Alright, so last week I watched Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, and then today in class we watched clips from Captains Courageous and then all of For a Lost Soldier, and they all kinda overlap in topic with one another and the previous two movies, and I don’t care about any of these three enough individually, so like… I’m just gonna… talk about them all I guess.
Alright, so: Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is a Netflix original that came out this year. Tl;dr Pee-wee falls in love with Joe Manganiello, who’s playing himself, and goes on a cross-country journey full of latent gayness. I’d never see anything Pee-wee before so it was, uh, a lot, but historically Pee-wee is an adult playing a child with latent homosexual desire for various hot dudes, right. Latency as a technique allows the work to get away with a lot of shit but also limits it – but it’s a really interesting way to show childhood sexual desire. It’s permissible because it’s an adult playing the character, because it’s never reciprocated, because Joe is a sexual object of desire rather than complicit. I didn’t enjoy watching the movie at all, but I really enjoyed talking about it.
Captains Courageous is a 1937 film full of MGM darlings and basically a bastardization of a Kipling book, apparently. Some spoiled brat falls off a yacht or whatever and winds up on a fishing boat and falls in love with some hottie in brownface with a bad fake accent, except jk, he really just loves him as a father figure because his own dad doesn’t care about him, except jk, at the last minute the film is like, maybe we didn’t do a good enough job coding our latency!
There’s a super wild scene where the dude mentions hooking up with girls and the kid gets very upste about it and the dude is like, OH BOY I need to fix this. Like, he outright says he needs to do something about it. But then they have a nice lil fatherly sendoff because the kid is going back to his dad, so like, latency achieved or whatever, right?
BUT THEN there’s a storm and dude goes overboard and gets CASTRATED and then they have to CHOP HIM LOOSE and LET HIM DOWN to save the rest of the ship. Subtle, right! And then there’s a lengthy reunion with his father where they, like, affirm that the kid is going back to having normal, healthy relationships and everything.
So they felt the need to bury, or rather drown, their gay. Which means they knew it was gay. They did such a good job of balancing the ambiguity, making it weird but still safe, and then all of a sudden they over-corrected so hard that it became super obvious that they knew exactly what they were doing. Like, the lady doth protest too much, kind of thing.
For a Lost Soldier is a 1992 film from the Netherlands, and it’s parallel in a lot of ways to The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, except this time around it’s an adult pursuing a kid. But this film is nowhere near as nuanced as Maxi’s story was. This is pretty much just a soldier who’s super into a preteen, and a preteen who goes along with it and seems to basically be into it but actually doesn’t express his feeling all that much. It just seems like later in his life he looks back on it fondly.
I’m upset that we didn’t have time to talk about the film afterwards in class because we ran out of time, because I don’t know what to make of this one. We were definitely going to talk about how this is a topic that’s taboo in American culture but less so elsewhere and what that means, but like, I was pretty chill with Maxi’s story because it was so nuanced and complicated, and this one… is much less so… and this one is about the relationship not only happening but being initiated by the adult.
There was a really interesting moment when the two characters first see one another, where the kid is essentially cruising the adult, but it’s the only moment where the kid has real initiative and agency, totally unlike Maxi. In fact, Jeroen doesn’t seem to have very much sexual awareness before the relationship begins or desire during it.
This is a major contrast to Maxi but also reminds me a lot of Mysterious Skin – we talked a lot about how Brian and Neil responded to their abuse so differently because one had already experience sexuality and had context for what was happening and the other didn’t. And to me, Jeroen had some sexual context, but not enough. And that makes it hard for me to buy him looking back on the situation in a positive way.
It’s really interesting to think about how some stories only work if the characters have enough sexual awareness in contrast with discussion about latency enabling other stories. But that’s all I’ve really got. These are both complicated topics.
See you next Friday, when I think we’re going to be talking about two Portuguese movies? It’s completely unclear.