Something happened in American society between the release of Bros last weekend and 2018, when Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic of gay, HIV-positive Queen front man Freddie Mercury, grossed $900 million at the box office. Comedian Billy Eichner’s gay romcom barely eked out a pathetic $4.8 million on opening night, around the same amount that Ellen "Elliot" Page spent on flannel shirts and Groucho Marx glasses last year. Why the disparity in box office takings? Well, American moviegoers became deeply homophobic.
That’s according to Eichner himself, who wrote on Twitter following the paltry opening weekend numbers, “That’s just...
Something happened in American society between the release of Bros last weekend and 2018, when Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic of gay, HIV-positive Queen front man Freddie Mercury, grossed $900 million at the box office. Comedian Billy Eichner’s gay romcom barely eked out a pathetic $4.8 million on opening night, around the same amount that Ellen “Elliot” Page spent on flannel shirts and Groucho Marx glasses last year. Why the disparity in box office takings? Well, American moviegoers became deeply homophobic.
That’s according to Eichner himself, who wrote on Twitter following the paltry opening weekend numbers, “That’s just the world we live in, unfortunately. Even with glowing reviews, great Rotten Tomatoes scores, an A CinemaScore etc, straight people, especially in certain parts of the country, just didn’t show up for Bros. And that’s disappointing but it is what it is.”
Well, yes, that’s partly true. Romcoms aren’t exactly big theatrical draws to begin with, especially in October, when everyone’s jazzed for spooky season (the horror film Smile, premiering on the same day, grossed nine times as much as Bros). Romcoms are for women — and men taking women on dates. The genre demands A-list actors and a strong leading man (Eichner is neither). It also requires an aspirational love story targeted directly at women, which usually doesn’t include anal sex, unless you’re a Kardashian.
Not that Bros would have done well anyway, but consider other events of last weekend. The nation’s third most populous state, Florida, was recovering from a devastating hurricane. The remnants of that storm sopped the East Coast all weekend and kept residents of places like New York City mostly indoors where they could skip the theater and catch Hocus Pocus 2 premiering on Disney+.
But crybaby Eichner wasn’t done, demanding on Twitter that “everyone who ISN’T a homophobic weirdo” needs to see his dumb movie immediately. Eichner then went on to say he doesn’t want any conservatives, and especially anyone who voted for Donald Trump, to see his film. He included gay conservatives (roughly 30 percent of his target gay audience) in that, because he views them as traitors.
That’s a hell of a sales pitch. Eichner is not only an obnoxious egomaniac — but his tirade also reveals him to be a complete moron. On March 8, 1996, the campy, beloved, now-classic gay movie The Birdcage, starring Nathan Lane and Robin Williams, swept the box office on opening weekend grossing over $18.2 million — this when the average cost of a movie ticket was only $4.42. The film remained on top for the next three weeks.
Before that, in 1993, the legal drama Philadelphia, in which Tom Hanks stars as an HIV-positive gay man suing his employer for discrimination, won two Oscars and grossed $206.7 million at the box office worldwide.
Nine years after The Birdcage, Brokeback Mountain, the gay cowboy movie starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, won three Oscars and took in $178 million at the box office. This after shows like Ellen and Will & Grace came to dominate network television ratings.
Other post-Brokeback twenty-first century gay Hollywood cash cows included Rocketman ($195 million), Bruno ($138 million) and The Imitation Game ($233 million). Then there were the critically acclaimed, independent gay hits like Dallas Buyers Club (nominated for six Oscars), Moonlight (a pointless and confusing movie, but won three Oscars, including Best Picture, nonetheless) and Call Me By Your Name (nominated for four Oscars).
Those films and televisions shows might be considered groundbreaking, interesting, edgy or just good content. Forty-four-year-old Eichner, boring and late to the game, is none of those things. In fact, he’s repellant. I’ve enjoyed a gay romcom here and there, as a guilty pleasure — The Broken Hearts Club and Jeffrey come to mind — but I’m part of a tiny, fringe target audience. There’s nothing sincere about a straight person going to see a gay romcom. In fact, it’s pathetic.
Eichner would do himself a favor to rewatch The Birdcage, not only to see what a good movie looks like, but to be reminded of a less hateful time in American politics. The film centers around the impending marriage between the daughter of a staunchly conservative US senator and the son of a liberal gay couple in Miami. Spoiler alert, there’s a happy ending and the film pokes fun at both sides in a way everyone can enjoy — straight Republicans and liberal gays are allowed to laugh at each other, and themselves. Can you imagine that being made today?
In fact, someone tried that: Roseanne Barr, with the reboot of her ABC sitcom. That was a program about familial love overcoming political differences, a message it achieved with humor. Of course, Barr was purged from her own show by network executives for indelicately expressing the wrong opinions. For the powers that be, that was a dangerous thing in Trump’s America.
Eichner might also want to check out another Nineties gay movie that crushed Bros at the box office: To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar — a story of three drag queens from New York who embark on a cross-country road trip and end up stranded in small town America after their car breaks down. It spent two weeks at number one, grossed $47 million and was the American cousin of the Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which had a similar plot.
To Wong Foo was another heartwarming story about both stripes of Americans coming to each other’s rescue, rejecting preconceptions to discover their common humanity. But for Eichner, there’s no idea more repugnant. In fact, half that equation isn’t even allowed to see his shitty film. And, so, we won’t. Even if he asks nicely.