“Call Me by Your Name” is not just a “gay film”


Last year at the Oscars, “Moonlight” became the first film to win best picture that featured a LGBT lead in all 89 years of the ceremony. Notice that I did not say “the first gay film” to win. “Moonlight” is not a “gay film.”

“Moonlight” is a film about someone who is gay. Take away Chiron’s sexuality, and only a part of the story changes. This is true for so many films, especially ones that get labeled “gay films” at the expense of just getting labeled “films.”

This year, a lot of people are saying that “Call Me by Your Name” is the “gay film” of awards season. This is mainly because it’s the only LGBT-led film nominated for best picture at the Oscars. In fact, it’s the only LGBT-led film up for any of the “big six” Oscar categories (best picture, director, lead/supporting actors, lead/supporting actresses). Every nomination is well-deserved, but not just because the film gives recognition to the gay community.

“Call Me by Your Name” is lovely. Everything, from the cinematography, script and acting to the set is beautifully crafted in and of itself. It doesn’t need to represent a minority to be a good movie. It can just be good movie.

After seeing “Call Me by Your Name,” my friend and I spent an extra hour and a half in the Grande Lobby dissecting it. Something both of us noticed was how, at its core, the film is really a coming-of-age story about a boy stuck in a star-crossed love affair, much more than it’s about a boy being gay.

Let me be clear here. “Call Me by Your Name” is not a “gay film” simply because its plot is not dependent upon the characters being homo(or bi)sexual. The relationship between Elio and Oliver could be between a male and a female, and it would not change much about the base meaning of their narrative. However, this does not negate the gayness of the film—not at all.

Admittedly, “Moonlight” cannot as easily be removed from the context of its lead character’s sexuality as can “Call Me by Your Name.” But it’s still a film about growing up. Making yourself and making something of yourself. To call “Moonlight” a “gay film” is to invalidate every other aspect that makes it a film worthy of the highest honor in Hollywood. To say that about “Call Me by Your Name” is the same.

Instead, erasing this label normalizes them. At the 89th Oscars, best picture went to an incredible film. If we group “Moonlight” in with the other 88 best picture winners, that’s one film closer to making the norm films that feature any sexuality.

It’s a shame that “Call Me by Your Name” is the only LGBT-led film to get recognition this awards season. And it’s a shame that it probably has no chance of winning anything because a LGBT-led film won in so many categories last year. But all that these awards add up to is politics, and politics doesn’t have to dictate every opinion.

If you want to say that “Call Me by Your Name” (and last year, “Moonlight”) has gotten so much awards buzz because it’s the “token gay film,” okay. But know that you’re selling it so incredibly short. Before you reduce it to that one aspect, no matter what awards it receives and what awards it loses, think of everything else that comes together to make it too an incredible film—full stop.