“Fire Island” and the fight against LGBTQ+ racism


Fire Island in New York is the summer getaway of choice for many in the queer community. Now it’s also a movie – a modern, gay and Asian adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” written by and starring comedian Joel Kim Booster and directed by Andrew Ahn.

“It’s so transformative to be in a place like Fire Island with people who, you know, you’ve chosen to be your family, and that’s really powerful,” Kim Booster said. “I was just drawing from that experience, really.”

“There are certain scenes that feel like the experience of a queer family,” Ahn said. “It was really for our community – that was the target audience for us, and I think that shows in the film.”

The romantic comedy is a love letter to chosen families and queer friendships, and Kim Booster wrote himself and co-star Bowen Yang as Jane Austen’s famous sibling duo: “Chinese gay Jane [Bennet] at [his] Korean gay Lizzy.”

But in the spirit of Jane Austen, “Fire Island” is also a biting social satire on classism and racism within today’s LGBTQ communities.

“I was most struck by the first two times I went to Fire Island – and even here in Chicago, when I first came out as a gay Asian man in this community – it’s the way we discriminate against each other when there’s no one around to discriminate against us,” Kim Booster said.

The film is both lighthearted and direct in its depictions of racist microaggressions.

But all this is based on real experiences. In 2018, for example, gay dating app Grindr faced a class action lawsuit for “sexual racism” and exclusionary language against men of color. It wasn’t until 2020 that Grindr removed its “ethnic filter” from its platform.

“It was important for me to be honest about it,” Kim Booster said. “I think this movie could have easily been a fantasy if I wanted to, but I really wanted to ground it in kind of, you know, the blending of the beauty of the chosen gay families, but also the toxicity that can sometimes come with this community.”

Critics call “Fire Island” a “celebration of queer, Asian American storytelling.” The film debuts on Hulu on Friday, June 3.

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