Sunday, June 24, 2012

Let's Move Beyond The Gay Movie Ghetto

Today, I ended up reading a couple blog posts by Max (whose blog I just found and already adore) in which he talks about introducing the guy in his life to various gay-themed movies.  I threw out a few other titles that Max didn't mention of movies that I thought were well worth introducing Brandon to.  As is often the case, this got me in the mood to watch a few of my favorite movies in the genre, myself.  As such, I powered up the Wii, logged into Netflix, and started doing a search of some of my favorite titles.

Alas, Netflix doesn't stream the movie I really wanted to see, "The Broken Hearts Club," so I ended up settling for the first and second movies in the "Eating Out" series.  I suppose that's just as well.  I was tired and far more willing to let myself fall asleep during those movies than I might have been if I had been able to go with my first choice.  And since I adore that entire series, I was perfectly happy to watch (or doze off through) those movies.

There's no rule that says these two
can't be gay lovers who unleash
the next mummy's curse.
But as I got thinking about gay-themed movies, I got thinking about how they're all so much alike in a sense.  From where I sit, I can count the twenty one movies in the genre that are sitting together on a shelf -- and as I can immediately think of other titles that are not among that group, I know I have even more such movies than that -- it occurs that every last one of them (okay, "Jeffrey" is slightly different, given how much it focuses on the issue of dating in a world where HIV exists) is a story centered on somebody coming to terms with their sexual orientation, two people (usually men, though I do have a couple titles that are about lesbians) try to find love together (and because "Jeffrey" still fits this pattern, I only give it partial credit for being "slightly different"), or both.  It occurs to me that in many ways, Hollywood -- even the smaller movie studios that focus on "gay themed" movies -- are failing us by keeping us locked in a certain type of movie.

I want a different kind of gay movie.  I want a movie where a hero happens to be gay, but whose heroism is defined by something other than his (or her) sexual orientation.  I want a movie about Wyoming Smith, who faces the same kind of perilous traps and adrenaline-inducing fights and escapes that Indiana Jones faced, but rather than drawing beautiful woman closer in triumph, runs a hand along the well-muscled arm of his local guide and companion, says, "I couldn't have made it through without you," and gives him a passionate kiss.  I want a comedy where zany things happen to Tim at the office, and he comes home to tell his husband Bruce about it.

You see, heterosexual protagonists get to do all kinds of things in their movies.  They get to be adventurers.  They get to be down on their luck and trying to make a comeback.  They get to discover the massive conspiracy which forces them to run for their lives until they decide to fight back.  And they get to have all this while kissing women (or men, in the case of the rare female protagonist) or have a thirty second scene of steamy sensual foreplay (and presumably sex, though I'm usually spared actually seeing that part) as a brief interlude before the driving action of the main plot resumes.

I want that for gay protagonists.  I love my protagonists who spend entire movies building romances and/or coming to terms with their sexuality.  But I think it's time that Hollywood enables those protagonists to branch out and become romantically and sexually active gay protagonists that also do other amazing and story-worthy things.


  1. Well said. I also have wished to see the "stories of my life" lived out with media in all the different genres that a heterosexual person sees them, but that access and privilege comes at the expense of spending and dollars. Unfortunately, I am afraid that that is a financial gamble that most studios are not brave enough to risk for a diminuative or lesser reward.

    Until sexual orientation becomes an accepted piece of normative society, I fear we will be contained to our roles and boxes as they see fit, as other minorities have been and continue to be. It does get better, but ever so slowly.

    The gay themed movies and shows I have seen in life have greatly impacted me and I do thank them for the role they have played in my own socialization and development, albeit narrow in their focus.


    1. @Daemon: I agree that Universal Studios might not want to put their next potential blockbuster with millions invested in special effects at risk of being a flop by making the protagonist gay. (Though, seriously? If we're a society that would have rejected The Matrix if Neo had fallen for Tank instead of Trinity, what does that say about us?) However, there are plenty of low-budget films whose directors and producers know are never going to be record-breakers anyway. There are independent films whose producers and directors know their movies probably won't even hit major theaters, but will run the film festival circuits instead. It seems like these would be good candidates to start this process and help the blockbusters gain confidence that having a gay protagonist might not be the huge movie-killer they fear it would be.

      I totally agree with you, as movies like "Rock Haven" and "Get Real" greatly impacted me and even encouraged me as I was going through my own coming out and self-acceptance journey. I'm certainly not advocating that movie-makers completely abandon such movies, as that would be equally sad.