Fire Island: A Comedy of Gay Manners

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Bryan Lauter: All right. Y’all know that on outward we cannot resist talking about the emerging and fraught genre of avowedly gay rom com. And so, of course, we had to do a special Pride Month episode about Fire Island, the new Hulu movie from director Andrew On and writer star Joel Kim Booster. If the title doesn’t immediately conjure a certain images and maybe anxieties for you.

Bryan Lauter: Fire Island is a thin barrier island off the coast of New York that has for decades been a storied summer retreat for queer people. It is mysterious and beautiful, and there are a lot of overly familiar deer wandering around for some reason. But it is also troubled by the sorts of class and race disparities that beset so many of our queer spaces. The film, which also stars Bowen, Yang, Margaret Cho and Conrad Ricamora, among others, attempts to address these issues through a very gay setting of pride and prejudice. But as I succeed, we’ll discuss all of that and spoiler filled details. So if you haven’t seen Fire Island yet, you should probably go check it out on Hulu and then come back. We will still be here. Okay, Jules, you’re going to lead us on our journey to Fire Island. But I think before we hop onto the stable ferry, we should listen to a clip.

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Speaker 2: Why would you conform to this community’s toxic body standards? Whatever. I’m still invisible to most of these people does not make me no farce, no fans, no Asians, no other. You still two out of the three bitchy? Yes, but not wrong. In our community, money isn’t the only form of currency, race, masculinity. ABS. Just a few of the metrics we use to separate ourselves into upper and lower classes. Of course I don’t care about all that shit, but what can I say? I’m a class traitor.

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Jules Gail: So we arrive on on our titular fire island. And, you know, this film is obviously a retelling of pride and Prejudice. So, you know, for everyone who who loves that story, it kind of, you know, structures the plot and the arc of the film. But I think may be an interesting place to to start talking about it is about, you know, two places I certainly latched on. And it was as not just about this being a gay retelling, which, you know, how much gay or do you have to make Jane Austen anyways?

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Jules Gail: But yeah, there’s there’s this kind of feeling that you get, I think, right from the beginning that you get, you know, between the interplay between Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang characters, Noah and Howie, but also in general about seeing this kind of mostly black and Asian gay group going into Fire Island and feeling incredibly self-conscious but committed to it. And also this sort of class story that is about, I think, you know, this very millennial kind of version of of queer life where you’re like living in Brooklyn, maybe, and can’t really afford anything, and certainly in many ways are sort of shut out of Fire Island.

Jules Gail: And so in the film, they’re only there because, of course, Margaret Cho is their wonderful lesbian auntie or mother. For me, like, that was something I feel like like if I was going to go back and rewatch the film again, I would want to just sit with the feeling of those opening scenes, like the visuality of it, the banter, the insecurity that the interesting forms of pride and other feelings. But I don’t know if that’s.

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Christina Cutter: The pride and prejudice, you know.

Jules Gail: Pride and Prejudice, one might say. I’m just curious about your reactions to that kind of like tonal setting, because here we are finding ourselves in a place that, you know, maybe some of us have actually been maybe some of us actually relate to more than we literally relate to. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Christina Cutter: Yeah, you explained it well, where I think there’s a mix of anticipation and excitement and ambivalence that I very much relate to when entering, you know, a storied gay enclave for these characters, in part, it’s because, you know, they’re expecting to encounter sort of a white, rich, skinny, yet muscular, gay, monolithic culture. And for me, it’s more that like these places are built for gay men. And so while I expect to feel somewhat at home, there’s always the part of me that feels like, well, you know, I might not fully feel like this place is made for me, but it’s certainly better than the alternative, which would be a straight, rich, white enclave.

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Christina Cutter: There were parts of the character back stories that I doubted a little bit. For example, Joel Kim Booster is character. Noah is a nurse, and the average salary for a nurse in New York is almost $100,000. I don’t feel like that’s poor. I know it’s expensive to live in New York, but I feel like the way they tried to make this friend group out to be like really scrimping and not able to afford a vacation on Fire Island if they didn’t have this house owned by Margaret Cho’s character. And, you know, so out of place at these parties with all these Richard Gaines, like, it just it doesn’t seem to me like a nurse. He’s not like a starving artist, you know. So I feel like right from the very beginning, I felt like they were trying to make something happen without the evidence to back it up.

