Same-sex “comedies of marriage”
And by that, I don’t mean that same-sex “marriage” is a comic farce (though it is). I’m referring to this wonderful article in National Review by Justin Shubow (HT: Peter) about how a recent spate of male buddy comedies follow the conventions of the romantic comedies of the past. Shubow concludes:
In these extremely unromantic times (Is there anything less romantic than having sex while wearing a condom?), in which serial monogamy followed by divorce-prone marriage has become the norm, living happily ever after has become a less and less believable fantasy. By contrast, “best friends forever” is not just a live possibility, it’s one that is widely lived.
Part of the reason the article is so great is that it gets its head around one of the great shibboleths of our time — “the gay subtext” and the supposed “homophobia” or [ick] “denial” on the part of those who resist seeing it.¹ Instead, Shubow shows how the conventions of romantic comedy are being used in a male-male relationship and sees … well, what men had no difficulty seeing until the start of the 20th century — friendship. A form of love certainly, yet the H-word never breathes its presence.
It’s most interesting to consider with respect to CHUCK & LARRY, because gay “marriage” was woven into the movie’s very comic premise. But it’s still fundamentally a “comedy of marriage” about the two firemen, identical in architecture to, say, McCarey’s THE AWFUL TRUTH or Kanin’s MY FAVORITE WIFE (I’m not talking quality, obviously; simply the pattern of the plot). At the start of the movie, Chuck and Larry love each other, as best buddies whose lives are in each other’s hands as firemen. Then they fall out, while pretending to be “married.” But by the end, their love, their true love, has been fully reconciled and restored. With a lot of pro-gay “messages” spread around.
But a huge number of liberal critics (only the Census Bureau could document the number adequately) had a huff over never seeing Adam Sandler and Kevin James kissing (or more) — even though in every surface way possible, the movie is pro-gay. This indicates a rather spoiled lot and/or a group that thinks love without sex is ridiculous and/or a group that thinks homosexuality should be in-principle-universal. I’d argue that the social acceptance of homosexuality his precisely what has caused such critical blindness (though curiously, two of the few “fresh” reviews on Rotten Tomatoes were written by Nathan Lee in the Village Voice and Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe), because it’s severely wounded the notion of same-sex friendship — making us see sex where there isn’t any.
Indeed, quite a few radical and queer scholars such as those cited in this Wikipedia article have noted, in the context of romantic friendship (a notion now pretty much obsolete) or “Boston marriages” (a term that now means something rather different), that the range of physical acts and emotive language that a person could engage in without their being constructed as proof of homosexuality or sexual interest was quite wide in early modern times. The 20th century is also, more or less, the period during which homosexuality as we now know it (an “orientation,” definitive for at least some, and the moral equivalent of sex and marriage) came into being. This is not “gay panic” (whatever that means) … nobody is “panicked” about anything … but an acknowledgment that if “love” always means “sex,” at one remove or another, then people not interested in sex are less likely to love. Which is what happens in CHUCK AND LARRY.
¹ “Denial” is, of course, circular waterproof reasoning, distilled into its purest and an ad-hominem attack to boot. Its deployment a sure sign that you’re dealing with a vulgar fool (on that topic, at least).