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Posts tagged ‘homosexuality’

SEA SWALLOW ME and OTHER STORIES by Craig Laurance Gidney

my notes on Sea Swallow Me (2008), RF Brown

A young Japanese monk, yielded to a life of prayer and ministering to the poor is marked for love by a mischievous yosei, a shimmering male fairy with a fetish to tempt mortal chastity and piety. This chassis supports many of Craig Laurance Gidney’s stories: a young character in the ordinary toils of  earthly existence, crosses paths with a metaphysical experience. As in the case of the monk, “He who was studious and practical had caught the eye of something supernatural.” More often Gidney’s protagonists are young black and/or gay men in modern settings. A bored club kid unwittingly keeps psychokinetically murdering his sex partners. A lonely, island tourist pulled in by over-curiosity is dragged to the floor of the ocean and given physical wholeness from a benevolent, giant serpent. A nebbishy, underachieving artist chases off the cloying  ghost of his racist mother by deliberately having sex with a black man on her antique bed [respectively: “Etiolate”, “Sea Swallow Me”, and “Her Spirit Hovering”].

Gidney’s visionary universe exists in a literary dimension somewhere between James Baldwin and The Twilight Zone. The author’s imagination is alternately funny, melancholy, and fantastic and there is the consistent thread in this collection of his expressive narrative voice. He has dazzling skill at painting amorphous scenes with tangibility-  colors are carnal and smells are emotional. It’s never explicit whether the bizarre experiences of these characters are something truly supernatural, or if these phenomena are the delusive manifestations of their broken black and gay souls. Are they cursed or crazy? The character lives are humdrum, but not normal. Whose life is?

I have a couple of quibbles with the actual publication of Sea Swallow Me. First, the book was put out by an indy press and there are frequent typos. I know some readers for whom mistakes are maddening and others who would regard it as bohemian charm. I seek the noble path on the presence of typos because ideally it should be easier for a great writer like Gidney to find a big-six publishing deal that pays for unlimited editorial resources. But readers dropping $13 bucks on this book should be aware there are errors. Writers who are constantly encouraged to go indy or self-publish can take a sip of reality here: even a brilliant writer can get sandbagged with a sloppy book. Second, two of Gidney’s stories, “The Safety of Thorns”, about a young American slave who finds out the Devil is an apathetic drunk, and “Strange Alphabets”, a transcendental roman à clef about French poet Arthur Rimbaud in Jail, are pleasant guests here but otherwise foreign to the rest of the collection. In my editorial opinion they would be at home someplace else. It’s feels weird to launch this criticism given that these two stories in particular are each excellent standing alone, perhaps my two favorite in the book. If there is a collection of historical fiction somewhere in Gidney’s future canon he certainly has the background, discipline, and command of voice to put one together. Those two problems aside, Sea Swallow Me is a magnificent and mysterious body of work.

Football, Gay Sex And Other Things That Happen During The Superbowl posted on their blog the link to this 1978 academic paper in the journal Western Folklore. In the piece the author, Alan Dundes, argued that American football  is a ritual between all male groups attempting to socially legitimate homosexual behavior. To prove this idea Dundes offers psychoanalysis of  signifiers in the game  and its folk speech:

I think it is highly likely that the ritual aspect of football, providing as it does a socially sanctioned framework for male body contact … is a form of homosexual behavior. The unequivocal sexual symbolism of the game, as plainly evidenced in folk speech coupled with the fact that all of the participants are male, make it difficult to draw any other conclusion. Sexual acts carried out in thinly disguised symbolic form by,and directed towards, males and males only,would seem to constitute ritual homosexuality.

The argument is a reach if not completely specious academically. But it is fascinating and a little horny making.  Here’s a link to the whole thing:

Into The Endzone for a Touchdown: A Psychoanalytic Consideration of American Football

BSD Movie Log: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Freddy's Revenge

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985, d. Jack Sholder)

Teenage Jesse and his family move into the same house on Elm Street where the teenage girl of the first movie was terrorized in her dreams by the psychotic spector Freddy Krueger.  Now Freddy is haunting Jesse’s dreams and wants to make Jesse his living avatar for murdering people in the living world.

