Vampire Eroticism of “American Vampire”

Reproducing by blood and bite, the eroticism of vampires is already rather strange. Yet, mainstream culture of the past few decades has accepted it with open arms from one vampire horror flick to the next, novels, movies, and TV series, coming to a halt with the unfortunate release of Twilight (which is a rant all its own…I digress). The dark fiend first popularized with ancients such as Dracula and Nosferatu has since become fetishized for its powers: immortality, supernatural enhancements, mesmerizing stares, and more all for a change in diet. While fascination with the dark and mythic is perhaps unsurprising, Trevor Little’s choreography displays an incredible display of progress in the popularization of homoeroticism with its intersectionality of the vampire genre. Not only does his choreography exhibits the erotic in the scene, but does so through partnering in the highly traditional form of ballet (ignoring contemporary opinions of guys in tights, that is).

American Vampire: Please Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Choreography by Trevor Little, Nov. 6, 2006, Wicked Boy Ballet Company

In intimate space, it’s uncertain if there is a magical whisper of sweet nothings that leads the man to turn his head so gingerly towards the vampire, or if there is another attraction in play (:00-:12). Regardless, from that moment on an exchange of dominant display and body fluids ensues between two male dancers. Utterly drained of life, it is through blood that the man is able to regain “life” from the vampire and does so through aggressive means, grabbing, biting, and climbing the vampire for a taste(:45 onward). The vampire, instigator of this encounter, is aware of this with constant teasing and taunting holding the man-turned-vampire’s needs just in reach (1:12). The vampire holds, supports, and swings the newly turned in a manner typically reserved for female roles in the traditional form (1:20, 1:25, 1:40, 2:34), which even reserved for a moment (1:47) suggesting a fluidity to the roles of these men in their exchange of fluid and power. The sensation of blood flowing through the vampire’s arms is met with a longing stare and intimate brushing of the hand over the vampire’s bicep (2:09), and exposure of his torso as the former man goes down for another bite (2:14). Not to last long, the vampire reestablishes himself as the new turned vampire seems to calm and agree with the transformation; the vampire continues in his assists, his hands grasping at those parts we might consider vulnerable or intimate (2:34), grabbing at the ankle, upper thigh, and lower abdomen. We get pauses as well (2:43) where the intimacy of an attempted bite resembles more of whispers, nibbles, or kisses between lovers, ending with the newly turned jumping into the vampire’s arms (2:47) which at least reminds me of the archetypical scenes of a groom carrying his bride.

While the homoerotic in its actual form (two human men) might elicit disgust, the mechanisms of the vampire (regardless of abject origins) have become something of fascination. Although signs of this projects completion are absent, this clip has spread across the web with multiple uploads to Youtube and other blogs or websites. The appreciation for the homoerotic vampire has a presence on the web, as if EdwardxJacob was not enough… Although short, it is an artist’s movement towards what Shelley envisions in a dissolving of labels and full integration of the homo and hetero; recognizing they are of the same kind. Even if Little’s work were just a study, it’s presence may still serve as inspiration. Ideally, arguments like this will no longer need to be made, but rather we will be able to appreciate this work and others by the merit of their craft, as Little’s choreography beautifully blends drama and form in his tale of vampires.

“The Living End” – Fuck The World

the living end

FUCK THE WORLD!

Greg Araki, “The Living End”: [an irresponsible movie] (1992). Both HIV+, Jon – a pessimistic movie reviewer – and Luke – a borderline psychotic wanderer (to be modest) – take a road trip across the states. Filled to the lip with violence, alcohol, sex, and just really, really poor decisions, the duo’s embodiment of the opening phrase “FUCK THE WORLD” becomes something of comedy. While a vital move in bringing the immediate issue of HIV/AIDS to the mainstream with support for an LGBT community through that lens, “The Living End” also embodies a significant amount of rage and pain felt by many who were abandoned during the AIDS crisis. More than a tribute, the exaggerations of this film manifest the raw emotional anguishes likely faced by many of the LGBT community, especially gay men.

Jon’s rather ordinary life is immediately disrupted by his positive HIV test and Luke (another HIV+ man with a known kill count of at least 3). We are immediately immersed in a seeming binary of extremes for those diagnosed with HIV: try to continue living as normally possible, or take life by the balls in light of an untimely and inevitable end. Faced quite literally with the end of living, Luke persuades Jon through multiple means (seduction, coercion, intimidation) to explore the latter alternative. Jon complies and indulges himself, with continual reluctance as he constantly keeps in touch with his best friend and primary support Darcy – who even then seems rather helpless in the ordeal despite her best efforts. Jon is thrown back and forth between Darcy’s pleading for him to come home, and Luke’s exhilarating (and criminal) antics.

So yes, there are moments of humor, at Jon’s complete oversights of Luke’s violent side in favor of his sweet and sometimes deviant sexual behaviors (public nudity/sex, choking at climax). However, we’re still left with Jon’s sense of apathetic loss of direction as he constantly asks “Why,” and Luke’s senseless disregard for any aim whatsoever, attempting suicide at sexual climax to avoid the slow decay of disease. Too bad, they figure, they were not born sometime later after the seeming invention of “safe sex.” Yet this was the places thousands of people found themselves in while a presidential administration turned away.

