It was ten minutes after seven-thirty in the evening, and I find myself strutting down Market Street in Philadelphia trying to make it to the premiere of The Skinny. I blame my lateness and long strides on my friend Rudy who accompanied me to this event. We make it to the Ritz at the Bourse, purchase our tickets, and walk inside the crowded theater twenty minutes late. I was so angry, but when aren’t I.
I spot a hand in the corner of my right eye pointing to a few seats up on the left. I turn to find Patrik-Ian Polk HIMSELF directing me to my seat. I could do nothing but stand in awe and wave hello. He smiles right before Rudy pushes me into the aisle, and we make our way over the feet of the already sitting patrons. I have no idea if the theater didn’t have air conditioning or if the collection of brown skinned bodies had something to do with the sweltering heat, but I was hot and tried my best not to let that distract me from the movie.
I focus my attention on the film I had been seeing many people I follow on Twitter speak about for weeks. I was envious that everyone had been seeing the film before me and was giving it such great reviews. I couldn’t wait for the film to make its way to New York City, but I had left before it did. Then, when I heard it would be coming to Philly, I got excited all over again.
I sit and watch as Magnus, played by Jussie Smollett, interacts with his long time friends from Brown University. The camaraderie is something I’m not used to. I find myself smiling and struggling to concentrate due to the fineness that is Anthony Burrell – particularly during the scene I came in on – but I manage.
Certain social issues that we as gay people face begin to surface like online dating or dating in general. That’s something I haven’t mastered and am beginning to think I won’t. Some issues are more universal like being nervous to approach someone at a club or what happens after college is over. Something that speaks to my life most of all is the “teaching of the gay virgin” scenes. There are still moments in my life where I find myself asking these exact same questions and being totally discouraged by the answers.
Then, we come across serious subjects like cheating, scandalous promiscuity, HIV/AIDS, drugs, and rape. Please forgive me if that vague description left you regretting reading this post and spoiled the movie for you. I meant no harm. These issues are something I’ve noticed is very prevalent in Polk’s work, and I’m beginning to wonder are they that common in everyday life. How could these concerns live in obscurity unbeknownst to me for so long? Am I not paying attention?
My struggles with dating and minimal knowledge about sex may just indicate that I’m not involving myself enough to be concerned with such subjects. I wonder how many people I know that have actually come across such conflict while living the black, gay life I’ve neglected for so long.
Throughout all the sex, gay pride preparations, controversy, and tears, one central theme stuck out to me: the formation of a long-lasting bond of friendship. The laughter due to the amazing one-liners from the friends is the glue that holds the story and relationships together. The acting is amazing and makes each character more believable, pulling me into the story even more. There’s nothing like humor to ease the pain of reality. Reality is something Polk tries his best to portray. These universal concerns undeniably affect many, and the awareness he inserts within his films is admirable. For an inexperienced, black, gay male like myself, the depiction of these concerns is essential.
It would be amazing to not only have a friend like Kyle (Anthony Burrell) and Joey (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman), but to share the experiences they did. I can relate to having friends displaced throughout the country – well, New Jersey. And I know how difficult it is to stay connected and create time to see one another when you live in a completely different state, learning new things and experiencing the world alone. But, are these gay people real? Can I find someone similar to these characters to share my life with? Living as a gay male for 7 years now, it’s seems almost impossible. Can gay friendships really be this concrete and everlasting?
As for being estranged to the black, gay lifestyle, I’m trying my best to catch up. I’m definitely a pariah when it comes to this community, so the adjustment is uneasy. I find myself still learning new things everyday and feeling like I’m so behind on life. This film is the looking glass I’ve been longing for when it comes to black, gay entertainment. There aren’t many like it, and maybe that’s the reason I – and possibly others – aren’t comfortable within our community.
I wonder if I play catch up enough, will my life be similar to that of Magnus in the film, or will his reality continue to be an unfamiliar fantasy within my concealed, disregarded world.