Englishman in America
Masculinity in Love and Death on Long Island and
Father of Frankenstein
By PÁRAIC FINNERTY
 On 27 March 1995 Nigel Hawthorne did not win a
Best Actor Oscar for his role as George III in Nicolas Hynter’s The
Madness of King George (1994). In an interview with
the American magazine The Advocate
a week earlier, he had discussed his openness about his homosexuality
and the fact that he was making history by being the first openly gay
man to be nominated for this award. This interview catapulted
into the British media spotlight as the tabloids scandalized their
readers about the implications of a gay man representing Britain at
these prestigious awards. The newspapers did not “out”
but rather they reprimanded him for stepping too far out of the closet,
implying that the acceptance of homosexuals as “purveyors of culture”
was conditional upon them remaining discreet about their
“unspeakableness” (Sinfield, Faultlines, 295).
In his autobiography Straight Face,
Hawthorne contrasts his horrendous treatment by the British media with
the lack of American interest in the story, noting “in America, these
issues don’t carry the same weight they do in England” (289-91,
292). Such a story would have caused great commotion in
had Hawthorne been an American actor, especially as there are so few
openly gay actors in Hollywood, “a town without gays, only
heterosexuals falsely accused” (Ehrenstein, 326). Hollywood
also a place where the difference between an Englishman winning an
Oscar and an openly gay one doing so is slight: both are novelties
within the usually American-dominated awards (Levy, 95-106).
essay considers what the gay Englishman signifies in American culture
by examining the representation of this figure in two contemporary
novels, Gilbert Adair’s Love and Death on Long Island
(1990) and Christopher Bram’s Father of Frankenstein
(1995), and their critically acclaimed film adaptations, Love
and Death on Long Island (1997) and Gods and Monsters
(1998). These texts suggest that the gay Englishman is a
ambiguous figure who interrogates America’s obsession with effeminacy
and its identification of heterosexual masculinity with Americanness
 From its inception American cinema has
masculinity, associated with “the rugged virtues” of the land, from the
more refined, cultivated, “effete dandies of Europe” (Russo, 16).
The sissies and camp homosexuals of the silver screen
in the aristocratic, affluent, apolitical, and effeminate Englishmen of
nineteenth-century literature and culture (Sedgwick, Between,
174-75, 217). The connection between English masculinity and
homosexuality is reinforced by a tradition of English actors playing
homosexuals and by British films, including two of the most successful
of the 1990s, Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
and The Full Monty
(1997), which feature memorable gay Englishmen (Russo, 119-120, 126-35,
192-96; Clum, 86-89). The association has infiltrated other
of popular culture; for example, in a 2003 episode of Will
Lorraine Finster asks Will Truman, “You’re a natty dresser. Are you
English?” Will replies that he is gay and Lorraine retorts, “Well, it’s
the same thing”. In the years that followed Hawthorne’s
nomination, the figure of the gay Englishman who lives in or visits
America became a recurring cinematic motif in My Best
Friend’s Wedding (1997), Love is the Devil
(1998) and Velvet Goldmine (1998). The
opening scene of Wilde
(1997), a film about the life of the Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, does
not begin in Ireland as one might expect, but rather in Colorado’s
Matchless Silver mine in 1882. Here, Wilde, having just given
lecture on aesthetics, describes the miners as having “angel faces” and
being charming to him if a “little brusque” with each other; he notes
“they hanged two men in a theatre just before I gave a lecture. I felt
like the sorbet after a side of beef”. Wilde presents himself
the antithesis of an American masculinity associated with ruggedness,
competitiveness, violence, and democracy. Although Wilde’s
Irishness was a factor in the success of his American lecture tour, his
gentility, politeness, cultivation, refinement, sensitivity, artistry,
and taste would have been associated by many listeners not with
Irishness but rather with upper-class English masculinity, an identity
Wilde self-consciously and strategically performed (Kiberd, 36;
Blanchard, 12-30). Others in Wilde’s audience would have
his effeminate mannerism as indicating his sexual perversity
(Blanchard, 27-28); however, for many men in the audience his feminine
characteristics reinforced rather than threatened their gender identity
(Kimmel, Manhood, 99). After Wilde’s
trial of 1895, his
name and stylized behavior shaped twentieth-century discourses about
male homosexual identity (Sinfield, Wilde, vi-vii;
11). Cinema’s gay Englishman in America is a descendant of
Wilde’s--witty, charming, sarcastic, wise, and often tragic; his
American appeal is a result, as Wilde’s was a century earlier, of a
national stereotype eclipsing a problematic sexual one and the way this
confirms American manhood as paradigmatic (Sinfield, Faultlines,
276). Hawthorne plays one such gay Englishman in Nicolas
Hynter’s The Object of My Affection
(1998). His character Rodney Fraser is a wise, cultivated,
charming Wildean theatre critic, who is hopelessly in love with the
young American actor he is mentoring. The film ends with
being lovingly included as part of an extended heterogeneous family,
along with Jewish and African-American characters, and American gay and
straight couples. Fraser is not a character from Stephen
McCauley’s 1987 novel upon which the film is based, and his inclusion
in the film could be interpreted as a direct rebuttal to Hawthorne’s
British detractors. Even more provocatively, both Love
and Death on Long Island and Father of Frankenstein
/ Gods and Monsters
focus on a friendship between a gay Englishman and a much younger,
straight American man, offering an alternative example of male
homosociality that acknowledges homoeroticism rather than neutralizing
or stigmatizing it.
The Beautiful American Boy
 In Love and Death on Long Island,
Giles De’ath becomes
obsessed with a popular American actor, Ronnie Bostock, whose film he
mistakenly sees having gone into the wrong cinema screen; De’ath
travels to Long Island to stalk the star, before orchestrating a
meeting with him. In Gods and Monsters /
Father of Frankenstein, James Whale, the retired English
director of Frankenstein (1931) and Bride
of Frankenstein (1935), initiates a friendship with his
attractive gardener, Clayton Boone. As in The
Object of My Affection,
these Englishmen become the elderly, wise, and enamored counselors of
handsome American men (Keller, 50-67). These
fin-de-siècle novels and films reiterate the preoccupations and themes
of the canonical and foundational texts of modern gay identity: Oscar
Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), Thomas
Mann’s Death in Venice (1912), and Herman
Melville’s Billy Budd
(1924). They combine the unrequited desire of Wilde’s and
Melville’s Englishmen for much younger, exceptionally good-looking men
with the relationship between desire and national difference that Mann
conceptualizes in his novella. Interestingly, Luchino
1971 film adaptation of Death in Venice
longing with English masculinity by having the English actor Dirk
Bogart play Mann’s Gustav von Aschenbach. The texts under
discussion also evoke a transatlantic literary discourse in which
American innocence, youth, and beauty are contrasted with European
duplicity, corruption, decadence, and death, evident in novels by Henry
James, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, and Vladimir Nabokov (Bradbury,
456-75). More specifically, the opposition between English and American
masculinity in the contemporary texts is strengthened by differentials
such as age, class, education, and sexuality (Sinfield, On
Sexuality and Power).
A closer examination of both texts suggests that the
dissimilarities between these men are in fact blurred. On one
level, these Englishmen conform to the stereotype of effeminacy,
homosexuality, and cultivation; however, they display a form of mastery
and control usually associated with masculinity, whereas like Billy
Budd and Dorian Gray the “epistemological simplicity and vulnerability”
of the American men is “attested by [their] beefcake frontality”
(Sedgwick, Epistemology, 116). The
given to their physiques renders them the passive and feminized objects
of homoerotic desire rather than affording them the privileged,
traditionally male position of “active” subjects (Bozzola, 228).
 Giles De’ath, a comic version of Death
in Venice’s von
Aschenbach, is an erudite author who rails against mediocrity,
especially the “easy, whorish and irresistible charms” of cinema
(Adair, 16); yet his first-person narrative describes the implications
of his discovery of a vision of male beauty in an American lowbrow
teenage comedy. Like Wilde’s Basil Hallward, De’ath begins by
viewing the boy aesthetically, then as an artistic muse (who inspires
him to begin work on a new novel called Adagio
about a deaf
mute), and finally as an object of intellectual and erotic fascination.
Bostock’s blued-eyed, blond-haired cuteness represents a
“morphological type”; he is the late twentieth-century American
adolescent, “well nourished and so vacuously secure in [his] own
natural and social prerogatives” (Adair, 28). Bostock’s
“untranscended by mystery, tragedy or spirituality,” making it
different from the beauty of Tadzio, Billy, and Dorian.
these precursors, Bostock is the accessible, mechanically reproducible
object, the image of the boy-next-door, made available in teenage
magazines, posters, and videos. De’ath is ‘virtually’
Bostock through these products, each one validating his right to a more
intimate, corporeal encounter (Nicol, 72-73). De’ath relates
consumption of these products to the infatuation of teenage girls with
male stars; this feminizes male homosexual desire and confirms the
commonplace association of homosexuality with consumerism and
immaturity (Sinfield, Cultural, 54-55).
