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Tyler

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which is about a "gay conversion" camp, just got a rave Sundance review in The Guardian. It stars Chloe Grace Moretz and was directed by Desiree Akhavan, whom I recently liked in Creep 2.

Quote

Her film about a teen gay conversion retreat has humor, but isn’t jokey, and while its drama doesn’t speak down to young people, it won’t leave adults feeling out of the loop. This is a gripping and sad drama that puts a tremendous amount of faith in its performers and audience, and for all the emotion and tenderness in the rest of this year’s Sundance crop, this is the first film that left me a complete broken-down mess by the end.

We open in 1993 with Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teen in love with one of her female classmates. When the pair get caught in a moment of intimacy at a high-school dance (by Cameron’s date, no less!) she is quickly packed up and sent off to “pray away the gay.” What follows is a hybrid of an institution film and a summer camp film, with a remarkable set of characters, no real villains and an exquisite eye for detail.

 

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On 1/25/2018 at 12:41 PM, Peter T Chattaway said:

Is "pray away the gay" a phrase that people actually use? GetReligion.org has expressed skepticism on this point. If it's actually used by characters within the film, then, hmmm.

Yes, it is. I’ve heard “pray the gay away” more often.  I doubt that any organization devoted to doing this would use the phrase, but I don’t know.  I have heard it used by many people to refer to "conversion" of sexual orientation, including gay Christians (or rather gay former Christians) I know who have been the objects of such “prayer,” although that can mean many things depending on the organization. Of course, there are organizations with the goal to assist gay Christians, whether or not they are troubled by their same-sex attractions, with emotional, relational, and spiritual health, and that seems good. But those can get lumped in with the “conversion therapy” organizations that I have heard can be unintentionally quite abusive. The phenomenon itself is alive outside of such organizations, too. I’ve heard people mention how they engage in such “prayers” regarding adolescents they are related to or go to church with.

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I certainly don't question that people pray about stuff like this. St Paul asked God to take away his "thorn in the flesh" and God didn't, and so forth. (And I am not opposed to John Shelby Spong's inference that St Paul himself might have been struggling with same-sex attraction, there.)

It's just the rhetorical phrase "pray away the gay" (or "pray the gay away") that I wonder about. It sounds awfully glib, and I don't know that people who were genuinely going through a sexual-spiritual struggle (or trying to help people with said struggle) would actually talk about it that way. It sounds like one of those phrases that someone invented to mock "conversion therapies" and the like, and if the film puts that phrase on the lips of someone who is engaged in such therapy, then I'd question its veracity.

(For some reason I am now reminded of how a lot of people think Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her house, when in fact it was Tina Fey who said that. Fey certainly captured an *aspect* of Palin's persona with that phrase, but the phrase itself was never spoken by Palin and any biopic that showed her saying it would undermine its own credibility, if that analogy makes any sense.)

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On 2/1/2018 at 9:56 AM, Peter T Chattaway said:

It's just the rhetorical phrase "pray away the gay" (or "pray the gay away") that I wonder about. It sounds awfully glib, and I don't know that people who were genuinely going through a sexual-spiritual struggle (or trying to help people with said struggle) would actually talk about it that way. It sounds like one of those phrases that someone invented to mock "conversion therapies" and the like, and if the film puts that phrase on the lips of someone who is engaged in such therapy, then I'd question its veracity

Ah, this clarifies what you meant. I think maybe you read the quotation marks around the phrase in the source as signaling a direct quote from such an organization in the film? I actually reckoned the opposite. This is a phrase that the writer did not come up with—so a quote—that the writer (or possibly a character in the film) is using to characterize (or, again possibly, to caricature) what is going on. The quotation marks also function as scare quotes (or “scare quotes”) and signal that the belief of the speaker is that it is not their belief that same-sex attraction can be prayed away. Thus I too would question the veracity of the phrase in the mouth of someone actually doing that. (Sexuality is too complex for such universals, but, exceptions aside, it’s my understanding that the evidence suggests that there is some fixity in the orientation of sexual attraction (again, for the vast majority of people), regardless of “prayer” or “miracles.”) I am now curious about the origins of the phrase. While I don't consider the phrase a mockery it certainly could be used that way depending on tone of voice or context.

I know the word “struggle,” when used by Christians, can signal to many people a certain stance on all this that might not be intended. I don’t mean to minimize the struggle many people have with their sexuality, including with to whom they are attracted. But I’ve also read books by gay Christians (such as Tim Otto and Eve Tushnet, both of whom are celibate—if that’s even relevant) who experience same-sex attraction much more structurally—not as a struggle but as neutral or just a part of them, a gift even--and struggle more with things that are imposed on them by those who are well-meaning but misguided (not to mention those who intend to put them down, for that matter).

Edited by Rob Z

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