Archive for March, 2012

Homoeroticsising Hollywood film part 2

While Troy was made without the homoerotic undertones that existed in The Iliad. Slash fans have re-imagined the film to suit their needs and desires. A homoerotic subtext can be read into this film and it is this subtext that is re-appropriated by slash fans. Sometimes the opposite can happen and a film will be made where the subtext is far more noticeable and the filmmakers even recognize slash fans and make sure there is enough in the movie for the slash audience. This is the case with the 2004 re-make of the Starsky and Hutch TV series. The series was a police drama set in “Bay City” which focused on partners Starsky and Hutch and the cases they investigated. The movie tells the story of how these two men were thrown together, how they became partners and how they solved their first case together .
The original TV series from the 1970’s had a large slash fan following so when the series was adapted into a movie in 2004 the filmmakers decided to honor these fans. The film has a number of scenes that a slash fan can revel in where the homoerotic subtext that was read into the TV series becomes text in the movie. In the audio commentary by the director Todd Philips he clearly states that it was his intention to take subtext and turn it into text for his film. He wanted to use this element for comedic purposes but in doing so it lends a lot of material to the slash community. So, while there is no overtly homoerotic moments between the two men- they are never portrayed as gay, there is however enough material to make this a very Slashable movie. The opening credits set the relationship between the two characters with the soundtrack of a love song that the director says is Starsky and Hutches theme and this homoerotic subtext can be seen throughout the movie until the end where, thinking they may face death, Starsky and Hutch tell each other how good it has been to work together and be partners. The use of music to explain their character development is used regularly throughout the film with other songs about love and togetherness that play over emotional scenes between Starsky and Hutch. This theme over the opening credits already sets up a more romantic idea between the two men implying something more to their relationship that is not openly being shown. Starsky and Hutch is the perfect movie to appeal to slash fans as its focus is the relationship between the men. They have a close friendship and come to rely and respect each other. This kind of close personal bond between two men is the basis for slash as their friendship can been re-interpreted by the slash community.
Slash fiction follows the model of taking an existing friendship between two male characters and writing a story that details how it grows from a friendship into something romantic and, in many, sexual. It is important to slash writers to develop their stories; slash is not just pornography and the romance is as important as the sexual encounter. A film such as Starsky and Hutch that sets up an important male friendship can be taken further by slash fans. They can write fiction that takes this partnership to the next level where it becomes romantic and then sexual. Slash fiction is the amalgamation of romance and pornography. Explicit sex scenes are written after much character development and storytelling that leads up to the sex. If women supposedly get emotional satisfaction from romance novels and men supposedly get sexual satisfaction from pornography, then slash writers offer a curious mixture of the two in a “romantic pornography”.

“sexually explicit sequences often constitute only a small section of lengthy and complex narratives, slash is not so much a genre about sex as it is a genre about the limitations of traditional masculinity and about reconfiguring male identity, most slash fans concede that erotic pleasure is central to their interest in the genre” (Jenkins, Textual Poachers 190-1).

