Homosexuality and Vampirism in True Blood

* looks like we are going to wrap up gay pride month here on a high note; Ladies and Gents, Jeanette Laredo, the one and only Monster Scholar of one of the better horror blogs out there, Monster Land, was kind enough to submit this posting about True Blood and it's ties to modern American Gay Life:

The third season of True Blood is back and burning up the horror blogosphere, and with Pax’s recent posting of Sam and Bill’s nudie dream escapades, it seems only right to explore the homoerotic undertones of everyone’s favorite HBO series. Though True Blood is not the first text to use the vampire as a stand in for homosexuality, it does do some new things to stretch the metaphor and comment on the current state of gay rights in the US.

The use of the vampire as a metaphor for homosexuality is anything but new. John Polidori, author of the first prose work of vampire fiction, wrote his vampire out of his own unrequited passion for Lord Byron, a playboy man of letters who spurned Polidori’s affections. Bram Stoker’s monster was also born out of a frustrated relationship the author had with actor Henry Irving. The description of Dracula as a creature with a high aquiline nose, domed forehead and bushy eyebrows is spot on for a portrait of Irving, and his increasingly outlandish demands on Stoker strained the author’s marriage. So, seeing as it’s been done before, what is so special about homosexuality in True Blood?

True Blood takes the metaphor of the vampire as a homosexual and uses it critique the current gay rights struggle. The vampires of True Blood (especially Bill) are represented as sympathetic sexual others who are persecuted by backwoods rednecks and the religious right. In the opening credits of the series, a lighted billboard can be seen that reads “God Hates Fangs” This indictment of vampires and their supporters is just one letter away away from the infamous religious group which calls themselves “God Hates Fags”

True Blood lampoons the intolerance of the religious right with its portrayal of Fellowship of the Sun and the Light of Day Institute, leaving no fundamental religious organization unscathed. The sexual hypocrisy of the Fellowship of the Sun is showcased with the wife of its leader, Sarah Newlin. Despite their mission to create a sanctified world free of vampires, Sarah doesn’t let her morals stand in the way of giving Jason Stackhouse a handjob in the tub (2:17 Never Let Me Go).

If the vampires of True Blood can be read as homosexual others, (vampires are described at the beginning of the series as having just “come out of the coffin”) then Bill’s efforts to mainstream can be seen as a gay man’s quest for heterosexual normalcy. He begins dating Sookie in an effort to blend in with the locals and abstains from drinking human blood. In one episode Bill nearly snacks on a bare chested man with hepatitis D brought to him by a nest of other vampires, but is warned thanks to Sookie’s mind reading ability. Afterwards Bill tries to make overtures on Sookie, but she refuses. Though Sookie tells Bill she is appalled by the other vampires’ cruelty, it is more likely she is repulsed by her new beau’s same-sex hungers.

True Blood also extends the vampire metaphor to a representation of racial others. The rednecks who kidnap Sookie at the Fellowship of the Sun Church (2:20 Timebomb) refer to the undead as “vamp-irs” with a pronunciation that imitates the common racial slur against black people. Then there is Lafayette, Merlotte’s fabulous fry cook, who encapsulates a racial and sexual threat to the dominant white, heterosexual order. This clash between heterosexual redneck-ery and homosexual/racial otherness can be seen when Layfayette takes on a couple of patrons who complain that their food has AIDS. The patrons are portrayed as stereotypical patriotic, racist rednecks and Layfayette comes out as the victor with the audience cheering for him all the way in a tour de force example of gay empowerment.

HBO’s True Blood breaks ground by using the vampire metaphor to criticize how gays and minorities have been treated for years in the US. Somehow intolerance and racism isn’t as bitter a pill to swallow when it’s masked by the bells and whistles of the immortal undead.


Horror Films that Every Self Respecting Gay Man Should See: The Fan

 * for gay pride month, part of an ongoing series

Film: The Fan

Stars: Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Maureen Stapleton, Hector Elizondo, Michael Biehn

Director: Ed Bianchi

What's So Gay About It?:  Bitch, please!  A slasher film that takes place on The Great White Way; Lauren Bacall as "the final girl"; a sexually confused, baby faced killer; Maureen Stapleton getting her face slashed; Over-the-top-musical-numbers; Bacall croaking out songs by Marvin Hamlisch and Tim Rice; a plot that seems to be one part "Applause", and one part "Halloween"; James Garner when he was still HAWT; the infamous "blow job scene" that ends rather horribly.

