SXSW FILM 2010
By Dirk Sonniksen | March 17, 2010
Director: Malcolm Ingram
Featuring: Bob Mould and Kevin Smith
Somewhat of a follow up to Small Town Gay Bar, Malcolm Ingram takes us inside the world of Bear Nation, a sub-culture within the gay community. These large, hairy, gay men have created a little slice of heaven for themselves, complete with magazines and conventions dedicated to their girthy physique and cuddly personalities. In addition, Ingram touches upon the prejudice that still permeates society concerning gay culture, and the misconceptions straight folks have concerning the gay community.
Bear Nation has many hilarious moments, with Ingram interviewing a slew of bears who touch upon their experiences, including how they began traveling down the road to bear worship. Said bears also make it a point to separate themselves from others in gay society, particularly “Twinks,” another sub-culture characterized by pronounced feminine qualities and a lack of body hair. In addition, there are a few celebrity types included in Bear Nation. Not being a huge fan of Kevin Smith, I was initially a bit put off by his inclusion in the film, but his comments were ultimately a high point. Also included are segments interviewing Bob Mould (of Hüsker Dü and Sugar fame), a man who seems very comfortable within the bear community.
While Bear Nation has a great comedic element, as well as some really interesting tales of individuals growing up in this sub-culture, the film ultimately suffers from repetition. The individuals Ingram interviews seem to repeat themselves after a while, and I personally think shaving ten minutes off Bear Nation would have made a much smoother documentary. The jump Ingram made from the United States to Britain to cover the English bears seemed like an odd transition to me as well, although I was thoroughly entertained by the hairy gentlemen residing in the UK.
Overall, Bear Nation is a good documentary. Having grown up around gay men (no, I’m not gay, just for the record), I’m always proud of the efforts made by men like Malcolm Ingram who attempt to explain gay culture to those who are less enlightened, and provide some great entertainment to those who are. While Bear Nation may not fit the mold of entertainment typically enjoyed by mainstream America (sadly), I hope it still makes it into their living rooms. Some may be a bit shocked, but ultimately, it should prove to open some minds in a country that definitely needs to lighten up.