The Wachowski siblings (creators of The Matrix) have been developing a sci-fi-flavored war movie/gay romance entitled Cobalt Neural 9. It sounds kind of awesome! And this might very well be the most mainstream effort to address the topic of openly gay soldiers in fictional media, despite it being a hot-button issue (what with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell).
Until Cobalt climbs its way out of development hell, here are a few other examples of “out” soldiers from movies and more.
1. Kevin Keller from Archie
Do people still actually read Archie? They must, because the ultra-wholesome comic book series has run for over seventy years, a fact which is evident in how dated the comic sometimes looks. Did people actually wear Jughead crowns back in the 1930s? Was that really a thing? People walking around going ‘Man, this Great Depression sucks, but I sure feel a lot less destitute when I’m wearing this crown.”
Archie has recently made some surprisingly progressive changes, particularly in the addition of an openly gay character, Kevin Keller.
Kevin is still in high school (and since this is Archie, he’s likely to remain so FOREVER), so he technically isn’t an actual soldier. But he does have aspirations of following in the footsteps of his father, a retired Army colonel. And in the future continuity of Life With Archie (okay just because I don’t read Archie doesn’t mean I can’t be a scholar of the Archie universe thank you very much), Kevin actually does become a war hero as well as a husband.
Archie doesn’t specifically acknowledge the DADT debate, but the world of Archie is so cloyingly positive and accepting that Kevin’s sexuality is a complete non-issue.
2. Colonel Frank Fitts from American Beauty
Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen American Beauty, I guess, but I honestly don’t know anyone who hasn’t seen American Beauty. It’s pretty high up on the list of “things you have probably seen,” along with Titanic, The Simpsons, and your own face in a mirror.
Not every portrayal of a gay soldier is a positive one, but in American Beauty, it’s implied that the emotionally unbalanced Colonel Frank Fitts is off his rocker not because he’s gay, but because he’s closeted. The virulent homophobe who is secretly gay himself has become something of a cliché, though the trope has been known to exist in reality (see also the ongoing train of conservative politicians embroiled in gay scandal). In Fitts’ case, the torment of the closet and the threat of being exposed is enough to drive him to murder.
3 & 4. Yossi and Jagger
One of the most overtly gay war movies ever made came not from America, but from Israel. You might be surprised to learn that Israel is arguably the most gay-friendly country in the Middle East. Gays have been allowed to openly serve in the military since 1993, and 61% of Israelis support civil marriage for same-sex couples.
Of course, the epicenter of the world’s three major religions is bound to have a bit of turmoil when it comes to gay issues, and there’s a lot of pressure on gay Israelis to stay in the closet. Yossi and Jagger tackles this subject head-on, by chronicling the tragic romance between two soldiers.
5. James Hennesey from Biloxi Blues
Based on Neil Simon’s 1985 stage play, Biloxi centers on the experiences of Eugene, a young World War II soldier in basic training. A major plot point involves Eugene suspecting fellow recruit Arnold Epstein of being gay. Arnold isn’t, but another soldier, James Hennesey, is, and gets sent to the Army prison in a dramatic and surprisingly sympathetic scene.