With lack of overt LGBT representation in cinema comes the beard—an often underdeveloped character shoehorned into the plot in an attempt to deflect from the fact that two same-sex leads obviously want to fuck each other. “Keanu Reeves isn’t really hot for Patrick Swayze in Point Break—he’s with Lori Petty! It’s all about being #bros!” Hmm. Sure. Let’s pour one out for all the poor, poor SOB actresses (and one actor) doomed to underwritten Hollywood beard hell just because a movie can’t, or won’t, admit that it’s really just that gay.
Kelly McGillis, Top Gun
The homoerotic volleyball scene gets a lot of ink whenever someone talks about terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Top Gun, as well it should, because it’s… really something.
But even aside from the volleyball scene and the wall-to-wall male bonding, Top Gun’s just… it’s really, really gay, you guys. The script, by Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr., is full of incidental dialogue gems like:
I don’t have a dick, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not common for people who do to talk to their friends about getting hard.
And yet, Top Gun goes the ostensible hetero angle with Kelly McGillis as Charlie, a MILF of a flight instructor whom Tom Cruise seduces by being such an inconsiderate jackass that he shows up for a date and then asks if he can take a shower at her house. The two of them have zero chemistry, and their relationship reads as an afterthought—less important to Maverick than his broship with Goose and his erotically charged rivalry with Iceman. But, y’know, gotta have The Girl. Kelly McGillis is too hot for this shit.
Jessica Brown Findlay, Victor Frankenstein
You probably haven’t seen Victor Frankenstein, and you definitely shouldn’t, because it’s garbage, but it was the gayest not-actually-gay movie of 2015. Dr. Frankenstein (James McAvoy) rescues Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) from the circus and proceeds of cure him of his hunchback by, uh, pinning him against a wall, saying “this may hurt a bit” and stabbing him in the back with a long, lonnnng syringe. I’ll have a post up about how astonishingly #nohomo Victor Frankenstein is tied to its one-year anniversary later this month, but suffice to say there’s a scene where Frankenstein expounds at length about how you don’t need women to make babies. Men can do it together! With science! And poor Downton Abbey Sibyl (Jessica Brown Findlay) is caught in the middle as the do-nothing bundle of sweetness character whom Igor’s supposed to be falling in love with. Yeah. Sure.
Lori Petty, Point Break
All apologies to Lori Petty, but… does anyone even remember Lori Petty is in Point Break? Seriously? Also, just looking at that shirt makes me nervous.
Joanne Dru, Red River
In an interview with Film Comment (per Vito Russo’s excellent The Celluloid Closet, which was adapted into an equally excellent 1996 documentary), director Howard Hawks said that speculation into homoerotic undertones in his films is “goddam silly.” But Death of the Author, Mr. Hawks—Red River is more than a little gay. John Wayne plays a rancher whose protege, played by Montgomery Clift, joins him on a cattle drive that could make or break their business. But Wayne’s a little too much of a tyrannical hardass, so Clift reluctantly leads a mutiny against him. The whole thing is wall-to-wall Western bromance and man-angst, the old-school epitome of a movie that fetishizes traditionally masculine gender roles so much that it circles right back around to being gay. Joanne Dru, playing The Girl, can’t really put a dent in that. Ostensibly, she’s Clift’s love interest, but her main role in the film is patching up the rift between Clift and Wayne, shouting at them to “Stop fighting! You two know you love each other!”
If you don’t read more into the relationship between Clift and Wayne’s characters, there’s also this scene, where Clift and his rival compare… uh… guns:
Haya Harareet, Ben-Hur
Ben-Hur is the rare example of a classic movie filled to the brim with homosexual subtext where someone involved in the film has actually come forward and said, “Yeah, no, we meant that. It’s gay.” In the case of Ben-Hur, Gore Vidal, who contributed to the script, explained very candidly that the adversarial relationship between Ben-Hur and Messala—former friends who find themselves on opposite sides of a political divide—is predicated on them having been former lovers.
“I proposed the notion that the two had been adolescent lovers, and now Messala has returned from Rome wanting to revive the love affair but Ben-Hur does not… I told [director William] Wyler, ‘This is what’s going on underneath the scene [where the two reunite after years apart]—they seem to be talking about politics, but Messala is really trying to rekindle a love affair,’ and Wyler was startled. We discussed the matter, and then he signed, ‘Well. Anything is better than what we’ve got in the way of motivation. But don’t tell Chuck [Charlton Heston]. I did tell Stephen Boyd, who was fascinated. He agreed to play the frustrated lover. Study his face in the reaction shots in that scene, and you will see that he plays it like a man starving.”
That subtext is just what was needed to make the relationship between Ben-Hur and Messala crackle… but unfortunately, the relationship between Ben-Hur and noble Esther (Haya Harareet), his actual lover, comes across as boring and passionless by comparison. “The biggest mistake we made was the love story,” Vidal admitted. “If we had cut out that girl altogether and concentrated on the two guys, everything would have gone better.”
Emily VanCamp, Captain America: Civil War
Though a much better movie than Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War still had a bit of its predecessor’s tendency to overflow its script with things that didn’t really need to be there, just because they set up some future franchise development. (Seriously, Tom Holland was great, but you can remove Spider-Man from this movie entirely and it wouldn’t do a damn thing.) One of Civil War’s more conspicuous pieces of dead weight was Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), upgraded to Captain America’s love interest after her debut in The Winter Soldier. It was… awkward. VanCamp and Chris Evans don’t have any chemistry, Carter has no real narrative plot purpose at all, and the film is so overstuffed anyway it’s easy to forget she’s even there. The whole thing reads as a half-assed attempt to convince us that Cap isn’t actually in love with Bucky, whom he’s been risking his ass trying to save for two movies.
Sterling Hayden, Johnny Guitar
And, finally, one reverse beard—NegaBeard? Is there a word for that?—comes to us from Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar. Like Red River, this is a movie that came out in Ye Olde Hollywood Days (1954 for Johnny Guitar), so it couldn’t really come out (ba-doom-tiss) and admit how gay it is. But guys:
Vienna: “An obsessive, irrational hatred of someone probably means you want to fuck ‘em, just FYI.”
[30 seconds later]
Emma: “Ooooooh, Vienna, I hate you so much! I hate you so much I want to punch you. In the lips! With my lips!”
There’s a reason Johnny Guitar is regarded as a lesbian classic, s’what I’m saying. Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden)—you know, the guy the movie’s named for—is an afterthought in his own movie, to the point that it’s Joan Crawford’s tough-talking, sexually liberated saloon owner Vienna who gets the most prominent placement on nearly all of the posters. Vienna’s masculine ways put her into conflict with the more conservative townspeople, particularly the buttoned-up Emma (Mercedes McCambridge), who positively loathes Vienna.
Ostensibly, we are told, Emma’s hatred of Vienna comes from the fact that Emma’s in love with a local outlaw whom she believes Vienna is romantically connected to. “Last night, she tried to get him hung,” Vienna says. “He makes her feel like a woman, and that frightens her.” And ostensibly, Vienna’s in love with Johnny Guitar, the sharpshooting ex who rides back into town to help her with her posse problem. But the subtext is all there—we’re told many times how very much like a man Vienna is (“She thinks like one, acts like one, and sometimes makes me feel like I’m not.”), and Emma is the very model of “repressed lesbian who just can’t handle that Joan Crawford makes her feel tingly in her pants area.”