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Photo courtesy Logo
The new documentary Bear Run, which kicks off a new season of Real Momentum on the Logo network August 2, gets points if only for putting chunky, hairy guys on the queer cable channel. Real Momentum is a documentary series that explores the lives of real or "everyday" gay and lesbian people. But rather than explore deeper issues and questions about the bear community, Bear Run pretty much keeps it at the "Check it out! Chubby gays with body hair!" level.
Bears, for the uninitiated, are men who have subverted the paradigm of the gym-going, shaved-body archetype that's been shoved down the gay community's throat for decades. If advertising and magazines like Instinct and (ahem) Out give us sleek, ripped, and slightly androgynous gay studs as role models, bears hew more to guys who look like they came over to fix the plumbing. They are -- or are into -- men with a little extra padding and body hair, often wearing flannel and denim.
Bear Run plunges us into the weekly circuit of bear events -- they happen all over the country -- by following three participants: Louie, who seems to define his identity by the fact that he was named International Bear Cub 2006; 50-year-old Mikhael, a former trucker who reveals more and more surprising tidbits about his past as the film progresses; and Mike, who found solace among bears after being turned away from the antigay church that had been central to his life.
While these men's stories are interesting to varying degrees -- Mikhael could rate a documentary unto himself -- director Dan Hunt doesn't fully connect the dots between his subjects and the larger idea of beardom itself. Granted, 44 minutes might not really be long enough to explore the various political and sociological implications of the bear movement, but Bear Run, pardon the pun, barely even tries.
Even if the idea was just to focus on the notion of bear runs themselves, the movie limits itself to two in New York and one in Montreal (plus a brief stop at Bear Week in Provincetown), hardly a representative sampling of the many events that take place all around the country.
The movie also shies away from the fact that, in addition to all the bonding and brotherhood, lots of people go to bear runs first and foremost to get laid. (Or as one friend of mine recently noted on his blog, "Gay men + cheap airfare - shame for acts committed in your hometown = bear run.")
Kudos to Logo for including bears in the network's ongoing coverage of the patchwork quilt that is the queer community. Here's hoping its next stab at this topic yields a more thought-provoking inquiry.