A self-described ‘big, fat, hairy gay dude,’ Malcolm Ingram set out to make an expose of the bear community, but instead ‘Bear Nation’ became a Valentine
DALLAS FILM FESTIVAL
Screenings run through April 18 at the Angelika Film Center at Mockingbird Station and other venues. BEAR NATION screens Friday at 10:30 p.m. and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. DallasFilm.org
Malcolm Ingram has issues and he doesn’t care how many F-bombs he has to drop to tell you about them.
Ingram has toiled away as a journalist, then as a narrative filmmaker (both in the straight world) before the one-two punch of coming out and making gay-themed documentaries. His first, Small Town Gay Bar, was produced by hetero filmmaker Kevin Smith, as is his follow-up, Bear Nation, which plays this weekend at the Dallas International Film Festival.
Ingram vented a little about the gay community he loves — and the adoptive state of Texas which has, oddly, embraced him so much.
Dallas Voice: How’d you decide on the subject of Bear Nation? Ingram: When it came time to make my follow-up [to Small Town Gay Bar], I wanted to find a subject that mattered to me. I promised myself I would never pick up a camera until I had something to say. I’m a big, fat, hairy gay dude so I decided to make a documentary about my big, fat, hairy gay brothers. I never fit into my culture. That whole Queer Eye phenomenon felt real minstrel-ly to me —like how a black person must feel watching Amos and Andy. The only relation I felt was, I like to suck dick.
But beyond that, there was no common place with gay culture. I didn’t come out of the closet until my 30s and didn’t do that until I found the bear community.
Both of your documentaries are executive produced by Kevin Smith. How did that happen? I met Kevin when I was a journalist for Film Threat. We met and later hung out and kept running into each other.
His films are gay-friendly, but in this confrontational way … It’s because he doesn’t tread softly. He says a word like "faggot," and uses it in a pejorative way, but the intent’s not there. It’s just a word. And he’s so curious. He wants shockingly graphic gay sex details. I swear, he’s one six-pack away from sucking a dick.
I was living in his house when I came out and he was releasing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back [and was getting in trouble with GLAAD]. They said, "If you don’t give us money we’re gonna come against you so hard." I said, "Hey, I’m gay and I live here and have dinner with his family and his child." But the GLAAD guy Scott didn’t believe that I was gay and started asking me questions like he was gonna trap me.
We have a similar controversy right now with a locally-made film, Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives. I’ve seen the trailer! It looks brilliant.
I have called it "Kill Bill with drag queens." That needs to be on the poster somewhere. I can’t wait to see it. Drag queens are some of the toughest motherfuckers you’ll ever meet. I love them.
People give such incredible powers to words. GLAAD is a fucking joke. It’s a bunch of upper-class gay men who throw fundraisers so they can pat themselves on the back without dealing with very deep issues. My favorite word in the world is queer. It’s how I define myself.
How do you describe the tone of Bear Nation? When I started doing it, I didn’t think it would be a Valentine to the bears, which it is. I have a lot of issues with the bear community and thought a lot of [those issues] would be explored, but when I got there, the overall feeling was everyone seemed very grateful.
What issues? There are camps in the bear community. One is basically the bears who are just happy to fit in. Then the others have found this thing that they can co-opt. For a community based on acceptance, forcing a hierarchy on it destroys what’s great about it.
You used to be able to walk into a party or a bear event and it felt like this hug; now it feels like the first day of class, like you’re being judged. If the bears were in high school, they would be the AV club, the misfits surrounded by the jocks and the preps. But as the jocks are getting older and getting hairier and not wanting to go to the gym as much, they are finding the bear community … but they are bringing the jock mentality to the bears. This community was founded as a reaction to cliques; now a cliquish hierarchy has become a facet of it.
I hope I’m not coming off as negative about the bear community, because I’m not. I think the bear community is having an incredible impact on modern gay culture. Men are hairier, have you noticed? Admitting you were a bear used to be downgrading yourself — it was very, very underground, and there was an outsider element to it. In the past five years it has become desirable. I’m a big, fat, dopey guy and if you saw some of the guys I’ve dated, you’d be shocked. Even my mother is.
Does it seem men are embracing their bear-ness later now? Yeah, the whole ageing this is funny, isn’t it? The young’uns are crazy â€“ just fuckin’ nuts in a dating situation. That age, you’re just figuring your shit out. When I think back to what I thought I knew in my 20s and what I know now, it’s completely laughable. But you kind of need to have that because when you figure out how the world works, it’s soul-crushing.
This weekend’s screening brings you back to Texas. Yes, [Bear Nation] premiered at SXSW — basically, we’re only gonna screen it in Texas. Ha! I love Dallas and love Texas. Texas is really insanely friendly — my boyfriend and I went to a Cowboys game and had the best time. I was there [a few weeks ago] for the Texas Bear Round-Up. We were gonna show the film there but they were not interested — maybe because we didn’t interview them.
But I’m looking forward to the Dallas Eagle. But even more, I wanna go to that gay bar in Gun Barrel City. I wonder if they sell t-shirts. How cool is that? A gay bar in a Texas town called Gun Barrel. I’m so there on Saturday night.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 9, 2010.