Ask a New York City gay man about Fire Island and he’ll likely tell you at least two stories. The
first will be about their best night. The other will be the worst. It is possible that the two nights
could be one and the exact same. These memories likely involve friends, handsome strangers,
and the beach.
This is the magic of Fire Island, and other similar places (Provincetown Beach, Palm Springs,
Rehoboth Beach). These queer enclaves within the United States have been allowing LGBTQ
people to relax and enjoy their lives, sex, love, and friendship — all without worrying about
It’s rare, however, that these stories with decades and decades’ worth of history become the
inspiration for mainstream movies, and receive the financial backing. Mainstream Hollywood has
a history that being hesitant to feature stories about minorities. Although romances involving gay
men are possible, they are usually independent flicks.
Recently, mainstream rom-com that are family-friendly like 2018’s Love Simon or 2021’s Single
All the Way were released. Fire Island is the first of two highly-anticipated comedies (Billy Eichner’s Bros will be out at the end of September) that promise to not shy away from gay
men’s sexual lives.
Director Andrew Ahn’s Fire Island stands out. The rom-com, which premieres on Hulu Friday,
stars two Asian American gay men and does not include any drama or harangued coming out.
Written by Joel Kim Booster and starring Joel Kim Booster as the lead, it captures all the fun,
sweetness, sex, and love that a week spent with friends at the eponymous New York island can
It hits all the right notes and even sneaks in some thoughtful commentary about gay male desire
and platonic friendships among gay men. There’s also a trope in television and movies to make
gay male characters romantically paired off.
If you haven’t yet booked your summer vacation, the film’s sun-splashed cinematography and
golden colors will likely cause FOMO. Fire Island’s debauchery was something I was concerned
about as a long-standing practicing homosexual. The Meat Rack, which, despite its title, does
not involve an artistic butcher), the Ice Palace underwear party and the back room at that
underwear party (which sounds exactly like it is) were all buffed down to avoid offending
mainstream audiences. Gay stories are easier to sell if gay men don’t have fun, and hot sex.
Ahn and Booster ease those fears throughout the film. The film opens with Noah (Booster),
irreverently quoting Jane Austen as he sorts through the chaos of a one-night stand. (Noah, for
the record, is not in need of a wife). Ahn lights and stages the underwear party in order to make
it look sexier than it actually is.
Booster has stated that he doesn’t mind if straight audiences don’t get his jokes or references.
Anyone still curious about the Meat Rack even after watching the movie must visit the Meat
Rack in person.
Noah and his friends are on a mission to find Mr. Right Now, but Booster’s script delves deeper.
Booster focuses on the theme of sexual desire, which is often handled in a simple, easygoing
manner. However, Booster explores ideas of beauty, power, and why it’s so fragile for gay men.
Booster’s romantic comedy is billed as a fantastical romantic comedy about the magical Fire
Island. He explores some difficult emotional territory and reveals how gay male culture values
certain types of men and how it tends not to value those who aren’t. The movie is more mature
for being vulnerable and sincere because of it. Ahn and Booster understand that their
characters don’t always live in a world of generosity or kindness. The wistful film shows that,
despite the cruelties of gay life, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is lacking in love.
Fire Island’s biggest marketing strategy has been to make it subversive of Jane Austen’s Pride
and Prejudice. This is similar to the way 1995’s Clueless tells Emma with wealthy, Beverly Hills
children. It’s not fair to compare any movie against Amy Heckerling, a witty and self-aware
classic. But Fire Island is a strong film.
Noah, a nurse with a great shoulder-to-hip ratio is like Lizzie Bennett in the movie, but he’s also
a bit more cynical. He isn’t looking for a husband and is very aware of the money his abs can
provide him. He is making a mad dash to Fire Island, taking an expensive Uber and ferry. The
Bennetts of Fire Island is Noah’s family. They aren’t wealthy, and they’re staying with Erin
(Margaret Cho), a lesbian who was exiled from Cherry Grove. It’s going to be their last Fire
Island week together due to Erin’s financial instability.
Noah and Howie are best friends. Both are gay Asian American men and share many of their
childhood experiences. If you don’t grow up Asian and queer, it may be difficult to understand
the stereotypes, masculinity ideas, and casual bigotry that are ingrained in gay men’s culture.
Ahn and Booster convey this understanding with thoughtfulness. You don’t need to be able to
empathize fully with their dynamic.
Noah wants Howie’s sex and promises that he will not sleep with anyone else until his best
friend does. It seems like a good idea on the surface. Noah wants everyone to see Howie as
Noah does. Noah’s desire to make Howie feel loved reflects his insecurities and implicit
admissions that Howie might not be considered traditionally attractive due to the very strict gay
male beauty standards.
These insecurities are embodied in Howie’s love interest, Charlie (James Scully), Noah’s Mr.
Darcy-esque Will [Conrad Ricamora], and their friend’s group of muscular, white, affluent gay
This clique is proud of its beautiful home, but they make others feel uncomfortable. Although
they are unfriendly, they will only speak behind your back. They say they are coming over to
dinner, and how enjoyable it will be. But they won’t show up, and they don’t have the time or
energy to explain why. Charlie’s friends think Howie is not good enough — a calculation of being
handsomely successful — to be with Charlie.
It’s a pleasure to watch an acerbic writer such as Booster slam the terminal shallowness of
these Ken doll clones, with names like “Braden”, and their designer speedos. You can be rich
and white with great pecs, which puts you at the top of the gay social hierarchy. Howie, Noah,
and Fire Island Bennetts don’t score well on this scale and it gnaws at them.
This white-gay crew, and others like them, create turmoil that raises questions about why
anyone would go to Mean Girl Island. Is it worth it? Is it really worth the risk of a one-night affair?
Howie starts to wonder why Charlie is interested in him. Noah doesn’t see any long-term
potential for Charlie. Charlie and Will are purer and more compassionate than the company they
keep. The film spends a lot of time showing that Noah and Howie both seem too intelligent and
kind to be drawn into this superficial world. But that’s not how desire works.
When it comes to being viewed as beautiful by someone else, there are no rules. Noah and
Howie wrestle with this desire, whether it is putting up emotional walls to keep others away or
performing enough sit-ups to get around the harsher parts of society. It’s a vulnerable and honest perspective by Booster on the irrationality behind gay male desire. This is a viewpoint
mainstream Hollywood has not always allowed for. Fire Island is being called ” groundbreaking.”
Fire Island’s core belief is that queer friendship is its kind of love. While being gay or queer is
often associated with sexuality, it’s also about living a life different from the one we are told to.
There are many ways to have friendships in queer life. Each one is unique. LGBTQ people can
find friendship to be uplifting, nourishing, and familial. It can also be brave, loving, supportive,
and empowering in ways that are as important as Austen’s romantic love.
Fire Island is as much a love note to our best friends, the soulmates who bring joy into our lives
as it is a reminder to cherish these friendships. The love between friends in Fire Island is more
convincing than the romantic love between the leads of the movie. Yang and Booster make a
It’s because these friends see beauty in us and want the very best for us. Sometimes they will
even wish for more for us than what they would want for themselves. They are generous and
kind even when the world isn’t. They allow us to be who we are. This is a kind of love that I
would gladly watch more movies about.