80s interiors in St. Elmo’s Fire, plus gayness
The interior design of Demi Moore’s apartment is hilarious, both the design itself and Andrew McCarthy’s reaction to it. McCarthy is the source of the movie’s best dialog, reminding me of a character from a Whit Stillman movie.
Yes, on the left is a huge mural of Billy Idol. It reminds me of the crazy-looking wall mural that Charlie Sheen (Emilio Estevez’s real-life brother) had installed in his expensive Manhattan apartment in Wall Street two years later.
The interior is also an important cornerstone of some of the interconnecting plots in the movie. Her interior decorator is the cool gay guy next door. It has become a standard trope in TV and movies that girls love having a cool gay friend (like Stanford in Sex and the City), but this was 1985, 13 years before the first season of Sex and the City.
Demi Moore thinks that Andrew McCarthy is gay because “he’s the only guy at school who never made a pass at her,” and she also thinks that he’s “madly in love” with Judd Nelson, so she tries to fix him up with her gay neighbor. McCarthy is very annoyed by the accusation that he’s gay. In fact, he’s madly in love with Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson’s girlfriend, which is why he spends so much time hanging around them. “I’ve seen enough pink for today, thank you very much” is what he says as he storms off just as Demi Moore’s cool gay neighbor shows up.
This storyline would not play out the same way in a contemporary movie. In the play Avenue Q, the character who is the analog to Bert from Sesame Street is accused of being gay, and he denies it by insisting that he has a girlfriend in Canada. But by the end of the play he comes out of the closet. In modern media, if a man seems gay it’s because he’s sexually attracted to other men, and the rest of the characters need to do him a favor by getting him to come out of the closet.
In addition to the interior’s connection to Demi Moore’s cool gay neighbor, the interior demonstrates her out-of-control credit-enabled spending binge, which will come back to bite her later on.
In a subsequent scene at St. Elmo’s Bar, Demi Moore sits her cool gay neighbor, Ron, next to Andrew McCarthy. She’s still trying to set them up. McCarthy says “Hi Ron” with just the right amount of understated annoyance.
Notice Ron’s lime-green knit tie and bright orange shirt. These colors are obviously supposed to demonstrate his gayness, and it reminds me of the sort of colors that Stanford would wear in Sex and the City. Except Stanford never wore knit ties because they went out of style after Family Ties went off the air and we stopped seeing Alex P. Keaton wearing them.
I live in the gayest neighborhood in Manhattan (Hell’s Kitchen) and I never see anyone wearing those color combinations, so either they went out of style with gay men, or were never actually in style with gay men except in movies and television.