Blades of Glory (review)

Faggoty Faggots on Ice

Straight American men are terrified of Teh Gay, and that is at the root of all the “humor” at play in Blades of Glory. Actual gayness is not the issue: accusations of gayness, the mere appearance of gayness, these are enough to flummox the typical American male, to send him into paroxysms of horror at the possibility that his heterosexuality might be called into question.
I want to be perfectly clear and say that I do not think this is the case: I would like to believe that American men are perfectly capable of being confident in their sexuality, whatever it is. (Point to me: Will Ferrell, who is willing to bare his less-than-model-perfect body here in the name of comedy, wins my admiration; the moment isn’t particularly funny in itself, but Ferrell gets a shiny gold star for his lack of inhibition.) I would like to believe that we are not a nation of children who spout repulsive playground taunts of “faggot” meant to cut to the bone. (Point to me: Jon Heder, who plays an effeminate straight man with all the confidence and gusto the character deserves, earns my good will, even if the movie undercuts that performance by making him an object of ridicule.) But Blades of Glory is funny only if you think there is something inherently hilarious about the fact that a small minority of men are sexually attracted to other men, only if you think there is something funny in a straight man being mistaken for one of these freaks of nature, only if you think there is something amusing about men who are anything other than the Hummer-driving, date-raping, “hot-blooded” caricature of a manly man. If this movie succeeds in winning over American movie audiences — and I fear it will — it will only be confirmation that I’m wrong to be as optimistic as I am about American society on the whole. I really, really would like to be proven wrong here.

Maybe I should take hope in the fact that it took two credited directors and five credited screenwriters to lash together this disjointed flick, which has to grasp at straws to make even a moderately sophisticated audience laugh. (Did I laugh in a few places? Sure, when the film sent up the excesses of figure skating. Not when it assumed I would find homosexuality funny, which is the basis upon which most of the “jokes” work.) Honestly, can it be a good sign that it takes five homophobes to come up with lines like “As if figure skating wasn’t gay enough already…” to describe the tale of figure skaters Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell: Stranger Than Fiction, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) and Jimmy MacElroy (Heder: School for Scoundrels, The Benchwarmers), whose ongoing rivalry lands them both banned from the sport until they discover the loophole that lets them compete as a couple… as a male-male couple? See, it’s funny, cuz they’re two guys, but they have to skate together as a “couple,” which means one of them has to be the “girl,” and the other one has to suffer the indignity of pretending his male partner is a girl…

To complain about this movie is to give it too much power. It’s dumb, it’s juvenile, it’s pointless. It has nothing to say that’s positive or even enlightening by highlighting the sorry state of American culture. It insults everyone — men and women, gays and straights, sports fans and athletes — by demeaning individual choice and personal experience under the guise of celebrating it. Every moment in which the onscreen skating audience cheers the male-male couples skaters is meant to hold them up for scorn to the movie audience: look at the faggoty queers skating gayly! The inevitable jokes about groin injuries that characterize this brand of juvenile comedy take on additional potency for the immature audience: ha ha, real men don’t get kicked in the nuts, but men worthy of derision do.

I tried desperately to find something hopeful here, to find a tiny nugget of even grudging acceptance of the reality of homosexuality beginning to worm its way through the uncomfortable comedy and the adolescent sense of the inherent ickiness in the idea of two men doing anything together other than guzzling beer and watching football. For Ferrell and Heder’s skaters do triumph, of course, do overcome the doubt of the sports fans onscreen to win the day and put aside their ingrained homophobia. But it’s not enough. Blades of Glory wouldn’t exist at all if a sizable percentage of its potential audience weren’t repulsed by the idea of men loving men, no matter how ultimately triumphant the movie’s central characters are. Audiences may find the film amusing, but that will be a dispiriting portrait of American society on the whole.

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