"Queermento Mori" - A Critique Of Ghostfacers And The Untimely Death of Homosexual Characters In Television And Movies
Blog Rewind: In honor of our birthday, Q.L.M. is reblogging some of our favorite posts from yesteryear! This post was anything but popular, and yet…it remains one of my favorite rants that I’ve ever done for this blog. I adore obscure character studies and I feel very passionately about the portrayal of LGBTQ characters in mainstream media. In the end, I really just wanted to give Alan Corbett a closer look and point out how the seemingly archaic narrative practice of killing off nice gays is still very much alive and well.
I recently saw the “Ghostfacers” episode of Supernatural (season three) and I’m sorry to say that my feelings are somewhat mixed…
On the one hand, I really appreciated Supernatural having a gay character front and center for the majority of the show. Corbett was absolutely endearing and his crush on Ed was ridiculously sweet. I’m thrilled that he got to be heroic, but I’m sad that yet another LGBTQ character had to die for the sake of dramatic effect. Corbett’s story was touching, but it was also darkly reminiscent of a time when LGBTQ characters were almost always bumped off during the final act of a given story because conservative America could not conceive of a character who was happy, homosexual, and alive.
Granted, LGBTQ character development, particularly on television, has come a long way since the 1950’s, and I’m not saying that LGBTQ characters should be exempt from death or dangerous plot outcomes, but this episode was a sobering reminder that these narrative constructs are not far removed from our Collective Pop-Cultural Consciousness.
Corbett’s tragic relationship with Ed was particularly irritating because the parallel heterosexual couple featured in story (Harry and Maggie) emerged from the ordeal completely unscathed. What kinds of messages does this outcome send to viewing audiences? Only straight people get happy endings? What use is there in having a noble, sympathetic, gay character when the final impression we have of him is funereal?
“Philadelphia was terrific, but I don’t think it proves anything in the sense that it’s about a gay hero who dies, who is a tragic figure. It remains to be seen whether Hollywood and the general public will embrace a film with a gay hero who lives.”
- Jan Oxenberg, Screenwriter
(transcribed from 1995’s The Celluloid Closet)
Even in modern day times, the images of many popular gay characters are primarily martyr-ish. Brokeback Mountain, Milk, A Single Man…all these movies feature well-written, developed, gay protagonists who ultimately die and/or suffer greatly by their films’ conclusion.
I adore Corbett. I really wish that he had a gotten a chance to express his love for Ed while he was still alive. That being said, I will concede that the scene where Ed makes a connection with his ghost; where he affirms his reciprocal love for Corbett and gets him to snap out of his Death Echo- Wow…That was both well-acted and heart-rending.
The one concern I have is this: Was Ed even remotely gay, or was his “love” for Corbett something more fraternal? Was his confession a genuine sentiment, or did he sort of “concoct” those feelings at zero hour because the group was under duress and their survival depended on a breakthrough? Ed connected with Corbett, but then appealed for help. What does that mean?
I doubt those feelings of love were real to the degree Corbett would have liked while he was among the living, but I prefer to think that, on Ed’s part, a kind of love existed all along. I mean, Ed certainly seemed appreciative when Corb got him that French Vanilla coffee, right? And what about that single man-tear during the confession? Eh? Eh? Nothing says repressed homoerotic sexual tension like a single man-tear. *COUGH X-Men First Class UNCOUGH*
P.S. In all fairness I should note that the episode was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. I don’t think the writers ever intended for the show to embody the Dead Homosexual Cinematic Trope, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt and just appreciate the episode for all the good stuff it did have (even if that good stuff didn’t really provide a whole of answers for Ed/Corbett shippers).
In the meantime, if you’re a fan of these two, consider reading the piece of fan fiction cited below. It answered all my questions and, as far as I’m concerned, IT’S NOW CANON.
Magic Spells in Modern Times by Guest_Age
(images courtesy heathyr)