After successful use of the familiar “last surviving girl” motif, the first Nightmare on Elm Street sequel went with a story centered around terrorizing a teenage boy.  Not a bad direction to take, but horror movies are cathartic fantasy and male protagonist victims always come off a little gay.  If they didn’t mean for it all to come off gay here they should have maybe cut the scene where the teenage boy in the gym shower psychokineticly strips his bondage fetishist coach naked and lashes him to death with jump rope.  There are a lot of weird homoerotic scenes if you like that.  Otherwise this is below average material.

What's EATGNU? (or Jeepers Creepers! Its The Gay Bogeyman!)

The Brown Shoe Diaries Halloween Movie Club. Track down today’s movie and post your comments.   Good?  Lame?  Scary?  Not scary?  Bring it.

Today’s recommended features are:

Jeeper Creepers (2001)

Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)

I finally watched both of the  Jeepers Creepers movies for the fist time after seeing a post that including them among The Most Unintentionally Gay Horror Movies [link].  I have to admit both were great, though not because they were unintentionally gay.  In fact, calling Jeepers Creepers unintentionally gay would be like saying the Kennedy assasinations were the result of unfortunate accidental gun discharges.  The serial of these films is most assuredly about a man-eating monster who favors the flavor of men.

In Jeepers Creepers a young brother and sister couple are driving home on break from college on a desolate country road.  Darry is bringing his laundry home to mother, who we are told dotes on him.  Trish is taking time off from her boyfriend to pepper little brother with jibes about his full masculinity and the suggestion that maybe people “know something you don’t.”  They cross paths with a menacing truck driver, who has the vanity license plate BEATNGU.  They witness the guy dumping sheet-wrapped bodies down a drainage pipe.  The kids sneak back to investigate the pipe and Darry daringly crawls in.   At the bottom he uncovers the body of a naked young man who has had his torso dissected and resown.  Further into the cavern Darry finds hundreds of dismembered corpses sewn into the walls like a quilt.  Darry and Trish drive to a roadside diner where they contact the police.  In the meantime, the killer has been tracking the couple.  Darry had used a pair of his dirty underwear, unintentionally died pink in the laundry, to tie down the broken trunk of their car, and this served as an unintentional baiting device.  The killer breaks into the car to enjoyably sniff the laundry and confirm that Darry has something he wants.  A policeman arrives and is escorting the couple’s car home when the patrol car is attacked and the kids get their first good look at The Creeper.  Despite attempting to  disguise himself with a wide brim hat and a tattered black duster, The Creeper is a tall moth-like monster with scales on his skin, and wings.  He is a creature who looks somewhere between Japanese kaiju horror monster Mothra and Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider.  In a demonstration of sadisitc homoeroticism, The Creeper decapitates the male police offficer with a home-forged hachet, and bites the tongue out of the severed head.  Darry and Trish escape to a police station where a local psychic, who has also been following them in her visions, catches up to notify them of what she’s learned from the dreams.   The Creeper, who aparently emerges from dormancy every 23 years for a 23 day feeding period, sniffs out people for specific body parts that he desires and eats.  She also implies that Darry, despite his denial, already knows what the monster wants of him.  I won’t spoil the movie, but suffice it to say that the end is more proof of The Creeper’s specific interest in male bodies and homoerotic voyerism .  I read this as an allusion to the idea of gay men may fetishizing male body parts, that they want to build a fantasy male from the combined parts of different men.

We get another clue what The Creeper has  desire for in the beginning of  Jeepers Creepers 2 when he swoops into a cornfield and flys away with an attractive, toe-headed teenage boy.  Nearby a school bus is  transporting a boys high school basketball team, and a few of their cheer girls, down the same country highway a few days after the incidents of the first Jeepers movie.  Where Jeepers 1 was a stand alone horror story, Jeepers 2 begins more similarly to what I would consider a copycat teen slasher movie: a lost group of teen characters are hunted and methodically killed according to an implicit order of punishment for boorish behavior and/or fornication.  Here, The Creeper disables the school bus on an isolated road and kills all the adult chaparones to enhance a sense of helplessness and  fear on behalf of the teens.  We learned in the first movie that fear emanates some scent The Creeper uses to identify which victims present the most desirable body parts.  In a scene I can only describe as out of the ordinary, The Creeper, while hanging upside down in the bus window points through the crowded alies of the bus at each of the teens he intends to consume, like picking live catch from a restaurant aquarium.  If the implication in the fact that each of his menu selections are male is still unclear, he advertizes his interest in the last boy with a disgusting, erotic sweep of his steaming tounge.  As The Creeper begins to tear apart the bus and pick off his selected male victims, the teens argue over whether they are safer on or off the bus, and whether they should take the doubtful step of dividing themselves into groups as The Creeper’s chosen and unchosen.  Ultimately this debate is of little value as when the kids make a run for it, The Creeper finds his marked boys and wings away with them anyway.  What they fear most is unavoidable.

