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‘Young Royals’ stars chat with Josh Smith on his Reign podcast

Smith uses his innate empathy to create a safe space for the most influential people on the planet to open up like never before



Screenshot/YouTube Reign

LONDON – British journalist, podcaster and presenter Josh Smith has gained international recognition for his signature empowering interviews, innate warmth, and humour. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, knowing what it is like to be marginalized Smith uses his innate empathy to create a safe space for the most influential people on the planet to open up like never before.

Recently, Smith interviewed the two main stars of the Netflix runaway hit streaming series ‘Young Royals,’ Omar Rudberg and Edvin Ryding:

After launching in January 2021, Reign is already in its fifth season and has come to life through live and virtual live stream events. Each week Smith is joined by a celebrity guest for a down-to- earth chat about their journey to success.

Smith’s charisma encourages a truly unfiltered dialogue between him and his guests, allowing them to comfortably share their personal stories to inspire listeners.

Reign is available on Apple Podcast and his YouTube channel.

You can also follow Smith on Instagram: (Link)

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My Unorthodox Life’s Ra’ed Saade dishes up Reality TV spunk

Is America’s Reality TV genre ready for frank discussions on open relationships?



Netflix’s My Unorthodox Life star Ra’ed Saade (R) (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

HOLLYWOOD – If you are like many who have reacted harshly to Real Friends of WeHo, you may feel a bit hopeless regarding reality television and its representation of gay men. 

For all its misses, the reality TV genre still explodes across broadcast and streaming services. There are endless contests, there are weird matchmaking gimmicks and through it all, you can still find some gay fingerprints. And of course, there is Drag Race.

One of my personal guilty pleasures has been various “Real Housewives” franchises. Each franchise seems to study the behaviors of women who possess big egos, lots of money and are plied with a sloshing amount of alcohol. Sitting back in an armchair, shoveling popcorn and watching, is gay man, and executive producer, the boss and god of the Real Housewives world, Andy Cohen… (and oh yeah, me.)  There is a perverse pleasure observing a hetero world where the Higher Power is gay and watching them all descend into madness.

It is all theatrical and somewhat staged, of course. We are the fourth wall of their world, and situations are played out and exaggerated for our benefit, and from the accounts of the people we are observing, only represent a fraction of their real lives. 

Against this backdrop, Netflix’s My Unorthodox Life plays on this voyeuristic concept but is refreshingly unique and insightful. While it certainly has Real Housewives trappings, it centers around the uber-wealthy and has even had Jill Zahn, an OG New York Real Housewife, drop in to give advice, the core is less about superficial squabbles and more about cultural oppression and the quest for personal empowerment. 

The show centers around Julia Haart. Her life is literally “unorthodox” as her story arc describes her escape from the orthodox lifestyle of the ultra-conservative Haredi Jewish Community in Monsey, New York. In season one, three of her four children follow her and she mentors them into living life in the secular world as they each make personal strides to find their own unique identities. Julia herself becomes a fashion and design mogul, married to an incredibly wealthy husband Silvio Scaglia Haart, and best friend to her gay business partner, Robert Brotherton. Robert and Julia could not be more “Will and Grace” if they tried. Julia ends season one trying to matchmake Robert and find him true love. Apparently, she did not need to bother, as he had already been working on something off camera on his own.

As the sun rises on season two, we see seismic shifts have been made in the relationship statuses of the cast. Julia is now going into a divorce war with Silvio, and her oldest daughter has left her husband and their marriage which had been originally rooted in Haredi orthodox standards. Robert on the other hand, is no longer single, but has a boyfriend, with whom he has had a seven-year relationship.

Enter Ra’ed Saade, the boyfriend. Handsome and positive with a killer smile, he is somehow reminiscent of a male, Lebanese, gay Mary Richards as Lou Grant defined her in the classic sitcom.

Lou: You know what? You’ve got spunk…

Mary: Yeah, well (slight giggle)

Lou: I HATE spunk!

Ra’ed has spunk. In every sense of the word—double entendre intended. Will America “hate” his brand of spunk?

 Mary, in her day, was one of the only single working women representations on network TV. Ra’ed is the first gay Arab man on Netflix reality TV. He is sex positive and allows himself to be a walking commercial for open relationships. On the show, he mixes a deep sense of romance and being the ultimate boyfriend, a superior friend and confidant, with being frequently horny, or as he himself describes it, “a slut.”  

