Nov 24, 2016

An Interview with Spartacus: Gay Characters, Gay Subtexts, and His Wife

Spartacus (111-71 BC) was a gladiator who led a slave revolt against the Roman Republic, and became an inspiration for rebels of all sizes and shapes, from Toussaint Loverture to Bulgarian soccer teams.  He has appeared in many novels, movies, and tv series, most recently in Spartacus (2011-2013), a popular series on the STARZ network.  I heard it was the "gayest show on television," so I caught up with Spartacus to see just how gay it was.

Thank you for taking the time from your busy slave revolt to talk to me.

Happy to be here.  Give my regards to your wife.

Um...tell me about your life in Thrace before you were sold into slavery.

It was Paradise!  My wife and I spent all our days gazing into each other's eyes!  Every moment with my wife by my side was ecstasy!  Every moment without my wife was unspeakable agony!  I only wish that your readers could know the ecstasy of a man and his wife!

Well, most of my readers are gay.

Oh.  Ok, that's fine, too.  To each his own, I always say.  Did I mention my wife?

Yes, five times so far.  So you were both sold into slavery.  You ended up in Capua, in the gladiator-training school run by Batiatus.  How did you like it there?

Every moment without my wife was unspeakable agony, of course, but I took solace in the fact that Batiatus agreed to find my wife for me.  Every match that I won brought me closer to that moment when I would be reunited with my wife.  Did I mention my wife?

Yes, you did!  Did the Romans generally treat you well?

They gave me the honors befitting a champion.  But their customs were barbaric.  Men didn't spend every moment gazing into the eyes of their wife.  They slept with whoever they wanted, not realizing that the bond between a man and his wife is sacred.  Like my bond with my wife.  Every moment without my wife was unspeakable agony.  Did I mention my wife?

Um...I believe so.  Did you make any friends among the other gladiators?

My best friend was Varro.  He was amazing!

Strong gay-subtext buddy-bond, huh?

No, it's not that.  I respected him. He sold himself into slavery in order to support his wife and child.  Every moment without his wife was agony, of course, but he did what he had to do.  His only goal in life was to make his wife happy.  Just as it should be for all men.  What good is a man without a wife?  My wife was my reason for living! Did I mention my wife?



Any gay guys among the gladiators?

Well, there was Barca, the Beast of Carthage.  Instead of a wife, he hooked up with the young twink Pietros -- I even stumbled upon them having sex one night when I was moaning about my wife.  But then he was killed, and Pietros committed suicide.  They were nice guys.  Did I mention my wife?

Were they major characters?

Not really.  Only a few scenes, and they died rather quickly in the first season.

You were eventually reunited with your wife, but she was mortally wounded, and died in your arms.

The worst moment of my life!  Life is meaningless without a wife!

Did you move on, to concentrate on your profession, meet other women, and so on?

Oh, no!  I moaned about the memory of my lost wife in every episode, and I would never consider looking at another woman.  The bond between a man and his wife is eternal!  I just wish that you readers could know the ecstasy a man feels when he gazes into the eyes of his wife!  It is the reason for existing!  It is Paradise! It is...

Um...remember, most of my readers are gay?

Oh, right.  Whatever turns you on!  Barca had a boyfriend before Pietros, you know.  I wasn't around, but you hear about it in the second season, a prequel, set before I was sold into slavery, when I was still gazing into the eyes of my wife!   A man and his wife....

Got it!  So, is there any other gay content in the ludus?  Any beefcake?

Sure, lots.  We all have bodybuilder physiques, and we work out in posing straps with gigantic bulges -- the ladies in the audience really like it, you see.  And some of the gladiators who don't know the infinite joy of having a wife are assigned to sleep with Roman women.  You see full frontal nudity as they are inspected.

So there's nudity, but only in the context of women's desire for men?

Right.  I mean, it's not the infinite joy of having a wife, but it's what men and women do.  What man would give up the opportunity to sleep with a beautiful woman, except those who have wives?

Gay men generally aren't interested in women

Oh, right, your readers.  I keep forgetting.  The topic just never comes up in the ludus.  Most of the men spend all their time talking about the beautiful women they've been with, or want to be with.  I, of course, moan over the loss of my wife.  My wife!  My wife!  My wife!

Ok, calm down.  So I take it there's a lot of heteronormativity in the series?

Of course not! We don't discriminate!  There are several gay characters.  Agron, one of my top aides in the rebellion, is in love with Nasir.  They last until the end of the series. There's Castus, Nasir's friend. And...and...well, that's about all.  But more than you'll see on 300.  

Besides, isn't every good tv series really about a man and his wife? The only thing that gives life meaning is a man gazing into the eyes of his wife! Without a wife, you're nothing! My wife!  My wife!  My wife!  My wife!

Um...ok, that's all we have time for today.  Thanks for coming in. 

My pleasure. Give my regards to your wife.