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Bryan Lauter: Well, on the other hand, the fire, it’s like ridiculously expensive to go out there. Like if they wanted to do this, like struggling millennial. The thing that you said, Jewel’s like sort of version of the story and have them not be super wealthy is they had to invent some way for them to get out there financially. And so and so this is like magic, magical house that Margaret Cho’s character has because I think she, like, faked some glass in her food or something like a restaurant once wasn’t at the store and won like a lawsuit of some sort. It’s great. It is so wildly expensive to have a share on a shares where you know when you’re in it for like a certain number of weekends for summer house out there, it is so insanely expensive that people who make $100,000 or whatever can’t necessarily afford it or that would like be like all of your thick summer money potentially.

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Bryan Lauter: And so it’s there is an odd tension at the beginning of the movie, just if, you know, like what Fire Island is actually like and sort of the economics of it of like how how this would even happen. But I kind of had to just like let that go because it’s a, it’s a rom com and it gets to have its magical sort of surrealist elements too. I think I became more tolerant of that as it went on.

Jules Gail: Yeah. I mean, so I famously have never been to Fire Island despite living in New York for a while, and that’s probably one of the reasons why. But I also famously, you know, that life as as as a gay boy for a while and you know, my friend group, you know, had this sort of tradition that we called queer summer camp or we would go to upstate New York and much, much, much, much, much cheaper version of that. Yeah, that doesn’t include any beaches, but in any case, you know, one of the things that I immediately kind of felt like hooked by and it is something that I think the film kind of drills into is on the one hand.

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Jules Gail: Right. The idea of a gay island or just of like gay the gay world, gay spaces away from the rest of the world has always been about something that is really kind of powerful when you experience it, which is like, Oh my God, there’s no straight people here. Like, Oh, thank God. Right. And actually, even though as Noah’s character reflects, that meant something different, say, in the 1970s than it does in, you know, in this 21st century, it still means something. Right. And then but that kind of that kind of gets like a Russian doll nested several more times where you see like, well, it could feel really powerful, you know, to be in a black and Asian gay space where, you know, you can really let your hair down and you can sum it up in ways that are culturally specific.

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Jules Gail: And, you know, at the same time, there is this kind of feeling of like trying to take a break from precarity, which I always associate with like my clear summer camps with which was like we were pooling all our money and, you know, we would like go to that, you know, like discount liquor store in Hudson, New York, and like buy huge handles of liquor that we couldn’t afford or like, you know, hypothetically pool money for really good modeling or other things. Not that I would now.

Jules Gail: And it’s like, you know, there is also this kind of feeling that I think that the film sort of embodies in its kind of like aesthetics of cheap rosé and like, you know, trying to get invited to richer people’s parties, which is like if you can just take a fucking break from the grind. And the grind could be about money and living in New York, but the grind could also be about trying to make out of the gay life something like viable when you’re black or Asian, you know, or a samurai or just like, you know, attractive but not like at the top of that hierarchy or whatever. And I think there’s something just sort of like compelling to me about that, even if it’s like a really hard premise to like do that much with just because in real life it’s incredibly annoying and there aren’t really moments of catharsis. And so maybe it’s like within that context that I find that the rom com really interesting.

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Jules Gail: And so we get to this sort of, you know, sort of philosophical debate, you know, between our Noah Joel Kim Booster and our how he Bowen Yang between like, you know, non-monogamy, no boyfriends, you know, hot, sexy life of Noah and like painfully sincere, self-deprecating, like depression Queen Howie, who is just like, you know, and so it sort of shows up as Noah shows up on the island being like, I’m ready to fuck.

Jules Gail: But I actually I’m really altruistic and a good friend. And I want to make sure Harry also gets laid and that becomes this sort of like, you know, conflict. And like, you know, I got I feel like part of the pleasure of the comedy of manners, of the comedy, of like bad manners or gay manners is like maybe like in real life, none of us feel like anyone is that archetypal. But like, I don’t know, I’m just like, did that sort of staging of the conflict, like, how did it feel to you? Like, I mean, it’s kind of an old idea, right? Like it is as old as Jane Austen in a certain sense. But I feel like it’s also this trope in gay media that there is like some fundamental divide between people who are, like, happy with the promise of like gay life being, you know, unrestricted by a straight conventional romantic convention. But yeah, and the opposite implication, I mean, I’m sort of curious whether you think this film kind of stacks up in that tradition of gay media.

