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"One Cute Motherf**ker": Homosexuality and the Threat of AIDS in John McTiernan’s Predator

Predator (1987): Macho Men: Front row (L to R): Blain, Dutch, Dillon, Poncho; Back row: Hawkins, Mac, Billy

It is common knowledge that the main marketing demographic for action films is the (heterosexual) male moviegoer.  Arguably, John McTiernan's 1987 action-filled, sci-fi horror blockbuster, Predator, is one of the most testosterone-driven features in cinematic history.  Not only is this retelling of Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" fraught with many of the genre's trademarks -- hyperkinetic movement and pacing, rampant masochism, violent death, and a plethora of gunfire -- it contains only one female performance.  Alongside such works as McTiernan's own Die Hard, Zach Snyder's 300, John Boorman's Deliverance, Don Siegel's Dirty Harry, David Fincher's Fight Club, Ted Kotcheff's First Blood, Ridley Scott's Gladiator, Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, and James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Predator is often considered the archetypical "guy movie." 

Narrator (Edward Norton) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) discussing their parents in David Fincher's FIGHT CLUBNarrator (Edward Norton) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) discussing their parents in David Fincher's FIGHT CLUB

For many, this would be one of the last places an individual would expect to encounter a predominant homosexual theme (despite Snyder, Boorman, and Fincher's films also containing strong homoerotic undertones).  Yet McTiernan does not flippantly insert such into his work in the mere hope of unnerving his heterosexual male viewers (in lieu of an extended take from behind of Arnold Schwarzenegger crawling along the ground).  Instead, the filmmaker provides his audience with a cautionary parable of the AIDS epidemic which, during the time of the film's release, was just beginning to be understood.

When Predator was produced, a scant five years after the Center for Disease Control recorded its first cases in Los Angeles, AIDS was considered a disease which primarily affected homosexuals, especially males.  (Shortly after its discovery, the press dubbed the virus "G.R.I.D." for "Gay-Related Immune Deficiency.")  McTiernan uses this as a catalyst for his film by issuing his viewers an exclusive "predator" of men, one which has no name, is rarely seen, and which -- once met -- typically proves fatal.  Poignantly, the director presents a cast of Special Forces soldiers who, overwrought with both muscles and ego, naively believe themselves to be impervious to harm.  Only in the presence of an invisible enemy for which they seem to have no defenses do they give pause yet, due to peer pressure, hubris, and overabundant machismo, all but one perish by film's end.

Old  'Buddies' Dillon and Dutch, reunited at last, checking to see who has  the biggest . . . musclesOld 'Buddies' Dillon and Dutch, reunited at last, checking to see who has the biggest . . . muscles

After setting the tone with the first spoken line of dialogue by having the military-decreed alpha male of the scene, General Phillips (R. G. Armstrong), comment upon team leader Dutch's (Arnold Schwarzenegger) physical appearance, "You're looking good" (which is reprised during the finale when Dutch assesses the eponymous character's (Kevin Peter Hall) looks, "You're one ugly motherf**ker" -- what would Dutch have said should he have found the alien attractive?), McTiernan gives us one of the first hints as to his agenda:  In a genre production whose audience not only tolerates, but anticipates, rabid violence, Dutch notes, "We're a rescue team; not assassins."

Dutch  loves his big, black stogiesDutch loves his big, black stogies

The Special Forces team is a tightly-knit group which does not look fondly upon foreign members joining its ranks, as seen in the overt animosity exhibited by the team's heavy weapons man, Blain (Jesse Ventura), and Dutch's apprehension of CIA agent Dillon (Carl Weathers) being ordered by Phillips to accompany the elite squad on a rescue mission.  Dutch adamantly protests, "General, my team works alone.  You know that."  His acrimony is suspicious given that Dillon is a former Special Forces member, thus was once part of the "group," and close friend who had previously served alongside Dutch in battle.  Remonstrating Dillon's presence after the CIA agent refers to Dutch as "Old Buddy" and produces one of a matching set of Zippos they obtained during joint service in Vietnam (the team's second-in-command, Mac (Bill Duke) and Blain silently scrutinize Dillon as he tells of the lighter's history), Blain spits tobacco juice upon Dillon's boot, as if to symbolically call Dillon's heterosexual bluff. After urging Blain closer so as to whisper (indicative that he is about to voice something that can't be openly expressed) and endeavoring to quell the sexual hostility taking place by affirming he has unequivocally renounced his homosexuality, Dillon remarks, "That's a real nasty habit you got there."  Interestingly, just as they are about to reach the mission site, Dillon admits to Dutch, "[I] [n]ever knew how much I missed this."   

