Fire Island

Posted on June 2, 2022 at 1:37 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong sexual content, drug use, strong nudity, language throughout
Profanity: Constant very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol and drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril and confrontations
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: June 3, 2022

Like a bride, “Fire Island” has something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. What’s old is the most durable of movie storylines, the romantic comedy. Borrowed: the inspiration for the storyline, the ur-narrative of the romantic comedy, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Something new: populating the story of attraction, misunderstandings, vulnerability, and romance with all gay characters, in the title resort, famously a favorite of gay men since the 1920s. And something blue: it is definitely rated R. Also funny and yes, romantic.

Copyright Searchlight 2022

Stand-up comic Joel Kim Booster wrote and stars in the film as Noah, along-side his real-life best friend SNL’s Bowen Yang as Howie. For Austen fans, Noah is the more cynical Elizabeth Bennett, and Howie is the more romantic Jane. Noah and Howie come to Fire Island for a week each summer with their friends to stay with Erin (Margaret Cho) and enjoy the beach, the parties, and the men. On this visit, Noah, usually there to have sex with as many random men as possible, promises he will be a celibate wingman for Howie until Howie finds someone.

It is a lot of fun to spot the Austen influence, where it guides the storyline and where Booster pays tribute by going in another direction. Instead of the snobbish Miss Bingley, we have Nick Adams as Cooper, the designer-wearing meanie who looks down on Noah and his friends, especially when he sees handsome doctor who is the film’s version of Austen’s amiable Mr. Bingley. And as the Mr. Darcy character, who turns out to be less proud and disdainful than he seems, we have Conrad Ricamora as Will. What will stand in for the book’s scandalous elopement? I’ll just say it is shrewdly chosen.

Also fun: a peek into a world straight people might not otherwise see or for those who have waited much too long to see their world reflected on screen.  As we always say, the more particular something is, the more universal it is, and this is a good example, unabashedly open about this culture but completely relatable in its depiction of friendship and chosen families.

Parents should know that this film is rated R for very explicit sexual situations and nudity, constant very strong language, drinking, and drugs.

Family discussion: Why was Howie so pessimistic about finding love? Was Noah a good friend to him?

If you like this, try: The “Queer Eye” series and the many versions of “Pride and Prejudice”

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Coming Out on The Simpsons — Inspired by the Writer’s Son

Posted on April 3, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Copyright Fox 2016
Copyright Fox 2016

Tonight’s episode of “The Simpsons” was inspired by writer Rob LaZebnik’s son, who is gay. There have been indications over the years that Waylon Smithers, the loyal assistant to Homer’s boss Mr. Burns, is gay. The New York Post reports that the episode is inspired by the son of the man who wrote it.

Copyright Fox 2016
Copyright Fox 2016
Smithers is coming out tonight but fans of the series will not be surprised.

When Waylon Smithers Jr. finally comes out Sunday night after 27 years in the closet on “The Simpsons,” he won’t be the only one celebrating.

Longtime show writer Rob LaZebnik tells The Post he penned the episode in support of his own 21-year-old son, Johnny, who is gay.

“I am a Midwestern guy, so I don’t tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve, but I thought, ‘What better way to tell my son I love him than to write a cartoon about it?’ ” says Rob.

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Behind the Scenes GLBTQ and Diversity Television Writers

An R Rating for Being Gay?

Posted on August 22, 2014 at 10:00 am

“Love is Strange,” a tender, beautifully written and performed love story about a three decade relationship, stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.  The MPAA has given the movie an R rating even though there is nothing in the film that normally triggers an R in the categories of language, violence, nudity, or sexuality.  The only possible explanation is that the gay characters at the center of the story somehow put the film into the R category.

In the Star-Ledger, Stephen Whitty compared the film to the other two R-rated movies opening this week, which feature extreme violence and explicit nudity and sexual situations.

It’s a simple human story. And it is very hard to imagine that — if it starred, say, Robert Duvall and Jane Fonda as a similar long-time couple suddenly facing homelessness — it would be lumped in with movies crammed full of queasily stylish sexism and sickening torture porn.

(Oh, and by the way, that last “Transformers” movie — which memorably featured a man burnt to a crisp — was rated PG-13. So was “The Expendables 3,” a film whose body count would require a calculator.)

