Article Title:Award for Straight Hike for the Butch Dyke
Author or Credit:Chris Banks
Published on:7th July 2004 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:326
Text:Butch dykes, lippy dykes, flannel shirts and man-haters…lesbians sure cop their fair share of stereotypes, but Wellington film-maker Robyn Paterson doesn't have a problem with stereotypes – in fact she somewhat enjoys playing with them – so much so that she's based an entire short film project, Straight Hike For The Butch Dyke, around the simultaneous celebration and subversion of them. It would seem that queer audiences in New Zealand share her sense of humour. Straight Hike, which screened recently at the Out Takes festival, took out the audience award for best narrative short. So, what is a lesbian stereotype? “The question I was least prepared for was the first question I was asked by a TV interviewer about the film, which was ‘are you a lesbian stereotype?'” she laughs. “Where do you start with that? I think I asked her back, what is a lesbian stereotype? I guess in the traditional sense, I'm not, yet I am a lesbian – so what does that say?” Straight Hike For The Butch Dyke is a spoof short based on prime-time makeover show Queer Eye For The Straight Guy in which five gay style and life “experts” help out some hapless straight bloke and transform his life. In Paterson's version, the chardonnay-swilling “Femme Four” (the girls are never seen without a wine glass in hand) are called to the rescue of the boyish, crew-cut, football-playing Libby. “The idea was initially a skit idea, I'm used to working in skit comedy,” Paterson explains. “I wanted to do something that really played with the idea of stereotype. I was watching ‘Queer Eye' one day, with some friends in their flannel shirts and Doc Martens, and I was thinking if anyone needs a makeover its us lesbians! But it was tongue-in-cheek, it was really tongue-in cheek.” With the concept in mind, it was off to the Out Takes programmers for a pitch. Paterson made a verbal submission for Straight Hike, which was to be the anchor piece within a programme of other shorts. "It was always intended to be between 20 and 25 minutes, which suited me really well, because 24 minutes is a standard half hour slot, so I was able to maintain that TV look." Shot over three weekends, the largest amount of work was in post-production, as with any reality-style show. Paterson had around five hours of material to be whittled down to the final half-hour. As well as writing, directing, and producing, Paterson makes an appearance herself as one of the Femme Four. “I think the main thing is that although there are messages within the film, it was just for fun. One of the things I liked about it is the irony of me playing a straight woman, that to me is symbolic of what we were doing with it.” Straight Hike includes a disclaimer that the sexuality of any of the film's participants should not be assumed. The film was acted and crewed by people with a range of sexualities. “No-one's sexuality should be assumed, not in any context. One of the things that the gay community reacted to with Queer Eye is that it is very much stereotype-based. I don't personally have a problem with that, I still enjoy the programme for what it is, but I think it does need to be put in that context, and we do need to be careful of assumptions." What about the assumption that is the stuff of every straight man's dream, namely the notion of the bi-curious chick? It's a notion that is explored in Straight Hike. Does Paterson feel straight women are less homophobic generally than straight men? "I'm not saying that there's no homophobia amongst women, there definitely is, but particularly amongst your twenty, thirty-something city women, there's a huge amount of what I call bi-curiousness. A lot of my straight friends are deeply bi-curious and would love to sleep with a woman – not because they're gay – but just because they find that quite an exciting thought." And men? "I think men are really threatened by the idea. They're turned on by lesbians. But there's something about being gay in a male sense that really seems to threaten masculinity, which indicates to me that it's fairly fragile in the first place. I'm not sure why that is, but women don't have that in the same way." After successful screenings in Auckland and Wellington, its time for Paterson – who currently spends her days writing, presenting and directing stories for Queer Nation – to take Straight Hike to the world. "The audience award from Out Takes is really exciting for everyone involved with the film, and a great boost for homegrown gay and lesbian cinema," she says. "I've been approached by a number of international fests requesting preview copies, so it's a good chance to put New Zealand on the queer map!" Chris Banks - 7th July 2004    
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