My first experience with the bear community was through local Pride events that I was helping to organize. They seemed to be very friendly, open, and welcoming people. This film shows that side of the community, but also delves into other parts that mirror the rest of society.
Synopsis from Amazon: “Set in New York’s gay “”bear”” scene and taking a cue from the popular HBO franchise “”Sex and the City,”” BearCity follows a tight-knit pack of friends experiencing comical mishaps, emotionally sweet yet lusty romantic encounters and a cast of colorful, diverse characters as they gear up for a big party weekend.”
My synopsis: Tyler is a young gay guy living in the big city, but what his friends don’t know is that he likes bears. Not the animal variety but sometimes larger, hairy guys. His journey takes him to meet Fred and Brent, a couple who are still working on their relationship and exactly how monogamous they want to be. He also meets Roger – the muscle bear that everyone wants. But can he take the connection that they have and turn it into a relationship? Other friends include Carlos and Michael. Michael is a bigger guy who is thinking about having weight loss surgery, and we see how this affects him and those around him.
Tyler is out among his friends as gay, but he’s not quite out as someone who likes bears. I thought this was an interesting take on “being out,” as most often we just talk about it as someone who is open about being gay. In this instance, there are other layers of “outness” like liking bigger, hairy men. I wasn’t sure about why Tyler wasn’t open about this, but like hesitation about coming out in the first place, it’s often dictated by the level of peer pressure. Tyler’s roommate seems to be all about the twinks, so that is what Tyler must think he needs to be like as well.
The film also explores monogamy versus open relationships through Fred and Brent’s relationship. They certainly seem like a happy couple that is well-matched, but when they start talking about “spicing things up” they walk different paths. Brent is less interested, and then has trouble articulating that he may not have the same interests as Fred. I like how this was portrayed, and the antics that follow their exploration are pretty crazy and funny.
The idea that the bear community is one, homogenous, happy family is like assuming the same of the LGBT community as a whole. There is still immense diversity within a smaller subset of people. In this film, we see how this looks in the bear community. For instance, there is a hierarchy where the muscle bears appear to be on the top (so to speak). Instead of seeing other bears as community members, they sometimes put them down as they assert their superiority. Tyler tells Simon, “Bears can be just as gossipy and superficial as circuit queens.” Part of Tyler (and Roger’s) journey is finding their place, and also not caring about it.
Being what other people expect you to be is one of the main hang-ups for many characters in this film. It reminds us that we are each individuals despite membership in one community or another, and that we should not be afraid to be true to ourselves as that is most likely to lead us to happiness. Tyler needs to be out. Brent needs to be open about what he wants. Michael needs to be happy with himself. Roger needs to be free to love who he wants.
Each of us needs to be honest with ourselves about who we really are, and not let a group of people that we associate with in society determine what will make us happy or whole. I really like that BearCity expands on this theme in a way that is different from other gay-themed movies.