Oct 11, 2015

Barbarella: Hetero Sex Comedy or Gay Classic?

In the year 40,000, the President of Earth calls Barbarella (Jane Fonda) into action: a rogue scientist  named Durand Durand has brought a "weapon" to the distant, unexplored planet Tau Ceti.  This could cause the residents to experience neurotic aggression!

 So she and her sentient gay spaceship ("Prepare to insert nourishment") travel to the distant planet.  She is captured by carnivorous children and rescued by a child-catcher (Ugo Tognazzi).  He asks to have sex with her.

Then she meets a blind angel, Pygar (John Phillip Law, star of Strogoff), who has lost his will to fly.  She restores it by having sex with him.

Then they are both captured by the Great Tyrant (Anita Pallenberg), who calls Barberella "my pretty-pretty" and Pygar a "winged fruitcake."  They refuse her request for sex.

Barbarella is rescued by the rebel leader Dildano (David Hemmings), who wants to have sex with her.

Recaptured, she is placed in the Excessive Machine to be orgasmed to death.

After a few more sexploits, the planet is destroyed. Pygar flies Barbarella, and the Great Tyrant to safety.  "Why did you rescue her, after all the terrible things she did to you?" Barbarella asks.  "Angels have no memory."

The 1968 movie may have been hetero porn, but the 1977 PG-rated re-release is a trippy sci-fi spoof.  No one is actually shown having sex, or even making out, and the requests for sex are so emotionless and pedestrian that they seem merely polite social gestures, like shaking hands.

Barbarella is naked a lot, but with the outrageous costumes, sets, and dialogue -- "I'll do things to you that are beyond all known philosophies!"; "De-crucify him, or I'll melt your face!" -- you barely notice. Besides, there is a lot of male nudity, too, substantially more than in the French comic book series.

And oblique references to same-sex desire and practice that make you think that there might be gay people in this 1960s universe.

How did a hetero sex comedy turn into a gay classic?

Jane Fonda, by the way, is a strong gay ally.