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The ’80s may have been the decade when AIDS became part of the American landscape, but it was also the decade when being bi became a trendy social stance, at least along the Los Angeles/New York City axis. But when it came to seeing that trend on the big screen, L.A. got the short end of the stick with the neutered Less Than Zero, whereas Manhattan got the hottest lesbian sex scene on either side of the Mississippi when Susan Sarandon went sapphic with French sex goddess Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger. Years before vampire chic invaded every last corner of the culture, director Tony Scott had already laid the cinematic groundwork that seeps through to this day: dark and moody lighting, goth rock from Bauhaus, sunglasses at night and a heavy touch with the mascara. It was sold as ”sensual” and ”perverse” purely because there was lesbian sex. But it was hot lesbian sex, as hyper-eroticized and unrealistic as any straight sex scene on screen. Who cares if the ending doesn’t make much sense? By that point, Deneuve’s seductive presence had already satisfied a hunger audiences were just realizing they had. –SB
The late ’80s and early ’90s were among the most dire years for gay men as AIDS tore away so many from the community’s fabric. For many, it seemed odd that gay men would want to laugh in the face of an epidemic, would desire to show the world the difference between the too-common AIDS ”joke” and the uncommon AIDS comedy. Enter playwright and screenwriter Paul Rudnick, whose stage play Jeffrey broke that barrier by taking a particularly acerbic and silly look at gay dating in the age of an epidemic. The film’s origin on the stage shows through, despite attempts to open it up. But Rudnick was happy to have fun playing meta, even making a joke at the expense of the audience he knew would be shocked by an on-screen man-to-man kiss. And he had a great cast to play with: Patrick Stewart prancing merrily out of his Star Trek captain’s chair; Steven Weber cashing in his then-current straight cachet to play the lovelorn title character; and a pre-Mad Men Bryan Batt as the wildly dim but always perky Cats dancer. Between Jeffrey and In and Out, Rudnick managed to show America that not every story about gay men had be about either death or wild sex. It was a much-needed cinematic service. –SB
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