The film itself gives the audience a hint at something more romantic developing between the two leads and offers a starting point for slash fans. In particular the scene in which Starsky and Hutch take out two cheerleaders and in a ploy to impress them Hutch begins to play his guitar and sing to them. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Hutch, Starsky has been using what he thought was sugar to sweeten his coffee but it is in fact cocaine. Starsky begins to act a little strangely and hallucinates a blue bird on Hutch’s shoulder. What makes this scene such an obvious moment for the two men is while Hutch sings his Ballard of “don’t give up on me, baby” he is not looking at the women but in fact singing to Starsky who is sitting there awe struck looking at Hutch. They seem to be in their own world where, just for this moment, there is no one but them. The women are forgotten and to a slash fan this is the moment when Starsky falls in love with Hutch. The camera moves from both men showing their expressions and emotions. They look at each other with love written all over their faces both moved by Hutches song and both caught up in the moment. We never once see how the women react to the song or to the fact they have been forgotten by the men, the female characters simple no longer exist in this moment as it’s a moment only shared by Starsky and Hutch that we as an audience have been allowed to witness.
By this point in the film the friendship and partnership between the two is cementing and when Starsky finally snaps because of the cocaine Hutch is there to look out for him and even carries Starsky to bed in his arms putting him to bed and saying to him, “go to sleep tiny dancer”. Hutch gives Starsky his own name a term of endearment meant only for Starsky.
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Of course these gay undertones are more easily picked up by slash fans and shortly after this scene, while Starsky is asleep, Hutch ends up in a threesome with the two cheerleaders defusing the homoerotic nature of the previous scene so that a non-slash audience would not complain or be offended by the implied homoerotism.
The film also has a sequence known as “the break up montage”, where our two main leads have had a falling out. Starsky and Hutch are no longer working together and have gone their separate ways with both of them suffering because of it. Both characters are shown as sad and lost through this montage as Starsky begins to reminisce about the good times they shared. The sequence is played for laughs but also it helps to emphasize the homoerotic undertones. With another romantic Ballard playing over it and scenes such as the two characters running along the beach together wearing matching Starsky and Hutch t-shirts laughing and playing about. It’s almost like they are frolicking in the sun and sand, not an image normally associated with two males.
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Also it leads to a later scene when they make up and decide to get back together and work as partners again. Starsky cries as he tries to apologize to Hutch, Hutch forgives him and hugs him kisses him on the cheek. This can been seen as an obvious moment of there being something more to their relationship as you would not expect a kiss between two men even something a touching as a kiss on the check to show Hutch has forgiven Starsky for their fight. It is these tender moments that can be re-told in fan fiction as they are good scenes to elaborate on. This scene already has a romantic under current and therefore can be re-appropriated by the female fans having it play out according to their desires.
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It is worth saying that during the writing of this essay Brokeback Mountain came to UK cinemas. The importance of this is that Brokeback Mountain is the first film to be made by a Hollywood studio and Director, Ang Lee, which deals with the relationship of two men who fall in love. The fact that it tackles the subject matter of men in a same sex relationship makes it not only the first to do so but a very important film in today’s society. It breaks new ground by showing something that Hollywood and mainstream cinema do not like to show, two men falling in love. It is important to say this film is not a gay film but it is a romance. The two male leads were straight and just happen to fall in love with each other forcing them to deal with a relationship new to both of them and not accepted by the society they are part of. This is the kind of film slash fans have been waiting to see as it pulls together many of the things they enjoy about slash. The film is about two men that form a close bond and a friendship. They are thrown together by circumstances and out of these they realize there is something more developing between them. They decided to take that next step to take the bond that has grown between them and cross the line from friendship into romance. They enter a romantic relationship and a sexual one but unfortunately due to the world they come from it is a relationship that can never fully be fulfilled.
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This film will hopefully open the way for more films that are not afraid to include an openly homosexual relationships. Other directors may also see that having a same sex romance in their film will not automatically make it part of the independent and art house cinema but can have cross over appeal with mainstream cinema. This is a hope for many slash fans who want mainstream culture to realize that same sex romance or a more homoerotic feeling in your film does have a wider appeal. Brokeback Mountain proves that the subject matter can have mainstream appeal. As well as the very fact that this film is hugely popular with women, so there is a large fan base out there for it. Sight and Sound and Empire magazine both very different magazines state that the film has female appeal due to the tender and emotional treatment of the relationship between the two young cowboys. The fact that this film has been highly accepted by female cinema attendees proves that women not just slash fans are attracted to the idea of same sex love. From talking to various people that have seen the film there is defiantly a higher number of women in the audience and this group has a full spread of age ranges and interests. You don’t have to be a slash fan to enjoy this film it also proves that women who may not have heard of slash find same sex relationships emotional and romantic. It proves that society is changing and a film like Brokeback Mountain is far more accepted than it would have been a couple of years ago and therefore that today’s society is ready to accept more films like it.
Just because society is ready for more films like this does not mean that slash fans will stop slashing the rest of mainstream cinema. Slash fans will still take existing characters and films and re-appropriate them according to their desire. Slash is still about erotic pleasure as much as women being able to take something and re-invent for it themselves. Slash offers women a kind of power within their fandom’s to take the material and use it for themselves, to own a very unique part of their viewing culture that non slash fans cannot. Slash provides its fans a way of deriving an extra pleasure from the narrative as well as offering them a chance to re-create that narrative according to their wishes. Slash is also non commercial as it is made by fans for themselves as well as for other fans. It is not made for any commercial or profit making needs as it is about the freedom to express your ideas, opinions and desires without the boundaries a commercial enterprise would impose on it.

“I think part of what makes slash so alluring is not so much that it’s taboo, although that does give it an extra edge, but that we create it, our community, unhindered by all the rules of creative writing professors, of publishers and of marketers. We create the fiction we want to read and, more importantly, we allow ourselves to react to it. If a story moves or amuses us, we share it; if it bothers us, we write a sequel; if it disturbs us, we may even re-write it! We also continually recreate the characters to fit our images of them or to explore a new idea. We have the power and that’s a very strong siren. If we want to explore an issue or see a particular scenario, all we have to do is sit down and write it. It gets read and instantly reacted upon in a continuing dialogue among fans. You can’t do that very often in the ‘real’ world. For me, that’s one of the strongest callings of slash in particular and fandom in general.”
– Kim Bannister, “Desert Blooms,” SBF 2, August 1993

Slash is its own culture and while it is wonderful that Hollywood is opening up to the idea if showing us same sex relationships slash fan will still re-appropriate and re-create other films and narratives to add to this culture. A slash fan can not help to see the homoerotic nature of a film such as Troy or the homoerotic subtext that lies through a film such as Starsky and Hutch. Slash culture is about the power and freedom fans can have over their fandom as well as the erotic pleasure this allows them.

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Bedlam – a surprisingly good and creepy little drama from Sky living UK

