Perhaps the most iconic cinematic image of manhood from the days of the presidency of George Bush 41 (1989-1993) is that of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular cyborg in the ad for the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, sitting atop a motorcycle, wearing a black leather jacket, black T-shirt, and black sunglasses from whose left lens a red point of light glows, an enormous phallus of a gun held in his right hand and pointed aggressively upwards, the entire image darkly swathed in an ominous blue-black neon glow. The image encapsulates the menace and might of Schwarzenegger's newly rearticulated identity as a futuristic killing machine. Always a bit of joke in such films as Stay Hungry (1976) and Conan the Barbarian (1982) and its sequel, Schwarzenegger benefited from James Cameron's innovative use of him as the implacable Terminator in the 1984 film of that name, a sleeper box-office hit and one of the great films of the 80s. But, as Schwarzenegger told talk-show hosts unironically when he campaigned for the 1991 sequel, he was now playing a "kinder, gentler Terminator." This sequel, Schwarzenegger suggested, had been tailored to fit the ideological and rhetorical design of the Bush presidency. In the first film, Schwarzenegger's cyborg, returning from a future in which machines bent on eradicating all the remnants of human life rule the earth, was an unstoppable agent sent to kill the woman, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose unborn child, to be named John, would eventually lead the human resistance against the machines. In contrast, Schwarzenegger's cyborg killer in the sequel is the hero, programmed to save the now teen-aged John Connor. The cyborg, to be sure, retains his uncouth instincts to destroy all in his path, and must be counseled by sarcastic but sensitive John in murder-etiquette. This kinder, gentler Terminator learns not to annihilate the hapless humans who inconvenience him but, with cybernetically enhanced precision, merely to wound them in non-vital areas. The spectacle of crippled, wounded, whimpering, maimed men, lying at the feet of the looming Terminator, is an exact image of its time. As J. Hoberman writes, "Politically, Terminator 2 suggests the merging of Schwarzenegger and Schwarzkopf, techno-war and Technicolor. This is truly the Desert Storm of action flicks" (qtd. in Rushing and Frentz 201). I think that this film's associations with war extend beyond Desert Storm to World War II and its cultural afterlife, specifically its images of fascism and the Nazi. Fusing tropes of Nazism in American popular culture with its homoerotic tableaux, tableaux embedded in the construction of fascism, Terminator 2 is a pivotal text poised between the backward-looking Reagan years, in which a Classic Hollywood star turned national leader presided over the nation, and the era of both postmodern techno-war and postgay articulations of sexual identity.
In his famous essay "Is the Rectum a Grave?" Leo Bersani argues against the utopian impulses in queer theory-as evinced by Jeffrey Weeks's argument for the "radical pluralism" of homosexuality-to celebrate the socially progressive aspects of queer culture. Bersani writes
It has frequently been suggested in recent years that such things as the gay-macho style, the butch-fem couple, and gay and lesbian sado-masochism, far from expressing unqualified and uncontrollable complicities with a brutal and misogynous ideal of masculinity, or with the heterosexual couple permanently locked into a power structure of male sexual and social mastery over female sexual and social passivity, or, finally, with fascism, are in fact subversive parodies of the very formations and behaviors they appear to ape. Such claims, which have been the subject of lively and intelligent debate, are, it seems to me, totally aberrant.
As Bersani points out, these claims ignore the troubling possibility that such phenomena as "the gay commitment to machismo" reveals that queer desire runs the risk "of idealizing" (208) the very forms of gendered identity that condemns queer desire in the first place. Bersani continues:
The logic of homosexual desire includes the potential for a loving identification with the gay man's enemies. . . . a sexual desire for men can't be merely a kind of culturally neutral attraction to a Platonic Idea of the male body; the object of that desire necessarily includes a socially determined and socially pervasive definition of what it means to be a man.
If what we desire as queer men and women is precisely implicated in the very constructions of gendered identity we must challenge and attempt to topple in order to secure our erotic and social freedom, our path to this liberation, Bersani argues, is hardly a clear-cut one. It can only be "a struggle not only against definitions of maleness and of homosexuality as they are reiterated and imposed in a heterosexist social discourse, but also against those very same definitions so seductively and so faithfully reflected by those (in large part culturally invented and elaborated) male bodies that we carry within us as permanently renewable sources of excitement" ("Rectum" 209).
In this essay, I argue that films like Terminator 2 enact the queer theory debates indexed in Bersani's essay, forcing queer desirers to acknowledge the complicity with normative standards of gendered identity in our desiring, but also exposing the queer nature of these normative standards. After all, any viewer of the film is asked to marvel at and share in the spectacle of myriad forms of masculine perfection in the film, ranging from Edward Furlong's all-American boy ephebe to Schwarzenegger's hypermasculine cyborg to the Aryan perfection of Robert Patrick's more advanced T-1000 to Linda Hamilton's futuristically jacked, hypermaculinized womanhood. The film incites desire for the varieties of male beauty, albeit in a prescribed version. Maleness-in these properly Aryan forms, of course-becomes a smorgasbord of visual delights in this film, an ever-beckoning display of queer delectation for the whole family. Terminator 2 is a family film that reoedipalizes its audience by presenting the Father as a kinder, gentler Terminator; as a perverse family film, it remakes the family in its own queer image. The film forces us to acknowledge that while queer desire may be troublingly complicit in the structures of normative power that pathologize it, those very same structures proceed from an oddly analogous fascination with the homoerotics of power, especially in its most virulent, which is to say, its fascist, form. Terminator 2 cloaks its sadomasochistic fascist fantasies in the guise of the violent, melodramatic family film. In that lies the sickening allure of this duplicitous and agonized film, an allure that promises covert queer themes within the film's allusive system of unacknowledgeable yet undeniable fascist images.
The present essay emerges from a larger study of the representation of masculinity in Hollywood film of the "Bush to Bush" era-from 1989 to 2008, the period presided over by Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II. My study examines the fate of the figure Susan Jeffords discovers, in her important study Hard Bodies, at the threshold of the Bush I era, the "New Man," who represents a break with 1980s hardbody masculinism. The Beast of Disney's 1991 Beauty and the Beast metonymically represents this new development in cinematic manhood: "He is the New Man, the one who can transform himself from the hardened, muscle-bound, domineering man of the eighties into the considerate, loving, and self-sacrificing man of the nineties" (Jeffords 153). Shifting the focus to Terminator 2, Jeffords prophetically glimpses what would be the result of this seeming innovation in manhood: "The film's complex reasonings supply a 'new' direction for masculinity, not, as in the 1980s, outward into increasingly extravagant spectacles of violence and power (as Rambo and Ronald Reagan showed, these displays had become self-parody), but inward, into increasingly emotional displays of masculine sensitivities, traumas, and burdens" (172). The New Man of the 1990s, argues Jeffords, shifts "the ground away from the externalities through which [masculine] logic had been defined in the 1980s to the 'new' internal qualities of the more 'human' man" (176). "But," she continues,
this is not a simple negation but rather a rewriting, a repetition, a retelling of the story of masculinity… And though that rewriting seems on its surface to be a rejection of so many spectacular identifications of masculinity of the 1980s-technology, violence, power, command, strength-its mainframe is still very similar: the reproduction of masculine authority (now freed from civil authority) through the affirmation of individualism.
If film is the language in which nations dream, and if dreams are indeed wish fulfillments, as Freud taught us, Terminator 2 is a dream of American manhood that fulfills a wish to combine the "hard, stoic, isolate" and "killer" American manhood of D.H. Lawrence (65) with a newly awakened sensitivity. This unwieldy fantasy of reconciling killer with nurturing instincts continues to play out in American movies and in the national construction of gender in the inter-Bush years.
The Cyborg as Queer Allegory
Freud's 1919 essay on the uncanny has proven extraordinarily suggestive for studies of the cyborg. Following Freud's formulation of the uncanny, Bruce Grenville writes that
the cyborg is uncanny not because it is unfamiliar or alien, but rather because it is all too familiar. It is the body doubled-doubled by the machine that is so common, so familiar, so ubiquitous, and so essential that it threatens to consume us, to destroy our links to nature and history, and quite literally, especially in times of war, to destroy the body itself and replace it with its uncanny double.
