Jun 24, 2013

The Gay Invaders

September 12, 1967, a Tuesday night.  We usually watch The Red Skelton Show at 7:30 -- or rather, my parents watch while I play in the other room, but my friend Doug is staying over, so he gets to decide on the program.  He picks The Invaders (1967-68), which premiered last spring.

Architect David Vincent (Roy Thinnes, a handsome blond with a nicely muscled physique), gets lost on a lonely country road.  He sees a UFO, a "craft from another galaxy,"  land. Now he knows that the Invaders are here, taking human form, infiltrating our society.

He goes on the run, fleeing the aliens who want to silence him, trying to get the authorities to believe his story.

In tonight's episode, David befriends John Carter (Dabney Coleman), who has seen the aliens land several times.  Together the commandeer a flying saucer -- proof of the invasion!  But it doesn't work out.

David made several other male friends during the season, and often rescued them or required rescuing.  And he never fell in love with a girl -- at least, I don't remember any.

Surely the Invaders represented the adults who kept trying to control our minds with their insistance that "one day you'll discover girls."  Later I would call them Tripods.

No more Red Skelton for me -- throughout second grade, Tuesday night meant The Invaders!

The Invaders were indistinguishable from humans, except for hard-to-detect differences, like the absence of a pulse. And they didn't understand human emotions, so they might react incorrectly, pretending to be happy when something sad happened, and so on.

 But they had one tell-tale sign: an extended pinkie finger.

That roiled my sci-fi senses.  If you can disguise yourself as a human with other working fingers, why not that one?

This was the heart of the Cold War, so most people believe that the Invaders symbolized Communists.  People thought that there were Communists infiltrating our society, indistinguishable from us except that they didn't understand human emotions -- Ayn Rand claimed that no one in Russia ever smiled.  No extended pinkie fingers.

So where did the writers get it?

Larry Cohen, who wrote the original screenplay, explains:

The extended pinky used to be a symbol of effeminacy.  When this show was done back in the sixties, the homosexual community was kind of a submerged, invisible community.  People were living secret lives.  I thought, here are these aliens living amongst society, keeping their true identities secret, their true selves secret, and this is funny because the pinky kind of symbolizes homosexuality.

You can read the complete article here.

How ironic that at the age of seven, I believed that David Vincent was gay, fighting the forces of heterosexism, but the writers meant for him to be fighting the Gay Menace!