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In Defense of ‘Another Gay Movie’

In Defense of 'Another Gay Movie'

Towards the end
of Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, Glenn (Chris New) gives a local bartender a spiel
about heteronormativity. He talks about how the straight narrative is an
inherited thing, inescapable and ever omnipresent in our culture. He says
elsewhere in the film to Russell (Tom Cullen), “…They shove it down our throats
all the time: Being straight. Straight story lines on television, everywhere –
in books, on billboards, magazines, everywhere.” At the moment, it’s invariably
changing, albeit marginally, but, generally speaking, queer people still have
to learn how to be queer. Either through the clichés of musicals or Will & Grace, the performance of
being queer is not as much of a de facto narrative to be learned as the
straight one. And, formatively, for straight people, the easiest way to
discover one’s sexuality as one is on the brink of pubescence, is through sex
comedies. Animal House, Porky’s, etc. There’s a lack of
these comedies from a female perspective, but there are, at the very, very
least, female characters that are given a role in those comedies. In terms of
what they’re supposed to do, how they’re supposed to act, even if it’s in
really regressive subservience. Still, where’s the queer narrative?

There is a teen
comedy which is probably seen in a very poor light. It’s gross, kind of
disgusting actually. Its production quality is low, like, really low. Jokes
about bodily functions and bodily fluids are plentiful. There’s squelching noises.
Actually, the jokes aren’t really all that funny. It’s gross out humor of the
lowest quality. And yet, it occurred to me very recently that a film as
“lowbrow” as Another Gay Movie it could also be considered one of the most
important films of the last two decades, well-deserving of a secure place in
queer canon. Many a queer film covers the Coming Out narrative primarily
through tropes, in continually less interesting ways, but few blend it in
seamlessly and make it feel “natural” to the film, something that any queer
person seeks in their life: to be seen as natural and human as anyone else.

I saw Another
Gay Movie
after I had already come out as bisexual. I didn’t
necessarily search for any particular narrative with regards to “what I should
do”, but even if I had wanted to, there wasn’t really anything to look to. And
so, I ended up watching the film when I was compiling a list of good queer
romantic comedies, guarding myself for the worst. And it was crass, and
shocking, and offensive. But, simultaneously, it was endearing, bizarrely
honest, even a little progressive. Had I not spent several years in denial
about my sexuality, it would have been the thing I would have gravitated
towards immediately as a source of comfort, something that wasn’t weighed down
by some saccharine notion of what “coming out” was, a piece that wasn’t tied to
the tragic notion of being queer. Another Gay Movie, in all of its
lubricated glory, was kind of wonderful for its mix of earnestness about sex
and its winking self-awareness about teen sex in film. It was, and is, kind of
great, and incredibly necessary.

Written and
directed by Todd Stephens (who had previously directed Gypsy 83, about a pair of
Goth girls who worship Stevie Nicks, and Edge of Seventeen, which falls a bit
more conventionally into the Coming Out subgenre of queer films) as an answer
to teen sex comedies such as the aforementioned classics, Another Gay Movie has a
dual role as a film. It is, at once, an answer and parody to those sex
comedies, most notably American Pie, but it is also itself
a teen sex comedy for queer people. This sounds rote, even disingenuous. But it
is entirely vital. It is absolutely necessary that Another Gay Movie, which
also satirizes the very clichés that queer films so often utilize, operates on many
levels and be acknowledged to do that.

Given the fact
that the Queer Narrative is fairly rare within mainstream media, Another
Gay Movie
thusly decides to take that role as dirty after school
special with aplomb. There are a handful queer characters on television, yes,
but when they do appear, they are often side characters to straight storylines,
and their own explorations of identity and sexuality are chaste and prudish.
Another Gay Movie
is the least prudish thing you can imagine. Following
in the footsteps of every other straight sex comedy, four gay friends – Andy (Michael
Carbonaro), Nico (Jonah Blechman), Jarod (Jonathan Chase), and Grif (Mitch
Morris), all of them falling into archetypes (awkward, femme, jock, nerd) –
seek to lose their “anal virginity” before a big party. (Thankfully, the film
is perfectly aware of just how conventional that storyline is.) Awkward shenanigans
ensue, of course.

