Anyone who knows me will tell you that no Sunday at my house is complete without enjoying a Mark Wahlberg film. This Sunday, I was sitting back with my coffee and stuffed dog, Mariah, when along came something remarkably uncharacteristic of my Mark Wahlberg stories. A gay person!
The 1990s was a murky period for visibility of the queer man. You couldn’t throw a clog without hitting a lesbian thanks to Sharon Stone and the country’s innate enjoyment of girl on girl action. RuPaul and To Wong Foo... moved mountains for the drag community, but if you wanted to see two men living happily ever after, you were shit out of luck.
We gay kids of the '90s did have the Bravo network to keep us warm. I owe my sexual awakening to Bravo for their repeated airings of My Own Private Idaho (not to mention the hours of Twin Peaks reruns, Sondheim musicals and SRO Patti LuPone concerts).
There was a flickering moment of gay representation in My So Called Life, the short-lived but nonetheless iconic and perfect ABC series that featured an art fag named Rickie Vasquez coming to terms with life in the ‘90s as an “other,” but I wasn’t ready to receive it. I had far too much internalized homophobia in my teens and only saw myself in Claire Danes, not in Rickie. That took years for me to get over.
Growing up, I didn’t want to be a persecuted minority, I wanted to be a gay vampire – or at least Michael Stipe.
I was the pretentious white kid going to Julianna Hatfield/Jeff Buckley concerts with my best girls. I was the sensitive kid spending my lunch hours in the darkroom developing pictures and listening to Tori Amos on the walkman I’d steal from momma’s workout bag. I wore vintage suspenders with Gap pants and tucked my hair behind my ears when I was just too overcome with feelings.I was the gay kid from Fear (1996).
Unlike all the women in Fear, Gay Gary is immune to Marky Mark’s abs and wooden delivery. He seems to be the only one countering this film’s central thesis that women want men who beat them up and treat them like meat. He questions that Marky Mark should still be a box office draw despite having blinded an Asian man in the 80s. Therefore, Gary has to die.
The fact that he’s gay makes it alright for him to be the sole casualty in the film. He chose his lifestyle, right? Ugh.
Fear continues in a long line of horror movies (Bride of Chucky, Savage Weekend) progressive enough to have a gay companion to its final girl, but regressive in its ultimate treatment of said gay. The family is far more distraught over the death of their dog than they are over the death of Gary.
Gays die, their best friends move on almost instantly. No big.
Without Gay Gary, Fear would be just another Lifetime made-for-TV movie about a teenage girl in peril learning to love her dad. I'm still alive today because, unlike Gary, I knew when to stay out of my girlfriend’s business! If my girl was hauling her friends across town to get finger banged by some guy from Southie, I said I had “rehearsal” which was code for going home alone and acting out my one-man production of a teenage gay boy pretending to be Bernadette Peter’s doing a British dialect in Song&Dance in my bedroom.
Let this be a lesson, boys. Take care of yourselves! She’ll keep going back to him and you’ll wind up dead in the woods some place.
(Horror Nerd Alert: Gary is played by Todd Caldecott who was shirtless and speared through the chest in the beginning of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Holla!)