that his “Bostockiana,” his collection of material associated with his
idol, would be the envy of an adolescent girl (Adair, 72); he describes
his mind “wander[ing] as aimlessly as a schoolgirl’s” (Adair, 42); and
on meeting Bostock’s fiancée, Audrey, he invents an eleven-year-old
goddaughter very like himself, who obsessively collects Bostock
merchandise and is broken-hearted by the news of her idol’s engagement
 Despite conforming to such stereotypes, De’ath
as the cerebral male and Bostock as the non-intellectual, feminized
object. For De’ath, Bostock’s part as a “swot” in one film is
acting against type (Adair, 81), complicating De’ath’s conception of
their difference and his role as “professional analyst of mass
culture,” who must trawl through the “preposterous bulk” of consumer
goods as part of his study (Adair, 70). This process also
involves De’ath repetitiously watching, scrutinizing, and quantifying
Bostock’s body. Using his newly acquired video recorder, he
re-watches one scene in which Bostock is “sidling dreamily along the
beach … performing hand-stands, shimmying with his slender, almost
invisible hips” (Adair, 52). As Bostock is only a minor
in the film, his body shifts in and out of focus, and the camera’s
brief glimpses tease De’ath, intensifying his attention.
furtive looking at Bostock becomes equivalent to Mann’s von Aschenbach
watching Tadzio on the Lido beach. In addition, De’ath
Bostock’s boyish or feminine appearance; for example, he connects the
immaturity of the emotional lives of Bostock’s fans with “the
immaturity of his physique” (Adair, 43). In De’ath’s favorite
photograph, Bostock is a “lovely, flowerlike nonentity” who looks as if
he is wearing lipstick (Adair, 43, 93); his androgyny means that in
films he is typecast as one of “nature’s victims,” “whose blood is
meant for shedding, his body for gentle rape” (Adair, 84).
watches as Bostock’s characters undergo spectacles of suffering and
humiliation because they have deviated from American ideals of
masculinity (Sedgwick, Epistemology, 114-21;
Greven, 44). De’ath is particularly struck by one scene from Hotpants
in which the jock Cory hoists Bostock “bodily out of his seat” and with
“the wanton energy of a born bruiser, [throws] him across the floor of
the café”; Cory then squirts ketchup all over Bostock (Adair, 30).
This scene reminds De’ath of Henry Wallis’s painting of the
suicide of the Romantic poet Lord Chatterton; however, any
similarly between Chesterton and Bostock is superseded by De’ath’s
identification of victimhood with his status as an intellectual and
artistic outsider. Watching this display of social punishment
summons up De’ath’s own experiences as the “prime target” of school
bullies because of “[his] timidity, fragility of build and quite
unintentional priggishness of manner” (Adair, 73). This
English public school with American high school, establishing the
transnational problem of the bullying of weaker males and that the
perpetrators of such acts of violence validate their masculine power.
However, any level of identification with Bostock is undercut
De’ath’s penchant for objectifying and sexualizing him. In
photograph, Bostock reminds De’ath of an English public schoolboy, and
De’ath imagines him being compelled “by his fellows to receive a caning
on his bared buttocks” (Adair, 63). This association between
public school, English masculinity, and deviancy is accomplished by the
homoerotic appropriation and Anglicization of an image of American
 Father of Frankenstein begins
with the British film director James Whale searching among the
beautiful American bodies included in the magazine Physique
for “a figure who will move him to art”; then from his window he sees
his gardener, Clay Boone (Bram, 13). Unlike Bostock, Boone
handsomely thuggish quality,” a “stony, sullen masculinity that
Americans found dangerous in juvenile delinquents but becoming in their
soldiery” (Bram, 14-15). To a large extent, Whale fails to
beyond his conceptualization of Boone as an embodiment of stereotypes
of heterosexual American manhood. Evoking the opening
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Whale tells
Boone, “You must excuse
me for staring, Mr Boone. But you have the most marvelous head,” adding
“To an artistic eye, you understand” (Bram, 71). Boone, a
who cuts lawns” who doesn’t know “squat about art” (Bram, 69), is
flattered at first by this attention, but later regards Whale’s
comments as “funny coming from a man, even one who’s an artist” (Bram,
74). Boone’s discomfort at being objectified by another man
on his early suspicions about Whale’s sexuality: his fear that Whale
sees him as Boone might a beautiful woman. To allay Boone’s
about posing for a painting, Whale calls his apprehensions “schoolgirl
shyness” and asserts their shared masculinity: “I’m not your aunt
Tilly” (Bram, 99). Like De’ath, Whale imposes notions of
vulnerability, weakness, and femininity upon American masculinity.
The most powerful example of this strategy is when Whale
gasmask from World War One on Boone, the latter having decided to pose
nude for Whale in order to reinvigorate his friend’s artistic powers.
This creates the surreal image of a powerful male body made
defenseless and passive by the technologies of war; it is also at this
moment of vulnerability that Whale sexually assaults Boone (Bram,
 Whale wants the instrument of his death to be
Boone; his death
will put an end to the indignity and confusion caused by his physical
and neurological deterioration after a stroke. As Mark
puts it, Whale decides “to ‘direct’ his last production--the creation
of Clayton Boone as a new ‘monster’ who will turn on his creator and,
ironically, set him free from both the past and the future” (12).