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Bryan Lauter: I actually found both of those characters and that and the sort of positions about about sex and love that they represent it to be pretty convincing and actually, like relatable. They didn’t feel cardboard to me at all. I feel like I’ve known both of those types of gay guys and my and my time. And I thought that the interaction between them was was pretty effective.

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Bryan Lauter: That’s the only big point of trouble I have with this movie is that I found Joel Kim Booster Noah so obnoxious and like, unlikable that it made me like, not like like I almost like, didn’t want to finish the film that moment because he just seemed. So it’s so kind of cruel in certain ways and especially and this is sort of explored later in the movie, like thinking that his friend Bowen Yang character has the same kind of ability to get laid in the way that he wants to, that has the same kind of sexual capital, I guess I should say. And they have a they have a confrontation about this at a certain point where Bowen Yang says, like, you got to stop pretending that I’m that I’m the same as you.

Speaker 2: There are plenty of other guys. I’m sure you do for you too. No, stop it. Stop talking about this like we’re the same. But we are you and me. Fuck the rest. No, stop. You want to feel so good, so badly that you did all this. And now you want me to feel good, too? Because you. I don’t. You feel guilty. I don’t really give a shit. But stop pretending like you don’t understand how the world works.

Bryan Lauter: That is the tension of the movie. But like Joel Kim Booster, Schacter did such a good job of embodying that kind of clueless guy and privileged in a certain way. Like within, you know, a whole complex hierarchy of privilege in the movie that I began to hate him personally, which doesn’t make sense, but that’s how I felt.

Christina Cutter: I didn’t hate him, although I did think the conflict seemed a little bit contrived. Like why? Why would Noah not allow himself to hook up before Howie did? And the idea of being invested in hooking up as kind of a supporter, an achievement unto itself for this necessary rite of passage, is obviously a well-trodden idea in straight movies.

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Christina Cutter: I’m thinking of, you know, teen sex comedies where people are trying to lose their identity before they go to college or something like that. So you don’t often see that happen in movies about people in their thirties. And so I wonder if that could have happened in a straight movie, because I don’t think there are a lot of even movies about straight male friends that are like, Dude, you got a hook up, why aren’t you hooking up enough? It feels like straight movies about people in their thirties are often more about making a life happen.

Christina Cutter: And I thought it was interesting that this one sort of gave equal moral weight to both sorts of decisions of sex and relationships. Like neither one was right. You know, the guy who wants a relationship and the guy who wants to party and is afraid of feeling vulnerable, you know, maybe they both have some things to unpack. It looked a little deeper into why these two people ended up with those relationships to sex and love, where they both came from, a space of feeling honored and unwanted in part because of racism.

Christina Cutter: And so it does talk about or show a little bit how being subjected to this specific kind of anti-Asian racism can make. You can fuck you up even when you come into political consciousness. You can’t change the way it has made you feel hot and unwanted, and you can’t change the way people still treat you. And so I feel like it’s advocating for a little bit of what I have come to think of as intuitive hooking up, like intuitive eating, where it’s like, you know, instead of imbuing food with all this meaning and there’s good food and there’s that, it’s just eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. So this movie, you say like hook up when you want to don’t when you don’t want.

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Bryan Lauter: To.

Christina Cutter: And just like, follow your heart and you’re dark.

Jules Gail: Which, you know, is kind of one famously hard to do.

Christina Cutter: Yeah.

Jules Gail: The two seem less coordinated then than ever when they’re, you know, vying for control. But also, like, you know, that’s the thing about desire and pleasure, right? Is that on the one hand, the world structures it out with real consequences depending on what situations you find yourself in. But like as a principle, pleasure is like, oh, honey, I don’t have a limit, right? And that’s like really scary.

Jules Gail: I really appreciate, you know, Joel Kim Booster portrayal of Noah because not the harshness or the hardness, the bite, you know, the almost arrogant defensiveness of that character’s sort of quick wit with other people. I really read as like, actually, I, I really read it very tenderly. And, you know, maybe I was overly identifying with parts of it, but it just felt very much like, you know, sort of the impossible dilemma of, you know, of trying to make Asian-American gay subjectivity like work in the world. That’s a really academic way of putting it.

