I adore Bad Gay Movies.
Not bad in a literal sense, but gay movies that are funny and dumb and low-budget, dealing with recognizably gay situations and stereotypes, and without being absolutely depressing.
Gay situations like: finding a place to hook up with a one-night stand (Trick), finding love in a conversion camp (But I’m a Cheerleader), coming to terms with your love of daddies (BearCity) or what to do when you’re a secret agent who falls for a supervillain (D.E.B.S.). You know, standard stuff.
This definition knocks out all sorts of more well-known movies. Brokeback mountain certainly does not qualify. Ditto Moonlight, Call Me by Your Name, Love Simon, or anything that’s won an award at a ceremony people wear a gown to. Joel Kim Booster’s Fire Island is probably the closest modern movie to the vibe, but it’s well-written and had a real budget. Disqualifying.
The prototypical film I’m talking about is Trick, a movie that’s 25 years old now. In it, young Gabriel has a problem: he’s writing a musical about falling in love, a thing he knows nothing about, and that’s giving him writers’ block.
He’s stuck in a shitty job with a shitty apartment, and his best friend is an overbearing theater kid named Katherine played manically by Tori Spelling. Here, she does a full tap number to the song Gabriel can’t quite finish:
Gabriel meets Mark, a dancer at a bar, and they spend the rest of the time trying to find a place to hook up. Along the way we get go-go boys in gay bars and drag queens in bathrooms (Miss Coco Peru gives a legendarily villainous performance), dirty songs sung at piano bars and awkward apartment high jinks. It’s an adorable movie, at turns heartwarming and funny and absolutely stupid.
Importantly, it doesn’t trade in heartbreak and tragedy, which so much of the prestige gay dramas do – I’m looking at you, All of Us Strangers; you made me think and the thinking made me sad.
In this world of thought-free movies there are franchises, the granddaddy of which is the Eating Out series, clocking in at 5 movies. Is it a great series? No. A good one? Also no, but there are some bright spots (Rebekah Kochan as the recurring “Tiffany von der Sloot”), and on some level you have to respect a franchise that kills two lead characters off-screen by a collision with Celine Dion’s tour bus.
The BearCity franchise, at 3 movies, follows a man and his friends in New York City from bars around town like the Eagle, to Provincetown’s Bear Week, eventually ending at The Woods Campground in Pennsyvlania. There are sex-induced concussions, at least one murder, a bachelor party, and a literal stake through a man’s heart. At one point, a woman gives birth in a sling. What more could you want?
To cap this off, I tried to make a list of the movies that I’d consider representative of the genre. I’m not sure they’re all worth watching, but they have their place in the canon. In my opinion, the best of the bunch: Trick, the Bear City franchise, D.E.B.S and Latter Days (which improbably has Jacqueline Bisset, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rob McElhenney in it.)
It should be noted that these movies are all products of their time and place. A lot of what happens is cringe-inducing, they’re largely focused on white gay men, and you’d do best to approach them with the mindset that they’re camp.
Classic Dumb Gay Movies
- All Over The Guy
- Another Gay Move
- Another Gay Sequel
- BearCity 2: The Proposal
- BearCity 3: The Woods
- Broken Hearts Club
- But I’m a Cheerleader
- Eating Out
- Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds
- Eating Out: Drama Camp
- Eating Out: The Open Weekend
- Edge of Seventeen
- Hot Guys With Guns
- Hurricane Bianca
- Hurricane Bianca: From Russia With Hate
- Latter Days
There are all sorts of bad and dumb movies out there, but these are our dumb movies, and I think that’s beautiful.
This realm extends into TV and web series, too: Have you ever seen The A List, Queer As Folk or the L Word? Where The Bears Are? The Gay And Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo? That’s a list for another day, though.