Ok, so maybe Mary Richards never called herself a slut.

While Ra’ed is from Lebanon, he seems to have lived elsewhere most of his life.  This is not unusual, he tells me, “The majority of the population of Lebanon live outside. We have more Lebanese people in Brazil than there are in Lebanon.” Ra’ed was born in Dubai, moved to the Philippines, lived in Holland, and then spent his high school years in Saudi Arabia. He credits those high school years as being the ones that shaped him. “Saudi Arabia is a very conservative, Muslim country. There is when I discovered that I was a homosexual gay man. Surviving three years in Saudi Arabia as a homosexual man and keeping it to myself, acting and putting on… doing all the things you do when you’re acting to cover up. That shaped a lot of things for me in my life. All the trauma of that period made me into this funny guy that knows, if I survived that, I could survive anything… I was considered an abomination and could have gotten up to the death penalty, especially in Saudi Arabia, and especially during the time that I was there. It was very frightening and scary. I didn’t tell a soul other than the people I was sleeping with, of course they knew.”   

When he came to America and Syracuse University, everything changed. He met Robert.  “It was like, opening a cave and letting the puppy come out. I smelled freedom. I felt I saw the rainbow colors in the sky every day. I just obviously fell in love. And here I am. I feel like I’ve arrived.”

It was with that survival instinct that gave him the courage to go for the Middle East edition of The Voice, and to audition for America’s Got Talent. When he hit the AGT stage, the audience loved his personality. His act?  Not so much. He got booed off.


In the second season of My Unorthodox Life, Ra’ed and Robert starred in the first episode describing how they were living together.  While the show misleadingly implied that their relationship was new, it was not only not new, but tried and true.   “Rob and I have been soul mates for 16 years. We know each other through thick and thin, through rich and poor, famous and non-famous and good and bad. All of it. We know each other inside and out,“ Ra’ed told me on a recent Rated LGBT Radio discussion.

Haart’s eldest daughter Batsheva was harsh when Ra’ed revealed that he believed in open relationships. She advocated for the couple to break up immediately. She made her comments right to Ra’ed’s face on camera. 

He has no regrets. “I’m such an open book and it’s sometimes bad for me… I didn’t have any hesitation because I stopped caring what people think and I am shameless, as you’ve seen on many shows. I just know the truth that is the truth,” Ra’ed said to me about his stance.  “The truth of the matter is Rob and I have been together as friends as you know, sexually active or whatever for 16 years, I mean, there is no doubt the loyalties– the love, is there. There’s no doubt that I would jump off a cliff, I would take a bullet for Rob. All of these beautiful things– but when I’m going to Ibiza …Rob and I are going to go and flirt with everybody in the club. A lot of people do that in secret. It is okay to have an open relationship when you are honest and open with your partner and you guys have set the ground rules and you both are saying, yes, we agree, both say yes, we love, we love this idea. There’s no problem with this and it’s a way more fun lifestyle. I mean that’s the truth. When you’re in a relationship, you are together to lift each other up encourage each other and just build a beautiful life. You just don’t own another person, you know.”

Hi answer is direct, unapologetic and almost innocent. Spunk.

Will there be a season three of My Unorthodox Life? Ra’ed hopes so. “The assignment was my unorthodox life.” Even if season two was the final he feels “like I completed the assignment.” If there are more seasons, “There’s a lot of facets and a lot of a lot of dynamics in my life that are unorthodox so I would love to open up more in coming seasons.”

 In the meantime, while Mary Richards famously twirled and threw her hat in the air on a Minneapolis street corner, Ra’ed is tossing his on a New York City Time Square street corner. 

It is from there that he TikTok promotes his February 10thClub Ra’ed” DJ evening of Middle East disco sounds, a one-time event he hosts. He has proven that spunk is alive and well. 

The modern version is just a tad more exciting with a unique Arabic feel and a fun infectious rhythm.

Listen to the complete interview:


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Real Friends of WeHo proves to be the epicenter of…Something

The Daily Beast called it a “colossal gay nightmare” & “it stinks as badly as the alley dumpster behind The Abbey after jockstrap night” 



Screenshot/YouTube MTV

HOLLYWOOD – The “groundbreaking” new reality show launched this week, and man, was there drama. Too bad it wasn’t on the show itself.

Across the meta-sphere, pearls were clutched, and faces were hand-palmed, and the comments went from bitchy and nasty to bitchier and nastier. The WeHo Times “didn’t hate it”, and “kind of related” (but, hello, the show is set in… WeHo.)