Scantily-clad Dillon graciously accepting Dutch’s firearmScantily-clad Dillon graciously accepting Dutch’s firearm

McTiernan's central character focus is Dillon as his renounced homosexuality gradually reestablishes itself.  After Dutch realizes that he was issued a faux motive for the rescue mission, Dillon states that Dutch and his men are expendable.  Noticeably hurt, Dutch asserts that Dillon was once "[ . . . ] somebody I could trust."  With pronounced tears of regret welling up in his eyes, Dillon snaps back, "I woke up."  In other words, Dillon begrudgingly abandoned his homosexual tendencies in order to be further promoted.  This accounts for Dutch's reservations when Dillon is assigned to his "team" as well as the group's general dislike of Dillon.  However, after the request for a rescue helicopter is denied, Dutch declares, "We're [thereby including Dillon in the group] assets, Dillon.  Expendable assets" and that Dillon is "[ . . . ] just like the rest of us."  Midway through the feature, Dillon has accepted the sexual dynamic in question and his role therein.  He tells Dutch that "I'm going [to enter into the jungle] after Mac," to which Dutch snickers, "That's not your style."  Dillon's retort is succinct, "I guess I picked up some bad habits from you."  It can be posited that Dillon's decision is spurred by guilt, desire to regain Dutch's admiration, and is penance given that the likelihood of following after Mac will prove fatal:  Dutch tells him that entering the bush is a futile gesture, to which Dillon replies, "Maybe I can get even."  Dutch then tosses Dillon his (phallic) firearm, which Dillon willfully accepts.  By feature's end, upon sighting Predator for the third time (which is complimented by the team's scout, Billy (Sonny Landham), who repeatedly senses something in the jungle, i.e., "gaydar"), replete with his arm around Dillon, Mac whispers, "I see you."  This is implied to denote that he has spotted the alien hunter but, given his use of the ambiguous second-person pronoun (versus "It," which is the referent that the team most frequently uses to designate Predator and that Mac utilized moments before reverting to "you"), such can be argued to be his oral acknowledgement of Dillon's homosexual inclinations.  Poetically, Dillon metaphorically comes out of the closet seconds before his death by admitting, twice over, that he too sees Predator.  (He saw the alien earlier yet told no one.)  

Blain caressing 'Old Painless'Blain caressing 'Old Painless'

The prevalence and abundance of (exaggerated and overlarge -- to the point of satirical absurdity) phallic weapons reinforces the film's unbridled masculinity.  Character development takes place early in the film within the womb-like sanctity of a helicopter's cabin wherein homoerotic goading is comfortably directed by and at the multiple personages:  Subsequent to the rejected offer of chewing tobacco to the various team members (with the understandable exception of Dillon), Blain chides, "[The crew is a] [b]unch of slack-jawed faggots.  This stuff will make you a goddamned sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me."  The team's demolition expert, Poncho (Richard Chaves), then hoists up his (phallic) grenade launcher and phonetically puns, "Strap this on your sore ass."  The most blatant phallic object seen in the film is Blain's horribly mislabeled minigun -- a weapon designed to be mounted to the side of aircraft -- which he ironically refers to as "Old Painless" (another understatement if placed within a psychosexual context).  Most every other member carries a powerful firearm as well and, in its absence, a bowie knife (which Billy uses to cut a water vine prior to sucking on it).  Revealingly, Dutch notices a pattern to Predator's penchant for prey:  One must be a threat, i.e., be in possession of a "weapon," which is why Dutch instructs the team's guerilla hostage, Anna (Elpidia Carrillo), to "[l]eave it [Poncho's discarded gun].  He [Predator] didn't kill you because you weren't armed."  By assuming the/a weapon/phallus, Anna would become symbolically masculine whereas, without it, she retains her femininity.  Not surprisingly, Anna survives.  Obviously, Predator is not interested in women qua women (anymore than Dutch is:  After grudgingly consenting to Anna's transport, he tells "straight" Dillon, "She's your baggage"). 

(Top) Billy drinking juices from a phallic water vine; (Bottom) Billy, subverting himself in the wake of the Alpha Predator, as he willfully creates a vaginal slit and menstruates(Top) Billy drinking juices from a phallic water vine; (Bottom) Billy, subverting himself in the wake of the Alpha Predator, as he willfully creates a vaginal slit and menstruates

