Oct 11, 2012

White Water Summer/Stand By Me

Although panned by the critics and ignored by most heterosexuals, White Water Summer (1987) became a hit among gay kids and teenagers, maybe for the same reasons that they ignored the critically acclaimed Stand by Me the year before (1986).

 The plot of Stand: four boys (Will Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell, Corey Feldman) brave a suburban wilderness on a weird quest to see a dead body.  En route they confront their anxieties and bond with each other.

The plot of Summer: four boys (Sean Astin, Jonathan Ward, Matt Adler, K.C. Martel) brave a wilderness on a white water rafting expedition, led by the brutal, abusive Vic (Kevin Bacon).  En route the confront their anxieties and bond with each other.

The differences:

In Stand, the conflicts involve parentage, family, bullying, and heterosexual destiny.  In Summer, the conflicts involve the boys' relationships with each other and their dismay at the brutality of the adult world.

In Stand, the male body is a site of anxiety and despair; a boy is too fat, or has poor eyesight; leeches attack their crotches.  In Summer, the male body is a thing of beauty. The characters compliment each other, gaze at each other, lie prone against each other.

The boys of Stand are aggressively homophobic, throwing around the term "faggot" and challenging each others' "masculinity."  They are also aggressively heterosexual, discussing boobs, girls, having sex with girls, not having sex with girls.  The boys of Summer mention neither "faggots" nor girls.

Stand ends with the boys parting, and the adult narrator telling us what happened to them -- mostly involvng marriage and family, the "inevitable" loss of boyhood bonds.

Summer ends with the boys together, still friends, the same-sex bond intact.