When we first came out as gay, we were presented with a laundry list from other gays of things we HAD to watch, read and experience to become a fully realized homosexual.
After weeks of renting videos such as Sunset Boulevard, Torch Song Trilogy and Tales of the City, purchasing a Freedom Rings necklace from Tapelenders, and devouring The Joy of Gay Sex from cover to cover, we thought we’d tackled the entire syllabus.
Yet here we are in 2020 with full knowledge of a play turned movie called The Boys in the Band that it turns out we never saw. We sure thought we’d seen it, but a few minutes into the Ryan Murphy-produced remake debuting tomorrow and we realized none of this was familiar. And not in the normal “we must’ve blacked out from white wine” ways in which we sometimes forget things.
Written by Mart Crowley (who sadly died in March), the play was first staged in April of 1968 and is set in the same year, a full 14 months before the Stonewall Riots that would change the course of LGBTQ history. And wow, is the drama set forth in this intimate character study a mind-blowing look at how different it was to be gay back then.
Focusing on a single night in a Manhattan apartment, the plot is simple enough: A gay man is hosting a birthday party for another gay man and their mutual group of gay male friends. Sounds simple enough, but through a random set of circumstances things get dark fast and friends start turning on each other and picking apart each other’s biggest flaws. And we thought our closest group of friends knew how to Mean Girls each other. These guys take it to entirely new levels.
Even as some of the subject matter of The Boys in the Band feels unrelatable because of its dated circumstances, it somehow highlights universal truths that are as timely today as anything written this millennium. We like to thing we’ve moved past the days of self-hating queens and other LGBTQ people, but we know they still exist. As do people who struggle to be their true selves in front of others.
Ultimately, however, for anyone who came of age after 1968, this film should make us all once again appreciate the incredible struggles and fears of LGBTQ people prior to Stonewall.
Yet The Boys in the Band being remade for the Netflix generation, finally someone is tooting their horn on their behalf.
The Boys in the BandPhotos by Scott Everett White/NETFLIX ©2020
Premieres tomorrow, September 30
Starring Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington and Tuc Watkins