Did y’all see that the world’s last Blockbuster has been turned into an Airbnb? The TV Team was talking about that a couple of weeks ago, and then clowning on Drew because we thought maybe she wasn’t born into the world when Blockbuster was still a thing (she was, dammit!), which of course led us to talking about all the not-gay movies (that were actually secretly gay) that we convinced our parents to rent us over and over. We’d love to hear yours in the comments!
I will perhaps never forget the time my family rented Bedazzled, and yet it is a memory I am constantly trying to suppress, because being that actively horny for Elizabeth Hurley in a red bodysuit while my PARENTS are in the ROOM is an actual horror story. I think we rented the movie because we were on a Brendan Fraser kick? And come to think about it, every time we rented a late-90s/early-2000s Brendan Fraser movie, I was inevitable horny for whoever the leading woman was (Rachel Weisz in The Mummy, Sarah Jessica Parker in Dudley Do-Right, Leslie Mann in George Of The Jungle etc). But Elizabeth Hurley playing the a devil domme in a Faustian comedy?????? Absolutely fried my brain I think. I did not yet know I was gay and technically this movie isn’t gay………..and yet.
A Walk to Remember
Despite being the youngest person alive, Blockbuster was still in fact a big part of my childhood. As a lifelong cinephile, I have fond memories of all the movies I rented. And as a lifelong homosexual, I have fond memories of all the movies I didn’t rent. But there’s a special place in my heart for the movies I rented that gave me gay feelings despite being totally hetero and acceptable for my hetero family. One such movie was A Walk to Remember.
I was 9-years-old and it was my 13-year-old sister’s turn to pick the movie. She chose this Mandy Moore vehicle and my mom immediately apologized. “This is a girly movie,” my mom said. “You’re not going to like it.” I tried to hate the movie like the good boy that I was but I couldn’t — I loved it.
I’d had crushes before — on my sister’s best friend, on Avril Lavigne. But this was the first time I experienced the other kind of trans lesbian crush: the envy crush. Mandy Moore had an easy kind of soft femininity that seemed like everything to me. Paired with her character’s rebellious spirit and tendency to wear overalls, I was head over heels in self-love.
While I had no desire to be swept off my feet by the bad boy, I did want to be swept off my feet by the bad girl, and isn’t Shane West the closest Nicholas Sparks has come to writing an angsty butch anyway?
Also Mandy Moore dies at the end and if that’s not a lesbian movie trope I don’t know what is.
Charlie’s Angels (2000)
This was hard for me because most of my Blockbuster memories are of me taking the discs my parents got by mail and exchanging them in-store for free rentals and always getting one movie from the New Release wall and one from the LGBT aisle that I barely looked at before grabbing because I was curious enough to want to watch the movies but closeted enough to not want to linger in that particular center aisle. I’m sure there are plenty of examples of movies my parents rented that tested the lock on that closet door but one of the earliest I remember is the 2000s Charlie’s Angels with Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore, and Cameron Diaz. That movie is one of the gayest not-gay movies I’ve ever seen, to this day. My mom always hated that my dad and I enjoyed a lot of the same media but still never put together why… needless to say, I quickly became obsessed with this franchise and this socially acceptable way to talk about/look at sexy, badass women.
Also I know this wasn’t the question but in the period of time that I was out to myself but not out to my parents yet my mom picked a movie to watch that I’d never heard of so blindly agreed to: Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Cue gay heart attack.
Also also I know this wasn’t the question either but my dad took me to see Coyote Ugly when I was 13 and it was a formative queer experience.
A League of Their Own came out when I was six years old, and I made my mother rent it from Blockbuster, ever weekend — every single solitary weekend — for months.
Ok so, in the early ‘90s our big family tradition on Friday nights was to go to Blockbuster and rent movies for the weekend. I got to pick a movie, and my mom got to pick a movie. We’d also buy snacks from the check out and order pizza for the way home. And for at least 5 months straight, I would only pick A League of Their Own.
Fall turned into winter, winter into spring, and there I still was sitting in our oversized living room chair watching Rockford Peaches and singing “We are members of the All-American league, we come from cities near and far…” I would eat Saturday morning pancakes to this movie. I would sit between my mother’s legs or my aunt’s legs and get my hair braided to this movie on Sunday nights before a new school week. I would sit silently in this chair with my stuffed animals and so many pillows — essentially having sleep overs by myself — stroking their soft fur as I cried when Dottie dropped the ball. Just fully memorized by these fictional women in the 1940s who loved each other and didn’t need men to get the job done for nearly a half-year of my life.
