Case 023: Stay the Fuck Homofiled March 30, 2020
While COVID-19 has held much of the population in lockdown, The InQueery has been fast at work collecting the accounts of gays from across the socioeconomic spectrum. Based on our digital surveys, it seems that queers of all sorts are pivoting to seclusion.
“Compared to straights, gays are faring relatively well in these conditions,” says The InQueery’s cultural anthropologist, Dr. Beth Krantz. “Perhaps it’s because they are used to staying home and watching The View. Or, just theorizing, every gay person is an only child at heart. I can’t really speculate.”
To better understand the sequestered gay lifestyle, we consulted The InQueery’s head of film and media research, Alan Korn-Schlessinger. “There’s certainly precedent for this behavior,” Korn-Schlessinger noted. “Queer film, literature, and history abounds with gay heroes who, when faced with societal oppression, choose to shelter in place.” Could it be, that by immersing ourselves in our favorite gay movies we’ve been training for a life lived indoors?
To help you find inspiration for a fabulously cloistered lifestyle, we’ve compiled a list of the essential queer canon shut-ins—from clean freaks with a vision, to Roald Dahl-esque aunties. Stay in, keep your hands clean, and take good care of your bird: We’re playing the long game!
Sheila Jackson, Shameless (Showtime and Netflix) – While Fiona, Frank, and the rest of the Gallagher family indulged in filthy yet endearing hijinks in Chicago’s South Side, Joan Cusack’s Sheila rightly chose to stay indoors. As the heart-pure optimist and hardcore agoraphobic Sheila, Joan got to indulge in classic set pieces of clean-freakery gone manic. But perhaps her paralyzing fear of stepping foot outdoors, played for comedy during the Obama years, could be viewed as instructional in these uncertain times. While you’re at it, take note of her comprehensive fixation on strap-ons and pegging equipment—it’s never too dire for some at-home pegging!
Big Edie and Little Edie, Grey Gardens (1975 documentary on Amazon Prime, 2009 narrative movie on HBO) – We’ve all known (or been) that girl in the scene: Once fabulous, and perhaps now a little out of it, but still serving tea like we’re at the center of the universe. Enter Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, aunt of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Sure, she lived in a racoon-infested hovel with her daughter for decades, with nearly no outside contact, but that doesn’t mean she’s going out quietly. “I had my cake, loved it, masticated it, chewed it, and had everything I wanted!” C’est bon! And don’t sleep on her daughter, Little Edie, who won’t let the bloodline fixation on social alienation stop her from pursuing her cabaret dreams, little by little, day by day, even if it means a low-stakes flag show on July 4th or a sensible catwalk for all the feral felines to see.
Miss Havisham, Great Expectations
What’s so gay about literature’s most infamous shut-in? Besides the fact that she’s been played by Anne Bancroft, Charlotte Rampling, Gillian Anderson, and Helena Bonham Carter, Miss Havisham has all the camp, tragedy, and counter-culture we want in a queen. Confined in a dilapidated mansion and wearing her tatty wedding dress decades after getting jilted at the altar, Miss Havisham offers more elegant decay than a McQueen runway!
Vivian & Lily Charles, Pushing Daisies (Amazon Prime) – After surviving the end of their synchronized swimming career and the perils of male gaslighting, sisters and former “Darling Mermaid Darlings” Vivian and Lily Charles embarked on a new life indoors, raising their orphaned niece Charlotte in a male-free paradise. What’s not to love: a walk-in freezer of rare smoked cheeses; birds to raise, and, eventually, stuff and mount; morning, midday, and evening martinis; and, most notably, secrets that are decades in the keeping? For queers hiding out from the catastrophic consequences of a male government and a disease-spreading populace, the Charles sisters remind us: Keep your loved ones close and your eye-patches sanitized.
The Phantom and V, The Phantom of the Opera and V for Vendetta (Netflix) – Though the Phantom sets up shop beneath the Paris Opera House in the 19th century and V makes his home in the London underground of a dystopian future, both outcasts fit the same mold: Hide away from a cruel world; design a fabulously baroque cave of culture; seduce an ingenue into a lifestyle of darkness and free will; and wear all black, all the time, like you’re an assistant at fashion week. Immortalized by high-budget gay auteurs Andrew Lloyd Webber (technically straight) and the Wachowskis, respectively, these sequestered seducers prove you can do a lot with some well-placed candles and Ella Fitzgerald records. Consider these two your inspiration when it comes time to papier-mâché our own outdoor-contact masks.
Carol White, Safe (Criterion Collection) – Leave it to Todd Haynes and Julianne Moore to make sense of how ill-equipped self-help culture and the American Dream are when it comes to disease, death, and the abject chaos of contemporary life. Is Moore’s Carol experiencing a sudden allergic response to the chemicals, pesticides, and airborne effluvium of post-industrial Los Angeles…or is it something more? If you see the current moment as, at its best, a chance for reflecting on what got us here and what is very wrong with the society we live in, consider Carol White your Cassandra.
Our Conclusion: Be like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard: Stay big, and stay ready.
Rating: Kathy Bates’s hair in Misery