Whale’s feminization and eroticization of Boone provide the
latter with an opportunity to reassert his heterosexual masculinity and
unleash the violence inherent in its homophobic conceptualization.
Boone is a type: the cowboy, the delinquent, the soldier, for
whom killing “is an American rite of passage. One’s not a real man
until one’s killed another man” (Bram, 173). Whale’s sexual
assault on him will afford Boone the story he believes he needs to
validate his masculinity:
The world beats it into your skull that you must
a man, a real man, then denies you the opportunity to do anything about
it except get drunk or fuck. Clay knows he’ll never be famous. He
doubts he’ll ever be a success, whatever that might mean. But he wants
to have something like a war story. (Bram, 128)
Since Boone did not have the opportunity to serve
his country as a marine, what better story can he have than defending
his honor and masculinity against the horror of being the feminized,
passive object in a homosexual encounter?
Outing the Englishman
 In both films and novels, the feminization of
American is accompanied by the outing of the Englishman. Yet
process is complex in both texts; while De’ath’s infatuation with
Bostock is homoerotic, it does not concretize or constitute him as a
homosexual. In the other text, the focus is not on Whale
outed but rather on Boone’s efforts to come to terms with his friend’s
sexuality; during this process the narrow stereotypes of sexuality and
nationality which Boone has internalized are broken down.
films and novels emphasize the fraught and complex nature of national
and sexual identity: both are performative in the sense that they are
constructed by actions that are “never quite carried out according to
expectation” but which must be repeated to fabricate a coherent and
intelligible essence (Butler, 231). Love and Death
on Long Island
begins with De’ath’s conviction that he has “to get out” to feel
“lighter [and] gayer” so as to escape from a stereotypically English,
regimented and ordered life (Adair, 1, 33). The novel could
read as De’ath’s journey towards modernity and homosexuality (Bruzzi,
131). For example, De’ath learns that modern cinema
and normalizes voyeurism: its viewers can watch “without being watched,
see without being seen”; and videos provide a means whereby De’ath, in
the privacy of his study, can scrutinize Bostock’s body with lawless
and brazen eyes (Adair, 51). Liberated through his embracing
modern technology and the access it affords him to a popular,
celebrity-driven culture, De’ath is provided with a means of stepping
out of the closet. But he, who constantly needs to
himself from others, rejects the identities of modern consumer and male
homosexual, and any associations between the two (Sinfield, Wilde,
190); this affirms his nationality’s privilege of judging others while
remaining unjudged. Rather than being just another fan of
Bostock, De’ath’s pursuit of the precision and rigor of academic
enquiry makes him the only person capable of “tracing beneath the
conventional surface a timeless and universal ideal” and of truly
understanding the significance of this American boy (Adair, 51).
De’ath’s intellectual power and sensitivity allow him to rise
above distinctions between lowbrow and highbrow art and find in
populist “twaddle” the origins of a new aesthetics of beauty (Adair,
61). Even if, at various points, De’ath can transcend any
imposition of national or sexual stereotypes upon his behavior, there
is a sense in which for him this has existential costs.
can it be that I am still the person I was, a
respectable middle-aged widower possessed of a culture and erudition
far in advance of the generality, and yet find myself appearing to
share the sexual tastes and fantasies of an American tennybopper?
Having moved beyond his own
conception of himself as the cultured, intellectual Englishman, De’ath
also deviates from ideas about English restraint and control, the
stiff-upper lip, and the “Puritanical vigilance on emotions”
 De’ath regards any identity confusion as a new
phase in his
development as a writer; however, in his dreams he sees Bostock’s face
as one he “had recognised but could not name” (Adair, 43) and describes
his longing to “run [his] fingers through” the boy’s hair (Adair, 82).
Despite these and other indications, De’ath defiantly regards
himself as “boringly heterosexual” (Adair, 44):
[he] knew nothing more shaming and tedious in
literature of [his] contemporaries and near-contemporaries than the
maudlin neo-Hellenist cult of the ephebe, with middle-aged men like
Wilde and Gide tastefully salivating over sleeping youths and making
mawkish comparisons with asphodels and eglantines (Adair, 43).
suggests that he bypassed the homosexual phase in the development and
education of Englishmen of his class, “the heated fumblings
scufflings [at public school] … the tiptoeing to and fro from one bed
to another, the obscene little cabaret held evening after evening in
the communal lavatory” (Adair, 44). For De’ath, his real
transgression is his immersion in popular culture. At first,
delights in his ability to conceal his activity behind “the serene,
thin-textured minutiae of [his] existence” as a middle-aged widower
(Adair, 76). However, eroticism slips into his language as he
describes himself as having “a lover’s cunning and guile” or
experiencing “juvenile thrills of subterfuge” (Adair, 58).
there is a clear sense that he is ashamed of his duplicity, yet it is
not evident whether this is because of his lowbrow pursuits or his
homoerotic infatuation with Bostock. When De’ath places
head on images of naked male torsos from gay pornographic magazines, Vulcan
and Jupiter and Toy Boy,
and masturbates, he feels utterly ridiculous (Adair, 94-97).