He’s right.  And I agree with J. Bryan Lowder, who wrote in Slate:

Let’s hope parents are smarter than this. There is nothing “adult” or at all worrisome about a movie that quietly and gently portrays a gay couple and their struggles. To think otherwise is to participate in an insidious sort of homophobia that uses child-sized human shields to disguise basic prejudice. And the worst part is that Love Is Strange is exactly the kind of “gay film” that younger teenagers, both gay and straight, would benefit from seeing. For the former group it offers a vision of a gay romantic future that, while beset with a specific struggle, is also full of love, as well as a sense of community and history—older, happy gay people exist! And for the straight kids, the film can reinforce the dignity of gays and their relationships in a way that abstract lectures never could.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Movies Get Wiser About GLBT: How To Train Your Dragon 2 and 22 Jump Street

Posted on June 13, 2014 at 11:25 pm

This week’s two big national releases are both sequels featuring Jonah Hill.  But they have something more important in common: Both reflect a wiser, kinder, more just treatment of GLBT characters.  It was only a few years ago that I wrote an article about the disturbing prevalence of gender and sexual orientation “jokes” in movies for families that ranged from insensitive to insulting to downright offensive.

These two films show that that Hollywood has made real and gratifying progress.channing-tatum-jonah-hill-get-bromantic-for-ew

The very R-rated “22 Jump Street” has some fun with the idea that the two main characters have the dynamics of a romantic couple, and are seen that way by at least one other character.  The current cover of Entertainment Weekly reflects that theme as well.  This is a core element in many other comedy teams, from Laurel and Hardy (who even played each other’s wives in one film) to Martin and Lewis and Hope and Crosby.  As in their last film, “22 Jump Street” has explicit portrayals of characters being schooled about use of anti-gay epithets.  In real life, Jonah Hill has recently made a sincere and heartfelt apology for his own comment along those lines when he was provoked by an intrusive photographer.  There is still more progress to be made, but this film shows significant and meaningful improvement.

 

Gobber_The_BelchThe family film “How to Train Your Dragon 2” has a brief, understated comment by a character that the difficulty of dealing with women is just one reason he isn’t married, reportedly an ad lib by the actor who plays him.  Given that nearly half of today’s children live in states where marriage equality is the law, it may be that most of those who pay attention to this line will not recognize that as an indication that the character is gay.  It is unlikely to be noticed at all by most children.  Even The Catholic Register’s Steven D. Greydanus says it is not intrusive enough to recommend skipping the film in a piece showing admirable respect, though he can’t resist saying that he questions his earlier description of the character in question as “an old-school man’s man.”  Movies like this one will help the next generation understand that what makes a man a man is not who he loves but who he is.

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Tonight on HBO: The Normal Heart (And More Movies About The Fight Against HIV-AIDS)

Posted on May 25, 2014 at 10:00 am

Larry Kramer’s searing drama “The Normal Heart” was an anguished cry for attention, for help, for respect, for change in the earliest days of the AIDS crisis. It was inspired by Kramer’s own experience as a founder of the activist Gay Men’s Health Crisis. The all-star cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch, and Mark Boner, with Julia Roberts as a sympathetic doctor. HIV-AIDS, originally identified as “gay cancer” in the US was even more terrifying because at the time the stigma and oppression faced by gay men and the large numbers who were not public about being gay made it much more difficult to get the attention of the medical authorities and the government. Then-President Ronald Reagan did not speak out about AIDS until more than 36,000 had died. Early GMHC materials carried the slogan “Silence = Death.”

More films about this era:

Longtime Companion Bruce Davison, Campbell Scott, Dermot Mulroney, and Mary-Louise Parker star in this outstanding early film (1990), brilliantly acted, sensitively scripted, heartbreaking.

And the Band Played On HBO produced this excellent film about the conflicts, failures, and early triumphs in the fight against HIV-AIDS, starring Matthew Modine, Lily Tomlin, Steve Martin, and Alan Alda, based on the brilliant reporting by Randy Shilts.

How to Survive a Plague The first reported cases of HIV-AIDS were published in the same week that the first consumer video cameras became available. Activists documented every meeting and initiative on video and this superb documentary shows how Kramer and others worked to increase funds for research and make experimental treatments available.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwhFS1mUaVY

Angels in America Tony Kushner’s searing drama is an epic of immense scope and power.

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