Tim Sullivan is an independent filmmaker, so he knows what it takes to fight for something he believes in. But this is probably the first time he's had to go head-to-head with a corporate giant like eBay.
The online seller has forced Sullivan to pull down sales of the soundtrack made for his segment of the drive-in indie film "Chillerama," declaring it to be "miscategorized." But Sullivan believes strongly it's much more than that: for him, it's because his "I Was a Teenage Werebear" segment is too gay-centric.
On Thursday, Sullivan e-mailed customers who have already ordered his soundtrack through eBay to tell them the listing was removed because it was "morally offensive." But by Friday, Sullivan said it wasn't just a computer mistake, like he originally thought, but more from one person in eBay's "Safety & Trust" department that has declared the material pornographic. In fact, eBay has told Sullivan he can sell his soundtrack and promotional items on the site, but only in the adults-only section filled with actual pornographic material.
"What we did is not pornographic at all," Sullivan tells Airlock Alpha and Rabid Doll. "This is from a film that may have some sexual jokes in it, but it's a mainstream film and played in mainstream festivals. And besides that, this is just music with gay themes in it. Is 'Glee' not allowed on eBay now because Chris Colfer sings about another guy?"
Part of the issue surrounding the listing may be a promotional item that was included with the CD sales. Two separate listings offered an autographed glossy picture from either Sullivan, or "Teenage Werebear" star Sean Paul Lockhart. In both photos, Lockhart is shirtless, although one features a scene from the movie where Lockhart is in nothing more than red underwear.
That picture, which you can see here courtesy of Fear Net (Lockhart is the one featured on the left and the offered photo did not include Ron Jeremy on the right), reportedly showed "engorged genitalia," according to what Sullivan says eBay told him. It was a photo featured on the cover of a magazine in Hawaii, Odyssey, and one which was offered on eBay for weeks without any incident.
Even if eBay had an issue with the photo now, they shouldn't have pulled down both listings, especially since the promotional item with the other listing didn't feature anyone below the waist, Sullivan said.
One thing that might be red-flagging such a listing is the fact that Lockhart may be better known as Brent Corrigan, a retired gay porn actor who has been working hard toward mainstream roles, including "Chillerama" and last year's indie production "Judas Kiss." There is a belief from mainstream outlets that if Lockhart is involved, it must be pornography, but that isn't the case anymore, and certainly isn't the case for "Chillerama," Sullivan said.
Rabid Doll, a sister site to Airlock Alpha, reviewed eBay's policies late Thursday, and broke them down in its initial coverage here. According to eBay, it will relegate material either in the "adults only" section, or ban it altogether, if it's pornographic, depicts real violence in a non-educational forum, and for other reasons. It wasn't clear exactly what policy the "Teenage Werebear" soundtrack and its promotional items violated.
Airlock Alpha and Rabid Doll have reached out to eBay for comment, but have yet to receive a response.
Sullivan strongly believes that this move is more related to the gay content of the production than anything else. He said there were no issues when all the products were marketed under the main "Chillerama" film name. However, when he started breaking out his piece of the film, "I Was a Teenage Werebear," it started describing some of the gay-related themes in the film, and it was then that he started to have a problem with eBay.
According to the film's description, "Teenage Werebear" is a about "a closeted kid who meets ... other closeted kids, who when aroused, turn into leather daddy werebears." The idea, Sullivan said, was to provide something fun and entertaining for a wide range of audiences. However, it also was designed to take on gay stereotypes head-on, and to try and fight the type of homophobia he says he's experiencing from eBay right now.
The whole incident is not just about calling a company out if they are acting in a homophobic way. There is a financial cost to such an action. Because Sullivan's eBay account has "violated" the policy, it lowers his seller's rating, which removes a fee discount he was receiving in selling items from his films. Sullivan was also a writer and director for other projects, including Robert Englund's "2001 Maniacs."
"It takes a lot of work and a lot of good customer relations to earn that discount, and now they've taken it away from me for a bullshit reason," Sullivan said. "It's plain wrong."
In the meantime, Sullivan is offering the soundtrack to "I Was a Teenage Wearbear" directly, and has already received hundreds of orders in the last 24 hours. Those who want to hear Lockhart, Anton Troy, Psycho Charger and Bobby Vinton, can order the soundtrack directly, or visit the film's Facebook page to learn how they can participate in the promotional offerings.
"We can sell this in Walmart, Target, Kmart, Best Buy, but not eBay," Sullivan wrote on the movie's Facebook page. "It's a fricking CD of pop songs."
The actual DVD and Blu-ray versions of "Chillerama," including "I Was a Teenage Werebear," remains available on eBay.
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