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Alexander the Republican

Manly men, then and now, who like sodomy

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As far as sex goes, we could not live in stranger times. Although Republicans used the gay marriage issue to whip their evangelical base into voting hysteria, it now turns out that Ken Mehlman, the chair of George Bush's re-election team and the new head of the Republican National Committee, is gay, according to activist Michael Rogers who operates Blogactive.com.

Although Mehlman has not confirmed the rumor, he refuses to say he's straight. Meanwhile, RNC National Field Director Daniel "You Go" Gurley, who oversaw anti-gay mailings during election campaigning, admits he is gay. And there's Jay Banning, chief financial officer of the RNC -- also queer.

Hallelujah, it's raining men -- Republican men.

With all these Republican leaders turning out to like sodomy and with Republicans controlling Congress and the presidency, I guess it's time to concede that gay people really are taking over America. No wonder the Republican rank and file are hysterical. To paraphrase Pogo, they must be saying: "We have met the homo and he is us."

As if this isn't enough to contend with, along comes Oliver Stone's new movie, Alexander, the ultimate gay Republican movie. The Alexander of Stone's imagination (played by Colin Farrell) is, like Mehlman and Gurley, a manly man who just so happens to enjoy anal sex with other men.

Stone's movie, which is so bad that its three hours fly by, is an excellent example of the bizarre status that homosexuality, as an idea, has acquired in present culture. Stone's movie is at once an exercise in so-called political correctness, historical fantasy and amateur Freudian pathologizing.

It is difficult for most of us to understand that in the ancient Mediterranean world, homosexuality did not exist as a sexual species opposed to heterosexuality, as it does today. In Alexander's time, sex between a young and relatively older man (generally not over 30) was part of the education of citizens. Sexual interactions between men occurred without regard to a man's marriage to a woman.

Depending on the time and the region, different rules governed these relationships. Evidence suggests, for example, that the polygamous royal court of Macedonia, where Alexander grew up, was more tolerant of sexual relationships between adult men than were the Greek city states to the south.

Stone's movie is highly interpretive in this regard. Although early references indisputably indicate that Alexander's primary affective relationship was with a male, Hephaistion (Jared Leto), the only sources that describe a sexual relationship between the two in adulthood are late and speculative. What is important is that conceptualizing both a romantic and sexual relationship between the two warriors reflects the contemporary view that sex with a member of your own gender implies an identity, a homosexual one, and, in this case, a very butch one.

Even when Stone shows Alexander marrying a woman, she is filmed in unlikely shock on learning that Alexander loves Hephaistion. It's clear her objection has to do with gender. This is pure speculation that serves the purpose of both implying that Alexander is principally "gay" and it allows "straight" disgust to vent itself.

But disgust is an even more insidious trope of this film in its shocking evocation (and trivialization) of Freud, which not only imposes the notion of contemporary homosexuality but also pathologizes it. The young Alexander witnesses the "primal scene," inaugurating his Oedipus complex. Olympias, Alexander's mother (Angelina Jolie), keeps the young boy in her bed, after rejecting her husband, and throughout the movie is a suffocating, incestuous presence. She is given to wrapping herself with live snakes, symbol of the phallus and of Zeus, whom she claims appeared in that form to father her son. When Alexander marries, he of course, marries a mother surrogate whom he fucks in a violent scene that recapitulates the primal scene he witnessed as a child. Yawn.

Thus we have the psychoanalytical academy's oppressive misreading of Freud by which homosexuality is the result of an absent father and over-identification with the mother. Countless reviewers have complained about the curious insertion of a flashback about Alexander's father in the middle of the movie. But it's not curious if you have a psychoanalytical perspective. It's that mythical moment in an analysis when a memory arises to make one's life narrative sensible.

The psychoanalytical lie -- Freud never said homosexuality was definitively over-identification with the mother -- even creeps into costuming to sabotage the butch pretensions or imply that homosexuality evokes the inner woman. Hephaistion appears in heavy eyeliner and stringy hair, looking like the original goth or a wet hippie chick. The only other dude with whom Alexander interacts is a eunuch. In other words, the movie manages, despite the warrior culture, to feminize the male characters who have sex.

Still, Stone's movie can't hold a candle to the real-life shenanigans of the queer Republican party leadership, whose imperialistic Iraq policies have the same rationale as Alexander's -- to spread our more enlightened ideas to the rest of the world. I guess Ken Mehlman's mama slept with snakes. God knows what Barbara Bush slept with.

cliff.bostock@creativeloafing.com

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