Tuesday, July 21, 2020
10:00 AM |
The Film Meme No. 87
[87th of 100].
In William Friedkin's 1970 adaptation of Mart Crowley's seminal play The Boys in the Boys
, one of its principals -- part of a bunch of gay men in New York gathering together for a birthday party, which soon attracts the requisite drama between queer friends -- blurts out this line: "It's not always the way it is in plays. Not all faggots bump themselves off at the end of the story!" If you have been paying attention to the development of gay representation in popular cinema [or theatre], that line underscores what was true about it until The Boys in the Band
came around. Characters who were gay or lesbian [or are coded as gay or lesbian] had, as part of the moral formula acceptable for movies, to suffer any of these development:  invisibility,  the supporting comic foil to the [straight] leads, always as an object of jokes and ridicule [say hello to the "sissy"!], or -- and this happened a lot --  death. Gay men and women in film have been regularly killed off as their ultimate comeuppance -- they get shot, felled by arrows, buried under burning bricks, swiped by cars, sliced by knives, hung from trees or rafters, commit suicide, etcetera. This was the only ending made possible for us by Hollywood; we were never permitted to be happy or lead normal lives or be alive by the last reel of the story. Until Friedkin's film broke that pattern; the film ended with all the partying gay men still partying on till the wee hours, dancing and laughing and popping champagne. It was revolutionary, and while it didn't exactly end Hollywood's practice of killing off gay characters at least for one more decade, it was a crack in the formula, a glimmer of more hopeful possibilities. So of course we do have now a plethora of gay films that not just give their characters assorted happy endings, they have given them complexity and humanity as well. I've loved so many ... In the early days of my cinephilia, I doted on In & Out, Threesome, Jeffrey, Fresa y Chocolate, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Broken Hearts Club, Il Compleanno, Un Chant d'Amour, Leather Jacket Love Story, Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss, Trick, Lan Yu, The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love, But I'm A Cheerleader, The Wedding Banquet, The Object of My Affection
, and Eighteen
. In the early 2000s, my U.S.-based brother Rey used to send me all these great titles in VHS, usually from Strand Releasing, and since I lived alone in my family's big house near Bantayan I used to screen all these films for friends in a kind of pop-up queer film festival. Later, there were Call Me By Your Name, Looking, Weekend, Gayby, Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa, The Kids Are All Right, Get Real, Were the World Mine, End of the Century, Tangerine, Love Simon, Miss Bulalacao, Booksmart
, the films of Marco Berger, and so many others. We've come a long way. And the film that stands for all that hopefulness and possibilities is this 2007 film from Jonah Markowitz. It follows a young surfer living in a down-and-out California town, who nurtures a natural talent for the visual arts but whose dreams of attending art school is being compromised by duty to family. His sister, a selfish, homophobic single mother who works at the local grocery store, demands his total fealty above everything else. Then into his life comes the older brother of his best friend -- and love sparks, much to his astonishment. Hard choices have to be made -- but the film is gentle enough not to wallow in cruelty, allowing its characters breathing room for happiness. This makes the film a kind of an urban fairy tale -- but coming as it did in a cinematic landscape that was a desert for gay affection rewarded well, it felt like water quenching thirst. Hence this film's hold on me when I first saw it. It made me cry, it made me hope, it made me believe in love that can happen for me. And guess what? Its promise isn't a lie. The poet Juan Miguel Severo recently gave this beautiful quote: "Yes, art and media must tell stories as they are—let there be tragedy, let society be the beast that it is—but there is definitely power in telling stories as they should be, too. Queer people deserve be told the same aspirational, romantic love stories they were led to believe only straight people could achieve. This series wants to tell a story that bypasses these injustices and triumphs over persistent cultural hurdles because, in this cis hetero-saturated media landscape, letting queer characters experience joy, freely express love, and get their most-deserved happy ending is an act of protest in itself. Let us refuse to fetishize and exoticize queer love. Let us normalize queer love by presenting it like its the most normal thing possible. Because it should be. Because it is." Yes, a thousand times, yes. What's the film?
For the introduction to this meme, read here
Labels: film, life, queer
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