culture club

What to Watch: Gay magic, a killer speaks and Abercrombie & Fitch’s homo scandal

White Hot

Whatever your entertainment needs, we got your back (and hopefully your mind) with Queerty’s weekly “Culture Club” column with some of the highlights of new releases, streaming shows, classics worth revisiting, and what to drink while you watch.

The Step Out: Fantastic Beasts – The Secrets of Dumbledore

After years of delays, the latest entry in the Wizarding World/Harry Potter series arrives at last, and we’re happy to report, with some welcome gayness.

The Secrets of Dumbledore picks up a few years after the series’ last entry. The evil wizard Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen, replacing Johnny Depp) continues his plot to take over the wizarding world and start a war with non-magical folk. Standing in his way: Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), his ex-boyfriend. A magic charm prevents Dumbledore from battling Grindelwald outright, so the former recruits magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to organize a resistance and foil Grindelwald’s plan for magic fascism.

Secrets of Dumbledore feels like a soft reboot for the Fantastic Beasts series, jettisoning a number of key characters from the first two films and their storylines. That includes the series’ ostensible leading lady, Tina Goldstein (Kathrine Waterston), whose role gets reduced to a mere cameo. The shift makes for an awkward transition, but not a bad one. Dumbledore’s family and his history with Grindelwald take center stage here, giving the more urgency.

The resulting story feels akin to the Professor X/Magneto relationship from the X-Men films: these two men desperately love one another, or would, if Grindelwald didn’t put his thirst for power first. Law plays that dynamic to great effect, wrestling with Dumbledore’s shame.

Indeed, themes of shame, hidden selves, and self-loathing play huge roles in Secrets of Dumbledore, so much so that the movie feels like one big queer metaphor. That’s ironic considering JK Rowling’s continued attacks on trans people. On the other hand, Warner Bros. may have leaned into the LGBTQ subtext to offset her bile. In any event, we can neither blame anyone for wanting to skip out on anything Rowling-related, nor can we deny we found The Secrets of Dumbledore thoroughly entertaining. Harry Potter this isn’t…but it does have some delightful gay magic.

In theateres April 15.

The Stream: White Hot – The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch

The biggest fad store of the 1990s and 2000s gets the biopic treatment on Netflix, and while that may seem like a banal premise, this story is anything but. White Hot chronicles how a defunct sporting goods store became an apparel phenomenon thanks in large part to its oh-so-homoerotic ad campaigns and its eccentric CEO Mike Jeffries. Director Alison Klayman pulls back the veil on Jeffries and his business through a series of interviews with former employees, models and store enthusiasts who weave a story of racism, sexual harassment, and obsession.

By now, the scandals that made Abercrombie & Fitch’s value crash have become well-known: the store eschewed employment of people of color, hired and fired workers based on their looks, and actively discouraged certain shoppers from wearing their label. Klayman’s film exposes how much of that “brand protection” and business strategy originated with Jeffries himself. As a closeted gay man, he lived out his sexual fantasies through his business, fetishizing the high school jocks and frat boys. The movie also includes numerous allegations of photographer Bruce Weber pressuring young men for sex. In other words, White Hot fells a far creepier story than we expected.

A retread of the Abercrombie & Fitch story easily could have added up to yet another nostalgia fest. That’s not the case here. White Hot compiles and streamlines the Abercrombie story into a tale of kink, crime, and excess. Dear reader, if you have any Abercrombie & Fitch clothes in your closet, expect to want to burn them after watching. Never in our lives have we taken so much pride in never owning anything from the outlet.

Streams on Netflix April 19.

The Creeper: Conversations with a Killer – The John Wayne Gacy Tapes

Serial killer John Wayne Gacy gets the docuseries treatment this week, and having seen the show, we have to ask: do we queers gotta claim this guy?

To recap: Gacy murdered at least 33 young men and boys in the 1970s, burying them under his house in the Chicago suburbs. By day, however, he appeared the perfect family man, married to a woman and performing as Pogo the Clown at parties. This new series, a semi-sequel to Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, retraces Gacy’s movements and activities during his killing career through a combination of witness interviews and tape recordings of the man himself.

