Alexander the (not so) Great fails to conquer America's homophobes

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It has been ridiculed by critics and shunned by cinema-goers but the latest film from the controversial director Oliver Stone has still managed to raise hackles across the US.

It has been ridiculed by critics and shunned by cinema-goers but the latest film from the controversial director Oliver Stone has still managed to raise hackles across the US.

Alexander has proved to be the Thanksgiving weekend's biggest flop, and while it is a portrait of a legendary leader who ruled far-away lands more than 300 years before the birth of Christ, it has brutally exposed the cultural and moral divide which slices America in two.

The three-hour, big budget epic, starring Colin Farrell, Colin Farrell's shockingly bad blond hair-do and Angelina Jolie has dared to suggest what most historians have long taken for granted - that Alexander was bisexual. And that gets rather different responses in different parts of the US.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation says the $150m (£79m) film breaks new ground for a big budget epic because it shows boyhood friend Hephaestion "as the true love of Alexander's life". A line from the film says: "Alexander was defeated only once - by Hephaestion's thighs."

But conservative Christians have loudly denounced Alexander as "pro-gay" propaganda from Tinseltown, insisting that Alexander was a firmly hetero hero. To add to the film's problems, the public has stayed away from what was to be the big movie of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Since opening, it has grossed just under $20m (£10.5m), leaving it in sixth place in a table of the most popular current films behind National Treasure, The Incredibles, Christmas with the Kranks, The Polar Express and even The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.

The mainstream press has also ridiculed the movie - calling it everything from a "noble failure" to an "indifferent epic".

It is being suggested that a film about a global warrior with dyed blond hair and waxed legs was never going to conquer an America fresh out of a presidential election in which gay rights became a major issue.

The film is a blowsy biography of the Macedonian conqueror, long on emotional speeches and short on battles. But the poor script and suspect casting is only partly to blame.

According to one online critic, Alexander is a flop because he is "as gay as a maypole". Christians considering seeing the film have even been urged to "speak to your pastors immediately because Satan is attempting to enter your mind".

At the other end of the spectrum, militant gay groups are condemning Stone for not being more explicit in his depiction of the gay love affair - there is not even a kiss between Farrell and his co-star Jared Leto, while Alexander and his wife Roxane, played by Rosario Dawson, share a graphic sex scene.

Stone, no stranger to controversy after directing films including JFK and Natural Born Killers, has responded stoically: "I don't think it's hypocritical. As a dramatist, I wasn't interested in it because it was suggested from the beginning that they were lovers. I think it's all there. You don't have to rub it in the faces of the audience."

Adding to the circus have been the protests of a group of Greek lawyers who are threatening to sue Warner Bros. over the film's suggestion of Alexander's bisexuality. They have written to the studio and to Stone to demand that a notice stating the film is a fictional tale is included in the title credits.

Rather than boosting the film's popularity, however, the publicity and the Greeks' entry into the protests have had the effect of turning the entire project into something of a farce.

While the movie, for the most part, is not entertaining those who are paying money to see it, at least it is giving others a good laugh.

The New York Post labelled it "Alexander The Gay", describing Farrell's Alexander as being "Light in the sandals" and the film "like something out of Queer Eye for the Macedonia Guy".

While the film-makers and the militants are probably the only ones who do not see the humour of the situation, the protests have serious undertones.

They echo the swing in the US towards conservatism and reflect what Americans view as the corrosive effect Hollywood and popular culture have had on the nation's values and moral standards.

It is not the only recent film to cause such a powerful reaction among certain factions in the US - Kinsey, the film about sex researcher Alfred C. Kinsey, starring Liam Neeson, has stirred up a similar firestorm of protest. Conservatives were outraged at the film which, they say, celebrates the life of a "pervert and sex maniac".

Meanwhile, 70 per cent of those who responded to a recent New York Times/CBS poll said they were very or somewhat concerned that television, movies and music were lowering moral standards in the US.

While the sentiment was voiced by both Republicans and Democrats, it appears that the concern about a decline in values is yet another point of polarisation in American politics.


The Last Temptation of Christ

Condemned by nearly every Christian denomination, Martin Scorsese's 1988 film shows Jesus as a tormented, fearful young man confused by sex and uncertain of his path in life. Temptation was protested against, picketed, subjected to boycotts and bomb threats and excluded by the Blockbuster video chain

Farenheit 9/11

Michael Moore's documentary was lauded by the left and resented by the right. The examination of the Bush administration, from the election in 2000 to the Iraq war, was watched by millions, The polemic is biased, bloated, some say brilliant, but American troops in Iraq watched it avidly


Based on the life of Alfred Kinsey, credited - and blamed - for the sexual revolution 50 years ago, the film starring Liam Neeson is causing outrage among conservatives. Bill Condon, writer and director, said protesters wanted to "pretend that the last 50 years didn't happen"