Cool Stuff: OK, this movie get's a lot of grief because the killer is probably gay.  I say, screw that, it's just a movie, and the killer's sexuality seems an important part of his character's motivation - I could not imagine a straight man chasing a middle aged Broadway diva around trying to kill her, unless he was a critic maybe!

Gay Quotability: What's the matter? I've got a show to do in five days, the lighting man appears to be learning on the set, my secretary has been attacked, David is dead, and oh yes their is some fruit cake out there who want's to kill me. Now to satisfy you more will you please get the hell out of here! 


Letter From Camp Stonewater

For gay pride month: time to dust off this letter from camp...

Dear Mom and Dad,

Camp Stonewater has been a lot of fun, thanks for sending me.

I really like the head counselor, Todd,  he is such a nice guy.  He's really tight with this other guy here ... I think that other guy looks a lot like George Costanza, except he has hair.

Most of the kids are pretty cool, but there's this one dude who is always giving us a hard time, his name is Glazer,   He's a real jerk, and he wears his swim trunks kind of tight and every time I see him in them I get this funny feeling that I don't know how to describe.

Anyway, it's cool because ,Todd knows what a jerk that Glazer really is, and he's already read him the riot act ... but you know what?  As I was watching the two of them getting all up in each others grills, I had that same funny feeling that I can't put into words.

Oh, dad, you are always asking me about the girls at Camp Stonewater ... why is that?  Anyway, this one girl named Sophie  is kind of nice, she looks a lot like Holly Hunter ... you know, that actress from The Piano?  What do you think?

The other day, a bunch of us went on a canoe trip to one of the islands near the camp.  It was awesome fun!  This one guy they call Woodstock, is really funny.  I noticed that his shorts ride up  when he's paddling a canoe ... well, let's just say, he lets it all hang out ... ha ha!

You might have heard that we had some problems up here ... it's true, seems that one of the former groundskeepers went a little nuts-
o after some kids burnt him up a couple of years ago, and now the killjoy is trying to ruin it for everyone else.

What a jerk.

They call him Cropsy.  What kind of name is that?
The jerk even went and chopped off Woodstock's fingers before he ended up killing him and a bunch of the other kids!   Man, it was a real mess!   But you'll be happy to know that your son is a hero!

Me and Todd hunted down this Cropsy creep and we let him have it, but good.  I stabbed him with his own shears and then Todd set him on fire ... it was awesome!

No body is going to be bothered by that guy again!

The funny thing is, after we jacked up that bastard, Todd told me how proud he was of me and ... well .... I got that funny, indescribable feeling again .  But this time, I told Todd all about it and he said, "That's cool."

So, I guess you both should know that I will be moving in with Todd.

I'll send you our address as soon as we get settled.  Until then, I remain,

Your Loving Son,



Horror Films that Every Self Respecting Gay Man Should See: What's The Matter With Helen?

* an ongoing project for Gay Pride Month

Film: What's The Matter With Helen?

Director: Curtis Harrington

Stars: Debbie Reynolds, Shelly Winters, Dennis Weaver and Agnes Moorehead.

In a Nutshell: In the early 1930's, Helen Hill and Adelle Bruckner's sons are convicted of murder.  The women realize that they can no longer stay in Iowa,  so they change their names, and move to Hollywood where they open up a dancing school for Shirley Temple wannabes.  At first, everything is wonderful, but soon, Helen starts loosing her grip on reality and the bodies begin to fall!
What's So Gay About It?:  Bitch Please!  As if Debbie Reynolds and Shirley effin Winters was not enough? Imagine Debbie in Jean Harlow drag acting all slutty; imagine noted closet case, Agnes Moorhead playing a character based on Aimee Semple McPherson; imagine dozens of little brats tap dancing like a fevered dream of Baby Jane Hudson; and finally, and most importantly, imagine Shelly Winters losing her mind and shrieking madly killing fluffy little bunnies as well as various unlucky humans.   Oh, and her character is sort of in love with Debbie's!!!!  This is Shelly in her most jaw-dropping-over-the-top-banshee-from-hell-performance ever!
Cool Stuff: The murderous sons were loosely  based on Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.