Jules Gail: A less academic way of putting it would be you the film Ben pairs Noah you know, in this sort of push pull magnet situation with Conrad Ricamora, his character Wil who is a really different I mean and I’ll so so so will was the character for me where I kept being like, okay, I know this is literally a character and this person is acting, but I really have to check their emotional responses to this person’s like grumpy in express by kind of like, you know, I was like, oh god, those gay men.

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Jules Gail: But, you know, but then, you know, I, I want to be charitable and because again, it’s a movie, but I also want to be charitable in the sense that the film itself is like pairing Noah and well, in a certain way. And so, yeah, I mean, I was trying to think of how to describe like Will is very standoffish, very wooden in so many ways. And you know, it’s like I think about this all the time. You know, this is this is like a tale as old as time, as a cleavage in the in the gay world, right between like the Queens in the femmes and the gays who are able to live more or less as men in their everyday lives. And then when you put all of those people in a gay space, it I really feel like it heightens the contradiction. Right. Right.

Christina Cutter: They say about Will, you know, he went to this fancy rich prep school. That’s why his voice is so deep.

Jules Gail: Yeah, that’s. That’s beautiful, right?

Christina Cutter: You almost needed that line to describe the character.

Jules Gail: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I mean, what did you think then about that? You know, and then that’s where, like the Jane Austen of it all does, right? Where it’s like, okay, whether or not we really think someone like Noah and someone like Will would even just circle each other, right? Because it’s not it’s not like they, you know, get married at the end of something. God, it is a gay movie. But like, yeah, I just, you know, how did that what did that interplay do for you? Because in many ways, their opposites.

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Jules Gail: Right. And it’s very unclear that they would even like one another. Right. I mean, I say that on purpose, they might be attracted to one another. But I think that’s one of the things that that kind of like the economy of like Fire Island, as it’s shown to us in the film, actually does like a really good job of saying like attraction and liking someone do not necessarily always go together and like one of the lies that heterosexual romance culture, that naturalize is a lot of mistreatment and abuse and just like shitty behavior is the idea that like, Oh, if I’m attracted to you, then I like you. And it’s like, Oh no, actually think like one thing like queer people are good at is knowing that that’s not always true and we don’t always have that with them. Right. But, but I kind of feel like the film is, is, is opening that door a little bit. I detected that. So what did you think of that then Noah and. Well, that will they, won’t they etc. of it all.

Christina Cutter: I thought it made a lot out of not much. It wasn’t clear to me why they initially hated each other. Near the beginning, Noah overhears Wil saying about him, You know, he’s not hot enough to be so annoying, which is basically the only sassy thing that Will says in the entire film. And I’m not sure he ever explains what he meant or why he said that. Obviously, that’s a reason for Noah not to like him, but I felt like I didn’t quite believe that they were super attracted to each other or that they super hated each other because why does it matter? You know, they can just avoid each other.

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Christina Cutter: And then toward the end, once they sort of reconcile and come to the open about their feelings for one another, whatever, we’ll sort of says, Oh, I don’t do well at parties. And Noah sort of laughs and accepts that and then goes to the party. And I wasn’t sure whether that was maybe there was a part of Noah who also doesn’t want to go to parties all the time. And maybe, maybe that’s part of what he was attracted to with Will. Like he was sort of disillusioned by this whole homogenous gay scene. But also, if if one of you likes parties and the other doesn’t and you live across the country from each other because, you know, Will is from L.A. and your demeanors are so completely opposing, I’m not really sure what’s attracted you to each other. I guess Noah thinks that’s cute when Will is a bad dancer, you know? And it was legitimately fair.

Bryan Lauter: So that reciprocated. That was do.

Christina Cutter: It wasn’t exactly clear to me what Noah wanted or how his attraction to will like changed or was already present in his pattern of attractions.

Bryan Lauter: They are the birth caretakers in their way, like of their friend groups. And I think that’s where I kind of saw them possibly seeing something sort of real in each other beneath the surface personality stuff. I think they both are kind of fiercely and I think even in that first sort of set of interactions over the party scene in the House, that will sting and you kind of see that both of them are like trying to protect their friends and like take care of their friends and that that comes into conflict. But but they they’re both kind of like dads, like in that way or something. So they may be moms or something like that.