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I only just got round to watching this series and like many British shows it was only 6 eps so finished it in 2 evenings. I remembered the trailers when they were on and how creepy and inviting they looked, truly gripped my interest and were very well made so it’s good to finally see if the show lived up to the imagery of the trailers. This series joins my collection of creepy supernatural shows like American Horror Story as I love relocating the haunting genre to families and social groups and seeing the worlds of supernatural versus insanity and thrillers verses normal human lives combine. As also a brit i love british dramas and this one is as good as some of the other supernatural shows I’ve watched over the years such as Being Human and Hex. The series focuses on an upscale apartment block called ‘Bedlam Heights’, renovated from the structure of an abandoned mental asylum, and the strange hauntings that occur there. New arrival Jed Harper (Theo James) possesses the ability to see the ghosts, which are generally not visible to others, and receives visions of their deaths. The hauntings are generally malevolent, and it is up to Jed to determine the spirits’ motives and thwart their goals. His flatmates are his cousin, Kate (Charlotte Salt), who manages the complex; Ryan (Will Young) who is troubled by the recent violent death of his brother; and Molly (Ashley Madekwe), a childhood friend of Kate and Jed.
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The show was better than I thought it would be didn’t think 6 eps was enough to flesh out the characters and the world they inhabit but by the end of the first ep you know your character types and motives. Jed is a reluctant hero type plagued by his demons and life spent in and out of mental asylums because of people not believing in his ability to see ghosts. He’s all broody most of the time and every time he gets a chance to step into the light and have a better life something conspires against him to make him miserable again. The show does at least try to find ways to show underneath his sadness and loneliness he is a good kind man that actually cares greatly for people and if it wasn’t for his fate as a ghost seeing mystery solving outcast he would have been a regular fun guy. The only thing I didn’t like about the characters is that they could never make up their mind who they fancied or liked, I’m not a romantic so nothing bores me more than love interests and love triangles when there are much more interesting things going on like dead people stalking you. So the fact that every episode someone would fancy someone else and in the case of Ryan’s character couldn’t decide if he was gay or straight did get on my nerves. As for the 2 girls Molly is a pleasant girl and I feel bad for the way she is sometimes treated and by the end I understand why she left the way she did I would have to get out of a place like that. As for Kate I hated her she’s the kind of girl I just can’t stand, playing men for her own gain, vain and selfish there is little to like about her and I found it hard to feel sorry for her when she was getting haunted and plagued by horrible visions and nightmares.
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But away from the characters the show has a good atmosphere and it mixes traditional supernatural story telling with modern young adults just trying to live their lives. Another extra idea in the mix is that by living in a converted asylum are the people themselves being infected by the madness that once ran rampant here. Kate’s dreams and visions put her more and more on edge that you could question her own sanity, does insanity breed insanity, is it the environment that changes a person and inspires dark acts or was it always in the nature of that person to lose touch and do evil acts. This is reflected as you find out more about the background of the asylum and its inmates some of the original occupants where put in their not because they truly deserved to be but because it was convenient to those who they had offended. For example a serving girl who got pregnant by her master, instead of owning up to the affair has her thrown into Bedlam to have the baby causing her to go mad with grief and then she is lobotomised to silence her covering up the conspiracy. It isn’t surprising Bedlam has so many angry ghosts and it defiantly holds with the lore that those that die violent and unfulfilled deaths are imprisoned on earth not allowed to move on till they find justice or a conclusion that makes them satisfied. The ghosts of Bedlam are more than restless they are full of hate and evil now that their cells are the homes of happy families, couples and people they want to make sure these inhabitants feel the pain and sorrow they feel.
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The series is stylishly done though as a horror nerd it wasn’t creepy enough to scare me but it has great potential to actually be very scary. The ghosts fade in and out, watch from secluded corners and stalk characters vigorously. The ghosts leave creepy messages sketched onto walls, petals scattered on floors and horrific drawings on children’s bedrooms. The show is well filmed part surreal in its imagery and harsh in it open portrayal of hauntings, Jed’s visions are chaotic and violent, Kate’s dreams bright and harsh but terrifying. The show had a decent budget behind it so it looks realistic and a very artistic side as well, Kate drowning in the bath tub sinking further into an abyss, a dark pool of water waiting for someone to break the surface and reach far enough inside to reach her. This also reflects her as a character, her shell of vanity and cruelty hides the fact she is lost and scarred, living up to the pressures of her father, scarred of her feelings and not wanting to get close to people causing her to drown in her own self-imposed pit. Kate’s dreams are one of the most disturbing scenes of the series, she is lost and alone wearing nothing but her nightdress, running the corridors of Bedlam that she should know but somehow are unfamiliar to her and are cold and empty. These scenes are filmed very brightly and slowly she realised she’s not alone but a body of a woman wearing a cloth bag over her head is lying in wait for her causing her more grief and unsettling us in these surreal images.
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It is a shame that after 6 eps the series wasn’t renewed as there was so much more to tell and the story was not finished but for a good little supernatural series this is very much worth it.

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Homoeroticising the Hollywood film part 1

For many years it has been a taboo to depict homosexual relationships in mainstream cinema. This subject matter is often only dealt with in the independent sector or found in foreign films that originate in countries which look upon homosexuality differently from the way it is seen by Hollywood. The only films to deal with homosexuality in mainstream cinema and Hollywood cinema are the camp comedies such as To Wong Fu thanks for everything Julie Newmar and The Birdcage. Gay characters are normally reduced to stereotypes, the comic relief and the gay best friend. Films dealing with the relationship between two males as something more than friends have only ever been a subject for art house and independent films such as the work of Gregg Araki, the director of Mysterious Skin. The work of Gregg Araki comes from the 1990’s New Queer cinema movement in independent cinema but it was still only in independent film that gay relationships were portrayed. It shows that the world is still a small minded place when it comes to depicting homosexuality on the big screen. Homosexuality still offends many and thus we have not seen a gay hero or gay lead in a Hollywood picture. So what happens if you want to see male romantic relationships being depicted? Well, the answer is to use your imagination. In recent years a phenomenon has begun to get more notice and recognition and that is the idea of Slash. So what is slash? Well, simply put it comes from the sign on a computer keyboard, the back slash key. Those who wanted to see male relationship decided to take male leads and pair them with each other in fictional tales. The idea is that you watch a film and it occurs to you that something more is going on between the male characters. Therefore you decided to write a story about how these men are more than just friends. These stories are known as fanfics . The pairing of the male characters is called slash because when you write about the pairing you write the two characters names separated by the backslash symbol e.g. Aragorn/Legolas (a favorite pairing among Lord of The Ring fans).
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“Slash fan fiction, to give it its proper title, describes scenes between existing media characters (or real people such as musicians, actors and sports stars) that are usually homoerotic, often explicit and almost exclusively written by young, heterosexual females” Elisabeth Easther: Metro Paper.
“Slash fan fiction, which posits same-sex relationships between the (mostly) male series protagonists, originated with Kirk/Spock fan fiction in the 1970s; the term slash derives from the “/” employed to denote a specific romantic pairing (Jenkins, Textual Poachers 186-7). Slash fan fiction has been discussed by a number of academic writers (cf. the work of Henry Jenkins, Constance Penley, Camille Bacon-Smith, Patricia Frazer Lamb and Diana L. Veith). It has been described as “romantic pornography,” as a critique of traditional masculinities, because quite often traditionally “feminine” traits such as nurturing and the open declaration of feelings are extended onto the male characters, or as a utopian vision of a continuum of male homosocial and homoerotic desires, because the most popular formula of slash writing sees two men who were formerly best friends suddenly discover their physical attraction to each other.” Susanne Jung, Queering Popular Culture: Female Spectators and the Appeal of Writing Slash Fan Fiction University of Tübingen, Germany