Many tried to just keep on living, something more akin to Sir Ian McKellen’s character from “And the Band Played On”, although a diffusion of enjoyment of life towards cynicism, depression, and apathy are unsurprising if not expected. Luke offered an excitement for Jon, a means to live life to the fullest with what little was left, so much so that he abandons possible treatment (as if he could have afforded it). Conversely we have Luke, who has been so pushed to the edge every day of his life is a fight to survive. People of all sorts of crazy and ignorant come out to kill him on the premise of perceived sexuality (Luke having that “something” that marks him as gay in the time period; never mind the disease is slowly destroying his immune system too). Rage of all sort manifests with Luke, for his illness, for the hate he receives, for the end he can do nothing to stop or put off. And it burns out at some point, leading him to rape and suicide. So for as much as there might have been a laugh at Jon’s reaction to all of that, from a slap across the cheek to a deep, passionate kiss, there’s also a terrifying truth to it. There is a necessity for presence, real understanding.

It’s not that Darcy didn’t mean well trying to help Jon keep life “together,” but life couldn’t be that way after his diagnosis; nor is Luke’s wild ride of liquor, guns, blood, sweat, sex, and more a means of fulfilling what’s lost with the acquisition of the virus. To have someone there, to hold, to love, in the dark final hour, it was worth it for Jon. He pleads with himself all the time, “Why,” why does he stick around with some psycho rather than go back to his normal life. He was truly displaced and, on a macro scale, abandoned. The actions of the LGBT community and allies during and immediately after the AIDS crisis deserves applause, such that Luke’s rage was not widespread, but rather efforts were made to educate and learn more about the virus and means of caring for people. It could seem appropriate, only in the progress of history where HIV/AIDS is no longer equal to death, that we can take a camp look at the ordeal and just how sensible it would have been to take a rampaging road trip when the people with the means to help didn’t give a fuck.

Know Your Meme: “It’s Okay 2 B Gay”

During a discussion of sexuality, a friend of mine so kindly shared her expansive internet knowledge by showing me this video:

“It’s Okay 2 B Gay” by Tomboy was published to Youtube in 2007. Results as to what inspired Tomboy, Danish drag queen and TV personality Thomas Bickham [1], were inconclusive in my research, though that didn’t stop the video from going viral. Over the years several fan-made montages have surfaced in response to Tomboy’s original work. Rather than merely being read as an expression the way to be gay, the music from the original video has been played over a wide array of pop culture creations, from erotica/yaoi, to cartoons (such as Yu-gi-oh or Naruto as featured on Know Your Meme [2]), and even film. With seemingly no regard for the original contexts that these works were conceived in, fans “shipped” the homo-erotic relationships they perceived and celebrated despite what any author or screenwriter could say about the original characters.

This montage comes from the movies series inspired by J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Though a more commonly known fact today that Dumbledore is a homosexual character in the series, fans did not stop there. Rather, Dumbledore becomes the equivalent of the gay fairy/Tomboy character from the original video as Harry’s alternative story unravels in this retelling of the young wizard’s trials at Hogwarts.

I think we could all acknowledge some of the awkward moments in The Goblet of Fire, though this interpretation seems to be a bit more explicit in Ariel333Lindt’s “20th video special – about… gayness in Harry Potter XD” [3]. In contrast to the original plot of Harry Potter, Harry seems to have found himself lost in some alternative reality of Narnia as he steps into the closet to join Tomboy and friends on this montage.

Another great work, rainbowwinx’s video inspired by The Lord of the Rings trilogy manages to take the film adaptation of devout Catholic J. R. R. Tolkein’s epic fantasy and add a twist. Every gaze, embrace, contact, or sound byte that could be reexamined through the lens of Tomboy’s message was…which brings me back to the first thing that struck me about Tomboy’s video to begin with: the erotic-ness of its message.

There’s not much to debate about the explicitness of Tomboy’s original work, from the overt references and innuendos about sexual contact to the numerous pelvic shots (not to mention the hard-hat orgy). We can definitely quality these images on the more sensual side of the scale when it comes to discussing the erotic. What becomes surprising is the innovation of fan bases to interpret other actions of “the erotic” and place them in a new context that becomes fulfilling of their own perceptions. While this is executed directly in featured art work in the videos (in the “HEY-HO-MO!” sections of the bridge, HP – 3:15, LOTR – 2:10), this extends to other behaviors that might be considered more romantically or sexually neutral in normal contexts. The gaze, for one, is a great area of debate since so much can be communicated through the eyes. While Aragorn and Legolas may share a moment in the immediate opening of the LOTR adaptation, what’s taken from Tolkein’s brotherhood context is reinterpreted in the extremely erotic alongside Tomboy’s musical accompaniment. Throughout each video then, every glance, facial expression, gesture, and sometimes even sound are phrased in a way that the viewer picks up on what’s being perceived as some as homoerotic to some degree. Mostly strikingly for me were instances of pain or violence being reexamined as orgasm or sexual contact (foreplay perhaps), respectively.

To this effect, the normal spectrum of what’s considered “erotic” becomes more confusing as behaviors on the lower end of the scale that are normal in the everyday are portrayed in these erotics contexts that Ariel333Lindt describes as “gayness”; any contact between two-male characters, even a glimpse, is sexual from this point of view. This isn’t true in our day-to-day lives however where communication in other facets of life are dependent on these means of connection. Still, I find it odd how many people at large will avoid eye contact in passing, as if to not relay an erotic message like those in these videos.

Despite the questions these reinterpretations bring to the idea or definition of “gayness”, this videos also do great work in going beyond these sexual contexts. Though it could be argued that Tomboy’s portrayal of “the Gays” is exclusive in its scope, its portrayal of drag culture may be true to his experience and relative to others. In the same sense, we experience new overlaps through the culture of fan-fiction as Hollywood Blockbusters intertwine with interests of homoerotic consumers.

[1] https://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bickham
[2] http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/its-okay-to-be-gay
[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-2AXXWRB4w