The Wrap called it a show “we didn’t need.” The Decider (whose decision is that you “skip” the show) describes the program as “just watching six gays proclaim that they ‘aren’t here for drama’ and ‘don’t tolerate foolishness’ even though they are now contractually obligated to be present for drama and endure an exhausting level of foolishness. It’s a given that none of this is real, but it should at least be entertaining.”   

Those were the nice reviews. 

The writer of the blogshere LGBTQ Nation claimed that the show turned his “brains into real skull goo” and wrote a meandering non-sensical massacre of a review to prove it. None were quite as vitriolic as the Daily Beast however, that called it a “colossal gay nightmare” and stated that it “stinks as badly as the alley dumpster behind The Abbey after jockstrap night.” 

I will have to take his word for that. I saw the show but have no desire to check out said dumpster.

Whether the vitriol is deserved or not, the viewers seem to have stayed away. Or at least, their interest did. The social media accounts for the show have a paltry number of followers so far. Only 3% of Google reviewers liked the show.  It currently has a .8 out of 5-star rating on IMDB. 

The show is really not that bad. Each of the guys has a reason for being on the show, and if they owned their individual motives rather than trying to be generalist and “representative,” the show could be intriguing.  

The biggest failure was in how the show rolled out in the first place. The show came on like a wrecking ball and landed right on itself. The opening claim that “West Hollywood is the epicenter of the gay world” was demonstrative of the arrogance that will likely kill it.

There are gay people in LA that would dispute that West Hollywood is the epicenter of the Los Angeles gay world, let alone the rest of the globe. San Francisco, New York and London may also have something to say about being gay centers. So, unless the intention was to piss off everyone not in West Hollywood, the opening line and its prominence in the promo for the show, was a big marketing mistake.

The next failure was rudeness and failure to “read the room” metaphorically. By forcing itself in between RuPaul’s Drag Race and Untucked programs, while stealing time from them, the show runners were completely clueless as to how eventful and anticipated those shows are to their viewers each week. Literally trying to force them to watch “Real Friends” was presumptive that the new show had earned the affection necessary to succeed in that program slot. It clearly had not.

Thus the show seems set up to fail. By promoting that it is thoroughly in love with itself, it has not given the audience a chance to know if we are really even interested in a second date. 

I personally am going back for one. The guys on the show are specific to the here-and-now of gay, design, fashion and entertainment West Hollywood life. It would be nice if they seemed conscious at all of the horror of AIDS we lived through there back in the day, or gave a passing interest to the current right-wing attacks on trans kids, but then their prototypes, the Real Housewives franchises, don’t try to be The View either.

Brad Goreski is featured as the name-dropping designer whose first episode confession is that he has been secretly feeding his husband chicken disguised as turkey. It comes off cuter than it sounds. Goreski is the mouthpiece for most of the show’s self-aggrandizement and I thought he was more charming when he was on What Happens Live, and was more… real.

Todrick Hall is the cast member supposedly of great controversy, and takes his chance to explain and be humble around it. If he was selling, I bought it. I was also mystified – his supposed “scandals” are nowhere near Erika Jayne or Jen Shah levels, but with all the attacks, you would think they were.

Up and coming actor Curtis Hamilton is intriguing, as he is using his participation in the show to come out as gay publicly. We will see how the show handles that, and how his life plays out, but if things do not go well, it is the time in one’s life where one needs friends.

Dorión Renaud is also an intriguing cast member. He is the CEO/founder of Buttah Skin. As an accomplished black gay man fighting against others with more privilege, he could be absolutely fascinating. So far, he is not. He has an emotional armor and seems on guard with a tone of toxic masculinity. He does have a moment where he admits to being painfully socially awkward.

It is at this moment, that rather than showing some compassion, social media influencer Joey Zauzig throws him out of the party for being “negative.”  Joey’s own story on the show needs some depth-infusion. He claims to have “a million followers” across various social media platforms while showing his Instagram page of 200-something thousand. For an “influencer”, that is not a lot.

The first episode features Joey’s engagement to his beautiful boyfriend. It is a story of how they fell in love looking at each other’s pictures and are now destined to be together for life. While that all could be true, the show did not take the audience along for the ride, so it all seems manufactured and artificial. There is no heartwarming emotional moment, at least, not for us.