McTiernan further develops this motif by having the most "macho" of the team -- Dutch, Dillon, Blain, Mac, and Billy -- emasculate themselves via metaphorical female menstruation before becoming desirable, subservient prey for the alpha hunter.  As such, the physically largest of the team members must bleed prior to being killed, as evidenced by Mac incurring a razor nick, Blain taking a bullet or shrapnel fragment to the left bicep, and Dillon's arm being severed.  Most revealingly, after discarding his firearm, Billy surrenders himself to the dominant male by cutting a vertical, thus vaginal, slit into his own chest.  Predator is content to merely dispose of the less masculine, cf., less desirable, of the group:  The team's radio operator, Hawkins (Shane Black), wears oversized glasses and reads comic books; Poncho remains skittish after discovering a cove of skinned soldiers.  Gun in hand, Hawkins is killed while pursuing the escaped Anna (thus he nevertheless meets his demise while playing the role of the dominant male).  Poncho is murdered after having sustained a crippling blow from a fallen (phallic) log which undoubtedly resulted in internal injuries/bleeding.  (His wound is inadvertent and not the manner in which Predator intended because, throughout the film, all other members are penetrated through the use of the alien's laser or forearm blades.  This lies in undeniable contrast to the physically superior hunter who, though he kills many, never mortally injures a character through brute force.)  Conversely, in one of the film's most memorable lines, Dutch reasons that "If it bleeds, we can kill it."  The team members' agenda then becomes the same as the alpha Predator -- to subvert the other's machismo.  This is why Predator hastily removes a bullet lodged in his thigh:  To stop the bleeding, thereby regaining his undermined masculinity.  Predictably, Predator is bested when Dutch drops the largest phallic symbol in the film -- an entire tree trunk -- on top of him.  It is also worthy to note that Mac issues a death threat to Dillon early in the film:  Should the latter inadvertently reveal the team's location, Mac promises to "bleed" Dillon "real quiet."  Given the story's subtext, Mac is proclaiming he will emasculate the CIA agent.  Moments later, he figuratively attempts to do just that.  Mac coerces an adverse Dillon into assuming a submissive position by having Dillon expose his back.  Mac then produces a phallic knife in order to impale a scorpion crawling along Dillon's shoulder.  Fascinatingly, an apprehensive Dillon retaliates by producing his gun (in opposition to, say, a non- or less-phallic fist).  Dillon reluctantly thanks Mac, who grumbles, "Anytime" as he watches Dillon walk away.

Anna, relieved that she'll survive because she wasn't born with a penis.Anna, relieved that she'll survive because she wasn't born with a penis.

It is Anna who imparts the history of Predator, "When I was little, we found a man.  He looked like . . . like, butchered.  The old woman (sic) in the village crossed themselves . . . and whispered crazy things, strange things.  'El Diablo cazador de hombres.'  Only in the hottest years this happens.  And this year, it grows hot.  We begin (sic) finding our men.  We found them sometimes without their skins . . . and sometimes much, much worse.  'El cazador trofeo de los hombres' means the demon who makes trophies of men."  While saying nothing of the observation that Predator attacks "men/hombres" rather than "people," makes trophies of his (male) conquests, and a fate "much, much worse" than being skinned alive being left to subjective possibility, Anna relays that the deceased males were discovered without their skin.  Biologically, the skin is the largest component of the human immune system.  Without it, humans are highly susceptible to disease, including AIDS.  Paralleling this leitmotif is Dutch's impromptu realization that Predator cannot locate, cf., "see," him if he covers himself.  He does so using mud, which is analogous in this context to a makeshift prophylactic.  Logistically, this is sound:  Once Dutch infers that Predator only attacks those brandishing weapons, he is already wounded, thus susceptible to being killed sans weapon.  (Upon crawling onto a soggy embankment, thereby coating himself in mud, he reaches for a weapon, only to find it missing.  In the following scene, we see that he remained in possession of his bowie knife but that it was coated in mud.  Thus, his symbolic phallus was safe, i.e., not exposed.)  Due to the risk of exposure/infection, Dutch continues to veil himself in mud and only approaches Predator directly after his "organic condom" is washed off.  (Interestingly, the DVD chapter titled "The Alien's Weakness" denotes the scene wherein this revelation takes place and not the episode in which Dutch deduces that the creature can bleed.)  Consequently, risk of viral infection exists only if one's metaphorical penis is exposed or the possibility of blood contamination through an open wound is present.  Predator is both wounded and "unprotected" at the time of his death after having removed his facemask before engaging Dutch in the final battle. 

An 'orgy' of male-driven gunfire (notice Mac, second-to-left, using Blain’s minigun).An 'orgy' of male-driven gunfire (notice Mac, second-to-left, using Blain’s minigun).

