The film opens up with the infamous high school gym wall, where gossip spreads about homosexual students, and their subsequent gay bashing. A painful place. The film’s director, Mark Jones is a Tennessee native who spent many years working on LGBT parade committees, as well as making several films about the struggles of being gay in the South. Jones was actually inspired to make this film by a Memphis mayor who refused to speak in favor of the LGBT rights for city workers. After experiencing such struggles, Jones hopes that one day Memphis will have a mayor willing to walk in the gay pride parade, and send a positive message.
One of the major themes of the movie is treatment of the gay community in the south, from the 1970s to present day. The pandering, bullying and other signs of cultural discomfort with homosexuality in the south . The 1970s marks an important era to the LGBT community, as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders stopped treating homosexuality as a psychological disorder. The last forty years have been especially vital to the gay civil rights movement, as an era important to the struggle for respect, dignity and equality.
The film examines the role of local politicians and religious organizations’ responses and scheming with the homosexual community. It satirizes homophobic ideas without being heavy-handed, discussing deep issues with a smirk. As a discussion on modern tolerance (or lack thereof) of homosexuality, the film does not simply argue that things are better or worse now than it was forty years ago. As many of the characters mention about modern day Tennessee, things aren’t better or worse, just different. While in modern-day Smythe, many of the politicians and preachers still refer to homosexuality as an illness.
The film’s lead Jason Potts, played by Christian Walker, brings to light the importance of representing the community and giving fearful, closeted homosexuals hope. As the film’s director Mark Jones is a Presbyterian Deacon as well as a homosexual, his film acknowledges that there are some churches that accept homosexuals for who they are, without attempting conversion therapy.
Tennessee Queer, as the title suggests, is a feel-good comedy about important cultural battles in the south.