You better not make any remarks about Gay Perry. He'll kick your butt into next week. "You think that's funny? I'm gonna break your nose...
You better not make any remarks about Gay Perry. He’ll kick your butt into next week.
“You think that’s funny? I’m gonna break your nose now,” says Perry (Val Kilmer) to his bumbling straight pal Harry (Robert Downey Jr.) in “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” a buddy-buddy detective movie with a double twist: Not only are the buddies gay and straight, but the gay guy is a two-fisted macho man, while his straight partner is a comic klutz.
And if you like gay detectives, how about gay cowboys (“Brokeback Mountain,” opening Dec. 9)?
And if you like gay cowboys, how about gay soccer players (“Guys and Balls,” opening in May)?
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And if you like gay soccer players, how about a gay deaf white man and his African-American partner who are adopting a child (“The Family Stone”?
Ready or not, here come the post-gay movies. And audiences do seem to be ready.
Ready for movies where the characters are not merely gay — which used to be as much reality as mainstream viewers could take. These characters are gay-hyphen.
Such characters have turned up occasionally in supporting roles in the past (James Gandolfini as a gay gangster in “The Mexican,” The Rock as a gay bodyguard in “Be Cool”). Now, they’re center stage.
“Having a character be gay in a movie just isn’t shocking anymore,” says Shane Black, writer-director of “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.”
” ‘Will and Grace’ and ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ have softened us up with regards to the funny gay character,” Black says. ” ‘Well, all right, he’s gay, but they’re so funny, those gays.’ And I thought, that doesn’t really cut it. We still haven’t seen the heroic gay character that, when the chips are down, kicks down the door, shoots everybody and saves your butt.”
Whether these post-gay characters are also post-stereotype is open to question.
Gay Perry is a tough hombre who can slug his way out of a corner, but he also has a cellphone that plays “I Will Survive.”
And the soccer players in “Guys and Balls” are a collection of gay “types”: a leather guy, a flamboyant guy, a hunky guy, a nerdy guy.
But considered strictly as a barometer of audience attitudes, these films may be a kind of advance.
They suggest that mainstream viewers, by and large, no longer find gayness shocking or exotic enough to be of interest on its own. Like plain coffee, it has become humdrum. Hence the need for add-in flavors.
“People know gay people now, so it’s not so much used for shock value,” says Mark Reinhart, spokesman for Regent Releasing, which is distributing “Guys and Balls.” “It’s more like this makes for interesting textures, or layers.”
Regent and its sister company here!, a gay TV network, have been pioneering a new market: gay genre films.
While some of the movies they make or distribute are more traditional like “Summer Storm” (a gay coming-of-age film) and “April’s Shower” (about a lesbian relationship), they have also released niche films like “Hellbent” (a gay slasher film), “Eternal” (a lesbian vampire flick), “Freshman Orientation” (a gay “Animal House”) and the TV drama “Tides of War,” about a gay submarine captain. Some have had crossover success.
“Fangoria (the horror cinema magazine) did whole pieces on ‘Eternal’ and ‘Hellbent,’ ” Reinhart says. “They were reviewed in every single mainstream paper in the country. It tells you there is a wide variety of interest in the film-going audience.”
In “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” Black exploits this new audience savvy about gay life.
“There is a lot of reality versus fiction in this film,” Black says. “Like in reality, the tough guy is gay. In reality, you try to be the hero, you’re going to get clobbered. So much of this was trying to stand the clichés of the tough guy movie on their head.”
The real breakthrough film may be “Brokeback Mountain,” based on an E. Annie Proulx short story about gay cowboys (Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger) in Wyoming in the early 1960s. This film, which has gotten excellent buzz, exploits neither the gay nor the cowboy element as a “twist.” Both are natural to the story and the characters.
“What it really points to is the rural gay experience,” says Damon Romine of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “When you look at television and film, it often seems like being gay is a big-city experience. But it’s an international experience, no matter where you live.”