The most palpable homoerotic display witnessed during the film is Mac's reaction to Blain's death.  Moments after Blain is fatally shot by Predator, Mac picks up his deceased friend's minigun/phallus and opens fire into the jungle with "Old Painless" (which he had instructed Blain earlier in the film to "take [the minigun] out of the bag" it was being transported in).  He does this, not in the hope of killing what or whoever murdered his friend, but merely in heated response to Blain's demise.  In perhaps the film's most alarming homoerotic scene, believing he has spotted the killer, all remaining team members join Mac and simultaneously discharge their weapons in what is, essentially, an ejaculatory orgy:  They "release" the entirety of their phallic-directed ammunition into the jungle.  Emblematic of Mother Nature and therefore the epitome of life, the jungle is decimated by homosexual males, a symbol of biological sterility.  Not only does Mac manifest hostility toward the female Mother Nature, but he and Blain are the only two who fail to interact with Anna on either a verbal or nonverbal level (though Billy is clearly apprehensive and uncomfortable in her midst to the extent that it is debatable that this is a subconscious motive in his remaining behind and being sacrificed by Predator, specifically when one considers how close he is to the rescue site).  After assuming responsibility for the transportation of Blain's body, Mac takes a flask (which both men had shared earlier in the day) and places it upon Blain's corpse.  Later, when on patrol, he holds a vigil before vowing revenge, "They'll (sic) come back again.  And when he does I'm gonna cut your [Blain's] name right into him!"  Veiling his theme of homosexuality behind the auspices of race, McTiernan has the African American Mac inform Dutch that, "He [Caucasian Blain] was . . . my friend."  The disapproval evident in Dutch holding Mac's gaze after the utterance, atop Mac averting his eyes under Dutch's condemning stare, insinuates that Mac has spoken the unmentionable.  The plausibility of this sentiment solely relating to the male bond is also challenged by Blain's oblique racism.  His Southern heritage is emphasized and he never utters a word to the film's other minorities, Native American Billy (though he does offer him, along with most everyone else present, chewing tobacco) or Hispanic Anna.  (The character of Poncho is designated by the surname "Ramirez" and described as "an East L.A. streetwise Chicano" in various drafts of the script.  Given that Blain interacts with and speaks to Poncho, this is perhaps why McTiernan cast Caucasian actor Richard Chaves in the otherwise Hispanic role.)

Former homosexual, Little Richard, co-writer of 'Long Tall Sally'Former homosexual, Little Richard, co-writer of 'Long Tall Sally'

So as not to leave any doubt as to his thematic intentions, McTiernan inserts Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" into his film, not once, but twice.  The first occasion is through Blain's boom box as the team is being flown into the jungle and the second is Mac mumbling the lyrics when in solitary search of his friend's killer.  Aside from Richard being gay, the song is considered the story of a man reveling in homosexual promiscuity:  "Uncle John" is spotted by the narrator with "bald head Sally," which is a euphemism for the penis.  When John sees "Aunt Mary comin'," he retreats into an alleyway.  As he hunts for Predator, who is obviously taller than any of the team's members (and ignoring the "long" aspect of the lyrics), Mac strips down while exasperatedly reciting his version of the chorus, "I'm gonna have me some fun."

Hawkins (left) wooing BillyHawkins (left) wooing Billy

Though primary themes, McTiernan is not crassly conveying a homophobic tale wherein almost everyone who is gay dies of AIDS.  Rather, he uses these subjects to fashion a potent cautionary fable.   Mac and Blain are not the only male pair-bond in the production, though they are one of the few monogamous couples.  Their familiarity with one another is solidified by the nonchalant manner in which Mac shrugs off Blain's offer of chewing tobacco alongside Blain's heated exchange with Dillon concerning Blain's "habit" taking place under Mac's watchful eye.  Likewise, Hawkins is constantly attempting to evoke laughter from, or flatter, Billy by way of misogynistic jokes.  These faithful pairings are juxtaposed by Dillon and Dutch.  After Blain's death, as if infatuated yet shy, Dillon continually follows Mac and observes him at a distance.  (Given Mac's effort to metaphorically penetrate Dillon from behind and solitary display of machismo via his threat to emasculate the CIA agent, the latter leaving Dillon speechless, the tentative argument exists that Dillon is merely capitalizing upon Mac's coy flirting once Blain has passed away.)  Although it is implied that Dillon and Dutch share an intimate past by Dillon's reminiscence of their matching Zippos, it is suggested that Dutch has had numerous gay partners.  Upon entering the jungle, he is fairly apathetic toward the assignment.  Once Jim Hopper's body is discovered, he becomes noticeably agitated and announces, "I knew these men" and that "now it [Predator] wants us [male soldiers]."  Clearly, the third-person inclusive is meant to indicate that Hopper and his men were homosexual.  Given the allegorical perimeters set by the director, those whom glibly expose their "weapon" and fail to "protect" themselves or, more concretely, refuse to practice safe sex, die regardless if they are monogamous.  This is reinforced by Dutch's licentious nature.  His survival is nonetheless assured since he "covers" himself in the midst of an invisible predator of gay men.