The greatest threat the cyborg poses is that its danger is too familiar to be readily recognized and "worse yet, we may be unnaturally attracted to it" (Grenville 21). Donna Haraway has described her influential feminist "cyborg myth" as being "about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities which progressive people might explore as one part of needed political work" (154). Haraway's utopian cyborg emerges as the result of "three crucial boundary breakdowns": human/animal, animal-human/machine, and physical/non-physical (151). As such, "a cyborg world might be about lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines, not afraid of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints" (154). But the Terminator films are afraid, very afraid, of a cyborg world, seeing it as decidedly dystopian.
The cyborg has emerged as one of the most productive topics for postmodern work on feminism, race, class, and gender. As the most important and sustained cyborg narrative in Hollywood film, the Terminator films, particularly the first two, continue to demand a considerable amount of critical scrutiny. When the highly charged allegorical power of the figure of the cyborg is added to Schwarzenegger's star persona, now evolved into that of national political figure, this persona emerges as a welter of gendered, sexual, and racial anxieties that relate in multivalent ways. "Arnold's ability to insinuate himself into any discourse or any metaphoric moment or any narrative thread is a remarkable feature of his stardom," write Louise Krasniewicz and Michael Blitz (22). Such an understanding of Schwarzenegger's Terminator-like ability to infiltrate discourses and cultural spaces relates to an important aspect of the Terminator's metaphorical value: the human-metal cyborg serves as an allegory for sexual "passing" and closeted homosexuality. Able to pass as human but containing within him a secret identity destructive to human life, the Terminator, the enemy of human reproductivity, is an unstable and challenging metaphor for queer people. Moreover, the cyborg-as-superman-the heightened, cartoonish version of manhood represented by the hypermasculine Terminator image-allows us to consider the nature of queer desire. Like Bersani's "Is the Rectum a Grave?," written between the release of the two Terminator films, the Terminator films themselves fuse themes of fetishism and gay desire. The queer cyborg of these films, in its utterly adamant opposition to futurity, can be read, in the paradigms of Lee Edelman, as the embodiment of the queer death drive.1
Terminator 2 occupies a central allegorical position in the cultural effort to denature homoerotic imagery so that it can be redeployed for mass-consumption, in order to effect, in the words of Michael DeAngelis, the "accommodation of homosexual and heterosexual positions of spectatorial access" (157). The Terminator's association with leather culture is the most vivid indication of its fusion of straight and gay sensibilities. As DeAngelis writes, the cultural "configuration of black leather as an element of gay culture . . . has no inherent or exclusive associations with homosexuality" (157). But the postwar leather phenomenon "was appropriated by emerging gay biker clubs in the 1950s" (157).2 William Friedkin's 1981 film Cruising appeared to associate leather-clad gay men with violence in the popular mind.3 The Terminator films draw on longstanding cultural fantasies of gay leather culture but also on the denaturing straight appropriations of this culture to produce a hybrid new masculine identity that embraces hypermasculinity while attempting to keep homoerotic energies and associations at bay-a wobbly enterprise, indeed. Adding to its leather-daddy themes, the film's dependence on tropes of biker masculinity corresponds to overlapping fixations in gay S/M subcultures. "Images of bikers started cropping up in homoerotic physique magazines of the 1950s," writes Juan A. Suárez, in "elaborate fetishistic scenarios" (156): "the physicality of the biker contrasted with the effeminacy, frailty, and neuroticism attributed to homosexuals both in popular representations and medical and psychological discourses" (158). In addition to representing fused straight and gay iconographies of manhood, Terminator 2 provides extraordinarily vivid evidence of the resurgence of an interest in fascist iconography in Bush-to-Bush films, which here bears directly on its appropriation of homoerotic imagery. Discussing his difficulty in explaining his project of the linkages between fascism and homosexuality in modernity, Andrew Hewitt notes the response he would sometimes receive: "Oh, now I get it! You mean leather and S&M, and all that stuff!..." (3). Hewitt's project reminds us that fascism used homosexuals as objects and victims; Terminator 2 redeploys gay leather and S&M imagery appropriations of fascist iconographies for newly proto-fascist purposes. Indeed, all the Terminator films, but especially the first sequel, revisit the imagery of avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger's disturbing Scorpio Rising (1964), another film that may be said to fuse leather, biker, and S/M iconographies in a manner suggestive of the controversial overlap between Nazism and homosexuality. "The Nazi imagery in the film," writes Suárez, "assimilates the bikers to Nazi troopers on the basis of their violence and gang-like structure" (164). If juvenile delinquent John Connor stands in for the "nihilistic and mutinous young outlaw" in search of a leader, the two Terminators stand in for the leaders whose guidance may result in fascism. Like Anger's film, Cameron's demonstrates the "connection between totalitarianism and kitsch" (Suárez 165). Indeed, Terminator 2 can be described as, to use Andrew Hewitt's phrase, "fascist kitsch" (206).4
Schwarzenegger's star image provides the fascist logic of the Terminator films. As Yvonne Tasker writes, Schwarzenegger embodies "two poles, of excess and narcissism on the one hand, 'heroic health' on the other, [that] can be seen to provide the limits for the meaning of the muscular body" in cinema and popular culture. He has been widely admired by the American public for the latter qualities. Yet admiration
quickly shifts into unease, which shifts into speculation about the appeal of Schwarzenegger to the masses of America. In particular Schwarzenegger's foreignness, his immigrant status, carries [for critics like Ian Penman, who sees Schwarzenegger as "American Fascist art exemplified, embodied,"] disturbing associations of a Nazi past, a Europe from which so many fled . . . . [reminding] us of the appeal that Nazi art made to an idealized classical culture.
Terminator 2 signals that along with an increasingly less covert deployment of homoerotic imagery in Hollywood films came the volatile cultural baggage associated, most often perniciously, with this imagery. Given that Schwarzenegger's own star manhood synthesizes fascistic and homoerotic themes, Terminator 2 represents an overdetermination of linkages among hypermasculine bodies, homoeroticism, and the fascist manifestations of both.
Homoerotics of The Fascist Male Body
We can consider Terminator 2 as a recent example of the fictions of eroticized fascism created by nonfascists (if Cameron can be given the benefit of the doubt) treated by Laura Frost in her discussion of modernist texts. Frost distinguishes between historical fascism, with its ever present real-world threat, fictionalized modernist fascism, and the "pure literary masochism on the Sacher-Masoch model" (36). The chief fascist figures of Terminator 2, like those in modernist novels, undergo "transformations, often switching from aggression to submission"-this is clearly the case in Schwarzenegger's cyborg and to a certain extent of Sarah and even the T-1000. These transformations, however, never occur in Sacher-Masoch:
when the masochist's manipulations are unmasked or the "torturer" is submissive, the scene is over. . . . In Sacher-Masoch's texts, the "tormentor" must always be coaxed into playing her role; in fictions of eroticized fascism, the fascist figure is historically circumscribed as unremittingly cruel. However, in [fictional erotic scenarios], a passive or sexually compelling fascist can be imagined.
These works of "imaginatively distorted fascism" "play masochistically with fascism . . . . Fantasy makes possible a sexually responsive fascism and can transform enacted political violence into erotic sadomasochism" (Frost 36).5
In a particularly striking moment in the first Terminator, Kyle describes post-apocalyptic life in the machine-world hell to Sarah, and explains why the machines have targeted her for termination:
Most of us were rounded up, put in camps for orderly disposal. [Pulls up his right sleeve, exposing a mark.] This is burned in by laser scan. Some of us were kept alive... to work... loading bodies. The disposal units ran night and day. We were that close to going out forever. But there was one man who taught us to fight, to storm the wire of the camps, to smash those metal motherfuckers into junk. He turned it around. He brought us back from the brink. His name is Connor. John Connor. Your son, Sarah, your unborn son.
The mark Reese shows Sarah, burnt into his skin, resembles a concentration-camp number. His description of the machines' relentless campaign to "exterminate" human life parallels the Third Reich's program in WWII Germany to exterminate social undesirables like Jews, gypsies, the infirm, the mentally retarded, and homosexuals. Terminator 2's aesthetic constructions of manhood also informed the rise of fascism in World War II Germany. I would argue that the films' uses of Schwarzenegger draw upon collective, popular images of Nazi masculinity, the image of the Nietzschean superman that the Nazis distorted for their own purposes. Terminator 2 all but explicitly develops these implicit themes in the first film, threatening to reveal the films' secret-that they enshrine and fetishize fascist manhood-drawing upon as they disavow the homoeroticism that undergirds it.
