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The Boys in the Band Controversy: An Explanation of The Homophobia Controversy!

Why is Netflix’s The Boys in the Band facing a homophobic scandal since it is based on a landmark work of gay theatre?

Is it surprising that a play with an all-gay cast, like The Boys in the Band, would be met with homophobic backlash, given that it is based on a seminal work of queer theatre? The Boys in the Band, now available on Netflix, is based on the smash hit musical of the same name that ran on Broadway.

The film follows Michael, a lonely elderly homosexual man, as he gathers his group of friends to celebrate the birthday of their closest buddy, only to have the party interrupted by an unexpected figure from his past. The film features the original cast from the play’s 2018 revival.

The film and its original play, in particular, have been accused of homophobia by certain critics, despite being a watershed event for LGBTQ+ representation. The original play caused quite a stir when it was released, and some people have used it as fodder for their complaints about the play’s supposed homophobia.

Critics panned the play for relying on stereotypes of the so-called “gay experience” and for the moral ambiguity of characters like The Boys in the Band’s antihero Michael but agreed that the play was notable for featuring an ensemble cast of gay characters and for centering its story around their lives.

boy in a band controversy

The first claim falls apart under investigation and may place an unfair burden on LGBT characters and writers, while the second complaint has more merit and raises a more nuanced topic for theatergoers and moviegoers alike.

There is clearly cause for alarm given the film’s brazen use of harmful, deplorable homophobic rhetoric, but the issue surrounding the film should be put to rest.

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Some reviewers of The Boys in the Band have pointed out that the characters are flawed and morally grey, which is one reason why they didn’t like the film. The characters in The Boys in the Band are typically caustic, self-centered, backstabbing, and heartless towards one another, and this is even more apparent in the play’s delayed 2002 sequel The Men from the Boys.

The play implies that the characters’ problems are the result of society’s cold, heartless rejection of these men, thus while they may feel outmoded and often unpleasant to watch for current spectators, it is crucial to recognize that this is the case.

After being stigmatized and persecuted for so long, they may try to build their own group, but they will always carry the homophobia they’ve experienced. The characters in The Boys in the Band can be trying for the audience and for each other at times.

boy in a band controversy

However, it is not the role of the LGBT characters to make modern audiences feel at ease. As challenging as it is to see the characters in The Boys in the Band harshly criticise one other, the spectator is urged to consider how much more so it must be for them to learn to love themselves in a world that doesn’t welcome them.

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The Boys in the Band’s morally ambiguous characters are an asset, not a flaw; they serve to show that LGBT characters don’t have to be flawless, charming, or especially nice in order to “deserve” audience sympathy and understanding.

However, to be fair to those who have criticized both the play and its adaptations, there is another prevalent complaint that labels The Boys in the Band as homophobic. Since many of the characters in The Boys in the Band are caricatures of cliched gay clichés, the accusation that the film contributes to perpetuating those preconceptions is not completely without merit.

Nothing wrong with a play about LGBTQ culture that embraces camp comedy, especially in an era when Hollywood continues to bait and short-sell LGBT characters. Some viewers may be turned off by The Boys in the Band because it portrays homosexual men as (mostly, but not exclusively) petty urban dilettantes.

When weighing this critique, however, it’s important to keep in mind that The Boys in the Band was created at a period when certain tropes weren’t widely accepted and that the story’s protagonists weren’t meant to symbolize the whole LGBTQ+ community but rather a tiny subset of it.

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