Nov 9, 2014

Gary Daniels: Man-Mountain with Gay Subtexts

During the brawny Old West of the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was squaring off against the Evil Empire and Jerry Falwell was squaring off against the gays, we needed lots of man-mountains:

Buffed shirtless guys who could storm through the jungles of Southeast Asia to rescue kidnapped buddies,  get revenge on murdered wives or girlfriends, or take out entire enemy armies with their bare hands.

Unfortunately, after the first hundred buffed guys with martial arts training hit Hollywood, the market became highly competitive, and besides, 25-year old kickboxer Gary Daniels was British, unlikely to be cast in a movie promoting American Exceptionalism.

So he went to the Philippines instead.  After a buddy-bonding Indiana Jones rip-off, The Secret of King Mahis Island (1988), he was cast as a man-mountain who ignores his wife and gets nude with his buddy prior to taking out the evil Vietnamese army in Final Reprisal (1988).  Some rather explicit gay subtexts.

By the 1990s, Gary had managed to break into American film, playing kickboxer managers, villains, and opponents in the Big Match, fighting to rescue his kidnapped brother (in American Streetfighter), fighting to rescue his buddy (in Firepower), fighting to get revenge on his brother (Hawk's Vengeance).

Gary's characters had little time for women: the target audience of heterosexual male teenagers wanted to see muscles, fights, and explosions, and couldn't care less about a fade-out kiss.  The result was a lot of gay subtexts.

During the 2000s, as Gary got older, he began playing more fully-clothed roles, as attorneys, detectives, and military officers who oversee the punching and kicking, but don't indulge personally.  His most memorable recent role is The Expendables (2010), in which a group of aging man-mountains is hired to take out a Latin American dictator.

Two of them, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jet Li, reveal that they are a gay couple in The Expendables 2 (2012).  Or maybe they're just joking.  Either way, they're acknowledging the homoerotics behind the man-mountain genre.