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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Nightmare on Gay Street?

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge is a film that does not score well on IMDB with its most recent rating of 5.1 out of 10.  However, I think it's a much better film than many critics say it is.  The main reason for this is the gay subtext that runs through it which was pretty brave for 1985.  The themes in Nightmare 2 are quite different from Nightmare 1.  The first deals with Freddy invading people's dreams.  The second deals with Freddy trying to possess the body of Jesse Walsh, a teen who recently moved to Elm Street with his dysfunctional family.

I think that Mark Patton gives a wonderful performance in this film as he spans the emotional gamut from being scared shitless to wondering if he's losing his mind.  In the midst of all this trauma, we also see a young man who is also struggling with his sexual identity.

The short answer for me is that Jesse Walsh is gay but he hasn't quite figured it out yet.  He's a virgin who really likes his girlfriend Lisa Weber but not in the same way she likes him.  He's also attracted to his friend Ron Grady but is afraid to tell Ron how he feels for fear of rejection.  In the film Ron is definitely straight which makes the situation all the more painful.  This is a common experience of many young gay men in the 1980's.  Furthermore, Freddy stands as a symbol for the "love that dare not speak its name."  A love that Jesse struggles with and views as a monster that is trying to possess him.  

Lots of people have speculated about the gay subtext of Nightmare 2 over the years.  As a gay man with a partner of 20 years, who also happens to love horror films, I thought I'd add my perspective to the discussion.

Let's consider the facts:

1. In a February 2010 interview with Attitude magazine, Robert Englund commented on this when asked whether he was aware about the camp, gay appeal of the series. He replied: "... the second Nightmare on Elm Street is obviously intended as a bisexual themed film. It was early 80s, pre-AIDS paranoia. Jesse's wrestling with whether to come out or not and his own sexual desires was manifested by Freddy. His friend is the object of his affection. That's all there in that film. We did it subtly but the casting of Mark Patton was intentional too, because Mark was out and had done Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dead, Jimmy Dean."

2.  During his interview segment for the documentary "Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy," screenwriter David Chaskin admitted that homosexual themes were intentionally written into the script.

3: Mark Patton, the actor who played Jesse, did an online piece of fictional writing entitled "Jesse's Lost Journal."  [staticmass.net/jesses-lost-journals-preface]  It's really fascinating reading.  Consider the following entires…

A. "I hope this does not sound too awful but I know the girl likes me and I like her, just not in the same way but she can help me and I must let her. I have to let her take the lead, so he does not see my plan. I feel bad but I know she has already entered this world and her karma is here too. I need a friend."

B. "I went to Ron because I knew I would be safe there… you see the rule was that there would be no killing of people I love and yes I loved Ron so I thought that was the best course to take. I begged him not to go to sleep, so in my deepest mind I must have known not to trust Fred but I know he needs me, my body, so I made a mistake. Ron was not my lover as many assumed, we had a different bond. I could have crossed a line with him and we would have lost a lifetime… I thought I had forever, we had forever, you see I lead Fred away from my true love."  [NOTE: Mark is speaking the truth here.  I don't believe Jesse & Fred were intimate with each other.  I do believe, however, that Jesse probably wanted to be but held those feelings deep inside.]

4.  Mark Patton did an interview with Dead Central where he talked about the character of Jesse.  One of the bigger controversies surrounding Freddy's Revenge was the idea of casting a "final guy" instead of a "final girl." This is a phenomenon that Patton was keenly aware of. "Essentially, I was playing a woman's part and fans back then didn't understand that," Patton explained. "It's like they switched the rules of the genre on fans and a lot of people couldn't handle that so I think that's why some people have problems with part two. I do think the new generation of fans are more open to that idea now than audiences were back then."

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