February 24

Week 7-

– RJ: Robert Lang offers an argument about why this film is “queer not gay”— and radical in its refusal of neat resolutions—-do you agree or disagree? Explain. Cite at least two of the readings as well as the film in your response. 2-4 paragraphs.

– READ:“Queer Historical Subjects” Scott Braverman and “Shakespeare in Black Leather” by Lance Loud and “My Own Private Idaho and the New Queer Road Movies” by Robert Lang and “Authorship Studies and Gus Van Sant” by Janet Staiger

– In class discuss: How do queer theory and postmodernism reckon with life-and-death events? How do we write histories of marginalized groups or performative subjects?

  • ___________leads discussion (using Staiger and Lang as a jumping off point.)

– ALSO in class: workshop Midterm papers, bring in draft of your thesis

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14 Responses to February 24

  1. Alex Andorfer says:

    My Own Private Idaho would be considered queer, not gay, because it does not deal explicitly with homosexuality. While it explores the possibility of two men having a relationship, gay action and gay sex in the movie only takes place when money is involved – i.e. when Mike and Scott are hustling on the street to earn a few dollars. When Mike comes on to Scott he is immediately rejected. His friend claims that he only does that for money. As Lang puts in his writing, Scott’s desires for men or women conform with heterosexual norms. As far as Scott is concerned, “heterosexuality needs no analysis…homosexuality is just a phase in a Freudian sequence leading to proper object-choice.”

    The idea of homosexuality as a phase is further upheld in the dismal depiction of the plight of Mike. The viewer is likely to assess that Mike does identify as gay, but from his apathy towards his line of work as a prostitute, it is manifested that Mike is searching for not sex but love. It doesn’t matter the source of this love, whether that person be a man or a woman, ultimately, he desires tender affection after his confusing and rotten childhood full of incest and unreliable parental figures.

    Van Sant is famous for telling his cinematic tales through the lens of the “nomadic outcast” according to Staiger. She writes “from drug users and hustlers…needy working-class boys; the irnoic appraisal of traditonal homes and families; the exploration of alternative families and the metaphor of a road for the journey of life,” Van Sant uses common, but unorthodox, complexes in his films. In other words, he does the traditional untraditionally. My Own Private Idaho, meant to be a road movie, but queers the concept of what a road movie is thought to be. Just take a look at the basics: the film follows the journey of Mike, a burnt-out male prostitute and his boy-crush, the rich and Waspy Scott, as they travel throughout the Western United States and part of Europe in search of Mike’s mother. That doesn’t sound like any road movie (Easy Rider, Grapes of Wrath, etc.) to me. He has turned the age-old road trip into a hell-bent quest for persistent questions about love and family.

    Furthermore, protagonist Mike can’t seem to shake himself from a deep sleep. The viewer watches events unfold from his dreamy-like mind that often blacks out during paramount moments in the film and young Mike’s life. Van Sant is queering the road movie, life’s journey, and important life experiences by demonstrating through Mike’s detachment, there is no reason to fret every occasions we see as frank and serious. In fact, all is a bit absurd in a world full of bisexuals turning tricks and doing lines of blow, hopping state and country border lines on the back of a stolen bike. In another review from the Washington post, the author wrote that “reality floats, changes shape or evaporates.” Instead of relentlessly searching, Van Sant seems to be calling us not to take to the road, but take arms with the order of things – no matter how ridiculous.

  2. Elyse Kraft says:

    Lang argues that My Own Private Idaho is queer and not gay when he notes that Mike “is still desiring” at the end of the film and is still on his journey. Lang is arguing that the film does not offer an “identity politics” because Mike does not settle upon an identity at the end of the film. By showing that Mike is still on the road and without family, the film is placing him in the between place that is often described as “queer”. I think the “radical refusal of neat resolutions” described by Lang is present throughout the film and reinforces the queerness in the lack of concrete knowledge about the sexuality of the characters. The identity that is desired by Mike may continue to be desired and reinforces the queerness of the film.

    Additionally, I agree with the idea that My Own Private Idaho is queer because of the nature of the characters sexuality. Neither Mike nor Scott is concrete in their sexual identity, matching them up with the most basic understanding of the term “queer”. Additionally, My Own Private Idaho fits into the description of many of the characteristics of defiance laid out in New Queer Cinema. The film “gives a voice to the marginalized” through the depiction of the narcoleptic hustler Mike. Additionally, the film does not feel the need to use positive portrayals and is “unapologetic” about the faults of the characters. The film also reexamines a story in a queer way.

    The question of whether the film is gay seems to be more difficult. A gay filmmaker created the film and the main characters have sex with other men. Although the viewers cannot know the sexual feelings of the characters specifically, it seems clear that there are gay elements of the film. Personally, I would prefer not to categorize any movie as gay or straight, so the distinction as “queer” seems to provide a valuable assessment of the film. In an article by Staiger, she notes that Gus Van Sant has expressed resistance to being called “openly gay” and prefers a “post gay” stance and does not align himself with gay politics. Staiger notes that a good way to consider Van Sants work would be to say that it “makes available opportunities to consider the intersectional nature of marginal identities” (p. 9). This intersection seems to fit perfectly with the label of queer.

    On another note, I thought this was interesting: http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2011/02/23/James_Francos_Own_Private_Idaho/

  3. Kaneja Muganda says:

    This film by my definition was queer not by the substance of the film, but its structure. What I mean is the way the director had each scene tell its own kind of story without necessarily focusing all of our attention solely on the characters. As Robert Lang explains in his “my own private Idaho and the new queer road movies” the yellow bricked road represented just as much as did each character in the film. The seemingly endless road we kept seeing the film could have led to hell or even heaven. By the structure of the film I don’t think it led to neither but I do believe that it became the safe haven for our main character Mike. The cinematography added much more to the film making it a queer movie as well. The various flash backs right in the middle of an intense scene added some confusion for me. At times I felt as if the movie wasn’t fully completed or at least completely edited. The random flash backs helped get inside Mike our protagonist’s head/mind.
    Lang poses an interesting thought about queer movies that have “endless roads”. He mentions that queer movies especially made during the 1990’s don’t tend to have happy endings. At the same time he mentions that it’s not possible to say that these movie’s don’t have unhappy endings either. In our recent film, our protagonist Mike is left without his best friend played by Keeanu Reeves in search of finding his mother. He’s unsuccessful in finding his mother and opts to head back to Portland, Oregon to reunite with his friends. On the way back the film takes us back to the yellow bricked road, and Mike finds himself lost in translation so to speak once again asleep face down. When he gathers himself he’s back in Portland. He is “home” quickly until his group leader Bob suffers from a heart attack. He has lost everything but yet we see him smiling and celebrating. This is what I think makes the film queer not gay. We don’t ever get a chance to understand what is going on in his head but we assume that he’s in fact happy.
    I didn’t think the homosexuality in the film played a huge role as I anticipated it may have. In Janet’s Staiger “authorship studies” she speaks about how there are 5 performative tactics one uses either through speech or text. Silence which is the second tactic is described best when talking about homosexuality as the will to express oneself through some mode of life or art as freely as possible and as wholly as possible. Mike roams through life as free as he can at the same time keeping a lot of his emotions locked inside of him. He is madly in love with Scott but Scott is trying to figure himself out at the same time while he goes through his own sexual identity phase. But the movie isn’t based around their homosexual relationship making it a queer film not a gay one. They’re some gay moments in the film I don’t think that’s the main focus.

  4. Alyx Smagacz says:

    I believe that My Own Private Idaho is a queer movie based on how it is filmed, but it is not necessarily a gay film. There is suggestion of a gay relationship between two characters, but they never actually explore that side of their relationship.
    Scott doesn’t believe in the relationship. Seeing that Scott doesn’t see himself as gay, and they don’t have the mutual relationship that Mike wants, it doesn’t seem to be as gay as other films we have watched. For example, from the film Looking for Langston there is an obvious gay presence as well as an understanding of the film being queer. Scott has interactions with women that lets him justify his straightness and also makes the audience feel that he is a straight man.
    Lang brings up the argument that the movie tries to portray a bad childhood as the reasoning for people turning out homosexual. Both of the characters seem to have an unsatisfying childhood and Mike is certain that he is gay, while Scott seems to be unsure on the topic.
    Lang also points out that Araki said that film was supposed to be enjoyed by the non-gay society as well as the gay society. Being something that might have been kept in mind during the film making of Private Idaho, the necessity for the straight audience may have decreased the boldness of the gayness that was brought out from the film. The fear of any overbearing gayness scaring away straight audiences most likely influenced the way Van Sant produced the film to cater to all audiences, making the film seem queer, but not gay.

  5. Joao Gomes says:

    “My Own Private Idaho” is a queer film that challenges a disciplinary heterosexual coherence, perpetuating non-normative sexual roles. As a queer movie, it rejects traditional values “with characters who choose to live outside the institution of the monogamous heterosexual partnership and the conventional nuclear family ” ( Lang 332). Specifically, the film queers identity per se and sexuality. Mike’s hustler experiences are very odd, introducing the queerness of his clients: for example, cleaning fetish and orgies with 3 men. The relationships between the characters also defies traditional heterosexual regulations. Mike is the fruit of an oedipal relationship, in which his brother is his actual father. Concurrently, the sexuality of the characters is unknown, as the film is inundated with ambiguity: Is Mike gay or bisexual? And is Scott really Heterosexual? Or merely… “whatever street hustlers are?” (Gus Van Sant 35). As Lang notes, “there is purportedly a political stake in maintaining the aura of ambiguity surrounding the hustler[s]” (338). Indeed, there are a variety of double entendres that allow the audience to read the film in a variety of ways. For instance, during the last scene which character does pick up Mike from the street? Is it Scott? Mike’s brother/dad? Or another client? – Here the cinematography enhances the film’s ambiguity with a long shot. The queerness of the film is thus very much present in terms of relationships, love and sexuality. – As a production assistance notes, “It might sound weird… we still sort of half-expect them both to wake up and realize what kind of movie they’re in” (Loud 34).

    I disagree with Robert Lang, and I would categorize “My Own Private Idaho” as a gay film as well. Alex Andorfer writes that the film “would be considered queer, not gay, because it does not deal explicitly with homosexuality.” I actually disagree with this view because the film explicitly introduces homosexuality both sexuality and romantically. The former is established via several homoerotic sex scenes throughout the film: oral sex, kisses and threesomes. Additionally, Mike establishes a homoerotic atmosphere by considering his romantic feelings towards Scott. As he notes, “I could love someone even if I, you know, wasn’t paid for it. I love you and you don’t pay me…..I really wanna kiss you, man.” Here, Mike expresses his feelings towards another man, demonstrating that the film directly deals with homosexuality. Therefore, I would argue that “My Own Private Idaho” is a gay film that queers sexuality and relationships.

  6. Syndhia Javier says:

    Robert Lang’s explanation as to why the film My Own Private Idaho is queer and not gay comes from its refusal to adhere to the Hollywood standard as to the “end” of the story, and to this point I do agree with him. In the film, we are given two conflicted and complex characters who are male hustlers. In the development of their friendship, we see how Mike develops feelings for Scott only to be rejected and the friendship they developed to end abruptly when Scott meets a woman and pursues her. The deterioration of the main story line and the director’s refusal to offer clarifications to the peculiarities of the film are what ultimately make this film one that adheres to the queer model more so than that of the gay. Robert Lang writes in “ Idaho and the new queer Road movies” that “ The queer difference…is that the narratives of Hollywood…can achieve closure only if they end on a hetero-patriarchal principle” ( 342). It seems like director Gus Van Sant comments on this ideal through the character of Mike in the film, who starts off hustling with men as a way to rebel at his father it seems, but we are never clear if his choice to be with men was one that stemmed from his own desires, or one that was just a factor in his rebellion. However, his return to hetero normative relationship, turning his back, quite literally on his street father and the gang he was a part of may be seen as a sign of the return to this principle. Yet even as this occurs, the director leaves an undercurrent of possibility for the audience to question whether his choice of lifestyle is truly where he wants to be or where he feels he is expected.
    With the character of Mike, we are presented with some explanation of his behavior as well. His fascination with his mother seems to be the root of his behavior. Yet while he is definitely gay, confessing his love for Scott early on in the film, we are unclear understanding of where he is going by the end of the film. The narcoleptic episodes which prompt the progression of the film are what we are left with, and a final scene of him being picked up off a road, so as to again form our own conclusion. The point is Van Sant does not provide the conclusion that is expected, repeated, and glorified. “ The new queer road movie believes in the dream- in the scenes that queer happiness is understood to be possible- which is why the new queer movie eschews the ‘ happy ending’ of Hollywood cinema ,a tacked-on coda that at its best is ironic and at worst a reinstatement of the repressive structures the protagonist(s) sought to escape” ( Lang 343). In making a space that gives voice to those who are underrepresented or misrepresented, one has to apply a different standard than the one that originally did the damage. As Eric Edwards comments on his experience as director of Photography and working with Van Sant, the experience of a queer movie is “ … a form of ‘unlearning’ through which the filmmakers abandon accepted methods to do things from a fresh point of view” (Loud 36). My Own Private Idaho creates its own truth instead of following the form that is expected.

  7. Sam Herron says:

    Robert Lang talks about queer road movies and also the idea of the Hustler, which is present in My Own Private Idaho (Lang, 335). The idea of the hustler is to give him an identity and give him sexual encounters to have in the movie (Lang, 335). Also, being a hustler is characterized by being something he is not or ending up where he does not want to be (Lang, 335). We can see this in the movie through the character Scotty. It seems that he chooses that life as a hustler for himself because he left his home and family that had money, but when he is about to inherit his father’s money, he claims that he had been planning a change for a long time. When he turned twenty-one and inherited the money, that would be the time he would make the change. When Bob sees Scott later after his change, Scotty tells Bob he cannot acknowledge him anymore and is not part of that life anymore. Lang also talks about family values as being important to queer road movies (Lang, 344). It is important to note that the problems with family, and these movies relate to the fact that patriarchal society does not look at the desire of the man (Lang, 345). Lang claims that queer road movies are postmodern and talk about sexualizing the body (Lang, 345). Road movies are also disapproving of marriage Lang claims (Lang, 345). Therefore, I think that the movie is queer and not gay because it deals with the man’s feelings of desire. Throughout the movie, we can see that Mikey is falling in love with Scott and see what happens after Scott leaves him.

  8. Emily Weber says:

    I agree with Lang in his argument that My Own Private Idaho is queer not gay because I think Gus Van Sant’s depicts and casts identity and sexuality in a very harsh non-normative light. I think Van Sant would agree with this classification also because he is quoted in Staiger’s piece on authorship denouncing the gay label and accepting a postmodernist label (9). Staiger argues “to consider Van Sant as gay-identified and all of his work as deriving from that aspect of him misses the complexities of his minority and dominant positions and commentary” (9-10). This queering can be seen explicitly in the character Scott. We see a soon to be wealthy good looking boy from a very normative situation choose a queer lifestyle consisting off gay sex for money as a way to rebel against the cards he has been dealt. The complexities of his desires certainly queer sexuality and identity supporting Staiger’s assessment of Van Sant’s films. The inclusion of Scott and his relationship with Mike along with the hustling culture we see first hand throughout the film contradicts all social constructs and acceptability by “not moving towards marriage and the containment of sexuality” (Lang, 345). Taking the postmodern road (no pun intended) liberates homosexuality rather than alienating it.

    In terms of Mike, we can classify his journey as inevitable. It is inevitable because he will never find the love he desires from the traditional home and family structure he is born to so he flees which also speaks to the queerness of the movie. Mike finds his identity through hustling but the movie resists making Mike’s story an issue identity politics. His hustling life isn’t portrayed as empowering –his journey is actually rather sad and there is no happy ending and Van Sant’s decisions regarding Mike is what makes the movie queer not gay.

    Another way in which My Own Private Idaho can be seen as queer is through the resistance to satisfy the mainstream patriarchal audience. The relationship that manifests between Scott and Mike does not end happily, it deteriorates rather. A gay movie would end in Scott realizing he loves Mike and they would ride off into the hustling life sunset to live happily ever after. All desires satisfied. However, Mike ending on the same road the movie started on and Scott publicly rejecting Bob and the hustling lifestyle sets up a dichotomous contrast of queer and normative. However, even with his return to privilege I was left feeling skeptical of Scott’s true feelings. Was his rebellion over and was that all it ever really was? Or is there a deep closeted emotional longing for Mike that Van Sant wants us to pick up on? In conclusion, it is Van Sant’s refusal at a neat resolution that makes this movie applicable to the queer model. The plot aligns itself with radical and post modern though in order to delineate normative social constructs making for a rather queer film indeed.

  9. Caroline Tibbetts says:

    In Robert Lang’s “Idaho and the New Queer Road Movies” he suggests that My Own Private Idaho may not be considered to fall within the “queer” genre because this films as well the film Postcards in America suggests that homosexuality results from unhappy childhoods and general unhappiness. I can understand and agree with Lang’s point with My Own Private Idaho” it seems like Mike is not actually as Loud said in his article Mike and Scott appear to be “obliviously straight” the drugs, alcohol and wreckless lifestlye have essentially disoriented them entirely; including sexually. Lang deems the film to present an indirect message about homosexuality. Lang features the point of Gregg Araki who believes My Own Private Idaho to be a test of the hollywood audience’s acceptance of queer themes. He describes the film as ambiguous in that regard, as “quasi-gay” representation. Araki believes Van Sant had the intention of following the “hollywood carrot”, that he is “in development” rather than making his films completely independently; that he did not do completely whatever he wanted in making the film.
    I personally believe that My Own Priavte Idaho follows the the new queer road genre, in this search for identity and the ambiguity of sexuality, experimentation which this theme is characterized by, in my opinon. Lang’s point as the road as the “freedom” the uncertainty is the epitome of this film. I don’t think the characters are depicting negativity with their representations of sexuality but rather their uncertainty and their escape from all reality even sexually. They are confused in every aspect of life; which is relatable I think for certain audiences. Its more about promiscuity than hate for their sexual orientation. These characters are out of the norm in the sense they are willing to engage in relationships outside of the norm which I believe queer theory presents.
    Yes, I do agree with Lang that this film is queer not gay, just because I feel their are no definitions which corresponds with the idea that Van Sant goes against neat happy ending, well because real life is messy, which is why I appreciate this concept.

  10. Amy Slay says:

    Robert Lang claims that My Own Private Idaho is queer film as opposed to a gay film because “the published screenplay and the film . . . refuse to offer an identity on politics” (341). The film is portrayed from the perspective of Mike. Lang asserts that “by the end of the film, the main character is on the same road where he began, appearing to have gained no insight into his desire and who he is” (341). The intersection of desire and identity are key to understanding My Own Private Idaho as well as Lang’s argument. According to Lang, it is the nature of Mike’s desire that categorizes the film as queer. While Scott turns his back on hustling and goes back to his father, Mike is “still on the road . . . still desiring” (341). Van Sant is quoted saying that Mike is not really gay, rather “he needed to be wanted, and he could only be wanted by men who wanted him for slightly different reasons than he wanted them to want him. He was really after attention and affection” (337). I agree with Van Sant when it comes to Mike’s relationships with his Johns, but not when it comes to his feelings for Scott. Mike is in love with Scott in a way that surpasses just a need for attention. This is evident in the theme of giving oneself without the incentive of monetary gain (especially in the world of hustling). Mike doesn’t want money in return for being with Scott; he just wants Scott. Scott, on the other hand, hustles entirely for the money.

