Out of the Celluloid Closet

Did This Thirsty Jay Hernandez Flick Turn You Bisexual, Too?

Do you remember what it was like to be bisexual in 2001? Neither do I, because I blocked that year out of my memory completely. The fact is that, despite the early 2000s being an aggressively horny time in pop culture, bisexual erasure—along with queer erasure—was the order of the day. These were the pre-“Glee” years, and if you chanced upon a queer character on TV, they were probably the loveable, quippy sidekick with no interiority to speak of, or the villain. And when it came to bisexual representation, the well ran just as dry.

But that didn’t stop bisexuals from getting their kicks where they could find them. This impulse is precisely what lead me and my best friend to the AMC multiplex one weekend to watch a movie that can only be described as bisexual catnip. It’s about Jay Hernandez and Kirsten Dunst hooking up, and being hot. I rest my case.

For the uninitiated, the 2001 drama Crazy/Beautiful was a different kind of movie. It was artfully shot, with a playful DIY attitude that seemed to anticipate the early music videos of Lana Del Rey. The film, set in East LA, followed the lives of two high school seniors: Carlos (Jay Hernandez) and Nicole (Kirsten Dunst) as their very different lives intertwine. The two are quick to fall in love, but the road before them isn’t easy. Nicole is white privilege writ large (her dad is a politician and she lives in the Palisades) and Carlos, a Hispanic senior in who dreams of being a pilot, needs to work twice as hard as Nicole at school—and at life—to make sure he can have the future he wants.

In a moment where teen movies weren’t exactly interested in exploring racial politics and looking critically at whiteness, Crazy/Beautiful immediately stood out. I’m not saying that it made hard-hitting observations about privilege: it’s basically a Disney movie. But it wasn’t afraid to point out, by showing the privileges Nicole takes for granted, how uneven life can be for two teenagers living in the same city. Nicole keeps fucking up—to be fair, she’s struggling with depression and the fallout from her mom’s suicide—and gets a million chances to keep fucking up. Carlos, on the other hand, lands in detention after letting Nicole lead him astray, something he and his family take very seriously. It’s Nicole’s inability to face up to her privilege and deal with her mental health issues that ultimately leads to the breakup, with Nicole even having a white girl freakout moment during a party with Carlos’s friends and family. But you can still see, in plenty of passionate sex scenes, how much these two mean to each other.

Originally titled “At Seventeen,” it’s a painful coming-of-age story about two people finding themselves and each other, if only for a brief moment. And when me and my friend left the theater after seeing it, we had one thing to say to each other.

“That guy was so f*cking hot.”

Indeed, Jay Hernandez is quite fine in this movie, as he is in every movie, TV show, and franchise he chooses to grace with his fineness. But let’s not forget that Kirsten Dunst is also in this movie. This is a movie about two hot people hooking up, and it was exactly what the culture needed. There’s even the obligatory early-oughts darkroom makeout scene!

Basically, this movie is bisexual torment. And while, yes, you could technically say that about every movie starring two hot people, there’s something about Crazy/Beautiful that hits harder than most films of this era.

Maybe it’s the fact that two people who are struggling find each other during the hellish time that is senior year of high school. Maybe it’s the LA-captured-on-Polaroid vibe. I don’t know. All I know is that this movie meant something to horny, sad, edge-of-seventeen bisexuals everywhere.

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