Gay Quotability: I offered you my blessing. You refused it. Now move along! 


Horror Films that Every Self Respecting Gay Man Should See: The Haunting

* an ongoing project for Gay Pride Month

Film: The Haunting

Director: Robert Wise

Stars: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn.

In a Nutshell: Three people are chosen by a parapsychologist to spend some time in an allegedly haunted house to observe whatever strange events they might encounter.  Breathing doors, ghostly voices, and spectral graffiti greet them; and one of the guests gets much more than they bargained for.

What's So Gay About It?: Bitch Please!  Besides the director who had previously given the world, West Side Story - and would then deliver, The Sound of MusicThe Haunting featured a major character who was not only a fabulous fashion horse, she was also a lesbian!  Claire Bloom as Theo was the sexiest sister of Sappho to come along in like, forever!  Not only was she well coiffed, she was also taken with the film's most disturbed character, Nell (Julie Harris).  Poor Nell, desired by a lesbian, in love with a married man, and carrying around enough guilt to power the entire Catskills resort community  for a season and a half is a hot mess.  In fact, Hill House seems to focus it's demonic energies on her alone, making her more batty than she already is.  Make no mistake, Julie Harris OWNS this movie, and she's one pathetic little time-bomb of pent up sexual frustration and anger just waiting to blow up - happily, that haunted estate is more than eager to assist her to this end.  Oh, and keep an eye out for Russ Tamblyn, who seems to be wearing the same skin tight pants he danced around in from West Side Story - just sayin' is all.
Cool Stuff: This tidbit from IMDB: Claire Bloom was intrigued to the play the role of a woman who was attracted to another woman. She said she got along with everyone on the set, except for Julie Harris, who tried everything to avoid her and not talk to her. At the end of the shoot, Harris went over to Bloom's house with a present and explained that the reason she had kept to herself was to stay in character, because Harris' role in the film was that of an outsider that none of the others understand or will listen to. Bloom was happy to hear the real reason behind Harris' behavior, since Bloom stated that she really liked Harris and could not understand what she herself had done wrong to be treated like that by her co-star.
Gay Quotability: The world is full of inconsistencies. Full of unnatural beings, nature's mistakes they call you for instance! 


Horror Films that Every Self Respecting Gay Man Should See: Hostel

* an ongoing project for gay pride month

Film:  Hostel

Director: Eli Roth

Stars: Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson

In a Nutshell: Two college guys abroad follow their dicks to a hostel that is supposed to be filled with women who love to fuck American men.  Once they have checked in to the Eastern European inn, they are kidnapped and brought to a grimy enclave where rich men pay handsomely to torture, maim and kill college students.

What's So Gay About It?  Bitch Please! Jay Hernandez is a pint sized sexy, pouty lipped, final boy who looks great with a ball gag in his mouth - no wait, I kid, I'm a kidder!   But seriously, as much as I detested this disgusting little movie, I could not help but feel that Eli Roth might have been working through some kind of sick, sexual longings that might have been festering in his head.  Oddly, this movie focuses on men, victimizing other men to satisfy a sadistic urge - clearly the patrons of the Elite Hunting Club are terrified by their sexual desires - but mutilations?  Hey, that's cool.  But back to Hernandez - I might be wrong, but I am pretty sure that the character of Paxton might be the first honest to goodness "final boy"... and he's way prettier than Jamie Lee Curtis .
Cool Stuff: Actually, less cool, and more disturbing: Roth claimed that his inspiration for Hostel came when he heard about alleged "murder vacations" that were available in Europe for wealthy folk with a taste for blood.  Apparently, he could find no one to talk to about this - hopefully it's just an urban legend.
Gay Quotiablity: I get a lot of money for you, and that makes you MY bitch.


Horror Films that Every Self Respecting Gay Man Should See: Carrie

* an ongoing project for gay pride month!

Film: Carrie

Director: Brian De Palma

Stars: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Betty Buckley, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, William Katt, John Travolta, P.J. Soles and Priscilla Pointer.

In a Nutshell:  Carrie White is the mousy  gal everyone picks on at Bates High School. One day, she gets her first menstrual period in the showers during gym class and has no idea what is happening to her; her classmates mock her by throwing sanitary napkins at her while she collapses in a corner hysterical, her religiously demented mother locks her in a closet and accuses her of sinning...her only hope is that one student, overcome by guilt for what has occurred, arranges for Carrie to go to prom with the most handsome boy at school.  The only problem is that another student has cooked up  the ultimate humiliation for Carrie at the prom.  Trouble is, no one involved is aware that Carrie has telekinetic abilities that can bring down a mini Armageddon on all involved. 

