33

Around 10 minutes into the film In Bruges, Ken and Ray are having beer for the first time in Bruges. When he puts the beers on the table, Ray says something along the lines of "one gay beer for my gay friend and one normal beer for me, because I'm normal".

Ken with beer Ray with beer
Click on the pictures to embiggen

I've seen various explanations on the internet, from the volume of the glasses (they look the same to me?!), to their shape, to their content (again, looks the same?).

So why is Ken's beer "gay"? Is it the glass, or the beer itself, or something else?

3
  • 10
    I'm not familiar with the film but this seems like run-of-the-mill homophobia to me, where a straight man's most witty insult is to call something/someone gay, regardless of any inherent quality of the person or object.
    – user11418
    Jun 9 at 12:47
  • 2
    There is some aspect of truth to that @thumbtackthief. The movie is comparing and contrasting some aspects of the two characters here. Ray is considerably less open minded than Ken about many things - including Bruges - but even he knows he's being a little immature, but finds it amusing none the less.
    – iandotkelly
    Jun 9 at 14:17
  • 2
    I've added a new answer to try explain some of the cultural background as to why it's the shape of the glass rather than any other consideration.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 10 at 16:29
48

It's primarily the shape and size of the glass.

If you look at the picture you've provided Ken is drinking a beer from a smaller glass (with a smaller rim and concave sides), and Ray's beer is in a glass more like a British or Irish pint glass with a wide rim and straight sides.

The volume is probably around 30% larger in Ray's glass, and more typical for a full Pint in a British or Irish pub. A full pint being the typical size of a beer ordered by an adult male in the UK & Ireland.

It may also be the style of the beer, which we don't see them order. Ken is enthusiastically enjoying the Belgian culture, so his beer may be a local Belgian style beer, which might be considered more "foreign" than Ray's. Ray might be having a more commercial, international lager available anywhere like a Heineken or Stella Artois, whereas Ken's is more gourmet (and therefore gay ... clearly).

7
  • 35
    Specifically, it's the shape of the glass rather than its size - back in prehistory [the 70s] a stem/tulip glass would be considered a "lady's glass" If you ordered a half you would be asked 'is it for a lady?' & would be given the appropriate glass. A man's half pint glass would be just a smaller version of the straight pint glass [Called straight not for any other reason than the sides have no bulge.] & ne'er the twain shall meet.It would be at least the late 90s/early 2ks before 'real men' would drink from 'posh' beer glasses.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 9 at 7:00
  • 5
    Only two or three years ago a bartender serving me in a suburban pub in the UK referred to a a branded gin glass (the 'balloon' style with a stem and large rounded container) as a 'big gay glass'.
    – dbmag9
    Jun 9 at 10:11
  • 3
    @Tetsujin That's pure conjecture. I think the kind of beer is the more likely explanation, given that non-"standard" beer is extremely widely seen as effeminate by large swaths of the population. — To the extent that large brewers of low-quality lagers have built whole ad campaigns appealing to "real men" based on this premise (I'm gonna start calling this "bloke capitalism"). Jun 9 at 15:49
  • 22
    Let's not get too distracted by what is offensive or not or whether people nowadays are too easily offended or not. This is a movie website and we're here to discuss the movie and its characters. The movie has intentionally offensive characters. It is intended that we see Ray as narrow minded, violent, homophobic and also a human being suffering from mental health issues arising from his life choices.
    – iandotkelly
    Jun 9 at 15:55
  • 11
    @KonradRudolph - it's 'pure conjecture' based on living there through those times. If you've never been in a Northern Working Men's Club or its Irish equivalent, you have absolutely no idea.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 9 at 15:56
30

I'm going to add this as an answer, because this is an entirely cultural device, immediately recognisable to a Brit or Irish person over the age of perhaps 40, which is one of many cues as to Ray's character; how he thinks & behaves.

It doesn't rely at all on what beer either of them chose. It's entirely reliant on the glasses themselves. The method by which each beer was chosen is not shown to the audience, as it's not pertinent to the scene.

I'm not going to apologise for his behaviour, merely explain it. Part of the strength of the movie is his culturally unaware attitude towards others. That's the way it's scripted and that's the part Colin Farrell as Ray plays, very well.

This is a clear reflection of the old British 'class system' and its echoes down the years. It has taken, and probably will take, a very long time to finally disappear, if it ever does.
In many respects, the British and Irish cultural behaviours in this can be considered equal.

Ray is a 'working man'. This is a class type, a social category, not a definition of someone's employment status. The 'working man' is by tradition and upbringing very conservative, way behind the times culturally and socially. He will get on well with his usual compatriots, who will all behave similarly. He will have grown up drinking in the same few places every week for his whole life. Those places have rules of etiquette that do not apply to the rest of the world.
This is typified by the Working Men's Club

The specific attitude that this scene reflects was at its strongest through the 60s and 70s and may have all but vanished now [My last visit to a Working Men's Club was over 30 years ago and they weren't my usual haunt even back then.]

