Thursday, 3 December 2009
331: Gay Biggles 1 - Monty Python
30 November 1972
Graham Chapman as Biggles
Michael Palin as Algy
Terry Gilliam as Ginger
Biggles is the archetypal English adventure hero, a proud icon of military glory to inspire the best in our Empire’s youth. In WI and then WII, Captain W.E. Johns’s fighter pilot showed the Boche, Hun and Jerry what for. The English are noble, the English are best, and wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest.
Here the Python team are spoofing an icon of their own childhood (and Michael Palin in particular was fond of committing various Biggles parodies). The nonsense about letters and antler hats, pantomime Princess Margaret, and foreign royalty borrowing household tools seems rather Palin/ Jones, though the sudden bursts of abuse seem more Cleese/Chapman territory :” Fairy! Poof's not good enough for Algy, is it. He's got to be a bleedin' fairy. Mincing old RAF queen!”.
But the joke here is about how the fine upstanding Biggles handles his modern concerns about the sexual orientations of his close comrades Algy and Ginger. And also subverting the signifiers of homosexuality at the same time. Algy’s portrayal is just as we remember from the books, but when he comes out of the closet, Biggles immediately does the decent thing and shoots him dead. Ginger (ginger beer rhymes with queer) is possibly one of the most screaming portrayals committed to screen at that date, in the most outrageous costume and the campest queeny denial.