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Bryan Lauter: There’s a subplot about like a, like a hot Instagram, a guy who comes in and films, another one of the crew having sex with him and puts it up on his only fans without permission. And that’s a moment where we see Noah and will act in this way of like of like protectors, defenders like we want, like justice seeking on this and where they kind of, I think, really began to, like, appreciate each other a little bit more. Yeah. Yeah.

Jules Gail: Well, I just I think that’s I really appreciate that because I think one of the things maybe that makes this a gay or queer, you know, and the difference between like what Jane Austen did in her medium and her time in her john and now like, okay, that’s absurd to even try and bridge the gap. But like, you know, one of the points is that it uses the plots of romance and the comedy of romance, but the ending is not like and now like, you know, Howie and Charlie are not like going to go get married. It’s like a very it’s like, okay, well, like you live or like, I don’t know, you just like avoided partying on bad terms so that you could then continue to be in one another’s lives, which I feel like goes like actually it’s very nice to see like, yeah, that’s like actually like a pretty healthy way to be romantic. And actually it’s a very.

Christina Cutter: Both of the couples ended in that way. Both of the couples that come together at the end live across the country from each other. And so it’s, you know, nobody knows, least of all them, what their future will hold, but they’re just sort of like, yeah, we enjoy each other. Let’s have another couple of days on the beach together.

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Jules Gail: Mm hmm. And it’s like the thing that, like, you know, a lot of men, maybe many of us have learned in Brooklyn queer community, which is like good boundaries. Right. But but I think then what the film, you know, it doesn’t just deflate that ideal. It suggests that family, like the families that queer people make, are just as or frankly, probably more important, just in a practical, obvious way. And especially if you’re also not as rich or not as y as people who can basically by an equivalent version to successful kind of hetero life, but with more pleasure because it’s gay or whatever. And so it seems like, yeah, like both Noah and will play a little bit of that role in their group.

Jules Gail: But I also wanted to then talk about Margaret Cho as Erin, you know, cards on the table. I’m like so very famously in quarantine after being exposed to COVID this week. So I’ve been like feeling very alone. And I watch this movie one. And I was like, I miss my friends. I haven’t got on a group like this in so long. I mean, just like being in a room with all of them in this without thinking about like viral, you know, viral particles. Like, you know, I just miss that kind of like letting your hair down and feeling like the relief of not having to, like, be a sovereign self and just like being like, you know, like a kid. Like, I often feel like, like we’re all siblings when I’m with my I mean, different than, than I feel with my literal sibling. But like, you know, there’s something really powerful and I think really soothing about that. I know I really miss like this many years into a socially distant pandemic.

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Jules Gail: And then my, you know, one of my reactions, I mean, of course, another other card for me is like, oh, I used to be one of those boys, but now I’m more of a margaret Cho type. And do I even wear makeup? And I’m not you know, I don’t have as many I don’t have I’m not as much a card carrying lesbian either.

Jules Gail: But like, you know, one of the things I thought about, you know, when I was watching the movie, just that the level of pure fantasy I was I was like, if I ever get rich, like, I want to buy a house and have my boys come be my, like, kids and just take care of them and like, yeah, I like, love doing I love, like making dinner and pouring wine for the boys, watching them go off and then be like, okay, like whichever one of you are coming home at like one or two, like, I’ll be here to greet you in the morning and make you breakfast when you come home.

Christina Cutter: I got it after hooking up. That was great to be your friend.

Bryan Lauter: It really does.

Jules Gail: And an amazing this is just like stealth advertising to us but but you know, like there is something about that and it’s not but it’s not it’s not just romantic family because the family is teetering on the brink of collapse. So one of the other, you know, plot points of the film is that Margaret Cho is bad with money. And so, like, she’s basically broke. And this could be this is it. This is our last summer. And, you know, as far as I know, as far as I could tell, that doesn’t get resolved for a happy ending in the film.

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Christina Cutter: And so there was something saying it was never about the house at all. It was about the friendship right along the way. Yeah.

Jules Gail: But yes, I know, right. Because then, yeah, he was just like, Oh my God. But isn’t what happens in your thirties is like, people move all over the country for work, like the precarity of our lives, start to interrupt these like friendships we form, I think one class position in our twenties, right? Like, I don’t know, this is like was what has happened to me that’s been accelerated by COVID where I’m like now I live only a few hours away from a lot of my friends, but I don’t see them as much. I’m not as glued to them. And like that feels really disorienting to me, as if I had lost, you know, the house that we all lived in, even though we didn’t have a house, should have had a frivolous lawsuit.

Christina Cutter: Yes.

Jules Gail: You know, it’s June. You know how many times are going to hear the phrase queer family this month? But like but actually, I think this film, like, did something with that by not really like telling us too much about it, but more just showing us over and over again. I think here, too, about the really beautiful performance of The Mask Matters. And Matt Roger is as Keegan and Luke as sort of like, yeah, they are the femme comedy duo, but they’re actually like real people and they’re doing something that’s kind of choreographed, right? Like they’re, they’re, they’re kind of like their bodies are always in shots, hanging around, moving your sea limbs or torsos, and they’re really affectionate and touching each other in this, like, really beautiful sisterly kind of way. And just like it was showing me like queer family of a certain, you know, of one certain variety, right? I mean, it’s like all boys except for Margaret, but. Yeah, so. So what about this kind of family?

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Christina Cutter: I didn’t feel it as much as I saw it, if that makes sense. I think.

Bryan Lauter: That’s ahead. Yeah.

Christina Cutter: I just am not part of this world. If I went on a vacation with all my friends, we wouldn’t spend the whole time trying to, like, meet other people and hook up with other people and, like, not be together. It felt like there was just a lot of all of them trying to sleep with other people and not as much, you know, appreciating each other’s company. Yeah, it’s it’s a certain kind of friend vacation, but not one that I’m super familiar with. And I found it slightly unbelievable that a lesbian would have only gay male friends on Fire Island. There was like a little bit of an explanation, like, she’s alienated herself from the lesbian community because she mistreated somebody. Or I forget exactly what she did. The only other, like lesbian they see is like a crotchety, angry woman who’s. But yeah, so it felt a little bit like we’re taking a vacation from women.

Christina Cutter: Also, in addition, I’m sure, like except for our mom, who again, the the existence of him, I highly doubt or at least I’ve never met somebody like that. I agree that they do like some characters who love each other and hold each other and are sort of like a little bit more. The crazy party are so bad they bring cheese into the hot tub, which I thought was adorable detail. I thought they were very wonderfully realized and I felt their sort of love for each other. And when Noah goes to defend Luke from the scammer who again one of the other like quick details in this film that I think did a lot to embedded in real life was like they quickly scroll through his Instagram and show him holding like a Black Lives Matter sign in front of his back and like a shirtless picture. Like the gay Instagram was so wonderfully.

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Jules Gail: Seen that I.

Christina Cutter: Soon. Yeah.

Christina Cutter: What did you think, Bryan?

Bryan Lauter: I experienced this at the third family aspect in a few ways. I thought that. I mean, I had moments of of the yearning, just like you did, Jules, for missing this kind of thing. I would never do it in Fire Island. I think Fire Island is I. I just don’t like it. I think you can’t escape the sort of fascism of an honestly land like, so I would not go there.

Christina Cutter: Is it really like.

Bryan Lauter: That at this point? Yes. Well. Well, no. Sorry. So what I was going to say was that there are there are two fire islands on display in this movie. And I think you and Christina, you made me think of this because you were sort of saying it was it would be weird to go with your friends and then spend all of your time with your energy directed outward and all of these other people.

Bryan Lauter: My experience with Fire Island, I’ve only been, I think, twice in my life, and it’s been years and years since I’ve since since those times I went once and had this kind of experience like the the small group house in Cherry Grove, which is a different where I talked about this. But this movie takes place in the Pines mostly, and that’s the one that’s like rich, white and infectious. The other one on Cherry Grove is has historically been more of a lesbian community and sort of just everyone else that, like, doesn’t fit that pines type.

Bryan Lauter: And so I’ve done the house thing and Cherry Grove when I was very young in my twenties, and this crazy house called The House of Orange that all these like Greek statues with giant dicks and just like fantastic place with like a really interesting group of people. And we like stayed together in the house and had like our weird little week there. And so that’s that is possible. People will call in and, and disagree with me about this, but I think that’s like less the Pines vibe, the Pines vibe and my experience as much more, yes, you’re in a house, but everyone is always running off to to fuck and party and, you know, on drugs and like whatever.

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Bryan Lauter: And in this movie, they like MASH, those two fire islands together in a way that did not feel authentic or like did not feel like something I have heard about or perceived. But I can understand narratively why that was like a valuable thing to do. Yeah. But yeah, I mean, you know, Jules, you mentioned like going upstate, the, the house, even the Margaret tree house that they were staying in. Looks like an upstate house to me. It didn’t look.

Jules Gail: Like a totally.

Bryan Lauter: It’s yeah, it’s two different versions of what queer family can look like in our island. Were put together here.

Jules Gail: I mean, I love this.

Jules Gail: And I guess it makes me think about maybe one other way, too, to kind of get at this movie and maybe wrap up our thoughts a little bit, which is like, you know, I think one of the gay arts. One that has changed a lot over time, especially in this era where there is a lot of explicitly gay representation, is that, you know, one thing that marks your sort of understanding in relationship to mass culture is the ability to play with genre, right? That has been one function of camp.

Jules Gail: But like I was listening to some interviews with some of the cast members from this film and they were just talking about all of the different references and like, you know, I mean, this is like lost culture, reassess brand, you know, filmmaking and it’s really wonderful and enjoyable. There is like a legendary scene, you know, about someone not knowing Marisa Tomei, you know, it’s like this thing that gay people actually do. But you actually often start doing, you know, before you have gay community. And then part of the joy of being around other queer people is you get to do it with them.

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Jules Gail: But it raises this really interesting question now because for for a really long time, people had to do that because in fact, they could not make movies like Fire Island. Right. And you actually had to be a gifted and talented reader and interpreter and ventriloquist of mass culture in order to satirize and make it your own. And also, in some cases, to just let’s be real. Do what? Better than anybody else.

Jules Gail: Okay. But I think one of the interesting questions I have, that’s an open question. I’m not even sure I want an answer, but let me put it to you both. It’s like, okay, here we are in this era now where gay people, not even just gay people like smart ass, funny, you know, gay men of color can get together and make a movie that is self-conscious about its genre.

Jules Gail: Right. You can remake Pride and Prejudice, but it’s but I think the bait and switch for me. Right. Is that like that that corporate like, hello, it’s pride month. Everyone’s lives are being ruined. But Disney Corporation loves you like the lie. They’re right. Is that what’s exciting about a gay remake of Pride and Prejudice? Is the content of it being gay? No, it’s not, because the original one is gay, too. That’s not the point. The difference to me is it’s gay people and in this case, Asian and black gay people taking on the genre and saying, we’re going to play with the genre. But then it brings up this real question, right where it’s like, well, it’s one thing to use the genre as a strategy in everyday life to make fun of the world. But then it’s like, Do you really want your life to feel like a rom com? Right? And I feel like I’m being a little I’m going to make a bold declaration.

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Bryan Lauter: Yes.

Jules Gail: My understanding of heterosexuality such as that is that like heterosexual people might actually be liable to reply yes to that question. Oh, yeah, I know. I really I mean, all I know is what I see on Love is Blind or the ultimatum, but I see straight people being over and over again like, well, you know, this guy reminds me of my dad, and that’s cool. Yeah. I want to get married in this way. That’s really generic, because then I’ll know that I’m married, and then I want to wake up to someone and say, You’re my husband. And I’m like, Okay, I’m not sure that queer people, like, know that answer to that question so definitively. Like, do you really want your life to be a genre? Like, do you want it to be formal in that way? There’s a pleasure. We play with it, we destroy it, we make it, you know, we harness it to our own ends sometimes, but it can also get away from you. Form is alienating, genre is impersonal, and so it can be desirable but can also be really disappointing or frustrating.

Jules Gail: And I guess I feel like part of what I just really appreciate about this movie is that it just dared to go there and be like, okay, if any of us were to go to Fire Island this summer, I feel like I would be thinking about like, okay, well, one, is it just going to be drama? Because like, I too have a hard time in spaces that are mostly dominated by, like, gay men or whatever. What I also have trouble with it because I would be like, this is going to be like a comedy of men, you know, like y you know, that kind of relationship between genre and like everyday life that I feel like we have these like special gay powers to play with culture in that way.

