June 08 5: However, Johnson noticed that gay characters were nearly absent from the teen comedy genre. Even more modern entries like American Pie and Superbad tended to treat queer people as a punch line. While queer coming-of-age stories existed, they often had a tragic bent. So Johnson set out to make an inclusive comedy that would fill that space. And I also thought it could just be something really funny too. And so the premise for Alex Strangelove was born.
In the film, Alex Truelove Daniel Doheny is a senior in high school who has made an agreement with his girlfriend and best friend , Claire Madeline Weinstein, excellent , to have sex before graduation. Johnson put much of his own life story into this narrative. Like Truelove, he dated women in high school and throughout his 20s. And some of them were really truly emotional, and that can be legitimately confusing … even though it was very, very clear where my sexual energy was directed.
And now it's time to really focus on a relationship with a woman. It didn't end up working out with a woman," he joked. There are many other overlaps with Johnson's life that are referenced on-screen in the Netflix comedy.
During a comedic moment, the young protagonist, while wrestling with his identity, hallucinates three boxes of cereal, "Heter'O's," "Gay-Flakes," or "Bi-Crunchies," sitting on the counter in front of him.
He briefly wonders if he might be bisexual. Johnson came out as bisexual when he was 21, before he was certain about his gay identity. By his 30th birthday, however, he had realized his true place on the Kinsey scale. Oh, there's a word for you, and it ain't bisexual. It starts with the letter g and ends with y.
Johnson was first inspired to make the film, in part, by attending a concert of the gay singer Mika around 10 years ago, and being floored by large groups of young people there who were openly queer. And while that's exciting, on one hand, it doesn't necessarily make sex and dating any easier. In some ways it kind of makes it harder because there are so many choices and it's like, 'OK, I can date anyone I want.
Love and dating is hard in high school. I think that's relatable to everyone. Chances are it was awkward, no matter who you are," he added. And I just wanted to go there. I wanted to specifically explore what happens when you have utter emotional love for somebody, but for some reason, the sex is just not quite working out. Johnson, Doheny, and Marziale discuss Alex Strangelove Alex Strangelove, which is produced by Ben Stiller, checks many boxes of the high school losing-my-virginity comedy.
Their exploits include toad-licking, crashing a college party, and preparing for that great teen movie trope: As a result, he created a Pretty in Pink moment for queer viewers, like the one he had wanted to see in his own youth. It is his contribution to the teen movie canon. Another film released this year, Love, Simon, also sought to capture the coming-of-age experience of a gay teen. The films had been made at around the same time — and Johnson initially worried that they would be too similar to one another.
But a viewing of the Greg Berlanti-directed film assuaged his fears. He realized that, as an unrated film released by Netflix, Alex Strangelove had far fewer boundaries than Love, Simon, which was constrained since it had to appeal to a theatrical audience in wide release, while keeping its PG rating.
When I saw it, I kind of breathed a sigh of relief, because I realized, while we share some DNA, we were also very different. We are basically Love, Simon with sex, drugs, and rock and roll. We're a little bit more of the edgy older brother to Love Simon. Both feature a white middle-class gay teen portrayed by a straight actor. Love, Simon sparked some backlash for how it centered the queer experience on this point of view, while sidelining gender-nonconforming characters and characters of color.
I'm here to be part of that conversation. That's part of it for me. If people are engaging with the movie in that way? Hey, maybe that just means that we've made a little bit of a mark on the culture.
And so that maybe is something to be proud of. And I'm very proud of the casting in this because I feel like everyone embraces their character in a wonderful way. Maybe he's got a secret. And maybe I should open my eyes to that and watch what I say [and] watch how I behave.