To my surprise this teen horror movie turns far from the copycat rythm as the teenagers spend much of the time defending themselves not only from the attacks of the monster, but from the prejeudices of their peers.  In the midst of crisis some kids show the character to see the importance of being a team, other fall into patterns of self-preservation and bigotry.  There are unsubtle opinions raised about race, social status, and explicitly in the other boy’s suspicion of the “gay” kid.  The high school sports journalist Izzy, is frequently accused of being gay, “Izzy or isn’t he?”  As in the first Jeepers film, homosexuality left in question is ultimately more important than getting a definitive answer.  Where analysis of teen horror film often proposes a subtext of adolescent anxieties about sex, procreation, and marriage, Jeepers Creepers is a unique mainstream discourse in male anxiety about suppressed homosexual feelings.  If you are a regular boy and a gay monster, after smelling all your peers, selects you, what does that say about you?  Does the monster know something you don’t?  In the story the alleged real gay boy is actually overlooked by the The Creeper and survives to act heroically.  The Creeper is not only an eroticised homosexual killer, he violently demonstrates the terror of a sexual monster within, the fear of what happens to men who are tempted by underlying homosexual desire.

Its worth noting that despite being a different kind of text for a horror movie, the classic feminist critique of an ever present male gaze continues to stare longingly.  It’s just looking in the mirror now.  The Trish character in the first movie and the cheer girls on the bus still have little agency in these stories.   She is now just a bystander as opposed to the obect of male fetishism.  As a selection for the Halloween Movie Club, there are other reasons to like the Jeepers movies besides the feminist critique and the homoerotic text.  Both movies are sharply written, genuinely suspensful, and well acted.

Finally there is public information available about the film director having spent time in jail for child molestation before these movies were ever made.  I think knowing that may be prejudical to first time viewing although it opens the discussion to some other interesting analogies.  I recommend watching the movies before looking deeper into the director’s biography.

Jeepers Creepers (2001, d. Victor Salva)

Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003, d. Victor Salva)

X-Men Come Out

I just watched all 3 X-Men movies and was surprised how gayE it all was. This 2006 article, lifted from MSNBC, sums up my impressions pretty well…

The ‘X-Men’ come out: Being a ‘mutant’ in films can be read as a metaphor for homosexuality

By John Hartl
Film critic
updated 5/25/2006 3:09:12 PM ET

“Have you tried not being a mutant?” asks the mother of Iceman, one of the misfit kids in Bryan Singer’s “X2,” the 2003 sequel to his 2000 “X-Men.” Iceman may attend Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters, but he’s more than gifted and not exactly a youngster.  Indeed, his mutant nature, which includes the ability to freeze ponds with his fingers, only becomes stronger as he ages. A minor character in the original “X-Men,” Iceman comes into his own in “X2,” revealing his true nature to his baffled parents, who react as if he’s just announced he’s gay. His mother worries that it’s all her fault, while his brother is so revolted that he calls the police.

Brett Ratner’s addition to the franchise, “X-Men: The Last Stand,” includes a character new to the “X-Men” films, Angel, whose disapproving father finds him trying to hack off a pair of wings attached to his back. As a child, Angel is deeply ashamed of his ethereal nature. As an adult, he finds that he can literally fly away from parental rejection.
“The Last Stand” begins with a flashback to the childhood of another mutant, Jean Grey, whose parents were ashamed and afraid of her telekinetic abilities. As an adult, she vigorously defends the kids’ right to be different.
Jean, Iceman and presumably Angel are heterosexual, as are the other mutants in the “X-Men” pictures. But they behave a lot like runaway gay kids, forming their own families of gifted outlaws as they escape birth parents who feel nothing but embarrassment for having brought them into the world.

