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Straight and Narrow: “Humpday”

Straight and Narrow: "Humpday"

The lumpy heroes of Humpday, Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard), decide to begin their brave video art project—in which these two straight men will push their own boundaries by making love to each other on camera in an anonymous hotel room—with a testimonial. Their camera unceremoniously perched on a drab dresser, they begin to explain to potential viewers the context of this work: Ben claims this is essential because the viewers need to know they are in reality heterosexual for the project to have any artistic validity. This amateur porn movie, borne from male arrogance and competition as much as from the desire to be “open-minded,” as the film’s characters’ constantly claim, must stand apart from any old gay porn, hence the insistence of their straightness. Anyone who has watched actual gay porn, however, will chuckle at this scene’s similarity to, not deviation from, the norm: perhaps even more dominated by codes of masculinity than its heterosexual variant, homosexual pornography, in its home-video aesthetic, amateur incarnation, often begins with its studs discussing to an off-screen voice that they’re straight, that this is their first time with a man, and that they adore fucking their girlfriends. This obviously fulfills the gay man’s fantasy of the unattainable, malleable straight man, but it doesn’t truly even take into account the large numbers of actual heterosexuals who engage in gay porn for pay.

The irony of Ben and Andrew’s proclamation is certainly lost on them, who, in their mad dash to prove their manhood by doing that one thing in the world that seems to repulse them most, have evidently not watched any gay porn for preparation—which might have been a good idea, considering their tentative, and ultimately failed, bid for what would have been, honestly, little more than local infamy. But I wonder if it’s also lost on writer-director Lynn Shelton: there’s a lot of bluster in Humpday ricocheting back and forth between Ben and Andrew about the inherent subversion of their project, yet if it had come to fruition, does Shelton know that what they would have had on their hands was just another shoddily made gay porn tape featuring (admittedly much less attractive) actors transparently reasserting their non-otherness? Perhaps, but the point remains that Humpday wouldn’t know gay if it jumped up and bit it, well, in the ass. Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of Humpday.

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