What's So Gay About It?: Bitch please!  From Piper Laurie's over-the-top portrayal of a sexually repressed born again manic mama; to Priscilla Pointer's suburban mom swigging down a mid afternoon cocktail ("I'll drink to that!"); to Broadway Babe, Betty Buckley as the caring dyke gym teacher; to a pre-Scientology Travolta looking all shaggy haired and darkly sexy; to a dreamy William Katt as the doomed "Prince Charming"; to Nancy Allen as the ultimate slut/bitch from hell; and finally, to Sissy Spacek's well played portrayal of the title character - Carrie took the sad tale of a high school outsider with an axe to grind and turned it on it's head.  Carrie represented every gay kid who ever suffered any kind of humiliation in the halls of academia and asked, "What if that kid could get revenge?"

Cool Stuff:  While DePalma was casting his film, he shared space with director George Lucas who was casting a little film called, Star Wars .  Apparently, many of the actors auditioned for both films at the same time ... if you note homages to Psycho in this film, well, they are pretty blatant: a shower scene that ends in blood, a high school named, "Bates" - and of course the stabbing four note violin strings that accompany Carrie's powers.

Gay Quotability:  "I can see your dirty pillows, everybody will!"


Horror Films that Every Self Respecting Gay Man Should See (first in a possible series): Strait-Jacket

Film:  Strait-Jacket

Director: William Castle

Stars: Joan Crawford, Diane Baker

In a Nutshell:  Joan plays Lucy Harbin, a woman who murdered  her cheating husband and his mistress with an axe.  Now, some twenty years later, she is released from the nut house to the care of her  brother, his wife, and her daughter.  At first everything's peaches and cream, but soon, headless corpses start turning up - is Lucy back to her old tricks? 

What's So Gay About It?:  Bitch, please, Joan Crawford is chewing the scenery up so much in this one, she leaves teeth marks on the wallpaper ... check out the start of the film where, through the magic of a Vaseline smeared lens, a 58 year old Crawford is supposed to be a hotsy totsy  broad in a tight skirt and come-fuck-me-pumps ... you are going to love the jangly bracelet that Joan wears whenever she gets to chopping...wait for the scene when Crawford lights a match off a record playing on the phonograph and then, in the same scene,  comes on to her daughter's much younger suitor...and Diane Baker is no slouch when it comes to playing crazy her self!

Cool Stuff:  Crawford was such a control freak that she demanded, and got, Pepsi product placement on the set of the film (Joanie was still on the board of directors of Pepsi at the time). According to TCM's web site, when the producers and director met with the star, this occurred: Their first meeting took place at her New York apartment, where she served Castle and other executives lunch after making them remove their shoes so they wouldn't stain her new white carpet. Then she informed them that before she would agree to make the film, they would have to completely re-write the script to make it a star vehicle. Over the next two hours, she outlined the changes she thought would make the film a "Joan Crawford movie." With her revived popularity, Castle gave in, also granting her co-star and director approval. Fortunately, she agreed to let him direct his own film.

Gay Quotability: "Lucy Harbin, born and raised on a farm.  Parents, poor.  Education, meager. Very much a woman, and very much aware of the fact."


Love in the Time of Zombies: Peter and Roger

For Gay Pride Month, I thought I'd dust off this posting from almost three years ago...a look at the relationship of Peter and Roger from George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead.

In 1978, George Romero loosed upon the cinematic world, the quintessential zombie film, Dawn of the Dead, which told the tale of four survivors of the undead holocaust holed up in a shopping mall in Pittsburgh.

Not only was DOTD a gore-fest, it was also a movie that poked much fun at consumer culture.  When our heroes first make it to the mall, they find thousands of zombies mindlessly strolling the aisles of the shopping center - much like you'd see on any given day of the week at any suburban mall.

"Why do you think they keep coming here?" one of the character's ask upon seeing the horde of flesh eaters trying to press into the mall.

"Instinct", is another character's reply.

