Sep 19, 2014

The Gay Werewolf of Steppenwolf

When I was an undergraduate at Augustana College in the early 1980s, I took three German classes with tall, gray-haired, constantly-scowling Professor Weber, who was obsessed with demonstrating that homosexualitat did not exist in modern Germany.

Stefan George, Thomas Mann, the Physical Culture Movement, Robert Musil, Magnus Hirschfield, the Kit-Kat Club of Berlin between the Wars?

"Posh!  Nonsense!  About friendship and the nationalist ideal, not homosexualitat!"

He would allow no discussion of current campus favorite Steppenwolf  by Herman Hesse: "Posh!  Nonsense!  A book of monsters!  Fit only for the Late-Late Show!"

So of course, I had to read it.

The cover illustration of two nearly-naked women nearly turned me away.

As did the clueless school librarian who kept trying to point me to the music section, insisting that the book was about the rock band Steppenwolf.

But finally I managed to get a copy.

I saw immediately why Dr. Weber forbade the class from discussing it.

The protagonist, Henry Haller, feels depressed, friendless, and alienated from the world he no longer understands -- what adolescent hasn't felt like that?  Especially gay adolescents.

The source of his alienation: he is a werewolf, a man with two natures, one civilized and stable and heterosexual, the other wild.

Wild, savage, untamed, homoerotic.

While wandering aimlessly through the city, he sees an advertisement for "Magic Theater -- not for everybody." (Or, in this Spanish sign, "for lunatics only.").

 Maybe in the Magic Theater he will find a way to reconcile his two natures.  Or maybe it will lead him to oblivion.  He resolves to seek it out.

En route, he meets two people.  Hermine nurtures his "civilized" side, introducing him to the pleasures and constraints of heterosexual normalcy, including sex with women.

Seductive saxophonist Pablo offers him a "walk on the wild side."

(In the 1974 film version, Henry is played by Max von Sydow, and Pablo by Pierre Clementi).

Eventually Henry kills his "civilized side," and Pablo announces that he is ready for the Magic Theater. He walks inside, through a narrow corridor into the future.

For the gay men of my generation, it sounds precisely like your first visit to a gay bar.  You circle the block a few times, then park, and walk slowly, terrified, to that door marked "Magic Theater: Not for Everybody."  Your future lies behind it.

Hesse envisioned several other close male "walks on the wild side," in Narcissus and Goldmund (1930) and Magister Ludi (1943).  

See also: Death in Venice; and Male Nudity in German Class;

Sep 18, 2014

Bring on the Spider-Men

I'm not a big fan of superheroes in general, and Spider-Man is at the bottom of my list.  I walked out on the first movie (2002) starring Tobey Maguire, and I've never seen The Ultimate Spider-Man, in spite of its 10 Ultimate Hunks.

So the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Night (2011-2014) was not high on my must-see list.

It was one of the most expensive musicals in history, riddled with production accidents (Spidey has a lot of web-swinging to do).

It was panned by critics, who complained that it combined the worst set-pieces of the 2002  with pretentious Greek-chorus stuff, and ignores Spidey's comic book origins.

It was certainly heterosexist, with Mary Jane being captured and melting into Spidey's arms every five minutes.

But it has something that the comic book never had:  multiple Spider-Men.

You need a lot for all the stunts, and because they keep getting injured.

Spider-Men include man-mountains like Matthew Wilkas (top photo), Reed Kelly (left), Adam Ray Dyer (below).

Jake Odmark, Justin Matthew Sargent, Matthew James Thomas, Marcus Bellamy, and on and on and on....

And the Spider-Men's costumes seem particularly bulge-worthy.  Apparently being bitten by a radioactive spider adds considerable bulk beneath the belt.  How many can you count in this curtain call of four Spidermen sans mask?

How about now, with nine Spidermen strutting their stuff on Times Square?

New productions are being planned for major cities in America and Europe, so you may yet have a chance to gawk at your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Men.

Sep 15, 2014

Henry Danger: A Nickelodeon Gay-Subtext Classic?

The Disney Channel loves teencoms about kids who are training to become singers.

Nickelodeon puts them into bizarre, unexpected situations.

Which would you rather watch?

In Henry Danger, the Nickelodeon teencom, average kid Henry (Jace Norman) lands his dream job: Danger Boy, teen sidekick to superhero Captain Man (Cooper Barnes).

He gets to wear a superhero costume, hang out in a cool futuristic hideout, and fight colorful Batman-like villains.

Did I mention that the job pays $9 per hour?

Of course, Henry can't tell anyone, but that's part of the fun.  What kid doesn't want to live a secret life?

Especially a gay kid.

Jace Norman is exceptionally androgynous -- with a change of outfit, he could easily be a girl -- so the gay symbolism seems almost deliberate.

He has two best friends, the sarcastic, sassy Charlotte (Riele Downs) and the rather dimwitted Jasper (Sean Ryan Fox).  No doubt a heterosexual romance is in the offing with one, and a gay-subtext romance with the other.

Captain Man (Cooper Barnes) was heterosexualized in the first episode with a set-piece of his alter ego romancing a woman, but he's probably going to be up for some gay symbolism, too.

Cooper Barnes, seen here as Hawkman, is no stranger to gay subtexts.  He starred in a short video about football fans engaging in unconscious homoerotic behavior,

And Nickelodeon seems dedicated to filling supporting roles with musclemen.

Like Ben Giroux, seen here flexing in a commercial, as the villainous Toddler.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...