It looks like 23 years after his sister walked down the aisle, Matty Banks is going to get his turn at the wedding of his dreams. Hollywood journalist Nikki Finke reported on Sunday that Warner Bros and Disney are working out rights to Father of the Bride 3, a continuation of the early 90s franchise. One major plot twist to this installment: there’s no ‘Bride.’ Matty, who was originally portrayed by Kieran Culkin, is a 29 year-old gay man. Finke went on to state that Steve Martin would return in this iconic role as George, though the SNL legend confirmed on Twitter he had not seen a script or been offered the role. The film’s premise is a logical transition to bring the franchise back to relevance, with public discussions on LGBT rights at an all-time high.
If you thought high-strung George Banks had a hard time of letting go of his little girl, Annie, played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley, tensions will be off the charts as he attempts to come to terms with his son’s sexuality. Though financially justifiable, The Walt Disney Company hasn’t had much success in the public opinion department when it comes to remaking its classics. Blockbusters like Oz the Great and Powerful and, most recently, Maleficent ranked an overall “meh” with critics. So it comes as no surprise the media has been less than kind at the news of not only reviving a perfectly solid film franchise, but also reaching for a gay angle. Zachary Tallis of Indie Wire’s Bent states, “Queer cinema deserves better. So do LGBT audiences. Whether Father of the Bride 3 ever happens or not, it’s an all too believable prospect, and could set a worrying trend.”
I think what the Warner Bros/Disney execs have on their hand is a pretty special opportunity, not to capitalize on the trend of homosexual acceptance, but to realistically portray a fictional gay couple in the mainstream. I was discussing the topic of gay characters with a coworker of mine, a straight female, who lives in Hells Kitchen, NYC. The eclectic neighborhood is known as home to a community of young gays. While her mom was in for a visit last weekend, she took mental note of a number of gay couples on the street and after sitting down to dinner, she said, “I’m surprised to see so many gay couples that are just normal.” You see, she has little to go off of. Like millions of other Americans, her perceptions of the homesexual lifestyle appear on the television screen in the form Jack McFarland and Kurt Hummel.
It’s important to note that stereotypical roles for gay characters are still crucial to the advancements of LGBT acceptance — they’re still characters with high visibility. But like the characters we expect in the entertainment we watch, people are complex. Every single person, gay or straight, holds a unique perspective on life shaped by their experiences. So one-dimensional flamboyant characters seen in films and TV programming have built a small box around a which gay characters are accepted by public opinion. Father of the Bride 3 has the potential to ignore all trends and cast mainstream actors to play typical men, who happen to be gay. No, the characters won’t represent every gay man, but will broaden the trajectory on the type of queer characters seen in the media from now on.
The reality is the task is complicated, trying to balance sterotypes without creating more of them. I can see headlines that read “Mainstream Media Is Afraid to Show Real Gay Men” or “He Wasn’t Even That Gay,” and maybe it’s not the entertainment’s industry’s job to educate middle America on the complexities of gay personas. But currently, they are. So will FOTB deliver some substantial character adjustments to our old normal? Might I suggest leading man Zach Efron in the role of Matty? And maybe Bradley Cooper as his fiancé. The opportunities are present, so here’s hoping they leap outside of the box, and into a new day.