Gay male sexual practice now gets demonized in mainstream media from Stephen Colbert’s indefensible and unmistakably offensive political satire joke to its cheap-thrill equivalent in Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant.
Both use a sex act as an image of perversion. Alien: Covenant uses it, and its implicit inversion (the old way of disparaging gays) when Michael Fassbender seduces himself. He plays the duo role of an android named Walter assigned to Covenant, a U.S. spacecraft charged with colonizing new intergalactic territories and David, the android left over the 2015 Alien sequel Prometheus. The two blue-eyed blond clones meet face-to-face and both automatons (each elegant, brainy and effete) act-out the series’ theme of perverted biology. They inquire into each other’s nature, seducing themselves through using a phallic musical instrument.
Walter and David discuss embouchure, the positioning of tongue and lips upon a woodwind or brass instrument. Musicians use the technique, connecting mouth to object, without muscular strain and for full musical expression. This pantomime (not as crude as Colbert’s “cock holster”) would be the sexual innuendo of the movie year—as memorable as Lauren Ball teaching Humphrey Bogart how to “blow” in To Have and Have Not—except that Scott, like Colbert, uses it to revive homophobic revulsion.
Given the erotic undercurrent of all the Alien movies (where the monster is a representation of sexual repression) Fassbender’s fellatio scene is not a mere coincidence. It continues the series’ unique representation of sexual phobia—from the threat of a phallic weapon to a castrating vagina with teeth. The fiend initially bursts forth from men’s chest cavities, as much against the law of nature as the old American Psychiatric Association’s old restriction against homosexuality as a mental disorder.
Alien: Covenant revives that slur as crudely as Colbert did when he got caught up in political hatred and revealed his own hidden yet deep-seated homophobia. His “cock holster” joke was the opposite of gay alliance, using male-to-male to suggest subservience and lack of power. Colbert was as self-serving and self-centered as the monster that Scott unleashes with grisly, repugnant, boring predictability.
While the roles of Walter-David evokes Fassbender’s big-dick porn-star brazenness as seen in the film Shame (with its notorious, homophobic gay sex club scene) it turns the good actor’s erotic appeal against him and his fans.
The David android is named after the famous Donatello statue that for previous generations represented refined gay eroticism. But Scott and screenwriter John Logan (who wrote the quasi-gay Broadway play Red) go far past discretion. The two Fassbenders portray gay self-loathing—“ No one will ever love you like I do” one says to the other. Each challenges his doppleganger to the point of committing a killing, a gay-phobic suicide. The doubled sameness plays out the difference between sexual and anti-sexual. In the first Alien, Ian Holm’s android Ash displayed a quirky, disturbing fondness for hetero porn. Viewers may reject Alien: Covenant’s display of gay self-loathing. The token female heroine Daniels (Katherine Waterson) is no compensation; she’s meant to update Sigourney Weaver’s great role as Ripley except that Waterson comes off as petulant and calculatedly butch.
Alien: Covenant reveals today’s troubling and unsettling sexual and political confusion. Any filmmakers or comedians who demean an act of love to win gay assent through ridicule and aspersion are not allies. They represent the progressive era’s neo-homophobia.