Let’s pretend that none of us saw The Kids Are All Right — that it is just a movie about a pair of lesbian moms that did well at the box office and garnered some Oscar nominations for its stars. We’re going to put aside any of the plot points other than the fact that it follows a family that has two matriarchs.
Now that we’re there, let me ask you to consider this: What would it have been like with two dads? Would it have made it to the big screen? Gotten financing? Famous actors?
Out director Gregg Araki, who is behind films like Mysterious Skin and Kaboom!, says he thinks America is more accepting of gay moms, and that’s why The Kids Are All Right did well, while stories about gay men haven’t been as successful.
“It’s certainly easier to make a film about lesbians,” he told a reporter. “If The Kids Are All Right was about two guys, it definitely would have been more challenging, because just that vision of two guys with children is upsetting to middle America. But in the same respect two women with children is now widely accepted, and that had to be taken as a big step forward.”
Interesting, especially considering one of the biggest shows on television right now has a pair of gay dads (the Emmy-winning Modern Family). In fact, gay dads have been on TV for a while. And, well, there’s just a whole lot of gay dads in the mainstream media lately, too: Neil Patrick Harris, Elton John, Ricky Martin — but at the forefront of a film’s plot, no.
On the flipside, if you put two female cowboys in Jake and Heath‘s places in Brokeback Mountain, I don’t know that that would have worked so well, either. I don’t think America has a preference over what kind of gender they want their gay to be (or not be) — I’m pretty sure if they dislike gay dads, they aren’t going to be so hot on gay moms. Although that recent What Would You Do episode featuring gay moms and gay dads showed that restaurant patrons stuck up for the moms being ridiculed with their children and said nothing in support of the dads. Obviously the gender had something to do with how people reacted. Maybe Gregg is right.
Speaking of Brokeback, Gregg does acknowledge that films like that and shows like Glee are showing signs of progress for gay cinema.
“So much has happened… it’s all helping to raise the presence of a gay voice,” he said. “It’s more prevalent in the mainstream than it’s ever been, but it’s still two steps forward one step back. But it has to be palatable, and something that’s more transgressive like Kaboom! is never going to break into the mainstream.”
Kaboom! is a sci-fi-esque film about a bisexual guy in love with his straight male roommate. He has a lesbian best friend and all kinds of pansexual characters around him. No, this movie wasn’t going to be a huge box office hit, but it still got distributed, screened at festivals and in theaters and was put on video on demand. Not too poor a showing. And somehow I can’t see Gregg Araki making a movie about gay dads unless he wanted to do something completely different from his current repertoire.
Gay dads on “Brothers & Sisters”
The presence of gay moms, gay dads and gays of all kinds is nothing short of amazing. They exist, therefore they should be a part of the entertainment and pop culture we all make and consume. As for if one set of gay parents are more palatable than the other, I’m pretty sure we all get the same arguments from the opposing side: “A child needs a mother and a father.” To which we all give the same answer: “That’s bulls–t.”