During my rare free time I love to watch movies. Usually I go through a period of watching a particular genre, then I move on to another. This past summer I became highly intrigued by LGBT cinema, particularly LGBT films focused on gay men. The films I was watching were mainly on Netflix.
Some of the films I watched were dramas, and some were comedies with a lot of romance, but all were gay-themed. As I moved through them, I noticed a common formula, especially in gay romantic comedies: An average-looking (but attractive in an adorable way) white male becomes interested in a hotter, confident and charming white male. The movie's plot is typically built around the funny obstacles, lies and deceptions that arise when these two archetypes date or become close friends, and that eventually brings them together in the end. This formula, or some variation on it, could be found in literally every gay-themed movie I watched. I sought out different types of gay-themed cinema, but all the films I came across utilized that common formula. It started to bother me that there were rarely black or Latino males in prevalent roles, and Asian-American males were almost nonexistent in these films. A lesbian or transgender character might be added to the mix in a smaller role, but rarely with depth. Heck, "fag hags" had more screen time than did characters of color and diverse gender identities!
Here is a list of movies I enjoyed this past summer that I thought could have used more diversity:
- The Eating Out series (2004 to 2011): This series epitomizes the gay romantic comedy. All five movies focus on an average-looking white guy who uses lies and deceit to win over some smokin'-hot white guy. At the end of each 90-minute movie, the two men are somehow in each other's arms. Well, the couple in the fourth movie does not get back together until the end of the fifth movie, but it's the same thing.
- Adam & Steve (2005): In this movie the average-looking white guy is Adam (Craig Chester), who also happens to be an ex-addict, and the hot white guy is Steve (Malcolm Gets), who also happens to be a successful psychiatrist. They first meet in 1987, when Adam is a goth kid and Steve is a Dazzle Dancer. They plan to hook up, but in a nice twist on the formula, Steve comically embarrasses himself and runs out. Seventeen years later they meet again and actually date. When Steve figures out who Adam is and realizes that he might have caused Adam's drug addiction, he breaks up with him... but it's a romantic comedy, so the breakup doesn't last, of course.
- Another Gay Movie (2006): The title says it all. It's actually a parody of teen comedies like American Pie and gay-themed romantic comedies. Although the film is well-rounded and pokes fun at gay culture, lesbians and people of color have very small roles.
- BearCity (2010): This one doesn't follow the formula exactly. It's about the bear community, a subculture of the gay community that doesn't get a lot of representation in gay media. The movie focuses on a skinny, above-average-looking twink, Tyler (Joe Conti), who has a thing for bears. Through some bear friends he meets Roger (Gerald McCullouch), a muscle bear. Roger is hesitant about Tyler, because the latter is from outside the community, so he lies about how he feels. The two go through the typical obstacles until they get together in the end.
- Is It Just Me? (2010): This one is very similar to the Eating Out films. To sum it up, a newspaper writer, Blaine (Nicholas Downs), begins an online relationship with Xander (David Loren), who believes that Blaine is his sexy roommate, Cameron (Adam Huss). I know, that was a word-full for me, too!
These films are fantastic, non-mainstream movies, but like primetime television series, they lack representations of gay people of color, especially within gay relationships. But interracial couples and couples of color definitely exist within the gay community, and people (including me) love to see characters in the media that they can relate to. Nevertheless, gay-themed romantic films tend to leave them out, and when these films do include gay characters of color, black gay characters typically fulfill the "black man on the down-low" stereotype, and Latino/Hispanic gay characters usually fulfill the "hot-and-sexy Latin lover" stereotype.
For those reasons outlined above, gay and straight filmmakers should be inspired to include more gay characters of color in their work. Here's a slideshow of real-life interracial gay couples and gay couples of color to help them come up with newer, more accurate ways of portraying gay romance and relationships in both independent and mainstream films: