About a month ago, Tisch filmmaker Blake Pruitt released a short documentary film called 20MALEGAYNYC. As the title implies, it explores the experience of living as a young gay male in the zeitgeist of New York City. The documentary is itself comprised of interviews with ten men. Because of the striking honesty, and sometimes controversial revelations of the film’s participants, it has garnered a great deal of attention in the blogosphere. The film has been mentioned on Thought Catalog, Reddit, and the Advocate, among others. We recently caught up with Pruitt to discuss his perspective on the troubling implications of the film’s content.
Pruitt says what originally spawned the film was that he “[noticed] that all of my friends or guys I’ve dated, pretty much every gay guy I know has at one point or another said ‘I hate gay guys.’” This would seem to be indicative of the film’s content entirely; the majority of the rhetoric expressed was steeped in negativity and resentment. The men repeatedly express their disillusionment with gay men and the “gay community” at large.
When we asked Pruitt where he thought this disillusionment is derived from he said, “For me at least it’s hard to define what a gay community is or what that means.” He elaborated that because gay men are often isolated by their sexuality, “when you get to college the idea of having a lot of gay friends is weird to [some] people.”
Something that also recurs in the film is the vehement rejection on the part of the “stereotypical gay guy.” Though there is never a complete painted portrait of what this might be, if one pieces together what the guys in the film say, it sounds like they are referring archetype of a gay male who is vapid, feminine, buff, and painfully superficial.
In the opinion of Pruitt, the reason for distancing one’s self from this image is because gay men “want to be seen by people outside the community as being outside the stereotype.” He observes that there is a “desire to seem like the ‘different gay guy,'” but ultimately, “by trying to distance ourselves from what I see as the stereotype of a gay man, we’re just perpetuating those stereotypes more”.
The film also had a troubling undercurrent of distrust by its participants of other gay men. There seems to be an endemic tendency to write each other off in some way. It’s what one of the film’s participant’s termed “irrational hatred” between gay men. We asked Pruitt to what extent he thought this anxiety over stereotypes had to do with a tendency for gay men to go against each other in this way; he said, “when a gay man sees another young gay man acting in a way that they view as stereotypical, they’re a part of that you’re ruining it for [the rest of] us.”
Wouldn’t the desire to disprove stereotypes lead us to be united in struggle against them instead of becoming hateful and disparate? Pruitt explains, “We do have similar struggles and we do have shared experiences,” but that with the pervasive presence of these stereotypes among gay men, there are “expectations of how you should act, [which] makes it harder.”
It would seem that the presence of these complicated “expectations” have indeed begun to errode the “gay community,” making it more intangible and remote. In the film the idea of other gay men as a support structure is referred to as “unnecessary“ or outmoded. Says Pruitt: “A lot of people would call themselves gay men, but don’t necessarily say ‘I’m a part of a gay community.’” He says if you put “gay men in a room together, the only thing they have [in common] is being interested in men and there’s no need to force [anything more].”
So it seems like as gay men of twenty living in New York we are collectively caught in a confusing moment of gloom and divergence under the weight of the endemic self hatred that these stereotypes breed. Perhaps it is true that in a climate of growing acceptance there is less need for gay males to build protective structures in the form of communities around their sexuality. However, if the community as a whole could discard the notion that there is a collective image and instead approached one another as individuals, there might be less of the endemic alienation that is expressed in Pruitt’s film.