Slash fiction as well as fan art only depicts same sex relationships, the characters you are slashing will be either be both male or both female. Most surprising about this phenomenon is that the majority of Slash is in fact written by women. This opens up an idea that does not often get talked about; the idea that women do fantasies about male on male sex. It is common place to find that men fantasies about women and lesbianism but people are only just beginning to realize that women have similar fantasies about men and homosexuality. One of the major aspects of Slash is that it is done because women find it erotic. Slash may be about a wish to see homosexual relationships but it is because of desire we want to see this. Slash offers women a chance to indulge in their own sexual fantasies, if film will not offer women depictions of what many find erotic then slash becomes a very important and fulfilling option to women.
Although slash is only just being recognized it can be traced back to the 1960’s especially within the Star Trek Fandom . One of most popular fandoms was that of the Star Trek community and it was with this community where slash was first seen.

“Slash, or K/S fiction, represents a long-standing tradition in the women’s fan-writing community which poses ways of con¬structing homoerotic fantasies employing the series characters. Slash, as many writers have now noted, represents a powerful form of resistant reading, an active appropriation and transformation of dominant media content into forms of cultural production and circulation that speak to the female fan community’s needs and interests. Slash has proven empowering to its female fan readers and writers, helping them to articulate and explore their sexual fantasies, bringing them together into a community across various barriers which isolate them. Slash, by translating politics into the personal, gave them a way to speak about their experiences and commitments. Some members of the Gaylaxians have embraced slash as a form which can also express their fantasies about the series and their desires for its future development. Science Friction, a Star Trek: The Next Generation slash zine distributed at the 1992 Gaylaxicon, specifically presented itself as a response to the failure of the letter-writing campaign: “Our motto is: If Paramount can’t give us that queer episode, just make it so!” Henry Jenkins, “Out of the closet and into the Universe”.
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The Star Trek fandom was the first to really start addressing issues of slash and how it represented the fantasies of its female community. Many other TV shows also achieved this female appreciation such as Starsky and Hutch, Blakes 7 and Battlestar Galactica but still slash had not been recognized in relation with films. Slash has primarily been associated with the world of TV shows and more specifically sci-fi and fantasy shows. This may be due to the type of individuals that are attracted to such shows already being more open to fantasy and therefore more open to indulge in their own desires. As well as this, sci-fi/fantasy series can offer more characters therefore more character development for its fans to concentrate on and offers a longer running time with more scenarios to involve characters in. But things are changing and movie fandoms are becoming far more slash friendly. Maybe it is because women are now more open about their sexual fantasies and more willing to express what they find erotic.
There have been gay icons in film for many years. Stars such as James Dean have been adopted by the gay community but slash fans are not interested in gay stars. What they want is to see depictions of love and sex between men. Maybe it is the still slightly homophobic nature of Hollywood that denies movie slash that has kept knowledge of slash fiction quiet, but no matter what people know or don’t know about slash it is clear that it has become highly popular and a far more noticeable part of fan culture.
From this the questions arise: ‘What makes a film Slashable?’ and ‘How can what has been talked about in relationship to TV show fan culture be applied to Hollywood film?’ Using specific examples, I will attempt to answer these two questions. I will address issues of turning subtext into text and how old TV shows that were slashed have been re-made into films that recognize and show the slash. I will also look at how films have been made so that any homoerotic element that would have been there has been written out so it is no longer historically accurate but will not upset homophobic viewers. This leads me onto my first case study, Troy by Wolfgang Petersen. Troy details the events that take place in Homer’s book, The Iliad. It is the story of the Greek war against the Trojans after the young Trojan prince, Paris, steals the beautiful Helen away and the various heroes that stood on each side: Hector, Achilles and Patroclus. This film was a prime example of re-writing a historical text to exclude something Hollywood would not want to promote: the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. It was implied in the book that they were lovers. The film instead offers them up as cousins to explain their closeness as well as introducing a female character as a love interest for Achilles.
It is a known fact that during Greek time homosexuality was not viewed in the same way as it is in today’s society. Men would often have young boys as lovers until these boys grew to men . Also, homosexuality was promoted within Greek armies. Warriors were encouraged to have a male lover on the battlefield as it was thought they would be more likely to fight for a lover than a simple comrade in arms. The relationship between Achilles and Patroclus was one of the most famous relationships in Ancient Greek society; their bond has been admired and respected. Yet this homoerotic relationship was not something a Hollywood studio wanted to depict in their film and was therefore changed to suit how it would be looked upon in today’s society. Even with this knowledge many slash fans still see something to Achilles and Patroclus relationship of “cousins”. They show enough of a bond and closeness for these two characters to be slashed. Slash fans know there was meant to be something more so it is not that far a stretch of the imagination to think of these men as lovers rather than cousins. From the first time you see them spar, two handsome men chasing each other round Greek ruins obviously both familiar and comfortable round each other; you can read a more homoerotic element to the characters. The way Patroclus admires and looks up to Achilles and the way in return Achilles feels protective and mentoring towards Patroclus shows they are very close so even without any overtly homoerotic tones slash fans can still read far more into the characters.
However Achilles/Patroclus is not the favorite pairing amongst Troy slash fans. The slash pairing for this film that most fans write fiction about is in fact Hector/Paris. However, these two characters are not only brothers, but Hector is married and Paris is the reason for the war in the first place as he fell in love and ran away with Helen. So how is it possible to slash these two characters? It is the very nature of slash fans to re-imagine and recreate according to their desires. Hector and Paris make a desirable pairing due to the nature of their relationship. They are close to one another, they respect and care for one another, they fight for one another and they protect each other. This relationship can be explained as brotherly love but this is no barrier for slash fans. Since slash fans have a desire to see one taboo relationship (homosexuality) many do not view a taboo such as incest as offensive. Slash fans see two attractive men that share a bond of love which can be re-interpreted according to the slash fan’s desires. It is this reason that also allows slash fans to overlook and, a majority of the time ignore the female characters. Hectors wife and Helen herself are simply put out of mind so as not to intervene in the world recreated in slash fiction.
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There are three major scenes in Troy that prove to slash fans the nature of Hector and Paris’s relationship. The first is the boat scene where Paris first tells Hector he has taken Helen with him back to Troy. This scene includes the line “do you love me brother?” spoken by Paris to Hector. The use of the word love shows just how strong the feelings are between these brothers. Paris craves his brother’s love as strongly as Hector later gives him his love. At first angry with his young brother when Hector learns that Paris is willing to return to Sparta with Helen to face certain death for what he has done, Hector cannot deny his brother. Hector is prepared to face his brothers actions knowing it will lead to war but he would rather face that than see his brother killed.
Troy Brothers
The second scene that had the attention of slash fans was what is known as “The leg hug scene”. Paris has challenged Menelaus to the right for Helen but after realizing he is no match succumbs to fear and crawls to Hectors feet holding onto his brother’s leg for dear life. Menelaus shouts for vengeance and the right to kill Paris but as he strikes Hector replies “he is my brother” and kills Menelaus first. Hector proves his love for Paris when he kills to protect him as he would rather break the promise for Paris to fight Menelaus alone than see his brother killed. The other part of this scene is the very fact that Paris clings to his brother’s leg. It is an intimate connection; their bodies joined at that point, their emotional connection made physical. It is very clear from this scene that Paris is not a warrior; he is a lover not a fighter and though he tries he never stood a chance against an older and more experience warrior like Menelaus. Hector is a fighter; it is up to him to fulfill his role as the older brother and, to a slash fan, his role as lover needing to protect the person he loves. Hector is older and more experienced and loyal to his younger brother and it is these character traits that also define their roles as lovers, Hector is the “aggressive” while Paris is the “passive”.
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The third scene is also the last time that Hector and Paris appear on screen together in a final tender farewell to each other. Hector goes to face Achilles after he mistakes him for his “cousin” Patroclus and killed Patroclus. Hector says his goodbyes to his family before this battle, not knowing if it is indeed his last. This scene is one of beauty and tenderness as he kisses Paris’s forehead, holding his face in his hands. This is a moment normally shown between lovers rather than brothers, such a tender and personal show of love and devotion. This scene shows the conclusion of the two slash relationships Troy has established. Achilles, after retiring from the battle, returns after the death of Patroclus by Hectors hand. He is so grieved by the passing of his “cousin” that he wants nothing more than revenge on Hector for taking away the person most dear to him. Hector, who fights for honor and to protect those he loves, accepts this challenge but is killed by Achilles forever parting him from Paris.
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Tale of Two Sisters – my favourite horror film ever reviewed!!

