But this year, we have Torchwood.
The BBC science-fiction series—which aired in the United States on BBC America—has been described, deliciously, as “postgay” by the gay entertainment Website AfterElton.com. Spun off from the hit re-imagining of the classic British TV series Doctor Who, it gives us a unique hero in Captain Jack Harkness, an open-minded 51st-century guy stuck in the 21st century, where he hunts down alien incursions and other infiltrations into the space/time of contemporary Cardiff.
Jack isn’t gay; he is, as we learned during his introduction in the first series of the new Doctor Who (also available on DVD), fluid in his sexuality. “So many species, so little time” is how his approach to life and love has been described, and such is the case, too, with his 21st-century compatriots at Torchwood, the secret institute Jack heads. Not only is his team of investigators, male and female alike, casually able to accept lovers of either gender, more than one of them has broken the species barrier to get it on with beings not entirely human, or not human at all.
Here’s the key thing about Torchwood: No one cares. It’s not a big deal, who sleeps with whom—or with what—and it doesn’t define the characters. There’s certainly nothing “queer,” “alternative” or “counterculture” about Jack and his friends. They’re just people, not labels. And a totally relaxed attitude is a beautiful thing.
The first season of Torchwood—13 episodes of monsters, aliens and interspecies orgies—is now available on DVD. The second season, which aired this winter and is even better than the first, won’t be released for home viewing until September. For another postgay sci-fi adventure, check out Battlestar Galactica: Razor, a stand-alone movie based on the TV series, which features straight actor Michelle Forbes as the not-straight Admiral Helena Cain.
As AfterElton.com has also pointed out, Torchwood is the only hit show—well, it’s a hit on the other side of the Atlantic, though definitely a cult hit here in the states—with an out gay man as its star. John Barrowman, who plays Jack, is a veritable phenomenon in Great Britain. He, too, has somehow managed to be postgay, garnering as many swooning female admirers as those of the male persuasion.
That’s not always the case with other under-the-radar gay-friendly DVDs. The 2003 film Bright Young Things—from out writer-director Stephen Fry, based on the Evelyn Waugh novel Vile Bodies—is all about fear and loathing among the smart set in 1930s London. Among its many charmingly screwed up characters are Fenella Woolgar’s tuxedo-wearing aristocrat Agatha Runcible and Michael Sheen’s Miles Maitland, who suffers, by film’s end, for his blatant homosexuality. Both actors are straight, alas, but you can’t have everything.
There’s no question that actor Val Kilmer is straight, but his portrayal of the neo-noir private eye Gay Perry in 2005’s Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang feels like the first comedic depiction of a gay character in a Hollywood movie that is sincerely funny without ever descending to stereotype or awkward politicization. His Perry is just so expansively human that there’s no question of seeing him as anything other than absolutely genuine.
Things are somewhat more ambiguous, from the off-screen perspective, when it comes to Solider’s Girl, a wonderful, if heartbreaking, 2003 made-for-cable movie about an American infantryman who falls in love with a pre-op transsexual nightclub performer (Lee Pace of Pushing Daisies, about whose sexuality much gossip has been bandied). Straight actor Troy Garrity plays the soldier, and it’s a character he plays in a postgay way, as does the movie—which seems to wonder why everyone makes such a fuss about whom we fall in love with.