It was easy to get all geared up to see Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World by Q. Allan Brocka. It was gay animation, after all. There's not much of that around, and it could prove a bit risqué as well. But it was not to be. The best thing that can be said is Rick & Steve only consists of four short eight-minute episodes -- and even that was too much.
Brocka uses Lego and small, rotund play figures to tell his tale. That could have been fine (as South Park junkies can testify, even moving scraps of paper can satisfy), but the animation was jerky to the point of inducing seizures. Then there were the opening credits, during which we get to see Rick and Steve purchasing flowers, driving downtown, and drinking at an outdoor café, where Steve leaps across the table and proceeds to give Rick a good ass-pounding while the clientele watches. In case we missed the point, we are then informed, via writing, that Steve is "the versatile top" and Rick is "the insatiable bottom." To hammer the point home, we get to watch Steve do Rick in a variety of positions with some 69-ing as icing. We get the pleasure of witnessing this four times.
The episode names are rather telling: "Cum & Quiche," "Scary Straight People," "Potty Mouth Training," and "Menage a Twat."
"Cum & Quiche" begins with Rick exclaiming "Pussy!" several times (his cat, it turns out). By the last utterance he's lisping lavishly. Rick and Steve are about to have a dinner party. We are introduced to two of the guests, lesbians Kirsten and Dana, one of whom is bemoaning their upcoming visit as they drive to the party. According to her it's unnatural for them to be friends with Rick and Steve. "We hate men and they hate women," she declares. Shortly after their arrival, two more gay men show up: a drugged-out kid and an older HIV-positive man in a wheelchair, who are married. The sick one is in it for the sex, and the young one is waiting for his partner to die to inherit his money. Post-quiche, the lesbians announce they want some of Rick's sperm so Kirsten can have a baby.
There's little reason to continue. By the time the episodes are over, Rick & Steve have presented us with a hefty grab bag of negative, hyperstereotypical misconceptions: Gay men constantly have sex. Gays and lesbians don't associate with straight people and are terrified of setting foot outside their own gay ghettos for fear of bashing. Gay men indulge in, and in some cases require, a nonstop supply of illegal substances -- meth and X are high on the list. Gay couples have children to look hip and to tinker with their infantile minds and outlooks ("You have to plan ahead. As soon as we found out Candy was expecting, we started two savings accounts: one for college and one for gender reassignment surgery."). Best of all, a gay male relationship can only last if the couple starts having three-ways, owing to the inevitable bedroom-boredom factor.
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Ouch. During the opening credits it was possible to believe that maybe this film would make fun of bigoted straight people and some of the more asinine gay clichés. By the time the dinner party was over, the realization hit that this was an inside job -- not hateful straight stereotypes but rather self-directed gay loathing. All right, sometimes you have to wait awhile for a payoff. But after waiting and waiting for something to happen to enlighten these embittered, wretched people regarding their gaycentric, stereotypical perspectives ... nothing. Sooner or later you'd think the film would provide something funny or original or upsetting, but no, nothing. After all that it would hardly have been surprising to find in the credits that Rick & Steve had been funded by some rabidly homophobic religious organization, but nope, not even this.
What a disappointment. The expectation for something funny and creative was not fulfilled. A variety of other outcomes would have sufficed. If a film is thought-provoking, for whatever reason, even if it makes one sickened or angry, it still can be admired for having caused a profound reaction. But nothing occurred to make you want to watch further. The only reaction was a longing for Dramamine.
Perhaps it's because Rick & Steve was so lackluster that its faults seemed so glaringly evident. Really though, what purpose does this series serve? All it did was provide a twisted picture of what some viewers will assume is the gay and lesbian condition. If Rick and Steve are the happiest gay couple in the world, the radical religious right can sleep easy regarding the passage of same-sex marriage laws. Who'd want to? (Note: If you miss the episodes at the film festival, they are available at the Hypnotic Website at http://www.hypnotic.com, where you'll get a page with all four of them. Then you can be the judge.)