Was Ed Wood a Homophobe? A Prude?
Upon first considering this question, one might well, and justifiably, find it ludicrous. A more careful, thoughtful examination of Wood’s words, however, alongside his work, his films, might lead one to that very conclusion. Look at THE SINISTER URGE. No stronger anti-pornography film has ever been made. The film infers that crime is the direct offshoot of “smut pictures.” One could without inaccuracy accuse Wood of being hypocritical, seeing as how he spent the latter years of his career making pornographic movies. Likewise, while GLEN OR GLENDA? can rightfully be viewed as a plea for tolerance, how many times in that film does Wood remind the audience that a cross-dresser is NOT gay–as if being the latter is something shameful? And this from a guy who was good friends with Bunny Breckinridge! Again, this would seem to be crass hypocrisy.
Ed Wood was neither prurient nor homophobic. He was not hypocritical. He was sensitive to the gay issue because he had himself been so often accused of being gay, when he was heterosexual. The misconception that all transvestites are homosexual when in fact most of them are not was vexing to him. He had no issue with gays. He had an issue with people making assumptions about him. As for his seeming hostility to pornography, I suspect Ed hated the idea of it because it comprised his greatest fear–a fear that unfortunately came to pass. Unable to make it as a legitimate filmmaker, Wood was forced to become a purveyor of pornography just to earn a living. He hated it. Friends of his have gone on record saying that it broke his spirit, his having to resort to making porno flicks in order to eat, when in his heart he was a true big-time Hollywood Director. Consider this quote from THE SINISTER URGE: “I look at this slush, and I try to remember, at one time, I made good movies.” The line is autobiographical. That’s why he had such hostility towards porn.
It’s heartbreaking to me that Ed didn’t live long enough to see himself become a star. His PLAN 9 FROM OUETR SPACE may be officially regarded as “The Worst Movie Ever Made,” but it’s also one of the most beloved among its growing cadre of fans, and Ed himself is far more beloved by his followers, which today number in the millions, than “respectable” directors like Spielberg are loved by their fans.
I like to think that he knows, now, how much he is loved and appreciated.