Monday, March 30, 2015

Gay culture: a tragedy

In the category of things I wish I had blogged about at the time, some years ago I saw the movie Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy.  It was a film about gay men, released in 2000.  It didn't get exactly good ratings, but we have a lower standard for gay movies.  Roger Ebert gave it 3/4 stars, saying, "It insists on the ordinariness of its characters, on their everyday problems, on the relaxed and chatty ways they pass their time. The movie's buried message celebrates the arrival of gays into the mainstream."

I'm not going to remember the plot details, but what I remember is my overall impression: This movie makes much more sense when read as a tragedy.

The movie portrays a group of friends, and they are absolutely awful to one another.  They should clearly break up.  However, the writer doesn't see it that way, and treats the near break-up of the group as the "conflict" of the story.  In particular, I recall that one of the friends leaves to make new friends--a group of heroin addicts.  Eventually he overdoses, and the friends all come together at the hospital.  They resolve to stay together, not because they are actually good friends to each other, but because gay people need to stick together.

On IMDB, you can find lots of people who liked the movie because it was exactly like their own life.  I get that people are happy to finally see a movie that sweeps away the stereotypes, but what we find underneath is just sad.

The more I think about it, the more this feels symbolic of larger things wrong with gay male culture.  People accept all kinds of abuse, basically because the alternative of leaving gay culture is worse.  And while lots of people know that something's broken, hardly anyone shows self-awareness of how they're part of the problem.

Many specific kinds of abuse are showcased uncritically in the movie.  There's rampant femmephobia, such as a bunch of bad dates, where the date is bad basically because they're too effeminate.  There are the body image issues, encapsulated in this quote:
All of the men in L.A. are a bunch of 10's looking for an 11. On a good night, and if the other guy's drunk enough... I'm a 6.
Perhaps the only thing missing is the constant complaining about how nobody else wants long-term relationships (then where do all these complainers come from?).  But you can find plenty of that theme in other gay movies.

I don't know if I am the right person to make this sort of cultural critique.  I've always been on the boundaries of gay culture, and I've been out of the dating pool for several years.  This is more something that affects my friends, and which pervades discourse among gay men.

On the other hand, when hearing from people who do personally deal with the problems of gay culture, I don't hear cultural critique, I hear self-pitying.  Like the character in The Broken Hearts Club, who complains that he's only a six in attractiveness, but doesn't even think about how he treats other sixes.  Without pointing to other specific examples, I see this theme repeated endlessly in popular gay media--fiction and nonfiction.


miller said...

Why no comment possibility for Umulius? Umulius is nice.

miller said...

You can definitely comment on the Umulius here. For some reason the "0 comments" link doesn't show from the main page, but the comments are still there. It's a Disqus quirk.