It turns out that he is, in part, having hidden his true, homosexual nature for so long that he’s phony through and through. The thrust of J. Edgar is that many of the U.S. government’s most dangerous tendencies—among them flagrant disregard for civil liberties—are rooted in a closeted gay man’s terror of being exposed, especially to his mother. From that terror came Hoover’s obsession with ferreting out other people’s secrets, amassing private files on presidents and using them as leverage to remain in power. And the man who made sure that his bureau projected an aura of manly fitness struggled with the impulse to sashay around the house in dresses and pearl necklaces.
You might wonder: “Who is the gay, pinko, subversive director behind this Tommy-gun assault on our national security and masculinity?” Clint Eastwood, of course. J. Edgar is the latest chapter in Eastwood’s never-ending project to deconstruct the macho, jingoist, homophobic, right-wing archetype he once embodied—and prove himself an artist whose simplicity of style belies the most sophisticated understanding of the dual nature of the American character of any living filmmaker.