Review: 'Boy Culture,' the Series, Revives a Gay Favorite

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Saturday October 9, 2021

'Boy Culture,' the series
'Boy Culture,' the series  (Source:Outfest)

When director Q. Allan Brocka co-wrote (with Philip Pierce) the screenplay for his 2006 film adaptation of Matthew Rettenmund's 1995 novel "Boy Culture," he struck gay indie movie gold; the film had a strong showing at the box office, and has remained a critical and fan favorite ever since.

"Boy Culture," the series, respects the source material without simply retreading it. In the time frame of the series it's been ten years since X — the narrator and main character, played here as in the film by Derek Magyar — ended up happily ever after with Andrew (Darryl Stephens, "Noah's Arc," also reprising his role). Except, happily ever after turns out to have had an expiration date: The two have recently broken up, and, because of economic reasons, X is still living in the house he shared with Andrew (the pair having relocated to Los Angeles from Seattle).

Also due to economic reasons, X has taken up his former profession and gone back to hustling. It's as good a time as any for him to resurrect his bygone habit of making "confessions" that detail his sexual on-the-job adventures and his emotional confusion.

Now in his 30s, and a little rusty at his trade, X picks up pointers from a twenty-something pimp called Chayce (Jason Caceres). Some of Chayce's instruction has to do with the realities of the modern world; it's now possible for escorts to be paid via PayPal, for instance, or to flog their wares (so to speak) online at OnlyFans and market themselves on Instagram. But Chayce is also precocious about human nature; he's not just a pimp, he's a born salesman, and he knows what makes people tick.

It's for that reason (and maybe a little malice) that Chayce sends X off on a series of wild assignations. The six episodes of the series take place at bachelor parties, cosplay hookups, and even (ahem!) an outcall to the home of two lovely ladies who enjoy gay porn and don't want to "contribute to bi-erasure." ("This was the moment I decided to kill Chayce," X growls in his narration —†though the episode turns out to be sweet, funny, and unexpectedly hot.)

Q. Allan Brocka returns as series director, co-writing the episodes along with novelist Matthew Rettenmund, so there's no doubt that the series carries a stamp of creative authenticity. The characters are older and wiser, and if they are still spinning their wheels in some ways they at least have grown in emotional dimensions. X is now more empathetic than before, and his heart — so guarded in the film — is now more exposed, more available, and a couple sizes bigger.

That comes across even in episodes that deal with some pretty heavy social issues. (Let's not specify anything here for fear of entering spoiler territory. Be assured, though, that the issues are treated with realism, gravity, humanity... and, of course, humor.)

The series falls into the "short form" category, with individual episodes clocking in between eleven and a half and 17 minutes. As with another notable gay short-form series, Netflix's "Special" (which offered 15-minute episodes in its first season before getting a pumped-up 30-minute running time for Season Two), the brevity of the episodes doesn't short-change the stories. Each segment feels complete, and though the series follows a time-honored narrative structure, with "A" and "B" storylines addressed in each episode, they also skip around in time. The writing is fast and clever, and the direction is crisp, ensuring we don't lose track of where we are; each story unfolds with ease, but also with surprises that could only come tumbling out in a storytelling structure like the one used here.

This revisitation keeps things fresh by improving on, rather than reinventing, the wheel; it helps that Brocka and Rettenmund also understand, and explore, the inevitable fact that this particular wheel has a few more miles on it than before, and so do these familiar, beloved characters.

All six short-form episodes of "Boy Culture," the series, play at OUTshine Fort Lauderdale


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Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.