Netflix Fix: 'Gayby' and 'Keep the Lights On' redeem the LGBT movie genre
I think, as consumers of culture, we all like seeing characters in stories who we can relate to.
The aimless and ambitious 20-somethings under Lena Dunham's spell have "Girls."
The swarms of black Americans who can't get enough of Tyler Perry have his Madea movies and more.
And it seems like every year Meryl Streep and some Alec Baldwin-type actor come out with a movie squarely aimed at the baby boomer generation.
And here I am, a gay man wondering, "Where, oh where, are the stories about people like me?"
Gay movies, or rather, movies about characters in the LGBT community, have a reputation for being plain awful. "Brokeback Mountain" aside, they are often low-budget, ultra cheesy and put a premium on skin rather than story.
It also doesn't help that more often than not the movies rely on the tired (and often depressing) tropes of being closeted, hate crimed or succumbing to AIDS. There are things to learn from all of these topics, of course, but maybe not every movie with a gay character has to end up dead or bloodied by the end?
I've sat through hours of awful gay movies in the hopes one will eventually speak to me, enrich me as a member of our community with very little success.
That is, until this week. Not one, but two, excellent indie films have restored my faith in the LGBT movie genre.
The first is "Gayby" (Not rated, I'd say R) a snappy romantic comedy that follows two college besties who have decided to make good on a pact to have a child together if they were still alone by that certain age.
Stumbling through awkward sex (she insists on the old-fashioned way) and still pursuing separate dreams and ambitions, the movie really feels like a peek into the lives of two professional adults who sincerely want their lives to get back on track.
The set up is flimsy and worn, but the shine on this movie is spectacular. Our main characters, portrayed by real-life best friends, are alive in every scene and the fun from their performances radiates through your screen.
What should have been cliched and stereotypical, "Gayby" becomes one of the best romantic comedies I've seen in a long time.
On the other side of the rainbow flag is "Keep the Lights On" (Not rated, definitely R).
An emotional romantic drama, the movie centers on Erik and Paul - two very different men in New York City in the late 90s who fall in love.
Erik and Paul start out wanting completely different things (Erik doesn't want to commit; Paul has a girlfriend), but none of that matters. Fate along with something - probably passion - brings them together, and the adventure of love between these two men begins.
The kink in their relationship doesn't come in the shape of secret families or a mob of angry straight folk but rather drug use and insecurity.
The scope of the movie is large, spanning almost 10 years of the ups and downs, but still somehow feels very small and intimate - almost as if time is irrelevant to the narrative.
Small, endearing and completely accessible to all adult audiences, these movies signal a renaissance of the gay movie genre - and there's not a gay cowboy in sight.