Review – Bear Nation

by James Olsen for

An in-depth look at bear culture within the larger LGBT community, Bear Nation starts out by asking the question, “What is a bear?” On Toronto’s Church Street, the general consensus is that a bear is a bigger, naturally hairy man. Some note that it is more an attitude than an appearance, about having confidence and an acceptance of their body image, even if it doesn’t mesh with what society and media try and say one should look like. Finally, in the town of Grimsby, a bear is still a large, hairy creature that is encountered in the woods, and if you run into one, your best bet is to curl up in a ball, surrender, and let it do what it wants to you.

From here, the director Malcolm Ingram, guides us through the idea of a second coming out, and trips to Vegas, Chicago, and London to see more aspects of bear culture that many likely don’t know even exist. While a bear-oriented magazine is not a surprise, the get-together in Chicago was nice to see, especially hearing the men be frank and honest with no concern about how others perceive them. The biggest surprise was seeing the scenes in London of XXL, a nightclub specifically aimed towards bears, cubs, and their admirers. An appearance by Kevin Smith, who also served as executive producer and is considered an “honourary bear”, helps to show how the community is starting to get more recognition and is slowly making its way into the mainstream

While all are interesting segments, it is the piece about second comings out that is the most thought-provoking. The idea that some men feel it is just as hard to tell family and friends the type of men they’re interested in as it was to initially say they’re gay is hard to imagine. As well, the fact that they are often made to feel like outsiders withing the gay community leads to one question in my mind: “How can the LGBT community demand so much acceptance and tolerance from the rest of the world if we don’t even have it within our own community for all members?”

As the point of the film is to show a slice of the community that many often don’t see, I hope that it will gain the larger audience that it deserves to get its point out. The fear is that many will look at the title and wrongly think there is nothing for them to gain from watching.

James Olsen is an avid photographer who loves film, TV, music and just about anything in the arts. He hails from out East but calls Toronto his home.

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