Just like in the movies
April 25, 2005
By Bruce Vilanch
Sometimes even I wonder what we’re complaining about. Heterosexuals tell us we’ve got it made. Or at least we used to. We used to want no children, no military service, and no need for commitment. Now we’re campaigning noisily for all three. Straight people are shocked. “Let them get married,” every comic from David Letterman to Chris Rock to Joan Rivers has said, “Why shouldn’t they be as miserable as we are?” Once we were the outlaws, looking for love in all the wrong places. Now we take over 3,000-passenger cruise ships. Once we were designing for Pottery Barn Kids. Now we’re shopping there.
Our interest in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness hasn’t changed, but the pursuit doesn’t look exactly the same as it used to. Even body image has changed, not in fantasy (Fox and the WB would go broke if it did), but in reality. Bears, dads, ethnics, all are celebrated now, whereas just a few years ago only clones needed apply. Yes, the swimmer’s build will probably remain the conventional ideal for some time to come, but at least everybody’s in the pool.
And, once again, we are leagues ahead of the straight people—or, as I have recently been instructed to call them by a sociologist friend, the heteronormatives. I don’t know that I love this word, but it does reflect that they are still in the majority and that this old spinning globe is still one big breeders’ cup.
A quick flick of your remote will reveal that, at least as far as straight men are concerned, conventional beauty still rules. Jim Belushi, Ray Romano, Kevin James, George Lopez, Mark Addy—all play fairly schlubby sitcom dads with pretty hot wives. Needless to say, none of these shows are written from the wife’s point of view. It’s the world according to Jim; it’s Raymond everybody loves. Forget that with the notable exception of Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti, this sort of coupling doesn’t happen very often unless there are huge amounts of money involved (and Carlo made most of his money off Sophia, so that doesn’t really count).
Over at the 300 CSI and Law & Order shows (one departing every hour), we have Mariska Hargitay, Marg Helgenberger, and Emily Procter solving crimes in tight-fitting slacks and clinging shell sweaters, a blazer thrown in if there’s a chill in the air. I don’t imagine many real-life female detectives rummage through their wardrobes to find these items when they are sent out on a case, not with the real-life chauvinists they have to work with constantly checking them out. But would men watch these shows otherwise? Picking apart a fake dead body holds just so much interest.
A recent sultry evening at a south Florida drive-in revealed even more. First of all, drive-ins are not what they used to be. The speakers plug into your car stereo and fill the space with so much surround sound, you can spend hours convinced there are other people hiding in the car with you. Strolling around, it was hard to find any rhythmically rocking cars like in the old days. Instead, enormous families screamed at each other in Spanish while passing around tubs of insect repellent.
The double feature that night was two movies about dating: Hitch, in which Will Smith coaches schlubby guys (most prominently Kevin James) to win the hearts and minds of supermodels (in this case, Amber Valletta), and The Wedding Date, in which Debra Messing hires a male escort (who only escorts women) to fly with her to London and convince her family that, though publicly jilted by a previous boyfriend, she has been able to land a prince of a guy, and in record time.
I yearned for these movies to be gay. I wanted Will to tell me what it takes for a fat guy to nail Marcus Schenkenberg (especially Marcus, since he’s straight and used to date Pamela Anderson). I wanted to bring home a hustler, just like Debra did, and convince my family we were heading to Boston for a big fat clambake gay wedding.
And they say gay people live in a world of adolescent fantasy. Honey, straight people built that theme park.