In his essay "The Contemporary Political Use of Gay History: The Third Reich," gay filmmaker and scholar Stuart Marshall reminds us of the overvaluation of Aryan masculinity and male friendship in the Nazi era in Germany. Aestheticizing and eroticizing "the masculine fighting man," the Nazis "produced endless representations of male beauty for the populace to identify with or to idealize, most notably through their official art, which made frequent references to Hellenic Greek art and culture" (Marshall 79). The Hellenic masculine colossi of Arno Breker, the Official State Sculptor of the Nazi era, emblematized this interest. The German state did not equate the eroticism that undergirded the socially and politically necessary institutionalization of male friendship with sexuality but rather with "desexualized" and "cosmological love." "But homoeroticism can easily become transmuted into homosexual desire, and this was the root of the Nazis' problem" (Marshall 79-80). The homoerotic history of Nazi ideology demands a far denser scrutiny than can be provided here, but we can focus on a few salient points. All the Terminator films share Nazi Germany's simultaneous adulation for and anxiety over the idealized nude form, and a desire to return to origins. The first three films open with sequences that depict the barren, laser-lit nightmarish nighttime world of our post-apocalyptic, machine-run future, in which enormous death-machines crunch their immense tires over rows of human skulls. We then see Terminators being born into our present, crouching in fetal positions that also resemble the cool tranquility of classical sculpture. (In sharp contrast, cries of anguish and a quivering body accompany human Reese's "birth.") Invited to admire their form without succumbing to baser voyeuristic impulses, what Freud called the "tormenting compulsion" to look at others' genitals, we see nude Terminator bodies but no full-frontal nudity. (After repression sets in, the desire to see others' genitals becomes a "tormenting compulsion." Even more independent an impulse than scopophilia, cruelty comes easily to the child, for the affect of pity, like shame, develops late [Freud Three Essays 58-9].6) This device extends even into the time-travel-free Terminator Salvation (2009), which, through the wonders of digital technology, restores the massive Schwarzenegger-cyborg to his younger 1984 form, which we are invited to gape at anew in all of its naked perfection even as male frontal nudity remains decisively obscured.
Considering the work of art critic Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768) as the foundation of the German cult of male beauty that culminated in the fascist movement, George L. Mosse describes the ways in which the Nazis resolved the problems posed by the fetishized image of the male nude, which threatened to inspire homoerotic feeling. Winckelmann "had already attempted to make his Greek sculptures acceptable to middle-class sensibilities by raising his naked youths to an abstract plane, transforming them into a stylistic principle." Key to the minimization of these figures' erotic impact was their "transparent whiteness" and tranquility. "Reese, what's it like to go through time?" asks Sarah in the first film. "White light," he responds, adding that he alone, being human, experiences pain in time travel. The white light of transparent classical beauty rendered potentially disturbingly erotic nudity into "universally valid and immutable symbols. The Nazis took up this argument and extended it," making sure that when the male nude was displayed, male skin was always "hairless, smooth, and bronzed," the body rendered "almost transparent," in hope that "with as few individual features as possible, it would lose any sex appeal," becoming an "abstract symbol of Aryan beauty, not unlike the athletes in Leni Riefenstahl's film of the 1936 Olympics" (Mosse 172-3). Given the supreme and idealized whiteness of all the Terminators, including Reese's anti-Terminator human protector, the films may be said to constitute a revisiting of the Nazi problematics of beauty, with much the same result, an abstraction of nude physicality into mythic symbol. In the first film, the Schwarzenegger Terminator's first confrontation, with punks in shabby clothes and Mohawk haircuts, pits his idealized form against their degenerate masculinity. When he dons their clothing, however, he symbolically merges his ideal form and their degeneracy, giving his first version of the Terminator a kind of punker trashiness, a hobo chic, one adumbrated by Reese's stealing of a homeless man's pants. But in Terminator 2, Schwarzenegger's Terminator, though he steals clothes from a redneck-typed tough in a country and western bar, appears sleek and blemishless, a rarefied abstraction of his punk-trash former self. In fact, with his newly refined, cut-down physicality, no longer bulgingly Mr. Universe but now much more humanly proportionate, Schwarzenegger is, in some shots, very beautiful, almost, relatively speaking, femininely soft. His massive bulk a sign of vulnerability, Schwarzenegger provides an incoherent, disorienting sign of manhood here.
One of the commonplaces of the Hitler biography is that, as an Austrian with dark hair and features, he himself did not embody the model of Aryan perfection he promulgated as the universal standard. As an Austrian with dark hair and features, Schwarzenegger does not fully represent the master race of the Nazi ideal, either, even if he otherwise embodies the "superman." For this reason, the T-1000 of Robert Patrick is especially fascinating as an upgrade of masculine perfection, the ideal Aryan "often compared to the ancient Greek ideal type," who exemplifies heath in mind and body, pointing backward to a "healthy world before the onset of modernity." The T-1000 comes closer than Schwarzenegger's Terminator to copying the Nordic perfectionism of the ideal Nazi male, "tall and lean, with broad shoulders and small hips" (Mosse 169). Schwarzenegger's cut cyborg body here seems like an attempt to match Patrick's ideal measurements, but still emerges as a less perfect model of male physicality from a fascist perspective. It is little wonder that the T-1000 is a more advanced model, and Schwarzenegger, however hulking, the underdog; this conceit only makes sense from a racist perspective.
Terminator 2 draws on two of the most familiar images in gay iconography, both of which have fascist undertones: the leatherman and the cop. Given Schwarzenegger's status as a cartoon of manhood, it is easy to see in Terminator 2 a kind of parodistic disposition towards the fascist male ideal, precisely because of its homoerotic overtones. The depiction of both Schwarzenegger's and Robert Patrick's bodies, competing perfectionist models of male physicality, recalls the classically chiseled bodies of Nazi art, but also of gay artists like Tom of Finland, who incorporates such iconography in his drawings of hypermasculine (yet strangely softened) men engaged in various baroque configurations of gay sex. Like Tom of Finland's work, and also the theoretical work of queer theorists like Leo Bersani, Terminator 2 engages in the dangerously unstable project of drawing out the appeal of fascist manhood for gay men, an appeal then remanufactured as a spectacle for straight audiences. As such, the kinder, gentler Terminator 2 is a much less reassuring film than it would appear.
"Military life, as glorified by the Nazis, did indeed attract gay men," writes Micha Ramakers in a study of Tom of Finland's work, "the best-known example being Ernst Röhm's doomed SA corps, which, at Hitler's command, and with his personal involvement, was destroyed during the Night of the Long Knives (June 30, 1934). The attraction German soldiers-and their outfits-held over gay men also is clear from the work of a number of gay writers" (161). (We should note that while Röhm was gay and so were some SA officers, the SA eventually had around 3 million soldiers, so not all of its members can be assumed to have been gay.) Ramakers, in an exculpation of charges frequently brought forth against Tom of Finland, argues that his work cannot be equated with Nazi iconographer Arno Breker's: "Tom's work is dedicated to the glorification of the male body," Ramakers argues, "in all its vulnerability: his bodies are constantly being penetrated in every possible way and through every orifice. In that sense they form the antithesis of the Nazi body, which was in every way a closed, impenetrable body" (165). If Breker's "anti-bodies" express the Nazi fear and loathing of the corruptible body, the bodies in Tom's work glorify, for Ramakers, "an abject form of corruption, indeed one persecuted by the Nazis" (165). Even if we appropriate Terminator 2 as a queer work that plays with the transgressive appeal of fascist forms of masculinity-the leatherman, the cop, and also the butch woman; even if we treat the film precisely not as Schwarzenegger and company would have us see it, as some kind of weirdly hyperviolent but resolutely sentimental family-values film (which framing of the film is also a disavowal of the violence and eroticism of sentimentalism as a genre), the film's fascist imagery cannot be defended in the terms Ramakers uses to defend Tom of Finland.