John McTiernan's second feature-length film, Predator, houses strong homosexual motifs, undertones, and symbolism.  However, the filmmaker does not incorporate such tropes in the hope of unsettling his predominantly heterosexual male sci-fi horror audience.  Instead, he uses them as a forum to present a cautionary parable for the AIDS epidemic by displaying the dangers of infection through reckless sex practices.  He goes on to show that those who harbor the greatest risk are those with raging machismo and unchecked libidos who believe themselves to be impervious to harm.  Sadly, the actor who played Predator, Kevin Peter Hall, would later die of AIDS from a contaminated blood transfusion.

You've constructed an

You've constructed an intriguing interpretation of the social and ideological undercurrents apparently at work in Predator.  It is impressive, and it seems self-consistent.  Two questions come to mind after an initial reading, and I wonder if you might comment on them:

1. Is there any justification for applying the term "gaydar" to Billy's "natural" tracking abilities?  A potential problem for any interpretive project is its ability to be self-consistent without being historically consistent.  I wouldn't be shocked to find out that the term (or concept behind the term) "gaydar" was in use in the late 1980s, but was it?  Alas, I am too young to know for myself.  (This is a nit-picky question, I know, but your use of the term raised a flag about the general issue.)

2. Is there any indication that John McTiernan intended a queer-theory reading of the film?  (In other words, is the proposed reading an explanation or an appropriation?)

Again, this was an interesting read.  It makes me want to go back to the film to see if the references here are more than convenient coincidences.



Leo,True to


True to literary/cinematic crit., I was not concerned with the chronology of the term 'gaydar' for the same reason that we don't worry over Freudian theory appearing 400 years after 'Hamlet':  A theory needn't a name to exist, i.e. gravity was here long before Newton 'discovered' it.  Thus, whether Billy was aware his 'gift' would later be dubbed 'gaydar' isn't a problem for him, nor me as a critic.  (F.Y.I. The term was officially recognized in 1992.  Thus, it was in use for a period prior to, so whether it was on McTiernan's, a-hem, radar is anyone's guess.)

As for McTiernen's leaning toward a gay-reading:  Aside from what I have outlined, I would offer his other arguably homoerotic work, Die Hard, as evidence.  Of course, all of this is up for debate ; )

Do actually believe all this?

Do actually believe all this? It may be the most ridiculous thing I have ever read.

Sometimes a cigar is just a

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. You are reading way too much into this.

This is some of the most

This is some of the most blasphemous writings I have ever read.


Blaine was a goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus. How dare you!

I won't take the time to

I won't take the time to dispute your interpretation, you enjoy writing pseudo-intellectual gender politics nonsense, fine. What strikes me is the total and utter futility of the whole article. Aside from trying to sound like a smart, deep thinker to impress your friends, do you think anybody gives a rat's ass you see gay references everywhere? 

I think you anonymous (go

I think you anonymous (go figure) peeps need to calm down. There's always a different way to look at something, whether it's a book, movie, whatever. No one really knows what was going on psychologically in the creator's head... McTiernan could very well be a repressed latent homosexual. It's not criminal to ponder these things, even if it seems like it's being "read into" too much.

the person who wrote this,

the person who wrote this, has SERIOUS problems

The issue I find most

The issue I find most problematic with this reading is simply the way that the weaponry, violence & means of death are basically all construed as giant penises, phallic paraphernalia and exclusively male. Suggesting that violence is exclusively a male domain, hetero or homosexual (especially in light of the way that feminist academia often posits homosexuality as a male attempt to encroah upon feminine domains), is amazingly insulting in the modern era. It also pegs the writing as something taking a easy dig at uneducated (heterosexual, white) males, which in turn provokes the sort of response that is typical of the characterization of masculinity that is setup, specifically to be knocked down, within the article. That is to say, the entire reading feels like a strawman. It begs the question: is there a feminine way to commit violence / murder in the context of aggression based conflicts as a plot device? The sarcastic side of me suggests strangulation or asphyxiation as a form of smothering, both symbolic of the vagina during coitus -and- stereotypical maternal love. I'd further question the writer on what to make of the Predator, in the context of its masculinity and phallic representation, given that the designer (H R Giger)has openly stated that the face of the Predator is modelled on the vagina, or specifically, the supposedly male fear of Vagina Dentata

Egofreaky, Indeed, the


Indeed, the ideological trap of psychoanalytic criticism is that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar but, we have to admit, sometimes a cigar (such as Dutch's at the open of the film), is a phallic symbol (and, in this case, an instance of thematic foreshadowing).  Regarding your concern that psychoanalytic crit. pigeonholes the male character (and, by deduction through exclusion, ignores the female) is, clearly, what McTiernan set out to do with a predominately male cast and (almost) a token female character (though Anna does serve to counter and reinforce what would otherwise only be thematic coincidence).  I would concur that such a theme seems too easy for the viewing demographic, i.e. “preys” upon the male teen audience member, but we could argue, and it seems plausible enough, that the director desired this for his audience (expanding boundaries?) otherwise he would have found another genre in which to present similar ideas.  The female-derived violent act is not present in the form of asphyxiation or any other deviation from what we see because, as outlined in my analysis, it limited to brute force through penetration, thus giving us more evidence as to McTiernan's intentions.  As for Predator's vaginal face:  perhaps the figure is--since the pronoun "it" is prescribes to, a-hem, it--actually a female who, alas, don't like males (or, at least, doesn't care for gay ones).  Your interpretative guess is as good as mine.

