In Richard Loncraine's film version of Richard III (1995), Ian McKellen as Richard experiences "homiciphilia": erotic arousal from the thought of having caused the deaths of his victims. The film also hints at Richard's homosexual attraction to his henchman Tyrell and contains images that evoke the gay bathhouses associated with early outbreaks of AIDS. This negative treatment of deviant sexuality seems startling in a film based on a screenplay by, and starring, the openly gay actor Ian McKellen. By combining these dual markers of Richard's/McKellen's transgressive sexuality, the film leaves itself vulnerable to a reading, characteristic of the backlash against homosexuality in the late 1980s and 1990's, whereby gay men are demonized for deriving sexual pleasure from passing along AIDS to their partners, and through them, to the rest of society. In its treatment of homosexuality, McKellen's movie resembles the classic Hollywood horror films of the 1930s, which portray "the monster" as a stand-in for "the homosexual." As in such films, McKellen gratifies his heterosexual audience by killing off his homosexual protagonist and allowing a "normal" straight couple to regain control of England. McKellen's accommodationist political stance is thrown into relief when one compares Richard III to Derek Jarman's Edward II (1991). Jarman's radical position, which concedes nothing to the straight establishment, celebrates his protagonist's queer sexuality and impels him to rewrite the ending of Marlowe's play to dramatize the victory of queer resistance over heterosexual oppression.
Shakespeare,Richard III,Loncraine,McKellen,Jarman,Homosexuality,Film,Horror,Homiciphilia,Edward II