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When Harry Met Adam and Steve: The Problems in Creating a Good Queer Rom-Com

When Harry Met Adam and Steve: The Problems in Creating a Good Queer Rom-Com

During an episode
of “Will and Grace” – titled “Fagmalion Part Three: Bye Bye Beardy” – Will
tells Karen’s cousin, Barry (who has been given a makeover), “Barry, it’s okay
that you didn’t like The Broken Hearts
or Kiss Me, Guido. I’ll tell
you a little secret we like to keep in the community: Gay movies suck. But
until the laws change, we’re still obligated to see them.” Though Will’s
overarching argument is toward all gay movies, the target of my attack is aimed
at the “Queer Rom-Com.”

READ MORE: The 5 Best Gay and Lesbian Romantic Comedies On Netflix

The Rom-Com is a genre that has
persisted since the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s, but has since run
its generic cycle from classicism (in which it firmly established its generic
elements and traits) to postmodern parody (self-aware films that pastiche/mock/parody
the elements of their predecessors). The “Queer Rom-Com” takes the
aforementioned genre and infuses it with a queer coupling. Since there are very
few films that use transgender characters as romantic leads, and a large
majority of films (that I have seen) dealing with bisexuality are problematic, my
argument will focus on gay and lesbian Rom-Coms.

transposing queer elements from subtext (which yields camp readings) to text,
the Queer Rom-Coms become stagnant and contrived iterations that merely ape its
heterosexual predecessors and queer contemporaries, with little to no room for
improvement. These films suffer from the When
Harry Met Sally…
syndrome, in that they use the same repetitive narrative
devices of types, archetypes, stereotypes, and endings. Their main focus is
examining the conflicts of sexuality, usually ending with a heteronormative
climax (albeit in a queer context) in which the two queer characters get their
“happily ever after.” To my mind, the more appealing films are those guilty
pleasures that may be fun and campy, but are still lackluster in their
execution. These include such titles as Christopher Ashley’s Jeffrey (1995), Simon Shore’s Get Real (1998), and Jamie Babbit’s But I’m A Cheerleader (1999). The
aforementioned films (amongst other titles) opened the floodgates to a legacy
of carbon copies – such as Julie Davis’ All
Over the Guy
(2001), C. Jay Cox’s Latter
(2003), Craig Chester’s Adam and
(2005), and the infamous Eating
series (2004-2011) – that merely offer queer puns and shirtless
beefcakes with their already predictable stories.

READ MORE: The 5 Worst Gay and Lesbian Romantic Comedies On Netflix

to the clichéd elements of the Rom-Com, queer filmmakers inject their stories forced
camp and graphic sexuality in order to target a specific demographic (these
films usually play at queer film festivals, smaller scale theaters, and on Netflix
streaming). The problem then becomes that the filmmakers are adding plasticity
(through a forced camp sensibility that arises from bad acting, poor production
values, and endless double entendres) into an already predictable and
artificial genre.

isn’t until the Queer Rom-Com can avoid its generalized characters and predictable
narratives that it can begin to transcend the confines of its genre (Andrew
Haigh’s Weekend – although not a
Rom-Com – shows promise for this trend of normalizing sexuality). Once the
Queer Rom-Com stops focusing on the endless heaps of artificiality, it can
truly open up the potential for the subversive power of melodrama and actually
create a meaningful film. Until then, the Netflix section of “Gay and Lesbian
Romances/Comedies” will contain titles with similar pictures, similar plots,
and similar low ratings.


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