To this cultural type, a man's beer comes in a straight pint glass.

enter image description here

There are some areas of the country where a barrel glass is standard, but obviously not where Ray comes from. The two glass types are as culturally different as the people who drink from them, or so each will maintain.

enter image description here

If a man were to only want a half pint of beer, he would get it in a smaller version of the same glass. [Culturally, this would only happen once, the very last drink of the night, if he thought he wouldn't be able to drink a whole pint in the 10 minutes allowed after closing time.]
If he were to go to the bar and request 'a half', then without irony the bar staff would ask if it was for a lady. If it was, then it would be served in a tulip or goblet glass, with a stem. If not, it would be served in a smaller straight glass.
It must also be noted that back then, ladies did not go to the bar.
I suppose it must also be noted, for an international audience, that there was no such thing as table service anywhere in the UK/Ireland at that time. There was also no such thing in these establishments as a bar stool. You go to the bar, you order drinks, wait for them, pay, then take them away from the bar. Standing at the bar if you weren't waiting to be served was a serious social faux pas, one for which you could be thrown out of the establishment. In many places, the bar was a barrier-separated area, solely for the purpose of buying beer. No hanging around.

enter image description here

See Tandleman's Beer Blog - Anyone remember the Lady's Glass?

In all this, the actual type of beer in the glass is completely unimportant. In the 70's men tended to drink bitter, mild [brown, room temperature], or stout [e.g. Guiness; black or almost]. Anything paler was 'lager' [chilled, yellow/orange - that's the stuff the rest of the world just calls 'beer'; yes the UK is a funny place] which didn't really make much headway in the UK/Ireland until much later. By the time it did, then to this cultural type, they were all still just 'lager', be it a 12% Belgian Trappist beer or a can of Skol - all just 'lager'.
As the movie is set in the early 2000s, there's a fair chance that Ray grew up on 'lager' rather than bitter - and to him… all lagers are the same thing..

So… the mere fact that Ken's beer is in the "wrong" glass makes it a drink for a lady. In Ray's parlance, therefore, 'gay' beer.

8
  • 2
    I don't see why you should even feel the need to (not) apologise, your answer seems very focused on sharing the information without any personal point of view nor anything, it's purely facts. Also, the more I accidentally stumble on your posts across the many Stack Exchange, the more I believe you're a walking encyclopedia.
    – Clockwork
    Jun 10 at 13:35
  • 7
    I just feel I ought to forewarn people when I'm running through the cultural Jurassic period, in case anyone thinks they're my own thoughts ;))
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 10 at 13:41
  • 5
    Might be nice if the downvoter could clarify why they think this answer might be badly researched, or otherwise inaccurate...
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 10 at 16:46
  • 3
    I don't mind coming out of the shadows to identify myself as that downvoter. This is not so much an answer as a defense. You took umbrage to those on this page who argued a different point, and disagreed with your point of view; this is a long-winded comment which supports an existing answer that already posits this view. Now, I can see that you may not agree with me downvoting because it does not neatly fit into one of the two reasons you cited. I will keep my own counsel on when to award and admonish. Jun 11 at 12:52
  • 4
    Thank you for your comments. I didn't exactly take umbrage - I have just been keen to point out that unless you're a brit or irish, you simply won't have the cultural references to know why the answer is exactly what it is.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 11 at 13:50
17

Ray looks down on the quaint local culture of Bruges throughout the film, and this scene demonstrates yet another thing he dislikes: fancy Belgian beer.

Belgian beer bars are known for having a wide variety of local beers, and it looks like Ray has ordered something particularly light. From wikipedia:

Most beers are bought or served in bottles, rather than cans, and almost every beer has its own branded, sometimes uniquely shaped, glass.

Ken's beer is served in a tulip glass, which probably seems fancy to Ray, who's drinking a pint.

Ray casual homophobia fits with his tough, working class background, and emphasizes that in Bruges, he's a fish out of water.

11
  • 2
    It's rather obvious for a beer amateur like me that both are drinking blonde or maybe white beer, so none is "hearty and dark, like Guiness". The beer is also so clear that you can clearly see both characters' fingers through the glass, indicating they're likely both drinking the same, very light beer. My money would be on two Hoegaarden in different shaped glasses. It could have been Stella Artois, but that beer is mostly famous outside of Belgium and rarely sold in our local pubs. Jun 10 at 7:29
  • @OlivierGrégoire And Stella would be served in a distinct Stella chalice, which these are not.
    – shoover
    Jun 10 at 9:01
  • 3
    As I keep trying to say - the beer itself is completely irrelevant. It really isn't why he makes the comment.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 10 at 13:34
  • 1
    @Tetsujin the choice of beer is relevant because it determines what kind of glass you get en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_in_Belgium#Glassware
    – Cody
    Jun 10 at 21:11
  • 1
    @OlivierGrégoire > these definitely are NOT Hoegaarden beers. Also a lot of blonde Belgian beers are actually very strong, certainly more than a Guiness.
    – Laurent S.
    Jun 11 at 12:42

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .