September 30, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

In “Alex Strangelove,” Love Ain’t Simple

If you took the time to see “Love, Simon” in theaters earlier this year, you’ll find a lot of similarities even in the first few minutes of the new Netflix film “Alex Strangelove.” A seemingly “normal” teenager who’s “just like you?” Check. A group of quirky bffs? Yup. An updated John Hughes film atmosphere? Of course. It’s a teen movie, after all. But like “Simon,” and unlike a bunch of other, slightly darker recent teen offerings like “Stranger Things” and “13 Reasons Why,” the discovery of a queer identity, in “Strangelove,” doesn’t seem to come with very high stakes. Like some of the best teen movies coming out these days, “Alex Strangelove” keeps the hero’s struggle largely internal. The problem with this? Film is a visual medium, and for most of the story, the choice to keep first-person narrator Alex largely alienated from the discovery of his own sexuality, keeps the audience shut out as well.

If we were being generous, we could say that this was the point “Strangelove’s” filmmaker (Craig Johnson) was trying to make. Even in a liberal climate where coming out as gay isn’t seen as being a career-ending or especially life-changing move, it’s still hard and painful to do. In fact, it’s still almost impossible to spot if you’re not looking for it. And if you’re bisexual, as hero Alex (sort of?) is, you might not really be looking for it. That is, until it comes looking for you, in the form of a sexy out-gay kid from another school who magically shows up at a party.

This is all well and good, but “Alex Strangelove” still isn’t exactly the kind of story that’s going to help break down barriers, especially when it comes to the bisexual community. For a film that begins with the teasing premise of a truly bisexual coming out, “Strangelove” takes its time coming to the ultimately disappointing conclusion that all our main character needed to do was to come out as 100 percent gay in order to make things better. There would be absolutely nothing wrong with this if the film, like “Love, Simon,” was marketed as a gay coming-out story. But “Strangelove” promised, with its coy promo image of a boy in between another boy and a girl covered by a giant question mark, to be a story about the complications of bisexuality, a topic that’s woefully under-discussed and, perhaps more importantly, under-explored in current LGBTQ+ films. When it comes to coming out stories, it’s certainly nice to project an image of a world that won’t stone you to death once you speak your truth. However, for many gay, bi, and questioning kids around the country, the solution to the problem of identity isn’t just deciding to come out as one thing or the other. It’s about learning not to viewing identity – however complex – as a problem to begin with, much less a problem with any kind of a solution in view.

“Strangelove” is a cute, sweet movie about a kid learning to be who he is, and no matter how many times we see those much longed-for images of two boys kissing while their high school classmates look on approvingly, it’s never going to get old, at least not anytime soon. The hope, however, is that primer efforts like “Strangelove,” with all their old-fashioned “Breakfast Club” idealism, will make way for more complex interpretations of queerness down the line. That is, once filmmakers realize that we don’t need that kind cinematic of hand-holding anymore. Don’t worry: We’ll wait.

Related Posts

To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar 25th Anniversary

September 12, 2020

September 12, 2020

The cult classic “To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar” hugely popular in the LGBTQ+ community celebrates its 25th...

OUTFEST Announces “Taiwan Program”

September 6, 2020

September 6, 2020

The 2020 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Taiwan (R.O.C) and Taiwan Academy...

Long Beach QFilm Festival

August 30, 2020

August 30, 2020

The 2020 Long Beach QFilm Festival, is a celebration of the rich diversity and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,...

Award-Winning Gay Producer Ash Christian Dead at 35

August 23, 2020

August 23, 2020

Lauded producer, actor, director, and writer Ash Christian died in his sleep while vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Thursday...

31st GLAAD “Virtual” Awards

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

GLAAD the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today announced that it will host...

Los Angeles Premiere of Latinx LGBTQ Film at Outfest Fusion

February 26, 2020

February 26, 2020

“Acuitzeramo” screening March 9 By Staff Writer Outfest Fusion presents the Los Angeles premiere of Cabaldana Alchemy’s short film “Acuitzeramo”...

USC One Archives to Host Screening of Film on Black Trans Woman to Honor Black History Month

February 1, 2020

February 1, 2020

Meet Mary Jones, a black transgender woman born in New York in 1803. Described as a “man-monster” in the press. ...

HRC to Honor Dan Levy, Janelle Monáe at Award Ceremony in DTLA

January 27, 2020

January 27, 2020

Award Season is upon us, and the LGBTQ+ Community is not immune. HRC announced today that actor Dan Levy will...

LGBTQ+ Ally Taylor Swift to Receive GLAAD’s Vanguard Award

January 7, 2020

January 7, 2020

GLAAD announced Tuesday, Jan. 7 that Taylor Swift with receive the Vanguard Award at the 31st Annual GLAAD Media Awards. ...

5 Holiday Movies and TV Episodes Featuring Happy Queer Plot Lines

December 22, 2019

December 22, 2019

Christmas is just around the corner and yet, you’re still searching for more holiday cheer? Flip on Lifetime or Hallmark...

Hallmark Apologizes, Reinstates Commercials Featuring Same-Sex Couple

December 16, 2019

December 16, 2019

Hallmark Channel faced a wave of social backlash after its parent company – Crown Media Family Networks – quietly removed...

‘Tis the “Season of Love” in Queer Holiday Rom-Com

November 30, 2019

November 30, 2019

Every holiday season traditional and streaming networks create a ton of holiday romantic comedies but they consistently fail to create...

Documentary Honors Los Angeles’ LGBTQ+ Vets for Veterans Day

November 11, 2019

November 11, 2019

In honor of Veterans Day, some LGBT Senior Veterans at the Los Angeles LGBT Center shared their stories and experiences...

GAY LA: Judy Never Really Left Los Angeles

November 2, 2019

November 2, 2019

How the queer Icon has shaped L.A. There’s no doubt about it: 2019 is the year of Judy Garland. In...

More Than Just Another Gay Character

October 17, 2019

October 17, 2019

In Hollywood, LGBTQ+ characters that are more than just — well, LGBTQ+ — can be hard to come by. Most...