Life Is a—Rom-Com?
Greetings Letters readers, Robby from Brooklyn here, hoping all are well. In my last column, I had just returned from a press tour of Merida, Mexico. I loved touring the local haciendas and luxury resorts eager to become sought-after locations for queer American couples looking to book a destination wedding, even though I don’t envision marriage for myself.
I do, however, picture my life as a romantic comedy film, complete with a happy ending.
I have always loved rom-coms. My entertainment viewing tends to be on the light, cheerful, funny side as opposed to dark and deadly. No Handmaid’s Tale, Walking Dead, or American Horror Story for me. Give me Emily in Paris, Younger, or The Other Two over a Dahmer any day.
I am writing this just hours before I see Bros, the first gay-led rom-com from a major Hollywood studio. Every role in the film—even the straight ones—are played by queer actors. Thank you, Billy Eichner, for giving this gift to our community. It’s been a long time coming.
As rom-com obsessed as I am, having a film like this growing up would have been a life changer. I am beyond thrilled for queer kids today with the amount of LGBTQ representation in film, television, and books. It’s truly astounding. As a 40-something gay man, this representation when I was coming of age was almost non-existent and very hard to find.
We had Matt on Melrose Place, where we did not even get to see him kiss his boyfriend. Instead, the camera cut to Daphne Zuniga’s Jo watching it unfold. We had Jack McPhee on Dawson’s Creek, who did get to kiss his boyfriend—making history as the first same-sex kiss on network television.
These weren’t the first queer characters on network television, but they were the first for me. Older generations (this is not shade or ageist) got to watch Billy Crystal on Soap, and two men sitting in bed shirtless after sex on Thirtysomething. As time marched on, we finally began to see ourselves on television screens as leading characters in shows like Queer as Folk and Will and Grace.
Watching rom-com movies, I was always looking for a gay man with a starring role to find his Prince Charming and happy ending. We saw ourselves on screen as the gay best friend like Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding. Earlier films like Longtime Companion, Love! Valour! Compassion!, and An Early Frost were devastating dramas where one or more queer characters died. Brokeback Mountain can be added to that list. And look what happened to Greg Kinnear’s character in As Good as It Gets. Don’t even get me started on Cruising with Al Pacino—that movie scarred me for years.
As a younger gay, I was lucky to have friends who taught and showed me gay history. We watched the groundbreaking PBS Tales of the City. Laura Linney will forever be Mary Ann to me. Then slowly but surely, every so often, there would be a gay rom-com like Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss with Will Hayes.
While not necessarily a “gay” movie, seeing Paul Rudd in The Object of My Affection with Jennifer Aniston was the life-changing movie for me that Bros will be for so many today. Rudd was just like me—a teacher with friends, family, hopes, and dreams who just happened to be gay. Bonus points for having hunk Tim Daly as his douche-y ex. (Definitely had a massive crush on him after the movie.)
We claimed Trick as our own, watching it over and over on rainy days in the Pines. Who could forget Tori Spelling singing “Enter You.” There had been rumors of a sequel, but no details so far as to where that stands.
Eventually, we were getting enough queer films that it felt OK to dislike some of them without feeling like we were betraying the community. Weekend was one of those for me. Everyone else was raving about it, but I think I fell asleep in the theater. Same goes for HBO’s Looking, which many loved while I found it better than Ambien for putting me to sleep.
But my absolute favorite gay film was and still is (drumroll please): The Broken Hearts Club. Zach Braff, Timothy Olyphant, Dean Cain, and Billy Porter. Revolving around the lives of members of a gay softball team in West Hollywood, they were us. They were my friends and me. Their problems were our problems. The slutty one, the romantic one, the negative one, and the newbie. I even joined a gay softball league after seeing the film! It was super fun, but we were not TBHC.
Change comes slowly, as I’m reminded by older gay friends. Each film, book, and movie with fully realized queer characters takes us one step closer to equality. So, get with your bros, see Bros, and celebrate how far our community has come. I would bet money there is a happy ending. ▼
Robert Dominic splits his time between Brooklyn and Rehoboth Beach. He writes for publications including Instinct Magazine and his own blog, The Gays of Our Lives.