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Horror Films  
 
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The coupling of homosexual and monster has been an enduring, if not always consciously acknowledged, cultural motif. Cinema has been an especially welcoming venue in this regard, populated as it is by a disproportionate number of artists working as directors, writers, set decorators, etc., and ideally positioned as a space in which gender anxieties can be explored and vented on a mass scale.

Coding the Queer as Monster

The monsters of cinema, indeed of popular culture in general, are troubled, and troubling, outsiders, their sexuality thwarted or altered, sometimes seductive and suave, other times repulsive and terrifying, but always threatening to the social and sexual order.

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They can easily be read as doubles for societal views of homosexuals as predatory, amoral, perverse, possessed of secret supernatural powers, capable of--and very interested in--destroying "normal life" and toppling such vulnerable institutions as the nuclear family, the church, capitalism, the heterosexual paradigm, or a combination thereof.

Coding the queer as monster allows viewers the catharsis of experiencing the terror of a threat to "normal life," while insulating them against that threat by presenting it as a fantasy character or demimondain usually destroyed by film's end.

Queer Couples

One of the major strategies in the perceived queer monster's arsenal is replacing straight couples with gay or gay-coded ones. This was evident even in the silent era, in films such as Robert Weine's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1922), which presents one of the earliest of cinema's many "unwholesome" male couples--a sensitive, vulnerable younger man under the control of an older, more sophisticated "mentor" who lures his protégé into a terrifying dream world far from normalcy, that is, far from the heterosexual norm.

Gay director James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is one of the most direct expressions of this trope, with aged, corrupt, effeminate Dr. Praetorius (married but gay Ernest Thesiger) luring the nervous, neurotic Dr. Frankenstein (rumored bisexual Colin Clive) into a heady world of "gods and monsters."

But Bride also presents intriguing variations on the theme that would persist. It shows two major male couples in blasphemous alliance: Praetorius and Frankenstein, whose collaboration results in the unholy progeny of the "Bride" (who makes a memorable appearance in the film's witty assault on marriage); and a partnership of outsider-equals in the Frankenstein monster and the blind hermit, who briefly set up what is in effect a loving homosexual household before it is literally destroyed by the meddling of two straight townsmen.

Whale's Old Dark House (1932) has a similarly threatening male couple in the two main outsiders, the inchoate butler Morgan (Boris Karloff) and the insane Saul (Brember Wills), whose death unleashes Morgan's deepest anguish and violence.

A subset of the queer male relationship is the basis of Tod Browning's Dracula (1932), that is, master and slave in a sadomasochistic relationship. Renfield's perpetually apologizing, groveling posture is contrasted throughout the film with Dracula's rigid uprightness as he commands, degrades, and ultimately enslaves Renfield, forcing him into all manner of depravities.

Queer Monsters as Predators

Society's idea of the homosexual as a kind of virus that wastes its victims and spreads its monstrosity unchecked requires that there be multiple--in fact endless--victims. (David Skal has explored the link between societal views of vampirism and AIDS.) Thus, the predatory Dracula must conquer London neck by neck, exercising his penetrative, pleasure-and-survival needs on men, women, and children; and, as Judith Halberstam has pointed out, in a way that is emphatically anti-procreation and anti-family.

The queer monster/corrupted straight victim relationship reappeared in further variations in later decades, where the corrupter is more of an authority figure than a monster, but still coded as queer.

During the 1950s, the low-budget studio American International Pictures specialized in a subgenre of horror in which a successful, middle-aged professional, often a scientist or trusted teacher, transforms a maladjusted youth under his (or her) care into a monster, playing off the then-current notion that older homosexuals were driven to "recruit" the young and vulnerable into their lifestyle.

I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) and How to Make a Monster (1958) present both a perverse male couple (scientist and assistant in the former, a make-up artist and assistant in the latter) and a robust but troubled youth who is forced to act out the couple's gruesome antisocial agenda.

Just as Dracula was compelled to find fresh victims, the scientist in How to Make a Monster demands a string of "boys" on whom to work his lethal magic. A lesbian variant on this conceit from the same period can be found in Herbert L. Strock's Blood of Dracula (1957), in which an unmarried female science teacher hypnotizes a female student into becoming a violent monster who does her bidding.

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