I picked Morgan up from rugby practice the other day. I asked him how his day had been, as one does. He said that he'd had a good practice, that he'd done well in his Geography test, that McKellen had shown up in his music class, that he'd played a good guitar solo.
"Wait a minute," I said. "Go back to McKellen."
"Yeah, Sir Ian McKellen," Morgan said. "You know, Gandalf?"
"Yes, I've heard of him," I assured my son. "I'm just wondering why he was in your class."
"He was there to talk to us." Duh.
It turns out Sir Ian McKellen spent a bunch of time at Morgan’s school the other day. Gandalf has been in Wellington on and off since filming of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy began; he’s here now for “The Hobbit.” McKellen has been a highly visible presence in Wellington and pops up at all sorts of places, from charity cricket matches to the opera.
So it’s not that unusual to hear of a McKellen spotting. He visited a number of classes at the school and took questions. McKellen, who is a well known gay-rights activist, was asked about President Obama’s personal endorsement of gay marriage and other “gay” issues. Morgan, who met McKellen twice, said his answers were thoughtful, insightful and wide-ranging.
I asked Morgan – who goes to an all-boys school – whether the students, who are in their teens and in that towel-snapping mode, were giggly or otherwise disrespectful. He assured me they were not and that, in fact, McKellen had been a magnetic guest. I will point out quickly, because I know how up in arms folks get about such things, that McKellen was responding to a question, not spouting a gay agenda trying to convert the students to a debauched gay lifestyle. He was there to talk about acting and the arts.
And he did telll them many astonishing things about the arts, things that Morgan will remember forever.
|McKellen at the cricket match to raise funds for Christchurch|
There are many things I love about New Zealand, as well as a few that drive me a little bonkers. But I wondered in how many other countries such a thing would have been possible. In fact, one of the things McKellen talked about was that when he was growing up in England, homosexuality was a crime. Morgan found that somewhat unbelievable.
I suppose what I really liked was how matter-of-fact Morgan and his classmates seemed to be about this. It was no biggie. When I asked him how he thought a similar situation would have gone down in other places, he shrugged and said, “pretty much the same, I guess.”
With his generation, perhaps.
The fact that Newsweek decided to put a halo over a picture of Obama on its cover and ask whether he was “the first Gay President” suggests we’ve got a long way to go.
Now understand I’m not trying to make a point about gay rights, though I suppose by definition I am. I just think it’s important that we can address issues in a civilized and rational manner without name-calling, shouting and trying to block out the other side.
To be able to have a calm discussion about such things with my son after something that occured at school was wonderful.
And, oh yes, it was Sir Ian McKellen. Yeah , that guy.