Why Is the New Alan Turing Biopic Afraid of His Homosexuality? 

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
July 22 2014 3:22 PM

The Disgraceful New Trailer for the Alan Turing Biopic

A statue of Alan Turing with his portrait in the background.
A statue of Alan Turing with his portrait in the background.

Courtesy of Jon Callas/Flickr.

Based on the new trailer for The Imitation Game, the Alan Turing biopic due this fall, it would be easy to conclude that Turing was a wily code-breaking genius whose chief struggle was against his own ego. Riffing on the roguish, Sherlock-y charms of the movie’s star, Benedict Cumberbatch, the trailer frames the movie as a wartime epic and romance between Turing and his contemporary, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). For viewers in-the-know about Turing's sexuality, there are some coy allusions to what’s really going on (“What if I don’t fancy her in that way?”). But it's not long before we're back to tender scenes of the photogenic couple in duress.

Turing was briefly engaged to Clarke in 1941—before breaking it off after he told her of his homosexuality. That same sexuality, of course, led the British to convict him of indecency, strip him of his security clearance after his immeasurable achievements during World War II, and chemically castrate him. He died, apparently from suicide, not long after in 1954.

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The Imitation Game’s screenplay has already come under fire from a Turing biographer, though in fairness, we don’t know what kind of movie it will be yet. But it is depressingly clear from the trailer that the Weinstein Company, the film’s U.S. distributor, thinks Turing’s story is best sold as an insidiously rewritten version of his life. That’s a deep insult not only to the movie’s potential audience but also to its subject, whose unimaginable treatment by the British has been in the zeitgeist recently after the U.K. government’s posthumous pardon last year. I await The Imitation Game and hope it’ll be an honest, incisive new front into understanding Turing’s true life and legacy, but this trailer and the logic it represents are a disgrace.

Jeffrey Bloomer is a Slate assistant editor focused on video. Follow him on Twitter.

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