The Golden Globes clip I played on repeat was Meryl Streep’s lethal political takedown; the one I avoided was the infamous kiss between Andrew Garfield and Ryan Reynolds. Bless the fangirls and their rekindled hopes for a Spiderman/Deadpool rom-com, but personally, I cringed, remembering my first time at a bar.
I’d just graduated and was traveling Asia with a group of volunteers doing construction work in developing villages. During a night in Vang Vieng, we ended up at a local hotspot. The DJ was great, and so was I — until I saw two girls I was traveling with, girls who, to my knowledge, very much identified as straight, grinding on the dance floor, cheered on by friends and strangers alike.
I left the dance floor and anxiously waited for somebody to walk back to the hostel with. It took me ages to figure out why that sight bothered me so much.
My high school’s GSA had kids who only attended once a month, fearing that somebody would figure out why they disappeared every Monday. I hadn’t had a serious relationship yet, since so few of us were open at that school. And two months prior to that night, a nightclub full of queer lovers and dreamers had been filled with bullets and bodies.
Yet who was I to police who should be kissing who? Who am I, now, to assume that Reynolds and Garfield don’t call someplace on the LGBTQ+ spectrum home or have fluid sexualities? Nobody, I suppose. But I look at these snapshots and see the foundation of a much bigger problem.
Take Garfield’s statement about the kiss on LIVE with Kelly Ripa. The second Ripa brought it up, Garfield became clearly bashful; when asked about the story behind it, Garfield explained that he and Reynolds had planned it as a funny moment should Reynolds win, since cameras were on all nominees.
That, right there, is my problem. Not that two grown, consenting men decided to kiss despite identifying as straight (with the blessing of Reynold’s wife, by the way), but that the kiss was a complete joke — and an effective one, since Kelly’s studio and the entire Internet laughed.
I’m sure that those two girls I traveled with, grinding on the dance floor, saw that instant as a joke, too. But it’s insulting to see somebody so effortlessly possess a moment that the public immediately labels grossly inappropriate, should it involve people who genuinely desire it.
I forgot how to dance after seeing two straight girls grind in a bar. Seeing my marginalized sexuality thrown around so cheaply made me re-evaluate the way I fit into the normal social code for physical interaction and contact between women; and question where, when, and how I should dance, move, behave, or touch others.
Why do straight girls get to have what gay girls are taught to hide or hush? Why do straight men get to meaninglessly kiss each other when gay boys are still subjected to shock therapy and psychological abuse? Is our society still just homophobic enough that they can accept a kiss between guys only if there’s no meaning in it?
Comedy relies heavily on physical play, and sex always sells, but that doesn’t justify the overwhelming amount of men kissing on camera as a punchline. Just as black actors deserve diverse roles on television to avoid being universally stereotyped as gangsters, slaves, or sassy ladies, non-heteronormative love deserves the same respect and seriousness as its alternative.
What would the Internet be doing had Garfield kissed, say, Natalie Portman that night? It certainly wouldn’t be as funny or shocking. If love was as universally accepted and accessible as we claim it is, the Garfield-Reynolds kiss wouldn’t be so funny at all.