Jason, Are You Queer?
In honor of the holiest of holies, I'm reprinting an article I wrote for Pretty-Scary a few years back that turns our gaydar on one Jason Voorhees, "confirmed bachelor".
The story is one that has been with most of us since our childhoods: a deformed, insane, relentlessly murderous young man in a hockey mask dispatches dozens upon dozens of horny teens with an assortment of weapons, all in the name of his dear mother. Jason Voorhees, the phantom of Camp Crystal Lake, has survived psychics, Manhattan, outer space, Freddy Krueger, and Corey Feldman. We know he likes his weapons pointy and his teens randy. We know he is consistent, punctual, and tenacious. And we know he's been wearing the same outfit for the last 20 years. But there is one essential fact that eleven films and countless Fangoria photo shoots have failed to reveal:
Jason, are you queer?
The relationship between Jason and his various Final Girls (and boys) is decidedly undecided. Jason has never been given a love object, nor has he exhibited any real attraction to anyone, male or female. Indeed, the warmest emotion Jason seems capable of experiencing is affection for his mother -- and you don't need a degree in psychology to know which side of the fence that might put him on. Considering that this is the queer column of a website for women, I thought I'd use this installation to map out some arguments about the colliding forces of the queer and the feminine in horror film. Or more specifically, to argue that Jason Voorhees is a polesmoker who goes Mommie Dearest whenever he sees straight kids doing the nasty.
Let's start from the very beginning. Jason was, as his doting mother put it, "special". He needed extra attention and wasn't as physically adept as the rest of the children, and was generally ostracized because he was different. Now, I can't speak for every sissy out there, but that pretty much sums up my childhood. Gay youths are notoriously at odds with their bodies, which they often view as enemies, and many shy away from or are absolutely inept at physical activities because of this discomfort. Last-picked for the kickball, Jason? I feel you.
Now, most people assume that when Jason is referred to as "special", it means he's retarded. Again, a word used often to describe me, well into my teens. And sure, the kid may look a little deformed when he hugs Adrienne King at the end of Part 1, but hey -- let's see you hang out at the bottom of a lake for a few years and see how it treats you.
But let's not take these surface images and language at face-value: remember, this was 1980, and dead gay kids weren't exactly hot ticket-sellers at the box office. Who's to say that "retarded" wasn't code for "queer"? And who's to say that Pamela Voorhees, in all her misguided fury, wasn't just trying to say what would not become a catchphrase for another decade: "I love my dead gay son!"?
So Mrs. Voorhees fights for the honor of her sissyboy, and in the end is dispatched by the virtuous, noble Alice, who cuts her head off with a machete. While this may be the end of the Wrath of the Overprotective Mother, it sets into motion a far more fruitful (and profitable) force, the Wrath of the Mama's Boy. Think about it: Jason Voorhees is the most dangerous milquetoast in the history of the cinema. Taking a cue from Norman Bates (who actually wasn't queer, even though he liked to dress up in his mother's clothes -- something that we self-respecting sissies wouldn't even dream of doing... unless mama wears Prada), Jason struggles to keep his mother alive by continually reliving her death, guarding the grounds of her final fury like a hall monitor with a toolbox and an anger-management problem.
This takes dedication, people. It's not like Jason was cursed or anything -- no witch's spell or Voodoo incantation is forcing him to walk the earth for eternity, avenging his mother's murder: he's doing it because he's good and pissed. And honestly, people -- can you picture a straight man spending that much energy doing anything for his mother? Half the time I wonder if the fags are the only thing holding up Mother's Day at all -- my breeder brother (God love him) can't seem to even remember it.
If we return to the classic Freudian approach to the causes of male homosexuality, it's pretty simple: an unhealthy attachment to the mother at an early age (pre-teen, stewing in a lake -- gotcha) leads to a desire to eliminate the father... hey, wait! Where the hell is Mister Voorhees through all of this?!
