Defining Marriage: A Conversation With Oregon

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Step aside, tearjerkers. Beaches, Steel Magnolias, You Can Count On Me... none of you have anything on the sheer cinematic power of the Defense of Marriage Coalition's Defining Marriage. This instructional video from the creators of the "Yes on Measure 36" campaign, deals with the strongest of human emotions--hate, fear, love--in a way not seen since Kirk Cameron starred in the wholly excellent Rapture film Left Behind (or its even more shockingly relevant sequel, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force).

While Defining Marriage begins in a predictable fashion--stock footage of traditional marriages, with a solemn voiceover decrying the "secret meetings" that allowed gay marriages in Oregon--it quickly shifts gears to gain viewer sympathy. Multnomah county commissioner Lonnie Roberts (played with a wheezing, whiny gruffness by Lonnie Roberts) moans in baroque agony over not being invited to the "secret meeting" that decided gays could marry in Oregon.

While harrowing, better still are the "man on the street" interviews, in which ill-educated, confused citizens ponder gay peoples' motives. "What is their ultimate desire?" muses one befuddled woman. "I mean... do they want to be like heterosexuals or what?"

This film is so captivating that even entire falsehoods can be stated without breaking the cinematic spell. "[Measure 36] merely maintains what we already have," says a character named "State Representative." "It doesn't make any changes specifically in the law at all." Dareth any audience member break the movie's magic by pointing out the untruth of this statement? Nay--like the final scene of Citizen Kane, we are transfixed; stunned into silence by the sheer blatancy of the lie.

But perhaps the filmmakers' most daring move is keeping the despicable villains of Defining Marriage--the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Basic Rights of Oregon, and all city commissioners who aren't named "Lonnie Roberts"--veiled and unseen. It's at once a tribute to suspense master Alfred Hitchcock and a rivetingly effective scare tactic; one so effective, in fact, I could barely get to sleep that night for fear of an abortionist hiding beneath my bed!

That's not to say the filmmakers don't stumble at times. The flamboyant, goateed, and gleefully gesturing Chris Alsop would at first seem ideal for the role of "Gay Person #3." Instead, the colorful, feminine Alsop is woefully miscast as a "Teacher," who worries about gay marriages' effect on children. If he is straight, Alsop is the gayest straight man I've ever seen--and I shall not have him teaching my precious Aloisius!

In the end, Defining Marriage defines itself as a film like none that have come before--one that holds no obligations to the antiquated cinematic sensibilities of "truth" or "believability" to achieve its ends. Defining Marriage is a brave, bold, intimately moving film, leaving the viewer breathless and eager in anticipation of the Defense of Marriage Coalition's next epochal example of cinema. Defining Bestiality, anyone?