WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
A visitor turns an evening upside down when he interrupts a gathering of gay men in New York City in 1968.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
"Who was it that always used to say, 'Show me a happy homosexual and I'll show you a gay corpse'," an emotionally exhausted Michael (Jim Parsons) says as he collapses into the comforting arms of Donald (Matt Bomer).
The fun birthday celebration he had planned for Harold (Zachary Quinto) had not only turned into a violent clash with a homophobic stranger, but also a feverous fight between friends.
Michael adds: "If we could just not hate ourselves so much. That's it you know. If we could just learn not to hate ourselves quite so very much."
The words from the 2020 film adaptation of The Boys in the Band, based on the play of the same name by Mart Crowley, ring as true today as they did when they were first put to paper in 1968.
As I watched the scene unfold with tenderness and raw honesty, somewhere inside me, I felt the slightest sigh of relief.
I was not alone.
For almost 24 years, I had pretended to be someone I was not to appease the demands of what society wanted a man to be. I had truly never hated myself more. I had constructed an exterior shell of a person that resembled a stranger more than it did my true self.
The alternative was unsafe, unwelcome and, honestly, unimaginable.
Self-deprecation was my way of bowing to a world that deemed me too effeminate, too soft, too gentle, too gay. I'd rather be cruel to myself than give that power or control to anonymous figures who give disapproving looks in passing or whisper with dissatisfaction behind the palms of their hands.
When American screenwriter, director, and producer Ryan Murphy revived the play in 2018 for Broadway with an entirely openly gay cast of actors, I so desperately wanted to watch it. I wanted to experience in some way a part of this important historical piece of gay history.
"There are certain historical things that are part of your social DNA, and you can be a better version of who you are by knowing what came before," Jim states perfectly in an interview in the after-film The Boys in the Band: Something Personal (which is also available to screen on Netflix).
But New York City wasn't on the cards.
Then, in 2019, Ryan confirmed that he had signed a multi-million-dollar deal with Netflix and would bring the production to the streaming service with the cast reprising their roles and with director Joe Mantello at the helm.
On the last day of September 2020, on a Wednesday afternoon, it arrived. Like a birthday gift and cake.
There were Jim, Zachary and Matt. Andrew Rannells (Larry), Charlie Carver (Cowboy), and Robin de Jesús (Emory). Brian Hutchison (Alan), Michael Benjamin Washington (Bernard), and Tuc Watkins (Hank) in my living room talking about it.
Everything I've thought, felt, knew, and at times wondered about. They have also heard the "as long as they don't do it in public" comments. They know about the looks. The slurs. The shame for loving who you want to love.
Here they were on the biggest streaming platform in the world being unapologetically themselves. Open. Brave. Proud.
To Ryan and the boys, thank you. To Netflix, thank you.
To my younger self, look.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: