I rarely watch American gay cinema anymore. Most films in this genre fall into the nothing but second-rate, trying hard copy cats of the Gregg Araki variety -- which I have discussed in more detail in my review of Hey, Happy -- or fail to do anything creative and give us made-for-cable-television out-of-the-box ready-made plots. The last two films, Save Me and Rock Haven, that I watched, I actually enjoyed perhaps because they were different and they related to books I happened to be reading regarding gay identity and religiosity.
With that preface, I somehow put The Curiosity of Chance into my netflix.com queue six months ago and forgot about it. I found the movie poster curious and the description of a 1980s set high school student coping with being the only openly gay student at school was also interesting. Netflix synopsized the movie as follows:
John Hughes meets John Waters in this offbeat comedy set in the 1980s. Tired of dealing with the homophobic school bully, out-of-the-closet teen Chance Marquis (Tad Hilgenbrinck) enlists two disparate friends -- a flashy drag queen and the hunky school jock -- to help him crush his tormentor. A favorite on the festival circuit, this quirky film co-stars Brett Chukerman, Aldevina Da Silva, Pieter Van Nieuwenhuyze and Chris Mulkey.There were mixed reviews on netflix -- some accusing it of corny "after school special"ism and others loving it. I myself enjoyed the "after school specials" when I was a child so I decided to get it.
The movie is geered toward younger people (like the under 40 crowd). The movie involves the development of the main character, Chance, including his foray into the drag scene. There are a few scenes that I think go a little overboard presenting American high school life but overall, the movie accurately portrayed the experience of a out teenager in an American high school in the 1980s and 1990s.
One of the things it is able to portray convincingly is the sort of cocky sass that young out gay teenagers (when they are the only or one of few) in an American high school have to create in order to protect themselves from harm. When I was in high school, there were no other openly gay students -- some really effeminate baklas but they claimed they were straight! One of the limits of this "protective" attitude though is that it also has/had the tendency to alienate and limit the ability to make connections and relations with some people.
In my second to last year in high school, I participated in "Friendship Day" where a "friend" would get a Hersey's chocolate kiss in exchange for a kiss on the lips. Naturally, all of my female friends had no hesitation in participating and it was interesting that almost all of the males in my class (that I wanted to kiss me) ended up finding the courage, even if it was during a class period in the stairwell on a bathroom pass, to kiss me for a Hersey's kiss. Yet, when the last year of high school started (and I was out), I don't recall participating in "Friendship Day," in part because I had drawn a line in the sand that no other boy wanted to or was able to cross.
At the beginning of the year, I had developed a quick tongue and would turn every homophobic joke into a cloud of suspicion over the head of the guy making the joke. I remember walking to the bathroom once and this one guy yelled: "[my name] likes it up the ass." I turned around and looked at his friends and said, "I thought we agreed last night that we wouldn't talk about sex at school. I don't want to give anyone any ideas about how well you suck cock." A couple of those encounters and it stopped. Yet, that became the iron wall between me and "the guys."
This movie depicts the dynamic of how insecurities with gender and sexuality (among everyone involved) in adolescence end up pushing people away from each other instead of drawing them together and it shows how that centripedal force can be overcome in a humorous way.