Monday, 26 October 2009

302: Cocksuckers & Bloodsuckers - Gay Vampires 2

Blacula, 1972
Directed by William Crain, written by Raymond Koenig and Joan Torres

William Marshall as Blacula
Ted Harris as Bobby McCoy
Rick Metzler as Billy Schaffer

Starts at 9:11

Finishes at 6:10

I cheat slightly. There are two gay characters in this film, and yes, they do become vampires, but we’re interested in their portrayal as homosexuals, since once they’re vampirised they’re just shambling ravenous indiscriminate monsters like all the other converts. They are not “gay vampires” who might go swishing around lisping “I want to ttthhhuck your blood”. “Blacula”, an early blaxploitation film, is a fairly serious vampire film, but I include the pair here, since they are obviously intended only as comic relief before the film gets started.
That they’re in a blaxploitation film suggests a few questions which I’m not qualified to answer. Blaxplotation films are usually about presenting a certain type of black masculinity. White people and society are usually the subject of criticism, if not absolute denigration, as the villainous oppressors, with sexual deviance often used as an indication of whites’ perverted characters. These two gay men aren’t villains, only fools. But I do wonder whether the white gay guy is a ploy to stall any criticism from the black community because of portraying a black gay character.
That they’re an inter-racial couple is the most striking thing at first. There’s a gay inter-racial couple in “Dirty Harry” (1971) but the audience only sees them for about 45 seconds and then only through the scope of a sniper’s rifle. So an early appearance of a black and white couple, and we also get stereotypes of white and black gay behaviour.
What we witness are embodiments of contemporary stereotypes for the early 1970s. Though subtle it’s not. Words like “camp” and “queen” are casually used. They cast coy glances at each other. Both have expressive hands like fluttering birds, otherwise their wrists are limp hanging from rigidly outstretched elbows, emphasised by the one’s use of his prop of a long cigarette holder. The white one’s not played terribly well, but it’s not too effeminate nor too drawling, so at least he manages to be sort of casual. The black one is interesting because it’s possibly one of the earliest instances of some of the clichés of the black homosexual. His sassy manner, calling people “honey” and “baby”, even crying out “Owww!” while snapping his fingers. The male purse is what the audience would expect of a gay man at the time. Besides all this, the two fit the fussy antique dealers/interior decorators cliché. At least they’re young and hip, since the stereotype is usually of antique dealers as late-middle-aged queens. It’s also made fairly obvious that they’re more than just business partners. They’re shameless, in various ways, mincing and swishing about when they enter the warehouse scene, but not actually screaming stereotypes.
But then to top it off, they become hysterical girls when hurt, with the black one nursing indulging in a slew of bitchy reproaches. Thus distracted Blacula consequently has them for breakfast.

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