For most of the media, 2013 was a historic year in gay rights: gays can now get married in such award-winning states as Delaware and New Jersey, see their prison sex fantasies come to life on HBO, and write for Sports Illustrated. But few commentators were willing to travel down to some of the darkest depths of gay culture: Bullying. Harassment. Macklemore. Even fewer were willing to examine employment discrimination or the rumored existence of a lesbian Grindr app called “Brenda.” And none, absolutely none at all, were open to exploring the saddest, darkest and loneliest corner of gay life, known as “Netflix: Gay & Lesbian.” Home to such sexy titles as “Drool,” “Cracks,” and “Keep The Lights On,” Netflix Instant proves that justice is just a pinprick on the horizon, and that gays have a long way to go from New Jersey.
For the purposes of this article, I have chosen the top ten worst gay and lesbian films available on Netflix, adhering closely to the following rules:
- All material must be streaming. I don’t know who out there has the executive capacity to actually search, rent, and return a DVD anymore, but if you do, you’re probably not reading this, because you are a genius.
- All films must come from Netflix. With few exceptions, Netflix dominates the in-home movie market. Also, the closest Redbox to my house is located outside of an abandoned 7-11, and I’m not about to bust out my Gap Rewards VISA to rent “Walk a Mile in my Pradas,” sans a bulletproof vest.
- Just because I think the main character looks great in a sports bra does not make her gay. In order to keep things objective, I went by the movies Netflix designated gay and lesbian, which were mostly on point but almost never included women in sports bras. Haters.
I’m also not about to get into a debate about what constitutes “good art” versus “bad art,” but I will say this: if the title of your movie is Guys and Balls, you’re probably on the losing side. Still, there were some important factors I examined: how nuanced was the storytelling? How imaginative were the representations? Was the movie more T or more A? Common themes emerged:
- All lesbians go to boarding school and have at least one dead parent.
- Gay men are catty and take a lot of showers.
- Bisexual women like black men, black men looove bisexual women
- No one is gay
- Everyone dies
You absolutely don’t have to identify as gay to enjoy the following list. Bad movies break bad boundaries, cougars cross color lines, and anyone who’s anyone can appreciate a carefully crafted ass crack shot. But for those of you out there who just came out or are still questioning, please be advised. The following list just might scare you straight.
10. Lost and Delirious
When Lost and Delirious premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001, expectations were high: the film was one of the few to actually feature gay content, and its star lesbian was played by Piper Perabo, the singer-songwriter-gone-sad-stripper of Coyote Ugly fame. Yet anyone who sat in the screening and managed to make it past 29:59 minutes must have wondered how they ended up in a tearjerk-off tragedy imagined by the people who brought you “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret” and “So Now You Want To Kill Yourself.”
Lost and Delirious tells the story of a relationship between two boarding-school budding lesbians, Paulie (Perabo) and Tori (Jessica Pare). As romances go, it’s pretty good. The film perfectly captures the contours of every teenage relationship: the intense and sincere beginning, and the dramatic, longer than the course of the actual relationship, fallout. Yet when the two finally break up, Paulie turns into a literal lesbian predator, seen all too often in films like Notes on a Scandal, Monster, and Basic Instinct. She shatters a mirror, recites Shakespeare tragedies, and stabs a guy on his delicate inner thigh with a finely-tuned sword (all of which is pretty gay, Perabo). It’s too bad that the filmmakers let Ani Difranco into the story room when she could have just stayed on the soundtrack.
9. Guys & Balls
While the title of the movie Guys & Balls promises at least ten minutes of good dick jokes, the film never fully achieves its anticipated erection. German, independent, and featuring a very questionable highly sexualized scene in which a young boy dances in pretzel flour, “Guys & Balls” is softcore social drama at its most . . . German. Eckie is a soccer player who is ousted from his local team after it’s discovered he’s gay (“She has red pubic hair in the shape of a heart,” Eckie sadly muses, “but I’m not into it.” TMI.) He then forms his own all-gay soccer team and challenges his former teammates to a match so twee it makes Quidditch look like the UFC. The movie is simplistic and clichéd, never quite measuring up to the pornographic glory promised in its title.
Author’s Note: Although I stand by my decision to put Rent on this list, I would like to admit that I have been the victim of many karaoke and talent show renditions of “Seasons of Love.” It’s unclear to me why so many people of so many sexual persuasions want to belt “Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes” like they’ve just achieved their fantasy Verizon plan, but hey. La Vie Boheme!
People tend to either love or hate the musical Rent, but I’d like to think I straddle the elitist middle. The live of Rent version wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen – because that belonged to the film version. For those of you lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the plot, Rent tells the melodramatic story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to make it in 1980’s New York. Jesse L. Martin plays a gay anarchist college professor (toxic personality mix right there), and joins Wilson Heredia, a trans-identified performer with (surprise!) AIDS, in a fight against gentrification. “Poverty is sad," the movie seems to be arguing, "but also beautiful and authentic!” Nope. Direction by Chris Columbus doesn’t help either, although I will always love The Goonies and am currently counting down the days until Killer Pizza arrives.
7. Kissing Jessica Stein
There’s been some debate as to whether Kissing Jessica Stein even classifies as a gay movie, given that Jessica (Jennifer Westfeldt) is actually straight, and her stunning girlfriend Helen (Heather Cooper) totally totally down with that. The only time we even see them having sex is on a twin trundle bed in Westchester (impossible, grotesque), because most of the time they’re either laughing, or buying fruit.
Jessica Stein is a (totally charming, gotta admit) writer and editor living in Manhattan. Frustrated with men, Jessica decides to strike out and go out on a blind date with a woman – a hypersexual, bisexual woman at that (!) – named Helen. She’s resistant at first, but Helen soothes her nerves, telling her that you can’t always find everything you want in a match – “Sometimes it’s just a blend.” It’s comforting to know that something as complicated as sexuality can be reduced to something as simple as a ground coffee analogy, as I myself have always identified as a “French Vanilla.” The two couple up, then experience lesbian bed death before (SPOILER ALERT) Jessica realizes she’s straight, Helen ends the relationship, and the two become the very best of bosom buddies.
Women leaving women for other men is more common in film than it is in real life (in real life, lesbians like to abandon each other for other, more attractive lesbians), but like every bad relationship, I'll probably try it again.
6. Jack and Diane
I wish I could tell you what this movie is about, but I can’t, because it can’t. According to Netflix, Jack and Diane is the story of two teenage lesbians who “are swept up in a night of passion,” before one has to “leave the country for a week,” leaving the other to experience “strange changes in her body” including “werewolf visions.” That sounds exciting, but what I experienced was thirty minutes of a girl suffering a nosebleed, and another sixty minutes where her girlfriend takes advantage of her weakened state to seduce her, and later, make her a really bad mixed tape. Frankly, that’s not a totally unrealistic storyline, although I never once saw a werewolf, and the entire wardrobe of this “low budget independent” appears to have been pulled from Anthropologie.
5. Loving Anabelle
Similar to Lost and Delirious, Loving Anabelle is another movie about forgotten girls in a forgotten boarding school world where stupid parents just want you to be “successful” and teachers will give their lives to help their poor students get into Brown. Erin Kelly plays Anabelle, a high school student and sensitive singer-songwriter (she’s into Buddhism!) who falls in love with her beautiful English teacher, Simone Bradley (Diane Gadry). Simone also has deep feelings for Anabelle, but their love is complicated by past partners and what the film DEFINITELY believes are society’s unfortunate prohibitions against statutory rape.
Loving Anabelle also features a lot of highly sexualized journaling, a dramatic mutilation sequence after one of the girls loses her pet porcupine, and explicit cuddling. Don’t worry, that doesn’t stop Anabelle and Simone from “making love” to an even more unfortunate acoustic folk soundtrack. I’ve seen more realistic plot lines in lesbian twin porn (FYI not my cup of tea, pop-ups happen people), but I did really appreciate the caps lock Proust quotations that are sprinkled all-too-liberally throughout the movie.
