March 8 marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. release of The Birdcage, the iconic Mike Nichols remake of La Cage aux Folles starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane about an openly, joyously gay couple from South Beach, Florida and the complicated marriage of their son to the daughter of a conservative politician.
What made this movie such a blockbuster in 1996? Was that because its light-in-the-loafers, limp-wristed protagonists were neutered enough to be non-threatening to the masses? It certainly didn’t hurt that the cast was packed with big-name actors who infused their roles with hilarity and warmth. Some say the movie reinforced tired stereotypes. Others suggest it offered positive images that ultimately helped move the needle on marriage equality. Twenty years later, one thing is certain: The Birdcage took gay representation to bold new places at a pivotal moment in the struggle for LGBTQ visibility and civil equality—and for that, it deserves to be celebrated.