Aug 3, 2013

Fire in the Sky: Heterosexism and Alien Abductions

On the evening of November 5, 1975, a 22-year old logger named Travis Walton, his foreman and close friend Mike Rogers, and five other crewmen were heading home from a wood-clearing project at the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest near Heber, Arizona.  Suddenly they saw a bright light, like "fire in the sky," coming from a disc-shaped craft.  They stopped to investigate.

The next thing anyone remembered was driving down the highway at breakneck speed.  Mike was crying uncontrollably.  Travis was missing.

They notified the sheriff, who suspected that they had murdered Travis and concocted a wild story to explain his disappearance.  But five days later, on the evening of November 10th, Travis re-appeared, naked, dehydrated, and disoriented, claiming that he had escaped from an alien spacecraft.

I used to love alien abduction stories, so I grabbed The Travis Walton Experience when it came out in 1978, during my first year of college.  It was great: the abductee was a hot lumberjack whose best friend cried uncontrollably over his disappearance. And who displayed no interest in women (Travis Walton later married Mike's sister Dana, but I didn't see any hetero-romance in the book). Could they be a gay couple?

So the movie version of his adventure, Fire in the Sky (1993), was a must-see.  D.B. Sweeney (top photo), who would play a gay character in The Weekend (1999), starred as Travis Walton, and Robert Patrick (left), then known for Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), played Mike Rogers.

There were lots of shots of a  nude D.B. Sweeney, much more buffed than he would be in his later work.

Unfortunately, the producers felt a pressing need to erase the gay subtext.  Travis' friendship with Mike turned into a barely-restrained antagonism, while his romance with Dana took center stage.

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