You're reading waaaaay too

You're reading waaaaay too much into this. And I'm speaking as a bisexual who loves symbolism. You can pretty much interpret anything long and cylindrical to be "phallic" but it doesn't mean that it was intended that way. Everything else is a huge stretch too. Are you Freud reincarnated or something?

@EgofreakyActually, it's


Actually, it's typical of critical readings to see weaponry as representative of the phallus.  It comes from psychoanalytic criticism, in which everything taller than it is wide is phallic (penile), and anything wider than it is tall is yonic (vaginal). Also, suggesting that these images are phallic does not imply that violence lies within a strictly male domain; though, it would be almost fair to make that claim within the context of the film--meaning, in the world the film represents.

As for the Predator's face representing vagina dentata, well, I think that fits this reading rather nicely.  The face invokes a fear and subsequent rejection of the vagina, thereby, reinforcing the homosociality of the men in the film.

As far as trying to come to some conclusion about violence and its role in the female life, I think you've chosen the wrong film to try to make that argument.  This film is about men, and as such, it only makes claims about the lives and identities of men.  It is not concerned with those of women.  While some might find that problematic, I think it's fine for a film to choose a path and stick to it.

I think this reading is pretty clever and on point.  It fits right in with a both psychoanalytic criticism as well as New Historicism.  It's a Male Studies perspective, to be sure, but what exactly is wrong with that?

An interesting and

An interesting and thought-provoking article, well done.

However, I don’t entirely agree with your reading of the film.

There are inevitably many homoerotic overtones in any machismo-heavy film, in no small part due to the gay scene adopting the trappings of a hypermacho concept of the masculine image, and Predator is one seriously macho movie. However that does not mean the characters are a thinly veiled gay social group, living in fear of a shadowy ‘rogue gay’, waiting round a corner to infect them with the AIDS.

If you were talking about John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, I could buy it – anyone can be infected, the ‘virus’ is blood borne, there’s no easy way of telling who is and who isn’t infected, and the disease spreads rapidly through a tight social group  - and it’s quite probable that AIDS did have some influence on the writing of it. Even Alien, were it not released a couple of years before AIDS went high profile, could be plausibly claimed to offer this fear of infection by a dark other.

However I can’t see this as a valid reading of Predator. The creature is an external attacker, penetrating the bodies of a series of masculine archetypes, thus creating a thrill of vulnerability in the (mostly male) audience by tapping into their fear of being anally or orally violated by a stronger male attacker. The screen allows the male viewer to see a reality where far more able (in the traditional martial sense) man are penetrated and destroyed, thus creating a safe subconscious environment for accessing thoughts about their own inevitable violation and destruction in the same theorised situation.

Predator is less a film about the fear of enforced homosocialisation – the fear that an external source will reveal you to be homosexual, leading you to be shunned by your existing peers and exiled from your current surroundings – and more about the fear about violation by a stronger male aggressor. It’s about as much to do with gay social groups as prison rape is to do with consensual gay sex, and at a basic structural level is still the same haunted house template as so many other sci-fi/horror films.

That said, it’s still a cracking film. J

P.S. There are also plenty of other fascinating things Predator *does* say about the portrayal of masculinity without looking at homoerotic overtones – try thinking of it as the Mister Universe contest, but with somewhat more fatal consequences (well aside from dying at 40 from steroid use), and more mud – at the end of each task/scene, the judges/Predator disqualify/kill one of the contestants/soldiers, until the last one remaining completes the final test and is lifted aloft (in a chopper, natch) as the ultimate example of masculinity.

Mark 13,   Thank you for your

Mark 13,


Thank you for your feedback.  From what I gather, you break from my reading after the 5th paragraph.  However, as I understand it, your contention merely consists of what you and I would care to focus our energies upon:  Yes, there is an entire paper to be hand on homosexual socialization whereas my work is broader in scope (I was being mindful of my intended audience).  Yet your refutation of

The creature is an external attacker, penetrating the bodies of a series of masculine archetypes, thus creating a thrill of vulnerability in the (mostly male) audience by tapping into their fear of being anally or orally violated by a stronger male attacker. The screen allows the male viewer to see a reality where far more able (in the traditional martial sense) man are penetrated and destroyed, thus creating a safe subconscious environment for accessing thoughts about their own inevitable violation and destruction in the same theorised (sic) situation.

merely reiterates one of my main themes.  In short, I believe we are playing on the same team yet our POV differs in respect to priority because I’m pitching and you’re catching (pun there for those who will have it).

