Feb 17, 2013

Blue Velvet: Slow, Depressing, Homophobic

Blue Velvet (1986) was the first "mainstream" success of surrealist director David Lynch, whose sci-fi epic Dune flopped two years before.  It borrows its title from a slow, depressing song from the 1950s that apparently Lynch liked.

She wore blu....u....e. . . .vel....vet

The plot is convoluted, the story sordid and unpleasant.  College student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) finds a severed ear crawling with bugs in a field near his small town of Lumberton.  Investigation leads him to the Slow Club (naturally), where a dazed, depressed singer named Dorothy (Isabella Rossilini) performs "Blue Velvet" while sobbing quietly.


Becoming obsessed, Jeffrey hides in her closet and spies on her, but unfortunately she is already spoken for.  She is the sex slave of the violent psychopath Frank Booth (Davis Hopper), who likes to get high on noxious fumes, chew on blue velvet, and beat her up.  Frank, in turn, is the sex slave of flamboyantly feminine Ben (Dean Stockwell), who likes to lip-synch the slow, depressing Roy Orbison song "In Dreams" to get him hopped up.


In dre...ams....I walk....with....you...u....u

Oh, plot point: to keep everyone in line, Ben is holding Dorothy's husband and son hostage (the ear belongs to one of them).

Eventually all of the baddies get shot through the head (Lynch has a thing for massive head trauma), Dorothy and her son leave town, and Jeffrey settles down to a nice "normal" relationship with girl-next-door Sandy (Laura Dern).  Pleased that the natural order of things has been restored, two robins appear, and eat some bugs (see, love triumphs over evil!).

I hated this movie.  I wanted to take a shower afterwards.  But there were three things for gay people to like, in spite of the incessant homophobia (which, to be fair, you have to expect in David Lynch's movies.  He's never tried to hide his hatred of gay people.)

1. If you can overlook the many, many shots of Dorothy nude and abused, you can find some some beefcake.  Kyle MacLachlan had an adequately muscular physique, and in one scene there's frontal nudity.

2. David Lynch hates sexually active heterosexuals as much as gay people.  Their acts come off looking incredibly vile.  Heteros have sex because they have guns pointed at them or because they're suffering from weird fixations, while all the time they're struggling desperately not to.  There's no such thing as  a positive sexual experience, gay or not.

3. In the 1980s, the Moral Majority, Ronald Reagan, and The Waltons had us believe that big cities were cesspools of dcadence, small towns havens of "family values."  Guess what -- even Lumberton has a seedy underbelly.  A nice movie to show your various relatives who bemoan the social decay of your West Hollywood home.

See also: Twin Peaks: the owls are not what they seem.