Deadbeat Dad Elias Todd Voorhees (as he is apparently named) left Jason and his mother, Pamela Sue, when J-Bird was just a pup. It's remarkable that he doesn't ever make any appearance in any of the films (although he was supposed to appear in Part 6, by some accounts). This reunion would have been a Lifetime Movie in the making. Jason, who has grown up distrusting of men, has grown up distanced from any male contact and under the smothering hand of his doting ma. Naturally, Jason comes to fixate on the male force, as it is entirely absent from his experience, and as he becomes sexualized he fetishizes the male and begins to view the female as powerful yet suffocating.
Let's think about it: what does Jason seem to be most furious at? Horny teens having sex, right? And why might that be... hmm... Jason has been stunted at a particularly potent age, right as his twisted little hormones were just beginning to percolate. So he's a bit of a disaster waiting to happen from the get-go. But where normal kids could play doctor in the treehouse at that age to work things out, Jason has been sleeping with the fishes and watching Mommy die at the hands of a prissy camp counsellor.
So when he comes to, he's filled with conflicting urges of attraction to the males that have been absent his whole life, and fury at the sexualized females who A) stole his father from his mother, who was, in his mind, virtuous; and B) are now stealing all the hot sausage that he himself wants to sample. So Jason makes it his life's work to take out the hot boys and girls who are impolite enough to crash his pity-party by humping all over his and his mother's graves. Furious at the straight kids for being so free to enjoy their "normal" sexualities while he has to sit at home playing with his mother's head, he unleashes a fury against their hormones that will leave a trail of bodies and a legacy of abstinence-training in its wake.
I mean, really -- why else would Jason be so furious about straight teens having sex? He ALWAYS goes for them first, like he has a particular beef with them. Now, the real interesting thing would be if there were a couple of sissies in any of the Friday Films: how would Jason react to that? But no, the mythos is water-tight, and no such variations are available for consideration. It's Jason vs. the horny breeders, all the way.
So that brings us to the Final Girl, my favorite horror trope. The noble, virtuous woman, having seen her friends fall to the killer's blade, must square off against the Killer Queer (or Uncanny) in a fight that will return the balance of "normal" and "abnormal" to our favor ("our" being normal, pro-creative, and heterosexual, for the most part). Here, the Final Girl is an obvious double for Pamela. Sure, Jason has had his fun with the silly horny kids of the forest, but when it comes to facing his true nemesis -- the woman whose suffocating love has made him the sissyboy he is -- he falls every time.
It's no wonder that the Final Girl takes on the persona of Pamela on more than one occasion, most notably in Part 2 when Ginny -- a child psychology major, remember -- puts on that natty wool turtleneck in order to boss Jason around (come to think of it, maybe he was just furious at his mom's lack of fashion sense...). Before you can say "a boy's best friend is his mother", the feminine (the pro-creative Mother) has vanquished the queer (the asexual, self-generating -- and therefore anti-pro-creatvie "other"), and returned the world to its normal state, where all teens are heterosexual and horny, and little sissyboys stay at the bottoms of lakes where they belong.
I'm sure this all makes perfect sense. But in the interest of illustration, I thought I'd add a few of my favorite queer moments from the Friday the 13th series:
1) In Friday 2, the penultimate scene finds Muffin, the camp poodle, making a dramatic return to the arms of Ginny, our beloved Final Girl. At this precise moment, Jason crashes through the window and grabs Ginny. Now really, folks -- isn't it quite clear that Jason is grabbing for the poodle, and not our heroine? In the next scene, Ginny is alive, and Muffin is missing. And you think a straight man would go for a poodle like that? A Jack Russell, maybe....
2) In the totally bizarro Jason Goes to Hell, Jason's soul is apparently carried in a phallic, worm-like thing that penetrates men and makes them evil. Not only do we have the use of horrific phallic imagery to scare the boys in the room, but we've got a graphic body-shaving scene that looks like something out of a bad Dave DeCoteau film.
3) In Friday 2, a lady counsellor prepares to get it on with one of her co-workers by slipping into something sexy and spraying herself with a little perfume. One of the places she douses herself is in her lady-regions -- not exactly a celebration of the beauty of female sexuality.
Labels: Friday the 13th