Cameron's work indulges in and explores fantasies of the corruptible, vulnerable male body to a degree that is unseemly and transgressive for a conventional Hollywood film, but there is no celebration of this explosion of the confines of the representation of male physicality. Rather, there is something else: a fascinated, wonderstruck desire to see this explosion again and again, in ever more ingenious and voyeuristic ways. The film exhibits, in the ample imaginative license for dark fantasy it gives the viewer, a fascination with precisely the most volatile, potentially pernicious tropes of gay male identity. For example, in one shot of the T-1000 in silver liquid metal form, we see him fall from the ceiling of an elevator on to the ground. The shot unmistakably suggests falling excrement. The T-1000 returns cyborg masculinity to the anal/excremental/sadistic stage of Freud's theory of childhood psychosexual development, a regression related to fantasies in the popular imaginary of homosexuality as regressive returns to childhood sexuality or to arrested development. Phobic associations such as these abound. Yet the film also truly does disturb its solicited straight audience in its sustained suggestion that all forms of manhood and masculinity are inherently fascistic and homoerotic in their appeal. In its own bizarrely self-conflicted and bombastic way, it's a radically de-minoritizing movie, making homoerotic desire universal.
Kristen Thompson writes of Terminator 2 that "although there is no romance, John's friendship with the Terminator and that relationship's humanizing effect on the latter provide considerable emotional appeal" (42). I would go further to argue that it is precisely in the nature of the John-Terminator relationship as a romance that the film's emotional appeal lies. If Terminator 2 is diabolical fun for the whole family, perhaps the film's most awesomely perverse touch is its family-unfriendly foregrounding of pedophilic themes which organize all of the other themes we have examined.7 Even more perversely, Terminator 2 is a pedophilic fantasy from a child's perspective.8
The fascist fantasies circulating in the film center upon young male John Connor's body, which both Terminators war over. In classical Greek culture, the eromenos is the young male object of desire for the erastes, the older man, who initiates the eromenos into intellectual and sexual knowledge. As played by Furlong, John Connor is a surprisingly vulnerable young man, an ephebe who suggests the eromenos of Greek pederasty, even as the Terminators, with their secret reserves of knowledge past and future, suggest the erastes. The battle of two military "men" over the vulnerable young John also recalls a popular image in gay appropriations of Nazi masculinity. In a typical Tom of Finland construction-it should be noted that this artist always fiercely denied any associations with Nazism (which, unlike Ramakers, I do not find convincing)-"two men are depicted, an army officer and an undressed, muscular young man. The military man penetrates the youngster and at the same time jerks him off. The young man uses both hands to push the soldier's buttocks towards him, to enable him to enter his rectum as deeply as possible." So intense is their passion that they fail to notice "a second soldier," of lower rank, spying on them, and "clearly aroused by the performance" (Ramakers 162). Terminator 2 replicates this Tom of Finland scenario by having two "soldiers" war over the possession of a young male's body. In one deleted scene, the T-1000 investigates John's room, running his hands fetishistically over John's possessions; numerous shots of John riding a motorcycle with the T-800 suggest sodomitical intercourse. But Terminator 2 also suggests desire on the part of the pedophilic object. After the first encounter with the T-1000, after which the T-800's body is riddled with bullets, John examines the T-800's body, uttering such suggestive lines as "This is intense" and "Get a grip, John" as he runs his own hands over the Terminator's supple leather-clad body. The running theme of the Terminator's education by John, his obeisance even to orders from the boy such as "stand on one leg," continue this theme of switched-tables in the erastes-eromenos relationship, the eromenos initiating the innocent erastes into knowledge.
Bersani's "Is the Rectum a Grave?" corrects the oddly utopian streak in queer theory, its often uncritical celebration of homosocial brotherhood, as exemplified by Michael Warner's work.9 One point Bersani fails to note, however-and which Terminator 2 makes spectacularly apparent-is straight culture's appropriation of homosexual iconography and homoerotic themes. If gays have sometimes disquietingly fetishized the very contours and textures of a murderous sexual regime, this regime has also acted upon its fascination with our own fascinations, seen our appropriation of its own form as a form of inimitable worship it itself seeks to imitate. Terminator 2 gives us a series of prismatic lenses through which to view mythic masculinity, gay, straight, homoerotically heterosexual, even heteroerotically queer (if we think of Sarah's multivalently phallic sexiness).10Terminator 2 is as steeped in homoerotic desire as an Alan Holingshurst novel.11
The Fascist Family
E.T.A. Hoffman's 1817 short story "The Sand-Man" is the central literary work that Freud analyzes in his essay on the uncanny. In one particularly harrowing episode in the story, the young boy Nathanael surreptitiously observes a nighttime discussion before a blazing hearth between his father and an odious friend, Coppelius: "Good God! as my old father bent down over the fire how different he looked! His gentle and venerable features seemed to be drawn up by some dreadful convulsive pain into an ugly, repulsive Satanic mask. He looked like Coppelius" (175). Nathanael's terror allows him to be discovered. Coppelius first threatens to take away his eyes, but after the father's desperate protestations, instead unscrews the boy's hands and feet, realizing in the process of reattaching the appendages that "the old fellow"-presumably God-knew what he was doing after all. The Oedipal confusion between his kindly old father and loathsome Coppelius, the two men's subsequent war over the body of the boy, and the images of castration-not just eyes but hands and feet, a parodistic orgy of the castration-complex Freud will theorize a century later-illuminate the battle between the Terminators in Terminator 2.
Rushing and Frentz argue that the Terminator of the first film is "the technological telos of the ego, the sovereign rational subject of modernism," the "eradication of the inferior [human] shadow" that appears to us as "unspeakably Satanic," "a macabre caricature of the obsolete human self" (168-9). In their view, Terminator 2 "rehabilitates its central commodified icon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, from a demon into the savior of humanity-thus effectively stealing John Connor's destiny" as the messiah, as his initials would suggest (184). The transformation of Schwarzenegger from Satan to messiah in Terminator 2 brings us back to the confusion between the kindly father and Satanic Coppelius in Hoffman's "The Sand-Man." Terminator 2 represents a fantasy of oedipal father-son relations in which the "Satanic" nature of the Father can be controlled, deployed at will, and rendered a secondary sub-routine, as evinced in the scene in which John both orders the Terminator to brutalize some musclebound dudes who have rushed to John's defense and teaches the cyborg not to kill. Transforming the cyborg into the murderously benign father relies upon an understanding of the Father as inherently murderous, far from benign.
Sarah's speech in the sequel makes this view astonishingly explicit: "Of all the would-be fathers that came and went over the years, this 'thing,' this machine, was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice." In the "family values" era of Reagan and Bush I, Sarah's speech has a powerfully surprising resonance. She exposes the family-values myth as such by arguing that a crisis in fatherhood exists pervasively, suggesting it cannot be limited to, say, the poor black community. Clinton, the child of a single mother whose brutalization he witnessed and fought, would make a war against "Deadbeat Dads" a feature of his Presidency. (Evincing the incoherency of his presidency, he would also demonize the so-called "Welfare Queen.") The uncanny resonance of Terminator 2 for many viewers is precisely its re-deployment of the killer cyborg as killer father-protector. As the adult John says movingly to the "obsolete" T-800 model in the 2003 Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, "Do you know that you were the closest thing to a father that I ever had?" The dark joke in this film is that Skynet sent this T-800 to kill John's future self precisely because John's emotional attachment to the model allows the model to infiltrate John's stronghold. The futuristic machines understand the enduring power of oedipal attachments. In the Terminator films, it is the father who is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer-and in Terminator 2, we get the father who finally melts, a symbolic wish literalized in the climax.
This longing for a loving father whose innate brutality is reprogrammed for protectiveness is parodied in the T-1000, whose ardent interest in John is no less intense than the T-800's, but also in the figures of Sarah and Miles Dyson (Joe Morton), the African-American scientist at Cyberdyne who will be the catalyst for Skynet's take-over. Sarah's fearsome phallic mother pointedly withholds emotional love from John, admonishing him for having rescued her from the asylum as she checks his body for injuries, her stinging words making him cry. With her taut body and black military gear, she looks like a rogue commando and, as many critics have pointed out, very much like a Terminator. The movie struggles over whether or not to affirm Sarah's phallic motherhood. In large part, it revels in her musculature and fierce martial prowess, but it also makes the scene in which she finally breaks down, hugs John, and tells him that she loves him an especially wrenching moment. It has her sacrificially lower John into safety at the refinery at the end so that she can face off the T-1000 herself, and, though it gives her a thrilling near-triumph at the climax when, like Ripley in Aliens, she shoots volley after volley of bullets into the T-1000's disoriented form, it also refuses to allow her to destroy the T-1000, reserving the final heroic stroke for Arnold. Thrillingly taut and courageous an action heroine though she is, Sarah is the most highly ambivalent figure in the film, because according to the homoerotic logic of the film the phallic mother is an inadequate compensation for the tender toughness of the cyborg father.
