The Imitation Game tells the true story of the creation of a supercomputer built to break Enigma, the Germans’ code machine, and end World War II. But this plot is overshadowed by the personal life of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch). Turing was gay in a time when homosexuality was illegal.
The movie is set in the 1940s and ’50s in Bletchley Park, England. At the beginning, Turing is asked to be part of a super-secret mission to break the Enigma code. There he meets team members Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), John Cairncross (Allen Leech), and Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard). When a woman, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), is recruited to help, she and Turing build a sort of relationship. When she must leave the mission because of her family, Turing proposes to her so she can stay. At their engagement party, he talks with John about Joan, saying, “What if I don’t fancy her in that way?” John replies, “You can’t tell anyone, Alan. It’s illegal.” Will someone else find out? I wondered. I was more worried for Turing personally than I was about the problem of the Enigma code.
Near the end, we see Turing in a police station, accused of “gross indecency” with another man. When the officer interrogates him, Turing admits that he is a homosexual. Instead of being seen as the man who cracked Enigma and helped end the war, he is treated as a criminal. He is sentenced to two years of hormonal treatment with estrogen, which makes him shaky and depressed. Ultimately, the hormone treatment drives him to commit suicide.
When I saw this scene, I felt terrible and felt like it was unfair. I sat in the cinema shocked, thinking of how the country he had saved had killed him.
In 2013, when the story of Alan Turing was revealed, he received a posthumous pardon by the Queen of England. This was a huge step in the right direction, but in my opinion, Turing deserves more than just a royal pardon. He is a war hero and should be remembered because of that, not for his sexual orientation or his tragic death.
But since this story occurred, not much has changed. In some countries same-sex marriage is allowed, but in most it is illegal. The world is still ignoring equal rights for LGBT people, leaving me wondering how humane we are.
“The Imitation Game” made me think about what is different in the world today compared to the 20th century. Personally, I don’t think much has changed. We are still discriminating against gay people and taking away their rights. I hope stories like this one will help people realize what the world is doing to homosexuals and finally begin treating them as equals.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.