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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

The Boys in the Band

Authentic & Tremendous

Joe Mantello’s The Boys In The Band is a social scream for help. It's a film I have tremendous respect for. The tone of the film is very personal to me because it's very familiar. The film reminds me of what it is like to walk down a Manhattan street and see mannequins in department store windows. The Mannequin doesn't have a face. They have no eyes, no nose, and no mouth, leaving you to contemplate what life is like for them from inside their heads.

At a birthday party In 1968 Manhattan, an uninvited guest and a series of psychologically damaging phone calls leave nine gay men to deal with the toxic realities that come from their sexual identities. The film is based on the critically acclaimed stage play of the same name. Given that most of the film takes place inside a 60s style apartment, you feel as an audience that you're at a Broadway theater, watching a play unfold. As the complexities of the night escalate, you see how some characters are more open about what’s ailing them while others are more hardened and one is closeted completely.

The all-gay cast dug so deep and probably relived a lot of pain to accurately tell this story. The end result is applause for their talents as well as their teamwork. I strongly suspect they'll be nominated for the SAG for Best Cast. Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Tuc Watkins, and Brian Hutchison were among the most memorable for me out of the nine. The tone Hutchison brings to his role points like an arrow to Dennis Quaid in Far From Heaven.

The film is a sad reminder of how bigotry and self-hatred are not dark tales from the past. How far have any of us come, really? If you're a minority, having legal rights makes your life easier - maybe - but they don't stop attacks from coming your way, especially verbally. Freedom of speech is abused multiple times a day, every single day and relevance is always to be found in films about this.

Every form of discrimination has its own slurs. New generations don't change that for sure. It's socially acceptable now to try and battle discrimination but the prejudice itself doesn't stop. It continually manifests in violence that often ends lives. Violence always points to evidence of corruption, even though nothing is ever really done about it. Verbal slurs on the other hand aren't really fought against. They can be if it’s used in one word but these days, bigots use passive-aggressive statements to insult minorities who often stand there and take it out of silent exhaustion.

Think of a black person being told they’re so articulate or a Latino being labeled by the wrong country of origin. Think of a Russian being told they must be so good with technology or a transgender individual being told “I wouldn't have known” in regards to their gender identity.

Narrow-minded individuals present these kinds of statements as compliments but they look at you in a way that tells you yours beneath them. For gay people, gay men, in particular, the passive-aggressive statement is “I don’t care what people do as long as they don't do it in public”.

As a gay man myself, I've been told this on at least three different occasions and I’ve never forgotten it. I never will. The way Jim Parsons looks up at the man who says this to him and says nothing back, that hardened look is the exact same one I gave each time. Verbal confrontation does cause trauma and for Parson’s character, the trauma comes out in the form of a racial insult he drunkenly makes to his black friend later in the night. I've never thought much about the “hurt people hurt people” psychology but there is a lot of truth to it.

Overall, it’s hard to be hopeful these days but incredibly well-crafted films like The Boys In The Band at least made me feel seen in an authentic way I hadn't before. Not really. After the film ended, I came to the realization that socially, the future is definitely not something I’m excited for because I’m too frightened of what may happen but staying where we are now scared me more.

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