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Six of the Best Movies and TV Shows Depicting Gay Relationships

Can a 'Straight' Guy Enjoy Certain Films and TV Shows Featuring Gay Relationships? Yep! Here Are 6 of My Faves.

By Wade WainioPublished 3 years ago 6 min read

1. The Kids in the Hall (TV Series 1988–2021)

The Kids in the Hall was successful enough that, in some sketches, the comedy troupe introduced many people to gay issues. It was also often a very funny show, brimming with absurdist, explosive humor. Inspired by the live show, the original series ran for 5 seasons, had a movie and a separate comedy called "The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town". Interestingly, the Kids (Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson) are supposed to have a new series on Amazon. With how politically incorrect the old episodes were, one wonders how people today will react to it.

Admittedly, it would be interesting if they were developing an animated series based on the show. Who wouldn't want a cartoon featuring Headcrusher, Buddy Cole, The Chicken Lady, Danny Husk, Darill, Simon and Hecubus, and so many others? Interestingly, Scott Thompson did make a graphic novel on the character of Danny Husk, which is pretty close.

Though far from the first comedy troupe to feature men dressed as women, they may be the best (with Dave Foley often looking the least "tomboyish" of the bunch when in drag).

2. The Birdcage (1996)

In Mike Nichols' "The Birdcage," the characters of Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert Goldman (Nathan Lane) don't seem to have suffered a lifetime of abuse. However, they are put in an unusual spot. Armand's son, Val (Dan Futterman), is planning to marry a girl named Barbara (Calista Flockhart), whose father happens to be a conservative politician (Gene Hackman). Basically, Armand and Albert end up feeling pressured to deny their sexuality, which is especially tricky for Albert.

It's a surprisingly lighthearted comedy. It's not like Albert and Armand receive threatening notes or get arrested under some archaic Unlawful Ejaculation Law. However, it still manages to put "social conservatism" (in this case, homophobia) on trial, albeit in its own little way. We see how, in the process of hiding reality, their friendship is jeopardized, as well as the family bond between Armand and Val.

In an interesting twist, "The Birdcage" reminds us that sexuality isn't ironclad. In the storyline, Val resulted from a drunken fling between Armand and a woman named Katharine (Christine Baranski). They describe themselves as if they were the most passionate lovers at the time.

3. Monster (2003)

Although it's a serial killer movie, Patty Jenkins's "Monster" is also a bit of a tragic love story. It all begins with Charlize Theron's character, Aileen, on the brink of suicide. However, rather than bute that bullet, she decides to have at least one last beer. In the bar, she happens to meet Selby Wall (Christina Ricci). After some initial awkwardness, they take an intimate interest in each other. However, Aileen's background as a prostitute becomes the dark alleyway to Selby's "mainstream" suburban existence, pushing them both out into the cruel world of the street.

Aileen tries and fails to get a regular job, then resorts back to "hooking." An especially sadistic rape results in Aileen killing a man (Lee Tergesen), which itself triggers Aileen to go on a murder/robbery spree against prospective Johns (though one of her victims is not). For obvious reasons, this puts the couple on the run, and Aileen comes face to face with both her misdeeds and the world which undermines her at every turn.

Yes, a transformation took place for Charlize Theron to play this character, but that often overshadows the story itself. As you watch "Monster," you should really ask yourself what might have been. Had Aileen's life been even marginally different, might she have been able to become something else? Theoretically, she could have done anything from becoming a lawyer to pursuing a career in dance.

Obviously, in the film, no one tries to reach out to Aileen to get her life meaningfully on track. So it's never like Aileen absolutely refuses to try something else in her life. However, her rage at the world is factored into the story.

So, yes, it is a somewhat sympathetic tale, but we never get the sense that Aileen is herself flawless. It simply pushes us to wonder if she would've been different had her life been different. While "Monster" Aileen tells the story of a lesbian couple, it definitely deals in larger themes overall. It's about someone whose family has abandoned her. On the lighter side, "Monster" is also notable for its soothing classic rock tracks throughout.

4. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

After directing works like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Hulk" just a few years earlier, Ang Lee majorly shifted gears to bring us "Brokeback Mountain." While not the first movie to highlight gay relationships, it was undoubtedly one of the most mainstream ones. Perhaps it's worth keeping in mind that it's also a good movie.

Yes, it is definitely a drama. For once, though, the choices seem to be grounded in the characters themselves, and we can perhaps understand their complex motives better than in a whole host of other movies. When Ennis (Heath Ledger) says no to Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal), we understand his fears, as well as his psychological attachment to his other life.

It becomes almost a contest of skill between hiding who he really is and accepting the life he's already made for himself. However, as the saying goes, a house divided against itself cannot stand. "Brokeback Mountain" also stars Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams.

5. Capote (2005)

Admittedly, Bennett Miller's "Capote" isn't so much about gay relationships. It's about the main character, Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a respected writer who just happened to be gay. In fact, what's impressive about the character is that, despite the prejudices of the time he was active, he enjoyed considerable success as a writer. "Capote" (the film) examines how the writer prepared for one of his most famous works, "In Cold Blood," widely considered one of the greatest true crime books of all time.

Though Capote initially is all business, he seems to gradually form a genuine bond with accused murderer Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.). When one thinks of murders, it's usually with some grotesque images, such as decaying bodies and all sorts of suspicious happenings. However, this ends up being a humanizing portrayal. As the story unfolds and, some of the focus is on the lower class upbringing Smith had and that, ultimately, an entire family was impacted by the tragedy of his sorrowful life.

Many people don't like such narratives, of course, but it's not necessary to say understanding violence excuses it. As violence escalates in society, it easily becomes cyclical. The abused might become abusers, and, in many cases, the poor may have little choice but to turn to the crime syndicate to feed their families. "Capote" also features Mark Pellegrino as Smith's crime partner named Richard Hickock, Catherine Keener as Nelle Harper Lee

6. Milk (2008)

Based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, Gus Van Sant's "Milk" features Sean Penn as the title character, who reminds us that there's more to gay life in San Francisco than attending nightclubs. In many ways, "Milk" also shows the clash between conservatives like Anita Bryant, whose anti-gay politics stood in the way of a brave new normal.

The film shows some of what led to Milk's assassination at the hands of Vietnam War vet and former San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Dan White (Josh Brolin). It's said the film accurately portrays Milk's life as a political activist, which was at constant risk of devolving into nothing but a series of confrontations with conservative politicians.

As a result of these confrontations, Milk's political career is adversely affected. "Milk" also gives us brief glimpses into the man's professional relationships with Dianne Feinstein (Ashlee Temple) and Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber). "Milk" also features Victor Garber, Diego Luna, and James Franco.

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About the Creator

Wade Wainio

Wade Wainio writes stuff for Show Snob, Undead Walking, Pophorror.com, Vents Magazine and Haunted MTL. He is also an artist, musician and college radio DJ for WMTU 91.9 FM Houghton.

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    Wade WainioWritten by Wade Wainio

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