it's okay not to provide information as long as you don't provide misinformation. It would have been fine if the trailer simply ended without the statistics. The story line was interesting enough without the false information. But the statistics are way off. The truth is that less than 2 percent of women diagnosed with AIDS have reported sex with a bisexual male as the method of exposure. Not 70 percent.
J. Bernard Jones at the Edge of Night—a very well-written weblog that often analyzes gay black male images in film and television—finds an inherent contradiction between the title and the film's intended message:
The trailer for "Invisible" reveals deeper problems, one of which ironically is found in the title itself. "Invisible" might refer to men who are supposedly unclockable, but what the title unwittingly refers to is the fact that DL hysteria invariably reduces those Black men (whether gay or bisexual) who have sex with so-called DL men to either invisible supporting players in their own life stories or to murderous accomplices of the DL bogeyman.
Taylor Siluwé at the SGL Cafe is willing to give the movie a chance—partly in "homage to the style, artistry, and brilliance that is Bill Duke"—but wonders if the film may fuel the current backlash against gay black men:
People already want to believe we're sex-obsessed loose-cannons of society anyway, like we're just salivating to pounce on helpless straight men to fuel the hedonistic orgies we call our lives. Will this movie feed that nonsense, or will it expose it for the bullshit that it is? Will it be true to life ... or just guilty entertainment to creep-out the masses?
Invisible is slated for a 2006 release.Bill Duke (SGL Café) Invisible Men (Edge of Night) Invisible (Official Site and Trailer) And Now—Back to the Dow Low (Keith Boykin) The DL Chronicles (Rod 2.0) On the Low (Rod 2.0) New Data on DL, HIV (Rod 2.0)