Oct 31, 2020

Shaken, Not Stirred: The Gay James Bond

I think I've only seen three James Bond movies all the way through: Diamonds are Forever (1972), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and Casino Royale (2006). But I've seen many, many clips of pivotal scenes, plus countless pastiches, parodies, and imitations, on everything from The Flintstones to Family Guy.  

From his introduction in a series of novels by Ian Fleming (1953-64) through fifty years' worth of movies (1962-2012), Bond created the image of the suave, sophisticated spy that has been  imitated over and over, in tv series (I Spy, Get Smart, The Man from UNCLE, Mission: Impossible)in movies (The Bourne Identity, True Lies, The Secret of Boyne Castle, Austin Powers); even in comics (Spy vs. Spy in Mad Magazine).

Bond comes from a generation before the Man-Mountains, when Swinging Bachelors ruled.  He rarely took off his shirt; the producers didn't expect anyone to be looking at his muscles. In the tradition of "everybody's fantasy," the producers expected all women but no men to swoon over him due to his cool savoir-faire, his tailored suits, fluency in French, knowledge of clarets, and hint of danger.

And all men but no women to admire him for his spy expertise, his ability to jump out of an airplane without a parachute, kill an enemy spy on the way down, and land unfazed, unruffled, and ready for sex.

For all his popularity, there is very little for gay men to like in James Bond.

1. Very brief, minimal beefcake shots, only when absolutely necessary -- a part of his chest might peek out over the top of the sheets -- and overwhelmed by endless shots of bikini-clad and nude women.  Sean Connery (left) was a former bodybuilder and Mr. Universe runner-up, yet we saw no underwear, no towels, almost nothng of his physique.  Current Bond Daniel Craig has been a little better, offering an occasional swimsuit shot.

2. Few homoromantic subtexts.  The Bond world is as completely divided into evil men and nice women as Karate Kid.  Every woman Bond meets wants to have sex with him. Some try to kill him also, but usually they have a change of heart and become allies.

And the most a man can feel for him, or for any man, is a sort of grudging admiration. More often they feel raw hatred.  Same-sex friendships do not exist.

3. Intense homophobia.  Fleming wrote his novels for "warm-blooded heterosexuals," and decried the ranks of the "unhappy sexual misfits."  The movies almost invariably pit the heterosexual Bond against gay-vague "sexual misfits" -- or not so gay-vague, as the transvestite Spectre agent in Thunderball, or the hand-holding Mr. Witt and Mr. Kidd in Diamonds are Forever.  Even Jauvier Bardem, the latest villain (in Skyfall), camps it up to ensure that we identify him as a detestable poof.

4. It's hard to find a gay-friendly actor in the corpus of Bond movies.  Sean Connery became irate when he heard that some commentators found a gay subtext in one of his movies.  Roger Moore (left) played a negative stereotype in Boat Trip (2002).  Current Bond Daniel is a little more gay-friendly, but even he became irate at the suggestion that the superspy like both sexes:  "James Bond is heterosexual.  There will never be a gay Bond, ever."

Speaking of violent objections, in 1999 there was a rumor that gay actor Rupert Everett would be the next Bond.  He quickly spoke up, stating that it would be impossible: "Bond fans would burn down MGM if the studios got a gay actor to play James Bond."

So, what's gay about the James Bond movies?

1. A remarkable preoccupation with Bond's sex organs, from the laser-beam in Goldfinger to the chain-thwacking in Casino Royale.  Heterosexuals have never spent so much time envisioning phalluses.

2. Wearing tailored suits, drinking fine wines. dining on  haute cuisine, conversing in Italian and French?  Metrosexual, to say the least.

3. The violent objections incited when you suggest that Bond might be gay -- or played by someone gay -- suggest that he meets a deep-seated desire in heterosexuals to postulate a gloriously gay-free world.  It's fun to discomfort them, to point out that there are gay people everywhere, even in the most homophobic of texts.  So take one of Bond's male allies - Willard Whyte in Diamonds are Forever, Milos Colombo in For Your Eyes Only, Damian Falco in Die Another Day -- it doesn't matter how tenuous the relationship is -- and let the slash fictions roll.

Hustlers: Only One Naked Man, Nobody Gay

 


When Bob told me that he ordered Hustlers for movie night.  I thought,  Oh, boy, male hustlers.  Lots of muscular bodies and same-sex hookups.

Nope.

A dressing room full of overly made-up ladies.  They'd better be drag queens.

Nope.  They're strippers.

Boobs and butts and boobs and butts filling the screen, gyrating in front of your face.  I cry out and turn away.  I always made fun of straight guys for being queasy around penises, but I'm actually feeling queasy.  I look down at my cell phone screen.  

After a few minutes, I look up.  Thankfully, the ladies are fully clothed.  Nope -- they're back!  Boobs and butts and boobs and butts! I look down at my cell phone again.

"Um...Bob?  Why did you want to see a movie about lady parts?" I ask.  "Is this your way of coming out as bisexual?"

"It got good reviews.  A lot of feminists are praising it."

Ok, well, I'll look up.  

Boobs and butts and boobs and butts!

Back to my cell phone.  I spend the movie going through the entire cast list on IMDB, looking for some beefcake.  I don't know who they play.

