I just saw Brian De Palma’s “Dressed to Kill” for the umpteenth time. But this time, it was with a packed audience. Because I’m in Paris and every person, young, old and canine, goes to the movies. The shared experience of this crazy, fucked up and seriously wild movie entered my bones. I thought about it for days after and discussed its themes with my girlfriend until she got sick of it. So, I’m discussing it with you.
The themes in Brian De Palma’s masterpiece go far beyond Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” I’m not afraid to say, I love this movie even more. The thing about having a great theme is, if its done well, masterfully in De Palma’s case, this theme is totally camouflaged. Hence, couples, friends, film geeks talk about it for days, years after the film was made. I don’t know what “Dressed to Kill” is about and I’m usually spot on about nailing a theme. But the stuff my GF and I talk about generally, outside the movies – the blurring of masculine of feminine, misogyny, homophobia – came up constantly, even relentlessly. And that’s what a great story does. Stir this type of conversation. Hence, today’s stereotype.
THE TRANSGENDER GAY MURDERER STEREOTYPE IN FILM
One of my all time favorite stereotypes in movies. Because as I said last time, these stereotypes reveal a truth about society. And this one says so much, not necessarily about gay or transgender folks, but about our fears of them. If gay people “make it popular” to be gay, there won’t children anymore and humanity is dead, hence if a murderer represents these evil world-enders, that’s pretty spot on, isn’t it?
Michael Caine’s Bobby was not the first time this stereotype was unleashed on the world, not even the first time it came out in a Hollywood movie by a major director. That would be Hitchcock’s “Rope.” Although the two gay killers didn’t come out and say they were gay, today we can pretty much draw that conclusion. They fit the fears. They were intellectuals, wealthy, and seeking an identity. “Rope” would set the standard for this juicy stereotype that would influence films like “Basic Instinct” and “The Talented Mr.Ripley”.
Michael Caine never actually said he was transgender either. He couldn’t help what he was doing. He was a man who wanted to be a woman and would kill to cross that milestone — and he did. He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it — in other words, he was NARCISSISTIC. Let’s take a look at the three rules for this guy / gal in movies.
1) S/he is wealthy. Perhaps it comes from royalty once doing whatever the fuck they wanted, including marrying their own brothers, sisters, cousins, mothers, etc. But these TGM Stereotypes are usually doing pretty good in the financial sector. And if they’re not, like Matt Damon’s Ripley, they’re pretending to be. You can call it money or class. This is a fear of the super-wealthy. Since we can’t be them, we can only imagine what they’re doing. You know, screwing each other like there’s no tomorrow. Just take a look at Sharon Stone’s house in “Basic Instinct.”
2) S/he is intellectual. Michael Caine was a psychiatrist in Manhattan. He never interjected deep philosophical discussions; but shit, he was British, he wore a scarf, his posture was taut. That’s probably why De Palma cast the guy. And Sharon Stone, she had two degrees, everything she said had double-meaning, she was Nietzsche as a femme fatale. Matt Damon’s Ripley was always deep in thought. Because the rich have time on their hands. To concoct the next murder…. or whatever. Because you know, life is so booooring.
3) S/he does not change even at the end of the movie. Norman Bates’ mind never changed about his needs, going on several sequels. Michael Caine was locked up in a mental asylum. Sharon Stone was uncaught, ready to commit more murders. Damon was off to his next adventure. These folks do not change. They want what they want when they want it. The only thing that changes is their exterior, their names, their sex, what they wear (often, changing from the scene to scene). But the inside, the stubbornness of what they seek, will never end. “Silence of the Lambs” Buffalo Bill would still fuck himself today. I guarantee you.
So how did this “super-wealthy” label get tagged on gay people? Well, gay people were once a mystery. Because they had to live behind closed doors. They were like communists. You didn’t know who was one and who wasn’t. Your football buddy could have been one of them. Hell, you could be one of them and not know it!
I just visited Cambodia and I can tell you that having children is very, very important to them. You have to have several or people feel sorry for you (because who’s going to take care of you when you’re old). So, if you’re gay there, you’ve got a survival problem. But in America, the “rich country” as they call it, there’s room for gayness.
The truth: I know plenty of not rich American gay people. But let’s call this fear what it is. As usual, the unknown. David Geffen might be wealthy and gay, but millions, billions of other gay people are not.
The symbolism that makes sense to me is the sense of vendetta at society a gay or transgender person may feel from having to keep their identity locked up for so many years. Enough to you know… kill. But who do you see killing people in real life? Young, straight men. Gay guys do have a tendency to have class, I’ll give the stereotype that. Please note, I said “a tendency.”
Written by: Norith Soth