A Bigger, Hairier Rom-Com

Jul 19 2012 @ 1:05pm

Tomorrow is the premiere of "Bear City 2," an envelope-pushing sequel to a movie that combined Sex In the City dialogue with back-hair and bellies. No, it's not porn. It's a familar romantic comedy any adult can enjoy. Full disclosure: Aaron's in it. Provincetown is the star. Hence my review. Here's the trailer:

If you want an intro to bear culture, you cannot really beat it. But what struck me about the movie – more than its predecessor – is its mainstream romantic comedy structure. It's not gay-funny; it's just funny. And oddly moving. It has characters you actually come to care about a bit; and it's one of the first movies to explore what marriage equality is doing to gay culture. The cast has some classic comedy actors in it – Kevin Smith, Kathy Najimy, Richard Riehle – and some great dramatic actors in it (marital modesty forbids my gushing any further). At Bear Week here in Provincetown, it was a huge hit. Its Facebook page is here.

Speaking of Bear Week, it's now arguably the biggest week in Ptown's summer. When I first wrote about bears in Salon in 2003, it was a nascent sub-sub-culture. It's now fully matured, its waistline thickening, its chest hair poking aggressively above the collar. And one reason is simply demographic. We are really experiencing the first gay generation to hit their forties and fifties since the AIDS epidemic and the revolution in gay life that has followed. Bears are simply a recognition of this demographic fact – that gay men in middle age really don't want to stay in Magic Mike shape. It's exhausting. And unnecessary – because there are all sorts for all kinds of guy. James Collard, a former editor of Out magazine and a former "skinny, pretty boy" with a "26-inch waist," describes how he embraced his transformation from twink to bear:

[N]ow, at 48, I look like a bear — bearded, on the butch side, possibly, but certainly on the burly side. Cheekbones? It sometimes seems to me that my face has so filled out as to be almost round, like a medicine ball. And if, until now, I haven’t identified as a bear, lately I have come to realize that if I retain any sex appeal at all today, any remnant of pulling power, it’s as a bear. To be a bear, in other words, and go to bear clubs, might just be my last play of the dice, my last half-decent hand in life’s great game.

His peroration: "It’s better, surely, to accept aging than to fight it and end up as some high-maintenance-but-faded simulacrum of one’s younger self." Exactly. And you can now enjoy a self-deprecating rom-com about the whole business as well.