The conflict in The Boys in the Band begins with the uninvited presence of Alan, Michael’s college friend, who ends up getting into a physical fight with Emory, yet he doesn’t leave the party after that – but why? Ryan Murphy continues producing content for Netflix as part of his deal with the streaming platform, and just a couple of days after the release of the horror series Ratched, comes a different project: the drama film The Boys in the Band, based on the 1968 play of the same name by Mart Crowley.
The Boys in the Band follows a group of six gay friends who gather to celebrate the birthday of one of them (Harold, played by Zachary Quinto). The group is joined by “Cowboy” (Charlie Carver), a present to the birthday boy, and Alan (Brian Hutchinson), the host’s college friend who shows up uninvited. Alan’s presence, along with the rest getting increasingly inebriated and a party game that goes wrong, trigger a lot of traumas and conflicts among everyone. Before that, however, Alan – supposedly the only straight man at the party – gets into a fight with Emory (Robin de Jesús), beating him and verbally insulting him. Although that would have been Alan’s cue to leave, he stays and ends up involved in the aforementioned party game – but why doesn’t he leave after the fight?
At the beginning of The Boys in the Band, Alan calls his college friend and host of Harold’s party, Michael (Jim Parsons), crying and telling him he’s in the city and needs to talk to him. Michael tells him he can come over to his house for a drink, though that isn’t an invitation to the party. While the group waits for Harold to arrive, Alan calls Michael to tell him to meet him the following day instead and apologizes for crying on the phone. However, Alan ends up showing up at Michael’s place a few minutes after that, and to his surprise, everyone at the party is gay. Following his altercation with Emory, Alan stays at Michael’s bedroom for a while and comes down right before the game begins. He’s then confronted by Michael, who tells him he could have left but chose to stay, and now can’t leave until after the game. When it’s his turn to play, he’s once again confronted (and challenged) by Michael, who calls him a “closeted queen”, and reveals he knows he had an affair with another college friend.
Alan’s sexuality is left open to interpretation, the most common one being that he was in fact a “closeted” gay man, and that’s exactly why he stayed after the fight. Alan was struggling with his identity and his personal life, having just left his wife and daughters, and was clearly going through a crisis. Alan felt comfort in Michael’s community/group of friends, but he didn’t know how to process it as he was trapped in the middle of a journey of self-discovery and what he feels is “correct” to the eyes of society. As a result, there’s a lot of denial and self-hatred in him, clearly seen in how he reacted to Emory just being himself, and it’s all based on his struggles with his sexuality. Alan represents another stage of the spectrum of sexualities shown in The Boys in the Band, as valid as the rest and tragic in his own way, as he doesn’t fully belong neither in the gay community as represented by Michael and company nor in the so-called “normal” society, shown when he doesn’t go back home to his family as he claimed he was going to.
What Alan wanted to tell Michael is also left a mystery and open to interpretation, and ultimately, he’s in the same spot he was in when he first called Michael, but with a lot more to think about after all the confrontations at the party. Of course, for those who choose to read Alan as just a troubled straight-man, whose main issue is homophobia, he might have stayed out of fear of being labeled a coward or something else, and as at that point he still saw Hank as the only “acceptable” man in the room, he didn’t have much trouble in staying beyond his welcome.
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