Gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts nearly two decades ago and across the U.S. back in 2015, yet somehow Bros, which opens this weekend, represents the first mainstream gay romantic comedy ever released by a major studio—or so the marketing department of distributor Universal Pictures would have you believe.
Soaked as I am in gay comedies, this claim struck me as rather dubious, if not based on a definitional technicality (didn’t we all cheer on Fire Island, from the Disney-owned “indie” Searchlight Pictures, earlier this year?)…until I remembered that LGBTQ representation in the modern blockbuster era is generally limited to half-hearted queer-bating (Poe/Finn), background smooches between minor characters, or the cautious, sexless relationships of the sort trotted out in Eternals. Next to those, Bros might as well be My Big Fat Gay Wedding.
On another level, Hollywood has been making gay movies since the advent of the form—albeit with plausible deniability. The late 1920s and early 1930s were a golden age for movies that explicitly (or nearly so) dealt with queer characters (Garbo, Dietrich, and Hepburn were bisexual icons before that term wasn’t as commonly used); the same can be said of the independent-minded 1970s. At other times, representation was all about subtext—sometimes pointedly, the filmmakers sneaking in themes that would go over the heads of the censors but land with the right audiences, or arising as unintended subtext. Which is to say, sometimes even the straightest movies are gay as hell—the inevitable result of straightness trying too hard.
Some of the following movies have a definable context that makes queer readings essential, or at least plausible. Others are just really gay, without necessarily meaning to be.
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