In “The Last Stand,” which the producers emphasize is not the last installment in the series (after all, the first two collected $700 million worldwide), Iceman is completely “out” as a mutant. He uses his frosty charms to woo Rogue, who matches his ability to chill out.  Their chief opponent in the first “X-Men” is a self-proclaimed “God-fearing” senator, whose intolerant anti-mutant speeches sound a lot like current anti-gay and anti-immigrant rhetoric. “People like you are the reason I was afraid to go to school as a child,” says a mutant who kidnaps him.

But once they’re not afraid, once they’ve gained control, what does the future hold? Thanks to a series of lethal surprises lurking near the finale of “The Last Stand,” it’s not clear what the mutants can or will do next. Some appear to lose their powers or their lives, but perhaps this is only temporary, like Jean Grey’s far-from-terminal “death” in “X2.”
Hugh Jackman, who plays Wolverine, is developing a follow-up film. The crafty villain Magneto (Ian McKellen) is also set for a spin-off, as the final shot in “The Last Stand” suggests. Aside from Magneto, whose story spans several decades, Jean Grey has had the clearest character arc.

While “The Last Stand” seems to exhaust her possibilities, there’s plenty of potential in the rest of the cast. It’s easy to imagine a spin-off in which shape-shifting Mystique takes on every role in the script — which she nearly did in “X2.” In a wittily androgynous episode, she tricked Wolverine into lusting after her impersonations of both Jean Grey and the male villain, played by Brian Cox.Which follow-up is likely to reach multiplexes first? If Jackman gets caught up in too many other projects (five more Jackman movies are scheduled for release during the next year), another mutant could prevail. In any event, the idea behind the franchise will survive in some form or other, just as it has in the past.

Although Stan Lee’s first “X-Men” comic book appeared in 1963, the theme has been explored in plenty of other science-fiction stories and movies during the past century. Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” (published in 1961) deals with a bright boy who stands out too much and is threatened with brain surgery. “Village of the Damned,” the 1960 movie based on John Wyndham’s “The Midwich Cuckoos,” turned a group of super-intelligent kids into threats to mankind.  Most of these stories owe a debt to Olaf Stapledon, the British writer who specialized in epic tales of martyred geniuses, especially the 1935 novel, “Odd John.” Such mid-1990s movies as “Powder” (another coming-out fable) and “Phenomenon” are among the most recent descendants.  “The Last Stand” sometimes suggests a mixture of “Village of the Damned,” in which the smart kids turn destructive, and “Odd John,” in which the telepathic title character and his fellow “wide-awakes” and “supernormals” are persecuted, forced to establish an island colony and hunted down by mercenaries.  “If your species discovers us, it will certainly try to smash us,” Odd John tells the merely human narrator. Rather like Magneto, Odd John is convinced that scapegoats are inevitable, and that “a nation, after all, is just a society for hating foreigners, a sort of super-hate-club.”  While the heterosexual Iceman’s confession merely suggests a gay rite-of-passage, Odd John considers same-sex intimacy part of his education.

“The Last Stand” makes the gay subtext of “X2” more explicit. While the mutants fear the development of a “cure” for their “disease,” Storm says “there’s nothing to cure.” Indeed, the series sees the mutants as a link to a higher form of humankind.  “Mutation, it is the key to our evolution,” says the narrator at the beginning of the first “X-Men,” which was filmed in 1999 and 2000 and is set in the “not-too distant future.” The World Trade Center is still standing in a couple of shots, and the word “evolution” may be used without apology.

Magneto, the concentration-camp survivor, turns out to have little use for evolution or intelligent design. He’s convinced that “God works too slowly,” and that “we are the cure,” so he declares pre-emptive war. Skeptical that America will ever be the land of peace and tolerance he expected at the end of World War II, he becomes the thing he hates.  For all the confrontations between hostile characters, the “X-Men” franchise is at its best when it’s dealing with unique and seemingly impossible attractions. Perhaps the most poignant scene involves the teenaged Rogue, who can’t help delivering the kiss of near-death to those she touches, and the paternal Wolverine, whose considerable strengths cannot quite prevent her from overpowering him.  Their tentative embrace at the end of the first film is a uniquely enthralling moment. Spin-offs, sequels and prequels should treat it as a model.