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Token Gay of the Day: Harry in ‘Mamma Mia’

Token Gay of the Day: Harry in 'Mamma Mia'

There is a fine line between a character’s previously hidden homosexuality being a nice twist and it being a punchline. Unfortunately, when it comes to “Mamma Mia”, I fear we are romping wildly in punchline territory.

I have watched the film multiple times, and one of its most appealing qualities (aside from, hello? Meryl Streep performing ABBA songs) is its rare and genuinely exuberant celebration of middle aged female sexuality. Sadly, but hardly surprisingly, this applies only to straight women. And while this is the kind of mainstream film that you might expect to include gay men in its welcoming bosom (did I mention Meryl Streep performing ABBA songs?) its efforts are fairly minimal.

I gather that it is much clearer in the stage original that Colin Firth’s character Harry is gay. And though you might think it is made fairly obvious in the film – Harry tells Donna “You were the first women I ever loved… and also the last” before casting a sultry glance at a young male local – it is not unambiguous enough to prevent a Google search yielding multiple viewers asking “Is Harry meant to be gay?”.

We may sneer, but given the film’s general sledgehammer approach to the art of narrative, it is disheartening that this is the one arena in which it becomes suddenly coy. Yes, we get a final shot of a topless Colin and his paramour embracing under a water shower, but the image could more easily be found in a macho sports locker room than a gay porn classic (not that these are mutually exclusive categories).

So yes, Harry is meant to be gay. It’s just that the film would rather not dwell on it.

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