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Eun-Ju: “Do know what’s really scary? You want to forget something. Totally wipe it off your mind. But you never can. It can’t go away, you see. And… And it follows you around like a ghost.”

Introduction
Directed by Ji-Woon Kim, who also wrote and directed The Quiet Family, later to be re-made as Happiness of the Katakuris by Takashi Miike, A Tale Of Two Sisters proves that it’s not just Japan that is leading the way for the horror genre. This beautiful Korean film may borrow some of the iconography of Japanese films such as Hideo Nakata’s Ring but it also brings its own unique twist to the horror genre. This film feels much like that of an M. Night Shyamalan picture in terms of atmosphere and original plot twists, making it similar to Western horrors such as The Sixth Sense and also Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others. These Western movies are the best examples of Western films that have captured the subtle yet suspenseful feeling of Eastern horror. A Tale of Two Sisters proves itself as one of the best horrors of recent years, drawing on elements of the aforementioned films while crafting an original and terrifying tale of its own. It shows us that less is more, and that a great deal of fear can be created from the unseen.

“Sublime terror rests in the unseen – the ultimate horror. Things seen, fully described, explained, and laid to rest the last reel or paragraph are mere horrors….” (Rockett, 1982, p.132)

“The reason these films are popular is that audiences want to see something that’s forbidden. All these films toy with the rage and anger we have within us” (Carpenter – The Aesthetics of Fright – Dickstein 1980)

Synopsis
The film centres round two sisters, Su-mi and Su-yeon, who have recently been released from a mental institute, where they were hospitalised following the death of their mother. They have now returned to live with their father and new step mother, Eun-Ju, where it becomes apparent that this home is not the happy place Eun-Ju would like it to be. Almost immediately strange things begin to occur in the house. Unusual events, which only certain people can see when they are emotionally unbalanced or under extreme stress, begin to occur. It is not made clear whether these occurrences are supernatural, the result of the father’s medication, the step mother’s plotting, or if they’re the fabrication of an unsettled mind. As the plot unravels, so does a past trauma that could explain much of the behaviour of the lead characters. But as things appear to become clear they start to spiral into a new world of insecurity, lies, deceit and distrust. We are left wondering if the supernatural element is the most plausible answer, leaving us questioning what we’ve seen and heard in this movie.

