Rom-com 'The Thing About Harry' depicts a relatable journey for queer youth

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Rom-com 'The Thing About Harry' depicts a relatable journey for queer youth

May 8, 2020

I’m not usually a fan of romantic comedies, but when any movie is about the LGBTQ community, I can’t help but watch. So when Hulu recommended I watch the movie, The Thing About Harry, I was excited to see what this queer romance had to offer. The story follows the two main characters’, Sam and Harry, love story over the course of many years and, to my surprise, explores important problems queer youth face. From discovering your own identity and bullying to being stereotyped by others based on physical or behavioral attributes, The Thing About Harry has some important messages on the struggles of LGBTQ+ youth, all through the lens of a sweet romantic comedy

Too often in popular media, the majority of the community is not given much representation, with the few LGBTQ+ characters in movies being lesbian, gay, occasionally bisexual or, some rare cases, transgender. Of the 110 films GLAAD counted from the major media studios in 2018, 18.2 percent of them contained characters identified as LGBTQ: Gay men appear in 55 percent (11 films), lesbians appeared in 55 percent (11 films) and bisexuals were represented in 15 percent (3 films). Of all of the films tracked, however, there were zero transgender-inclusive films from the major studios in 2018. The community, however, is so vast and has many different sexual orientations and identities that are not often represented on screen; pansexual characters, asexual characters, and non-binary characters, to name a few, often get left behind.

In The Thing About Harry, Harry himself is pansexual, and explicitly labels himself as such. At first, I was shocked when Harry talked about being pansexual because I had never heard a character say they were pansexual on screen. I have pansexual friends and know plenty of people that identify as pansexual but, on television or in film, it’s all too rare to see a character who is pansexual, and actually uses the word.

What’s more, The Thing About Harry discusses the experience of fluidity many young people question as they grow into their identity. Before coming out as pansexual, Harry questioned whether he was gay or bisexual. He never spoke up because he was scared to come out in his small town, so instead, he distanced himself from Sam–the openly out kid–in order to appease any suspicion that might arise about his own orientation. 

Harry’s journey to find his sexuality, almost as much as his pansexuality, spoke to me through its authenticity. Harry went from being told he was straight, to questioning himself, to identifying as bisexual, to discovering his true orientation as pansexual; it was a journey full of self-questioning and changing self-identification. I know that in my coming out I constantly questioned my own sexuality, unsure of how to define myself or what identity I really was. The authenticity of the physical and emotional journey in the movie was powerful because it showed, despite what many people think, the process of coming out is continuous. Someone may identify as one orientation or gender identity and over time feel that a different identity fits them better, and that’s okay.

Aside from Harry’s experience with his sexuality, his general persona and character also break the stereotypical characterization of queer men in media; instead, he is very much his own person Harry’s character is relatable to so many queer men who--because of their ‘straight-passing’ or masculine gender expression--did not understand their own queerness and were doubted by others when they came out. The community is not a monolith, instead, it is a beautiful and expansive group of people who act differently, identity differently, present differently and believe different things.

The Thing About Harry follows the general structure and tropes of a romantic comedy—twists and turns in the relationship until ultimately they are united together and happy. At the end of the movie, not only do Sam and Harry get married, but they also start a family, and Sam runs for public office. Growing up, that life is all I wanted, but never thought I could have. A family. A political career. A bright future. The Thing About Harry shows the viewers a more inclusive view of life, where LGBTQ people can reach for their goals in life and love, unrestrained by age-old stereotypes and prejudices.

The Thing About Harry is a touching romantic comedy that presents the LGBTQ community positively and addresses experiences young people face coming into their identity. It shows that queer people deserve a happy ending just as much as anyone else.

Ty Gamble-Eddington is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and Junior at Union College studying political science and history. He serves in numerous capacities on campus promoting diversity and inclusion while exploring the intersectionality of race, class, and sexuality. Ty is an avid advocate for the rights of marginalized communities, serving on both the the LGBTQ+ committee and the diversity liaison committee at Union.

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