one level, De’ath has transcended one stereotype of Englishness
associated with emotion restraint and intellectuality to embrace
another connected with consumption and homosexuality. Yet in neither
the novel nor the film is it certain that De’ath imagines a sexual
relationship with Bostock. If anything De’ath would like to
become the boy’s mentor, instructor, and cultural advisor.
central aspect of De’ath’s personality is not his homosexuality nor his
Englishness but rather his arrogant belief in his own superiority over
 In Father of Frankenstein,
from Boone’s perspective,
foreignness and homosexuality are associated; there are more
homosexuals in Europe than there are in America since homosexuality is
un-American activity (Bram, 181). The central problem for him
about Whale is Boone’s inability to tell male homosexuality and English
[Whale] had to be a fairy, only with Englishmen
can’t be sure where English leaves off and fairy begins. It’s not like
Clay is afraid of fairies. He doesn’t think he’s ever met one. He knows
homosexuals only by their reputation, the same way he knows Communists
and flying saucers (Bram, 63-64).
similarity between Englishness and male homosexuality creates a
confused space in which Boone and Whale’s friendship can
Whale continually complicates Boone’s stereotypes of nationality and
sexuality: Whale has a firm manly handshake, smokes a cigar with
masculinity and confidence as if it were a “little cannon” angled in
his hand, and was an officer in World War One (Bram, 74, 175). Despite
Whale’s housekeeper calling Whale a “Bugger” or referring to “the deed
no man can name without shame” (Bram, 168), Boone only accepts Whale’s
homosexuality when it is confirmed by the man himself. At
Boone is troubled by the implications that this would have for their
friendship; he reflects that “sitting for Whale [to paint him] no
longer feels like a harmless hoot, a flattering honor. Having a homo
touch you, even with just his eyes, should be humiliating” (Bram,
174). Although Boone feels that this revelation “poisons all
pleasure he took in knowing the man” (Bram 180), eventually his
feelings of amity toward Whale outweigh these fears: “So what if the
guy’s a homo, as long as he keeps his hands to himself?” (Bram,
176). Even then, Whale’s description of his homoerotic
with his military comrade, Leonard Barnett, confounds Boone’s
association of ideal masculinity with military service and his
conflation of effeminacy with homosexuality (Keller, 60-61).
Boone’s interest in finding characteristics in his friend
deviate from the homosexual stereotype means that the gay man is
presented as an intricate figure who conforms just as much to Boone’s
ideas about normative masculinity. Boone’s conception of
keeps changing: “Clay finds himself trying to get a grip on what Whale
means to him now”; “Clay’s unease has shifted from [issues related to]
sex to the confusion of knowing such a man as Whale even exists,
someone who evokes such a mix of fear, admiration, envy, and pity”;
“[Whale] screws up everything Clay’s been taught to feel about the
world” (Bram, 188-89). The outing of these Englishmen calls
question essentialist models of identity and explores, as New Queer
cinema does, “the overlapping borders of various sexualities (as well
as those of gender, race/ethnicity, class and nationality)” (Benshoff
& Griffin, 11-12). De’ath’s fixation with Bostock
stabilize his sexual identity, nor does Whale’s assertion of his sexual
identity necessitate his display of expected characteristics or
 These novels
and films suggest
that America is a place that allows the Englishman the opportunity to
perform his national identity, but that this performance is
exaggerated, opportunistic, advantageous, and provisional.
finds artistic inspiration and renewal in his absorption in American
culture and its beautiful boy; he begins to write a new novel,
transforms his “fogeyish unworldliness,” accepts the complexity of his
sexuality, and gains a new “blithe and reckless irresponsibility”
(Adair, 79). Yet for De’ath, America is simply the place of
proximity to Bostock and where there is a more abundant supply of
products associated with him. Here, De’ath can play up his
Englishness; for example, when he deliberately bumps into Audrey,
Bostock’s girlfriend, at a local supermarket, he writes, “I could not
have been more profuse in apologies, more unmistakably British equally
in manner and accent” (Adair, 120). His English
charms Audrey, especially when it is used to praise Bostock’s as yet
“underexploited” acting talent (Adair, 122). Reflecting on
incredulity of his performance and the dazed effect it has on his
American interlocutor, De’ath writes:
It would have struck a wholly rational
there might be something suspect and not altogether plausible in an
English writer in his late middle age holding such strong and
well-informed options about a young, virtually unknown American actor
De’ath can mask his obsession with Bostock behind
his persona of the
erudite English connoisseur: his “scene by scene and shot by shot
analysis of Bostock’s film career” is transformed from infatuation into
a display of academic and intellectual “authority and expertise”.
