GAY FANDOM AND CROSSOVER STARDOM: James Dean, Mel Gibson, and Keanu Reeves
" 'Do I sound like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them?'" demanded Aussie actor Mel Gibson angrily after an interviewer noted that he had gay male fans. A gay magazine wrote in response, "Frankly, Mel, honey, you do!" Indeed, his character Mad Max would blend in with the leatherman contingent in San Francisco's Gay Pride March. In his first book, DeAngelis, assistant professor at DePaul University, explores how male film icons are both shaped by—and help shape—gay male styles and cultural representations. Closely examining the screen and public personas of James Dean, Mel Gibson and Keanu Reeves, DeAngelis charts a series of complicated interactions between the masculine affect of these actors, their (adoring or disillusioned) gay male audience and versions of masculinity that appear in gay culture. The author is best on James Dean's career, charting how the actor's emotional openness and vulnerability often made him "look" gay and how that image was exploited in his films (as in his highly erotic relationship with Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause). Explicating the more complicated territory of Mel Gibson's image and career, DeAngelis doesn't sustain that clarity of argument, and his use of gay critic Daniel Harris's ahistorical work doesn't help. Fortunately, he regains footing discussing the pansexual, soft masculinity of Reeves (as well as Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio). (Aug.)
Forecast:DeAngelis's analysis of cultural trends in both gay male and mainstream culture is often provocative, but his academic vocabulary and tone will limit readership to scholars in cultural, queer and sexuality studies.