Jaymes Vaughan, the final cast member, actually brings moments of romance tingles in scenes with his husband Jonathan Bennett. Their brief banter and impromptu kiss came off as authentic and real and charming. There is transparency that the producers actually wanted Jonathan for the show. He refused them, so they went with Jaymes. That disclosure was a bit embarrassing, and while getting more feelings for Jaymes because of it, it made you want to reject the show even more.

In the show Sex and the City, New York City felt like another character in the show. WeHo does not feel present in this show by contrast. Unlike other similarly structured reality shows, the show’s production itself DOES seem like another character presence and is discussed on camera regularly. At this point, it is unclear if that breakdown of reality TV protocol is refreshing or irritating.

Goreski laid claim to being the epicenter of the gay world. In an interview Zauzig predicted “some people are not going to like us and some people are going to love us.”

So far, the lovers have not shown up, and the only epicenter to be seen is one of, potentially unfair, unprecedented disdain.


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Young Royals returns for a third and final season

“I’ve always imagined Young Royals being told in three parts, and because of the fans’ dedication to our story, we get to tell the last one”



Netflix series Young Royals (Photo by Robert Eldrim)

HOLLYWOOD – Netflix has announced that Young Royals returns for a third and final season. 

Young Royals is a Swedish teen drama romance streaming television series on Netflix. Set at the fictional elite boarding school Hillerska, the plot primarily follows the fictional Prince Wilhelm of Sweden (Edvin Ryding), his romance with fellow male student Simon Eriksson (Omar Rudberg), and the drama it results in.

The show was created by Lisa Ambjörn, Lars Beckung, and Camilla Holter, and premiered on 1 July 2021. On 22 September 2021, the series was renewed for a second season, which was released on 1 November 2022. 

On 14 December 2022, the series was renewed for a third and final season. Young Royals is produced by Nexico and is filmed in Sweden.

All lead cast members will return for the third season, including Edvin Ryding as Prince Wilhelm, Omar Rudberg as Simon, Frida Argento as Sara, Malte Gårdinger as August, and Nikita Uggla as Felice. Lisa Ambjörn will also return as head writer and co-creator. 

“I’ve always imagined Young Royals being told in three parts, and because of the fans’ dedication to our story, we get to tell the last one. The ending has been clear to me from the start and I’m so thankful and honored to get to finish this saga as intended”, says Lisa Ambjörn, head writer and co-creator. 


Edvin Ryding and Omar Rudberg Talk Young Royals and Tease the Third Season | The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon:
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‘Drag Latina’ series finale November 20th

1 million people have tuned in to the new drag competition ‘Drag Latina,’ making it the most successful queer Spanish language series



Los Angeles Blade graphic/REVRY

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The Drag Latina finale and crowning of the season 1 winner will take place on Sunday, November 20th with a double episode. With millions of fans in the US, Brazil, Mexico, and the UK, Drag Latina is the first international drag competition series with performers representing their identity, their culture, and their country.

This Revry original series is presented in Spanish with ‘fancy’ English subtitles. Hosted by Mexican superstar Ninel Conde with singer Fedro as a mentor and judge, the premiere season drag queens are Afrika Mendiola (Mexico), Anika Leclere (Cuba), Amalara Sofia (Puerto Rico), Chichi Fuera (Mexico), Leyla Edwards (Mexico), Mariah Spanic (Mexico), Sunel Molina (Cuba), Valeria Sparx (Ecuador), Venus Carangi (Mexico), and Vicky Chavarria (Guatemala).

Revry is hosting a free watch party in West Hollywood, Los Angeles at Heart WEHO (8911 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood) starting at 6pm PST with appearances by Afrika Mendiola, Amalara Sofia, Vicky Chavarria, Mariah Spanic, Venus Carangi and Chichi Fuera! The live screening is sponsored by Drag Latina, Heart WEHO, and The Trans Latin Coalition.

En Espanol

‘Drag Latina’ Rompe Récords Camino a Su Final el 20 de Noviembre

El final de Drag Latina y la coronación del ganador de la temporada 1 se llevará a cabo el domingo 20 de noviembre con un episodio doble. Sintonice el domingo 20 de noviembre a las 10 p. m. EST/7 p. m. PST para ver los episodios finales en Revry y ver la coronación del ganador de la Temporada 1. Mire Revry gratis en Samsung TV Plus, Vizio WatchFree+, Roku Channel, Rakuten TV, Xumo, Freevee, Peacock, Tubi y como aplicación móvil. Todos los episodios estarán disponibles bajo demanda en la aplicación Revry.

