Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Body Language: Attaching a Negative Meaning to Trivial Events

The following is a videotaped interview from November 2008 of the actor James Franco on the David Letterman show.  At 1:55 on the video Franco talks about his academic work at New York University's film school where he is a student.  He says that one of his projects was a "short" film about naked guys playing basketball.  Note how Franco touches his nose when he mentions the word "short."  When I first saw the video I registered Franco's hand motion as a signal of embarrassment.  I think it dawned on Franco in that moment that the word short has multiple meanings.  Short can refer to a short film.  Shorts can also refer to men's underwear.  Franco's manifest meaning is shorts in the context of film-making.  But there is his apparent realization that there is the subtext of underwear and male nudity.


Gary Freedman said...

The Feast of Stephen

by Anthony Hecht


The coltish horseplay of the locker room,
Moist with the steam of the tiled shower stalls,
With shameless blends of civet, musk and sweat,
Loud with the cap-gun snapping of wet towels
Under the steel-ribbed cages of bare bulbs,
In some such setting of thick basement pipes
And janitorial realities
Boys for the first time frankly eye each other,
Inspect each others’ bodies at close range,
And what they see is not so much another
As a strange, possible version of themselves,
And all the sparring dance, adrenal life,
Tense, jubilant nimbleness, is but a vague,
Busy, unfocused ballet of self-love.


If the heart has its reasons, perhaps the body
Has its own lumbering sort of carnal spirit,
Felt in the tingling bruises of collision,
And known to captains as esprit de corps.
What is this brisk fraternity of timing,
Pivot and lobbing arc, or indirection,
Mens sana in men’s sauna, in the flush
Of health and toilets, private and corporal glee,
These fleet caroms, plies and genuflections
Before the salmon-leap, the leaping fountain
All sheathed in glistening light, flexed and alert?
From the vast echo-chamber of the gym,
Among the stumbled shouts and shrill of whistles,
The bounced basketball sound of a leather whip.


Think of those barren places where men gather
To act in the terrible name of rectitude,
Of acned shame, punk’s pride, muscle or turf,
The bully’s thin superiority.
Think of the Sturm-Abteilungs Kommandant
Who loves Beethoven and collects Degas,
Or the blond boys in jeans whose narrowed eyes
Are focussed by some hard and smothered lust,
Who lounge in a studied mimicry of ease,
Flick their live butts into the standing weeds,
And comb their hair in the mirror of cracked windows
Of an abandoned warehouse where they keep
In darkened readiness for their occasion
The rope, the chains, handcuffs and gasoline.


Out in the rippled heat of a neighbor’s field,
In the kilowatts of noon, they’ve got one cornered.
The bugs are jumping, and the burly youths
Strip to the waist for the hot work ahead.
They go to arm themselves at the dry-stone wall,
Having flung down their wet and salty garments
At the feet of a young man whose name is Saul.
He watches sharply these superbly tanned
Figures with a swimmer’s chest and shoulders,
A miler’s thighs, with their self-conscious grace,
And in between their sleek, converging bodies,
Brilliantly oiled and burnished by the sun,
He catches a brief glimpse of bloodied hair
And hears an unintelligible prayer.

Gary Freedman said...

Oh, man, this is SUPER gay!


(Not that there's anything wrong with that!)