“George Michael: Outed” is a two-part documentary on the UK’s Channel 4, which aims to examine the British press’s role in outing George Michael. The documentary focuses on Michael’s ultimate defiance and the trail he blazed for out pop stars like Will Young and Olly Alexander. It also highlights the recklessness with which the press treated outing people in the 80s and 90s, when stigma around HIV and AIDS was at its height.
Director Michael Ogden revisited tabloid coverage of Michael’s 1998 arrest for performing “a lewd act” with another man in a Los Angeles public restroom. He found that the language used was judgmental and horrific, and it was all because George Michael got his d**k out in a toilet, which Ogden found ridiculous. The documentary also features interviews with other gay men who were outed in the media, as well as former tabloid journalists who reported on Michael’s arrest as if it were just another sex scandal.
Ogden argues that not much has changed since the late 90s when it comes to the British press’s treatment of LGBTQ+ celebrities. He draws a connection between the moral panic around queer people in the 90s and transgender people now. “Our freedoms are not easily won and they’re fragile,” he explained.
The documentary is not just a film about George Michael, but it’s a film about all queer lives, as it highlights the language used about how being gay is seen as a shameful act, which was always there with the AIDS crisis. Ogden imagines that being gay then could have felt like you were at war because your very being is being questioned.
In conclusion, “George Michael: Outed” serves as a reminder of the harm that can come from the British press’s reckless treatment of outing people, and highlights the fragility of LGBTQ+ rights. The documentary provides valuable insight into the attitudes towards gay people in the 80s and 90s and how they still persist today.