Saturday, July 20, 2024

LGBT cinema in decline


TV audiences have begun to reject intrusive LGBT propaganda. This is happening not only in Poland, but also in the US market

Zuzanna Dąbrowska

There will be no second edition of the gay dating show “Prince Charming,” the TTV station, part of the TVN Group, announced. It’s a program that was proclaimed to have a “mission of tolerance” and to show the everyday life of LGBT people. It was supposed to be a breakthrough, a taboo-breaker that would lead to the normalization of this type of content no longer only on streaming platforms, but also on “normal” traditional television. The first edition of the reality show featured 13 candidates vying for the favor of the titular “Prince Charming,” whose role was filled by model Jacek Jelonek. “The Prince” met potential partners. He rejected, one by one, those who were not his type, in order to choose the one at the end. Initially, “Prince Charming” was available only on the VOD Player service, but in time it began broadcasting on television. Complaints began to be filed with the National Broadcasting Council about the reality show, but the program was found not to violate the Broadcasting Act. Eventually, the second edition of the program was abandoned, but not because of complaints, but for financial reasons – it simply wasn’t worth it. Viewership averaged just 188,000 people per episode, accounting for just 2.26 % of the network’s market share among all viewers. The pushy advertising didn’t help.

Poles turned out to be far less susceptible to the rainbow mass-media pap than expected. The producers had a legitimate right to believe that the public, which in its metropolitan mentality really wants to “go West,” would follow the adventures of homo couples with blazing eyes. How surprised must they have been when it turned out that the average viewer chooses programs that are albeit not very ambitious, but nevertheless which show the traditional model of relationships.

Boys and girls

We are talking, among other things, about successive editions of another dating show from the TVN stable, namely “Hotel Paradise.” Of course, it is not a delightful program. The idea is simple, not to write banal – a group of young people, attractive according to modern canons, is placed in a villa somewhere in an exotic country. To survive and win 100,000 PLN, they must form couples. And at the same time plot and scheme how to throw out the competition. In “Hotel Paradise” there is a rather primal approach to male-female and group relations. The more feminine the women, the more successful they are. The same is true of men. In addition, the more a guy shows leadership qualities, the more his chances of staying at the titular paradise hotel increase.

A similar format is “Love Island,” a show produced by Polsat. There, too, a group of young men and women must form strong pairs in order to win. In the meantime, when the participants are not performing the tasks assigned to them by the director (in most cases, tasks that are licentious to the extreme), the men build up their muscles at an outdoor gym, while the ladies paint or tan. It couldn’t be more stereotypical and, de facto, boring.

Perhaps an even better example of how Polish viewers remain conservative (in the sense that they reject formats that negate the natural order of things) is the hit show “Wedding at First Sight.” Not only is it in vain to find same-sex couples there, but the dream of the participants is to live a married life. Young people declare on camera, in prime time, that they dream of a stable relationship confirmed “on paper”; they are fed up with fleeting romances and even crave making commitments, which in modern culture are portrayed as ties that limit self-development and prevent the realization of dreams. The fact that the participants are matched into pairs somewhat along the lines of how matchmakers used to work – only that the role of marriage arrangers is played by a psychologist and a sexologist. Paradoxically, it’s even more difficult than in the past, because the spouses don’t even know each other’s name and this is the first time they see each other at the altar. Viewers have loved the program since the first edition, which aired on TVN in 2016. Even before the 8th season aired last fall, it was announced that another season would be filmed.

No success

Interestingly, the phenomenon of rejecting pushy LGBT promotion is also slowly hatching for more than just domestic audiences. We’re talking about Disney animation “Strange World.” Disney, even under its previous management, declared that it was aiming for 50 % of the characters in their productions to be minority characters (different sexual orientation, ethnicity). Thus, an animation starring an LGBT teenager was created. The boy Ethan discovers the mysterious planet Avalonia together with Diazo, with whom he is in love. The animation includes a segment in which Ethan introduces his boyfriend to his dad. Of course, an equality ideology was added to everything. “People keep using the word ‘normalization,’ but we don’t need to normalize normality. That’s just the way it is. What you should see in the film is a loving family that is incredibly supportive of the child’s identity.” – Gabrielle Union, the actress who provided her voice to Ethan’s mother, said in an interview with Variety magazine.

This was supposed to be a real breakthrough, as this is the first time a “non-heteronormative” character is the main character. However, audiences simply didn’t buy it. “Not only did the film not make money. Disney didn’t particularly spend money on its promotion,” said Piotr Gociek, a journalist of Polish Radio 24 and Do Rzeczy weekly magazine, in a film recap of last year. It turns out that a brand like Disney does not guarantee a box office conquest. The audience rejected the production, which was promoted as the next step on the road of the “rainbow revolution.” The numbers show this clearly – the animation cost $180 million; it earned $73.5 million.

The first gay romantic comedy scored a similar flop. The audience for romantic comedies is mostly women. In theory, this is a simple truth that filmmakers should adhere to in order to succeed. However, in an increasingly ideologized Hollywood, it is difficult to resist the temptation to make movies out of the box. And so “Bros,” a gay love story, was made, which quickly turned out to be a financial failure. On its opening weekend, the film earned just $4.8 million. Playing one of the characters, the co-writer, comedian Billy Eichner, was clearly frustrated by such a reception of the film. So, he reached for the handiest argument in such a situation – homophobia. “Anyone who IS NOT a homophobic freak should see BROS tonight! You’ll have a great time! Watching this particular story on the big screen is something special and extremely powerful, especially for queer people who don’t often have this opportunity. I love this movie so much. GO BROS!!!” – Eichner wrote on Twitter. “Rolling Stone has already put BROS on its list of the best comedies of the 21st century.” – the actor continued. And he was outraged: “It’s also true that at one point a theater chain called Universal announced that it would stop airing the trailer because of the gay content.”

The film suffered a loss – with a budget of $22 million, the filmmakers earned less than $19 million. Apparently, even the great “Rolling Stone” sometimes gets it wrong. It didn’t help the desperate tweets of Billy Eichner, who in a passive-aggressive tried tone to prove that it was really a great film. “The audience roared with laughter from beginning to end, burst into applause, and some, on leaving, wiped away tears. It was truly magical,” the artist argued. Probably more himself than the skeptical international audience, who showed their opinion on the subject by simply boycotting the film. The disappointed filmmaker was helped by Internet outlets, which tried to explain that, admittedly, “Bros” was an extremely successful and valuable film, but people “aren’t ready.”

What do audiences in the West choose? The kitschy films of the “365 Days” series, shot on the basis of books by Polish author Blanka Lipinska. Referred to mockingly as “porn for moms,” the productions do not try to pretend to be better than they are, but neither do they put relationships other than male-female ones on a pedestal. Viewers in the United States and the United Kingdom were able to watch the “masterpiece” on Netflix. After just two days after its release on the platform, the film became number one in the Netflix US top 10. The sequel, “365 Days 2: This Day,” directed by Barbara Bialowas, debuted on Netflix on April 27th, 2022. It ranked number one in the platform’s global viewing figures for the period from April 25th to May 1st.

Cinema and television are extremely democratic transmitters. So, at least in this context, the LGBT theme today is more forcibly imposed on than actually desired by viewers. Which allows for mild optimism.

This article was published in February 2023 in “Do Rzeczy” weekly