1. Alex Breux (top photo)


2.  Brandon Kenner

The plot, as far as I understand it:  Dorothy (Constance Wu) becomes a stripper to help her sick grandmother (aww....), and befriends veteran stripper Ramona (Jennifer Lopez).  Their customers consist entirely of extremely wealthy, morally bankrupt, "I'll pay you $100 for a blow job" capitalists.

$100 for a blow job!  I'll do it for the price of a soda.  Heck, I'll do it for free.






3. John Palladino

The salary and tips are enough for them to buy houses and cars in New York City.  If I didn't know that this was based on a true story -- an article in New York Magazine -- I'd think it was preposterous.






4. Tommy Beardmore

After the stock market crash of 2007, the stripper market tanks, so Dorothy and Ramona decide on a more blatant hustle.  They slip rich guys a mickey (Ecstasy and Ketamine), and while they are dazed, max out their credit cards.  If they complain later, the girls say "You were having fun.  New York is expensive."  Besides, who's going to call the police and complain "Some strippers overcharged me"?

They get a whole crew, including two familiar faces:  Keke Palmer, star of True Jackson VP (2008-2011) , and Lili Reinhart, who plays Betty Cooper on Riverdale.  

Familiar faces, and now familiar boobs and butts.




5.  Gerald Gillum

Eventually a client does call the police: a guy who had been trying to forget his financial and familly crises with a night on the town, and now can't even pay his mortgage.  So they are all arrested, and get various light sentences and an interview in New York Magazine.





6. Leonys Delossantos

Gay Characters:  I expected some lesbians, but the strippers appear to be all straight.   The journalist who interviwes them may be gay  -- she's shown at an all-female party.

Beefcake:  All of the clients are dressed in business suits as the strippers' boobs and butts gyrate atop them.  Except one: a guy jumps off the balcony naked, and they load him into a car and take him to the hospital.  Some body shots, including a blink-and-you-miss-it penis.






7. Usher.

Bob: Well, that was good.  Excellent acting, and it kept my interest to the end.  What do you want to watch now?

Me: Bodybuilders!  Wrestlers!  Men's butts!  Cocks and balls and cocks and balls!  



Oct 30, 2020

The Swashbuckling Boyfriends of November

November is my favorite month.  The colors are soft and muted, the sky is not too bright, the air is cool but not cold, it's festive but not overwhelming like December, and it contains my birthday and Thanksgiving, the two holidays that provide the most pleasure and least guilt.

Besides, when I was a kid, November and December were the only months where I could read without getting yelled at.

Mom and Dad disapproved of reading -- it was a waste of time, it would strain my brain, it was antisocial -- I should be out playing sports, or at least watching tv with the family.  Science fiction and fantasy was especially suspect, likely to turn me into an atheist, or, much worse, a Catholic.  So I always hid books, or read at my friends' house, or said they were for school.

But in November,they actually were for school.  Teachers always assigned us swashbuckling adventure novels to read over Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation!

It wasn't my fault -- blame my teacher.  Sorry, no time to play basketball in the driveway, or touch football in the schoolyard -- I had to get through this book.

Four of the books we were assigned were particularly memorable.  They had gay subtexts as well as a heteronormative primary plot.

1. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas (1844).  Edmond Dantes escapes from his unjust imprisonment in the Chateau d'If, and gets vengeance on the people who betrayed him.  He gets a girlfriend, but also forms several passionate male friendships, notably with Peppino, a boy who was also betrayed and becomes his...um...."servant."  Henry Cavill, left, is one of the more muscular Dantes in film.



2. The Three Musketeers, by Alexander Dumas (1844). A young man named d'Artagnan wants to become a Musketeer, one of the king's bodyguards. The three current Musketeers reject him, but then find him worthy.  He gets a girlfriend, but rejects her; his most passionate relationships come with men. (Chris O'Donnell, left, is one of many hunky d'Artagnans).

3. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883). A boy helps pirates find buried treasure, with nary a woman in sight.



4. The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope (1894). An Englishman on holiday in Ruritania bears a striking resemblance to King Rudolph, who has disappeared, and agrees to impersonate him.  He falls in love with the King's fiancee, but has to leave her.  The king and the commoner share many a touching moment.

5. The Scarlet Pimpernel, by the Baroness Orczy (1905).  A precursor of Zorro, Batman, and all of the other superheroes with a milktoast alter ego, Sir Percy Blakeney pretended to be gay -- weak, shrill, feminine -- but he was really a hetero hero, saving French aristocrats from the guillotine during the Reign of Terror.  He has a girlfriend, whom he marries, but he also spends time rescuing male aristocrats, notably the hunky Sir Andrew.


6. Captain Blood, by Raphael Sabatini (1922).  Dr. Peter Blood, an Irish physician (who would want to go to a doctor called Blood?), is wrongly convicted of treason and sold into slavery in the Caribbean.  He and his friend Jeremy Pitt commandeer a ship and become pirates. (Ross Alexander, top photo, played Jeremy Pitt in the 1935 movie).

All of these novels have been filmed many times, usually with a hetero-romance tacked on to provide a "fade out kiss" ending.  But I didn't know that during those long, cool November afternoons.

See also: Beefcake and Bonding in the Green Library.


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