When De’ath meets Bostock this level of flattery and advice
intensified, but it is ultimately an intoxicating trap for Bostock’s
Thus I reminded him that I was a writer,
that, even if he
had not heard of me, I was, in England, in Europe, a famous writer,
esteemed, respected, paid attention to. And I vowed, I vowed that I
would henceforth devote myself to his career, that I would write the
kind of role and the kind of film which his gifts merited, that I was
ready to subordinate everything else in my life to that end (Adair,
De’ath offers to use his writerly powers to
further the boy’s career
only if Bostock renounces his “temporary attachments”: America and
Audrey. In the film version De’ath tells Bostock, “In Europe,
have a much stronger tradition of work with, what you call, a message”
and “your future lies in Europe”. This suggests that De’ath’s
consumption of popular culture has been expedient and his trip to
America a strategy; these can be discarded once he has appropriated
Bostock for Europe and for himself. For De’ath, America is
much a land of opportunity but a land of opportunism whose resources
are there to be appropriated, and De’ath is never more American than in
this act of appropriation: he is like the nineteenth-century American
visitors to Europe depicted by Henry James who are materialists and
“consummate collector[s]” of European treasures, including its people,
for their native land (Bradbury, 198).
 America not only provides Whale with the
chance to “play up his
Englishness,” it allows him to transform himself into this nation’s
antithesis: the upper-class English gentleman (Bram, 13). On hearing of
Whale’s working-class background, Boone reflects that he “hadn’t even
bothered to think that there must be poor people in England. Every
Englishman you see in the movies is a lord or a butler” (Bram,
102). In America, Whale can hide his humble origins and
himself as the Oxbridge educated aesthete; he tells his expatriate
friends, Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton:
‘I am finished with being humble. Knowing
one’s place? I
knew it all too well in London. I could never forget I was an intruder.
Here, I can be anyone I choose. If I wish I’d gone to Oxford,
abracadabra, I’m an Oxford graduate. If I hate being in my forties,
presto change-o, I lop off a few years’ (Bram, 90).
His adoption of the role of the upper-class
despite, or perhaps because of, Whale’s contempt for English social
hierarchy; at a party in honor of Princess Margaret he “feel[s] like an
interloper, an impostor” within the context of class system he has
rejected (Bram, 202). It is not homosexuality which is
“little secret” (Bram, 31) but rather his class; and what most troubles
him about his illness is the fact that his mind keeps digging up this
past. He remembers how his feigned upper-class accent, his love of art
and culture, and his aspirations to better himself made his
working-class family and friends regard him as a sissy (Sinfield, Wilde,
137). Contrasting himself with Edmund Kay, a gay American student,
Whale reflects that “He could never afford to be so thoughtless and
carefree. If only he had been born an American” (Bram, 31).
Although his adoption of upper-class characteristics in
might connote his homosexuality, it might equally symbolize cultivation
and taste; moreover, his reinvention, self-fashioning, and social
mobility make him an example of the American ideal of the self-made
man. Whale associates his determination to die rather than
continue to suffer ill health with his Americanness: he says “A
self-made man deserves a self-made death” (Bram, 82), such a death is
right for an Englishman who has gone native (Bram, 92). For both
Englishmen, America is not merely a place of sexual liberation and
personal renewal but a location where national identity and character
are temporary and overstated performances, not essential or fixed.
In America each Englishman becomes more stereotypically
and yet displays strategies of appropriation and reinvention that are
 The specific terms of these transatlantic
wider realities, whereby Europe requires the backing of a globally
dominant, financially powerful America, which, in turn, looks to Europe
for cultural and national validation (Bradbury, 409-17).
Following patterns in transatlantic literature, De’ath and Whale are
Europeans attracted to American innocence and naivety, and Bostock and
Boone yearn for and, particularly in the case of Bostock, seek to
emulate the tradition, cultivation, and longevity associated with
European culture. In each text, the Englishman is elderly and
associated with illness and death, and brought to a new, more complex
understanding of life, albeit briefly in the case of Whale, through his
encounter with a straight, healthy figure of American beauty, youth,
and virility. In his last letter to Bostock, De’ath notes the
“very different course” the young man’s life might have taken if he had
accepted De’ath's offer, predicting that this lost opportunity would
finally destroy the youth (Adair, 138).
