By the time the 1980s rolled around, AIDS was being rumored as a “gay cancer” but no one talked about it. Not until Rock Hudson, the famed legendary movie star, came out and announced that he was gay and dying of AIDS. Hudson was a friend of President Ronald Reagan and that was when the administration finally acknowledged it, but badly.
However, this isn’t much a post about that as it is how many popular movies in the decade were loaded with so much male homoeroticism, you’d almost think the writers had intended it. Movies like Ben-Hur and Spartacus from yesteryear had hints of homoeroticism in them. But it was just enough so people wouldn’t notice unless they were looking for it.
In The Celluloid Closet, they showed subtle black and white movies of men, shirtless and in shorts, playing sports with each other. This was as far some people were willing to go to avoid obscenity charges while more heterosexual stag movies were shown in back smoke-filled dark rooms at men’s social clubs.
You could look at Top Gun, released in 1986 as the main example of this. I mean, even the title sounds like a gay-male sexual position. Then, you factor in all the pilot’s call signs. There’s Slider, Goose, Chipper and Stinger. Then, there’s Hollywood who is shown in the closing credits styling his hair. And it could be subtle of how middle America sees the Hollywood industry as mostly gay men because they like to sing and dance. The nerve! And Hollywood flies with Wolfman, an obvious representative of bears.
Even Maverick (Tom Cruise) sounds like a suggestive call sign and his partner is Goose (Anthony Edwards.) There seems to be a better love story in the movie between these two men than Maverick and Charlie (Kelly McGillis) who never really does seem to have much chemistry with him. Charlie is short for Charlotte, but still they are several scenes in which they try to make Charlie look more manish.
And Quentin Tarantino has already said this nearly 30 years ago in Kicking and Screaming. You can see it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZF1LXL6OOsM
One might argue all the homeroticism is actually just male machismo. Maverick’s biggest rival is Iceman (Val Kilmer). And there are a lot of scenes of them shirtless with only towels covering their bottoms in locker rooms. In one scene where they are face to face, Iceman does a little love bite. (It should be noted at this time that Iceman is probably based on the Marvel character who has since come out as gay.)
But there is also the volleyball scene which probably excited more young men than the mediocre love scenes between Maverick and Charlie. You have Cruise, Kilmer and Rick Rossovich all in their young prime ages with sweaty hard pecs and bulging biceps playing volleyball. Goose is wearing a shirt but it’s obvious these guys want to show off their bodies and there’s really no other reason in this movie to have a scene where they play volleyball other than to show the power struggle between Maverick and Iceman.
That’s why at the end, Maverick and Iceman come together and Iceman says, “You can be my wingman anytime.” And Maverick replies, “You can be mine.” This is both of them saying they’re willing to let the other dominate them.
But before Top Gun, we saw this in other movies. Take 48 Hrs. with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy. The plot is about a hardened San Francisco cop Jack Cates (Nolte) who forges some documents to get Reggie Hammond (Murphy), a convict, out so they can track escaped convict, Albert Ganz (James Remar) and his associate, Billy Bear (Sonny Landham).
The cops are tipped off to a hotel where Ganz and Billy have ordered some prostitutes by using a stolen credit card. It’s obvious Ganz isn’t too much interested in getting laid. The prostitute later tells police that she thinks he likes killing cops more than having sex. This confrontation leads to a shoot-out in which two of his collaeagues, one of which played by Jonathan Banks in an earlier role, are killed.
Ganz is able to get Jack to turn over his big-ass revolver. This is a sign of emasculating Jack. And Ganz also uses it to shoot the detective played by Banks. Even when Jack is issued a M1911 .45 caliber handgun as a replacement, he still doesn’t seem as pleased. It’s not the gun he wants.
When he finally gets Reggie, who is an associate of Ganz, out, they go track down another associate, Luther (David Patrick Kelly). Reggie helps Jack and disarms him but the first thing Jack does is tell him to drop Luther’s gun. This is how Jack asserts his dominance over Reggie. Obviously, since Reggie, he shouldn’t be armed. But Jack is very adamant Reggie drop it even while still aiming his replacement gun at Reggie.
