Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ten Homomoments in Vision Quest

Harold Becker's 1985 coming-of-age drama, Vision Quest, must have been a beacon for young gay men. Well, obviously apart from the scene where Matthew Modine discusses wanting to become a gynaecologist so he can "look inside a woman and find the power they have over me", which is just not really dialogue I'd expect to hear in any movie. Still, I can only imagine what it must have been like to be 16 and gay in 1985 and watching Vision Quest. No doubt there were fuzzy VHS copies in high circulation for the second half of the 1980s from all the pausing and rewinding. Teenagers will take anything they can get, haven't you heard? I know that I'm doing little to distinguish myself from the 16-year-old me of ten years ago to the 26-year-old me of today by snickering and giggling at a high school wrestling movie, but it's hard not to when the movie in question is just so out there.

10. Gay tai chi
Oh look, a gay panic scene! Louden Swain (how's that for a character name?), the hunky high school wrestler, gets groped by a patron at his work whilst being taught how to perform tai chi (yeah... it was the '80s, I guess) and he goes bolting outta the room and performs pushups (yeah... I have no reasoning for that). Still, before it leaves too bitter of a taste in the mouth, it's followed by a scene where Louden and his buddy (Michael Schoeffling as Kuch) talk about it in such nonchalant manner that it becomes almost comical.

9. Gay-baiting teenage boys
Do teenage boys really talk like this? Did they ever? If you're having a war of words with a guy at your school, would you tell the other "I'll give ya something to blow" whilst grabbing your crotch? Or are straight male teenagers only afraid of being the "bottom" of a gay joke? Still, Louden's retort of "First ya gotta find it, airhead" is both glorious and gloriously '80s. "Airhead" - not enough uses of that word in this day and age.

8. Jake Ryan
Not gonna lie: I spent a large chunk of Vision Quest's exceedingly lengthy runtime imagining this as a gay romance film about Matthew Modine and Michael Schoeffling (aka Jake Ryan himself) with Linda Fiorentino and nothing more than the sass-mouthin' best friend who ends up with the geek who has been in love with her for the whole film, but whom she kept ignoring. It was still about wrestling though. Sexy gay wrestling.

7. This:
"The girl of my dreams lives under the same roof, I see her every day, but she thinks I'm a kid, immature, a dumb jock, all of which is more or less true ... She's wonderful. She's got all the best things I like in girls and all the best things I (pause) like in guys."

6. Madonna and a gym workout
Yes, Madonna's "Crazy For You" plays over a scene where Louden lifts weights. So motivating, you guys! I presume the sauna is is that-a-way. :/

5. Forrest Whitaker as "Balldozer"
Need I say more?

Okay, I will. He's not even in the movie at all. I was surprised to find him listed amongst the cast with an actual character name. He has only one line of dialogue (that I noticed) and does nothing of any importance whatsoever to the plot so why they went and named him "Balldozer" instead of "Chris" or what have you I haven't the foggiest idea of. Still, it's amusing to see him in there. You can glimpse him in the first small image of #3.

4. Frank Jasper as "Brian Shute"


No, but seriously, I'm always surprised by American high school movies where all the guys are big and bulky like this. My guess from what I've seen of it from television and movies is that it is because the American school system puts such a high esteem on sports, and especially sports that requite size like wrestling or NFL what with scholarships and all that, plus there being a general larger amount of sports to persue that are lucrative (baseball for instance). Growing up in Geelong and attending a fairly normal high school, students were into sports, but unless there was a career in it it wasn't anything that was taken all that seriously. Nothing like Friday Night Lights or this that I'm aware of, but then maybe I just wasn't paying attention. That or my school just wasn't known for its athletic champions. Plus, if you do want a career in sport it's generally AFL and that leans less on massive muscles and size like, say, NFL. Anyway. It's nice to look at and maybe high school wouldn't have been so bad if there were gratuitous somethin' somethin's like this here Brian Shute. Also: teehee, "Shute".

One more? Okay!

Could they film him taking off that top any slower? Also, he attends Hoover High!

3. All of this:
Actually, it's not just Brian Shute up there that gets his body lovingly stroked by the camera, but eventually the entire wrestling team!

I'm sure this is all very true to life of high school wrestling - and, hey, they all have good bodies so they really shouldn't suffer from the same body issues as the rest of us - but that still doesn't make it any less surprising to see it put up on the screen in an otherwise innocuous teen drama. It bathes in skin and I'm sure many a viewer was all the more thankful for it.

And what do they do after he weighs in at the correct number whilst still standing there stark naked? Grab him and slap him around as congratulations, naturally.

Let the man get some jocks on, yeah? That locker room doesn't exactly look warm and inviting now does it?

2. Ain't love grand?
Wrestling is a very homoerotic sport, isn't it? All the scenes of actual wrestling in Vision Quest look like they could be from an athletics themed porno. Yes, yes, aren't I childish, but really... the people who invented the rules of this game shouldn't have made mounting the arse of an opponent as one of the positions one must pose. It's no wonder there are all those pictures out there of male wrestlers succumbing to the wills of their body's functions when there's so much, well, wrestling going on. Jeepers!

1. Madonna
Vision Quest? Vision QUEEN. Er...

It's as if the director just knew that both his film and the then 25-year-old singer hired to sing during one seemingly insignificant scene were destined for gay icon status. Madonna's brief cameo appearance as a bar singer who performs two tracks (the uptempo "Gambler" and slow, synth-driven ballad "Crazy For You") propelled the film to international recognition, something an American film about high school wrestling would never have been expected to do. The movie was, in fact, retitled to Crazy for You in Australia and the UK amongst others as a means of capitalising on the huge success of the titular song. "Crazy for You" went to number one in Australia and the USA and "Gambler" reached the top ten here and in the UK so it makes sense. Still, "Crazy for You" is iconic and something of an anthem and it fits into Vision Quest with ease, and I remember the video clip so well with its intercuts of Vision Quest. I surprise myself by having taken this long to actually get around to watching it. "Gambler" is considered more of a cult fan favourite than one of Madonna's most mainstream, well-known tracks so I guess it's fitting that it appears in a movie that is also considered a cult favourite in certain circles.

So, basically, Vision Quest is really, really gay whether you giggle at the homo moments of the wrestling or not. Not sure how many high school sporting movies were including gay references so willy nilly (granted, most are derogatory, but the fact that the lead character shrugs them off seems quite interesting). The film really isn't all that, but it has its moments. It's no Bring It On, but it's about as good as Stick It.


Jason Adams said...

LOL Glenn you and me, meant to be... I did a post just like this back in 2008, only mine was slightly heavier on screencapping every shot of JAKE RYAN I could find. Also, I remembered to include DAPHNE ZUNIGA, and forgetting the Zuniga is UNFORGIVABLE. ;)

Thanks for the memories, though. In real life the high school wrestlers used to do their weigh-ins before my gym class and lemme tell you what, they all lose the underwear. Yes, memories....

Runs Like A Gay said...

There weren't enough boys like that in my school either.

Such a shame.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with the gay vibe which as a closeted teenager in Sydney had me taping the hot scenes on VHS and watching it over and over again. I vividly remember this movie for the strip in the locker scene (it seemed so gratuitous - i mean how many grams do a pair of undies actually weigh?) and the final match against the guy with the massive biceps - stuff wet dreams are made of. i never could understand how skinny matthew modine could have won against that wall of flesh Shute, man, did Shute ever go on to do any other movies, would love to see caps or pics of him, but you're right - this is a classic gay subtext movie, right up there with ferris bueller and his closeted best friend