Was this a very grown-up and weird movie choice for a six year old! IT SURE WAS!! Did my mother ever say a word? Bless her heart, she did not. She just suffered silently through repeat watching and repeat watching.
AND THEN GUESS WHO GREW UP GAY??? THIS GIRL!!
Foxy Brown and Boomerang
This was tough for me too…mostly because my memorable experiences at Blockbuster Video weren’t actually about movies at all. The thing that Blockbuster became synonymous with in my house was video game rentals. Every Friday, like clockwork, my siblings and I would greet my mother with proof of that week’s success: good grades, positive teacher’s notes, colorful art projects. If our mom was satisfied that we’d had a successful week (and our chores were done, of course), we were allowed to accompany her to Blockbuster and pick out a video game to rent for the weekend. After one too many arguments broke out in the Blockbuster aisles over which game to rent — which forced us to go home, game-less — we started taking turns…and every third week, I’d get to pick the rental.
On rare occasions, our parents would spring for the holy grail of Blockbuster rentals: a whole ass gaming console. Did you even know that you used to be able to rent an entire console? The first and only time I ever played the Nintendo 64 was after renting it at Blockbuster. I played Playstation for the first time after renting it at Blockbuster. You’d get the console and the controllers…and you walked out with a carrying case that made you look like you were a super secret agent. It was awesome.
Because we were given the gift of the video game rental, the choice of which video to rent often fell to my dad. Occasionally, he’d pick a hallmark of his youth — “I want something old school,” he used to instruct — and we’d make a selection from the small collection of blaxploitation classics that our Blockbuster carried. Foxy Brown quickly became my favorite film of the genre. Pam Grier — yes, that Pam Grier, Bette’s big sister (it’ll annoy me forever that that’s how generations of queer women remember Grier) — was just astounding in the titular role…badass and unrelentingly sexy. The other awesome thing about that movie? I think it was the first time I’d seen a lesbian bar on screen.
On other weekends, my dad would opt for the black classics of the era. With the notable exception of Set It Off, there was no canonically queer content. I fell in love with Boomerang…which, I recognize now as sort of a bisexual fever dream: Robin Givens, Halle Berry and Eddie Murphy all at their absolute finest. Everytime my dad couldn’t think of a movie to rent, I’d meekly suggest Boomerang because he’d laughed so much at John Witherspoon’s fashion advice and he’d agree. He’d spend the weekend laughing at John Witherspoon and Martin Lawrence, while I tried to figure out why the writers of the show hadn’t just put Jacqueline and Angela together in the end.
I was born both gay and obsessed with TV. One time, when I was five years old, my parents had to call an ambulance for me because I pitched such a prolonged fit that they wouldn’t let me stay up to watch The Facts of Life that I hyperventilated and passed out. Also when I was five years old, the made for TV movie Quarterback Princess came out and I was IN LOVE WITH IT. I’m sure you’ve never heard of this movie, so here’s the gist: Helen Hunt is a quarterback who moves to a small town where only boys play football (like all towns, actually) but she tries out for QB and makes the team and gets the starting job. So she spends half the movie being better at boys at sports. Throwing better and harder, hitting more targets, and being tough as all heck. Just muddy and wearing her uniform and cleats and clomping around putting boys in their place. And she spends the other half of the movie in long-sleeve baseball tees and ponytails being in a feud with the head cheerleader! They stand really close to each other and aggressively talk-whisper mean things at each other. Like Buffy and Faith, kind of, but in 1983. Everyone really hates Helen Hunt and it’s like “dyke!” “dyke!” but no one actually says that, but you can tell they’re thinking it and only not saying it because it has to be rated G. But you know what? Helen Hunt DOES NOT CARE. She just LOVES THE GAME OF FOOTBALL! And she is GREAT AT IT. In the end, she wins the big game and becomes Homecoming Queen and reconciles with her cheerleading nemesis! Blockbuster got this movie when I was in the first grade and I begged for my parents to rent it every weekend.