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Jules Gail: But then it brings up this bigger question about like, how much do you want to thread the needle of your own life through like plot, right? Like in real life? Because I think we’re attached to culture in part because sometimes, like, I know, like I grew up loving melodrama because I was a dissociated, depressed child and I was like, right, these people on TV are having feelings and feelings are advancing the plot. I legitimately wanted my life to become a melodrama because that was the only way I could imagine having a fucking feeling right. And I’m so glad now that I have feelings that my life is not a melodrama because like, honey, I don’t get paid enough to be on about drama. Right?

Jules Gail: But but I think there is a sort of deeper question here about like how queer people make culture and especially how gay men make culture right. And whether or not like in this era of like Hulu presents Fire Island, like, you know. I don’t know. I kind of lost the question in belaboring it a little, but I just kind of wanted to, like, serve it up and see if if it does anything.

Christina Cutter: One thing that that question of genre made me think of is the the related question of audience. Who does Hulu think is going to watch the movie? Who? Who do they hope will watch this movie? The answer is probably everyone. They want everyone to watch it, obviously, but know that not everyone will.

Christina Cutter: But the points of the movie that felt most alienating to me were not even necessarily the ones that diverged from my own personal experience, but the ones that felt overly didactic. Like when they take a break from the plot to be like, Here’s what a tea dance is. Here’s what you know ketamine does to your body.

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Christina Cutter: It felt like we needed to have a little footnote for all the people who aren’t familiar with gay life to understand what was happening in the film. It felt a little bit less family oriented, and I mean that in terms of queer family. When those little breaks came in and I wonder if that was part of the major studio ness of it all. And I think that’s also what put it in a different genre for me from other like new queer cinema or something like that. This, this need to sort of make it understandable and a little bit palatable maybe, although it really did go there for for a straight or a mass audience.

Bryan Lauter: Yeah, I think we can all agree that it is very exciting to get to see this group of artists and creators make this thing and like to get to get to play with this genre or mix of genres, whatever it is. So it’s worth watching just for that.

Christina Cutter: And then that Joel Kim Booster got to write and star in it.

Bryan Lauter: Yeah. I mean, it seems like it is absolutely worth, worth engaging with and praising for that. I felt like the ending was a moment where genre intruded in a way that that I didn’t love. And by the ending, I mean Bowen Yang leaves, his character leaves Fire Island. After sort of deciding that this this relationship that he had been pursuing isn’t going to work, and then comes back and there’s this kind of strange, like a dance on the dog that felt very like dropped in all sorts of make it from like a studio place. It was like I thought it would have been much more realistic for him to just leave because like this guy, for one thing, this guy that he’s after is such a piece of bread. It’s like, what? Like why? It’s like, whatever. But that aside, like, he wouldn’t.

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Christina Cutter: Be able to finish this flight. It’s so poor. How are you going to be changing your flight back and forth all the time? Yeah. Passive.

Bryan Lauter: I don’t think he would have come back. And and there’s just, like, this dance thing. And then there’s these older this older gay couple is used kind of as like a little bit of like a marriage image. I felt like I mean, different, not exactly a bit like it, but it had tones of that, of like, oh, actually, what we all want is like to couple up and be together. So but I don’t think that that sort of a peace with the rest or much of the rest of the movie is for me. And it did feel kind of like a weird intervention from somewhere else. So, you know, who knows? Maybe it’s maybe that’s what they wanted all along. Or maybe a studio screening, like at a screening, an executive. So they needed to make it sort of happy.

Bryan Lauter: But, you know, I think we should probably rather conversation now. But however it ended up, I think it was worth being being able to be in this space with these with these characters for the amount of time that we got. It was was refreshing. I mean, it really it really was. And I’m not a romcom lover, but but I was very as I reflected on this, something that I think I was just very taken with it. And it’s very exciting to, at least as you said, to see to these people, get to play and get dirty and make something that’s kind of where I where I’ve ended up.

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Jules Gail: Yeah. And you know, as Jane Austen famously said about gay people, just what she said about gay people. No. You know, I think it’s such a watchable it’s exciting. It just also helped it feel like had summer, you know, despite whatever the fuck is going on in the world. So, you know, encourage everyone to go out and watch Fire Island or watch it on streaming however it comes to you. And thanks, Franny, Christina, for taking some time out to have a little extra special conversation. This is one of our little nuggets coming to you all this month for Pride. We will have our regular main feature as well. But I’m so glad we got to do this. So. Thanks for talking about genre and little cute islands with us.