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Abandoning hearth and a promising Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper rerun last Friday eve, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) headed for the trenches at the Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin Avenue.

Best known for its ’92 protests of Basic Instinct‘s murderous lesbians, GLAAD is less than smitten with Mel Gibson’s direction and acting in Braveheart, the story of William Wallace (the 13th-century Celtic hero who led the Scottish commoners in their uprising against the English).

GLAAD’s big issue with the film concerns Prince Edward and his homosexual lover, who are depicted as two Class A foofers. The group is none too pleased by reports that, in the course of the film, the tyrannical King Edward I throws Eddie II’s smoochie out a window to his death. Says GLAAD Executive Director Ellen Carton, “The Edward II character is a throwback to the classic celluloid queer played for laughs as a simpering weakling.” Unconcerned that most historical accounts suggest that, sexuality aside, Edward II was a simpering weakling, Cathy Renna, co-chair of GLAAD’s D.C. chapter, adds, “Having a gay man thrown out a window as the audience laughs along is an outrageous and chilling example of how negative stereotyping contributes to anti-gay violence in this country.”

A good-natured lot as activists go, the GLAADsters were conducting a sidewalk symposium concerning gay characters on Northern Exposure, Hearts Afire, Soap, et al.—and why Matt of Melrose Place is always promised a lover but never closes the deal. Still, beneath the light patter, the 12 hardy souls who braved the intermittent weather were accursed with Sapphic hortative piety. Not a single one had actually seen the three-hour epic, which would have cut into creative time for developing their “No Heart” movie-poster parody and banners like “Homophobia is a lethal weapon too.”

Insinuating myself into a discombobulated picket line that took off in unrehearsed trapezoidal patterns, I had a chance to coax their opinions on other gay performances like Jaye Davidson’s in The Crying Game. The mention of Davidson, who gave middle America its first peek under the skirt of cross-dressing, caught the attention of a strapping, redheaded dish who stomped toward me with a burr under her saddle.

The Crying Game was about a transgender person—not a homosexual,” snorted Jessica Xavier. “This person was either a transgenderist or a pre-operative transsexual. I’m with Transgender Nation—I know about these things.” No foolin’, sister—I figured it out from your throaty basso sticking the low notes during the “Men in skirts are bigots too” chant.

The date-nighters in line for Braveheart seemed hardly bothered by the commotion. After all, Edward II’s lover is just one of thousands who meet an untimely demise in a film with enough impalings and cranial hammershots to play like a medieval Gallagher concert. Even Wallace himself was hanged, disemboweled, and quartered before his head was packed off to be used as a commemorative bust on London Bridge.

But GLAAD’s Sheryl Ann Spector thinks Gibson has a problem with gay people. “I don’t like Mel Gibson and we have protested him before; he’s very homophobic,” she says. Gibson ran afoul of GLAAD’s good graces in the past by raising preternatural questions of the in/out functions of certain orifices in a Spanish magazine interview. He also drew the group’s ire for his turn as an effete hairdresser in the Goldie Hawn picture Bird on a Wire. Hammering on Gibson for his role in Bird seems like overkill—just having to make it seems penance enough.

When asked how he justified protesting without having seen the picture, marcher Michael Singerman said, “[GLAAD has] been doing this for a long time, and they know what to look for. If they feel something’s homophobic, then we’ll support that.” But of 10 or so departing moviegoers I interviewed, none agreed with GLAAD’s decision to single out one of the movie’s many victims. “I didn’t think it was done to offend anybody. I didn’t think, “Oh god, they killed a gay guy,’ ” said a woman named Alexis. “It was a violent Mel Gibson movie—c’mon! He was killed like everybody else.”

Still, you can’t be too careful about these things. Just take a hard look at Joe McMarketingmajor exiting Braveheart, arm around his best gal, hand rubbing his frat-boy beer pouch now full of strawberry Twizzlers. God only knows what harm hath been wrought on his red-meat psyche. Who’s to say he won’t take after King Edward Longshanks and throw some poor fop right through Maggie’s’ screen porch onto Wisconsin Avenue while enjoying a post-cinematic toddy?

As the proceedings wound down, a young, close-cropped revolutionary with a chain-link-padlock necklace was currying favor and punctuating his sporty banter with world-weary exhalations of smoke. “I marched in the anarchists’ section of the gay rights march…the guys who were chanting “Oy, Oy, we fuck boys’ and “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re drinking fucking beer’….That was us, did you see us?”

Nobody acknowledged the agitator’s query. GLAAD was too busy fighting the good fight, even if its members weren’t sure what the fight was about. As one activist copped, “I just obey when I come to a protest—I don’t even know why I’m here.”