Yesterday I went clothes shopping with my office crush, who has a terrific sense of style. Afterwards we came back to my apartment to have fondue. I discovered to my horror that he had never seen Auntie Mame. I put this down to youth and inexperience on his part rather than an insurmountable character flaw (he is 22though perhaps being 22 is an insurmountable character flaw in itself) and rushed out to rent it. To his credit, he fell in love with it immediately.
Now we just have to work on his falling in love with me.
This little drama in turn put me in mind of a former student of mine, who at age fifteen went around saying things like, “My last ex-boyfriend and I blah blah blah.” I was delighted that the world has changed so much as to allow adolescents to experience and own their sexuality so openly; I was dismayed, however, to learn that the trade-off for this, at least in his case, was that he had never heard of Dorothy Parker.
My theory is that, as gay people are coming out younger and are finding more societal acceptance, they don’t need to turn as much to older mentors for emotional support, which in the past has always also come with an introduction to the canon of gay culture and history. It is of course wonderful that kids today have an easier time being gay, but it’s sad that something is being lost as well.
On the eve of gay middle age (I turn 30 a week from today), I am in a mood to tilt at windmills. Therefore I have compiled a thoroughly subjective and not at all comprehensive list of required reading/viewing/listening for all gay men, in particular gay men 25 and under. When options are given, you get extra credit for exploring all choices.
I’ve left out anything that everybody today seems to be current with (Will & Grace, David Sedaris, etc.). The inclusion of a person or work on this list is not an indication that I approvemerely that I think he/she/it occupies an important place in our cultural history. The list entries are in no particular order.
SYLLABUS, GAY 101
The Boys in the Band or Torch Song Trilogy
My Beautiful Laundrette
Mommie Dearest or Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
The Wizard of Oz
the Lucia books of E.F. Benson (there are six but you can start with this one)
The Lord Won’t Mind by Gordon Merrick or Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Tales of the City and all its sequels, by Armistead Maupin
any book by Mary Renault (though this one is particularly delectable)
the plays of Oscar Wilde (especially The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere’s Fan)
The Village People (“YMCA” or “In the Navy”)
Barbra Streisand (all movies and recordings) or Bette Midler (all movies and recordings)
Gloria Gaynor (“I Will Survive”) or The Weather Girls (“It’s Raining Men”)
The Pet Shop Boys or Erasure or The Smiths
the International Male catalogue
Tom of Finland
Provincetown or Fire Island or Key West
I’m sure I’ve left off dozens of vital things that should have been included. Please forgive me. Because I thought the most important thing was to get the list out as soon as possible.
Before Alzheimer’s sets in.
You forgot Grey Gardens!
Oh, you need to add an end italics tag somewhere in there, btw.
Oh my fricken gawd, I love The Women!! Such a damn awesome movie…
UMM HELLO MYRA BRECKENRIDGE? ANYONE?
Sorry to shout, I just feel this is too important.
Naturally, Myra Breckinridge must be there too. Grey Gardens is unknown to me, a situation I will remedy posthaste.
Are the italics fixed? My computer never shows me.
Queer As Folk, bien sur (the UK version – I can’t vouch for the US version as I haven’t seen it!)
Ok, I’m 27 and I’ve never seen Auntie Mame. Nor do I particularly want to. I’ve also never seen The Boys in the Band, My Beautiful Laundrette, Baby Jane or Brideshead Revisited (though 2 of these are on my list), and I’ve never heard of Maurice.
The only book on that list I’ve read or care to read is Tales of the City (though I’ve read it and all the sequels twice, which must count for something).
And I hate Barbra Streisand and would rather have to have sex with a woman than sit through any of her films.
Please don’t disown me.
Hmmm never seen Auntie Mame, seen BITB and TST, no to My Beautiful Laundrette, yes to Mommie Dearest and Baby Jame, no Brideshead, yes to Wizard, no to women, yes to Maurice and Jeffrey…Barbra Streisand can suck on my left toe before I’ll own any of her recordings the self-righteous pompous bitch that she is…
i think you should throw dead or alive in here too.
and whatta bout liza and eartha kitt?
First of all, happy early birthday. Second of all, I’m 33. Does this mean I am so ancient that I probably qualify for GayARP?
Thirdly, how about “A Boy’s Own Story” by Edmund White? Sadly, I’m striking out on most of the required reading/listening, though I’ve seen most of those movies. I haven’t, however, seen “The Wizard of Oz.”
Personally, I’m just happy your “Z” seems to be working (“Alzheimer’s) …
For the Barbra-haters (you know who you are), that’s why there’s a choice between her and Bette.
You can test out of the “Divas Beginning With B” requirement by performing “Vogue” for the rest of the class, though. Extra credit will also be awarded for knowing all the lyrics to “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” And/or having slept with Andrew Sullivan.
I feel like never having seen Wizard of Oz is just downright un-American, whatever your sexual orientation!
As long as people are making suggestions, how about the books of Stephen McCauley and the films of John Waters (not to mention his brilliant guest spot on The Simpsons)?
wait wait wait.
where’s “dancer from the dance” by andrew holleran?
Edmund White under authors, and extra points for knowing better than to reference Andrew Sullivan. and commenters #6 & 7 seem to prove your point rather succinctly, now don’t they. Oh, and Bronski Beat, Culture Club, in the context of Thatcher’s Clause 28 Britain?
I don’t think I prove his point at all. For one thing I’m over 25. For another, I’m quite well-versed in gay history and culture. I just hate the idea of a list of things that are “required” for gayness. I mean, what’s so gay about Barbra Streisand anyway? She’s a straight woman for god’s sake! (Bette I get, the whole bathhouse thing).
My point is this: Not liking Auntie Mame doesn’t make me a bad homosexual. Sleeping with women would make me a bad homosexual.
May I make a contribution……..?
A Star is Born – La Streisand
Hippy Birpday! x
i caught your blog on nycbloggers.com. I’ve spent (wasted?) my last two days at work reading your entire archives. A little odd, I admit, but it’s been slow.
I must say, however, that you’ve committed a grave error in your listing of movies every young gay person should see. As a 24 year old, I sort of missed that spot where high school teens could be open, so I became well-versed with gay lore. Your decision to say that a gay youth must see “The Boys in the Band” or “Torch Song Trilogy” is setting a terrible example. A gay youth should see both movies.
Shame on you.