Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Out on the Job": documentary about sexual orientation discrimination on the job

“Out on the Job” (2008) is a 43 minute documentary from Logo Online Films (“Truth” and “Punched in the Head” Productions), directed by Craig d’Entone. It traces three people in one of 33 states that don’t have laws protecting gays from discrimination in the workplace.

The film is available for Instant Play on Netflix, and it is also available on Logo Online here. For Netflix subscribers, the Netflix playback seems preferable, as the film is not segmented and interrupted by commercials, and the picture and stereo seem a little sharper.

The film has a pop-like narrative style that reminds one of an “Apprentice” episode, as it goes from one narrative line to the next.

Mateisha works as a hair stylist, owned by an evangelical Christian, in Gainesville, FL. She tells her coworkers gradually but dreads telling her boss, even though her boss knows she has a “roommate” whom she supports. The scene, near the end of the film, where she “tells” is masterful, filmed as reality, so it would have seemed like quite a screenwriting feat if fiction. Yet, in the actor’s studio in Minneapolis we used to ad lib just such scenes.

Laurel Scherer works as a freelance photographer for a ski resort near Asheville, NC, which is supposed to be a liberal enclave in the Bible belt. But when she “marries” her partner the Wolf Laurel resort finds out and drops her. Unfortunately, she does not have a contract. The site “Out in Asheville” has an account of the incident here/ Equal Employment in North Carolina gets organized. One associate pastor tells a story of being fired when it is found he is gay.

Scott is a policeman in Missoula. He and his partner have a disabled foster child. After one gay man is beaten, and another dies of an overdose, he comes out. His truck is vandalized with a carving, but gradually the mood get better, and he is able to organize a GLBT liaison in the police department in Montana. He helps police Pride Day in Helena. He finally takes a job training police officers in Afghanistan. Although going to a Muslim country sounds dicey (and he says he will keep a low profile) there is no problem with gay civilians taking military-like jobs in Afghanistan or Iran.

Particularly in the North Carolina case, the basis of the prejudice comes through. There is talk of the “sanctity of marriage” which seems to mean the idea that the commitment to permanent intimacy expected in marriage deserves a reverence and sometimes a sacrificial deference from the outside world, otherwise such familial commitment, which does provide many descendents with their standard of living, could not exist. That goes beyond religion, and demands a certain candor. To an individualist, it sounds whiney; to someone from earlier generations, it just seems like part of the “community.”

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