Dyson is depicted as a loving but absent father. In a scene in the Special Edition DVD, his wife (S. Epatha Merkerson) chastises him for not wanting to spend more time with the kids; he smilingly relents and agrees to take them to an amusement park. While Dyson represents both the absent father and the evils of cold, rationalist science-Sarah accuses him from a maternalist standpoint of not "really knowing what it is to create a life, to feel it growing inside you"-he is nevertheless in many ways a warmer, more humane figure than Sarah, more malleable, less inflexible, as his decision literally to trash his life's work to avert nuclear holocaust shows. The film also locates in this upwardly mobile black family a sensuality not present elsewhere in the film. In a scene with disquietingly racist overtones, Dyson's wife licks his neck as she greets him clad in a bathing suit: even if middle-class aspirers, blacks sign sex. The implication is that the white family-John's loveless adoptive parents, phallic Sarah who stands alone and refuses affection-is bereft of love, emotion, and sexuality, whereas the black family risks losing their ties to and claims on such affectional intensities in their pursuit of white middle-class ideals. They're in danger of becoming white machines, losing their sexual and emotional vitality. If Sarah represents a fantasy of transforming into the ultimate white machine-masculinist and devoid of emotion-when her uncomputerized yet no less efficiently murderous, Terminator-like vision takes in the Dyson family, she fuses gendered modes of white supremacist gazing at the objectified black body. "White surveillance, incorporating both male and female gazes, of black bodies is sexualizing and dehumanizing," writes Janell Hobson (39). Capturing this black family within her phallic gaze, fascistic-leather-garbed Sarah objectifies them as freaks of sexual appetite despite their middle-class, aspirationist trappings.
Sharon Willis considers the relationship between Dyson and Sarah Connor, particularly in light of the speech in which Sarah accuses Dyson of being one in the line of masculinist scientists who create destructive technologies ("Men like you built the hydrogen bomb…You don't know what it's like to create a life, to feel it growing inside you," says Sarah to Dyson, in a triumph of the essentialist, maternalist rhetoric that runs uncomfortably alongside masculinist violent ideologies throughout Cameron's increasingly constrictive oeuvre). The film's association of traditional scientific power and its disturbing potentialities with the African-American Dyson endures as a troubling, underexplored feature of the film's more overtly articulated gender politics and implicit racial politics. Dyson, like Charles S. Dutton's supporting character in Alien 3 (1993), is the African-American who must sacrifice himself so that the white, female hardbody-heroine may live, as his self-sacrifice in the destruction of the Cyberdyne offices evinces. As Willis writes, "why do white women's hardbodies seem to be propped on the 'ghosts' of African-American men? [This is a] displacement of one difference onto another . . . . that should alert us to the mixed and ambiguous effects of our popular representations, where figures of social and sexual ambivalence" and of "undecidable identity" are all intensely eroticized. Because of race's ongoing difficulty for culture, its difficulties can be more reassuringly "siphoned off" onto sexuality (126). But surely this is only in relative terms-sexuality proves to be a highly disturbing figure in the film, especially when seen in the context of race.
Sarah's paramilitary look and skills adumbrate the film's larger connections to the world of military might and its ramifications for social "others." Combat-geared Sarah, like Schwarzenegger's Terminator, parodies the uniformed authority of T-1000's cop, himself (itself) the parodistic version of military authority. The figure of the cop as the incarnation of "formless evil" comes across, in Fred Pfeil's words, as a "particularly pungent if fortuitous maneuver, given national exposure of the racist brutality of Police Chief Gates' Los Angeles Police Department a scant few months before this film's release" (239). The Los Angeles Riots inspired by the beating of an African-American man, Rodney King, by police officers and their subsequent acquittal provide an eerie backdrop for the film's figuration of villainy as "steely-eyed Aryan form" (Pfeil 238). Though Dyson and his family never come into contact with the T-1000, Sarah's suggestively fascist look signals that she, too, embodies the T-1000's connection to the fetishization of military power and phallic form. If this film appears to be suggesting a resurgence that must be disavowed as fascist imagery, then Sarah's home invasion of the Dyson family reminds us, chillingly, that Africans have been available as targets of not only United States racism but also of the murderous ideologies of other nations, most pertinently that of Nazi Germany. We tend to think, understandably, predominantly of the annihilation of the European Jewish population in this period. "The sheer magnitude of crimes against Jews has tended to obscure the issue of state-sponsored violence against Black Germans," Heide Fehrenbach notes in a book on the subject (87-8). Terminator 2 eerily recalls the themes of the Nazi regime in all of its frightening dimensions.
The role of the phallic mother-domineering and dominant-in the national imaginary was pivotal to fascism in Nazi Germany, as Andrea Slane has demonstrated. Though I am in complete disagreement with her assessment of Hitchcock, her discussion of his 1946 film Notorious, whose chief villains are Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), a European Nazi living in a secret Nazi stronghold in Brazil, and his mother, sheds light on the representation of Sarah here. Parsing the views of Philip Wylie, who in his 1942 study Generation of Vipers compared the domineering Nazi "mom" who destroys the men of the nation to Hitler, Slane writes that "Domineering mothers might not only cause their sons to become fascist but in fact act like fascists themselves. Madame Sebastian is a fascist by virtue of her suffocating mothering in Wylie's sense as much as she is a suffocating mother by virtue of her fascism" (130). Slane points out that the effeminate Alex Sebastian is presented not as the violent, frightening oedipal Nazi father but instead as the victim of the "masculinized, domineering mother Madame Sebastian…As a result of this emphasis, Alex emerges as surprisingly sympathetic for a Nazi character in 1946, precisely because he is less to blame for his politics than his mother is" (131).12
Sarah's masculinized sexuality serves several functions, one of the most important of which is to accommodate the retooled Schwarzenegger/Terminator image to the reshaped Terminator mythos of this film. Sarah is the split-off, "bad" mother-father to the good Terminator's new benevolent, masochistic father-mother; her aggression highlights his vulnerability and emotional accessibility. The Aryan fantasy of the T-1000 everywhere suggests a transforming social world for which Sarah prepares her son, a new fascist state in which all is warfare, aggression, and fetishized military surfaces. The relevance of these configurations for queer theory lies in the ways in which the T-1000 bears the residues of queer sexual appropriation of images of masculinist power. Moreover, the character demonstrates the endurance of cultural erotic fixations upon these very images, libidinal investments that are to a certain degree sublimated but are also explosively prominent. Sarah functions as a queer sexual fetish object as well as a disciplining force. She is the Law of the Father as much as its enemy, chastising sensitive John for his sensitivity, conditioning him always to be more properly masculinist, not to care about her or to care about anything at all except his mission (this is why Sarah's breakdown, in which she hugs John as she weeps, is heartbreakingly moving rather than some kind of concession to essentialist gendered stereotypes of motherhood, or at least not only a concession: this is the moment in which Sarah finally relents in her unyielding campaign to masculinize John). She is both the Law of normalization and its perverse undermining, in that it is precisely the hypermasculinity she adopts to socialize John properly that lends her an air of sadomasochistic, queer sexuality as exciting as it is disturbing. (This hypermasculinism can also be said to have a resistant quality in that it allows her to defy her hystericization by the phallocratic psychoanalytic institution that incarcerates and brutalizes her. The extraordinarily unpleasant scenes of her abuse at the hands of smug psychiatrists and lascivious and violent security guards stand in for the discourse of hysteria that attends to the construction of womanhood from the late nineteenth-century forward.13) Sarah seems the fulfillment of the maddeningly indecipherable, haunting final image of Karen Allen in the gay S/M leather gear get-up in William Friedkin's disturbing, distasteful, and brilliant film Cruising (1981), about an undercover cop (Al Pacino) investigating a serial killer's murders within the gay S/M subculture of late-70s New York City. Sarah's narrative arc transforms her from the Sacher-Masoch model of the icy, sadistic female tormentor into the proper Oedipal mother, nurturing and disciplining John. If, as we noted earlier, Terminator 2 can be described as fascist kitsch, the figures of the good Terminator as leather-daddy, the evil Terminator as cop, and the Terminator-like phallic mother correspond to S/M culture's fetishistic appropriation of fascist tropes. And in its redeployment of these themes, the Terminator franchise has lost none of its popular culture appeal, as evinced by the fourth installment of the film franchise, Terminator Salvation (2009), starring Christian Bale as an adult John Connor, and the FOX television series version of the films, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which extends the mythos to its rightful place as fascist kitsch's double, sentimental family drama, albeit in often challenging, daring ways (which may account for the series' abrupt 2009 cancellation after only two seasons).
