Over on Hollywood Elsewhere, Jeffrey Wells has really stirred things up by questioning the motives of Robin Williams gay character in The Night Listener. In the film, Williams' character, Gabriel, a late-night radio host, strikes up a long-distance phone friendship with a 14-year-old child abuse victim dying of AIDS, after the boy's memoir is passed his way by his editor. Wells sprayed the hose on the proverbial hornet's nest with this bit: "I haven't read any reviews that have brought this up, so I guess I'll have to: a 50ish gay man developing a fondness for a 14 year-old boy over the phone -- hello? -- feels icky."

The debate in the comments on this has ranged from people stalwartly defending Wells' POV on the relationship, to outright accusations of homophobia, to irate gay schoolteachers taking umbrage at Wells' implication that if an older gay man has a relationship with an adolescent boy, there must be something "icky" involved. I'd love to hear what Armistead Maupin, the author of the book on which the film was based (and co-writer of the screenplay as well) would say on this subject. The book was based on real-life incidents in Maupin's own life; ergo, an implication of unsavory motives on the part of the Gabriel character is, by extension, a questioning of Maupin's own motives.

My own take on the film, in case you're wondering, is that there was nothing untoward in the relationship between Gabriel and the boy; on the contrary, I saw Gabriel as desperately lonely and in need of someone to nurture (his character is coming off the breakup of a long relationship in which he cared for his lover, who has HIV), and that his interactions toward the boy are strictly paternal. What say you, readers -- especially those who have actually seen The Night Listener? Is the relationship between Gabriel and the boy somehow "icky"? Or is Wells reading something into this that just isn't there?