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Terez
04-07-2009, 02:18 PM
A friend of mine sent me this (written by a friend of his that I don't know) because we were talking about how common it is to find homoerotic subtext in various stories/TV shows/movies etc. What thinkest ye?



Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
(Or So He Thinks)


Homosexuality and homoeroticism. No two words can elicit such opposing reactions in a homophobic culture such as ours. Ranging from intrigue and interest to disgust and revulsion, a conglomeration of charged attitudes fuels the debate over alternative lifestyles. Even in today’s society, same-sex feelings described as immoral and repulsive. Though the subject was just as taboo in Mary Shelley’s time (if not more so), it did not stop her from making commentary in the pages of Frankenstein. Through character development, male-male relationships, and the eradication of virtually every female character in the novel, Shelley blatantly creates a “secret yet scarcely disguised gay adventure” (McGavran 60).

From the onset of the novel, Walton sets the homoerotic tone in one of his letters to his sister:



I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection…I desire the company of a man who could sympathize with me; whose eyes would reply to mine. You may deem me romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend. (Shelley 18)
Such is a way to describe a lover, not simply a male friend. For all intense and purposes, a woman would and could essentially provide the same services to Walton in a heteronormative society. A wife could easily console the captain if he fails his expedition; she could whole-heartedly enjoy his accomplishments as well. But Walton does not want a female. He “desires” a man.

Looking at this same passage, there can be quite a bit of fun word play. Walton calls himself “romantic” – without a capital “R.” Instead of making this character one of the enlightened moderns of her time (the Romantics), she chooses to feminize him even more. Walton is the type of man who wants to woo a lover into his den, a man who dreams of flattering his loved one with the devotion he deserves.

Walton exceedingly heats up with passion when he meets Victor for the first time, saying his “eyes have generally an expression of wildness” and his “whole countenance is lighted up...with a beam of benevolence and sweetness that [he] never saw equalled” (Shelley 22). Had Walton not already established this other character as male, one could easily think he was speaking of a woman. Shelley’s word choice is effeminate: “lighted up,” “benevolence,” “sweetness.” The reader can imagine the ideal woman—a beautiful, yet strong female who can make it through the Artic alone. But alas, it’s a guy once again.

Once the uncomfortable giggles in the back of the reader’s mind subside, he can see the obvious “erotic undercurrents in Victor’s friendships with both Captain Walton and Henry Clerval” (McGavran 56). After the very sickly Victor arrives at Walton’s ship, he was “attended…as much as [Walton’s] duty would permit” (Shelley 18). Duty? Something seems odd here. Walton does not care for Victor because he is required; he cares for Victor because he wants a male friend. He finally has someone to share his life with, and Victor fills this role quite appropriately. Walton seems to have no qualms over keeping a stranger in his bunker. He feeds him, listens to his stories, and nourishes him back to health as best he knows how. In other words, Walton becomes the proverbial female nurse that tends to every patient’s need.

Clerval is a somewhat different story. As Victor’s best friend, Henry is described in a strangely sexual manner which mimics verse: “His soul overflowed with ardent affections, and this friendship was of that devoted and wondrous nature that the worldly-minded teach us to look for only in the imagination” (qtd. in Markley 121). This ambiguous passage in itself raises a few questions. Is Shelley speaking of a friendship that includes erotic feelings between males? Men are expected to repress their sexual desires for other men in hopes of disguising them as pure friendship.

The last homosocial relationship we will examine is that of Victor and his monster. A stranger pair could not exist. Here begins a torrid love affair. A moment when this is most evident is the creature’s promise to be with Victor on his wedding night (Shelley 124). I will argue here that the demon’s desire was not to kill Elizabeth to seek revenge on Victor, but to eliminate the woman who was a barrier to their union. The intense social bonds that men feel for one another are often mediated through women. In Frankenstein’s case, this homosexual desire causes the destruction of each other’s female companion (Markley 121). Once all females are erased from the picture, Frankenstein and his creature are left to be alone with one another. James Holt McGavran argues that “Victor’s creature [was] not only his child, but also both his ideal male lover and his own recreated self—a self at least partially liberated from heterosexual stereotypes of desire” (47). It closely resembles that of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: lovers find each other; lovers begin a wild goose chase; lovers commit suicide (or die). Victor created his creature with the ardor of a man trying to find (or create) true love, wanting to “renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption” (Shelley 40). Many romances of Shelley’s time equated life with love and loneliness with death. When the monster discovers that Victor has died, he not only requests to have Victor’s body, but also says:



“I shall quit your vessel on the ice-raft which brought me hither, and shall see the most northerly extremity of the globe. I shall collect my funeral pile, and consume to ashes this miserable frame…I shall die…I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames.” (qtd. in Butler 11)
The proud lover will return to the place from whence he came, and enjoy every bit of it. If his existence caused Victor so much anguish that he died of stress or possibly even heartache, so shall the monster pass into the next world. He will be proud to burn for his lover’s sake. As critic Andrew Butler states quite blatantly, Victor and his creature are a “queer romance indeed” (11).