Where this messy
exploration of sexuality it is so often avoided or made ingestible in other
shows and films, Another Gay Movie addresses it explicitly, straightforwardly,
and honestly. One of the first scenes is Andy penetrating himself with various
phallic vegetables. It is a gross, filthy, John Waters territory low bar, yet
for any queer person that has even considered anal sex, it is a forthright
presentation of that experimentation process.

Other characters
explore different facets of their sexuality, through web applications
(pre-Grindr age), through kinky play (with a special appearance from talk show
host Graham Norton), through the fetishization of certain body parts, through
the subcategories of gay people through body image. It’s explorative without
feeling overwhelming, exactly. At least, as far as the surveying goes; what is overwhelming is how awkward and uncomfortable
that journey (blech) is. These situations that these nice, naïve characters get
into are incredibly uncomfortable. Not least because they have to investigate
this for themselves, but because their ‘journey’ occupies a specific niche and
culture that exists outside of the norm. Bears, a subgroup within themselves,
might be heard on TV if you’re watching something like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but you would be hard put to find
the average layman able to explain what a bear is. There’s jargon in the film
that has slowly made its way into the mainstream, but still mostly exists in
gay culture. Andy goes to a glory hole. Jarod, seeing how much a nice posterior
is valued in gay culture is, tries to improve the look of his ass. The
alternative to finding what these things are, and a vague understanding of what
place they have within queer culture, is pornography, but porn, despite its
directness, isn’t usually a narrative in the traditional sense. Like most
pornography in general, it thrives on being straightforward, without the burden
of nuance and complexity. Another Gay Movie even occasionally
takes some pornographic scenarios, but allows them to play into exactly what
those would mean in the context of someone exploring their sexual identity.

Yet, besides
operating as a go-to guide on How to Be Gay, Another Gay Movie acts as
a wonderful way of saying, “We can make really disgusting sex jokes, too!” It
is as much a sex comedy itself as it is a parody of sex comedies (and it’s
perfectly aware of it).  It revels in the
potty humor (often literally) that populates Meatballs, H.O.T.S,
and Weird
Science
, and queers it. It takes place at a high school, as most teen
sex comedies do. It has a scene where the main character fantasizes about
having sex with a teacher. There’s the peer pressure from an older, more
sexually experienced character to get the virgins to just get over with. Your
Jason Biggs humping a pie becomes your Michael Carbanaro humping a quiche, both
described to recreate the sensation of penetration of certain orifices. And
then Another
Gay Movie
ups the ante and has Andy with a tube up his asshole with a
mouse in it. There’s an absurdity to the scene, and yet while it’s a Dali-esque
mirror image of what American Pie did, it’s also a
comment on it. Are teenagers so desperate to get some that they’re willing to
put things in unsavory (or savory, depending on your sexual proclivities)
places? And are we so base that we will put that on film? In a word, yes. It’s
a ridiculous, vulgar scene in any light, but Another Gay Movie plays
it more ironically than even American Pie.

Curious and
amusingly unique to the film is the almost complete absence of any straight
characters. Even in the queerest of queer movies, there are peripheral straight
characters that play an obligatory role in the narrative, whether it be as a
token straight friend or the judgmental townspeople. But in Another
Gay Movie
, there’s a distinctive “made for and by the queers” vibe. And
where there would be a female gaze, there is instead a queer gaze, that acts
both to pander to its audience, as well as to examine the superficiality of
mainstream gay culture (Griff’s obsession with getting a bigger butt, Nico’s
profile reading “Twinkerbell”, Jarod’s preoccupation with size, etc.).

It is, for the
most part, fun and games. Yet, at the heart of this film is a very odd
sincerity. It’s not totally unconventional, since teen sex comedies are, at
their heart, rather sappy. These youngins have “high school desperate” written
on their foreheads” and they do their very best to cover that up through each
folly and encounter. But sex is troublesome and painful, in a way. And when the
only outlet to help you investigate your sexual identity exists in an entirely
separate culture, it complicates things further. The “When am I ready to have
sex?” question isn’t the same for queer people as it is for straight people,
and the film cleverly addresses that difference. It dutifully follows the
conventional teen sex comedy trajectory (and, as I have suggested, becomes
exactly that) and allows its characters to find what they’ve been really
looking for: the skin they’re comfortable in. 

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