GLR September-October 2022

Gay Pride (and Prejudice)

N O MAN ISAN ISLAND, as the English poet John Donne fa mously put it, and certainly not when he’s on Fire Island. None other than Oscar Wilde visited the gay friendly vacation spot, specifically Cherry Grove, during his lecture tour of 1882. Roughly a century later, Andrew Holleran,

may not understand. For example, when a bitchy outsider describes his friend circle as “cute little friends,” Noah explains that this is code for “not a fuckable one in the bunch.” What Noah doesn’t decode is that the plot of Fire Island is based on Austen’s novel of 1813, though he told Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang, cohosts of the reigning


FIRE ISLAND Directed by Andrew Ahn Jax Media, Searchlight Pictures

gay podcast Las Culturistas , who are also his costars in Fire Island , that “we’ve got our gay Darcy!” The friend group at the heart of this entertaining comedy, perfectly timed for sum mer, mirrors the members of the Bennet family in Austen’s classic novel. Booster told the Late Show ’s Stephen Colbert that, long after he watched BBC adaptations of Austen’s novel with his mom as a kid, he didn’t fully identify with Austen’s

author of Dancer from the Dance , grouped together the “revel ries” taking place on Manhattan, Long Island, and Fire Island , but singled out the last as “nothing but a sandbar, as slim as a parenthesis,” the “very last fringe of soil on which a man might put up his house and leave behind him all—absolutely all—of that huge continent to the west.” Joel Kim Booster, the writer of Fire Island , is clearly not ready to leave this last fringe of soil

characters until he took a copy of Pride and Prejudice with him on a trip to Fire Island. “It wasn’t until I went to Fire Island for the first time that I actually brought the book with me to read for the first time, and I was so struck by how relevant it actually felt to my ex perience ... navigating these weird class systems that gay men created for themselves.” What does Booster mean by “weird class systems,” and how does he represent his journey as an openly gay Asian-American man? Booster was adopted and raised in a Southern Baptist household, which gave him a fiercely critical eye when it comes to the conven tions, or “systems,” that rule social life. He has been an outspoken critic of the Grindr profile line “No fats, no fems, no Asians” as partic ularly toxic. In Fire Island , he puts a pair of Asian friends, Noah and Howie (played by Bowen Yang of Saturday Night Live fame), front

Matt Rogers, Bowen Yang, and Tomas Matos in Fire Island .

and center. They lovingly bicker just as Elizabeth and her older sister Jane do, and in the opening scene Noah rightfully takes aim at Austen’s opener. “It is a truth universally ac knowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in a want of a wife.” Those 23 words constitute the hastiest generalization in English literature, but it’s a sentence that Austen, with her characteristic irony, endeavors to un dermine and ultimately undo as “universally” true. Spoiler alert: Mr. Darcy is one of the richest commoners in 19th-cen tury England, but he has to work for Elizabeth’s affection and ultimately her hand in marriage, rather than simply accepting

behind. “It’s like a gay Disney World,” he tells us, “fun for the whole family”—except that his definition of family is not the traditional one. Booster’s Fire Island is not only a light-hearted love letter to its eponymous locale but a randy reimagining of Pride and Prejudice . In the role of Noah (a corollary of Jane Austen’s feisty heroine, Elizabeth Bennet), Booster speaks directly to the audience and helps to translate terms that an “outsider” Colin Carman, author of The Radical Ecology of the Shelleys and a former fellow of the International Jane Austen Society, teaches British literature at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, CO.

The G & LR Continued on page 49


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