How ‘Fire Island’ is Bringing Rom-Coms to Life

How ‘Fire Island’ is Bringing Rom-Coms to Life

Romantic comedies have always been a controversial genre. In the ’90s and 2000s, romantic comedies infiltrated the box offices, brought in millions of dollars and helped launch the careers of movie stars we know today. Now, the films that have the most success are action films or reboots of old franchises. As we know them, romantic comedies are dead, but queer romance films — like “Fire Island” — are here to bring new life to the screen.

 What Is ‘Fire Island?’

Last month, Fire Island premiered on Hulu with great reviews and a new perspective on what romance comedies could be. Romantic comedies are almost always written with a heterosexual couple in mind: Boy meets girl, they fall in love, fall out of love and then come together in the end. It’s formulaic and, frankly, exclusionary. While they have increased in the past couple of years, few romantic comedies center on queer romance. While love is love, representation in the media is important. There are various nuances and codes to navigate in many relationships, but they vary widely depending on whether you’re straight or queer. 

Fire Island, written by the star and comedian, Joel Kim Booster, is inspired by Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice. The film follows a group of gay friends on their yearly trip to Fire Island, where chaos ensues. Noah, played by Booster and based on Austen’s character Elizabeth Bennet, is introduced to us as being detached and cynical when it comes to finding romance. While Howie (Bowen Yang), based on Austen’s Jane Bennet, longs for a romance that will sweep him off his feet. Hookup culture isn’t exclusive to the queer community, but it makes up a big part of queer dating. And its prevalence is one that Howie rejects but Noah accepts as a matter of fact. 

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What Is ‘Fire Island’ About?

Fire Island is first and foremost a comedy, but it settles down when we get more insight into dating struggles for those who identify as queer. While Noah tries to play by those same rules that harm Howie’s self-esteem, Howie struggles to contend with body issues, and racism that he believes are a deterrent to his love life. Romance isn’t a singular experience. It can be beautiful to experience, but for those who don’t fit society’s conventional ideas of beauty and are part of a marginalized community, making authentic connections with others can be a struggle.  

Romantic comedies have garnered a negative representation, and while recent attempts to revive the genre have taken notice, audiences are demanding more unique and diverse stories. Hollywood is making moves — slowly — to tell more romantic stories from the perspectives of different races. Films like The Photograph, Always Be My Maybe, Crazy Rich Asians, and the contemporary queer romance, Crush, are proof that diverse storytelling matters.

But Fire Island isn’t just getting praise for its depictions of queer romance; it also has representation behind the screen. The cast and director of Fire Island are members of the LGBTQ community. In recent years, there have been several criticisms surrounding whether straight actors should play queer characters. Some believe these aren’t the stories they should be telling, and with the abundance of queer actors, producers, writers and directors, there isn’t any need to remain exclusionary. 

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But Fire Island also addresses the importance of a found family and the support necessary to get the romance you deserve. Noah and Howie both receive their support in different ways. While Noah sees his found family as a better alternative to any romance, Howie is looking for more. Despite being a respite for the gay community, Fire Island is rife with discrimination against gay men who are not white, rich and fit. 

While Noah and the rest of his friends acknowledge the island’s complicated history, the perceived threat to their summer of fun makes Noah question whether it’s the island that makes him who he is or the people he surrounds himself with. On the other hand, Howie views the island as the antithesis of his quest for real romance. But in the end, Noah and Howie get over their own biases and learn that they can always lean on each other. 

Fire Island isn’t just a revelation; it’s a unique take on an Austen classic. For the LGBTQ community, Fire Island is a chance to reinvigorate a genre that’s ‘dying’ and turn our preconceived ideas about romance on our heads. The debut of Fire Island proves that the stories are out there and waiting to be told; Hollywood just needs to be willing to invest. 

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