This article was published on March 14th, 2016
It’s time to expand outside of moderns Rom Coms, family dramas, and biopics that frequent today’s gay and lesbian section of Netflix, and to begin exploring musical films featuring gay characters or are influential in the gay community. To help you get started, here is a gay man’s guide to musical film:
Fresh off the success of Grease, Olivia Newton John felt like she could do anything–anything. Including a musical movie about a hunk, a pretty face working painting album covers. When he sees a beautiful blonde woman, he discovers she’s actually a Greek muse who fell to earth from a place in the sky that looks like Saturday night Fever did ‘shrooms. Their love brings them to Gene Kelly who helps them revamp and open an abandoned roller skating rink.
As convoluted as the plot is, the film is worth seeing for its campiness and, whether you deny it or not, catchy soundtrack by the Electric Light Orchestra. Gay men are attracted to the campiness of this picture and ONJ’s bombshell blonde appearance. Isn’t it great watching Sandra Dee come out of her shell and roller skate? Love is truly a many splendored thing.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch/Rocky Horror Picture Show
Two cult films that allowed gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer, and basically all types of people to embrace who they are wholeheartedly and without restraint. Both films attracted a midnight-movie audience and gained much of its popularity come the home video movement. Rocky Horror still attracts audiences every Halloween to recreations and “shadow play” of the film. Hedwig gained a similar mainstream following the Broadway production with Neil Patrick Harris. Its message of embracing yourself through its ambiguously gendered rock star main character is exhilarating after nearly a decade.
Cabaret contains gay characters, but in the Nazi regime no one was gay. No one talked about it. Period. Bisexual was a term thrown around, but gay meant exiled or worse, death. Bob Fosse’s dark and glitzy portrait of life below and on the floor of Nazi Germany is still fresh since it was released. And Liza has never looked better. It is a favorite for gay men, not just for Liza, but for Fosse’s subtle portrayal of closeted sexuality in an age of total repression. It’s incredibly moving, particularly the scene in which one character discovers another is having an affair and one to be consistently cherished in the gay community.
Can’t Stop The Music
Bruce Jenner? The Village People? New York in the 80s? Disco? It sounds like one of the gayest parties you could be invited to.
Can’t Stop the Music is a riot: nothing about it is good except for the fact that it takes itself so serious, it transcends parody and becomes simply fun to watch. Think about it: there’s an MGM style musical number called Milkshake about the delicious dairy drink. And yes, it does bring all the boy to its yard.
It is a film those of a certain generation have seen and love but should really be shown more often to the younger gay generations. As hysterically bad as it is, it does offer a snapshot of gay liberation in the 70s and 80s that most films try to romanticize. This film has its characters, though the love story at the center is a heterosexual one, embracing being yourself. It is hard to not watch this with a smile on your face. Perhaps disco shouldn’t be brought back, but Can’t Stop the Music should.