How the much talked-about Fire Island communalizes homosexuality!

Incredibly, Fire Island claims to be based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. I am sure Jane Austen would find it very difficult to recognize her characters in this sizzling cauldron of locked-down lust in a revelry that exists from dawn to dust.

Subhash K Jha September 20, 2022 13:20:42 IST
How the much talked-about Fire Island communalizes homosexuality!

A still from Fire Island

Some of the finest films on the LGBTQ community have been same-sex love stories, where the gender of the lovers ceased to matter. Call Me By Your Name and Ammonite are two examples of films about same-sex lovers that conveyed a universal truth about love.

The much talked-about Fire Island, available on HULU, swings the other way. It is a fiercely  ‘gay’ film, created by members of the gay community for the gay community. The attitude, jokes, and viewpoint are all homosexual, so that an outsider, meaning a heterosexual, feels exactly that: like an outside noseying in on lives that seem designed for unabashed hedonism.

Just as the protagonists deep-dive into a weeklong vacation on an island reserved for homosexuals, this film too precludes non-gay audiences from its embrace of fun and sex…Not that we see much sex in the film. Strange, how chaste writer-director Andrew Ahn (I much prefer his previous film Driveways) keeps the proceedings in a film devoted to waist level enjoyment.

Incredibly, Fire Island claims to be based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. I am sure Jane Austen would find it very difficult to recognize her characters in this sizzling cauldron of locked-down lust in a revelry that exists from dawn to dust.

For sure, the film communicates a contagious joie de vivre. The characters are on the island to have fun, and they won’t let go a single moment of opportunity to sink into the seductive sun. There is a lot of talk about burning the dance floor with a partner for the night. But  somehow, much of it seems more like provocative talk than an invitation for carnal pleasure.

In fact, the film’s two protagonists, Noah (Joel Kim Booster) and Howie (Bowen Yang), are not  into sex binging on the island. Howie wants to remain un-sexed until Noah finds someone to  have sex with. This kind of utterly infantile sexual passion is extended into a film that could have addressed the problems that the gay community faces when herded together  according to their sexual preference.

Fire Island blatantly communalizes the gay community, makes them ruthlessly removed from the mainstream. This, we are supposed to believe, is a means to augment the community’s sexual identity. The more marginalized it makes itself, the more it will preserve its identity. This is the logic that is used in the radicalization of any persecuted community. It is  dangerous and uncalled-for.

More than the lack of focus in the storytelling (Jane Austen indeed!), it is the frivolity of the  goings-on that gets you. At one point, during the clannish shenanigans of the film’s unmemorable characters, one of the characters gets hit on the nose by someone’s hand. This is supposed to be a dramatic highpoint in a plot that doesn’t seem motivated by the low and high ebb of the ocean that it inhabits.

Fire Island remains blissfully skin-deep in its exploration of the hurt and hurdles that the gay community faces every day. It’s like the whole community is on an all-expenses paid vacation. Reality can go, take a rain-check.

Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.

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