    While I agree with Lang that Mike’s identity is very ambiguous, I think it is important to note that this ambiguity is greatly reflected in the identity of the director. Van Sant has offered several contradictory statements about his own identity and the identity of his characters. In one interview he claims that “his alter ego in Idaho is Scott, the heterosexual” (9). While being an openly gay director, he has also said that “in a list of forty things that I am, gay is not the first thing” (9). Van Sant does not seem to believe in the concept of gay as any kind of descriptive identifier, claiming that “a person’s sexual identity is so much different than just one word, ‘gay’ . . . It’s too broad a thing. There’s something more to sexual identity” (338). Lance Loud describes Van Sant as “a man who uses . . . verbal vagaries to politely avoid discussing too deeply the motives and meanings in his work” (35). It is difficult to deconstruct Van Sant’s characters, when he himself is a mystery

  11. Sean Biggs says:

    My Own Private Idaho is a queer film in that it examines the behavior of complicated individuals that struggle with drug use, complicated family lives, and the search for love. The film acts as a sort of character study, and shouldn’t be classified as a gay film because of the nature of the homosexual behavior.

    The film examines the idea of “the hustler” and queers it in that it does not feature women as hustlers, but rather men, a gender rarely depicted as prostitutes. Lang discusses the homosexual behavior in the movie as complex in that it is constructed in the context of straight performativity. An example is Scott, he only has sex with other men for money, as a “job” that does not have to do with his sexual preference but is instead considered “work”, in addition he does this to spite his father for his alienating and judgmental nature. This idea is related to Lang’s idea that the straight-performing hustler “descend to the depths (in his mind) of being queer” although he has sex with men. In fact, Scott further demonstrates his straight performativity with his relationship with the woman in the film and his statement that homosexuality is merely part of the Freudian sequence.

    Then there is Mike, who is a lost individual that suffers from narcolepsy, drug addiction and loneliness. He wants to find his mother and try to understand his childhood and sort out his unstable relationships and find stability through love, no matter what the gender. He is a hustler that does not necessarily perform as straight and it is clear that he is in love with Scott. But while I was watching the movie I felt that his love was more out of desperation than purely homosexual.

    This film, partially acting as a character study provides different insight into homosexual behavior and how one who has straight performativity and who has homoerotic experiences tries to rationalize their behavior. The fact that this movie presents new rationalizations of homosexual behavior goes along with Eric Edwards’ comment and what Syndhia said, that the filmmaker is bringing a “fresh point of view” that is presented with the society’s standard rationalizations of homosexuality, as it comes from having an unstable family life and lack of a father figure or is an attempt to resolve their own Oedipus complex.

    The filmmaker is able to present these new rationalizations in the context of a hustler lifestyle, which challenges so many societal rules and is usually viewed as the lowest of all low professions. This allows for the characters to be complex and open-minded sexually, because they are already assumed to be so.

  12. Brittney DeBo says:

    Lang discusses what makes the film My Own Private Idaho queer rather than gay is that the film itself is radical, or the refusal to offer identity politics. This refusal to offer identity politics can also be seen as the refusal to offer arguments that focus upon the self interests and perspectives of self-identified social interest groups and ways in which people’s politics may be shaped by aspects of their identity. Lang also discusses the symbolism of the “road” and how it is the freedom from constraints. I believe that since Mike, who is out as a homosexual in the film, is still on this road at the end of the movie, and on this road alone without Scott that is what correlates Lang’s understanding of the film being queer rather than gay. Mike was not able to establish an identity in the end of the film and is still not free from the constraints that he has as a homosexual.
    This film can also be considered queer rather than gay, even though there is a implication of a homosexual relationship between Mike and Scott, however that is not the main focus of the movie. This movie is more of a self-discovery and search for identity on trying to escape the norm’s or social constraints of being homosexual. Loud explains the movie of My Own Private Idaho as “looking for a home” (p.34), and that’s exactly what these “homeless hustler kids” are doing. Scott left his life at home to join Mike on his journey home to visit his mother, but knowing that he will once inherit his fathers fortune, and by the end of the movie does just that, leaving Mike alone on the road since the search for his mother failed and he is to head back to Portland. To me this is also what makes the movie queer rather than gay, because Scott is not interested in Mike in the same way as Mike is interested in Scott, which steers the audience away from the homosexuality of Mike, and putting more focus on the identity aspect of the film.