Our four main characters are television producer, Fran (Gaylen Ross) , helicopter pilot, Stephen (David Emge) and two members of a SWAT team, Peter and Roger (Scott Reiniger and Ken Foree).  From early on it is clear that Fran and Stephen have a history and the viewer is aware they are a couple.  However, it also becomes clear, as the movie progresses that Peter and Roger have formed a bond that might well be beyond a friendship.

The men first meet early on in the film as they are trying to clear out an apartment building in Philadelphia that has been overrun with zombies.  Roger witnesses a horrid scene when one of his comrades goes on a rampage and starts arbitrarily shooting at the survivors while belting out racist remarks - which in turn causes all kinds of havoc and ends with the racist soldier shot dead and the zombies to have a mini feast before the other SWAT team members manage to clean house.

Roger goes into the basement of the apartment building to collect his wits and a deep voice booms out from across the room, "You ain't just in here alone, boy!"

This is when, blond haired, blue eyed Roger comes face to face with a tall dark and handsome African American, Peter.  The men immediately draw guns on each other (as opposed to whipping out their dicks), but soon realize that they are on the same page.  From here it does not take long for the bond to form and soon the boys are hooking up kicking dead ass, high fiving each other, and sharing smoke after smoke after they blow away a zombie.

When they finally do hook up with Fran and Stephen, it is clear that Roger and Peter are the top dogs, they mock the helicopter pilot at every  turn, dubbing him "Fly Boy", and concerning Fran (who is actually quite a looker) they seem indifferent at best.

When the foursome decided to call the Monoreville Mall home, Roger starts to show his true colors.  He's cocky and cock-sure, always willing to take a chance to impress his buddy.  While on the other hand, Peter proves himself to be intelligent, balanced and take control - a "Top Man", if you will.

Peter is constantly calling Roger out because of his reckless behavior, and often, Roger is left looking like a chastised child.  Of course, Roger is doing everything he can to impress his buddy, he seems to want to prove to him that he's not afraid of anything and ready to risk it all for victory.

While Peter has to try to keep his quick-on-the-draw partner in line, it is obvious how fond of him he is.  But Peter is the take control guy an almost father figure (not just for Roger, but for Fran and Stephen as well).  Peter is the cool collected type, a man of few words - the kind of any of us would want on our side when faced with a disaster (like a zombie-outbreak).

Eventually it is Roger's wild behavior that proves his downfall.  While trying to fight off some zombie's in the mall's parking lot, he is bitten by one of the creatures, sealing his fate.  When Peter sees what has happened to him, he not only expresses anger, there is something else, something sad betrayed behind his eyes.

As Roger falls sick, Peter becomes his care taker.  Administering his medication, pushing him around the mall in a wheelbarrow (much like parent with an infant child in a stroller)  - and when Roger finally dies and then reanimates as a flesh eater, it is Peter who puts him down with a bullet to the forehead.

After Roger's death, one of the most heartbreaking scenes of DOTD occurs as Peter, having just buried his partner in a plot of earth in the center of the mall, pops open a bottle of champagne and toasts his memory.  He takes a swig of the bubbly and then pours some on his grave, tears rolling down his face.  The camera pulls back and lingers on this sad moment and it tells us more about Peter and Roger's relationship than a million words.

Once Peter is gone, Roger seems lost at sea.  The mall is now a safe place, he and Fran and Stephen have everything they could possibly need, and for awhile, the three of them live in a quiet Utopian world.  Of course everything changes when their fortress is set upon by a marauding tribe of bikers who break into the mall and leave a wave of zombies in their wake.

By film's end, with the mall overrun again, Stephen dead and zombified, and a horde of flesh eaters hot on their tale, Roger heralds Fran up into the helicopter and tells her that he is not going.

Once Fran gets into the chopper, we see Peter standing in front of a wall, gun pointed to his head.  He's going to end it all, to join Roger one suspects.  But at the last moment, he changes his mind, blows away a couple of zombies and joins Fran and the duo heads off into the dawn sky.

Students of Romero's work might not be surprised of the homoerotic subtext of DOTD.  If you've seen Knightriders (Romero's take on the King Arthur legend set in modern times with motorcycles), you'd have noticed that one of the peripheral characters is gay, and even accepts a public proposal of marriage by his boyfriend -- which of course was a big deal in a film made in 1981.  Romero has always been miles ahead of the pack when it comes to social commentary.