We survived The Last Drive-in and all you get is this post
Even though I'm of the appropriate age to know who he is, my family never had cable while I was growing up. So, it wasn't until Joe Bob Briggs showed up on an episode of Shock Waves that I learned he was a thing. I didn't particularly find him entertaining on that show, but it was probably akin to being dropped into the last third of Bloodborne, without any knowledge of the game or its esoteric lore and mensis and vacuous spiders. A bit later, Shudder announced a 24 hour marathon led by Briggs called The Last Drive-In.
I came into the marathon as Sleepaway Camp was just about to start. I started watching as Joe was ranting about North Carolina and I immediately felt on edge. I wasn't expecting the show to discuss trans rights and was worried where his thoughts and ire would be focused on. I was afraid my marathon watch would be ending prematurely. But he surprised me, a little, with an odd and milquetoast statement that they aren't pervs and that NC was in the stupidly wrong. Not exactly elegant. But I was willing to keep watching. Besides I think Sleepaway Camp is a fantastic queer horror film, even if you take out of consideration the ending.
Things progressed okay, with expected quips about boobs and sex. And I was surprised, as the movies continued, how many floppy dicks there were in this marathon. I couldn't watch all the movies but from what I saw, there was a lot more male nudity than female nudity. And I'm here for that.
But then before we get to Demons, Joe goes on a political rant about Trump and the banality of evil. The things he said made me uncomfortable and I found myself grimacing. He wasn't pro Trump, I don't think, but he also didn't take into consideration that, as a white presumably straight man, there are others who are fearful of their life and status in the United States. He might not see that things have changed from his perspective, but that discounts many marginalized people who are frankly nervous about the direction the country is moving in.
What I learned, though, is that I can completely understand why people love Joe Bob Briggs. He's very well read and watched, his knowledge of not only film but philosophy and story structure belie his hick persona. I found him witty and funny. He could elicit a surprise chuckle out of me, which is pretty difficult. His film knowledge is incredibly vast and wide-ranging and he can talk to the socio-political themes they sometimes addressed.
I found it nice that, as the marathon was ending, Joe talked about how his show saved people and was a place for the weirdos. Where people who felt isolated and misunderstood could feel like a family. And I'm sure some of those letters thanking him for saving them from whatever terrible situation they were dealing with, were gay and struggling with it. I'm sure some gay kids found strength in his program. As a gay man in the horror genre, being deeply closeted through highschool in the 90s, I could have used this safe haven. One day I'll talk a bit about my experience, when I'm ready.
I do find the horror genre to be one of the most open and accepting communities in film fandom and that makes me happy. When I decided to start this second Twitter account and blog, I was slightly worried about backlash, but that has not happened. Everyone has been lovely and I think I've found some intelligent and interesting people to talk with because of this marathon. And while Briggs makes washy comments on NC's asinine bathroom bill, it makes it difficult to separate the Briggs who's there for the fans who've been labeled The Other in society with some of the things he's said in the past that suggests he doesn't care about gay rights.
So what I'm saying is that the marathon was a rollercoaster for me, as I fought through feelings of joy at seeing so many horror fans come together and celebrate while navigating some insensitive comments. I've met quite a few new people that come from a lot of different backgrounds. But over it all is this problematic dude who can be surprisingly erudite and incisive about film, with spurts of true progressive thought. And he can sling some amusing jokes and anecdotes. But he can also be completely frustrating and uncomfortable.
I had a great time. The movies I watched were perfect (except for Boggy Creek). The Twitter commentary was hilarious and interesting. And for 24 hours I forgot about the shit show that is our news cycle and political landscape. And for that, I thank Shudder and, yes, Joe Bob Briggs. And I hope they do something like this again, soon. Maybe with the Shock Waves crew? Or Elvira? We need more event horror to bring us together.
At the end of the day, we are the weirdos and it feels so amazing, finding my crew.