This weekend I caught the 1971 outlaw biker flick The Pink Angels. It's interesting not because it's a good movie (it's bad, and so badly edited it laspes into incoherence) but because it's about gay bikers on a road trip. In 1971.
Watching The Pink Angels is a confounding experience, as the film continually thwarts its own themes and ideology. While some scenes contain a stark and minimalist realism, other scenes revel in lowbrow humor and blatant stereotypes. This makes it a particularly difficult text to master, since it contains contradictory information throughout.
Here's the trailer. Note: slurs, etc.
Its perception of gays is both hapless—a mash of homosexuality, cross-dressing and gender ambiguity—and intriguingly benign. It has much of the burlesque positivity of 90s-era gay road flicks, but fully two decades ahead of schedule. You might say its silliness and ignorance undermine both its phobias and its empathies, so it ends up neither particularly offensive nor the stuff of problematic faves. It's neither resented nor reclaimed. Just forgotten.
Something about it reminds me of Jobriath, in the sense that (his) gayness was wholly misunderstood by the media executives trying to market him as Bowie Pro Max in the early 1970s. Their belief in his mass appeal was ahead of its time but also nakedly exploitative, and as soon as the moment passed without success he was forgotten with a completeness that's hard to appreciate. Jobriath had talent, though, and became relevant with time. But The Pink Angels? Hmm. Perhaps its confusions inadvertantly hit on some realities about gender and sexuality that today assert themselves? I'm being extremely generous to even suggest it.
But still: a 1971 movie about gay bikers! And it doesn't even have a proper Wikipedia article. If every last Nazi "tank ace" can have his own wiki, sure Pink Angels can too.
The Balladeer's review is essential further reading.