Cyborg Narcissus: Or, the Queerness of Cyborgs
While Susan Jeffords's argument in Hard Bodies was oracular in many respects, on a key point it was not: Hollywood's depiction of individualism from the end of the Reagan era forward has turned out to be much less than affirming. The masculine individualism that Hollywood has represented since the late 80s has been a fissured one, as demonstrated by the roaming identities of Carter Nix in De Palma's Raising Cain (1992), the bifurcated male psyche in Fight Club (1999), and the collective male ego of Zodiac (2006), representations that defy any notion of a structural masculine coherence. I propose that this split in the Hollywood representation of masculinity reflects a sustained conflict between narcissistic and masochistic modes of male identity. A narcissism/masochism split informs the conflict between Schwarzenegger's masochistic Terminator-protector and the narcissistic villainous Terminators of the sequels, a split that epitomizes the larger one that runs through Bush-to-Bush films.
In Slavoj Žižek's view, the Terminator of the 1984 film represents the mindlessness and relentlessness of the drive: "The horror of this figure consists precisely in the fact that it functions as a programmed automaton who, even when all that remains of him is a metallic, legless skeleton, persists in his demand and pursues his victim with no trace of compromise or hesitation. The terminator is the embodiment of the drive, devoid of desire" (22). This point is intensified and literally articulated in the 2003 sequel Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, when the short-circuiting Terminator rather desperately shrieks at John (Nick Stahl), now a man in early adulthood: "Desire is irrelevant. I am a machine!" On the face of it, Žižek is right. If the Terminator represents the desireless machine, then it most successfully embodies that American fantasy of an inviolate male body, now not only resistant to but utterly devoid of desire. Yet how irrelevant is desire to the Terminator films, especially the sequels? I would argue that part of the Oedipal drama of the films, especially its sequels, is the growing and plangent desire on the part of the Terminators, not just Arnold but the villainous ones as well: Terminator 2's sleekly upgraded T-1000 (Robert Patrick), whose liquid metal body can morph into new shapes, and Terminator 3's T-X, more commonly referred to as the Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken), an even more advanced robot whose human-looking mimetic liquid metal exterior covers a lithe endoskeleton. The Terminator comes to seem not a figure of desirelessness but of queer desire that is typed as narcissistic.
In section VII of his famous 1836 essay "Nature," Ralph Waldo Emerson writes that "man is a god in ruins" (231). To consider this suggestive phrasing within the parameters of a new narcissistic/masochistic split in American masculinity, we can say that Hollywood manhood, shown as fundamentally split, in its masochistic mode corresponds to this Emersonian view, representing the ruination of the chief American god, the normative white male. With this theme of ruination also comes a desire for wholeness, to see the destroyed male body reconstituted. The first sequel to Terminator establishes the Bush-to-Bush pattern of the destruction and restoration of the white male body. Again and again, Schwarzenegger's body undergoes physical assault: he is bashed into walls, riddled with bullets, punctured with an iron spear that goes completely through his prostrate body. His head is pounded by a movable anvil into the wall; half of his face gets torn off in combat, revealing the pulsing-red-eyed metal man beneath; his arm gets caught in the grinding wheel of a metal press that recalls Industrial Age accidents. Shorn of arm and deficient of face, the cyborg delivers his final, deadly blow to his enemy while lying on a conveyor belt.
Panning the film, Terrence Rafferty locates the central flaw in the "insane conceit" of making Schwarzenegger the underdog. Schwarzenegger's T-800 model is outmatched by the T-1000, "a more advanced Terminator model." "This new Terminator isn't a brute: he's made of some sort of liquid metal, with shape-shifting properties, and he's sleeker and more versatile than the old Arnold model" (316). In contrast, the "T-800 is almost human here: since he's been superseded by the spiffier model, we can see him as a vulnerable guy (or guyoid), and shed a tear when he sacrifices himself to save humanity from nuclear holocaust" (317). Pace Rafferty's view, there are several interesting implications in the film's refit of Schwarzenegger. One of these is the disorganization of the traditional male spectatorial position-instead of exclusively looking through Schwarzenegger's eyes, we also look at him, invited to gape at his dismembering even as we marvel at his body's endurance and prowess. The first Terminator effected this same spectatorial disorganization, inviting us to gawk at Schwarzenegger's cyborg as a cartoon spectacle of manhood, but in the sequel we are asked also to sympathize. We are asked to sympathize with the taciturn Terminator's increasingly masochistic availability as an icon of stoic suffering. As Brett Farmer writes in a reconsideration of Freudian theories of masochism, masochism, while highly conventional for the female subject position, is "profoundly disruptive for male subjectivity, in which it subverts the moorings of an active phallic identification" (242), and however motivated by opportunistic commercial desires on the part of director and star to present Schwarzenegger as a family-values hero, the film's make-over of Schwarzenegger as a suffering and violated machine-body has some unsettling implications.14
Terminator 2 brings out the Christian core of masochism, the destruction and restoration of the body of a beautiful white man. When John holds up the cyborg's bullet-riddled leather jacket to the sunlight, the pattern of light through the bullet holes recalls the purported image of Christ on the Shroud of Turin. The T-800 sacrificially gives up its life at the end of the film, countermanding John's tearful demands that he remain alive-the cyborg father dying for the teenage delinquent's would-be Christ. In this film, the good cyborg's destruction at the end, endlessly anticipated in a series of brutal physical pulverizations, is a kind of restoration, an honorary achievement of humanity upon the killing machine.
There is an extraordinarily plangent moment (in the Special Edition DVD) when the cyborg submits to a special operation in which the chip in his "learning computer" brain is removed to allow for adaptability and change-in other words, to allow him to become more human, "and not such a dork all the time," as John puts it. In full phallic woman mode, Sarah, like a postmodern Judith, the biblical heroine who cut off the head of the evil ruler Holofernes, attempts to smash the chip, thus rendering the Terminator inert. Like the angel staying Abraham's hand, John prevents her from destroying the chip, screaming "No!" Noticing the delay when reactivated, the Terminator asks very simply, "Did something happen?" The vulnerability and the innocence of the Terminator here matches the refinement of his physical image. The cyborg is D.H. Lawrence's hard, isolate, stoic, killer American manhood as New Age man, as vulnerable as he is murderous.
Maintaining a tortuous tension between the simultaneous murderousness and vulnerability of Schwarzenegger's cyborg, the film expresses and fulfils the desire to see a male body violated and destroyed, but then reconstituted. This film innovates the now-ubiquitous computer-generated imagery (CGI) technique of morphing, which allows one image to blend or melt seamlessly into another. The god in ruins theme is expressed not only through the endurance and suffering of the T-800 but also through the endless reconstitutions of the morphing T-1000, whose constant physical transmogrifications connote his liquid properties-the essential softness of his hard, chiseled body, which nevertheless looks diminutive and even fragile in comparison to Schwarzenegger's hulking own. In addition to being able to simulate the surfaces it touches-human bodies, checkerboard-pattern linoleum floors-the T-1000 can recover from almost any injury. Though the T-1000, who can turn parts of its body into deadly phallic instruments-long, protuberant, knifelike blades an especial favorite-routinely punctures and pulverizes human victims (to say nothing of other machines), its own body is a site of constant injury. Robert Patrick's cop experiences as much trauma as he delivers. Routinely the recipient of furious rounds of machine-gun bullets, turned into crumbling ice by an oceanic tide of liquid nitrogen, his head punctured by bombs that leave gaping holes in their wake, his torso sheared in half, the cyborg cop absorbs recurring rude shocks, displayed as gaping silver-edged wounds in his hard/soft flesh that swell and then fade away, restoring his Teflon-smooth body to pristine perfection. Oscillating between modes of male power and violability, switching from phallic murderousness to pliant malleability, the T-1000 is both god and ruin.
