I’m no longer your Gay Best Friend – how popular culture moved on from the gay sidekick

Picture the scene: boy meets woman, woman flirts with boy, boy tells woman he’s extra into Adam than Eve. It’s a waste, she says, all of the adorable boys are homosexual. Hang on regardless that – she’s all the time sought after a Gay Best Friend.

Back within the 90s and noughties, that narrative used to be ubiquitous in genuine existence and popular culture. I all the time with courtesy declined when introduced the condescending GBF position, yet fictional characters are on the mercy in their creators.

Tina Fey will get it, for essentially the most phase. Just have a look at her 2004 masterpiece Mean Girls. If you put aside Janis’s problematic “too gay to function” line – which Daniel Franzese, the actor at the back of homosexual child Damian, has published he loathes – Fey’s wonderful pop-culture phenomenon is fetch in its software of the trope. The coming-of-age comedy precipitated a seismic shift in the best way audiences interacted with queer characters – unexpectedly, other people have been guffawing with and no longer at them.

Daniel Franzese as Damian and Lizzy Caplan and Janis in Mean Girls
(Photo: Getty)

Damian additionally gave 20-year-old me – and numerous others – the braveness to undertaking from the cold depths of Narnia, despite the fact that it unfortunately took a petrified Franzese an extra 10 years yet to come out himself.

No gay sidekick earlier than Damian had made such an have an effect on at the LGBTQ+ neighborhood, with maximum tending to fortify clichés about queer guys. Usually some offensive take at the oversimplified drama queen, the GBF used to be infrequently sketched with any intensity. One of the ladies yet certainly not, his personal obscure ups and downs have been doomed to play out off display as he dished out love and type recommendation to some other arguable stereotype: the romance-obsessed lady.

More on Pride

Think Christian (Justin Walker) in 1995 youngster comedy Clueless, who Cher first of all has no thought is a “disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand ticket-holding friend of Dorothy”. Or assume Jack (Sean Hayes) in Will & Grace, which aired between 1998 and 2006 earlier than returning in 2020. He’s the quintessential diva subsequent door, entire with bible-thick little black ebook and a screech that would take down the Shard.

And who may just disregard garishly dressed Stanny (the past due Willie Garston) and bitchy Anthony Marantino (Mario Cantone), respective GBFs to Sex and the City’s Carrie and Charlotte. The frenemies would possibly get their very own happy-ever-after within the 2008 and 2010 SATC motion pictures (spoiler alert: the wedding falls aside within the display’s 2021 reboot And Just Like That), however the authentic 1998-2004 collection reduces them to this season’s must-haves along Birkins and Blahniks.

A handful of pre-Damianite homosexual besties did destroy the mildew in a method or some other, even supposing their movies and collection didn’t protected a Mean Girls-esque queer afterlife. Take 1994’s Reality Bites. Although the slick romcom denies Sammy (Steve Zahn) truthful display time, the OG homosexual best possible good friend is untypically portrayed as candy reasonably than sassy, and – look forward to it – he’s celibate. What are the possibilities?

Then there’s My So-Called Life, which aired the similar yr. While a one-season surprise, the teenager drama collection is steadily cited as a cult vintage, partially since the position of queer youngster Rickie used to be performed by means of Wilson Cruz, an brazenly homosexual Puerto Rican actor, which used to be a large deal within the 90s.

With Mean Girls, Tina Fey despatched a transparent message to screenwriters: do higher. Some did, gifting us with the likes of Schitt’s Creek’s – cue Moira’s strange mid-Atlantic accessory – Daviiiiiid (Dan Levy). The former spoiled wealthy child is a superbly advanced onion, whose relationships with a disparate bunch of family and friends are as well-rounded as maximum real-life relationships.

Levy additional subverts expectancies in 2020 festive flick Happiest Season, the place he portrays John, homosexual best possible good friend to queer protagonist Abby. Such an onscreen friendship is infinitely extra convincing than the homosexual guy surrounded completely by means of directly gals, which 90s and noughties titles would have us imagine is the norm.

Although we will have to rejoice Happiest Season going in opposition to the grain to position a queer feminine persona entrance and centre, her GBF is as soon as once more male. Where such movies steadily – to various levels – scale back the queer guy to a stereotype, they normally erase the queer lady altogether. Coincidence or masterclass in misogyny? 

Daniel Levy and Kristen Stewart in Happiest Season (Photo: Hulu)

Cut to 2022, and the trope is starting to wane because the business thankfully wakes as much as the truth that their loved GBF is lovely poisonous. Even characters like romper-clad Donny (Brandon Scott Jones) in knowingly trope-tastic romcom parody Isn’t It Romantic, crafted to spotlight the stereotype’s dehumanising nature, can do extra hurt than just right.

Might this transformation be all the way down to the choice of queer writers to constitute human relationships as it should be? Jack Rooke indubitably thinks so, which is why his daft-but-deep Channel 4 comedy collection Big Boys cleverly spotlights a significant straight-gay friendship.

Dylan Llewellyn (“the wee gay fella” from Derry Girls) performs a semi-fictionalised model of Jack, a homosexual journalism pupil coming to phrases with the dying of his cabbie dad. He’s joined by means of Jon Pointing (of Plebs status), who seems as Danny, a directly man suffering along with his psychological well being. The duo don’t struggle for consideration and they’ve one some other’s backs. It’s beautiful.

“The gay best pal trope can be written quite badly,” Rooke tells me, “because it’s written by someone with a 2D view of what gay life is or what queer characters can be. I think I’ve tried with Big Boys to always be turning tropes on their head in a way I hope is refreshing but mostly just funny and representing real life.”

Big Boys builds at the trope-flipping we’ve witnessed over the last few years, particularly in a rising collection of queer Young Adult titles. Quasi-retro Netflix collection Sex Education kicked off the craze in 2019 with a friendship between directly high-school misfit Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), who’s homosexual. Their dynamic begins off scarily GBF-adjacent earlier than it strikes into extra revolutionary territory, the place each characters get room to polish.

Hot on Sex Ed’s heels the next yr used to be Love, Victor, a Hulu collection set in the similar universe as 2018 romcom Love, Simon. This delicate effort surveys the queer youngster enjoy with true empathy, and despite the fact that the eponymous Victor (Michael Cimino) falls sufferer to homophobia, the high-schooler is supported by means of directly best possible mate Felix (Anthony Turpel), and unearths an eventual best friend in basketball teammate Andrew (Mason Gooding).

More just lately, as regards to everybody – even the hole tin-chested amongst us – fell in love with the achingly candy Netflix triumph Heartstopper, in accordance with Alice Oseman’s graphic novel collection of the similar identify. A romance blossoms between out-and-proud child Charlie (Joe Locke) and sexually puzzled rugby lad Nick (Kit Connor), yet we’re warmed too by means of the bond between Charlie and his fiercely protecting SBM Tao (William Gao).

In the long run, we’re sure to look increasingly queer writers dominate LGBTQ+ storytelling, this means that illustration will have to best support. Even if directly writers do create homosexual characters in years yet to come, I believe they’ll keep more true to existence than their forerunners by means of sculpting the following Danny or Tao.

As Rooke says, “A lot of straight people nowadays see themselves as allies and think that homophobic jokes or sentiments are both lame and just unfunny. The homophobes have never been good at writing jokes. They’re too busy being basic pricks.”

Big Boys’ is now to be had to look at on All 4 and ‘Sex Education’ and ‘Heartstopper’ are on Netflix

Leave a Comment