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

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | /Bent May 12, 2014 at 1:23PM

What fascinated me most about 'Neighbors' -- both in how it got me to the movie theater and what I saw when I was in there -- extends well beyond it simply being a 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 have a single (explicitly) gay character.
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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. 

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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.