First off, I just want to say, I love Single All the Way. I could sum it up by saying that it’s the most wholesome commercial for a gig work app featuring gay guys, and actually mean it in a nice way. (Sometimes commercials are great. Have you seen Long Long Man?)
I review a movie for the first time mostly based on how much I like it. It’s hard to dislike Single All the Way. You must be a Grinch who is somehow immune to Jennifer Coolidge’s cleavage or something.
Always, I narrow the scope of reviews because I could say a lot about most projects. The writing alone could gives room to discuss themes, subplots, craft, tropes; I also really love visual art and could talk a lot about that too. The music, the actors, the movie in its time-and-place… I usually just pick one to elaborate on, or I brush over a couple.
But I’m someone who loves rewatching movies into the ground because it’s fun to think about all those things! Focusing on music cues and sound design on one watch can be so educational. Editing always deserves a close eye. I’ll rewatch a movie until I run out of angles to think about it, basically.
I just rewatched Single All the Way. My opinions from the first review hold strong: it’s genuinely wonderful.
Yet there is something itchy like an ugly wool Christmas sweater if you look too long at Single All the Way, and that reaction is also worth exploring.
Please note my rants get spicy because I’m a rowdy human, but if you love Single All the Way, I’m not saying anything about you by criticizing it. Taste is deeply personal. You know your relationship with any given project; you know you’re not being like a fascist or whatever by just enjoying guys in sweaters. I know this too.
Also, almost no single movie is a cause of massive societal harm, but rather a small symptom of a greater culture, a single voice in a choir, or even a shard of a great shattered mirror that slices us to bloody shards even while showing us our own beauty. I will criticize movies for what they do while also respecting the difficulty of a complex art made by people just trying to work in a difficult world.
Still, I think criticism is healthy, so I focus it upon the ideas that a project summons with its existence. I hope you’ll get rowdy with me about these ideas, and hold them with exactly the importance they deserve: very ephemeral ideas from some writer on the internet.
Let’s have fun here, but let’s be super honest.
Single All the Way is kind of a hellhole abomination and gay people have every right to loathe it.
Where the hell was the funding for this? You can’t tell me that some CEO couldn’t gave farted out some cash for this project. Netflix is always using its money in stupid ways. Give all your stupid money to the gays, Netflix.
Forcing us to watch a Task Rabbit commercial to get gay guys?
Especially when gig work is so deeply exploitative? (I didn’t see recent articles about the app, but their history isn’t great, as you would expect.) (Salon)
Is this where we remain as a society, where cute romances about gay guys can only get funding if they’re bland enough to be worthy of advertising some polished capitalist turd?
Like yeah. (Associated Press)
I guess we are still here. (New York Public Library)
Being conventionally attractive and economically secure demands a variety of enrollments into cisheteronormative patriarchy that is hostile to the queer community. I apologize for being awkwardly multisyllabic. Please imagine that sentence roared in a monster-voice to help set the tone appropriately.
Standards of beauty are strongly tied to culture. Conventional attractiveness is a combination of youth, time and money investment into beauty rituals, and myriad other transient privileges. “Good genetics” don’t really matter. Models look weird as heck! But in a nice way, obviously.
This investment into being attractive is so expensive.
A greater proportion of queer people are disabled than with those who are straight. (LGBTmap – link is a PDF) (HRC)
A greater proportion of queer people are unhoused and have lower socioeconomic status. (APA – link is a PDF)
Conventional beauty is work that a lot of queer people can’t perform, or aren’t willing to perform, and queer beauty is often fully rejected by straight people. A gender binary enforces rigid dimorphism based on assumed sex. Drag queens are conditionally accepted because we love clowns (Tumblr), but we are still extending generosity to people putting vigorous effort into looking great. This vigorous effort to appeal to narrow beauty standards can hurt. (CNBC)
*Cost* of beauty isn’t the only connection to work. Meeting beauty standards is an important safety mechanism when ninety percent of trans workers reported harassment at work. (American Progress – link is a PDF)
In capitalism, you are not enfranchised unless you are working and earning money. This has gotten even harder for marginalized groups, including queer people, since the beginning of COVID. (Rutgers) America tangos with fascism (Lawyers, Guns, & Money) so overt that even your elderly neighbor with the Hillary 2016 flag noticed, so we know that these precarious situations are at risk of worsening.
It’s interesting to know that fascism loves beauty. (Open Democracy)
The beauty of queerness is how it is a sprawling, eldritch thing, encompassing everything about the experience of Being a Human outside of the center stripe of societal convention. Queers can be pretty and rich, but oh, how many of us are? How many of us ooze? How many of us are covered in hair and bruises? How many live out of bank accounts with all red numbers? How many more aren’t getting nearly the medical care they need, and smile their beautiful smiles around broken teeth, batting triple rows of stick-on eyelashes and acting fabulous no matter how crappy they feel? How many queer people have just straight up fucking died because our world hates them so much?
We don’t need to see this stuff when we’re in a Christmas movie mood, necessarily, but do we really have to watch *this* much sponcon to get the scraps they’ve tossed our way?
Who exactly is benefiting from the representation in this movie?
This is a big world, so it’s safe to say that a good number of queer people feel close to this experience…but not a big number.
I think there are plenty of families (with or without queers) who like Christmas movies and enjoy having better representation on their screens, which has nonzero value.
But mostly, the beneficiary is TaskRabbit and Netflix. (Vox)
I’m sure TaskRabbit enjoys an aura of inclusivity among its target demographic. Given that one of the gay leads is actually taking on this gig work, one might wonder if this is more a recruitment ad than a sales pitch to consumers. “We know you’re broke,” they say. “Let us exploit your labor.”
The genre is usually disinterested in the reality of socioeconomics (and fairly so), but it feels far more conspicuous when a vulnerable population is given such a glossy once-over for the benefit of a late-stage capitalist monstrosity. (Economic Policy Institute)
Queers deserve access to escapist fantasies about love and hope, which is the point of the holiday romcom genre.
And representation matters for so many reasons. A conservative state will not radically transform overnight, and in the meantime, queers deserve to see themselves in every situation, no matter how imperfect the reflection. The hope we feel when we watch this — for those of us who can get hope out of it — can help get through to the next fight in the generations-long work for progress.
I especially like how representation in Single All The Way might help shift the Overton Window for nice-but-conservative old white ladies who will never watch, say, Queer as Folk (YouTube), but might watch a Hallmark-like movie and think, “Love is love and this is very cute.”
But I’ve seen folks revolted by Single All the Way, and if you sit with that feeling a minute, it’s easy to see it in a totally different light.
We can celebrate our cute representation but remain discontent and ungrateful. We can’t ever stop expecting better because it’s easy for the world to be dreadful, and honestly, we’re still a long way off from doing right by all our neighbors.
Now where’s my fat disabled dyke romcom? If this exists, sincerely, please tell me yesterday, because I want to be wrong about missing this representation *so much*.