By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
DeAngelis refuses to state what he thinks, much less what or how or why he desires without the proviso of quoting someone else. In other words, it‘s a classic example of a queer theorist or gay-and-lesbian theorist, call him what you will, too scared of academic protocol to be marked by the scarlet obsessions of fandom and too ashamed to be a fan, a type who’s never had any problems with scopophilia since he‘s too busy aiming for scoporrhea (247 looking nonstop). For example, he quotes scary essayist Daniel Harris on After Dark, taking his word that that fag rag never ”declared its [gay] allegiances but played an endless game of hide-and-seek.“ Since one of After Dark’s major advertisers was Dorian Gray Ltd. Cosmetics for Men, I‘d like to know exactly what allegiances weren’t being declared.
Although making a big deal out of ”demonstrating how certain male crossover stars accommodate identification and desire within fantasy and the melodramatic mode,“ DeAngelis never makes clear why anyone should give a damn whether or not any star -- or any other erotic object -- ”accommodates“ identification and desire. Let me put this another way: What would it mean to desire or identify with a star who didn‘t ”accommodate“ such libidinal energies? Would it stop the imaginary transactions? Can you desire a star wrongly?
The headline for this piece comes from Frank O’Hara‘s great poem, which O’Hara also used for the title of his important first book. In terms of thinking as a pleasure, academic meditation about gay, lesbian andor queer identity and culture is in a sorry state of emergency, and I can only hope that it will die and that something more lively, ruthless and truly queering will take its place. There is so much to be thought about, written about, studied and yet so much ”theory“ that purports to be ”queer“ queers nothing, theorists trying to pass off ignorance, laziness and tedium as a serious endeavor rather than just having fun trying to snap the sensual whip of a sentence. There‘s not a moment reading DeAngelis’ book when I felt, ”Wow, this guy really understands James Dean, Mel Gibson and Keanu Reeves.“ I didn‘t even get the feeling that he had bothered to watch all of their movies, much less have a sense of the solar shock of imagining seeing Dean’s first appearance on screen, or in ”real“ life, at a bar being a ”human ashtray.“ I invoke O‘Hara because his book included a poem, ”For James Dean,“ written, along with other poems for Dean, in 1955, the year of Dean’s crash. Without knowledge of O‘Hara or his poems, it’s impossible to think about what it might mean to cast Dean as Lycidas.
This book about gay fandom, male stardom and gay spectatorship never cites, even bibliographically, Wayne Koestenbaum‘s The Queen’s Throat, Jackie Under My Skin and Cleavage, or Boyd McDonald‘s Cruising the Movies: A Sexual Guide to ”Oldies“ on TV -- which is like thinking you could write about Jackson Pollock and not examine in some way, even by choosing to ignore or vilify, the writing of Clement Greenberg. As depressing as this is, it’s not surprising. Nowhere does DeAngelis consider what kind of stars Dean, Gibson and Reeves are (are they the same type of star?). Not knowing what kind of stars they are, there is no way for a reader to know what is needed to be a ”crossover“ since DeAngelis provides no examples of stars who aren‘t ”crossovers.“ Even if he could be excused for not citing Koestenbaum and McDonald, because somehow their work falls outside the myopic purviews of the academic, that DeAngelis never refers to Patricia White’s unInvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability is ludicrous. Maybe familiarizing himself with star genres, i.e., Agnes Moorehead and Paul Lynde as ”supporting characters,“ might have clued him in to how lacking his conceptualization of stardom and crossing over is. No fresh interpretation of the complex interrelations of an actor‘s private person, his public persona and the character he portrays here; DeAngelis demonstrates no understanding that it is by some such triangulation that something called a star can exist at all.
Chapters on James Dean, but no mention of Andy Warhol’s use of Dean, which includes a fey, stylized, ballpoint-pen drawing of Dean‘s head with an overturned car in the background from 1955, or of interVIEW as a crucial site of gay fandom and fan-making, or of the devastating queer interrogation ”acting,“ ”being“ and ”Hollywood“ underwent by Warhol in his films. No mention of lesbian appropriations of Dean -- for example, Sadie Benning’s -- or of the erotic perfection of his red jacket, which at some point in Rebel he uses to warm a sleeping Sal Mineo. No notion of how Dean, who starred with fags Sal Mineo and Rock Hudson, is different from them. No understanding of the cyclonic force of Elizabeth Taylor, whose presence so destabilizes any normative sexuality and concept of body that she can both stand in and speak for homosexuality while her beauty and unsatisfiable appetites (sexual as much as any other) warp the ostensible narrative of any given film to become a gloss on her life. There‘s a long pointless chapter on turgid hack Mel Gibson without any negotiation of the dwarf, Billy Kwan, played by dyke Linda Hunt in The Year of Living Dangerously, who spends most of the time cradled in Gibson’s arms or straddling his shoulders.