Because Frankenstein has literally “eliminated the necessity” of women by essentially reproducing asexually, he has insinuated that there is no need for the opposite sex—that society as a whole should be considered the axiomatic Boys Club (Mellor, “Usurping” 115). Mellor, speaking from a feminist point of view, also points out that men are afraid of female sexuality, leading to the destruction of the women characters in the novel (“Usurping” 121). Elizabeth is even killed twice within the pages—once in Victor’s dream and once by the monster himself (Veeder 106). The scientist cannot stand the idea of becoming a groom—it will be the death of his desire. If Victor could sacrifice the woman who was causing him to repress his homosexual swayings (Elizabeth), why would he not take the opportunity? And so he does—after Elizabeth’s brutal murder, Frankenstein steps up his quest to find his creature.

It is odd that the only women who survive in the novel are those of the DeLacey family. These are women, as Mellor states, who live in a family based on “justice, gender equality, and mutual affection” (“Usurping” 118). I disagree. Shelley incorporates these women into her novel as irresistible examples. Agatha, the young girl remains unharmed because she has not been tainted by the horrors of her sexuality. Safie, on the other hand, survives to be the model of the dangerous female—one who has used her sexuality against men. The DeLacey family lost everything because of Safie. Their money, respect, and throne in aristocratic society were all thrown away because of her power over Felix.

As Andrew Butler states, “Science fiction is still about a man’s search for himself in the universe, and man finding the measure of man – but it can rarely admit to also being about a love that here still dare not speak its name” (14). No mention of women. No mention of Mary Shelley, who actually founded the science-fiction genre. Ultimately, however, Shelley is quick to put this essentially sexist philosophy to death. Though the novel can clearly demonstrate the homoeroticism between males, this behavior is portrayed through Victor’s quest as “horrible [and] unattainable” (Mellor, “Usurping” 122). Almost every instance of repressed sexual desire ends in murder. After all, “self-love is self-destruction” (Veeder 120).

Mary Shelley created a supermarket tabloid of some sorts with the writing of Frankenstein. She took Shakespeare’s male-male relationships and kicked them up a notch to being just short of a Danielle Steele novel. She opened the closet door and exposed the skeletons of every man in the world. Many critics will firmly state that a homoerotic reading of Frankenstein is both incorrect and extremely uneducated. They are wrong. Shelley not only gave this forbidden love a name, she also brought it to the forefront of her novel. Three words—you go, girl.



Works Cited

Butler, Andrew M. “”Proto-Sf/Proto-Queer: The Strange Cases of Dr. Frankenstein and Mr. Hyde.” Foundation Autumn (2002): 7-16.
Markley, A. A. “Tainted Wethers of the Flock: Homosexuality and Homosocial Desire in Mary Shelley’s Novels. Keats-Shelley Review 13 (1999): 115-33.
Mellor, Anne K. “Usurping the Female.” Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters. New York: Methuen, Inc., 1988. 115-26.
McGavran, James Holt. “’Insurmountable Barriers to Our Union:’ Homosocial Male Bonding, Homosexual Panic, and Death on the Ice in Frankenstein.” European Romantic Review 11 (Winter 2000): 46-67.
Shelly, Mary. Frankenstein. 1818 text. The Mary Shelley Reader. Ed. Betty T. Bennett and Charles E. Robinson. New York: Oxford UP, 1990. 11-171.
Veeder, William R. “The Divided Self and Woman.” Mary Shelley and Frankenstein: the Fate of Androgyny. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986. 105-23.

Davian93
04-07-2009, 02:27 PM
Any time you feel like getting plastered, read Frankenstein and drink a shot everytime she uses the word "hitherto"...you'll be passed out by around page 30.

Sei'taer
04-07-2009, 02:33 PM
I think if this is supposed to be eye opening it misses by a lot. Our beloved WoT is crammed full of it as are a lot of other popular books.

PS let your friend know it's intents and purposes not intense and purpose. It'll make it read smoother. Let us know what kind of response it gets...I'm curious to hear.

Gilshalos Sedai
04-07-2009, 02:41 PM
I can't read the full thing at the moment, but from the first few paragraphs, I'd guess your friend of a friend has misunderstood the sexual dynamics of Shelley's time period. Women WERE NOT the equal of men, therefore, to find that sort of kindred spirit within a woman was unheard of and deemed unnatural. The author is mistakenly applying 20th and 21st century sensibilities to the Pre-Victorian Era.

Also, one must keep in mind that Mary Shelley's full name was Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley, the daughter of Mary Wollenstonecraft, the suffragist. So, while homosexuality is certainly a possibly theme, I doubt it, simply given the fact the sexual dynamics of the time were vastly different.

After all, Frodo kissing Sam is a highly misunderstood scene in LoTR, simply because men just don't do that anymore.

Davian93
04-07-2009, 02:43 PM
Either way, its important to remember that the book sucks and is a brutal read. ;)

Sei'taer
04-07-2009, 02:50 PM
Young Frankenstein was great movie though.