In the end, I think our commentary serves as an example of how much cognitive fodder the film offers its viewer.

That said, I also concur that Carpenter’s work has the same potential but, alas, this reading of The Thing is rather piecemeal in my opinion (and this coming from someone who ranks Carpenter as the greatest horror director of all time). 

This is clearly bunk. What's

This is clearly bunk.

What's next; reading homoerotic overtones into "Top Gun"?

This gay/AIDs-threat reading

This gay/AIDs-threat reading has been giving a few times before, if anyone cares to know. This isn't such new insightful view, just search "Predator gay film" and you can see the same basic analysis going back decades, perhaps beginning with this article here from 1988:


No one has to read into any

No one has to read into any homoerotic overtones in Top Gun. They are very much quite obvious.

I think everyone needs to chill on trying to call Michael's interpretation "bunk". He makes many valid points, and if you re-watch the film with them in mind, you can see where he's coming from. But, like paintings, movies are art, and any sort of art is open to the interpretation of each individual. What did Bill Murray whisper to Scarlett Johansson at the end of Lost in Translation?

You all keep telling Michael to get a life? Get one yourselves... don't forget that you're taking the time to bash him in the comments section of a blog. Pot, meet kettle... play nice.

Like George Carlin said:  "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes it's a big brown dick."

Forgive me gentle

Forgive me gentle reader @monroevillezombie. The troll was unintended. I thought I'd chosen an 80s movie that was so vastly, absurdly camp that no-one could possibly mistake my comment for anything but (gently supportive, comic) irony;



Although I'd have to agree with the critique of Orlandofriend here:

"Damn, no volleyball scene?"

The oddest thing is; I remember seeing Top Gun in the cinema on its release, and *totally* missing the HE overtones. Entirely. Incredible how single-mindedly blind a libido-charged 15 year old boy can be. "Look at the planes! Woosh! I wish I had a girlfriend with hair that big! Man I wish I had a beach to play volleyball on like that..."



I'm sorry I didn't take it as

I'm sorry I didn't take it as such. The rest of my response beyond that sentence was aimed at the other respondents, though. :)

What a complete load of

What a complete load of rubbish! You need to see a shrink buddy. Im amazed the amount of time you put into that gibberish.


I suppose Predator wearing a mask shows he's ashamed of his true colours, scared to come out of the closet, huh? LOL!

When the ultimate moral of

When the ultimate moral of the story is "be cautious, protect yourself, and you will survive," I fail to see what putting the story in a homosexual context adds to the meaning of the film. It's tantamount to saying "... in bed," after every line of dialogue. I get that it can be interpreted that way, but I don't get why whispering, "Hey... hey... what if those guys were doin' it?" is a worthwhile exercise.

In fact, I see this film as one of the less homoerotic action films of the 80s, because it involves none of the close contact wrestling matches between two partially clothed dudes yelling come-ons to each other that is so prevalent in, say, Commando, or Lethal Weapon. It's about men directing their macho energies against a common, external foe, rather than toward one another. Unless the Predator represents heterosexual oppression of the gays (an argument that could, perhaps, be made, what with the Predator sparing the woman, being one with nature and thus embodying the "gays are unnatural" argument, and having masculine and vaginal attributes), I don't really see what the gay angle does for this movie. The hunter is such a calculating, malicious villain that it hardly seems analogous to an infection incurred unintentionally through incautious interaction with an affectionate companion.

In each paragraph of your

In each paragraph of your argument against Michael's interpretation, you turned around and conceded that you see how it could be looked at his way (even repeating some of his points). Thus, not only did you weaken your own interpretation, you lent credence to his.

Either way, like I've repeatedly said, I don't know why all of you think you have to take the time to talk about how erroneous Michael's angle is. It's just as valid as if I said Predator was about man's struggle with coming to grips with choosing between the meatloaf and the catfish. And, if I took the time, I'm sure I could construct an argument for that statement that'd make someone say, "Yeah, I see that."

hilarious stuff,  this should

hilarious stuff,  this should be in the onion,  you guys are all taking this too seriously,  give the guy credit for his abilty to carry it to such depths, while keeping a straight face   bravo

LOL.Certainly that is a


Certainly that is a plausible way to interpret the movie - provided one puts on the magical gay glasses, of course.

