“It’s really affirming for me as a gay Asian man to finally live in a society that has blockbuster hits with queer characters,” food writer Erik Kim told me over the phone. We chatted about LGBTQ representation in the media, which is at an all-time high. “There are teen dramas about normal teenage feelings, and the characters happen to be gay.” Here, Eric tells how nine movies and shows affected him, including Will & Grace, Brokeback Mountain and Schitt’s Creek …
Will & Grace (1998-2006)
“These days I see Will and Grace for comfort. But when I was a teenager, I did not see it as super related because they were all 30. I remember seeing two men kissing on screen, and my mother walked by and said, ‘Why are you seeing this ?!’ That was before I came out to her, so I had to hide what I saw. ”
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
“When I got a computer and the internet, I was able to see several things, like Brokeback Mountain. It felt cool to see homosexuals represented in such a literary way; it helped that it was Oscar busy and directed by Ang Lee and and written by Annie Proulx if history was in The New Yorker. But the film was just so tragic. When I saw Brokeback Mountain, it left a big black hole in my heart. I felt empty for weeks. Gustavo Santaolalla wrote a song for the movie called The Wings – it’s intense – and I listened to it over and over again and was crushed over things that had never happened to me. I had as much melancholy as a 16- and 17-year-old. “
Queer as Folk (2000-2005)
“This series was underground for gay kids, and I definitely saw it when my parents were asleep. It glamorized this very specific kind of gay club culture that I never ended up relating to or being a part of. There was a lot of hot “Homosexuality, but also a lot of HIV. As a child, I was a little scared; it did not make me feel excited about being gay.”
“I was in college when Glee came out. Some of the characters record stereotypes, but I related to Blaine Anderson. He was proud out there and it was nothing and he was the best singer and dancer. The actor is partly Filipino and also shorter, just like me.A lesson I learned from him was that it does not matter how tall you are or buff you are or how you look, but how you move in your body.It gave me so much self-confidence as a teenager.
“On the other hand, my partner recently told me that he was related to Blaine Anderson’s girlfriend character – Kurt. There’s not just one way to be gay, so it feels important to have multiple versions in the media. So long was it only one stereotype. But here you have two gay boys who grew up in Atlanta and we each related to one of the characters. So that’s pretty good! “
Call me by your name (2017)
“When CMBYN came out, I saw it again and again and again, but in a different way; it was just so beautiful. My ex hated it because he said, ‘What was the point? These are two beautiful boys running around Italy. But for me, there is something to be said for wonderful writing and no tragedy. It is representation that is not about death. It feels good to be represented the way other people are represented. That’s all anyone ever wants.
“CMBYN affected me as much as Brokeback Mountain, but in a more positive way. It was interesting to see how you could exist in your queerness under a shroud in a very dark way or in a very light way. I might be joking. Instagram, ‘Timothee Chalamet is hot and that’s why I thirst for him’ – but what really happens is that I see myself in Elio. Gay characters in the media are often overachieving and type A – there joke, there gays go really fast because they always have to arrive on time. But I loved that Elio was so uninhibited and wrapped up in his own art and mind and in touch with his emotions. “
Dear, Simon (2018)
“I roared in the theater – the whole theater roared – it was great to be a part of it. The film centers the upcoming story, but in a beautifully nuanced way. Many of us older gays swallow these gay teen dramas because we have not grown “We’m late to meet that mimesis. Seeing someone like me on screen would have saved me many years of heartache and the feeling of invisibility. We just got there a little late.”
Schitts Creek (2015-2020)
“I love Schitt’s Creek. The representation of queerness is amazing because it’s such a non-issue. I would watch a scene that’s a little cheesy, and think, ‘Oh, that’s embarrassing, but I’m so happy about it. that it’s there! ‘ “We have to have that cheesy wedding episode! I was sitting next to Dan Levy at Bar Pisellino and he was so sweet personally. I was like, what a sweet little man.”
Love, Victor (2020-today)
“Similarly, this is a shitty teenage drama, but it’s nice to have a shitty teenage drama that’s queer! Everything about Victor’s character is supposed to be something I relate to – queer, POC, immigrant family – but he’s painted with so wide lines and is also very hateful.There is an episode where he realizes he is the drama and it’s a great moment for the viewer because you like, yeah, you’re the bad guy! But the good thing is that there are many different kinds of gay characters. Lake first dates a boy, but then realizes that she may be bisexual, and the way she reveals it is so vulnerable – she goes from being the one who has all the answers to the one who questions things. Benji is the boyfriend who has a drinking problem; he’s the cold, soft, confident gay guy. The fool is Nick. Then there are the more femininely prominent gay characters. The diversity is great. “
The fire die (2022)
“I love that there are leading men who are gay and Asian, like Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang. I’m so glad young people have more voices out there; it’s beautiful. They’re both really funny and smart, and it’s cool to live in a world with them. ”
After an hour, Eric and I ended our call when an hour beeped a pasta recipe he was working on (of course!). Queer representation is a boon for the LBGTQ community and also for everyone everywhere. I’m so happy my little boys growing up watching these movies and series. “If I were to tell my 12-year-old self that in a few years you’ll see queer characters in blockbusters and dance down the street and listen to gay pop stars, I would not have believed myself,” Eric said … ” “You don’t want to see a guy in Brokeback Mountain being punched in the face with a tire because he was too gay. It’s nice to see queer people being themselves and being happy.”
Erik Kim is the author of Korean American: Food that tastes like home and one New York Times staff writer. He has also written Cup of Jo posts about first date meals,, save a dogand cooking with his mother. You can find him Instagram.
(Eric photo courtesy of his Instagramused with permission.)