Jun 14, 2022

Going to Movies in 1986: Rob Lowe in a Jockstrap, Christian Slater Bares His Butt, and Crocodile Dundee Hates Gays

 Let's go back to 1986, my first full year in West Hollywood, when I was trying to be socialized into my new gay subculture by doing what was expected, like avoiding movie theaters.  Going to movies wasn't exactly a sin, as it had been for Nazarenes; it was perceived as stupid.  Hollywood movies were for horny heterosexuals, involving endless women's body parts and homophobic slurs.  Why would you want to see anything like that?  But I hadn't been fully socialized yet, so I went to 16 movies in the theater that year.  Several I regretted.  

January: Youngblood, to see Rob Lowe in a jock strap.  Well, this was the only photo of a semi-naked man that I was likely to see that entire month, unless I forked over a ridiculous sum for a copy of In Touch magazine. 

February: The Hitcher, to see C. Thomas Howell with his shirt off.  He doesn't take his shirt off, he gets a girlfriend, and there's a gross girl-being-torn-in-half scene that made me physically sick.

February (second movie of the month!): House, because at the time we thought that William Katt  of The Greatest American Hero (1981-86) was gay.  There's a bit of buddy-bonding in the premise, where troubled writer Roger (Katt) is haunted by the memory of a buddy killed in Vietnam.  Or was he?  Of course, heterosexism triumphs: Roger gets back together with the ex-wife who left him so they could get back together, a cliche almost as hoary as the "dead wife."  Even in 1986.

March: None

Band of the Hand, because it was directed by Paul Michael Glaser, whom at the time we thought was gay.  After all, he starred with David Soul in Starsky and Hutch (1975-79). about two cop partners obviously in love.  The Band gets a 13% approval rating on Rotton Tomatoes.  But it features five shirtless hunks, one gay-coded, trying to clear the drug dealers out of their neighborhood, and I don't remember any boy-girl romances.  What's not to like?  

April (second movie): A Room with a View, because it was based on a novel by E.M. Forster, whom, we had just discovered, was gay.  But Room is a period-piece romance set in Italy.  No gay texts or subtexts.

May: None

June: Invaders from Mars, an homage to the old 1950s sci-fi movies, with a 12-year old boy (Hunter Carson) trying to convince his family, neighbors, and finally the army that Martians have landed.  He gets a straight-subtext romance with the school nurse! 

June (second movie): Ferris Bueller's Day Off, because who wouldn't want to see Matthew Broderick in anything?

July: Aliens, because we saw the original.  Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), who fought an alien predator in deep space back in 1979, discovers that it wasn't alone.  She also fights mansplaining marines and saves a little girl.  No heterosexual romance, which was nice for a change.

August: The Fly, because it was another homage to those 1950s sci-fi movies. Jeff Goldblum invents a teleportation device, but accidentally merges his DNA with that of a housefly.  You know how flies eat, right?  I was physically ill.  I couldn't even finish my popcorn.  But wehn he tries to reverse the error, things get even worse.  Plus he has a girlfriend.

August (movie #2 of the month): Caravaggio, about the gay painter of the Italian Baroque era.  It paints gay men (well, actually, everyone is bisexual) as murderous thugs.  But at least Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) kisses a boy (Sean Bean) amid all of the hetero-hijinks.

Blue Velvet, because we heard that it was "decadent," which is code for "gay."  Actually there are no gay people, but the heterosexuals don't come across as particularly benevolent, either.  There's drug addiction, S&M (not the fun kind), human trafficking, sexual violence, regular violence, and a severed ear (again, I couldn't even finish my popcorn).  On the other hand, Kyle MacLachlan,  the innocent college boy who is drawninto the belly of the beast, flashes an aroused penis in one scene. We left the theater asking "Did I see what I thought I saw?"

September (movie #2): The Name of the Rose, about murder in a Medieval Italian monastery, because in the novel by Umberto Eco (1980), there's a gay character (who commits suicide naturally).  None here, and there's incessant female nudity.  Who knew that monasteries had so many naked girls in them.  To be fair, sort of, Christian Slater gets a brief bare butt shot.

September (movie #3): Crocodile Dundee, because everyone saw it.  The croc hunter is horrifically sexist, homophobic, and transphobic -- there's actually a scene ridiculing a "man dressed as a sheila."  But in 1986, who cared?  Nearly every movie threw in some "fag" slurs, a gay panic scene, or a swishy stereotype.  It was just the price you paid for going to a movie.

