Jul 2, 2022

Going to Movies in 1994: Ralph Macchio Comes Out, Matthew Broderick Strips, Jason Scott Lee Flexes, and There are Drag Queens

 

In 1994 I was working another 9-5 job, at Gruen Associates (the architectural firm that invented shopping malls).  Then I got laid off, and started a job counseling business that never got off the ground.  But who cared?  It was West Hollywood, where truth and beauty were more important than a paycheck, and gay potential was everywhere.  Even at the movies.  A few years ago, gay characters simply did not exist, but of the 14 movies I saw in theaters in 1994, six had gay or gay-ish friends, boyfriends, or vampires.  

January: None

February: Reality Bites, about four slacker friends who have relationship and job problems.  One (Steven Zahn) is gay, but doesn't date or hook up with guys, because audiences would run screaming from the theater.  

March: Four Weddings and a Funeral, about a group of British friends looking for love.  There's a gay couple among them, but they don't do anything romantic, because audiences would run screaming from the theater. One (Simon Callow) dies.  Figures; the straight people get weddings, and the gay guy gets a funeral.  At least he doesn't die of AIDS or get murdered in a hate crime.


April:
Threesome: two college guys are accidentally assigned a female roommate!  Eddy (Josh Charles) turns out to be gay, and falls for Stuart (Stephen Baldwin); Stuart falls for the girl, who falls for Eddy.  They all resolve their attractions with a three-way romance (the girl always between the two boys, so audiences don't run screaming from the theater).  Then they break up and start dating other people; Eddy gets a boyfriend.  

April: Naked in New York: Failing playwright in New York interacts with many film greats.  In a minor subplot, his friend (Ralph Macchio) has a "sexual identity crisis," thinking he might be gay.  He doesn't actually do anything gay, because...well, you know.  But he does do straight stuff.

May: Maverick, because Lane watched the old Western as a kid, even though it stars the homophobic Mel Gibson.  In 1994, if you avoided every movie with a star who had made homophobic comments, you'd never go to a movie at all.

May: The Flintstones, because we both watched the animated series as kids.  In the original intro, Fred goes to a drive-in restaurant and orders something so heavy that it turns the car over.  I had no idea what.  In the live-action film, the mystery is solved: brontosaurus ribs.

June: Speed, because of Keanu Reeves.  He's driving a bus that can't go below 50 miles per hour, or a bomb will explode.  Somehow he manages to meet The Girl and have a fade-out kiss.  On the plus side, it contains my favorite anti-heterosexism exchange in any movie.  One of the passengers complains "I can't die!  I have a wife."  A single guy calls him out on his "only married men matter" trope.

July: The Shadow, based on the 1940s radio series, which was in turn based on a 1930s pulp fiction proto-superhero "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow knows."  Of course he meets The Girl.

August: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.  Two gay men and a trans woman try to do a drag show in a redneck town in the Australian Outback.  The trans woman finds love, and decides to stay. One of the gay guys has a wife and son, pushing the "all gays are straight" trope, and the "small towns are far superior to the Big City" trope is annoying, but hey, there are drag queens!


September:
Rapa Nui.  The fall of the Easter Island culture, with Jason Scott Lee, Esai Morales, and other hunks stripped down to Polynesian genital bags.  Of course there's The Girl, but the relationship is minimized, in spite of what the movie posters want you to think. 

October: The Puppet Masters, because it was science fiction, based on a classic Robert Heinlein story abouto alien parasites.  Except Heinlein's story did not include an excessively cloying boy-girl romance. Grr.



October:
The Road to Wellville, because it features a scene with Matthew Broderick nearly naked, tied to a cold shower, as he explores the 19th century health food movement that gave us Kellogg's Corn Flakes.  Same-sex desire is not mentioned, and Will (Matthew) graduates from sexual debauchery to heteronormative marriage and children.  Ugh..  Just concentrate on his muscles.

November: Interview with the Vampire, based on the Anne Rice novel, which has homoerotic hints.  So does the movie.  They don't go beyond hints, but it's 1994. What do you expect?


December:
The Jungle Book, an adaption of the Kipling stories about a boy raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. You're familiar with the animated version (1967), where Mowgli is about ten, and drawn from wilderness to civilization by the smile of The Girl.  This live-action version makes Mowgli (Jason Scott Lee) a hunky adult, and the primary plot about winniing The Girl.  Oh, well: in 1994, as in 2022, almost every movie is about a boy and a girl falling in love.  You just ignore it and look for subtexts, or muscles.

5 comments:

  1. Yes there were plenty of token gay characters who were gay in name only.

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  2. Keanu Reeves was at his hottest in "Speed"

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  3. I will say, I grew up in a largely native community, which colors my opinions, a lot less homophobia there, but I know that once you set foot out of the designated gay ghetto, the homophobia was the same. I mean, San Diego was the epicenter of televangelists and the Satanic Panic. At the same time, two counties over was a Nazi compound.

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  4. Two guys and a girl was a common coding back then. Movies like Chasing Amy and Y Tu Mama Tambien even lampshade this. (I mean, look how "cuck" has become an acceptable insult to say a man is ineffectual and a doormat, where a number of homophobic slurs used to fit that function.)

    I saw Maverick and Flintstones as a double feature at the drive-in. Or the "drive in" and sneak a cooler of Pepsi in under a blanket". I mean, we still have to get popcorn (and pretzels, and hot dogs, and pizza, and if we want a slushie) at the stand, but sneaking in soda, candy, and Doritos is easy.

    I just like how Speed pointed out that trope. Now do women in refrigerators. (Especially since Keanu Reeves provided the template for Kyle Rayner, whose girlfriend is literally the woman in a refrigerator, all for a meta-narrative about how he's better than Hal Jordan.)

    Man, Jason Scott Lee twice, yes please! The Jungle Book was one of those things that helped me realize I was bi.

    I'm convinced Kellogg would just be a bottom today.

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    Replies
    1. I've never actually been to a drive-in theater; they were gone by the time I started going to movies. Did they really patrol for outside food in your car? Who's going to check under a blanket in the back seat?

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