Sunday, June 30, 2013

Can We Talk About The Great Gatsby?

Every now and then a movie comes out that I truly want to see, but I just happen to not get around to watching until too long after its release date. Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby came and almost went before I dragged my butt out of my apartment to go see it.

When we walked into the theater, I commented to my boyfriend Sergio that I didn’t think I would review this film. I’d already been tainted by reading other reviews and it’s too late in the run to really change any audience minds.

I said I would only write something if I had something unique or interesting to say about the film.
Boy do I.

The Gay Gatsby - Homoerotic Undertones in an American Classic

Now, I haven’t read the book in several years, so this analysis is taken exclusively from the film. No doubt elements of my hypothesis are present in the book, but I am not suitably equipped to make that assessment.

Let’s dispense with the chitchat.

Jay Gatsby is gay.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was known for his use of color symbolism. Yellow windows. Green light.… Pink suit?

OK maybe that one’s a stereotype. But let me continue. The instant Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moves in next door, Gatsby has him on his radar. In fact he spends a great deal of time spying on him from an upstairs window.

Nick is the only person in the entire history of this earth to have ever received a personal invitation to one of Gatsby's parties. Now I know what you're going to say - Gatsby is ostensibly trying to use Nick's position as Daisy's cousin to get in with her. And while he does use this connection eventually, in the beginning he mostly just takes Nick out to dinner and tries to convince him to go swimming with him.

Like a spaghetti noodle - straight until wet.

The instant Nick meets the Gatsby he's heard so much about, he is enamored.

He is so unduly impressed with this man he often describes him as a God on Earth despite his massive flaws and his obvious connections with organized crime. He is too blinded by love to notice his faults. Likewise, he vehemently rejects the advances of Myrtle's cousin (he is only convinced to stay with copious amount of liquor) and largely ignores the beautiful and fabulous Jordan Baker, who gives him numerous chances to... show her his Jordan Almonds.

You'd have to be gay to not notice her. Heck, I'm gay and I even notice her.

When Gatsby finally meets Daisy and their long overdue courtship is realized, it is less than steamy. Yes, there is an intimate connection between the two of them, but remember these are old friends who haven't seen each other in years. There is a sex scene in the movie, yes. But it was one of the few scenes that felt like it didn't gel with the narrative, perhaps for the fact that it wasn't included in the book - which is told from Nick's perspective exclusively. There is no textual evidence whatsoever that Jay and Daisy had a sexual relationship.

A man in love? Perhaps, but clearly not with anyone in frame.

Yes, he thinks he loves Daisy. But how does that explain his continuing friendship with Nick, long after he has brought the two together? For a man whose ultimate goal is to reunite with his long lost love, he seems awfully keen to keep her cousin around. His most intimate moments with Daisy - the shirt scene, the tour of his house, dancing in the grand ballroom - all occurred in the presence of one Nick Carraway. Nick, not wanting to be a bother, insisted he let the two tour alone, but Gatsby wouldn't take no for an answer.

Gatsby's plot to win Daisy back? To impress her with his decadent, glittery parties and sense of style.

Thus, I would like to put forward the argument that The Great Gatsby is not only a literary classic about the American Dream and the lengths to which one can go to pursue it, but of the last bastion of sexual repression in the sexually decadent time period of the Roaring Twenties. The film and book are fraught with women finding their sexuality, raucus parties, and adulterous affairs stacked up to the rafters, but the most deep and abiding love in the film is one that can not yet be expressed in carnal measures.

It is found in small places; in the shade of a tree in the garden, in a glance, in a smile, in the nervous adjustment of a cufflink.

And, in closing, I leave you with this.

Word Count: 795

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful take! I just watched both films back to back, and I will take your comments with me the next time I watch either film, but especially the 2013 film.