Saturday, April 24, 2010

Elm Street Week Day 2: The One with the Gay Subtext

Ok, I know I'm making a post F aux Pas by making two posts in the same day and calling them day 1 and day 2...but the reason for that is because I meant for day 1 to be yesterday when I watched the first movie and day two to be the today when I watch the second movie but I didn't write day 1 yesterday because it was late and I was really sleepy (ironically enough) so day 1 was written earlier today and now I'm writing day 2 to coincide...are you sufficiently confused?  Because I think I just went cross-eyed.  Anyway, let's get right to talking about the second film in the Elm Street series, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge.

Jesse Walsh has just moved into 1428 Elm Street, the house that Nancy Thompson lived in in the first film, and five years have since passed (which means this movie either takes place in 1989, if movie one took place in 1984...or, since the graduation caps in movie five say 1989, it means that the first film took place in 1980...putting this film in its release year of 1985...horror fans think A LOT about their movies people).  Jesse is trying to adjust to life in Springwood, OH and isn't having the best time between getting in fights with Ron Grady, the school's star athlete, and trying to get to know Lisa Webber better.  Also, he keeps having odd nightmares about a man named Freddy Krueger who is trying to take over Jesse's body and use it to kill people who are awake.  Sometimes being a white-male middle class teenager is so very, very hard.

If you can't tell by my short synopsis (short compared to yesterday's(er, today's?) mammoth post), this is not one of my favorites of the series.  Oh yes, its still a fine film and much better than any of the Friday the 13th or late Halloween sequels (excluding H20), but that's just the problem.  After such a spectacular first round, people we're lining up to see "The man of their dreams" back in action for more dream jumping terror, but instead the filmmakers decided to almost completely depart from the first film's established formula and make a film not about a man who kills people in their dreams...but about a man who does it in real life after possessing a teenager, which put Freddy in the same camp as Jason or Michael Myers.  There aren't even any really cool dream sequences in this film, aside from a few of the early ones, and all of them only feature Mark Patton (Jesse) being persuaded or used by Freddy.  Freddy only attacks the other characters in reality, which makes for a very dull and un-fantastic film...the complete opposite of what Wes Craven started with the first.  And there are so many WTF what's up with the demonic parakeet?  And the baby faced dogs?  Sure, the original had trippy visuals too, but they made sense with the dream environment.  This film's stuff just feels weird.  One thing that is improved from the original is the interaction between the romantic leads.  Mark Patton and Kim Meyers (Lisa) really do create a special bond over the course of the film and you want to see them succeed...even if the finale is underwhelming.  Also of note is the homosexual undertones of the film, which were very odd and daring for a film at this time.  Most people don't notice the first time through, but they do notice that something about the film makes them inherently uncomfortable.  I think this subtext is it.  There are things that are right in your face, like Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell) who is revealed to be either homosexual or bisexual by both rumors said by Robert Rustler's Grady to Jesse, and also by his appearance in an LGBT bar that Jesse visits midway through the film.  The Coach then forces Jesse to run laps in the gym and then hit the some sort of kink.  When the Coach takes out some jump ropes while Jesse is in the shower, the implication is that Schneider is planning to tie up and rape Jesse.  This causes Freddy to come out through Jesse and kill the man before he can defile his prize.  Much more subtle is the idea that Jesse is fighting symbolic homosexuality that is manifesting itself as Freddy.  First, Jesse is much more effeminate than other lead males from horror films (partly due to performance by Patton, who is gay in real life and party due to writing).  Second, Jesse has a girl in his life, Lisa, who is obviously interested in him...but Jesse is reluctant to consummate the relationship.  Meanwhile, he is forging a friendship with the handsome Grady and when he fails to make love to Lisa late in the film (due to Freddy's interference) he ends up in Grady's bedroom.  Two men who would be possible lovers for Jesse (Schneider and Grady) are then both killed (penetrated) by Freddy.  Jesse resists Freddy and goes to Lisa for help, who through a passionate kiss, is able to completely destroy Freddy...which makes Jesse normal (well, at least until Freddy/those pesky urges..come back right before the credits).  Some say that people are thinking too hard about the movie, and I say that they are mistaken.  Sure, if you don't see it there...its fine.  But I did, even when I was a young boy coping with my own fears about why I was attracted to men, and I found myself relating to Jesse in a sad sort of way.  The message, if it is there, makes sense too...since a lot of gay men have used girls who were attracted to them to repress the feelings they have because it was not socially acceptable (and even dangerous) to have them...but that doesn't mean the feelings go away.  That's why so many 'married' men can be found at the bars, resorts, and bath houses nowadays on the satisfy their inner-Freddies.  Just food for thought friends.  I hope you enjoyed the analysis of this post friends, because it only continues from there.  Wait? you mean you can find deeper meaning in all the Elm Street films??  That's insane...they're just cheap horror flicks aren't they??  Well friends, that's another thing that sets Elm Street apart from the others...the additional messages that people sometimes get and sometimes miss.  So keep reading and...pleasant dreams!

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