Genre Theory
The film plays out like a melancholy melodrama, subtle and haunting and with the characters each carrying their own emotional burdens that have been made worse by a possible supernatural element. What makes this film even more interesting is the human drama that exists at its core. If we leave aside the horror, we are still left with an interesting movie about the breakdown of a family unit. How does a family cope with the death of such a significant member as the mother? How do children cope with such an important person being replaced by someone they neither like nor trust? How does a father deal with such a situation, torn between his daughters and his new wife? How does a step mother deal with having daughters that dislike her? By being caught up in the human drama, we are drawn further into this tale and become very interested in the lives of this family unit. Our sympathy naturally lies with the young girls; we feel cold towards the increasingly withdrawn and absent father, and find the step mother untrustworthy and creepy at times. By being so involved in their world, it therefore scares and unnerves us even more when things become unsettling. The strange events really get to you; the supernatural element is far more unnerving because you really feel for the characters and the situation they are in. The movie moves at a subtle pace, allowing us to really get to know the characters and their problems. There aren’t as many scares as you would expect, and it is not over-reliant on the use of jumps, as seen in recent Western horrors. Instead scenes are built upon suspense and tension, creating an atmosphere where horror isn’t revealed until you are at breaking point. You keep expecting something to happen, but the longer you wait, the less happens. Finally you are lulled into a false sense of security, believing that nothing will be there to scare you, only for it to hit you when you least suspect.

Scoring And Cinematography
The film has a beautifully composed score that works perfectly with the mood of the film. Like the movie itself, it is both subtle and atmospheric, never overwhelming the scene but instead adding to it. The music is never overly dramatic, and sometimes it exists as a simple noise in the background of the scene, like the sound of wind blowing through trees. The use of silence and sound effects is essential to the feel of this movie; the scariest moments are played out in complete silence, with the only sound being the breathing of our characters or the creaking of floorboards. Little noises in the background or the absence of any music in the scene affords us more focus on the developing events. There is, however, one melody that plays over many of the scenes of human drama, a pleasant tune that almost reminds us of happy times forgotten. This tune is memorable and seems to symbolize the mood and emotions of the characters. As the movie goes on this melody gradually begins to take on a sadder tone, as any happiness inspired by this piece of music is lost or forgotten in the sorrow of the characters and their increasingly difficult situations.
The camera itself switches from following the characters and their conversations to showing us views of empty rooms and lonely corridors. The camera nearly always follows one of the characters’ views so we see what the characters sees, whether it be who they’re talking to, or the room they’re looking into. This also applies to the supernatural element, as even the possible ghost gets to look upon the other characters and we see them from its point of view. This allows us some more interesting views of the family, with the camera looking up at characters from below surfaces. By the end of the movie, when events have become more frantic, the camera doesn’t distance itself from the characters; instead it tries to stay close to them and their actions.

Mise-En-Scene
The film is steeped in richness, not only in the portrayal of the characters but also in the interior design of the house. But despite its lush, green wallpaper that is of a William Morris design, and expensive furniture that fills rich-looking rooms similar to the interior design work of Laura Ashley, this house still has a coldness to it, a loneliness and hollowness to the atmosphere. As mentioned this film does share some of the iconography used by Hideo Nakata in Ring. The most pertinent example of this is that it is a woman that provides the element of fear in this house, as represented by the step mother as well as the possible ghost that is haunting the house. This iconography includes a very famous visual motif that has been seen in many Eastern horrors: the image of a woman whose face is either fully or partially concealed by a veil of dark hair. Nakata’s famous character Sadako from the Ring movies has cast a legacy across the genre, with nearly every Eastern horror since Ring making nods to its famous climactic scene. Despite this having become a familiar image it never fails to scare the viewer, especially Western viewers who are not accustomed to this image.

Conclusion
“One might say that the true subject of the horror genre is the struggle for recognition of all that our civilization represses and oppresses: its re-emergence dramatised, as our nightmare, as an object of horror, a matter for terror, the ‘happy ending’ (when it exists) typically signifying the restoration of repression.” (Wood.1979, p10)

Where this film succeeds, when most horrors made in the last 20 years have failed, is in the simple fact that it has gone back to the classic days of cinema, where you didn’t need to completely show your monster to scare your audience. It relies on the idea that less is more; you are far more scared of what you don’t see. This film doesn’t rely on glorified monsters or mass bloodshed; it doesn’t follow the recent formulas for contemporary horror, like the “monster of the week” or the slasher cycles. A Tale Of Two Sisters understands that you do not need to look further than your own home and family to find things to scare you. This film also respects its audience as intelligent, socially aware people; it doesn’t just target the teenage audience but also the older members of the family. It allows us to look into a family unit and relate to the problems they have as a family before we become aware of a more supernatural element. It allows us to vicariously experience our fears over issues that could happen to us, such as the death of a family member or re-marriage, and then exploits and intensifies these fears. It truly follows the theory of the return of the repressed, for these characters have repressed, and are oppressed by, so much that it’s no surprise that it should manifest itself in such a terrifying manner.

