Vancouver
3 min

Alexander the Str8

Gay love gets screentime, but sex ignored

INVERTING HISTORY. Alexander's same-sex lust gets small acknowledgement while straight lovemaking gets blown up big in an epic that gays will find disappointing. Credit: Xtra West files

He conquered nine-tenths of the known world by age 32 but Alexander the Great is no match for heterosexual movie audiences. It took 2,300 years of de-programming but as Colin Farrell shows in Oliver Stone’s new movie, Alexander the Great is finally becoming Alexander the Str8.



This isn’t a surprise. From the rudimentary silent era of DW Griffith’s Ben-Hur to 1960s Spartacus (which edited out Tony Curtis sponge-bathing Laurence Olivier while they discuss oysters and snails) to Brad Pitt’s recent Troy (where Achilles and Patroclus-cousins and lovers-are now mere buds), the unspoken rule is the bigger the movie’s budget the straighter the script.



What makes the shyness of this movie particularly galling is that the man was bisexual and homoeroticism was a major feature of ancient Greek culture. “‘Family values’ in the ancient world were not a question of monogamous, heterosexual, reproductive matrimony,” says Professor Robert Aldrich of the University of Sydney. “Men regularly had sex with men…and Greek love-romantic and sexual relations between two men-was an important, and esteemed part of Greek life.”



The killer comment that cemented Alexander’s orientation was that the only thing that conquered the conqueror were the remarkable legs of his lover, Hephaistion (Jared Leto plays the ThighMaster without showing the drumsticks). Of course this compliment is matter-of-factly de-sexualized in Anthony Hopkins’ dry off-screen narration-when Alexander and Hephaistion are mere boys, weirdly enough.



Christian conservatives didn’t make Alexander but their gay-hating ballot initiatives certainly had some say in how he’s put together. Even some Greek nationalists recently got into bed with the zealots, calling Alexander’s bisexuality a “slur on Greece” and threatening lawsuits. Ultimately, much of the movie’s homosex was ex-ed: whittled down to some elegantly dirty words (“Stay with me tonight…”), some brotherly bear hugs and boy-was-I-drunk kisses.



Meanwhile, the straight stuff was blown up to naked breasts, butts and Farrell riding new bride Rosario Dawson like a Kawasaki chariot.



Alexander really is the perfect bisexual film because it just will not-cannot-make up its mind. It wants to have everything both ways. Farrell and Val Kilmer (as his father) kiss other men but openly bisexual Angelina Jolie (as Alexander’s mother) lives only to fondle her snakes (don’t ask).



When the film shows Alexander and Hephaistion as boyhood friends it’s a gay guy’s Fried Green Tomatoes. When the straight rednecks in the audience eww and ick you realize they’re mad not because they were misled by the movie’s advertising but because the fudgepackers are finally horning in on their beloved genre of epic blood, guts and gore-with history’s blessing yet!



According to David Halparin, professor of English at the University of Michigan, some Greek states “used homosexual relations among soldiers to strengthen esprit de corps, especially in elite units, though there’s some disagreement over the historical existence of such units.” Enjoying a camaraderie that conservative politicians claim weaken the timbre of today’s soldiers, Alexander and his army still laid the foundation for the Hellenistic world, the Roman Empire, and even the spread of Christianity. So there!



According to gayheroes.com, Hephaistion’s sudden death from typhus left Alexander inconsolable (Dawson may get the film’s single sex scene but Leto gets the tearful deathbed farewell). He asked the oracles if Hephaistion’s achievements had earned him the status of a god; they replied that his deceased lover had become a lesser type of god: a hero.



Now Alexander, “who had no doubt about his own divinity,” reads the website, “knew that he would meet his beloved again in the Blessed Realm, where gods and heroes live.” He impregnated his first wife and died within eight months of Hephaistion’s death-just as Achilles had followed Patroclus in The Iliad.



Whether you believe Alexander was a great warrior who just happened to be bisexual and died from a high fever, or side with Oliver Stone’s vision of The Great One as a mostly het hottie with lots of groupies (like Jim Morrison from his 1991 movie The Doors)-and killed by a JFK-style poisoned wine conspiracy-the movie is a big step sideways for us. The background queer visibility in Alexander is rare and heartening in a movie of this size and pedigree. We’ll see Alexander-like we saw Gladiator and Troy-for those little flashes of queer recognition, the little marks in the sand that say we were there too.



“Before the Middle Ages, the exploits of Alexander and the unexpurgated tale of his personal life and loves were once common knowledge among people of all social classes,” according to Yale University historian Jonathan Katz. It was, he writes, “a tale told by parents to children to inspire them to greatness.”



ALEXANDER.

Capitol 6 & many other theatres.