Stuff Gay People Like: Depressing movies
November 30, 2011 | 10:13 am
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 1:09 pm)
Gay people don’t like to be the center of cheesy stories. They’re OK with watching sappy romantic comedies in which a low-profile character is “the gay friend,” included in the film as a side-note by writers hoping to give a friendly holla to the costume department.
But when gay people are the center of their own story, we make no effort to escape the world’s dark things. We’ll revel in them. We’ll sing and dance about AIDS and munch popcorn to brutal hate crimes and broken relationships. If you ever invite your parents or friends to watch a gay-themed movie, be sure to prep them for some traumatic and disturbing shit, centered around a few key themes.
The Stern Authority Figure: No gay film is adequate unless its main character is subjected to a judgmental and condescending overseer, who is – take your pick – a misogynist and across-the-board asshole, or a sexless, humorless individual whose genitals seem enclosed by a titanium lock. It will be one or the other.
That authority figure could be a minister, parent, boss or a dickish boyfriend – who must be scary and abusive, and is most likely a Republican. Getting out of that person’s physical, psychological or symbolic control is the main thrust of the story.
Sex We Really Hated Having: Society once maligned gay men as promiscuous, sexually-obnoxious fiends whose lives are filled with one regrettable sexual encounter after another.
But in real life, gay people are getting married and adopting babies and some are living pretty wholesome, mainstream lives – so the narrative is slipping away. What are gay writers, artists and filmmakers gonna do about it? Bring it back!
Every gay film depicts at least one really disturbing sexual encounter – perhaps the 16-year-old protagonist is picked up by a man 40 years his senior, or a heartsick 30-something agrees to a one-night-stand and fails to wrap it up. Or a dashing 20-something, desperate for cash, accepts money for sex with someone really unattractive in a I-never-thought-I-would-be-doing-this way, trying to conceal the tears welling up in his eyes as he shield’s himself from the creepy stranger’s hot breath. In this part of the movie the soundtrack is going to get really loud and obnoxious, but at least it’s usually a good song.
In gay fiction, the decision to have kinky or risky sex arises from the protagonist’s emotional turmoil and self-hate, which the character will either eventually get away from as the film progresses, or die. This is especially true if the writer grew up religious, in which case the gay twist on the millennia-old theology of Christian redemption is to combine sin and painful penance in a single experience. The problem is, none of this is really a gay thing – regrettable sex is shared by gay and straight people alike; it’s called college.
Sexy, Seductive Poverty: Emotional instability is hard to portray, particularly when you want your character to stand in contrast to a world that is even more fucked-up insane. So writers put that on the outside by romanticizing poverty, which is – we’re undecided – either a rejection of the world, or a state of being rejected by it.
For the sake of clarity let’s call it mutual rejection. Anyway, in gay movies, poverty is liberating, and the poor 20-somethings are also very hot, because, we suppose, poor guys have to run around a lot and trans fats are prohibitively expensive. Meanwhile, the transient period of homelessness is a gay boy’s spiritual journey into manhood.
It’s clear there is nothing “gay” about gay cinema. But we love it anyway, as long as they show a little skin.
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