By now you've probably been assaulted by the commercials for He's Just Not That Into You that feature the campy gay characters surrounding Drew Barrymore, with one gushing "MySpace is the new booty call!" Offensive much? Dixon T. Gaines at Queerty reviews the film and slams the tiresome characterization of gays as little more than sassy, asexual sidekicks.
In a movie all about love and dating, with a full nine leads trying to navigate the rocky shoals of relationships, there’s not a hint of a gay relationship anywhere on the screen. Though discouraging, that isn’t necessarily a mortal sin. What is a problem, however, is how the few gay characters that are on screen are forced to behave: in the flameyest, lispingest, “fiercest” stereotypes imaginable. If black actors were forced to endure Stepin Fetchit, then this minstrel show of homosexuality can only be construed as Mincin' Jazz Hands.
The main offenders are Drew Barrymore’s trio of co-workers at the Baltimore Blade– a made-up gay newspaper that Barrymore's character works at for– oh, just go with it. Like any economically-minded movie, these secondary characters double as twofers, with a Latino Gay (Wilson Cruz) , an Asian Gay (Leonardo Nam) and a Pasty White Gay (Rod Keller).
These sibilant-free sissies all curl around Drew to hear her latest dating woes, greeting each sad revelation with a different gay cliché rejoinder: “Oh, girl!” “Heyyyy!” and “Oooohhhh!”– all while they suck their teeth, too. And that’s it for these three. They don’t even talk about their own relationships, even as they might relate to dear ‘ol Drew. Nope, they just sit shiva around the sad sack, serving as a sassy sounding board.
Wilson Cruz takes issue with the criticism: "I don't think it's really fair to say that every gay character in every film or movie is supposed to be the defining depiction of who we are as a community. No character can do that. I think that I played him [Nathan] as honestly as I could. I reacted in the film as I would in life, and I don't think I'm a stereotype. We aren't all Tom of Finland. And if we are honest with ourselves, none of us are. Sometimes people look at a character these days and say, 'Well he was effeminate. And that's stereotypical.' Well, guess what, some people in our community are effeminate. And I don't necessarily think that's the end of the world."
Wilson Cruz is absolutely right and this is the exact argument made about gay characters in other movies and television series—Noah's Arc immediately comes to mind. Except none of the gay characters in He's Just Not That Into You exist beyond their scenes with Drew Barrymore. They're merely accessories. "When the three gay characters in a movie are asexual, and exist as the sage bitties for Drew Barrymore, it isn't an accident," Queerty reader Tyler says in the comments. "It isn't a fair representation of our community. It's a calculated script re-write to make the gay's less offensive.
It could be worse. For a movie allegedly set in Baltimore, which is majority black, there is only one black character with any lines. "A waiter with two speaking lines." Sounds charming.