Greetings Letter readers, Robby from Brooklyn here hoping all are well. In my last column, I had just returned from a press tour of Merida, Mexico, after same-sex marriage was legalized in the state of Yucatan. While not the marrying type, I did love touring the local Haciendas and luxury resorts eager to become a sought-after location for queer American couples looking to book a destination wedding. Even though I don’t envision marriage for myself, I picture my life as a romantic comedy film with a happy ending! (Not that kind of happy ending – this isn’t a Naked Sword rom-com…LOL).
I have always loved rom-coms. My entertainment viewing tends to be on the “light,” “cheerful,” and “funny” side as opposed to dark and deadly. No “Handmaid’s Tale,” “Walking Dead,” or “American Horror Story” for me. Give me an “Emily in Paris,” “Younger,” or “The Other Two,” over a “Dahmer” any day. HELL NO.
And rom-com movies! LOVE. I might have popped a little woody just now LOL. Today I am writing this hours before I am about to see “BROS,” the first gay-led rom-com from a major Hollywood studio. Every role in the film – even the straight ones – are played by queer actors. Thank you Billy Eichner for giving this gift to our community. It’s been a long time coming.
As rom-com obsessed as I am, having a film like this growing up would have been a life changer. I am beyond thrilled for queer kids today with the amount of LGBTQ representation in film, television, and books. It’s truly astounding. As a 40-something gay man, this representation when I was coming of age was almost non-existent and very hard to find.
We had Matt on “Melrose Place,” where we did not even get to see him kiss his boyfriend. Instead, the camera cut to Daphne Zuniga’s Jo watching it unfold. We had Jack McPhee on “Dawsons Creek,” who did get to kiss his boyfriend – making history as the first same-sex kiss on network television. These weren’t the first queer characters on network television, but they were the first for me. Older generations (this is not shade or ageist) got to watch Billy Crystal on “Soap,” and two men sitting in bed shirtless after sex on “Thirtysomething.” As time marched on we finally began to see ourselves on television screens as leading characters in “Queer as Folk” and “Will and Grace.”
Watching rom-com movies I was always looking for a gay man with a starring role finding his Prince Charming and happy ending. We saw ourselves on screen as the gay best friend like Rupert Everett in “My Best Friends Wedding.” Earlier films like “Longtime Companion,” “Love, Valour, Compassion,” and “An Early Frost” were devastating dramas where one or more queer characters died. “Brokeback Mountain” can be added to that list. And look what happened to Greg Kinnear’s character in “As Good As It Gets.” Don’t even get me started on “Cruising” with Al Pacino – that movie scarred me for years.
As a younger gay, I was lucky to have friends who taught and showed me gay history. We watched the groundbreaking PBS “Tales of the City.” Laura Linney will forever be MaryAnn to me. Then slowly but surely, every so often there would be a gay rom-com like “Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss” with Will Hayes. I fell in love with Paul Rudd in “The Object of My Affection” with Jennifer Aniston. Rudd was just like me, a teacher with friends, family, hopes, and dreams who just happened to be gay. Bonus points for having hunk Tim Daly as his douche-y ex. (Definitely had a massive crush on him after the movie.)
We claimed “Trick” as our own watching it over and over on rainy days in the Pines. Who could forget Tori Spelling singing “Enter You.” There had been rumors of a possible sequel, but no details so far as to where that stands. Eventually, we were getting multiple queer films and it felt ok to dislike some of them without feeling like we were betraying the community. “Weekend” was one of those for me. Everyone else was raving about it, but I think I fell asleep in the theater. The same goes for Showtime’s “Looking,” which many loved while I found it better than Ambien for putting me to sleep.
But my absolute favorite “gay” film was and still is, drumroll please…”The Broken Hearts Club.” Zach Braff, Timothy Olyphant, Dean Cain, and Billy Porter. Revolving around the lives of members of a gay softball team in West Hollywood, they were us. They were my friends and I. Their problems were our problems. The slutty one, the romantic one, the negative one, and the newbie. I even joined a gay softball league after seeing the film! It was super fun but we were not TBHC…LOL.
Change comes slowly, as I’m reminded by older gay friends. Each film, book, and movie with fully-realized queer characters take us one step closer to equality. So, get with your bros, see “Bros,” and celebrate how far our community has come. I would bet money there is a happy ending. Both kinds!
(**this column originally appeared in “Letters From Camp Rehoboth”)