Needless to say, this isn’t a show for the faint of heart, or one to inspire pride in the LGBTQ community. Our stomachs churned as we watched and listened to now-aged men recount Gacy’s sexual advances and violent threats…which usually went hand in hand. Worse, several of his surviving victims have a similar reason for not coming forward sooner: they didn’t want to be outed or perceived as gay. Other evidence suggests police hesitated to investigate the disappearance of gay men, which allowed the killer to operate.

Peering into the minds of serial killers has become cottage entertainment, though for us, that’s not exactly a good time. Fans of true crime docuseries may feel differently: Conversations with a Killer features first-rate production value and doesn’t flinch in the face of its subject matter. We found no answers for Gacy’s monstrosity here, and attributing his crimes to a combination of self-loathing, homophobia and repressed sexuality only seems facile. On the other hand, we did come away from the show with a newly-inflamed fear of clowns.

Streams on Netflix April 20.

The Rediscovered: Uncle Howard

Documentarian Aaron Brookner spotlights his uncle, filmmaker Howard Brookner in this tender new film. Howard Brookner emerged in the 1970s as a promising director alongside his longtime friends Tom DiCillo and Jim Jarmusch. His first movie, Burroughs about beatnik author William S. Burroughs, attracted the attention of the art-house world. Secretly, however, Brookner battled AIDS, and wouldn’t live to see his final film, Bloodhounds of Broadway, hit screens. He died in 1989.

Now Brookner’s nephew aims to introduce his long-since-departed uncle to a new audience, and rekindle his memory. Uncle Howard features the younger Brookner visiting with many of his uncle’s friends and film subjects, as well as utilizes outtakes and trims from his movies. The resulting movie sheds a candid light on Howard Brookner and offers a bit of insight into his own artistic drive (Brookner notoriously stopped taking AZT to finish Bloodhounds; this likely cost him his life). It’s a loving tribute to a fallen queer artist, and a moving love letter from a nephew to his uncle.

Streams on Ovid.tv.

The Jam: Freddie Mercury Final Act

Lovers of Queen, or anyone still unhappy with Bohemian Rhapsody won’t want to miss Final Act a new documentary about singer Freddie Mercury’s final days, and how his bandmates paid tribute to his memory. The film features extensive interviews with Mercury’s friends and fellow musicians, as well as concert and behind-the-scenes footage from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium. Concerts don’t get much more epic, and this special broadcast version of the film marks the 30th anniversary of the original show. Kick back, watch, and rediscover the music of Queen—and a rock icon—all over again.

Airs on The CW April 20. Also streams on Indee.TV.

The Exclusive: I’ll Show You Mine

We here at Queerty managed to snag a special exclusive this week, a clip from Megan Griffiths’ (The Night Stalker) new film I’ll Show You Mine. The movie follows the misadventures of Priya Sura (Poorna Jagannathan), a memoirist who has made a career out of her life trauma. Priya realizes she’s running out of life trauma to write about, so she turns to her nephew Nic (Casey Thomas Brown), a former model whose career crashed and burned when he came out as queer. Needless to say, they both get more than they bargained for.

I’ll Show You Mine debuts at The Seattle International Film Festival April 16, and is currently seeking distribution. 

The Sip: Boozy Butterbeer

via Shutterstock

Ever wonder what butterbeer, the venerable beverage preferred by Harry Potter and his friends tasted like? Yeah, of course, you have…probably after reading JK Rowling’s tweets. Fortunately, we happened on this recipe for hard butterbeer. It makes for sweet, strong sipping whether enjoying an adventure in the wizarding world, or shaking your head at the author’s nincompoopery.

  • 6 oz cream soda
  • 1 oz vanilla vodka
  • 1 oz butterscotch schnapps
  • 1/4 teaspoon butter extract
  • whipped cream
  • amaretto

Mix soda, vodka, schnapps and butter extract in a chilled mug. In a bowl, mix amaretto and whipped cream, add to the top of the glass and serve.