Gilshalos Sedai
04-07-2009, 03:12 PM
I also think your author is mistaking the pre-feminist movement stirrings for homosexuality. Now, there is definitely mysogyny by the male characters in Frankenstein, but only in that Shelley was trying to show what a sterile and horrid world it would be without women.

Sinistrum
04-07-2009, 03:14 PM
Yeah, not really. I agree with Gilly that your friend has probably read into the book what he/she wants to without taking into consideration the vastly different social and cultural norms and references between our time period and Shelley's. I think it highly unlikely that Mary Shelley of all people would be a 19th century champion of gay rights, if such a person existed at all.

I think this harkens back to Quentin Tarantino's infamous rant about the volleyball scene in Top Gun being the "gayest scene in movie history." With enough word twisting and inuendo, you can read just about any intent into something, regardless of whether its there or not.

Gilshalos Sedai
04-07-2009, 03:23 PM
Marry Shelley was a champion of WOMEN'S rights.

Crispin's Crispian
04-07-2009, 04:07 PM
Victor created his creature with the ardor of a man trying to find (or create) true love, wanting to “renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption” (Shelley 40).
The author of this essay missed an important point here. In the context of repressed homosexuality, there is a clear irony in this passage. Victor renewed the body from a state of physical corruption, but his motives would have placed the soul into a state of moral corruption. Or maybe that's the point--if the creature had no soul, there was no moral corruption--it was essentially fantastic masturbation.

That said, I think most of the essay misses the mark. The examples cited are hardly glistening with sweaty sexual overtones to be read with heavy breaths. It pays to remember that if you search hard enough for something you fully expect to find, you'll find it no matter what.

GonzoTheGreat
04-07-2009, 05:02 PM
It pays to remember that if you search hard enough for something you fully expect to find, you'll find it no matter what.The Bible already warns of that:

Matthew|7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
Matthew|7:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

What isn't said, but is clear to anyone who has ever seen a horror movie, is that you may not be happy when confronted with the Opener of the Door.

Terez
04-07-2009, 05:57 PM
Yeah, I've never read Frankenstein, so I figured I'd ask you guys. I was thinking as I skimmed over it that a lot of the things me and the guy were talking about were much more obvious in the way of homoerotic subtext than that.

I bought the book several years ago but I've never been able to read it. I hate stuffy language.

Sei'taer
04-07-2009, 09:14 PM
I bought the book several years ago but I've never been able to read it. I hate stuffy language.

I read about 30 pagess tonigght and Im' so drunk Im goingf to bed........Thasnk Dav!

Verin Mathwin
04-07-2009, 11:38 PM
I like Frankenstein. Yeah, it might be a little rough to read, but overall I enjoyed it

Terez
04-07-2009, 11:51 PM
Yeah, I've heard it's a great book. I'm just too lazy to put much effort into reading.

Davian93
04-08-2009, 07:44 AM
Yeah, I've heard it's a great book. I'm just too lazy to put much effort into reading.

She wrote it in one weekend...and it shows.

Terez
04-08-2009, 08:57 AM
Some say the same about Messiah...but really, it's good stuff...

StrangePackage
04-08-2009, 08:59 AM
...
I think this harkens back to Quentin Tarantino's infamous rant about the volleyball scene in Top Gun being the "gayest scene in movie history." ...

Well, it is. So this is a bad point.

Terez
04-08-2009, 09:00 AM
Well, it is.
It's pretty gay, but I can think of gayer.

StrangePackage
04-08-2009, 09:06 AM
It's pretty gay, but I can think of gayer.

I'm pretty sure it's the gayest. I am including anything made by Pedro Almodovar AND Brokeback Mountain, and it's still the gayest scene I've ever seen.

Ivhon
04-08-2009, 09:10 AM
What's so gay about sweaty mens bumpin balls and diving for spikes? *two snaps up and around the world*

Sinistrum
04-08-2009, 01:31 PM
Well, it is. So this is a bad point.

Well, yeah, de facto, it totally is. The point I was making is that, given the cultural context of it at the time, it wasn't meant to be gay. It was meant to be a metaphorical clash between the two alpha males (Mav and Ice) for dominance. It was meant to be manly. But yeah, it definitely didn't turn out like that, especially as time progressed and views on manliness evolved.

Davian93
04-08-2009, 01:38 PM
Well, yeah, de facto, it totally is. The point I was making is that, given the cultural context of it at the time, it wasn't meant to be gay. It was meant to be a metaphorical clash between the two alpha males (Mav and Ice) for dominance. It was meant to be manly. But yeah, it definitely didn't turn out like that, especially as time progressed and views on manliness evolved.

Yeah, its not a Willa Cather novel for example...those were full of such innuendo...albeit more of a woman on woman version.

Terez
04-08-2009, 02:09 PM
The subject came up with the friend because of the research paper I did last semester, on the erotic subtext in Hildegard von Bingen's Ordo Virtutum, some of which was (female) homoerotic. This was obvious to the point of being undeniable, though - it seems to have been modeled after the Song of Solomon god=bridegroom, believer=bride interpretation that was very popular at the time.