I'm a well read grad student who's bluntly honest about all things, although I try to be most honest about myself.
This promised to be a queersploitation, and not only that, one set in Kingston, Jamaica. Awesome. After all, I loved Django Unchained, which is given as an example of a blaxploitation movie, while also portraying slavery as evil and vile and wrong, and even having one white main character proclaim this. (One could argue that a blaxploitationmovie movie written and directed by a white man is unauthentic at best, and problematic at worst. Regardless, I loved it, and I thought that it treated the characters who were slaves as if hey were human beings, giving them as much dignity as was possible in their situation.)
That being said, this was a nice bit of exploitation, digging into what it means to be gay on a police force in a town where you were considered subhuman if you were gay. At one point, after Virgil has been outted, a newspaper proclaims that it's shameful for the police force to have had a gay man serving their country.
However, Kingston is so poor that it would have been interesting to see how this tied into the homophobia, if at all. There are vague statements made about money, about if Virgil has any, about the crime since they are police officers, but I think this would have been valuable in the exploitation narrative. Instead, it was mostly ignored.
Also, the afterword says this: "Foxy Brown showed us an assertive female hero unashamed of who she was. VIRGIL offers this in a gay man." What Virgil provides is a man who is unashamed of who he is? He lies to a friend for ten years, he lies at work, and his solution to the ultra macho workplace environment is to fuck female hookers in order to pass as straight. Then again, he has to do so. This graphic novel presents a narrative in which if you don't pass as straight, the cops can, and will, kill you. Even if you're one of them.
I'd argue that he's as unashamed as he can be, but this narrative provides no safe space in which he can truly be unashamed. (Except Canada, which is touted as the holy grail for gays in Jamaica. They can go out and get dinner without having to hide who they are, and this seems to be one of the ultimate goals: to be out on the street without fearing for their lives or having to hide who they are.)
This line bothered me, that this was conceived as a proud, gay hero. A proud, gay hero who was in the closet so he would not die. Literally so he would not be killed.
The narrative as portrayed was fast moving, offensive (and aware of it, confronting this head on), sympathetic to the plight of the LGBTQI community, and almost perfect. But the problem was that Virgil was written as if he were unashamed, and I never got a connect between that, and him sleeping with women. (This was not a matter of confusion; he knew he was gay. It was, and I stress this again, a survival tactic.)
Either way, I enjoyed this, but the disconnect bothered me enough to knock down one star. But this is brutal, violent, and uses offensive language, so if you're not down with that, I wouldn't dive into this.