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February brought a lot of thoughts to mind. In normal years, where the plague didn’t hold sway, romance would be in the air, and candy, flowers, and cards would be sold in great profusion. But in the Covid-19 era, things are a bit different. Also, add in the attempted coup at the beginning of January (note: due to deadlines, there may have been more, which is yet another sobering pitcher of water to throw on whatever embers one might be stoking up for February emotional displays), and everything feels atypically weird. So it’s not exactly the time for the usual approach to the Valentine’s Day experience.
It’s weird to try and put together a pantheon of queer romance at the cinema that isn’t plagued by a lot of footnotes. So many titles—landmarks in LGBTQIA+ representation and expression—end in tragedy of one sort or another. Brokeback Mountain is widely (and rightfully) considered a landmark in gay film, but its swoonworthy moments collide with its ending in a way that still resonates almost fifteen years after its release.
Last year’s exquisite Portrait of a Lady on Fire, despite the vibrant and visceral love story at its center, must end with the women at its heart separated by mores and era. And this, because of society (and things like the Hays Production Code), means that movies with happy endings for queer romances are a fairly recent thing in the history of cinema. Too often circumstances meant a tragic accident, murder, or suicide for one or both involved parties; or the substitution of a gay relationship for something more palatable to mainstream audiences, like murder (see: Strangers on A Train). But even as recently as 2004’s Troy, from gay director Wolfgang Petersen, the relationship of Achilles and Patroclus was changed from lovers to cousins.
There are some victories along the way, like the legendary Gilda, which is sultry and steeped in queer sexuality until about halfway through when the film decides it has to be about straight people and becomes tragically less enthralling, which is a suitable enough kind of gay victory for the ‘40s. Or when omnivorous bisexual jewel thief Laure manages to get away with the jewels, the husband’s money, and the girlfriend in Femme Fatale. Or that very special feeling of running into an ex and there’s still some romance there, but the time just isn’t right, so you wish them the best and find the morally ambiguous side piece that was always waiting for you to say ‘hey’ (Casablanca). Or when your kink is only being able to express your love for someone by compelling them to marry a Nazi and then periodically verbally degrading them for it (Notorious). There are lots of emotional textures that can resonate for queer viewers in all sorts of films.
Think about contemporary mainstream films that sort of do the same thing, but with modern techniques. Think about Wonder Woman, with its utopian space of Themyscira (which, first thing’s first, post-pandemic someone needs to open a lesbian bar called Themyscira) where men are canonically “essential for procreation but not for pleasure,” or whatever it is that 2 Fast 2 Furious is saying about dudes. Or Wild Zero, the rightfully legendary Japanese horror musical that posits a simultaneous zombie apocalypse/alien invasion as the perfect time to leave behind antiquated attitudes toward gender and sexuality. It’s not my place to necessarily call Wild Zero a trans narrative, but it is defiantly about expanding beyond gender binaries and it was saying so in 1999.
It’s delightful that we’re starting to get films like 2016’s Korean and Japanese-language drama The Handmaiden, which has all the lesbian drama one could hope for (romance, intrigue, grifting, octopus in the basement). It’s a rip-roaring adventure film that deals with intense material but never shies away from letting its characters find a path on their own Sapphic terms.
There’s a new director’s cut of But I’m A Cheerleader that aims to rectify some of the damage done by the MPAA-mandated cuts to its story, much of it pertaining to Megan and Graham’s burgeoning relationship.
Likewise the animated series Harley Quinn on HBO Max, which has its own continuity with all the swears, gore, and carefully nuanced portrayal of an evolving queer relationship (as well as multiple characters voiced by gay actor James Adomian, the finest living impressionist in the world). Even Lifetime is getting in on nuanced queer relationships, what with December’s The Christmas Setup (again, deadlines), which hurdled my minimal expectations and delivered a believable, relatable, and cozy gay coupling organizing itself with care and genuine frisson—let’s see if they step up their romance game for Valentine’s Day.
The goal, as a community, is daunting. And if you’ve got your special someone, spouse, polycule, den, or commune of folk, and y’all are happy, keep it going. And if you don’t have that, the dream factory that is the movies holds all sorts of possibilities, and February is a good enough time to explore your candy options (and it’s good preparation for when the Sweets-Industrial Complex starts getting really experimental during the Easter/Spring season). My custom, the few times I’ve been seeing someone around Valentine’s Day, has been to wrap up a copy of David Cronenberg’s The Fly. It is unbelievably gross, but it’s also the best tragic love story ever filmed (so tragic they even made an opera of it that I’ve never been able to hear or experience). As any queer person dealing with representations of romance will attest, your mileage may vary. But good luck, and hopefully next year there’ll be drunken barn dances for all.
Here’s where you can find the works discussed in this month’s column.
Femme Fatale, The Handmaiden – Amazon Prime
The Fly, Gilda – DirecTV
Notorious – FlixFling
The Christmas Setup - Fubo
2 Fast 2 Furious, Casablanca, Femme Fatale, Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman – HBO Max
Portrait of a Lady on Fire – Hulu
Wonder Woman - Sling
The Fly - Starz
Casablanca, Gilda, Strangers On A Train – TCM
The Director’s Cut of But I’m A Cheerleader and Troy are available for rent on several Video On Demand services. The R-Rated version of But I’m A Cheerleader is streaming on Tubi and IMDBTV)
Wild Zero is not streaming anywhere, but there’s a great DVD release from Synapse Films.
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.