 Like Bostock, Boone is attracted to the
status and cultivation
of an Englishman: for him, Whale is a “gentleman artist,” a wealthy
movie director, “the man who made Frankenstein,”
but also a
substitute father figure (Bram, 54, 176). Whale becomes a means for
Boone of connecting not just with Europe but with an older generation:
Boone tells his friends, “You learn stuff listening to old-timers”
(Bram, 106). In addition, Boone realizes at the party in honor of
Princess Margaret that he and Whale are not so different: “This world
isn’t his anymore. He is like me here, Clay thinks, more like me than I
ever imagined. Clay is overcome by feelings of pity, curiosity, and
protectiveness” (Bram, 172). This sense of mutual alienation
cements their friendship. Following his namesake Daniel
the loner and frontier hero, Boone is the typical inviolate man of
American literature, who sees himself as “Thoreau with a lawn mower”
(Bram, 162) and favors freedom over personal attachment, whether
heterosexual or homosocial; he says, “I like my life. I’m a free man. I
want to keep it that way” (Bram, 124; see Greven, 2-3). The
encounter with Whale makes Boone realize how much he has longed for
somebody “he can talk with, or listen to anyway”: he imagines “they are
something like friends” (Bram, 162-63). Despite his initial
homophobia, Boone enjoys the attentions of a man of Whale’s fame and
importance, regardless of possible erotic connotations.
 The film versions of both novels place
greater emphasis on the
mutually beneficial nature of the relationships between these
men. In contrast to the novel which concentrates on De’ath’s
infatuation with Bostock, the film version explores their friendship in
greater detail. For example, De’ath spends more time with
and Audrey and even goes on a day trip alone with Bostock to the
Hamptons; he helps Bostock rehearse his lines and gives him concrete
advice about his career. The film underlines the power of
De’ath’s influence by having Bostock read some lines from Walt
Whitman’s Leaves of Grass at the funeral scene in Hotpants
This was suggested to him by De’ath and can be interpreted as
tribute to De’ath’s mentorship, as well as a display of Bostock’s
aspirations to become a serious actor. His use of Whitman
signals the importance of this poet, and nineteenth-century American
literature more generally, in shaping modern gay consciousness on both
sides of the Atlantic; this draws attention to the fact that
transatlantic influence goes both ways (Price, 135-36).
 Unlike the novel, Gods and Monsters
ends with Boone
rejecting his solitary life in favor of domesticity and marriage.
We see Boone tell his son that he knew the creator of Frankenstein
and in the film’s final shot Boone, having taken out the garbage,
pretends to walk like Frankenstein’s monster. This suggests
the function of gay men in recent films is not just to change women’s
attitude towards domesticity and romantic love, as Amy Aronson and
Michael Kimmel suggest (47), but to have a beneficial effect on
heterosexual men as well. De’ath offers Bostock cultural
mentorship, and Whale goes even further by guiding Boone toward social
integration and sexual and emotional intimacy. In this
these films can be connected with positive images of relations between
straight characters, usually women, and gay ones in films such as My
Best Friend’s Wedding and The Object of my Affection.
While the differences between the English and the American men in each
novel and film are maintained, the idea of them being “antithetical
masculinities” (Keller, 50) is made problematic. In fact, these texts
present friendship as something that transcends nationality and
sexuality, creating a space of mutuality. The texts even
that to some extent levels of homoeroticism within male-male
relationships can have redemptive effects (Bronski, 13).
Beautiful boys who don’t kill
 In these transatlantic encounters the
beautiful American boys,
unlike their European precursors Dorian, Billy, and Tadzio, do not end
up causing the deaths of the Englishmen who love them. Death in the
title Love and Death on Long Island refers simply
author’s surname, and Whale’s eventual death is a result not of a
homophobic attack but of suicide; in neither text is there the violent
homophobia and murder evident in films such as American Beauty
(1999) and The Talented Mr Ripley (1999).
Instead, the amorous advances of the Englishmen are met with
embarrassment in Love and Death on Long Island and,
despite initial violence, with sympathy in Father of
Frankenstein / Gods and Monsters.
De’ath, echoing Wilde’s defense at his trial, eloquently proposes that
he and Bostock have a type of romantic friendship that is quite common
between a younger man and his elder, this
elder being a
writer, oftentimes a poet, by whom the youth would accept to be
moulded, shaped, educated, inspired on to heights of spiritual and
intellectual endeavour he could not, could never, attain by himself
De’ath explains that such a relationship was
enjoyed by David and
Jonathan, was celebrated by Plato, Michelangelo, and Shakespeare, and
could have a sexual component as the one between Paul Verlaine and
Arthur Rimbaud did. Bostock politely rejects him, offering
the “brisk, neutral handshake of someone on the point of taking his
leave” (Adair, 136). Even when De’ath clings to his wrist and
whispers “the inevitable, irreplaceable words, hackneyed and sacred: I
love you,” the homophobic anger and threat which one might expect is
not present; Bostock is merely anxious that nobody has witnessed this
scene (Adair, 136).
 Unlike De’ath, Whale’s sexual advances toward
Boone are not
romantically or sexually motivated but tactical. Conceiving
Boone as the “masculine American killer,” Whale thinks that kissing
such a man would result in murder (Bram, 158). Sexually
assaulting Boone, Whale taunts him: “What will you do to get yourself
back”; “You’re not such a real man after all”; “You undressed for me. I
kissed you. I even touched your prick. How will you be able
live with yourself” (Bram, 244-46). Whale even tells Boone,
jury on earth will convict you”; “You’d be the innocent youth.
