The Perpetrators is awaiting a UK-wide release date.
Looking back at my teens becomes more and more challenging the older I get. The reason for this is two-fold; first, the gap in time becomes more significant and the memories hazier, and second, it becomes more harrowing to unpick my teenage self. When I now unpack my adolescent emotions and feelings on being gay, I realise more and more how the public, British state and media directly affected my self-worth as a young person. Looking back, I remember the horrific treatment of gay men in the British tabloid press; I remember teachers ignoring daily homophobia and the abuse of their students. I remember how gay men were viewed as predators, perpetrators and carriers of disease. I remember the anger, fear and doubt that bubbled inside me as I questioned myself, my wants, my desires and my very place in this world. I wasn’t alone; multiple generations before me had faced the same fears and oppression, and while things began to improve in the early millennium, the scars are still sore to the touch.
Throughout British history, gay and bisexual men were actively persecuted, often only finding worth if they were the butt of a joke. For years gay men were viewed as predators, psychopaths, pansies, poofs and deviants through laws, religious texts, newspapers and state-sanctioned hate that encouraged attacks, public ridicule and a sense of shame among young people. Richard Squires’ powerful and clever animated short explores the history of gay persecution in the United Kingdom and the homosexual moral panic encouraged by successive governments. The narrative focuses on the ghost of a young boy who went missing many months ago. It’s clear this young boy ran away from home due to his emerging sexuality, and yet it’s gay men who are viewed as the perpetrators, not a heterosexual society that forced him to run and placed him in danger. As he peers through the window of his old home, there is no crying mother, no distraught father, just a milk carton with his face under the word “MISSING”. But is he missed? And does anyone even care why he ran?
Anyone who grew up watching cartoons during the late 60s, 70s and early 80s will recognise the animated style The Perpetrators embraces. The classic Hanna-Barbera ‘limited animation’ approach became the standard for most children’s cartoons for several decades, and here it is used to create a feeling of warmth and comfort in a narrative that is anything but. In other words, Squires cleverly uses the warm childhood memories of a whole generation and then challenges the foundations of these memories as he lifts the lid on our rose-tinted nostalgia.
In just fifteen minutes, Squires explores the foundations of homophobia and hate and the dangerous label of ‘abuser’ attached to gay men for decades while real predators walked free. The result is an urgent and atmospheric inquiry into the historical state-sanctioned oppression of gay men in British society. But Squires’ film is also a reminder that those views are so ingrained that they are not yet dead and buried; look at the protests outside drag storytimes and the associated slogans like “Drag is not for Kids” and “Leave our kids alone.” Meanwhile, our Trans brothers and sisters face media headlines like “End the Transgender experiment on our kids.” The views explored in The Perpetrators haven’t disappeared, and we are naive to think they have. Therefore Squires’ film is also a strong call to action and a reminder that historical oppression is never easily erased.
THE DEPENDENT VARIABLES
United Kingdom | 15 mins | 2022
In just fifteen minutes, Squires explores the foundations of homophobia and hate and the dangerous label of ‘abuser’ attached to gay men for decades while real predators walked free. The result is an urgent and atmospheric inquiry into the historical state-sanctioned oppression of gay men in British society.