Masochism and narcissism have both been associated with queer masculinity. In "Homo-Narcissism: Or, Heterosexuality," Michael Warner critiques the psychoanalytic construction of homosexuality as narcissistic desire. "Imagining that the homosexual is narcissistically contained in an unbreakable fixation on himself," Warner writes, "serves two functions at once: it allows a self-confirming pathology by declaring homosexuals' speech, their interrelations, to be an illusion; and more fundamentally it allows the constitution of heterosexuality as such" (202). The queerest aspect of cyborg manhood in Terminator 2 is the T-1000's narcissism, his unbreakable fixation on his own infinitely malleable body. A mimetic poly-alloy, this morphing cyborg can resemble any surface it touches, but no matter how many permutations it undergoes or the alterity of its myriad forms, the T-1000 always reverts back to its own primary image, that of a lean, chiseled white man. One would expect to see, in this scene of his birth in our present, the T-1000 initially appearing as a silver blob of liquid metal, but from our first glimpse of him he is his white male self. We never see the mimetic T-1000 assume the shape of this man; he is always already this white male body. The T-1000 appropriates an unfortunate cop's professional identity, but not, significantly, the cop's physical body; the implication is that the T-1000 already has a perfect body all his own. A copy with no original, the T-1000, no matter how many other bodies he copies, always reverts back to his first image, as if he were constantly attempting to capture an imaginary illusion of wholeness. Though pounded, pummeled, punctured, perforated, and pulverized, the T-1000 always restores his own image, surveying his own recreated form, staring at parts of his body, getting a charge from his own endlessly renewed cohesion.
The homo-narcissism of the T-1000 fully conveys itself only in a scene that appears to carry the opposite message. In a purely excessive, extraneous moment in the psychiatric hospital where Sarah is imprisoned, the T-1000, phallically rising up in the form of a tiled linoleum floor, duplicates the form of a portly, plug-ugly security guard as he gets an automated cup of coffee. Duplicated, the guard stares at his own replicated image; but the T-1000 is also staring at itself now in the original model of the guard. Suggesting that it feels it has unsatisfactorily replicated itself, the T-1000 pointedly shoots its phallic finger into the guard's eye, as if retaliating against an original yet inferior image. The phallus through eye serves as a kind of phallus-restoring castration, the narcissistic cyborg's rebellion against an original that utterly lacks the clone's smooth and sleek perfection.
In an especially striking scene in which the T-1000 transforms into ice in the nitrogen-tide, he looks like a piece of postmodern art. (One imagines a title: "Untitled [Cop in Ice].") Parts of his body break off, and he stumbles to the ground, losing limbs. When his forearm breaks off, he looks at it with horror and shock: this is Narcissus's despair at the loss of his idealized image, the stared-at stump no less graphic a sign of castration than the boy Nathanael's twisted-off hands and feet in Hoffman's story. Now Schwarzenegger's T-800 utters his famous line, "Hasta la vista, Baby," as he shoots the frozen and maimed T-1000, blowing him to smithereens. We see not only the T-1000's narcissistic trauma, the loss of his ideal image, but also the masochistic T-800's satisfying vengeance, a vengeance that confers a kind of masculinist integrity upon the older, less advanced, but more honorable model.15
If masochistic manhood has emerged in psychoanalytically inflected queer theory as a radical break with normative manhood, films made during the Terminator 2 era, such as Dances with Wolves (1990) and Schindler's List (1993)-and later films as disparate as Fight Club (1999), The Passion of the Christ (2004), The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), and A History of Violence (2005)-make clear that masochism can have normalizing as well as disruptive effects. In these works, the ravaged, ruined male body, writhing in masochistic pain, can destabilize audience expectations and spectatorial positions, forcing an audience to see normative manhood in highly unusual and challenging ways that defy and disrupt normativity. But they can also, by fulfilling the audience's own masochistic fantasies and ennobling theatrical, self-conscious suffering, restore the model of normative masculinity with an unflinching resolve that results in this model's greater cultural and social entrenchment. If the normative male body is left vulnerable in the face of challenges to it in the form of new, probing, questioning critiques from feminism, culture and race studies, and queer theory, masochism emerges as an ingenious method for fatiguing this vulnerability, subjecting manhood to an apparent critique that leaves it wounded and thrashing but ultimately restored, better for the challenge, stronger for having demonstrated its resilience. Masochism provides normative manhood with a regimen that ensures its resilient health.
As Suárez writes of Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising, "masochism and self-immolation are the subject matter of the last section of the film, which features bikers riding at night through a city," as the "sound of roaring engines and screeching tires" punctuates their revels. These revels become more and more dangerous as the bikers lose control of their bikes and crash: we can see that "the sadism of [previous sequences] appears introjected by the group and leads to self-annihilation in the final climactic shattering of man and machine." Again, these could be descriptions of Cameron's film. Like Anger's film, Cameron's culminates with an image of "final self-annihilation": Schwarzenegger's sacrificial demand for his own termination (Suárez 171). Schwarzenegger's masochism cannot, however, be called the introjection of a previously exhibited sadism; rather, his position has been masochistic all along, the images of the maimed police officers allegorizing his own masochistic subjectivity. Schwarzenegger's self-immolation at the end does not represent resistance but rather the ultimate acquiescence to the normative order, albeit one that he sanctions through his death: the restoration of the family, his exclusion from which renders the restoration poignantly bittersweet. Masochistic self-sacrifice emerges here as a way of purging difference on all registers-foreignness, outsize bodies, homoerotic associations, cyborg bodies, the damaged, irreparable body-leaving the properly heterosexual, if pointedly fatherless, human family intact.
The queer subject position in Terminator 2 emerges not in the vulnerable, underdog, masochistic Terminator but in the sleeker, craven, implacably cruel, narcissistic T-1000, shaking his finger in disciplinary dismissal of the phallic mother and writhing in anguish at the climax in his enforced destruction in a hellfire that suggests punitive, Dantean torment. In this spectacular climax, Terminator 2 exposes the masochism inherent in reactionary, normative manhood as it revels in the queer heroism of the cruelly narcissistic villain. In the equally ideologically wobbly but also vastly underrated Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), the advanced Terminator's narcissism is depicted even more directly: after a bathroom bout with Schwarzenegger's once again fumbling, even more masochistic Terminator ["I'm an obsolete model!"], the sleekly sinister Terminatrix eyes herself approvingly in a row of mirror-stage bathroom mirrors. The dull and cumbersome Terminator Salvation (2009) does away with the delicious narcissism of the diabolically advanced Terminator altogether, instead aiming to restore the might and menace of Schwarzenegger's T-800 model when it was an unstoppable killing machine of humans in the original Terminator, and to go back even further by introducing the bulky, rough-hewn, skull-faced T-600 line. Accordingly, the 2009 reboot, with its endless array of styles of masochistic manhood, is the least queer-toned of all of the films, though in its sub-plot depiction of the trio of Kyle Reese (the human hero of the first Terminator) as a younger version of himself that suggests the ephebe, a new human-machine hybrid named Marcus who appears to be a sculpted human male for most of the film, and the mute but resourceful young African-American female child they care for, the film suggests yet another new-style queer family. Terminator 2, however, remains unsurpassed in the volatility and potency of its unwieldy brew of themes. The film suggests the centrality of queer identity in constructions of masculinity in the inter-Bush years, even or especially when those constructions reveal their ambivalence towards fascistic monumentality, raising new questions in turn about the implications of such gender constructions for queerness as well.
David Greven is an Assistant Professor of English at Connecticut College. He is the author of Manhood in Hollywood from Bush to Bush (University of Texas Press, 2009), Gender and Sexuality in Star Trek (McFarland, 2009), and Men Beyond Desire: Manhood, Sex, and Violation in American Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
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1. See Lee Edelman's No Future. While I make positive use of Edelman here, the view I take in Manhood in Hollywood from Bush to Bush of his recent work is much more skeptical.
