Oct 20, 2012

Brad Renfro

Most teen idols appear cleancut, wholesome, innocent -- after all, they are performing for an audience of young heterosexual girls and gay boys who haven't even kissed anyone yet.

But a few lack the ability or the inclination to appear innocent -- they gaze at the camera, sultry, languid, knowing the score, wanting to be desired not as a boyfriend, but as a lover.  My list includes Ricky NelsonLeif Garrett, Matt Dillon, and certainly Brad Renfro.

It was impossible for Brad to pose as an innocent teenager, even with his shirt on.  And it usually wasn't.











Born in 1982, Brad became famous in 1994, when he starred as a boy who witnesses a murder in The Client.  Extensive homoerotic buddy-bonding followed: his Erik falls in love with the boy next door (Joseph Mazzello), who has AIDS, in The Cure (1994).  His Huck Finn falls in love with Jonathan Taylor Thomas's Tom Sawyer in Tom and Huck (1995).
















Soon the homoromance became manipulative and abusive. He is a victim of sexual abuse in Sleepers (1996).  In Telling Lies in America (1997), his Karchy falls for Billy Magic (Kevin Bacon), an antisocial user.  In Apt Pupil (1998), his Todd becomes involved in an abusive, subtly homoerotic relationship with his elderly neighbor (Ian MacKellan).

As a young adult, Brad played characters who were either gay, or homophobic, or both, in Bully (2001), Tart (2001), Deuces Wild (2002), Tenth and Wolf (2006), and The Informers (2008).  They were usually immersed in a grim post-industrial wasteland, where everyone had an angle and no one was to be trusted.  It's almost impossible to find a picture or video of Brad Renfro smiling.






In real life, he was probably bisexual, but he never made any public statements.  He died of a drug overdose in January 2008.