FeaturesWhen Macho goes Homo

When Macho goes Homo

The greatest unintentional homoerotic movie moments…

Despite the apparent rise of the liberal age in mainstream culture, it’s incredible to think that homosexuality is still, if not quite taboo, certainly a topic that’s largely skirted around in mainstream cinema. 

Movies like Brokeback Mountain that tackle the subject head on still have the capacity to shock a depressingly large number of cinemagoers, and gay characters in the movies are still often cast in the ‘camp jester’ stereotype that has brought the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno, Withnail & I’s Uncle Monty or Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element.

However, Hollywood has a rich history of homoeroticism bubbling under the surface of movie which otherwise wear their heterosexuality, their machismo, their brawn-not-brains nature, very much on their sleeves. Whether intended or not (ostensibly, usually, not), the following movie scenes are some of the finest depictions of homoerotic tension…

Cinema has a rich history of ‘ard men getting their kit off for a spot of bareknuckle-and-bare-bottom scrapping, but perhaps the finest example comes from The Transporter, which features a now-infamous scene with Jason ‘Stath’ Statham stripped down to his waist, covered in oil, going about the business of beating up an angry mob. There’s a shot of The Stath glistening with beads of sweat and droplets of oil. There’s a moment when a bad guy slides across the slippery floor, belly-down, and ends up with his head more or less in our protagonist’s crotch. Think I’m reading too much into it? Director Louis Letterier admitted to creating a gay subtext for the movie: “If you watch the movie and you know he’s gay, it’s so much more fun – the first gay action hero!”

Since Christopher Nolan rebooted the franchise with moody Christian Bale donning the cape n’ cowl, Batman has undergone something of an image change, all surly and serious. But cast your mind back to the mid-90s when Joel Shumacher was at the helm, and the caped crusader was depicted in an altogether different light. Following on from Tim Burton’s darkly comic Batman movies, third instalment Batman Forever was criticized by some for being overly camp, more in line with the 60s TV show than the gritty comics from which the story originated. Those critics were in for a shock, however, when sequel Batman & Robin hit the cinemas. The movie opens with a fast cut montage of close up shots of three main sections of the duo’s new suits: chests complete with rubber nipples, inflated crotches and perter-than-pert buttocks. Shumacher claimed the homoerotic innuendo was unintentional. Chris O’Donnell (Robin) was unamused: “It wasn’t the nipples that bothered me. It was the codpiece.”

“A phallic metaphor? Yes. As if we didn’t get the point already, director kathryn bigelow then has them skydiving, locked in an aerial embrace, in the film’s climactic act – which follows keanu’s famous line “are we gonna jump or jerk off?””

You can make a case for almost any Arnold Schwarznegger film having homoerotic undertones, but the Terminator series provides the perfect example. In each movie, Arnie makes his first appearance butt naked, showing off his ridiculously pumped physique, before bumping into a group of men who he proceeds to pulverize in exchange for their clothes, their boots and their motorcycle. In the first two instalments, the homoeroticism is implied rather than spelled out – the adversaries he encounters are at first bemused, amused and offended by his nakedness, before surrendering emaciated on the floor having given up the shirts off their backs. It’s in Terminator 3, however, that the joke becomes self-aware (pun intended), with our cyborg friend appropriating his leathers from a male stripper after having being told ‘Talk to the hand, bitch.” The scene is complete with Arnie stood outside the strip bar, wearing a pair of Elton John-style starry shades, ready to do battle.

Point Break might be the perfect unintentionally homoerotic movie. There’s an unmistakable gay undertone to the bonding rituals and overflowing machismo demonstrated by the knuckleheaded Ex-Presidents surf gang, but it’s the love affair between Keanu Reeves’ Jonny Utah and Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi that takes centre stage. Never mind that Keanu’s getting cosy with Lori Petty, she may as well be a cardboard cut-out when Swayze’s around, always fighting an uphill battle in vying for Keanu’s affections; Utah’s rather more interested in ringleader Bodhi. The storm drain chase perfectly embodies his frustration in letting his lover slip through his fingers, Keanu ending up on his back as Swayze escapes; Swayze stops, their eyes lock for a moment that last an eternity, and Keanu fires his gun skywards in frustration. A phallic metaphor? Yes. As if we didn’t get the point already, director Kathryn Bigelow then has them skydiving, locked in an aerial embrace, in the film’s climactic act – which follows Keanu’s famous line “are we gonna jump or jerk off?” For the film’s closing set piece, the pair roll around in the surf, handcuffed to one another, before Keanu releases him back to the sea. In cinematic terms, the scene is somewhere between Romeo & Juliet and Free Willy.

Too much has been written about the homosexual subtext of Top Gun for me to possibly add anything new to the debate, so I leave it in the good hands of Quentin Tarantino who, in the movie Sleep With Me, says this:
“It is a story about a man’s struggle with his own homosexuality. It is! That is what Top Gun is about, man. You’ve got Maverick, all right? He’s on the edge, man… And you’ve got Iceman, and all his crew. They’re gay, they represent the gay man, all right? And they’re saying, go, go the gay way, go the gay way. He could go both ways… Kelly McGillis, she’s heterosexuality. She’s saying: no, no, no, no, no, no, go the normal way, play by the rules, go the normal way. They’re saying no, go the gay way, be the gay way, go for the gay way, all right? That is what’s going on throughout that whole movie… He goes to her house, all right? It looks like they’re going to have sex, you know, they’re just kind of sitting back, he’s takin’ a shower and everything. They don’t have sex. He gets on the motorcycle, drives away. She’s like, “What is going on here?” Next scene, next scene you see her, she’s in the elevator, she is dressed like a guy. She’s got the cap on, she’s got the aviator glasses, she’s wearing the same jacket that the Iceman wears. She is, okay, this is how I gotta get this guy, this guy’s going towards the gay way, I gotta bring him back, I gotta bring him back from the gay way, so I’ll do that through subterfuge, I’m gonna dress like a man. All right? That is how she approaches it. … All right, but the REAL ending of the movie is when they fight the MIGs at the end, all right? Because he has passed over into the gay way… And it’s over, and they land, and Iceman’s been trying to get Maverick the entire time, and finally, he’s got him, all right? And what is the last f***ing line that they have together? They’re all hugging and kissing and happy with each other, and Ice comes up to Maverick, and he says, “Man, you can ride my tail, anytime!” And what does Maverick say? “You can ride mine!”

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