Protecting his virtue from the dirty old pansy” (Bram, 246).
Despite this provocation, Clay cannot kill him and tearfully
responds, “You didn’t do shit. Except make a fool of me. I thought you
were a friend … Look. You shit on me tonight. I trusted you, but you
shit on me” (Bram, 246-47). Boone’s emotional reaction to
assault reveals a sensitivity and fragility that Whale had not expected
from Boone’s hard manly frame (Bram, 63); Boone feels betrayed by the
friend he trusted, forcing Whale to ask apologetically: “Can you
forgive me? Can we be friends again after tonight?” (Bram, 250).
Rather than ending with tragic deaths, these films and novels
present brief life-changing friendships that complicate the stereotypes
of nationality and sexuality which they evoke. Although
by Bostock, De’ath’s American adventure has reinvigorated his
creativity and complicated his sense of his own sexual identity.
Similarly, Whale has to revise his own conceptualization of
heterosexual masculinity when Boone exceeds its parameters, and find
the courage to end his own life. These friendships overturn
concentration in other films and novels on the “potential threat of
homosexuality hidden behind homosocial bonding” (Wyatt, 57).
redress the emphasis placed on homophobia as “endemic and perhaps
ineradicable in our culture” and the idea that it polices all male
relationships and prevents the close friendships which the texts under
discussion foreground (Sedgwick, Between,
89). Here, the
gay/straight male friendship offers a model of male interaction that is
emotionally transformative and reciprocally valuable. These
friendships exist in sharp contrast to conventional understandings of
male homosociality as shaped by fear of and rivalry with other men,
which lead to aggressive and violent competition for material goods,
status, and women (see Kimmel, “Homophobia”; Sedgwick, Between;
 The discussion of the gay Englishman in
America suggests that,
on one level, this figure seems “amicable to the interests and values
of mainstream America” because “innocuous and inoffensive” (Keller,
4-5; Cover, 73-4). The gay Englishman’s acceptance by
culture is inextricably connected with the prior association of male
homosexuality and English masculinity in the American mindset, making
American masculinity the standard of manhood. This is
by the film adaptations of Love and Death on Long Island
and Father of Frankenstein,
which feature two veteran English actors. John Hurt plays Giles De’ath
and Ian McKellen plays James Whale, both of whom are associated with
homosexuality; Hurt is famous for playing the gay activist Quentin
Crisp and McKellen is openly gay. In contrast, Bostock and
are played by two very popular, straight actors Jason Priestly and
Brendan Fraser. Particularly reassuring for readers and
of these texts is that the relationship between an elderly gay
Englishman and a young straight American man will remain nonsexual and
avoid presenting sex between men (Aronson and Kimmel, 47).
Bostock refers to De’ath as “an old friend,” and Boone
“[Whale as] an artist. A gentleman. And old. He’s too old to think
about any kind of sex with anyone” (Bram, 120, 170); the Englishmen’s
central function is to pass on their wisdom to the next generation
(Keller, 64-5). However, the gay Englishman in America in
texts is also a challenging figure, who is not the abject other of male
heterosexuality or the tragic victim of his own sexuality; instead, the
texts explore the complexities and nuances of these men’s
personalities, unsettling and denaturalizing national and sexual
typecasting (Butler, 3; Russo, 129-132). What is also
in these texts is their foregrounding of American masculinity as the
object of queer desire, which complicates the way American masculinity
is understood. For example, De’ath obsession with Bostock
underlines the marketability of an androgynous, feminized, and passive
version of American manhood; while Whale’s manipulation of Boone
reveals the vulnerability, loneliness, and anxiety inextricably
connected with the performance and conceptualization of straight
masculinity. Finally, the gay-straight friendship between the
Englishman and straight American offers a new paradigm of male
homosociality, which obfuscates the homophobia that shapes male-male
interaction: American men fear that other men, regardless of
sexuality, will emasculate them and expose their failure to measure up
as “real men” (Kimmel, “Homophobia,” 277). In the same way
“the most openly acknowledged gay male” stands outside the oppressive
imperatives of masculinity (Sedgwick, Epistemology,
non-sexual friendship between an openly gay man and straight man can
facilitate the kind of intimacy, closeness, and affection, bordering
comfortably on the homoerotic, that is so often proscribed in
homophobically charged friendships between male heterosexuals.
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PÁRAIC FINNERTY is
Senior Lecturer in English and American Literature at the University of
Portsmouth. He is the author of Emily Dickinson’s Shakespeare
and has published articles on topics ranging from transatlantic
literature to terrorism in journals such as Prose Studies,
Reconstruction, and Symbiosis.
He is currently working on a monograph entitled Transatlantic
Affinities: Dickinson and Victorian Literature.