Outed shows how the British press betrays LGBT people

Channel 4’s new documentary exposes the British press’ grim attitude towards gay people in the ’90s – and reveals that not much has changed since pop icon George Michael came out.

Over two hours, George Michael: Out examines in great detail how the Wham! singer was treated by the unscrupulous tabloids after he was infamously arrested in 1998 for engaging in a “lewd act” in a Beverly Hills public restroom, and how the aftermath led to his coming out.

The film paints a heartbreaking picture of the intrusion as journalists seek information about George’s sexuality and HIV status. But it also leaves a damning question: Are things that much better today?


Michael Ogden, who directed the series, spent weeks trawling through newspaper archives and finding headlines dealing with the coming out of gay people in the ’80s and ’90s, including George himself.

“It was really fascinating because the language is really awful and the way it’s written is really awful and it’s really judgmental,” Ogden tells PinkNews. “And all because George took his cock out in a toilet. I thought that was ridiculous.”

In conversations with other gay men who were outed at the time, including former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor and former RAF medical officer Dr. Andrew Hartle, Ogden told Ogden the “trauma” caused by the tabloids was “tangible.”

As part of the documentary, Ogden also spoke to a number of journalists who made headlines at the time, including Neil Wallis, former deputy editor of The Sun, and Stuart White, former US editor of News of the World.

“The attitude towards gay people in the 80’s, especially in relation to HIV and AIDS, was quite violent”

In one segment, Wallis explains why he felt the hunt for George after the toilet incident was justified, and suggests his hidden sexuality and sexual behavior is a tale of “hypocrisy.”

“Neil Wallis … his view is simple … it’s a scandal that people are not honest,” says Ogden, explaining how the journalist viewed George’s story as any other straight celebrity sex scandal.

“My argument was that it’s very different because the attitude towards gay people in the ’80s, especially around HIV and AIDS, was pretty violent,” says Ogden. “I figured if you were gay then it probably could have felt like you were at war because your essence is being questioned.”

The documentary expertly explains why George’s forced coming out and the moral panic over AIDS – which many tabloids dubbed the “gay plague” – are inextricably linked.

“It’s about the language used, isn’t it? Because it’s about shame. And language about how being gay is seen as a shameful act. It was always like that with the AIDS crisis, it was a moral judgment against gay people,” says Ogden.

Newspapers described George as “plagued by rumors” about his sexuality and insisted he simply come out. Meanwhile, the same newspapers fomented hatred and stigma towards openly gay men and insisted that the community was responsible for the AIDS epidemic.

“The connections often refer to George because he was hugely famous in the ’80s, at a time when the crisis was at its peak,” explains Ogden, also pointing out that George’s partner in the early ’90s, Anselmo Feleppa, died of AIDS-related complications in 1993.

“He was a pop star loved by teenage girls, you know? The idea that he could come out as a gay man with all the pressure around him and that kind of fever of AIDS talk and abuse coming out of the press would have been impossible.”

George Michael walks past a press photographer in LA.
George Michael was followed by the press after his arrest in Beverly Hills. (Getty/John Chapple)

While the attitude of the British press at the time was irrefutably abhorrent, Ogden wanted to make it clear that anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in the media is not a thing of the past.

At the very end of the documentary, George Michael’s “Freedom” begins to play. The documentary skips ahead to reels of current headlines about attacks on queer people and stars like Rebel Wilson being outed by the press.

“You always think when you do something like this, it’s a hindsight, what’s the relevance now? The important thing is that nothing has changed,” says Ogden.

He and his team edited the documentary at the height of last year’s Tory leadership contest, which quickly turned into an ugly battle, to see which candidates and media could crack down on trans people.

“Our film is not a film about the life of trans people, but in a way a film about all queer lives”

“All this time there was all this bullshit about trans life — and I’m not going to say the trans debate because it’s not an af***** debate. It was always in the air,” says Ogden.

“Our film is not a film about the life of trans people, but in a way a film about all queer lives. We were aware of this and wanted to make sure you didn’t feel like this was just history and that this is in fact a lesson for now.

“We can never go back to this situation. It’s sad to see what’s happening in the press about trans life. You look at what is happening to the potential SNP leader in Scotland who disagreed with gay marriage. Our freedoms are not easy to win and they are fragile.”

George Michael: Out is not only a reminder of pernicious queerphobia, it is also a love letter about how George subverted the gay shame story leveled against him.

Through conversations with queer music legends including Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Holly Johnson, DJ Fat Tony, Will Young and Olly Alexander, as well as George’s then-partner Kenny Goss and cousin Andros Georgiou, Ogeden shows how the “Careless Whisper” singer is driving gay liberation to new ones heights.


George overtook the press, which struggled to reveal his sexuality, and appeared on CNN to tell the world that he was a gay man, that he was proud and that he would never allow himself to be humiliated for it.

“I’m not ashamed at all,” he said without apology. “And I don’t think I should either.”

George Michael: Out will be broadcast on Channel 4 on Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th March at 9pm.

https://www.thepinknews.com/2023/03/06/george-michael-outed-documentary-press-betrays-lgbt-people/ Outed shows how the British press betrays LGBT people

Adam Bradshaw

TheHitc is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@thehitc.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button