2. De Angelis continues, "With Marlon Brando's look in The Wild One (1954) as its model, the culture used the motorcycle and the leather jacket as a countercultural antidote to social demands of the bourgeois conformity in the 1950s. By the time that the first gay leather bars appeared in the early 1960s, leather had come to signify an aggressive masculinity that many gay men used to separate themselves from associations of homosexuality with effeminacy. [Soon straight culture began to appropriate the homo-leather look, but at] the same time, however, black leather culture was also being targeted and stereotyped by the mainstream as the realm of self-obsessed, threatening, and specifically homosexual hypermasculinity" (157-158).
3. I'm in agreement with Robin Wood, who brilliantly analyzes the film in Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan, that Cruising, despite its reputation as a homophobic text, is one of the most daring (and difficult) films about sexuality ever made in Hollywood, surely one of the most effectively unsettling. The film has finally been released on DVD and now appears to be getting a bit of the critical attention it deserves.
4. Drawing on Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's discussion of camp and kitsch, Andrew Hewitt, in his discussion of the conflation of homosexuality and fascism in Modernist texts, writes that "kitsch representationalism…marks the aesthetic meeting point of homosexuality and fascism for the contemporary cultural imagination" (206). Provocative for our discussion of Terminator 2, Hewitt notes that "The representation of cute boys in sharp black uniforms is (considered to be) homoerotically charged, not simply as a result of the specific object of representation, but by virtue of the frisson that representation-a dirty pleasure-invokes" (206) The problem for queer viewerships posed by the camp/kitsch split is located with the debates over representation itself, "both aesthetically and politically suspect from the perspective of modernism" (206). See also Sedgwick, Epistemology, 150-7. These themes came up in our comparative discussion of Bersani's "Is the Rectum a Grave?" and Cameron's film.
5. The term "sadomasochism" remains highly controversial. Deleuze debunked the notion of masochism and sadism as the inverse of each other, thereby dispelling as well the myth of sadomasochism as a fused perversion. But Estela V. Welldon problematizes Deleuze in her recent study on sadomasochism. "Interestingly enough, at the beginning of the [twentieth] century, before sadism was adopted as an official psychiatric term, the noted psychopathologist Albert von Schrenck-Notzing introduced the term alolagnia, which meant lust for pain, and although it defined the desire to cause pain as an end in itself, it did not make any differentiation between sadism and masochism." In some ways, the same can be said for the erotics of Terminator films. See Welldon, Sadomasochism, 9.
6. Freud wrote Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality in 1905 but kept adding to it until 1924.
7. For a discussion of the crucial role played by the incendiary topic of pederasty in fascist ideologies and discourses, see Hewitt, Political, especially Chapter Four.
8. Many factors enable the film to engage in such deeply dangerous fantasies. One of these is the tacit assurance audience members have that family films such as Terminator 2 would never depict such erotically threatening tableaux, especially with Schwarzenegger's retooled kinder gentler star image (as the same year's Kindergarten Cop makes clear) at its center. Another is that the rampant violence and mayhem distract one from considering the erotic impulses behind them. American cinema is firmly split between sex and violence, believing that one cannot be represented along with the other, even if such a proposition is patently absurd. The ingeniousness of such films as Terminator 2 lies in their ability to indulge in deeply disturbing and volatile cultural fantasies-fascism, homoeroticism, pedophilia, carnal desires that erupt in spectacular violence-while maintaining the aura of family entertainment. One can say the same of Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993), which uses its family-friendly storyline to camouflage its predilection for terrifying moments such as the one in which the mammoth T-Rex bites the head off an obnoxious lawyer. The debates over violent movie content that surrounded Spielberg's earlier Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)-one of his most entertaining and subversive films-which featured the pulling out of a man's heart from his chest, transformed into paranoiac denunciations of sexual content in Bush-to-Bush cinema, as evinced by the debate over Philip Kaufman's Henry and June (1990). Memorably, the late French filmmaker Louis Malle remarked, "You can show a breast being cut off and get an 'R' rating, but if you show this breast being kissed or fondled you get an 'X.'" Terminator 2 uses violence as an inexhaustibly broad palette for the expression of every human desire, and uses the cyborg body to suggest every human desirer. As such, it is entertainment for the posthuman family.
9. In his essay "Pleasure Principles," Caleb Crain provides a good portrait of Warner's celebration of the queer homosocial as utopian and "world-making." I take this disquieting strain in queer theory to task in Chapter One of my Men Beyond Desire.
10. Here the contentious question of camp and kitsch responses comes up again. "In the highly contestative world of kitsch and kitsch-recognition there is no mediating level of consciousness; so it is necessarily true that the structure of contagion whereby it takes one to know one, and whereby any object about which the question 'Is it kitsch?' can be asked immediately becomes kitsch, remains, under the system of kitsch-attribution, a major scandal….Camp, on the other hand, seems to involve a gayer and more spacious angle of view. I think it may be true that, as Robert Dawidoff suggests, the typifying gesture of camp is really something amazingly simple; the moment at which a consumer of culture makes the wild surmise, 'What if the person who made this was gay, too?' Unlike kitsch-attribution, then, camp-recognition doesn't ask, 'What kind of debased creature could possibly be the right audience for this spectacle?' Instead, it says what if: What if the right audience for this were exactly me?'" (Sedgwick 156). Along these lines, Terminator 2 is kitsch-vulgarly naïve, sentimental art-that provokes a gay camp response. As Hewitt writes, "the kitsch of fascism potentially becomes a homosexual camp through the workings of a logic identified by Sedgwick as the logic of identification" (208). Queer audiences no less than straight respond to the film's kitschy reformulation of the Oedipus complex as a new union with an apparently murderous but actually benign and loving patriarch, reconfigured here as masochistic cyborg.
11. Terminator 3 also makes the suggestion of fascist homoeroticism in the 1991 film newly explicit: in its version of the standard scene in which Schwarzenegger brutalizes humans in order to get their clothes and a pair of dark sunglasses, his reprogrammed cyborg demands the leather outfit of an obviously gay male dancer, gyrating to the sounds of The Village People's "Macho Man," in a "Ladies Night" performance at the local bar. "Wait your turn, honey," the dancer tells Schwarzenegger, then rebuking him with "Talk to the hand, honey." Schwarzenegger grabs the dancer's hand, crushing it in the process as he repeats his request for the dancer's clothes into his hand. Sauntering out of the bar, now wearing the explicitly gay man's leather, Schwarzenegger completes his queer blazon by reaching into a pocket and pulling out what should be dark sunglasses but are, instead, Dame Edna-esque pink, sequined, campy spectacles, which he pulverizes into the ground with his ponderous cyborg foot. This depiction of male revolt against the effeminating threat of a queerness it has also just completely appropriated is an exact image of the cultural practices the Terminator films exemplify.
12. It's absurd to write, as Slane does, that Hitchcock incites "spectators to the postwar vision of proper political subjectivity based upon gender conformity and heterosexuality" (124); I can think of no director less devoted to maintaining and promoting heterosexist conformity, an institution Hitchcock's films determinedly, even obsessively, challenge.
13. See Foucault: "The hystericization of women, involving "a thorough medicalization of their bodies and their sex, was carried out in the name of the responsibility they owed to the health of the children, the solidity of the family institution, and the safeguarding of society" (147). Recently, however, Juliet Mitchell has offered a striking critique of the dismissal of hysteria as a psychological phenomenon. See Mad Men and Medusas: Reclaiming Hysteria. One of the crucial elements of Mitchell's argument is, interestingly, the overlooked importance of sibling relationships.
14. For further discussions of a politically useful disorganization of normative manhood, especially interested in a revised version of Freudian masochism, see Brett Farmer's excellent Spectacular Passions, 241-6; Farmer builds on the pioneering work in this line: Kaja Silverman's Male Subjectivity at the Margins and Leo Bersani's Homos.
15. For a further discussion of masochistic male vengeance on the narcissistic male, see my article "Contemporary Masculinity and the Double-Protagonist Film" in Cinema Journal 48:4 (Summer 2009), and, in a more expanded version, Chapter 4 in my Manhood in Hollywood from Bush to Bush.