Discover more from Culturcidal by John Hawkins
Of Course, Straight People Didn’t Flock to See a Gay Rom-Com at the Theater
Why would anyone expect it to do well?
Oddly enough, there are a lot of people in America who have completely forgotten what their jobs are supposed to be. There are an awful lot of politicians who seem to think their job is to piss off the other side and get Twitter likes. Then, there are the teachers who think their jobs are to push weird gender stereotypes on kids. A lot of people in the media seem to believe their job is to promote the Democratic Party and protect the public from information they don’t think they should know.
Surprisingly, this attitude has also become very prevalent in Hollywood. Hollywood has been making a lot of films primarily designed to win awards or push messages, not make money. Now, if we were talking about small vanity projects, it might not make much of a difference. However, that’s where the surprising part comes in. People put months and even years of their lives along with staggering amounts of money into bringing these films to life. Then, they get mad at THE AUDIENCE for not making them into runaway hits when they damn well knew they were doing things a significant portion of the audience wouldn’t like.
Granted, some people get away with this kind of thing.
For example, do you know what all the white guys in the small, rural, country town I grew up in listened to when I was growing up?
You might think it was country, but actually, it was rap music.
I grew up on Run DMC, LL Cool J, NWA, the Geto Boys, Luke Skywalker and 2 Live Crew, Public Enemy, etc.
Was that music made by white people? There have been a few breakthrough artists like Eminem and the Beastie Boys, but for the most part, “no.” Back then, none of the really popular rappers were white. They didn’t make any particular effort to say nice things about white people or make us feel included either. We just liked their music anyway. It struck a primal chord with us the same way that action movies or video games like Grand Theft Auto or God of War do.
These guys were talking about getting drunk, getting in fights, having sex with hoes, and gunning people down. Would we ever want to live that lifestyle? Nope, but fantasizing about that lifestyle the same way someone might fantasize about being James Bond, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, or Dirty Harry was fun.
This is why, by many estimates, white people make up around 60% of the people buying rap music. A lot of the people listening are white kids trying to feel like gangsters or white girls rapping along with a Nicki Minaj in the car on the way to Starbucks.
You could take this same concept and apply it to the original Black Panther movie, the Aliens franchise, or the Bruce Lee movies:
It may not have been made for someone exactly like you, but you can put yourself in that picture anyway and identify with the main character.
Now, how do you take that concept and apply it to a gay rom-com? Billy Eichner, who co-wrote and starred in a gay rom-com called Bros has some thoughts. As you read these, keep in mind that he’s upset that the movie bombed in its opening weekend by making less than 5 million dollars:
Incidentally, this is a description of the first “date” in the movie:
A producer, in a flashback, asks Bobby for something a straight guy would go see, a movie that “shows the world that gay relationships and straight relationships are the same. Love is love is love!” “Love is love is love?” Bobby retorts, wincing at the regurgitation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony speech. “No, it’s not. That’s bullshit! . . . Our friendships are different. Our sex lives are different. Our relationships are different.” Minutes later, as if to prove the point, we see Bobby shaving his rear end for a guy on a hookup app who demands an “ass pic.”…
That early scene with the fictitious producer points to the question that animates much of what follows: To what extent can you map a gay love story onto the classic rom-com formula or vice versa? The film, co-written by Eichner and its director, Nicholas Stoller, references—and wrestles with—rom-com tropes. Bobby watches “You’ve Got Mail” on the couch, but instead of AOL, he’s got Grindr. On his first date with Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), his studly love interest, they go see a movie—and then wind up having a foursome at a “gender-reveal orgy.”
Straight rom-coms are generally made for women in the first place. It’s hard to see how they’re going to put themselves in the place of one of two gay dudes in a romance. And straight men? We’re sure not going to relate to characters that are shaving their asses to send to their dates and then go to orgies with other guys. Even under better circumstances, guys are not big into rom-coms to begin with.
In my life, I’ve probably seen less than 10 and I don’t even remember any of them other than My Best Friend’s Girl. That movie featured Dane Cook at the height of his powers playing a guy who was deliberately a jerk on dates and admittedly, it was freaking hilarious:
Setting that aside, for most straight guys, seeing two guys kiss or make out is gross. It’s like the same sensation you’d get if you walked into a restaurant and you saw cockroaches scurrying across the area where they’re making the food. Maybe some people think that’s unfair, especially since most men would have a completely different reaction to seeing two attractive women kiss each other, but it’s instinctive. It’s sort of like one of the many, many, many things feminists love to complain about, which is that traditionally, a lot of women in video games tend to be very curvy and scantily clad.
Why is that? Because men were once the primary consumers of those products and that’s what men prefer to look at. It’s not like there’s some conspiracy. Society isn’t trying to convince men that they want to see characters like Lara Croft looking like this… men want to see characters like Lara Croft looking like this so artists create those images:
We could even take this a step further and point out that with a few exceptions, almost all of the big stars in Hollywood are extremely attractive people. Why? Because if the public is going to put their hard-earned money down, they want to do it to look at “pretty people.” This is from an old study, but even MONKEYS prefer to look at other attractive monkeys:
In a study titled "Monkeys Pay Per View," neuroscientists at Duke University discovered that rhesus monkeys will give up a portion of hard-earned perks for a peek at pictures of the dominant leaders and nubile females in their troop. But they won't pony up to look at faces of subordinate simians.
Instead of money, the simian unit of currency is cherry juice, a treat that scientists use to reward laboratory monkeys for doing tasks. Monkeys assigned the photos a precise value in swigs of the sweet fluid.
This doesn’t make the public bad, it just means people like what they like. That’s why certain types of films have limited audiences almost by default. For example, I didn’t love Black Panther, but it was okay, and I was part of the 700-million-dollar worldwide box office for the movie.
Now, would I watch, The Making of Black Panther? Hell, no… and my guess is that only a tiny fraction of the original audience would go see it. Could they still make that movie? Sure, but it doesn’t mean the audience is racist if they don’t want to go see it. It’s just not something that appeals to them and only a tiny, niche audience is going to want to see something like that.
Movies with openly gay leads can do well. For example, Bohemian Rapsody made 900 million worldwide. However, making a movie that revolves around two gay males in a “romantic” relationship is a tougher sell. It’s not impossible though. Improbably, Brokeback Mountain made more than 175 million with that formula. That being said, a lot of people just don’t want to see that – and there’s nothing wrong with it.
Personally, I’d like to see more movies with ninjas in them, but it doesn’t mean people are anti-Asian because they’re not interested. Atlas Shrugged was a life-changing book for me and I was thrilled they turned into a series. Even though I enjoyed it, I was not surprised that it didn’t appeal to the general public. That doesn’t mean there’s a problem with the public or that they hate conservatives, it just means the story doesn’t translate well to film or match up well with what’s popular these days.
If I made a movie about a romance between two members of the Tea Party movement that heavily featured discussions of politics, that would be a movie that started out with a very limited audience. This is no different. What is the potential audience for a gay male rom-com? Like 4-5% of the population, tops? Bros is a tiny niche movie doing a tiny niche box office. No hate if you make or like gay rom-coms, but you should understand that you are probably limiting your audience by going in that direction. If you make it anyway and it doesn’t do well, that’s your fault, not your audience’s fault.