| CLAYTON WALTER
Not all queer films are created equal – not only in terms of quality, but in terms of queerness. There are certain movies that are made specifically for a queer audience. These movies aren’t afraid of flamboyance; they’re draped in camp, littered with in-jokes that would likely land with a thud outside of the community and are not afraid to “go there.” When asked to describe certain queer films to straight friends, I start with “It’s really gay.” I don’t say that as a condemnation, nor as praise. It’s more a friendly warning to those viewers who might not be ready to watch something so fabulous.
Sometimes, these movies are really fun to watch. Pedro Almodóvar is perhaps the greatest queer filmmaker in the world, and his movies are often dripping in colorful, salacious melodrama. His airplane-set comedy I’m So Excited! is perhaps the gayest movie I’ve ever seen. Every character aboard the film’s cursed flight is at least bi-curious, leading to plenty of comic situations and the best dance number ever staged in a non-musical. It’s a slight entry in the auteur’s repertoire, but it is a treat to see something that has so much fun with its characters’ sexuality.
I never thought that it was possible for a movie to be “too gay” until I was recently sent a copy of a movie titled simply The Gays, written and directed by T.S. Slaughter. I figured even the queerest movies were harmless, as they catered to an underserved audience. Straight viewers who might stumble upon them would likely be a little lost, but might gain some insight into a foreign community. No harm, no foul. The Gays, on the other hand, is harmful in how foul it is.
Slaughter has a noble goal. The Gays is barely a film; it plays more like a flashback-heavy episode of a family-friendly 1980s sitcom like Full House, and as it parodies the sitcom form, it also parodies the way those shows shelled out conservative family values. Here those values, dispensed by monotone patriarch Rod Gay (Frank Holliday) and campy matriarch Bob Gay-Paris (Chris Tanner), are shocking taboos, as they instill their children with the sort of extreme gay propaganda that our community is accused of employing in our quest to achieve the “gay agenda.” It’s a fine match of form and function, but Slaughter fails to edit himself, and the result is vile.
For a gay viewer, The Gays won’t prove shocking; sure, there’s more full-frontal nudity and gross-out dialogue than in a usual movie, but it’s about equivalent to spending an hour on Grindr. The danger comes in how this movie might be received by anyone else who happens upon it (chances are, not many). This is a movie that is specifically designed to cater to a queer audience. It is vulgar without focus. Slaughter throws every nasty thing he can think of into the film without a filter, and thus, what he’s trying to achieve becomes lost in the shuffle of gags and ball gags. The Gays spews venomous platitudes, daring viewers to be offended and suggesting that anyone who feels offended should also feel ashamed to be offended. It’s an ugly, hateful film, one that wields its queerness as a barbed club, bludgeoning viewers into numbness and sacrificing its social commentary and humorous moments at the altar of poor taste. The Gays is only interested in shocking its viewers, which is the last thing a queer filmmaker should be trying to achieve.
| Clayton Walter