Failing to mainstream the gay man before 'Brokeback Mountain' (2005): Richard Condon's 'Gods and Monsters'(1998) and the problem of ageism
Martín Alegre, Sara (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Departament de Filologia Anglesa i de Germanística)

Date: 2015
Note: Richard Condon Gods and Monsters Ange Lee E. Annie Proulx Brokeback Mountain Christopher Bram Father of Frankenstein homosexuality ageism Hollywood film Father of Frankenstein (1995), a novel by American author Christopher Bram, narrates the two final weeks of English film director James Whale (1889-1957), famous for his 1930s horror pictures. Whale, 68, drowned himself in the swimming pool of his Californian home rather than accept his physical and mental decline after a series of strokes. Bram focuses on the imaginary friendship between the aged Whale-who had enjoyed an open, happy life as a gay man-and his much younger American gardener: the handsome, conventionally heterosexual, Clayton Boone. Their singular cross-class bonding leads Whale to recall key episodes of his past; also, to a misguided fantasy that Boone's (supposed) violence will result in the mercy killing he desires. This fantasy is based on Whale's muddled perception that strong Clayton is somehow connected with Frankenstein's monster. Bram's elegant novel was adapted for the cinema as Gods and Monsters (1998), an also elegant film directed and scripted by Richard Condon and awarded an Oscar for best adapted screenplay. British actor Ian McKellen (b. 1939), who starred as Whale, remains to this date the only gay actor nominated to an Oscar for playing a gay character. Condon's film, which preceded by six years the main attempt to mainstream the representation of the (ageing) gay man with Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (2005), is no doubt a quality mainstream film. Yet it is by no means as solidly placed in the general public's imaginary as Lee's film, nor has it received much academic attention. The moderate success of Gods and Monsters is, as I argue here, based on several factors: first, the preference of mainstream audiences for tragic romance, which benefitted very much Brokeback Mountain; second, the misreading of Bram's story as yet another version of gay platonic desire, in the wake of Death in Venice; third, Condon's downplaying, despite his manifest fidelity to Bram's novel, of Clay's rather intense struggle to accept that manliness is not unique to heterosexual men. Fourth, and most relevant, the ageism that underlies audiences' preferences for stories involving young persons. As I argue here, both Father of Frankenstein and Gods and Monsters tell a story of universal interest about how an ageing individual reacts to the news that he will soon be dependent on others until the day he dies. The self-confident, essentially happy Whale chooses to emphasize his personal agency and, thus, to commit suicide; this is presented as a valid, rational choice, no matter how irrational his attempt to involve Clayton may seem. Bram's story, then, focuses on an ageing gay man not only to teach a lesson about the masculinity of gay men but also about the agency of old persons. Yet, Condon's excessive emphasis on Clayton and the audiences' ageist avoidance of themes connected with mental and physical decline prevented Gods and Monsters from becoming a mainstream success at level similar to that of the far more melodramatic, conventionally romantic Brokeback Mountain.
Rights: Aquest document està subjecte a una llicència d'ús Creative Commons. Es permet la reproducció total o parcial i la comunicació pública de l'obra, sempre que no sigui amb finalitats comercials, i sempre que es reconegui l'autoria de l'obra original. No es permet la creació d'obres derivades. Creative Commons
Language: Anglès
Document: conferenceObject
Published in: Congreso de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos (AEDEAN). Bilbao, 39è : 2015

26 p, 1.0 MB

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 Record created 2015-11-17, last modified 2020-08-30

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