There’s a subplot of Reggie wanting to get a gun, even when he tries to sneakily take it off some some patrons at a honkytonk bar, Jack notices it. The bar scene does have a stripper who is dancing and her and Reggie do lock eyes, but it’s apparent, Jack is going to keep his dominance over Reggie. There’s also a subplot of Reggie wanting to have sex with any women he crosses paths with several times. Jack’s personal life isn’t too thrilling either as his girlfriend, Elaine Marshall (Annette O’Toole) spends most of her screen-time screaming, yelling and berating Jack.
You could argue that 48 Hrs. is one of the most misogynistic movies ever made. Luther’s girlfriend, Cindy (Olivia Brown) is kidnapped by Ganz and Billy and it’s never revealed what happens to her, but she’s at the hotel with Billy while he’s having sex with a prostitute, so it makes you wonder if she was sexually assaulted. Billy has a lady friend, Casey (Margot Rose) who may or may not be bisexual as she is seen with a woman, Sally (Denise Crosby) watching women exercise on TV.
But when Jack and Reggie stake out a parking garage at night, Reggie goes to sleep in the back seat as Jack keeps watch. Later, in the morning, he brings him breakfast. Jack is seeing Reggie as his submissive in need of attention. At Luther’s, he handcuffs Reggie. But then, let’s him sleep. He’s changing his thoughts on Reggie.
Later when Reggie acquires a revolver, Jack doesn’t care, even though he’s a convict with a gun. He even defends Reggie to his captain Haden (Frank McRae) while they are in handcuffs, a sign they are more attached now. Later when they are able to track down Ganz and Billy, Reggie catches Billy shirtless who pulls out a huge knife (total phallic symbol). Even though he’s Indigenous Native America, his last name is Bear, which says a lot. Of all the surnames they’ve could have come up with, why this? Why indeed?
By the time Reagan was elected, the 1980s were in full effect with Rambo: First Blood Part II. After the one-two disasters that were Staying Alive and Rhinestone, Sylvester Stallone went back to doing what he does best – beating people up and killing them on screen. Granted the Rocky IV soundtrack is the quintessential album to listen to while you’re exercising or working out, but the movie is purely a hetereosexual movie.
Rambo II, on the other hand, is so loaded with it. There’s only one female character in the whole movie. I’m not including extras. The movie is so loaded with homoeroticism, I’m surprised it’s not a gay porno. Even the movie poster is so loaded with Stallone barechested and buff whole a rocket launcher in pure phallic symbolism.
From the start, we see Stallone’s Rambo in prison pounding spikes into rocks with the other prisoners. Then, when he’s at the base of operations in southeast Asian or Mexico or wherever they filmed it. We see that it’s very hot because the CIA supervisor Marshall Murdock (Charles Napier) wiping sweat around his body. Even though he can get up and go three feet to the machine, he asks someone to get him something cold. And the person is smart enough to get one with the other military guy Erickson (Martin Kove).
Later, when he drops in Vietnam or Thailand, he only has his knife and bow and arrows (phallic symbols). He meets his intelligence contact Co Bao (Julia Nickson) but it surprised that it’s a woman. Yes, it’s the only woman in the whole damn movie. Even Star Wars had Aunt Beru for a few scenes. Rambo and Co Bao go to a Vietnam POW camp and he sees some prisoners are still there, so he rescues Banks (Andy Wood) who is obviously weak and represents a submissive character.
Because he’s not rescued at the extraction point, Rambo and Banks are captured again and how do they torture Rambo. They strip him down to almost nothing and tie him up total bondage-like in filth. Then the Soviet Lt. Col. Podovsky (Steven Berkhoff) decides to use the knife, a phallic symbol, to cut the leeches that are stuck to his body.
