Andare, Partire, Tornare


Donatello, bondage, and Boys on Film

He may be so fair of face,
Move with an unnerving grace,
Charm and flatter, bill and coo,
Child, beware - he's hunting you.
Not by face or voice or grace,
Not by soft caressing hand,
By inside truth and test of faith,
Find the measure of the man.

That was one of the first poems I wrote that I remember liking. My English teacher liked it, too - she said it had nice symmetry. It was written about a friend of mine who was madly in love with a guy whose idea of wacky love-play was tying her up to a cannon in Gettysburg, and then leaving her there for about a half-hour. She was also the chick who, during our senior year government trip to the Senate, stole a bunch of silverware out of the Senate dining room, along with a No Smoking sign. I don't think I ever showed her the poem, and I don't think it would have made any difference if I had.

I'm trying to find my class notes on Italian Renaissance Sculpture, so I can recall all the stuff that I used to know about consumption of statues of young, beautiful men in that culture. Homosexuality was still a crime, but the elite philosophers of the day (Ficino, other members of Cosimo de Medici's Platonic academy) were generally homosexual, and wrote extensive poetry about it. Donatello's "David" was not quite a public statue, and not quite private. (Here's a page on Donatello, scroll down and click on Bronze David to see a rather dark picture of it.)It stood in the courtyard of the Medici palazzo, and you'd only have seen it if you were a member of the family, or if you were waiting in the courtyard to have an audience with one of the family members. It's mostly about power and wealth - at that point having a bronze statue was like somebody today having a cluster of lawn flamingos made from hundred dollar bills. Pricy stuff, that, which is why a lot of them got melted down. But anyway, here you were, sitting in the Medici courtyard, and staring at the nubile form of a young man, his body curved in a sensuous pose, the feather of Goliath's helmet curving up under his thigh to - yes - brush gently against his scrotum. David was a symbol of the city of Florence, who liked to think of itself as a little David standing up against the Goliaths of the world, but here the image is sensualized to a startling degree.

So, how does that fit in with the Beautiful Boys of today, in film, where they can be lovingly lit and have the camera zoom in to trace the contures of their face? I wonder if the consumption has changed. "David" of Donatello's day would have read on one level to the average city burgher, a simple symbol of the pride of the city. To the educated elite, there was probably an overlay of sheer sensuality, which carried over into the more ethreal realm of philosophy and love poetry. But who consumes Leonardo Di Caprio or Elijah Wood? According to my little sister, it's her peer group - young girls about 14-17 years old. I wonder if a look back through the pages of Tiger Beat Magazine will show that most teen idols are dreamy, not rugged. In fact, I think that is probably the norm. So my guess, and I believe I'm far from the first to suppose this, is that the fact that these Beautiful Boys are so gentle looking, so feminine, so dreamy, makes them safe for a young girl to crush on them. There's no overt, aggressive, sexual threat. You can consider holding hands with them, but they'd never threaten you with deep voices, rough beard stubble, the possibility that they would demand too much from you. Combined with the safe distance of televison, the movies, or the radio, they could be admired from afar with no worries that they'd ever show up at your door, and even if they did, they were sensitive sorts who would make you feel good, not intimidated.

My first crush was on Richard Dean Anderson, from MacGyver, which when I think about it is a nice compromise between rugged masculinity and sensitivity. The hunk and the poet, wrapped into one. The fact that I had a series of long-distance crushes with no real connection with the man being crushed on is probably what made me so wary about Bemo when we first met. Bemo is pretty aggressively masculine - head of thick hair, loud laugh, lots of dark body hair (chest, arms), big body, the tang of what I call "guy smell," (not unpleasant but *there*), and at that point he had a walrus moustache that would put Captain Kangaroo to shame (I've gotten that turned into a much more attractive goatee, thank god! Although now he's growing a winter beard...). I was intimidated because my mindset was still somewhere back in the safely nonthreatening range, and here was a guy who fit all of the traditional threatening male paramaters. I could admire rugged masculinity on the movie screen, but seeing it up close scared me. It took me about an hour to find out that he wasn't a caveman, but rather a teddy bear.

I'm not sure if other groups are consuming the Beautiful Boys besides young girls. Elijah Wood as Frodo probably does fit well, despite my complaining yesterday about his overplaying of the passive, big-eyed thing, because in the books he is described as having an almost elfin air about him, and certainly many of the elves come accross as a little ambiguous. He works pretty well, but because guy's relationships in the movies don't generally work like the one between Sam and Frodo works, the snicking when the two of them hug, or clasp hands, will probably not go away. Men have to slap each other on the back, in the movies. Even Frodo ends up thumping Sam on the back from time to time, as if to bely his startled-deer look elsewhere in the film.

8:21 a.m. - 2002-01-16


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