Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Lethal Weapon (1987) ****

R, 110 min.
Director: Richard Donner
Writer: Shane Black
Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Mitch Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Jackie Swanson, Damon Hines, Ebonie Smith

OK. Since I’m posting this after Christmas, I’m going to steer away from the Christmas tradition of this movie and look at a much smaller detail that has been starting to bother me about it in recent years.

We’re all aware of Mel Gibson’s recent issues of anti-Semitism and his publicly released drunken phone calls to his girlfriend and altercations with the police. All this seems to have developed later in Gibson’s career. It may have nothing to do with some of my issues in “Lethal Weapon”. They might lie squarely on the screenwriter Shane Black. I really don’t know. But, having seen the film as many times as I have, I’ve come to notice there seems to be an anti-gay sentiment behind the Martin Riggs character played by Gibson. I may just be reading into his lines more than I should, which is bound to happen after you’ve seen a movie some 30 plus times. Nor have I studied the sequels for such evidence in the character, but he seems fairly homophobic.

Perhaps this was a device of Black’s to avoid any of the usual homosexual thematic analysis that tends to fall on male buddy movies, but Riggs utters several lines in the course of the film to indicate that he is homophobic. When the hooker’s house explodes, Murtaugh jumps on Riggs to put out some flames on his jacket. Riggs responds by saying, “What are you, a fag?” until Murtaugh clarifies why he was touching Riggs. When they theorize that the hooker Dixie might’ve been in bed with their murder victim, Amanda Hunsacker, Riggs responds by calling such an act “disgusting.” And there is at least one other instance where Riggs claims not to be a “homo.”

Again, none of these incidents are conclusive evidence of any sort of anti-homosexual themes in the movie. Shane Black’s scripts often involve two male buddies (as well as taking place during the holidays). He may even be having some fun at the buddy movie genre’s expense. It’s just something that I’ve come to notice about this particular movie as I’ve repeatedly consumed it year after year. I don’t think dialogue containing these messages would fly in Hollywood today, but there it is. I suppose we’ll just have to wait for “Iron Man 3” to hit theaters next summer and see if Tony Stark dumps Pepper Potts to shack up with Rhodes in order not to know for sure.

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