Sorry He Didn’t -A NerveCenter Discussion-

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Sorry He Didn't -A NerveCenter Discussion-    


Gladiator is about Russell Crowe in shackles. And that works for me. It’s about sweat and blood and leather. I think my eyes were dilated the whole time with my salivary glands working overtime. As for the lack of homoerotic content — I don’t see that. While the characters weren’t especially charged by each other, I still think the homosexual community will embrace this movie. I mean, it was sexually charged for me and it wasn’t until afterwards that I realized there was no sex in there at all. At all. Of course, I added some later in my head . . .


The homosexual community might embrace this for its camp value — it’s the Showgirls of historical costume dramas — but I guess our mileage varies, as I didn’t find Gladiator very erotic at all, even with the attempts at romantic tension between Crowe and Connie Nielsen.


I’m with you, Crorlz — I added the sex after! But I definitely
left the cinema with the impression that Crowe was a het girl’s


Anyone familiar with the episode in the Nantucket hotel between Ishmael and Queequeg in Moby Dick will feel the echo in Crowe’s relationship with the African slave/gladiator Djimon Hounsou. Only this time, the carved idols are Crowe’s. Nice twist.


They could have at least stuck in one orgy scene. What’s ancient Rome without a little toga-ripping? Didn’t Ridley Scott have time to visit Pompeii for a little cultural edification?


I haven’t seen it yet, but was this set in Christian Rome, or before the conversion? There has been a lot of debate over the role of orgiastic sexual activity in pagan Rome, and it is well documented that there was no such activity in Christian Rome . . .

Anyone know the year(s) the events in the film are supposed to take place?


It’s in the last years of Marcus Aurelius’ reign and the span of Commodius’ reign. [Commodius is the name of the real emperor, Commodus is the movie character’s name] Late second century AD, if I recall correctly. No mention of Christianity at all in the film; it was still a fringe cult at that point.


Toby, can you do me a favor and point me to some of that “well documented” evidence that the orgies were over when Rome got Christianized (or, for that matter, that Christians were thrown to the lions . . .)?

I mean, some sects of Christianity as late as 800 were orgiastic sects until they were excommunicated.

Christianity was given state sanction in Rome by Constantine (312 AD) but that did not, historically, give it control of Rome. It’s much more complex than that.

But at the time of Marcus Aurelius, and later Commodius, Christianity was a fringe religion for slaves and women.

Marcus Aurelius: 161-180

Commodius: 180-192

Battle of the Milvian Bridge (when Constantine took power and legitimized Christianity): 312


Well, you’re right in that Christianity was still a faceless sect until 118, when Pliny began the interrogations of Christians in the Roman Province of Bithynia. But by the fourth century, Christianity was the only tolerated religion in the Roman empire.

Gibbon, Shaye Cohen, Michael White and Elaine Pagels have all written about the perceived political threat of Christianity to the Roman social order, which was centered around the pagan rites and rituals, which would have been totally abolished by the monotheistic nature and specificity of obsessional acts and prohibitions — which, despite Paul’s reputation, had, at points been considered more strict than those of Judaism. (You could bring Freud into this as well, or even Robertson Smith.)

And kid, I never claimed that anything here was simple — that was your investment — but there was no orgiastic sexual activity in Christian Rome because “Christian Rome” is a very specific state structure; the folks who might have lived in orgiastic sects claiming Christianity were not, by virtue of their living in Rome and claiming a form of Christianity, part of the apparatus of “Christian Rome.” Maybe I should have used the quotation marks.



By the fourth century, this movie was over by several hundred years.

“There was no such activity in Christian Rome” is different from “There was no accepted orgiastic activity within the social strata that was the established Christian hierarchy that ruled Rome from the fifth century on.” Which is what you seem to have meant. Sorry for my confusion.

And we stray from the point: Whether or not Christianity was well established in Rome by 180 at Commodius’ ascension isn’t all that relevant in a movie that does not once invoke Christianity, nor was Christianity much of a threat to Rome by 180.


In any case, I have since seen the movie — Jesus, what a terrible film.


The film seems to take rather serious liberties with the “historical” information provided about that era by both primary and secondary scholarly sources. Orgies? That’s Saturnine’s time, and most people in dignified Roman society were so horrified by the events that took place at some of them that it became significantly less popular as a “high-class” sort of court event afterward (he’s the emperor who was reputed to have roasted slaves and political enemies alive in giant hollow golden bulls over fires, with holes to let the screams out during his parties, just to hear the funny sounds they would make.)

At any rate, I’m surprised I haven’t seen more people talking about the pretty obvious (I think) homoerotic tension between Commodus and Maximus. If that’s not a complicated Freudian conflict, I don’t know what is.


Doji, since I’ve spent so much time with Freud lately, I’m dying to see how you see any sort of conflict here. Maybe one of the sons from the primal horde has effectively displaced the father, and as a result the sons fight it out (which is part of the Freudian narrative), but homoeroticism? That is not only invisible in this flick, but in Freud; in Totem and Taboo, it’s given that there is no erotic tension among the brothers, save their common desires for certain sexual objects — an altogether different thing than a desire for each other as objects.

Maybe you’re calling on one of the other works? I’m dying to know.


The way I see it, the struggle between Maximus and the Emperor is a father-son struggle (pushed by the sexual object of the Emperor’s sister . . . though it’s a weak motivation and really just an afterthought, but I think it fits) that works in both directions:

Commodus sees Maximus as a representation of the ideals of the father that he’s been struggling against since . . . well, since he murdered him; and Maximus’ effort is to usurp the Emperor (the Father of Rome) from his position of authority based on his belief in the existence of a superior form of order.

Both are trying to destroy what they see as representations of an oppressive or repressive male figure so that they can take their own physical or ideological control, and in the end get the woman who is both mother and lover . . . I thought that symbolism was pretty obvious, as well.

The homoerotic tension between the two comes from the equality of the struggle. While it’s a hierarchical setup, it works both ways so they’re in direct conflict with one another as equals. While this in itself isn’t enough to qualify for homoerotic vibes to start flowing between the two, it makes a pretty ideal setting for the two to let loose and get totally obsessive about each other. Violence and sex — closely intertwined more often than we really think. Not all of it is Freudian, especially not the homoeroticism (I agree with you there), but the fight between the two of them is definitely Oedipal, even if it does get seriously complicated by the circumstances.

I have to say, as a side note, that I really didn’t enjoy the movie at all.


I think viewing this film in light of Freud’s theory of the primal horde is a great idea — but not because of any parallels or direct relations, as I see none — but because it gives a hypothetical narrative: what if one of the sons killed the father, when the other is a recognized analogue of the father? The weaker takes control, but the stronger defeats him. It’s a weird scene, really. A little moralizing, which was definitely one of the things Freud was critiquing with his entire study on religion.

But I still think the homoeroticism is a bad call. Just because folks are violent with one another doesn’t mean they are relating to each other in a sexual context. I’m all for Bataille and the whole argument for linking eroticism to violence, but you can’t invest all violent transactions with sexual meaning. Maybe there are qualifiers in this flick that I missed (since I was laughing in disgust most of the time), but I saw nothing sexual, except maybe the scene where Joaquin Phoenix is leaning over the sleeping boy — that was a little steamy.


Let’s ask Dr. Freud about that last comment, Toby.

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