In my day, during the it’s-cool-to-call-people-faggot 1980s, coming out meant all kinds of nasty potential ramifications. Mothers weeping crumpled in bedroom corners. Fathers disowning daughters, kicking them out to wander the urban night. These scenarios still play out, of course, though over all it seems, if we look at media representation and perhaps anecdotal evidence from our own, or our friends’, lives, that coming out is less and less a life-destroying event and more a self-celebrating event, a time to be affirmed as a valuable human being by one’s support network, whatever that may entail.
But is coming out so entirely banal now that cinema can show us a guy coming out to his friends as just another guy and hey they don’t have to treat him or see him any differently? Is that satisfying? Is that the dream? Some advanced stage of progress where we gays can butch it up in auto mechanic jobs and say with almost total confidence in our very average American Male voice that, hey, I’m gay. So yeah, see you at poker night.
Is that the dream? In Fourth Man Out, there flits through these friendships a spectre of disharmony, but it is comedic, mostly, and more of a gas to be passed than any legitimate pain. Somewhat douchey straight buddies make some jokes but don’t disown you. A slightly bumpy transition from inside to outside the closet, mostly ends with the usual proceedings as life goes on. Maybe your friends conspire to take you to your first gay dance bar experience. They might hook up with some straight lady friends there. The gay bar has something for everyone. Everyone goes home satisfied.
This is Coming Out 2.0 as portrayed by Fourth Man Out, a mostly comedic tale that played SIFF this year. (Note: encore screening on Saturday, June 6 at 2:30 pm at The Uptown).The odd, singular, quirky religionist lady makes a stink by making a cake. There is a montage of gay dating misfires, as you might expect. It’s all very Sim City.
Somehow it holds interest, and I think that might be because the script and lead actor strike the right tone with the main character, a blue-collar, somewhat confused, exhasperated, aware, prepared, unprepared, lonely, self-directed, low-drama, level-headed, bread-and-butter creation. He isn’t terribly angst ridden or doomed. He’s just an honest white American auto-mechanic male who wants to find a partner who just happens to match his crotch equipment, and so what? No big deal. Just an easy, sloe-eyed car guy here. Just a guy. No drama. I’ve never even seen a gay bar.
It is a nice dream. an escapist low-drama coming out story. Do we need such a thing? I think yes. Call it gay sci-fi. And as fluff, it can serve a purpose. Fluff with a clear moral code works well during wartime. Look at the propaganda cinema of World War 2 for examples of similar stories, where differences exist but ultimately everyone pulls for the same United States. We are still the targets of a culture war, folks. Fourth Man Out might be our feel good movie of the Summer to keep our spirits high while the war rages on.
Fourth Man Out tries to tell it how it thinks coming out should be at this stage of gay acceptance, 2015. Your own coming out journeys will no doubt differ. But is there any harm in watching one film that gives us a Frank Capra view of coming out in a small town with only minor conflict, easily overcome by a barbecue? Can’t we enjoy, guilt free, that dream, such as it is on screen? Just for a little while?
I am tired of being politicized by people who don’t even know me. It is tiring to wake up every day an instantly politically charged figure. Fourth Man Out smoothes the coming out adventure for an average white guy, and asks us to have a little grin and feel good about how not doomed he is. I had to consciously force myself to accept what the film was asking me to do: Keep the horrible realities of coming out in the back of your mind and share a few light laughs with us here in this mostly pleasant feather-lilt launch from the closet, landing softly on a pillow, all of it backed with acoustic guitar fingerpicking. Okay, I thought. I’ll do it. I’ll buy in. I’ll shelve my need for heavy conflict and meaningful, even jabby, tête-à-têtes between contrasting forces in a film, good vs evil, oppressed vs oppressor, whatever. I’ll just float and laugh a bit and wish life were just a little closer to the kind of easy portrayed in Fourth Man Out.
Maybe you should do. We gays deserve our Nora Ephron bits, too, don’t we? Discuss.
Meanwhile: Fourth Man Out, you’ve got mail.
Bonus Content: Some notes jotted whilst watching the film
girl: you’re hot
adam: you’re drunk
“I thought you had oddly high standards with women.”
“I do – they’d be dudes.”
the necessity of coming-out films in 2015?
come out to friends then fall down on bed to acoustic guitar
gay man surrounded by douches
straight eye for the queer guy
artfully placed beer bottles between legs
cliche dating personality-clash montage