In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters nowincluding, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.
What is Ready Player One? Steven Spielberg is not resting on his laurels late in his career. Just months after dropping Best Picture nominee The Post, he’s back with an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One. The film is set in a futurealthough not too distant a futurewhere humanity has given up on reality, and instead submerges itself in the digital world known as the Oasis. The Oasis was created by a man with a love of pop culture and maybe a bit too much time on his hands, James Halliday. He died a few years ago, but his death set in motion a worldwide quest for an Easter egg in the Oasis that, if found, would bequeath $500 billion and control of the Oasis to the winner.
To win, a player needs to find three keyswhich is exactly what 18-year-old Wade Watts is trying to do. In other words, it’s a fetch quest video game in movie form, jam-packed with references to other properties like The Iron Giant, Batman, Gundam, and more.
Who’s in it? Tye Sheridan plays Wade Watts, but you’re forgiven if you think it’s Miles Teller at first. Or Tom Holland. Or Timothée Chalamet. A lot of these twinks look the same, is what I’m saying. Olivia Cooke, who is absolutely wonderful in the now-in-theaters dark comedy Thoroughbreds, plays his hunting partner and love interest, known in the game as Artemis. Lena Waithe appears in a spoilery role, so we won’t give away her part in the proceedings. Ben Mendelsohn plays villainous corporate hunter Nolan Sorrento, who is referred to by full name an ungodly amount of times. Finally, you’ve got theatre legend Mark Rylance playing Halliday, in what I can only assume was a favor paid back to Spielberg for that Bridge of Spies Oscar.
Why should I see it? If you like reference-heavy films (think Deadpool or The Lego Movie), gaming, Spielberg, or vaguely familiar twinks, this is the movie for you. It is not, I’ll be frank, the movie for me, and thus I probably wouldn’t have vibed with it even if it was incredible. But Ready Player One is far from incredible. It’s some remarkably well-done scenes stringed together by a nonsensical plot, a bunch of ‘80s music cues that feel ripped out of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and some weak performances.
More than anything, though, what makes Ready Player One a mess is the tone. I’d liken it to cotton candy: It’s colorful, sugary, and light, but makes you feel kinda queasy. There’s too much real-world violence just skimmed over, and the deaths in the digital world have no stakes. (There’s some nonsense spouted about losing the funds and items you’ve collected, but this only seems to matter to one or two characters.) But Ready Player One would rather you focus on how fun and referential it is! Look at the giant Mecha-Godzilla! Aren’t we having a blast?
Reader, I did not have a blast.
But how gay is it? Though Waithe is always a welcome presence, her role in this film is something of a mixed bag, as the explicit queerness of the character from the book is not specified in the film. I don’t really know what else to say here that I haven’t already said in the past. Blockbusters won’t fall apart if you call a queer a queer, Hollywood. I promise. Not everything needs to be Love, Simon to have LGBTQ representation.
I’m confused by this twinks thing. What should I know Tye Sheridan from? If you’re a Terrence Malick fan, you recognize Sheridan from The Tree of Life. If you’re an X-Men fan, you know him as Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse. And if you’re a Lily Rabe fan, you recognize him from Miss Stevenswait, nope, that’s Chalamet. My bad. (But go watch Miss Stevens!)
What’s this backlash I keep hearing about? Honestly, it’s not worth the drama, but the short answer is that it’s all linked back to GamerGate. (Remember GamerGate? For your sake, I hope you don’t!) Vox has a terrific explainer about the ways in which Ready Player One enforces the same gatekeeper culture that GamerGate did. Again, though: Ready Player One is not a movie worth investing too much emotional energy in. It’s a mess, and there are far too many great movies out right now to waste time on this one.
One last question: Was Tye Sheridan in Manchester by the Sea? No, that was Lucas Hedges. The same twink from Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Good try, though!
Ready Player One is in theaters now.