Starring – Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Charles Dance, Mark Strong
Directed by Morten Tyldum
For the last decade or eternity or so, superhero movies have been a nonstop fad. At least three or four, or what feels more like four hundred, superhero movies are released every year. The Earth and/or America, aka freedom for all, is always in peril and these brawny, muscular, powerful men, and the occasional woman, are there to stop tyranny from ruling over mankind. But so far not one of these superheroes has been gay or lesbian or bi or transgender in any of these movies. They are all very proudly heterosexual and even though they have a lot in common with us LGBTs, like having to keep their true identity a secret and being ostracized when their different ways are discovered, they are still sexually all about the opposite of their sex, and so we LGBTs have to resign ourselves to seeing all of the ways these superheroes mirror us, except for the sex part.
The thing is we don’t have to wait until one day when they finally make one of these 7 million superheroes in these 700 million superhero movies released every year gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender because we already have our very own gay superhero and best of all, he was an actual real person who really did actually help save the world from tyranny. His name was Alan Turing. His superhero skill was building the first digital computer. His kryptonite was that he was homosexual during a time when it was illegal.
Superheroes everywhere, but not an LGBT person in sight.
Well, unless you saw Watchmen, but not many people did besides me, so I guess they missed out.
In 1885 the United Kingdom enacted a law that made gross indecency a crime. Wikipedia explains it as, “the law was used broadly to prosecute male homosexuals where actual sodomy (meaning, in this context, anal intercourse) could not be proven.” In other words, if you were a man who was caught or accused of touching another man in a sexual manner, to the prisons you went, or like in Turing’s case, you could be given hormonal treatments, that were in essence a chemical castration, as a substitute for prison. The law lasted until 1967 and approximately 49,000 men were arrested under the law. Turing and playwright Oscar Wilde were two of the 49,000. We Americans can all boo and hiss at this law, but America was no better. We had all kinds of laws in various forms in all 50 states at various points in our history where homosexuality was illegal and most of these laws allowed police to just show up whenever and wherever they felt like and arrest people when they suspected homosexual acts, hence the reason why the Stonewall riots happened as an example of the police doing just that.
The Imitation Game tells the story of Turing’s invention of the machine, which is considered to be the precursor of the digital computer, that would break the Enigma code, a code used by the Nazis to communicate with each other during World War II. Turing’s machine shortened the war by more than two years and saved over 14 million lives, but that wasn’t enough to save Turing. It isn’t until half-way into the film that it is revealed that Turing was homosexual. He is told by a co-worker to keep his sexuality a secret because he could be thrown in jail. As I watched this scene, I began to wonder if the children being born today will one day watch this film and this scene in particular and think how ridiculous this law was because they will probably be the first generation to have no life experiences with homosexuality and all of its predilections being something to be ashamed of and to hide and to criminalize. And isn’t that both a wonderful and sad thought to have?
Turing was arrested in 1952 after admitting to police about his house being burglarized that his male lover’s friend was the culprit. Turing pleaded guilty to the crime of gross indecency on the advice of his lawyer and brother and was sentenced to probation with the agreement he would be given hormonal therapy that would “cure” him of his homosexual urges. Turing killed himself in 1954 after a year of undergoing the hormonal therapy, which made him impotent and caused gynecomastia, which is a fancy science term that means he grew breasts.
I sat down on December 26, 2014 to write this review, just one day after I saw The Imitation Game in the theater. But I couldn’t write it that day because I was still upset and quite shaken up because his story hit so close to home for me, not just because he was gay, but because he spent his last years severely depressed and drugged by doctors for no good reason and watching Benedict Cumberbatch portray this on a big screen in a darken theater made me lose my present day reality for a few minutes and I went back to a time not so long ago when that was my reality too. I have experienced the same kind of severe depression that Turing did, at least what was portrayed by Cumberbatch in the film, and I have also been given drugs by doctors that had no business being in my body, warping me and almost destroying me, and like Turing, suicide seemed like the best and only option. And here I was, watching a man who had to experience this as well, and it wasn’t only just me who had to live in that hell, as I had hoped for years, naively. For some reason I didn’t deliberately take my own life. I don’t know why I lived and Turing didn’t, but here I am just the same. And Turing’s story has inspired me to keep on living. So that statistic at the end of the film that states he saved over 14 million people, it changed when I saw the film on Christmas day 2014, and now the ending of the film can read that he saved over 14 million lives, plus one.
Turing was pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013 for his crimes, a nice gesture, but too late for the man himself. What else would Turing have invented if his sexuality had not been discovered by the authorities? What other things would he have done to help improve and maybe even again save the world? We’ll never know because it didn’t matter in the eyes of the law or the people back then that Turing had indeed helped save the world from tyranny, all that mattered was that he was a poofter, a faggot, a homosexual. No matter how much I or many others may wish it or want it because he deserves it, we cannot bring Alan Turing back to finish living the rest of his life now that homosexuality is no longer a crime in Great Britain. We can only honor him now in movies and posthumous pardons and in museums, and that is a shame because all he did was just be himself and being himself was a crime.