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On Zac Efron, Homoeroticism and Gay Pandering: How 'Neighbors' Is The Gayest Studio Movie of the Summer

by Peter Knegt
May 12, 2014 1:23 PM
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Like many red-blooded gay men, I got my myself to a movie theater this weekend and saw 'Neighbors.' And, yes, it was everything I wanted and more: It met my expectations in terms of being essential Zac Efron porn, and also blended well-executed physical humor, clever raunch and smart social commentary with nearly perfect measure (it also helped that it featured one of the most layered comedic performances in recent memory thanks to Rose Byrne -- seriously, give this woman an Oscar nomination). But what fascinated me most about 'Neighbors' -- both in how it got me into the movie theater and what I saw when I was there -- extends well beyond it simply being a increasingly rare example of an excellent studio-produced comedy. It was more about how it might just be the gayest studio-produced comedy ever made. Especially considering it doesn't even have a single (explicitly) gay character.

When Seth Rogen's Mac sees Zac Efron's Teddy in the film for the first time, he offers Rose Byrne's Kelly one of the film's best lines: "He looks like something a gay guy created in a lab." It's funny 'cause it's true, and honestly  sometimes feels like the same could be said for 'Neighbors' itself. From its homoerotic frat house moments to its fetishization of Efron (and co-star Dave Franco, for that matter) to uniquely subversive takes on the standard gay panic jokes found in the long lineage of homophobic films that 'Neighbors' was born out of, the film seems to be outright pandering to gay audiences. 

And that's just as true of its marketing. The team behind 'Neighbors' clearly knew that having a largely shirtless Zac Efron parading around their film was a golden ticket to some pink dollars, and sexualized the shit out of him in their materials. They also aggressively sought out advertising and coverage in gay male-oriented magazines and websites. And it definitely seemed to work. 

But I suspected that there would be a bit of deception in this marketing when I headed into the film. Sure, there'd be a lot of Efron's abs, but this would still at its core be a film made by and for straight men.  And while that technically remains the case (at least I think so -- I couldn't find anything confirming otherwise about its director and writers), I was pleasantly taken aback by the remarkable amount of blatant homoeroticism in 'Neighbors' that, for once, didn't come with any underlying homophobia. 

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  • ROGER ASQUITH | July 27, 2014 8:47 AMReply

    Neighbours in U.K. is the title of an Australian long running soap opera with plenty of shirtless Aussie hunks to please everyone.
    The American film NEIGHBORS hasn't reached the U.K. but the advances hype and pix of shirtless Zac Efron is already stirring the tastebuds, but unless Zac is actually gay , we're all ogling a false god. Is he or isn't he?

    Roger Asquith

  • Me | May 13, 2014 4:00 AMReply

    When I saw pictures of Seth with Zac I thought that Seth does not look that bad really. They consumed some substance and had fun, why not? Previously I thought Seth looks ugly. But video advertising of Seth with the crowd of grandmamas age 85+ was really funny. I dont know where he found so many grandmamas age 85+ but it was unusual.

  • Joe | May 13, 2014 1:52 AMReply

    Ouch and people complain about how women are objectified in film.

  • Daniella Isaacs | May 13, 2014 12:00 AMReply

    Jesus, BH. If you want a deep, Foucauldian Queer Theory reading of a film, subscribe to GLQ. This is a BLOG posting for Christsakes. The author said he spent 30 minutes on this, which seems about right, and as someone who hasn't seen the film, it convinced me to go… so it's served a purpose.

  • joe | May 12, 2014 9:12 PMReply


  • BH | May 12, 2014 8:09 PMReply

    This? This is what we get in a queer reading of a film? I don't care if it's a cheap comedy like NEIGHBORS or not, this is absolutely base. To write an entire article about the homoeroticism of a film focusing on a fraternity without even going into the homoeroticism of fraternities in general just seems strange. This has no critical thought whatsoever. This should be entitled "An Ode to Efron's Body," or even something regarding the gay male's gaze/role in a heterosexist film that seems to pander to queer audiences while negating legitimacy to those very audiences... but this blog is continually trying to pass subpar criticism as something more. I crave true queer criticism of films (which, I know, is a problematic wish given the foundation of queer criticism) but these postings are beginning to actually read as heteronormative readings of queer readings of heteronormative films. Sigh.

  • JD | May 16, 2014 2:45 AM

    So, this article wasn't deep enough for you? You want an essay on homoerotisism in fraternaties while reading a blog based on movies. Right. I think you're on the wrong site.

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