Precious Bodily Fluids

Stuck On You: Dumb and Dumber, Take 2

Anxious masculinities

 

This is bound to be little more than a rehashing of the earlier post on Dumb and Dumber, that other Farrelly brothers film that preceded Stuck On You and offered the exact same formula followed in this film. This time, the gimmick of conjoined twins is added, although many of the jokes and the overall plot don’t really depend on this element. In fact, this is simply Dumb and Dumber reloaded, minus some of the toilet humor. And like the earlier film, this one is chock full of images of suppressed male homoeroticism. The added element of fraternity – the fact that the two bros really are brothers – is a rather negligible detail, since the only way to explain two men literally joined at the hip is for them to be brothers. We could psychoanalyze the Farrellys themselves, noting that they are brothers who apparently need each other to make a film. Certainly the parallel there is obvious enough. However, the physically conjoined status of Bob (Matt Damon) and Walt (Greg Kinnear) is, more than anything else, the next logical step in the progression that began in the Farrelly’s oeuvre with Dumb and Dumber. The humor that depends on suppressed male desire for another male can never really be consummated in these films, lest the the ultimate threat of homosexuality be realized in all its imagined horror. Since it can’t be consummated, but since the comedy depends on the continuing threat of consummation, the merely emotional attachment of Harry and Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber needs to move into a physical and spatial realm in Stuck On You.

All rhythm, no blues

 

It’s perhaps most enlightening when looking at Stuck On You to begin at the end and work backwards. By the film’s end, the two brothers have been surgically separated, although they still choose to live much of their life remaining attached by Velcro. They’ve learned the hard way that life without the other is just too empty. The final sequence of the film features Walt getting to live out his lifelong fantasy: singing and dancing in a stage performance of Bonnie and Clyde with none other than Meryl Streep at his side. (If there’s any doubt that Ms. Streep encapsulates everything that the stereotypical homosexual male idolizes, please refer to the character of Cam in Modern Family.) At the end of Walt’s performance, to whom does he point in the front row of the audience? Is it April (Eva Mendes), his supposed love interest? No, it’s his brother Bob, who stands up and points back at him in a phallic salute that gives the infamous last scene of Top Gun a run for its money. As for April, Walt’s sexual disinterest in her is enough to convince the strongest skeptic that a homoerotic current at least runs through Stuck On You if not undergirds it. Sure, they pair up, but not only do we never see the least bit of romance in them toward one another, but their every interaction is indistinguishable from that of simple friendship. In fact, most of their conversations revolve around Bob and Walt rather than Walt and April. The fact that April is played by the buxom Eva Mendes, nearly always clad in a bikini or something equally as supportive, makes Walt’s lack of desire for her all the more emphatic.

Meaningless diversion

 

Taking a step back in time from the final scene, we see Bob alone in the burger joint closing up shop in despondent solitude. The jukebox starts playing a song – unbeknownst to Bob, Walt has returned – and that song is “Baby, I’m-a Want You” by Bread. We hear the first few lines of the song, which are shamelessly romantic. When Bob walks out of the kitchen and sees Walt next to the jukebox, he smiles affectionately and says, “You fag!” Walt, realizing how evident his feelings have become, slams the jukebox, only to have “It’s Raining Men” start playing instead. He then slams it again until some generic classic rock takes over. While most of the examples of suppressed homoeroticism in the film aren’t quite that obvious, they’re still undeniably present throughout. Interestingly, the only physical hint that the Farrellys give the audience of their protagonists’ repression in both Dumb and Dumber and Stuck On You centers on the hairstyles of the characters. Harry & Lloyd and Bob & Walt have strikingly similar haircuts. Lloyd and Bob have brown hair that falls flat and is chopped in the most little-boy manner possible. Harry and Walt, on the other hand, both have blonde hair that is long and kind of shaggy. They hairstyles counter one another in a way that a sexually repressed/frustrated male dyad would, needing to set one another apart. One ends up looking like the (theoretical) source of the repression – a young boy – and the other like a failed attempt to look feminine. On top of that, consider their names: Harry & Lloyd and Bob & Walt. These are not popular names nowadays; at the very least, they aren’t names that you typically find at the center of major studio films. They’re familiar names, to be sure, but at the same time strange and, simply, a little “off”. It’s the “a-little-off” nature of these male couples in the Farrellys’ films that makes them worth focusing on and makes them so entertaining.

Split intimacy

 

And a few incoherent bits in closing. In addition to Meryl Streep’s cameo (and all that it suggests), the other significant extended cameo in the film is from Cher. So, case closed on the the gay-ish cameos. Also, the Farrellys repeat another pattern in this film as well as Dumb and Dumber with the presence of an overly masculine, stereotypical rough ‘n tough guy who bullies the pair of protagonists while, incidentally, in a classic American diner. In Dumb and Dumber, the character is named “Seabass” and later turns out to be repressing some seriously homosexual tendencies when he tries to rape Lloyd in a gas station bathroom stall. In Stuck On You, a similar character tries to bully Bob and Walt, along with a mentally disabled man who works as a waiter in their restaurant. Something about the setting of the diner stands for something quintessentially American, and something about this angry, oversexed male figure embodies something also established and threatening. In both films, the protagonists (who are “freaks” in these settings) outsmart the barbarian. The fact that the characters in Dumb and Dumber outsmart him is particularly interesting. Another point: in an early scene wherein Walt embraces his theatrical gifts and performs a one-man stage play (with the nervous, sweating Bob by his side), he plays none other than Truman Capote. In this case, Walt explicitly identifies himself with a famously gay 20th century figure. One final note worth mentioning is about Walt and Bob’s respective girlfriends: April and May. Coinciding with their close association in name, a scene in a hospital waiting room implies a homoeroticism on their part, too. This takes place when Bob and Walt are in surgery, and there is some question as to whether they will survive. A dissolving montage of the women waiting for them concludes with April asleep with her face comfortably nestled in May’s midriff. Enough for now; the point’s been made.

The threatening heterosexual male

Pretending?

As gay as dance music

Hand check

Hanging on

Contagious homoeroticism

Longing

It's raining men

Livin' the dream

Phallic salute

 

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This entry was published on March 10, 2011 at 10:26 am. It’s filed under 2000s Cinema, American film and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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