Q. Allan Brocka knows more than most about the intense scrutiny heaped upon gay-themed films and TV shows. The writer/director of films Eating Out and Boy Culture and the queer cartoon series Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple In All The World has received his fair share of criticism, something he happily admits.
“Movies like Eating Out are so tiny and low-budget — these are movies where the budget is about $40,000 — but they’ve gotten so much press. One of the reasons there’s a third [Eating Out] film coming out is because they’ve done really well, but none of the press on them has ever been positive,” Brocka told Sydney Star Observer.
“They’re basically American Pie or Porky’s type films, but they’re not reviewed in that context. They’re reviewed in the context of the gay experience throughout history, which is kind of unfair.
“Something like Rick & Steve generally gets more positive reviews, but some of the negative stuff that’s said about it — or even some positive stuff — kind of goes beyond what it is. It’s just a little cartoon, and it seems unfair to expect the world of it.”
While the stop-motion animation series shares some similarities with Brocka’s film work — politically incorrect humour and all — in many ways, it’s rather a different proposition.
“The main focus of Rick & Steve that I wanted to look at was gay families, because I don’t think you see that much. All the gay films I’d seen were about guys or girls trying to fall in love. I didn’t see much about couples who were already together, and how hard that can be,” Brocka said.
It’s a tangled web, and one that reflects the non-blood families gay audiences surround themselves with: Rick and Steve are the aforementioned (and sarcastically titled) ‘happiest gay couple in all the world’, grappling with issues of monogamy and juggling parental responsibilities with lesbian couple Kirsten and Dana, for whom Rick fathered a baby.
While the regular characters are voiced by gay heroes including Alan Cumming, Peter Paige and Margaret Cho, the show also draws its fair share of special guests — particularly during season two, when everyone from ex-N Sync member Lance Bass to professional gossip Perez Hilton have dropped in.
“Oh, it was so much easier second time around, because we had something to show people. Before the first season, I’d be on the phone saying ‘Well there are these little plastic people…’ Then I’d send them a script with all these horrific, shocking lines. But for the second season, everyone we approached said yes.”
And while Brocka has learned to live with criticism dished out at his works, he admitted that more often than not, he’s his own biggest critic.
“Sometimes I look back at my early films and think, wow, that kid was really brilliant. Other times I think, what an idiot! Even now, when I’m in the process of making something, I’m always trying to make it better. When I first see one of my films, all I see are the problems. Then you eventually learn to live with it and love it.”
info: Rick & Steve: Season Two is out now.