Con millones de fanáticos en los EE. UU., Brasil, México y el Reino Unido, Drag Latina es la primera serie de competencia internacional de drag con artistas que representan su identidad, su cultura y su país. Esta serie original de Revry se presenta en español con subtítulos en inglés “elegantes”. Presentada por la superestrella mexicana Ninel Conde con el cantante Fedro como mentor y juez, las drag queens de la temporada de estreno son Afrika Mendiola (México), Anika Leclere (Cuba), Amalara Sofia (Puerto Rico), Chichi Fuera (México), Leyla Edwards (México ), Mariah Spanic (México), Sunel Molina (Cuba), Valeria Sparx (Ecuador), Venus Carangi (México) y Vicky Chavarria (Guatemala).

Revry está organizando una fiesta de vigilancia gratuita en West Hollywood, Los Ángeles en Heart WEHO (8911 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood) a partir de las 6 p. m. PST con apariciones de Afrika Mendiola, Amalara Sofia, Vicky Chavarria, Mariah Spanic, Venus Carangi y Chichi Fuera! La proyección en vivo está patrocinada por Drag Latina, Heart WEHO y The Trans Latin Coalition

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A more important perspective on the Ed Buck scandal

The documentary highlights the inability of the system to recognize Ed Buck’s crimes as a symptom, rather than a freak isolated event



Los Angeles Blade graphic/Michiel Thomas

HOLLYWOOD – Today, on the Rated LGBT Radio podcast, we sat down with filmmaker Michiel Thomas about his latest documentary “Gemmel & Tim.”

Against the continuing backdrop of racial bias infecting local Los Angeles politics, the documentary highlights the inability of the system to recognize Ed Buck’s crimes as a symptom, rather than a freak isolated event. More importantly, the documentary gives a compelling and intimate portrait of the men who died, lifting them up from the media’s limited portrayal of the scandal as a tale of sex, drugs, fetishism and politics. The film premiered at Outfest Los Angeles 2021.

Belgian native Michiel Thomas is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, cinematographer and editor based in Los Angeles, CA. His debut documentary GAME FACE was distributed worldwide by Netflix in 2016, screened at more than 50 international film festivals and won a dozen awards. His second feature doc THAT’S WILD, was acquired by AMC Networks, screened at over 30 film festivals in 5 continents and won 5 awards.

In our conversation, we get further insight from Michiel about the film’s inspiration, message and a perspective on the case that you have not heard about before.

Listen to the show:


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Harry Styles walks a queer tightrope in gloomy ‘My Policeman’

A story of forbidden love- My Policeman follows 3 young people as they embark on an emotional journey in 1950s Britain



David Dawson and Harry Styles in 'My Policeman' (Image courtesy of Amazon)

Harry Styles seems to be everywhere these days.

The former One Direction member turned solo artist not only dropped a critically-acclaimed, chart-topping album earlier this year, he turned up last month on movie screens as the leading man in “Don’t Worry Darling” – not to mention becoming a major focus of celebrity gossip on our social media feeds over the various controversies concerning the latter’s troubled production and press tour.

Now, just a few weeks later, Styles is back on the big screen again, this time in the title role of “My Policeman,” the Amazon-produced adaptation of Bethan Roberts’ 2012 novel about an  intertwined relationship between a policeman, a schoolteacher, and a museum curator and the reckoning it exacts from their lives three decades later.

It’s a less high-profile project than his last one (though perhaps just as controversial in some circles) but nevertheless likely to garner at least an equal amount of attention thanks to his superstar presence – especially since it gives his fans a fresh opportunity to speculate about his sexual orientation by placing him in the center of a very queer romantic triangle.

Directed by Michael Grandage from a screenplay by Ron Nyswaner, the film’s non-linear exploration of that triangle begins when aging couple Marion and Tom (Gina McKee and Linus Roach) take their former friend Patrick (Rupert Everett) into their home for care after he suffers a debilitating stroke.

His arrival dredges up decades-old memories of the trio’s shared past – when a young, closeted, and conflicted Tom (Styles) courted and married a young and naïve Marion (Emma Corrin) while carrying on a secret affair with a young and deeply-smitten Patrick (David Dawson) in the repressively homophobic London of the 1950s – and revives all the repressed emotions that go along with them.