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New Queer Cinema: Gregg Araki

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Introduction
During the 1990’s a new movement in American independent film began to emerge. This movement was known as New Queer Cinema. New Queer cinema was a phrase coined by B. Ruby Rich about a new set of provocative and inventive lower budget gay and lesbian films. Amongst these were films such as Gregg Araki’s The Living End and Gus Van Sant’s My own Private Idaho. I will go on to talk about Gregg Araki in more detail in particular his film Mysterious Skin.

What is New Queer Cinema?
New queer cinema can be seen as a more commercially viable form of the gay cinema that was part of the 1960’s avant guard and featured filmmakers such as Kenneth Anger. These films were thought of as more underground or experimental compared to the new queer cinema that has a more recognizable narrative form and a broader appeal. New queer cinema was a move away from “camp” comedies and the stereotypes of gay people. Stereotypes such as a gay villain representing the fear of aids or the opposite in the gay best friend were now replaced by more realistic characters. Homosexual characters were no longer the problem or the source of amusement but also these films weren’t out to create positive or safe images of homosexuality. These new queer films are confrontational and aggressive featuring a harsher truth about homosexuality in the modern day.

Theory
B. Ruby Rich states in The Queer Cinema The Film Reader Chapter.
“Of course, the new queer films and videos aren’t all the same, and don’t share a single aesthetic vocabulary or strategy or concern. Yet they are nonetheless united by a common style. Call it “Homo Pomo”: there are traces in all of them of appropriation and pastiche, irony, as well as a reworking of history with social constructionism very much in mind. Definitively breaking with older humanist approaches and the films and tapes that accom-panied identity politics, these works are irreverent, energetic, alternately minimalist and excessive. Above all, they’re full of pleasure.”

Characteristics of New Queer Cinema.
There is no one characteristic that connects these queer films they don’t share a look or style. What brings them together under the term queer is the sexual identities of the characters. Characters may not even be gay or striate but happy to drift between different sexualities. What these films share is the portrayal of characters that are more open minded about their sexual preference. These films predominantly feature young people dissatisfied with the society their part of and feel they are stuck in lives that have no meaning or direction. These films deal with “teen angst” the unsatisfied youth culture whose lives are being wasted; they have no jobs, no direction, come from broken homes and childhood traumas. They don’t equate sex with love which is why they are so willing to flit between sexual partners and experiences and when love is found more often or not it goes unfulfilled or is twisted and in the worse cases bring nothing but harm and death. New Queer cinema is about this generation of youth and how they deal with there day to day lives. It doesn’t ask you to feel sorry for them or even understand them it just confronts you with the harsh truth and reality of their lives.
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The Cinema of Gregg Araki
Leading this movement and very much making up a large body of work is gay director Gregg Araki. Gregg Araki was born in 1959 and has been making independent movies since 1987. His body of work includes:
CrEEEEps! (2006) (announced)
Mysterious Skin (2004)
This Is How the World Ends (2000) (TV)
Splendor (1999)
Nowhere (1997)
The Doom Generation (1995)
Totally F***ed Up (1993)
The Living End (1992/I)
The Long Weekend (O’Despair) (1989)
Three Bewildered People in the Night (1987)
His films have always been highly provocative and in your face combining the slacker generation principles with a fluidity of gender orientation and often violent homophobia. The plots of his movies change and he has dealt with teen angst road movie, the end of the world and most recently the effects of paedophilia on its victims. Of coarse there are signifiers of the Araki style especially in his pre Mysterious Skin films, bleak humour, comic violence, pop culture references and the coming of age of young protagonists. I want to use this last film as my main case study. Mysterious Skin(2004) directed by Gregg Araki is the storey of two boys one who cant remember and one who cant forget. The films deals with how paedophilia effects the victims, how two very different boys deal with their teenage lives based on the events of one summer in their past. Sloan Freer, Broadcaster and journalist said this of Araki’s latest feature:

“The beautifully composed drama is, without a doubt, his most mature film to date, reliant on the unsettling power of the actual storyline and performances, rather than the quick-hit shock tactics that characterized his earlier work. Gone are the cartoonish extremity and black humor of the erotically charged The Doom Generation (1995) for example, replaced by the sober nightmare of real-life horror? Yet for all the atypically tight construction and deep emotional resonance Mysterious Skin is still unmistakably a Gregg Araki picture. From the angst-ridden protagonists and easy-going, pop culture hipness to the extra-terrestrial symbolism that played such a similarly large part of Nowhere (1997), it’s textbook Araki down to the very last frame. ”

