Whatever ( in Exile )

For when I break my Movable Type

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Today's Example of an Egregious Use of Something a Writer Once Learned in Freshman Philosophy
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scalzi
(Still fixing the Whatever. In the meantime, here's what I was going to post there this morning)

It comes from Matt Feeney in Slate, discussing whether various action films are homoerotic (in this case, the Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze Surf Crime Dude flick Point Break):

Indeed, claiming a macho film friendship is not-so-secretly gay has become its own kind of silly convention, a fake-subversive cliché. It is better—sounder both aesthetically and sociologically—to view the masculine pathos in films like Point Break in light of the tradition of heroically minded philosophy that runs from Aristotle to Nietzsche. If Point Break is homoerotic, in other words, then so is Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit.


Well, and it is. All the major Western philosophical tracts are, like, totally gay, right from the moment in Crito when the dying Socrates reminds his friends that he owes a cock to Asclepius. Philosophy never got past that. Consolation of Science? Gay. Summa Theologica? Practically swishes across history. The Praise of Folly? Glam. The Prince? Clearly meant to be read in S&M bars. And let's not even talk about Nietzsche's The Gay Science. Because, come on. It's right there in the title. I don't even know why this is a question.

More seriously, however, reaching all the way back to Nietzsche and Aristotle to explain why Keanu and Patrick are not, in fact, planning to cock fence each other at the soonest opportunity is completely unnecessary, the middlebrow cultural commentary equivalent of going after a fly with an axe. There are several places to go before you have to hijack Western philosophy for such a meta-exercise. You can talk about director Katheryn Bigelow's stylish-but-straight directorial canon, the camera gaze of Point Blank focusing more on the action in the film than the hunky, hunky bodies, or the fact that while Keanu or Patrick individually may generate tasty waves of homoerotic delight, placing both in the same film makes them cancel each other out, leaving you with nothing but a bland and depressing straightness that not even Lori Petty's butchtastic presence can dent. Any of these work without having to drag poor closeted Hegel into it.

And as for the "macho = homoerotic" thing, both in film and in general, well, let's just chalk that up to the fact that at this moment in the history of our nation straight men have ceded everything but snarky T-shirts, Xbox 360, leet speek and the classic geek pear shape to the men of alternate sexualities. A good-looking man in text-free clothing, speaking about something other than the iPhone? Gay. Two such men engaging each other in a way that does not have a WoW server as an intermediary? Super Gay! 300 such men, fighting Persians in jock straps and capes? Super-Mega-Ultra Gay! You don't need to drag all of Western philosophy into the discussion, when the present heterosexual male abdication of anything more culturally, emotionally and intellectually resonant than "Dick in a Box" works just as well.

Going back to Aristotle and Nietzsche, Western philosophy's cute couple, a good and general rule of thumb is that, unless you are having a discussion about philosophy, if someone starts trying to link the topic under discussion to the superstars of Western thought, you should probably have your internal Mr. Sulu raise the Pretentious Twaddle Shield to maximum and then brace for impact. It's not that the fellow is wrong (Feeney's overall point that macho is not automatically homoerotic is largely correct), it's just that going there is probably unnecessary on the rhetorical level, and the only reason to do it is to impress an editor or to show off to your conversational partner that, indeed, you got one of them there edumacations (showing off your book learning? That's so gay). It might seem impressive at first blush but what it really suggests is a certain lack of rhetorical sophistication, and the lack of awareness of every cultural thing between the quotidian subject under discussion and the giants of philosophy. Something inbetween is likely to be more relevant and on point.

In short: Dragging philosophy into the discussion is not always as effective as you might think it is. Just because Ayn Rand ran to Aristotle for every little thing doesn't mean it works for everyone. Hell, it didn't actually work for Ayn Rand. Let's not get into that now. Although I will say this: if Howard Roark and John Galt ever got together, that would be hot.

Oh, and your internal Mr. Sulu? Also gay.

ckd wrote: Oh, and your internal Mr. Sulu? Also gay.

I should say so. The man raised flowers in his stateroom, even!


Has someone compiled a list somewhere of what is really all about what? I remember being told that horror movies are all about oppressing women, and that "The Cold Equations" is all about rape, but there are others I've forgotten I'm sure.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is about the politics of bimetallism in the 1890s, and "Last Train To Clarksville" is about the draft and the Vietnam War.

Thanks for reminding me about Oz. I hadn't heard the Clarksville one, thanks again.

ckd wrote: Oh, and your internal Mr. Sulu? Also gay.

captain_button replied: I should say so. The man raised flowers in his stateroom, even!


And he brandished a mean sword.

Thanks, John. Now I've got "It's Raining Men" stuck in my head again. It took nearly a week to vacate last time I watched that video.

Thanks.

K

Watch out, John. The Rand-ites are a dangerous lot, they might bash you in the head with their T-squares.

that to manage to get to the age of 25 without actually learning something is a cultural goal for our country. Doesn't matter what color you are.

Once you've done that, if you're white, you're eligible to join the "Good 'ole Boys Club," which historically, led to prestigious positions in middle-management in large corporations, or state government. If you're anything else, you wind up in a position of authority in a ghetto. However, if you don't survive to become one of the uneducated masses, and instead pay attention throughout what passes as an education system, you wind up learning skills such as speach, and vocabulary.

Which automatically brands you as "one-of-them."

--EMT_Hawk

My friend Matt Feeney from high school had an older brother who was gay but didn't come right out and say it. I don't know whether or not he liked action films or surfing.

I guess I just wanted to comment without having anything to say. It's been that kind of day.

"You don't need to drag all of Western philosophy into the discussion, when the present heterosexual male abdication of anything more culturally, emotionally and intellectually resonant than "Dick in a Box" works just as well."

Scalzi, you glorious bastard! That may be the best sentence you've ever written. Although I haven't read "The Last Colony", yet, so...you never know. :)

Perhaps it's the Rand-ites who are conspiring to implode your technology.

And T-Squares? Completely gay.

Yanno, I've seen Keanu fans go to some pretty extreme lengths (dirty!) to defend his heterosexuality, but this is a new one.

Explored to some extent in Hot Fuzz, and much hilarity ensued. Have you seen it?

D

A few weeks ago, the300/'It's Raining Men' clip inspired me to write a not entirely dissimilar piece on homoerotic subtext in a hypothetical faithful-to-the-novel film adaptation of Heinlein's Starship Troopers, here

And here was the cast

All computer related stuff has been deemed Gay by way of Alan Turing. 'Leet speak, WoW, and XBox360 all fall under his gay umbrella. Gay inventions.
Apple is also gay. Not only is it stylish (gay) but it's all the fallout of a failed love-affair between Jobs and Woz.

And considering how much Rand was a flaming misogynist...

300 such men, fighting Persians in jock straps and capes? Super-Mega-Ultra Gay!

Well, you know, technically speaking and all, the Spartans were actually gay.

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