When he goes to be tortured again, they bring one big bad motherfucker Sgt. Yushin (Voyo Goric) to adminster the torture with includes more BDSM symbolism by tying him to a metal and giving him electric shots. Later they use the knife again to cut him after keeping the blade in the fire. They bring in Banks and threaten Rambo’s submissive to put the knife in his eye. But this is Rambo’s breaking point.
When he gets lose, he meets up with Co Bao who has disguised herself as a prostitute to get in the camp. They escape but she is shot shortly after her and Rambo have a moment where it appears she’s going to be the love interest. He uses his arrows with have explosive tips to kill the Vietnamese soliders and blow up their buildings. He could very easily take up an AK-47 to shoot the evil Vietnam Capt. Vinh (Georges Cheung) but he decides to kill him with an explosive arrow that he explodes.
Later he battles Yushin inside of a freaking Yushin because the movie has to have Rambo assert his dominance over someone as much as possible. The entire character of Yushin isn’t even necessary except to be a big hulking character to give Rambo to roll around for a few minutes before Rambo pushes him out. Then he decides to take control of the helicopter and begins to shoot up the camp and fire missiles which are also phallic symbols.
When he does rescue all the POWs, he’s chased by Podovsky in a helicopter until finally, he lures the Soviet chopper making it look like he’s been injured and the helicopter is down. He gets the jump and takes a rocket luancher and shoots it through a whole in the windshield. Rambo is all about big bombs and explosives.
Back at the military base, the first thing he does is take the M-60 machine gun off its mount and kick Ericson in the nuts as a sign of emasculating him. Even though Ericson is probably just following orders, it’s obvious Rambo sees him as competition. In the operation center, he goes full bukkake and blows several rounds from the M-60 at all the equipment even screaming in loud orgasm mode as he does.
He finds Murdock and pretends like he’s going to stab him with his knife put slams it on the desk next to him saying, “Mission accomplished.” He tells Murdock to find the other POWs at other camps and get them out.
Quite possibly the next on the list is Predator with total homoerotic machismo. I mean, the movie isn’t even a few minutes in before Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Dutch (Carl Weathers) do that epic handshake that’s actually a manshake or whatever you want to call it. Then, Dutch kids with him that the CIA has him “pushing too many pencils.” He then mocks him for wearing a tie now.
Dillon gets a lot of criticism for being a CIA agent including on the helicopter ride into Central America where Blain (Jesse Ventura) spits tobacco juice on his boots. It’s not different than an animal marking its territory. But because no one else on the chopper wants chewing tobacco, Blain calls them a derogative term.
But most of them have their own machismo moments of being a manly man. During a shoot-out with guerrillas and Soviets, I guess that’s what they are, Blain tells Poncho (Richard Chaves), “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Mac (Bill Duke) later shaves without any shaving cream and even digs down in his skin because he’s so upset over the death of Blain.
The guns they all carry are a sign of their manlihood. Blain has a freaking mini-gun. Mac has an M-60. Both of these are usually mounted on helicopters. Both Dutch and Billy (Landham again with the same character name?) have M16/AR-15 rifles. But Dutch has a grenade launcher attached to his while Billy has a shotgun. A shotgun? I’ve never seen that in another movie and I don’t even think he uses the shotgun. There’s also another scene where Billy pulls out a big huge knife.
Yes, they love their guns. There’s even a scene devoted to them just firing off ammunition and bombs in the jungle for about three minutes. If this isn’t a bigger metaphor for getting your rocks off, I don’t know what is. Poncho carries an MP5 submachine gun but he’s got a huge grenade launcher as well. If the guns weren’t a bigger metaphor for male genitalia, look at the fact that Dillon is only carrying a MP5 himself. So is Hawkins (Shane Black) who despite looking like he’s in shape, he suffers the fault of wearing glasses and telling jokes. And since Predator is a pseudo-slasher, he’s the first one killed by the titular character.