Just like an ardent supporter of capitalism or communism or anarchism - you name it - prefers viewing the world though her own myopic spectacles. If you go looking for monsters, you're bound to find them. But that doesn't mean they actually exist in the real world.

You should at the very least comprehend that a movie backed by a major film studio is A) first and foremost a mass product B) that is expected to generate certain amount of profit C) and as such is necessarily born out of collaboration - and "collaboration". This is particularly true when talking about Predator. It had a green director. It had even greener script writing pair. And a rising star as a protagonist who was essentially responsible for turning a run-of-the-mill script (Hunter) into something a bit more ambitious.

So, why would you assume that the homosexual themes and underpinnings you seem to detect (that famous gaydar, again?) would automagically originate from the director? Why not from the brothers who came up with the script? Why not from ex-Governator who turned the script into yet something else? Why not from the cinematographer? Why not from the storyboard artist? And so on. H.R. Giger - by the way - had absolutely nothing to do with the visualization of Predator's character. And it was James Cameron who specifically came up with the idea of using mandibles ("vagina dentata") as a mouth.

Is it safe then to assume that all of these guys (I'm guessing) mentioned here and those not mentioned but who none-the-less contributed in the making of the movie would in fact be homophobes and/or latent gays because they all verifiably pitched in and turned the movie into what we can now all witness with our own eyes and ears - and with even open minds as well for some audiences at least?

Of course not.

And this is exactly why most people whether academic or non-academic simply have such a hard time calling professors of English language and/or literature scientists. Because making science just doesn't work this way. It doesn't come up with the answers first and then formulate convulated theory to back up such "findings" and finally claim to have the phenomena adequately explained.

Any sophomore with half a brain can write a beautiful essay that argues why black is white and white is actually black.

Some are quick to point that they have a right to express their point of view, and indeed they do. However implying that some people could be closet gays - let alone downright giving them such labels based on nothing but a whim and/or personal agenda - is in my opinion simply not cool. And definitely not something I personally would expect nor care to hear coming from a supposedly respectable college professor.

But I am old, I may simply expect too much from people in this day and age.

I do however wonder how many "edgy" long haired "liberal" thinking guys with fast receding hairlines we honestly need teaching English 101 in the universities all over the world who sport lots of tats (like the majority of Western people aged 40 and under) and who like to swear a lot as if that would actually lend them some street cred?

Could it be that these guys who are so frequently and so passionately infatuated with anarchistic ideas and writers (you know, wanting to "stick to the man"), who never quite got over listening to heavy metal either, or reading Stephen King, or watching horror flicks, who obviously still fantasize about being great writers some day, are actually doing more harm than good?

Because let's face it: we can only shoot their straw men down one by one, one talk at a time, one paper at a time and one blog post at a time. Who the hell really has the time do that? That's right: no one.

What a bunch of nonesense.

What a bunch of nonesense. This is just an 80's film. They were all the same just entertainment. You interpretation and overthinking is full of holes and simplistic Freudian nonesense. Cigars and water vines as penises? Fool. Leave psychology alone and stop finding meaning were there is none. What's next? find the mind of god in the script of Look Who's Talking? Fool...............



gotta admire the integrity it took to attack the author--and do so anonymously (wow, he really got your goat -  you had to create a fake email account to post here).  it also looks like there is some egg-wiping which needs to be done around the ol' face area:  the author has since published a bestseller (not in horror, but in politics).  given your tone, it sounds as if you are a disgruntled co-worker of his, keep crying sour grapes...the world really cares about an anonymous whiner too scared to put his/her reputation on the line by showing what, i have no doubt, you haven't done by comparison.

proud moment, eh?

This was fun:  By searching

This was fun:  By searching where the author work(ed) - http://www.brpressbooks.com/michael-gurnow/ - Southeast Missouri State University - and then logging in with the address stupidusATmailDOTcom but then doing a PW recovery, the server provides m********@g****.com

A database search on the university website has an exact first letter match with the exact number of letters in the first and last name for an individual who worked in the same department as the author.  The anonymous poster's name is Michael "Mike" Hogan, former professor of English (http://www.semo.edu/pdf/old/2007personnel.pdf / http://www.brpressbooks.com/michael-gurnow/).  Since he is retired, he wasn't lying when he said he was older:  graduated in '65 and online searches have his dob as 1941('older' by comparison to at least Gurnow's author photo on his publisher's website)

Send instructions to my contact email address: m********@g****.com = mikehogan@gmail.com

And as I predicted, Hogan has published nothing of consequence outside of a co-authored (seriously, how hard is it to write a textbook by yourself? - http://www.amazon.com/Sources-Purpose-Guide-Researched-Writing/dp/015506...) college textbook which is now out of print.

If you are going to attack someone online, you best be computer savvy enough to make sure your identity is thoroughly hidden.