Grace Dent on TV: Out There, BBC2

Take that, homophobia. Stephen Fry is looking for a fight

For the good of one's sanity, the most sensible thing to do with a roaring, tedious homophobe, usually, is to ignore them. I enjoy wine far too much to waste throwing it in the face of some blithering nimwit telling me, in 2013, that my friends are part of a covert homo plot to rile God, take over Earth, and then violently bum it. No, life's too short to hug a homophobe. Stephen Fry's sanity is widely documented to be at times firm, masterful and epic, then at other times vulnerable; thus, his decision to allot valuable life-hours to chasing some of the world's most vile, vocal and harmful gay, lesbian and trans haters around Uganda, Russia, Brazil and India was a remarkable one.

Fry sat with the mother of a young gay Brazilian boy who'd been abducted by homophobes and strangled. He met Stosh, a Ugandan lesbian who'd been raped “correctively”, leaving her pregnant and HIV-positive. He debated with anal sex-obsessed Pastors; he visited American therapists who can apparently cure gayness with a bit of positive thought and a big cheque book; and he tried to tackle Hollywood's tendency to keep its biggest stars in the closet. It was fascinating and utterly infuriating stuff.

If one is determined to corner the world's biggest bigots, one can't really complain when they transpire to be gibbering ill-informed oafs. But bearing in mind the fact that many of these men hold positions of power, it was well worth Fry documenting their views. Even if only so we can reflect on them in a few hundred years time, when mankind has hopefully evolved away from such sickening nonsense.

In Russia, Fry found the source of that sour stench encircling Sochi 2014's Olympic spirit. Because there is no togetherness, optimism or understanding for you in Russia if you weren't born heterosexual. In fact, the only speed-skating you're probably doing is the 500m panicked dash back to your security-shuttered flat chased by neo-Nazi knuckle-draggers. Fry visited the Russian law-maker Vitaly Milonov, who recently introduced a law banning the “promotion of homosexuality”, which he told Fry prevents gay men “invading kindergartens”. Fry, who was clearly working with some of his last non-shredded nerves at this point, told Milonov of a young Russian lesbian he'd met the day before who'd fought off a rapist planning to “cure her”, and was then palmed off sniffily by the police who didn't investigate her sort of lesbian nonsense. Milonov, a squirrely individual in need of a good multi-vitamin, sat behind his very important desk, tutting at Fry's anecdote. “Look, it's a fairy tale,” he says. “Gay people … most of them, are lying about their problems.”

“Wow,” gasped Fry, because what words do you conjure when someone in a position of vast power tells you that everybody you've met in the past 48 hours, all of the sad eyes you've stared into, the rape victims and the lesbian mothers barricaded into their flats, well that all of them are lying?

“They like to be favoured! And famous!” continued Milonov, “Like they are victims of Russian medieval behaviour!” Milonov then began wittering about his anti-gay values having roots in the most “talented angel falling from God”, which appeared to be a wonky interpretation of Genesis, from a Bible that I can only assume had all of the pages about the Christian tenets of compassion, love, neighbourliness and understanding omitted.

“There are people who are so rabidly homophobic, and I just find that fascinating. I find homophobes fascinating. It's as if you met someone who spent all their life trying to get rid of red telephones,” said Fry at the beginning of the documentary. Except the red telephone analogy doesn't quite work as they are relatively rare and gays and lesbians and trans people are everywhere. Being homophobic is actually like spending a whole day in London becoming furious each time you see a black taxi, and imagining that if you shout enough it might become a Mini Cooper.

But if Fry's analogy doesn't seem wholly cogent, it's probably as strong as I could have come up with under pressure when faced with Brazilian law-makers telling me that the reason a young gay person is murdered every 36 hours is not to do with homophobia, it's because they're all involved with drug-dealing. Fry had visited the home of Angelica Ivo in Rio and been invited into her dead son's room as she sniffed his T-shirts. Her 14-year-old son was a handsome boy who loved ballroom dancing and hanging out with his mum and sister, and was kidnapped on his way home from spending time with some gay friends. He was tortured for two hours and eventually strangled with his own T-shirt. “”

I heard criticism from some after the documentary aired that Fry, who wept in the bedroom as the mother wept, and then wept a few more times during Out There, had “got too close to the subject”. He absolutely did. He was right in the subject's face, shouting and pleading and sobbing. But I'm thankful for it. Because, no, it didn't change anything, but it is important for civil people to know what is really, truly “out there”.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam