How can a small group of protesters, working on their own time and money, take on a major Hollywood movie that is storming into theaters this Friday on the star power of Michael Douglas, a heavy advertising blitz and prerelease publicity about sex scenes so hot they nearly rated an X?
They can reveal the ending.
Gay activists are trying to publicize the who of the whodunit "Basic Instinct" as a way of taking some of the steam out of the hotly anticipated movie and its plot about several bisexual or lesbian women suspected in a series of ice-pick murders.
The movie is only the latest to incur the wrath of gay activists, who are also planning to stage a demonstration at the Academy Awards ceremony on March 30 to protest Hollywood's overall depiction of homosexuals in movies.
On Friday, activists will turn up at some of the more than 1,000 theaters nationwide that are opening "Basic Instinct" with T-shirts and fliers revealing the murderer and thus giving away the ending of the suspense that fuels the movie.
Baltimore members of Queer Nation, a nationwide group that specializes in attention-getting, direct-action protests, are considering handing out fliers at the Loews Rotunda theater, said Mark Shaw, a local organizer for the group. (A manager for the theater would not comment; the movie is also opening at a number of other local theaters.)
"My position is any film has a right to be made and shown, but then it has to take the consequences for that," said Mr. Shaw. "The bottom line with 'Basic Instinct' is a straight white man wrote the script and a straight white man directed it. It's their sexual fantasy. Hollywood is terrified of women, and they want to control them."
While the film is expected to draw large protests in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Mr. Shaw expected a smaller presence in Baltimore because other actions merit greater priority. Additionally, he said, Queer Nation is aware that protests can backfire by drawing more attention, and thus more moviegoers, to the film.
Some see "Basic Instinct" as part of a trend in recent movies to portray gays as villains, such as "JFK," in which gay men were portrayed as part of the assassination conspiracy, and "Silence of the Lambs," in which the serial killer had stereotypically gay mannerisms and habits.
"I think it's convenient, if you're looking for a heavy, to look for someone easy to hate -- and right now, it's easy to hate queers," said Garey Lambert, an AIDS activist and assistant manager of the Charles movie theater. "It's unfortunate for any group of people to be spotlighted that way. Imagine if the killer in 'Silence of the Lambs' had been black. You can't use race anymore, so you use sex."
Mr. Lambert, however, said he has mixed feelings about protests against movies like "Basic Instinct": "I disagree strongly with any advocacy group trying to manipulate the entertainment/media industry. Public censorship is just as bad as government censorship," he said. "But then, how do you change people's perceptions if not through media? So, I have mixed emotions on this."
"Basic Instinct" has been under fire for more than a year, ever since gay activists caught wind of the $3 million screenplay written by Joe Eszterhas. Protesters disrupted filming in San Francisco. Mr. Eszterhas apparently was convinced by protesters that he should change his script, but the director, Paul Verhoeven, refused.
The film's distributor, Tri-Star Pictures, said in a statement released last week that they feel the movie is "terrific" and that "freedom of expression covers filmmakers and moviegoers as well as protesters."