As the premise for a tale of star-crossed love, it’s not exactly new territory. In an era when the need for more positive and empowering LGBTQ+ narratives grows more pressing every time Marjorie Taylor-Greene opens her mouth to belittle Pete Buttigieg and his family, tales of old school repression and the devil’s bargain of living safely in the closet feel more and more tired – something which undoubtedly factored into the mixed response the film elicited from audiences and critics after its debut after the Toronto International Film Festival a few weeks ago.

The movie’s approach to the material doesn’t help. Under the guidance of Grandage, a veteran of the UK theatre scene whose emphasis on the tragic beauty of it all sets a dreary mood from which the story can never quite break free, the film leans heavily into an artsy approach, full of stylistically elegant but emotionally detached visual tropes and heavy-handed symbolism — the primal turbulence of a J.M.W. Turner painting as a metaphor for the tempestuous impulses of burgeoning queer sexuality being only one of the most obvious examples — that tends to distance us from the human authenticity of the situation rather than illuminate it for us.

Likewise, the screenplay’s puzzle-box approach, in which the details of what’s REALLY going on between these protagonists become a mystery to be solved, puts more focus on the details of their triangle than on its consequences. As anyone who’s ever been forced to live a secret double life for the sake of social acceptance can surely attest, that’s a clear-cut case of missing the forest for the trees.

Still, “My Policeman” manages, despite its presentation and pretensions, to highlight a subtle truth that is often overlooked in stories about the closet; it has to do with the trickle-down effect of societal homophobia, the long-term impact of stigma and secrecy not only on queer people but on those with whom their lives become entangled, and while the movie may not match the zeitgeist of the moment, it tells a necessary story.

As much as we may wish the suppression of queerness to be a thing of the past, it remains a tragic reality for many in a world where the denial of LGBTQ+ equality and acceptance continues to wield its insidious influence.

The presence of multiple openly queer actors among the cast plays an important role in driving home this point.

Dawson, a lesser-known actor outside of the UK, delivers a heart-rending performance as the younger Patrick, single-handedly preventing the movie from becoming lip-service to queer representation, and veteran Everett, a queer elder already ensconced as an icon for taking on groundbreaking LGBTQ roles, offers up some of the movie’s most memorable and affecting moments as the elder version of the same character; Corrin, an openly queer and non-binary performer lauded for their portrayal of Princess Diana in “The Crown,” infuses their role as the straight female caught in the middle of an inevitably doomed arrangement with the nuance gained from lived experience to get to the true depths of their character’s journey. 

That, inevitably, brings us back to Harry Styles. It’s impossible to separate his role here — as a closeted gay man prevented by cultural expectation from embracing his truth and the fulfillment of living it without reservation — from his history of seemingly calculated vagueness about his own sexual identity.

It’s an issue which becomes especially pertinent in light of the pop icon’s participation in several explicit (if not quite graphic) sex scenes, which will surely bring renewed accusations of “queer-baiting” from those who believe unequivocal representation trumps his insistence on living a life unencumbered by labels.

Perhaps influenced by this viewpoint, many critics have harshly branded his performance as mannered and opaque, an enigmatic pose that undercuts both his character’s authenticity and the movie’s assertion of the toxic effects of self-obfuscation.

 We respectfully disagree.

As a portrait of someone who perceives himself (not inaccurately) to be trapped on a high wire, Styles’ close-to-the-chest portrayal is dead-on. In a movie wrapped in old-school restraint, the ambiguity of his emotional truth is more honest than any self-revelatory baring-of-soul could ever be in capturing the in-the-moment experience of trying to build a life between the acceptable and the forbidden; the breakthrough moments are left to the capable Roach, when the older version of Tom is finally forced to come to terms with the choices he has made.

This may leave us longing for a more definitively queer Tom in those scenes of his younger life, but it’s an artistic choice that’s arguably truer to the style — and the message — of “My Policeman” than any sentimental pandering to romantic fantasy could ever be. Beyond all that, Styles’ undeniable charisma cements the notion that his character would be such an irresistible force in the lives of his two paramours. Without it, the movie simply wouldn’t work.

In the long run, none of that may matter when it comes to questions of whether Harry Styles’ evasiveness about his sexual identity is a genuine expression of self or an effort to play to both sides of the fence. It might not even be enough to rescue the film from its own self-imposed heaviness – but it might be just enough to make ‘My Policeman’ worth your attention.

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