4. Another Gay Movie
In Another American Pie Parody, five gay teenagers from Los Angeles make a pact to lose their anal virginity before the summer’s out and the viewer stops watching, probably about six minutes in. For viewers brave enough to make it past the sequence where Andy (Michael Carbonaro) penetrates himself with rotten vegetables garnered from his mother’s “garden salad,” the consequences are severe. You’ll have to meet Muffler (Ashley Stevenson), a terrifying butch-dyke lesbian who seduces all the ladies at her house, unapologetically named the “maxi-pad.” Of course there’s Daisy (Joanna Leeds), gay Nico’s blind girlfriend, who doesn’t realize that Nico is gay because – are you sitting down for this – she’s blind! And don’t forget Tiki, an Asian cheerleader who just love love loves to bow. This movie is awful.
On a more personal note, I struggled with the very basic premise of the film. Five stunning Los Angeles gay male teenagers with excellent WIFI who still can’t get laid? All you need nowadays is low expectations, AOL dial-up, and half an asshole. And the whole reason apps like Grindr and Manhunt were developed was so movies like this would never, ever have to be made.
3. The Doom Generation
While Netflix characterizes Doom Generation as gay and lesbian, there’s really only one two-and-a-half-way between Rose McGowan and her bisexual boyfriends, right before everyone gets castrated. I’d like to call that a spoiler alert, but unfortunately there is so much decapitation, disembowelment, and mutilation in this film that I struggled to experience the sensation of time. The Doom Generation tells the story of three middle-class teenagers gone on a killing spree, a la Natural Born Killers set to a homoerotic Kid Rock anthem. Though it was kinda hot when Rose McGowan screamed “Eat my fuck!” other moments were less empowering, i.e. the time they killed a guy for an expired burrito only to have his decapitated projectile head barf out slime. “I’m dark and tortured,” director Greg Araki seems to imply, “Will you love me?” Over my dead burrito.
2. 1313: Bigfoot Island
“Twinks In Trouble!” is how Vince perfectly described the 1313 series, movies where nubile young men fight for their lives…and the shower. Directed by the great David DeDecoteau, who you might also know from “A Talking Cat?!?,” “A Talking Pony?!?,” and “My Stepbrother is a Vampire?!?” (punctuation included), there are approximately twelve movies in the 1313 series, eight of which miraculously made it to Netflix. 1313 exclusively features muscular hairless “straight” men (suuuuure, guys) in either tighty-whities or loincloths. On Bigfoot Island, these guys come in the form of frat boys, all traveling to a beautiful island for a little summer reunion. As it turns out, they all sexually assaulted a girl on the island the previous summer, which the more sensitive one of the bunch deftly describes as “Not cool.” She enacts her revenge by releasing a murderous monster on them all, also judged to be “Not cool.” There’s a completely silent nine-minute shower sequence and a whole lot of incredible “limp-wristed jogging,” but the plot seems to have been eaten by the weird guy in the gorilla suit, aka, “The Monster?!?”
1. 1313: Cougar Cult
If it seems unfair that I’ve included two “1313” movies in one list, it isn’t: all thirteen of them could have made it on here without one Twink-sized pang of regret. Cougar Cult stands out from the rest because it features the best title, the longest “playfighting by the pool” sequences, and cannibalism. In the movie, three elderly cougars hire a bunch of attractive young men to come work for them in their beautiful LA Mansion. What the boys don’t know is that the women have a secret plan to seduce, kill, and then eat them all in one serving. In order for the men to be properly consumed, however, the cougars must first cover their prey's silicone abs in hot wax and loose glitter. That’s not sarcasm, since in Cougar Cult, glitter is literally the key to immortality. And while every man in this film dresses exclusively in tighty-whities and rainbow aprons, not a single person identifies as gay. Call it homophobia, call it high school, but when a coven of cougars consumes a boy servant whole – well I call that genius.
Contagious crotches. Lesbian predators. Traumatic nosebleeds. Compostable dildos. Werewolves. Monsters. Cougars. Killers. Rent. There’s so much to be scared of in this category, but it’s always been my belief that if Delaware can change, so can Netflix. Stream on.
Heather Dockray is a comedian and storyteller living in Brooklyn, NY. You can see more of Heather’s work at www.heatherdockray.com, follow her on twitter @Wear_a_helmet, and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you aren’t from Moveon.org.