Here’s Harry Styles, wading back into dubious queerbaiting territory. A new Rolling Stone profile on the pop icon acknowledges that this is one of the most frequent criticisms lobbed his way, though Styles argues he’s never “publicly been with anyone” and therefore continues to resist society’s restrictive labels.
Though he’s laughably cagey about his personal life for someone mired in a highly publicized (reported) affair with his Don’t Worry Darling director, the budding actor is proudly planting a rainbow flag in his professional career with the upcoming My Policeman. “It’s obviously pretty unfathomable now to think, ‘Oh, you couldn’t be gay. That was illegal,’” Styles says of playing a closeted cop in 1950s Britain.
He goes on to add: “I think everyone, including myself, has your own journey with figuring out sexuality and getting more comfortable with it. It’s not like ‘This is a gay story about these guys being gay.’ It’s about love and about wasted time to me.”
Styles is far from the only star to play the my-gay-film-is-about-more-than-being-gay card. Whether it was to genuinely legitimize queer cinema or to skittishly distance oneself from the subject matter, many performers have been quick to point out that a gay love story is just a love story like any other. But the tedious talking point veers on homophobic: there is obviously nothing wrong with a movie that’s about being gay!
Styles’ insistence that My Policeman transcends sexuality extends to the intimate scenes. “So much of gay sex in film is two guys going at it, and it kind of removes the tenderness from it,” he says. “There will be, I would imagine, some people who watch it who were very much alive during this time when it was illegal to be gay, and [director Michael Grandage] wanted to show that it’s tender and loving and sensitive.”
There’s almost too much to unpack here, but suffice to say it was not strictly necessary for Styles to undermine the entire history of gay sex in film in order to say that his sex scenes are really sensitive. Surely, there’s should be room in cinema for all versions of sex, desire, and intimacy. There is, again, nothing inherently wrong with “two guys going at it.” (By the way, if you ask Pedro Almodóvar, the gay sex in a film like Brokeback Mountain wasn’t animalistic enough.) Styles might want to revise his press points before the My Policeman PR blitz kicks off in earnest.