Like many of his films this is a “rites of passage” and coming of age tale that deals with the personal development of two young protagonists. The difference lies that when before there was black humor and comic violence now it is no longer a laughing matter or a subject one should joke about. Mysterious Skin is not only a coming of age storey for its characters but also its director as he proves how well he can deal with such emotional charged and difficult material. Mysterious Skin deals with its subject matter very well all the scenes of pedophilia are done from the point of the coach so you never directly see the children in sexual situations. The use of fades and voice overs tell use exactly what’s going on and how the children are treated. What makes much of the first half of the film interesting is how the character of Neil tells us of his encounter with the coach as a child.
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The tale is without malice and violence, Neil speaks about his abuse more like it was his first love. There is a slightly magical feel to Neil’s encounters an almost sweet seduction. This may seem like a strange thing to say about such a subject as pedophilia but this also seems to make it feel so much realer. If a man was to seduce a child he would use such innocent devices and sweets and toys so the storey being told through the eyes of a child is why it looks like a fantasy. It’s not until Neil is older does he really begin to understand how that encounter shaped him and affects him as a young adult. It’s this older life that is full of harsh reality and brutal truths, his teen life is full of pain and dissatisfaction unlike the sugar coated memories he has of the past.
The other half of the story is told from the point of view of Brian who is trying to piece together the pieces missing from his life. When he was a boy something happened to him that he has no recollection of apart from waking up in the cellar with a nose bleed. As he grows up he believes this missing time was the result of an alien abduction which he now wants to prove. He believes he saw a UFO when he was a child and he has strange and terrifying dreams about his abduction. From these dreams he tries to remember what happened to him and soon remember that another boy was with him, this boy he discovers is Neil and he sets out to learn as much about Neil as possible so he can meet him and learn the truth.
Mysterious Skin is an adaptation of a novel by the same name written by Scott Heim. The reason he chose this book to adapt is it shares many of the iconography of his early films as well character types from his early work. The use of aliens has been a running theme especially in his apocalypse trilogy of Total Fucked up! /The Doom Generation/Nowhere. As for character types Neil is very confident in his sexuality he knows he is gay and is has no problem sleeping with men and Brian is strangely non sexually he seems to have no interest in either sex as we wait to see how this may develop or change. Araki shares these characters types and images with Heim’s book which is why it was such a perfect choice for a film adaptation. Mysterious skin is powerful, provocative, artistic and haunting making it a key film to the new queer cinema movement. It embodies much of the characteristics of early queer cinema but also shows a new level of maturity and sophistication of plot.
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Neil: “As we sat there listening to the carolers, I wanted to tell Brian that it was over now and that everything would be okay. But that was a lie, plus I couldn’t speak anyway. I wish there was some way to go back and undo the past. But there wasn’t. There was nothing we could do. So I just stayed silent and tried to telepathically communicate how sorry I was about what happened. And I thought of all the grief and suffering and fucked up stuff in the world, and it made me want to escape. I wished with all my heart we could just leave this world behind. Rise like two angels in the night and magically disappear.”

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Black Cat – a fun action adventure helped by a hot villan

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Synopsis: Train Heartnett, code named Black Cat is the thirteenth member in an organization known as Cronos. Cronos are an elite group of “erasers”, professional assassins that are sent in to assassinate targets they deem too dangerous or too corrupt to be dealt with in any other manner. But Train learns a valuable lesson in human compassion from young “sweeper”, professional bounty hunters, Saya Minatsuki. He learns there is more to life than being the cold hearted killer he has become and soon yearns for a life of freedom where he can make his own choices and follow his own path. He leaves Cronos and his path crosses that of Sweeper Sven Volfied. They cross paths while investigating a bio-weapon that turns out to be a genetically created girl named Eve. After Train decides not to kill her Sven takes her in as well as Train. They form a small “unconventional” family unit and group of Sweepers living their lives free and as they choose.
Unfortunately their lives are disrupted by the appearance of Train’s x-partner Creed Diskence from Cronos who himself has left the organization but to pursue more sinister and destructive goals. Creed is determined to see Train return to his cold hearted nature and help him and his newly formed group of villains cause havoc in the world. Train must learn what his true nature is and where he really belongs in this world he has chosen to live freely in.
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Black Cat is an anime in a similar genre to Getbackers, there is a large cast of fun and interesting characters each with there own unique abilities. Set in an alternate world where people develop these unique abilities and then put them to use for either evil or good. The anime itself is fun, exciting, and full of action, it keeps one very entertained and the fight sequences are impressive to watch. The real heart of this anime lies in the characters of Sven, who acts as both a mentor and father figure to both Eve and Train. He shows them compassion willing to go to great lengths to keep them safe as well as respecting them as individuals. The “unconventional” family unit is at the core of this anime. It is touching to see the bond and relationships form as well as strengthen throughout the series. Black Cat has a good mixture of action and adventure with heart and emotions. It has good character development of its main protagonists including that of the villain of the piece Creed.
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What it does suffer from is the fact that with such a large cast of interesting side characters there is not enough time to flesh out all the individuals. Some characters suffer from less back story and less screen time even though they are captivating and interesting. At 23 episodes it covers a vast amount and there is never a dull moment. It is well paced throughout the series up until the last episode where it would have been nice to see a little more of the individual battles as well as what happens to all the characters after the final conclusion. The last episode feels a little rushed in comparison to the rest of the series but even that is not enough to bring down the overall enjoyment factor of the series. It may have been better to have had that extra one episode just to give us a little more detail and insight but Black Cat does have a satisfying ending and a good conclusion to its story line.
The animation itself is good, clean and attractive with vibrant colours and with sequences that have been animated well. The battles as said earlier are exciting and very well orchestrated, full of detail and life with beautiful character movements. The colours are always in tune with the mood of the anime, you know when things have taken a darker turns when the colours themselves become darker. At the same time there is such a varied and beautiful spectrum of colour used during climactic scenes that the anime always looks alive and vibrant. Black Cat also has a beautiful score that uses a mixture of orchestral pieces, up beat contemporary scoring and simple melodies. The anime is well scored from exciting and passionate battle music that drives even more power into battle sequences to wonderful classical piano pieces played to emphasis the situation and character development of villain Creed. Black cat also has a simple and touching melody and song sung by the character of Saya, it’s an almost sad but touching song that reminds one of simpler times and forgotten childhoods. The song is repeated many times throughout the anime and acts as a reminder to Train of the simple and free life he wants to achieve, it a song from the heart and can dwarf even the most passionate of orchestra pieces with its calming tone.
In conclusion Black Cat is very much worth watching, with its fun cast, exciting story and touching relationships it has a little bit for everyone in it and I recommend it.

Check out the My Yaoi, Shonen ai, Boys love Slashable anime list!!
http://www.lzsy.co.uk/2012/12/my-yaoi-shonen-ai-boys-love-slashable-anime-list/

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