These small screen post-mortems got me thinking about big screen milestones where our visibility was loud and proud, and advanced our cause with minimal irony and maximal reality—messy, empathic, and vivid. Almost from different epoques, two films, a mere 15 years apart—a gap that speaks volumes in our community, each made their mark in breezy yet profound ways.
In the first (included both in Outfest LA‘s Legacy Project and its most recent festival), certainly the most esteemable and upbeat LGBT film with gay male protagonists till then, the disease’s morbidity was downplayed by providing visual and romantic succor amidst the hell of that time. The second also delivered its own whimsies and charms pre-dating the 9/11-induced machismo which continues to be all the rage.
Neither film anticipates the history we have witnessed over the past month, but instead each one “normalizes” us from within without stereotyping or whitewashing. In otherwords, except for the gender pairings, we’re just like the hets. But wait there’s more: in the midst of an imperfect world, something akin to tragedy even, we still make flawed, imperfect choices. Even and especially amongst ourselves, do we hurt one another the most, not because we’re victims or heros, or tainted or more extraordinary, but simply human.
Both films are populated with two successive generations of gay men in their 20s and 30s, each dealing with loss under different circumstances. The first romances New York amidst the HIV/AIDS plague, fighting it with the most effective weapons, irony and wit. The second romances West Hollywood—no mean feat that—with a gaggle of imperfect men (inside and out) struggling to find their way and striving but not quite grasping their precise goals until they lose what they have. Both films have upbeat albeit knowing conclusions, where the journey toward happiness is not self-aggrandizing or especially unique, but best taken with a solid pair of hiking boots, or a bunch of heels.