  13. Elyse Brey says:

    Elyse Brey
    February 24, 2011
    Queer Cinema
    Heitner
    Weekly Response 6
    I agree with Lang. My Own Private Idaho isn’t about being gay and living on the streets, it’s about finding love and family and acceptance. It takes the best-friend film to a whole new level. Mike is a hustler who actually is gay, and turns tricks to make money. As an abandoned child he is constantly in search of his mother, or any sort of loving touch that he has been deprived of his whole life. Scott on the other hand, has a family and is loved but chooses to live on the streets to escape the confines of the conservative life his family lives. Together, these two best friends go on the road to find Mike’s family and Scott’s future.”My Own Private Idaho is about ‘looking for home. You may not find one, but you keep looking.’” (Loud, 34) In the end, there is no “neat resolution” to the issues we are presented with throughout the film, there is no end. We see Mike fall into a narcoleptic seizure and get stolen from and then kidnapped and we also see Scott find love, but still miss the free, non-cookie-cutter life he used to live. But this movie is queer because it follows the definition of queer that I have been working with all semester: it frees these characters, and when they are in their “queer” state, that is when they are actually happy. “You only get to see mike having pleasure when he hugs the guy at the end… in that scene where he watches The Simpsons. He was supposed to hug the guy like it was something he lost that he needed very badly. He did only have it once, it’s true, but it was one of the main ideas behind his hustling, that he needed to be held, and touched. He didn’t necessarily need to have sex. But he needed to be close.” (Van Sant, 337) In the scene that Van Sant is describing, it is one of the only times that we see Mike in a sexual encounter when he doesn’t have a Narcoleptic seizure; he is comfortable and feels safe in the embrace that we as the audience see him in. Van Sant makes the idea of sex in this film seem very split second, and he drains the emotion out of it. In any scene where sex takes place, we see still shots, never the actual motion of having intercourse. The only time that Van Sant gives action to sex is the time that Mike is embraced by the john toward the end of the film.
    There is a scene in the beginning of the film, where we find Mike, Scott and another hustler in the home of a wealthy lady. Mike ends up having a narcoleptic episode so Scott drags him outside and lets him sleep out of harm’s way. When he does this he tells Mike’s limp body: “When you wake up, wipe the slugs off your face and get ready for a new day.” (Keanu Reeves) Scott implies that it doesn’t matter what these two best friends got themselves into today, all that matters is that they keep going tomorrow. And the fact that they are free to do as they please is what allows this idea to become queer. It does not matter what they seek in their lives, what matters is that they have each other and that they continue to search for what they desire.

  14. Courtney Faulstick says:

    To many viewers I am sure the initial reaction would be to label My Own Private Idaho as a gay film. On the surface the plot seems to be two gay hustlers that travel together and somewhat fall in love. I agree with some the observations made in “Idaho and the New Queer Road Movies” by Robert Lang that categorize My Own Private Idaho as a queer movie rather than gay. One of the examples he used for his point is the ending and how it is presented. He says the ending more likely means that “they refuse to offer an identity politics” (p. 341). This represents the fact that rather than the image at the end of the movie of Mike as “a sad, down-and-out gay man”(p.341) he is still searching for his identity.

    Also throughout the movie there is many times that the hustlers mention that they are not gay they just participate in sexual acts with men when they get paid for it. The only explicit time in the movie when the issue of gayness is portrayed is when the two boys are traveling and Mike tells Scott his secret love for him. This issue doesn’t really resonate into anything, and the only other time it is shown to be a consideration is when Scott falls in love with a women. The producer Van Sant even says that he doesn’t even “think that the characters are really gay” they are just “street hustlers” (p. 35). On the other hand it is hard to think of this as a queer film if you don’t add the sexuality factor of the characters. The sexual acts themselves make the movie a little bit queer. The scenes make the viewer a little uncomfortable and are outside society’s norm. Another factor that makes this a queer movie is the section in the middle of the film that relates to a Shakespearian play. It is a weird series of events that is hard to understand. I feel like the actors sort of brake into a play half way into the movie for no reason.

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