October: Jumpin' Jack Flash, because it starred Whoopi Goldberg.  I had no idea at the time that the title was referencing a song by the Rolling Stones. I have since looked up the lyrics, but the images are opaque: a guy dies several times, including once at the Crucifixion, but it's ok because he's "Jumpin' Jack Flash."  What does that have to do with a plot about a mild-mannered bank employee who gets involved with spies?

November: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, because we saw anything having to do with Star Trek.  This one has a stupid plot about a spaceship staffed by humpbank whales wondering where their comrades on Earth went.  But at least it featured one of my Weho friends in a tiny role.

December: None.  It's Christmas.  I spent half the month back home in Rock Island, and my parents, still Nazarenes, didn't permit me to go to movies.


  1. You do get to see Christian Slater nude in "The Name of the Rose" and there are all those skinny dipping guys in "A Room With A View"

  2. But at least Caravaggio (Nigel Terry).

    Sorry but Caravaggio was interpreted by Dexter Flechter.

    1. After all this time, you must have forgotten that three actors portrayed Caravaggio (in English we usually say "portray" for acting, "interpret" for dance). Nigel Terry portrayed him as an adult, and Dexter Fletcher as a youth. As proof, I invite you to check out the IMDB and Wikipedia entries on the movie, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090798/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caravaggio_(1986_film)

  3. One of the boys in Band Of The Hand was John Cameron Mitchell, who would go on to write and star in the first successful Broadway musical about a trans person, Hedwig & The Angry Inch. Plus he was really cute back then.

  4. Band Of The Hand's teen cast included John Cameron Mitchell, who would write and star in the first successful Broadway musical about a trans person, Hedwig & The Angry Inch. Plus he was really cute back then.

  5. Patrick Swayze is part of the "Youngblood" hockey team too

  6. Youngblood always makes me think of the godawful 90s comic. And Liefeld's homophobic too.

    What was it with the 80s/90s and "as soon as he shoots, he belongs to the girls"? Invaders from Mars is just one (somewhat obscure) example.

    And remember, Aliens passes the Bechdel test.

    Carvaggio is simple: Portraying gays that way was now verboten. But if a character is bisexual or transgender, fair game.

    For Blue Velvet, you forgot voyeurism. Ironically the most famous scene.

    Jumpin Jack Flash is...I grew up in a rural state, so American Pie played on the radio a lot. Since Mick Jagger is the devil ("Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack Flash sat on a candlestick") that's actually the easiest symbol in McLean's apocalypse to interpret.

    Star Trek IV is supposed to be about the environment? It's kind of anticlimactic for the final installment of the little trilogy they had going on inside the Trek films. (2, 3, and 4 are all one continuous story.)

    1. So "Jumpin' Jack Flash" is about Mick Jagger, the devil, dying and getting resurrected? I never realized that the devil in "American Pie" was Mick Jagger. Actually, I was nevr able to interpret that song.

    2. Mick Jagger had a Satanic persona as part of his hype, so McLean used that as the metaphor.

      The whole verse is about Altamont. You know,, where the Hells Angels killed a guy in the audience.

      As I said, American Pie is a sort of Boomer apocalypse:

      Verse 1 is as everyone knows about Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper.

      Verse 2 is about McLean's coming of age. (And strangely atheism? "Did you write the book of love and do you have faith in God above cause the Bible tells you so?" is blatant circular reasoning.)

      Verse 3 is Bob Dylan mostly, though the Stones and Beatles ("While Lennon read a book on Marx, the quartet practices in the park.") get referenced.

      Verse 4 is Vietnam and how the Boomer generation became cynical. (Basically the marching band being militarism.)

      Verse 5 is Altamont, and Verse 6 is all the fallout of everything and feels the most apocalyptic of all. It's generally understood it mirrors the first verse with three men dying, but who is unknown. (Also Janis Joplin's heroin habit, "She just smiled and turned away") The more secular society ("The church bells all were broken") gets special mention.

    3. I got a lot of "losing one's faith" references, like "the three men I admire most, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, they took the last train to the coast the day the music died." I didn't get Janis Joplin as the girl who smiled and turned away, even though she died a couple of years before the song, I guess because I never associated her with blues music


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