Nick Demos’s documentary Body Electric, about body dysmorphia in the queer community, follows his experience between the ages of 45 and 50. Some in the gay community jokingly call turning 30 “gay death,” and the film highlights a perfectionist streak that manifests as obsession with youthful looks.
Body Electric, which had its world premiere at the deadCenter Film Festival in Oklahoma City on Saturday night, delves intriguingly into the complex issues of body image, youth culture obsession, and the journey towards self-acceptance within the LGBTQ community. It also reveals the shocking statistic that 54% of queer young people between the ages of 16 and 24 experience eating disorders.
The film is the result of Demos’s five-year exploration of what he sees as the LGBTQ community’s obsession with the body, and sheds light on the prevalence of body dysmorphia in queer culture.
The filmmaker sets his gaze on hyper-sexualization of the gay male body and emphasizes the need for gay men to look inward, reassess their behaviors, and foster deeper connections beyond physical appearances. Demos advocates that friendship is a way for gay men to appreciate each other on more profound levels.
The doc takes its name from the Walt Whitman poem “I Sing the Body Electric,” which has also inspired the titles of songs by Irene Cara and Lana del Rey.
“There’s a Walt Whitman poem called ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ and ultimately what it talks about is the connection of the body with the soul. There was also an Irene Cara song, ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ from Fame that I loved as a kid,” Demos explained. “So the combination of this poem that I always loved and that idea of the soul-body connection and then that song.”
The project goes beyond the gay male experience.
“You’ll notice in the film that I’m not talking about trans dysmorphia. I’m talking about trans people’s experience in their bodies in terms of their weight and things that we all deal with, rather than their transitions or their transness,” says Demos. “That was very important to me because not all trans people use the term body dysmorphia to describe the experience in their bodies, and that’s not my story to tell.”
Body Electric Director Nick Demos on LGBTQ ‘Teenagers’
Demos spoke with MovieMaker at the deadCenter Film Festival before the world premiere of Body Electric about LGBTQ representation and potential effect of reality shows like RuPaul’s Drage Race on the community.
While acknowledging progress in representation, the filmmaker urges a transition towards a more mature and authentic portrayal of LGBTQ+ individuals.
“I think we’ve come so far in our representation on TV, but we’re also like teenagers: we’re bratty and we’re pitted against each other,” says Demos. “Politically, there’s a big backlash right now to our visibility and I think sometimes we get complacent about how we show ourselves to the world.”
Towards the end of the film, Nick Demos courageously shares his own experience of being groomed and sexually abused as a teenager.
Demos’s own experience challenges the political narrative that gay men and trans people groom children. But he told MovieMaker that his abuser identified as straight, and was married with children.
In 2022, the Stop Abuse Campaign reported that less than 1% of those who sexually abuse children are in homosexual relationships. The facts prove most child sex offenders are heterosexual.
Main image: A still from Body Electric, which premiered at deadCenter, one of our 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.