Sophie is a trans nonbinary writer from Alabama. They like to read and rant about different subjects.
Definitely not a holiday classic
My brother and I recently watched Some of My Best Friends Are. He had seen it some years ago but wanted to rewatch it with a more critical eye now that he wasn’t a starved for content gay college student. It’s two weeks shy of Christmas in our world, and at the time, I didn’t know that Christmas would be an important theme of the film.
The film opens with an array of men all coming together at Blue Jay Bar, which we soon find out is owned by an Italian mobster. Most of these men are middle-aged, but there are some semblances of youth, most subservient men who have roles as busboy and kitchen cook. I realize that I’m coming to this film with a very different lens than the people who watched it decades ago, so I try to shake out my theories and arguments to give this movie a chance. There’s very few non-white characters, and only one has a speaking role. The film was made only a few years after the Stonewall riots, yet there is only one arguable trans character. This lack of representation can be argued against by saying its a product of its time, but we have to keep in mind that the time included these people and its a disservice to not accurately represent them just to make a quick dime. The cast of characters is long, and we the audience are dropped right into the middle of most of their stories. Names of characters are mentioned and immediately forgotten because we have to meet several more. All I can gather is that most of the men are gay males but not all and they are coming together the day before Christmas to celebrate. Luckily, there celebrations mostly involves drinking large amount of liquors, but there is a scene where the men sing Christmas carols at midnight to signal that it is now Christmas morning. Again, the audience must assume this is a ritual or tradition of some sort because there is no explanation given. There’s several subplots all converging at the similar setting, so I have to make the assumption that this was based on a stage play. Most of the subplots are what gay men still have to deal with on the regular decades later: discreetness by not being out to your family or work, either being a catfish or a victim of catfishing, alcoholism, the degradation of sex work, and the awareness of mental health issues but not treating them. The film includes depictions of MSM, men who have sex with men, from the hustler to the disc jockey in a better light than they do the sole trans character, Karen.
Karen is a trans-woman (played by a trans actress), although the film makes her out to be a "boy" by the end of the film. For most of the film, she inhabits a feminine role, and while in public spaces, she solely wishes to be identify as a female with a feminine name and pronouns. Yet, the film goes out of its way to punish her for trying to live authentically. She is dragged on to the dance floor by the drunk hustler where he sexually assaults her, then proceeds to beat her bloody, and because he is a “hot piece of meat” to one of the older gay men is let go and doesn’t face any serious repercussions for this violent assault on Karen. Instead, he gets to go free with the tickets to Europe in his pockets. Meanwhile, Karen is a bloody mess, none of the gay men make a move to help her. The kind mother figure comes out of the back kitchen to clean some of the wounds, and the much older piano playing gay man makes a pass at her when he realizes that she was assigned male at birth. During this pass, he asks to know her deadname and from that point on refers to her only as that name. Karen soon leaves the bar alone once realizing the time is late. As a trans nonbinary person watching this film, my stomach hurt. Did that awful scene justify me not liking the whole film? Honestly, yes, it did, but it wasn’t alone. I personally felt that none of the characters learned anything or grew from the events of this particular evening. The next day would be the same as the one before. I hate that feeling because it fills me up with anxiety.
Overall, the film wasn’t unbearable, but it wasn’t a good either. I would recommend it to any queer film historians looking for a film with some Christmas in it, but for me, I think I’ll just stick to Carol, can’t go wrong with the yearning.
© 2021 Sophie