As for that “one ugly motherfucker,” the final showdown between the predator and Dutch comes down to Dutch returning to ancient survival roots of using wooden spikes and trees to take on the predator. When the two finally go hand-to-hand fighting at the end, it’s about the predator trying to exert his dominance over Dutch. That’s why he finally reveals his face and forgoes all the technological sensory devices in his helmet.
Even Schwarzenegger said there was some competition on the set among the actors as they would try to see who could get up the earliest in the morning to go workout before they had to report to filming. Schwarzenegger said he had the costume department make Ventura believe he had bigger arms than Schwarzenegger. I mean, the whole movie is totally a 1980s gay porno with the sex. And let’s face it, that ending where they’re all smiling and laughing at the camera during the credits just seems out of place, but we like it, regardless.
Lethal Weapon came out in 1987 and even though Mel Gibson has come out firmly in his views against the LGBTQIA community, this movie as well as the second are all about finding second chances with a new partner. Gibson plays Sgt. Martin Riggs, a grieving widower with a death wish. He’s paired up with Sgt. Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), a family man to investigate a homicide.
Initially, the two men don’t like each other but after Riggs saves Murtaugh from getting shot, they start to like each other. What you’re really watching over the entire film franchise is the marriage between Riggs and Murtaugh but it’s really expressed the best in the first two movies. It works they don’t give Riggs a good love interest. In the first movie, his wife is dead. And he does have a relationship briefly with a South African embassy worker, Rika (Patsy Kensit), but she is killed off.
But they do give Riggs and Murtaugh a third wheel, Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) who plays the submissive to both of them. He doesn’t do a good job with laundry as he dries Riggs shirt too short. But he doesn’t care for their demeanor as they stick their forks into a pot of leftover spaghetti. Later when Leo is staying at Riggs’ camper on the beach, he goes to great lengths to clean it up even criticizing Riggs for not cleaning out the tray in the bottom of the fridge. Remember to do that?
While the first movie does a good job of building the contrast between Riggs, as the loner living out of a camper sitting around his place butt-ass naked, and Murtaugh as the family man Ward Cleaver with a Smith &Wessson, the second one pretty much gets rid of Murtaugh’s family following a home invasion threat. You could argue that Riggs, Murtaugh and his wife, Trish (Darlene Love) are a throuple by the second movie. But there’s a platonic love between Riggs and the Murtaugh, yet he still seems like part of the couple. You don’t have to always have sex or be intimate in a relationship.
This helps with a joke that Leo says in the third movie where he walks in on Murtaugh and his family celebrating his retirement. Yes, it’s already a weird scene. But Leo jokingly asks where Riggs is. Riggs and Murtaugh are almost hitched. You’ve heard of “workplace spouses?” Well, Riggs and Murtaugh are exactly that, which explains why Riggs is so upset with Murtaugh nearing retirement.
Seeing two male actors in a buddy cop action-comedy act more like a married couple is probably the most evident in Midnight Run. Robert DeNiro plays Jack Walsh, an ex-cop and current bounty hunter, tasked with getting mob accountant Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin), to a Las Vegas bailbondsman.
Over the course of their course of their journey across America, Walsh and Mardukas bicker and argue like a married couple that’s been together so long they can have an argument about one minor detail one minute and be totally at ease with each other’s company the next. George Gallo, who wrote the script, has even referred to it as a love story. They don’t actually have an intimate relationship but there is love there.
The whole movie has Walsh and Mardukas battling the odds and running from mobsters and law enforcment as they go from New York City to Los Angeles. Walsh wa a former Chicago police officer who didn’t gave to the mob and thus lost his job and his marriage. At the end, when he’s worked with the FBI to get the mobsters arrested, he lets Mardukas go. But as a sign of a gesture, he hands him the watch Walsh’s wife gave him symbolizing he’s let go off the marriage. But it’s also a symbol that he sees something special in Mardukas, who surprisingly producing a moneybelt he’s been wearing the whole time with about $300,000. This, he gives to Walsh.
What do you think? Please comment.