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Reviewed by:
  • Bachelor Farmer
  • Carl Schottmiller
Bachelor Farmer. 2004. By Michael Culpepper and Nikki Draper. 58 min. DVD format, color. (Filmakers Library. New York, New York.)

Weaving together personal narratives collected from one-on-one interview sessions, Bachelor Farmer explores the experiences of five gay men living in Kendrick, Idaho (pop. 369). In particular, the film looks at how the men negotiate their sexual self-identities and their communal identities, paying particular attention to what they sacrifice for membership in the greater society and the double consciousness involved in living these dual existences. Through this exploration, the film highlights the contradictions and nuances of "being gay" in the Kendrick context.

One's proximity to Kendrick's geographic boundaries necessitates at least a minimal amount of membership in that sociocultural community. The film depicts Kendrick as a rural town with some of the stereotypical features associated with smaller communities: residents describe their American farming home as a place where "everybody knows everybody," gossip and rumor are commonplace, and camaraderie is the norm. Differences that could lead to potential conflict must be worked through, for residents rely on one another for survival and cannot afford to have enemies. The filmmakers emphasize this "down-home" communal mystique with their visuals of wide-open farmlands, community parades, and houses with similar facades, as well as with a soundtrack of strummed, Midwest-style guitar music.

Connected to this social framework are the gay men featured in the film: Jerry (a Kendrick native from birth) and his partner, Steve; Greg and his partner, Matt, who own a Kendrick farm together; and Mark, a Kendrick native who was married with children prior to his coming out and subsequent divorce. Although all the men have not lived continuously in Kendrick, they emphasize throughout the film their connection to this locale. For the men who have lived in Kendrick since birth, the town is more than a geographic location; it is an integral part of their "roots" and gives them an essential sense of belonging and identity. They choose to live in Kendrick not only because of this communal membership but also because they fear the outside world, a place where homophobic Others might pose a physical threat. The men are thus willing to negotiate their sexual identities in the Kendrick context because it offers them perceived benefits.

Part of this negotiation requires a regimentation of the men's sexual identities. When Jerry first came out to his mother, the family wanted him to hide his secret for fear the neighbors would shun them. For Jerry to be part of the community, his sexuality had to be concealed; otherwise, the town would shame not only Jerry but also his entire family. Similarly, when Mark divorced his wife and adopted a gay male identity, his parents feared the town would ostracize them for their association with their gay son. Unfortunately, the film does not explore in depth Jerry's and Mark's coming-out processes to the town, so the viewer is left to ponder how the men transitioned from a complete silence to a public but regimented identity.

In their current lives, the gay men are "out" to the residents of Kendrick; however, while their sexual orientation is known, their sexuality must remain invisible and unspoken. The men cannot hold hands in the street and must center their conversation on "safe topics." As long as their neighbors "don't have to see it," the men find that the townspeople are nice to their faces and treat them with respect. Further, to develop potential romantic relationships the men must venture outside Kendrick. Both Jerry and Greg met their partners via Internet advertisements, and their initial dates were outside the town. [End Page 224]

The reality of this double consciousness is most poignantly shown during Jerry and Steve's wedding. The men married in a town church, and during the reception the wind blew open a door, causing a loud bang. Jerry's initial reaction to the unknown noise was a fear that "they're here." In the midst of his wedding celebration, there exists within Jerry a lingering concern that members of his community will harm him. This malevolent, homophobic...


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pp. 224-225
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