Intimacy among men has always been a hot-button issue. Most don’t usually want to admit that we need each other. Most of us don’t want to admit that we need help—period.
“I don’t need directions…I know exactly where I’m going”…Right.
I’ve been thinking about this issue during The Good Negro rehearsal process. We were sitting around the table working on a scene that dealt with the deep relationship between two male characters, when our director Chuck Smith stopped the actors and proclaimed, “When I was growing up, I had Partna! He was the guy that had my back no matter what.”
I retorted, “Nowadays, people have partners.” The table laughed at my wit (at least that’s how I remember it), but Chuck’s comment got me thinking.
It seems that that the bond between men was more evident—and maybe even stronger—50 years ago. What has changed in the span of 50 years to make intimacy between men considered negative? I'm not saying that men ran around hugging each other. Maybe men did not put their feelings on display or express them publicly all the time, but when you look at the photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, you could see true intimacy and trust between them. These men had a deep rapport…they were “partnas,” as Chuck Smith would say. They held each other up. They weren’t afraid to touch, to pray, to celebrate, to cry, to be with each other and to show the full extent of their friendship in public.
Now, men are forced to hide their intimacy in order to keep social order, sometimes even in their own lives. As more GBLT Americans come to the forefront and become part of the fabric of our everyday lives, straight men seem to be becoming more fearful of expressing intimacy—physical or otherwise.
I ask: “So what if two male friends hug? Does their hug mean anything other than that these two men have a strong bond? Does it mean that they are more than friends? And if they are more than friends, why does it matter if they’re partnas or partners?
I think The Good Negro does an excellent job of showing intimate moments between men…something we all need to become more comfortable with.