The First Time I Could be a Gay Person (Ep. 195 - Alien)

This Week’s Guest: Nathaniel Atcheson

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My guest this week is Nathaniel Atcheson, writer and director of the film Domain, which comes out this week. Like the movies that inspired him as a kid, Domain is a story about isolation and loneliness and coping with the fear of being life-threateningly disconnected from other people. That might sound grim, but behind the scenes of his work, Nathaniel is hardly disconnected -- for him, making films is a way of finding a union with other people, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. And human capacity to overcome obstacles can surprise us -- for example, when Nathaniel met the man who he would, against considerable odds, one day marry.

We'll have that conversation in a minute. But first I want to invite you to a weeklong livestream of games starting Sunday, October 28! It's the return of Extra Life, an annual fundraiser for Seattle Children's Hospital. We're kicking the week off with a big gay game of Dungeons & Dragons featuring Comedian Bryan Safi, Culture Critic Carlos Maza, Writer Anthony Oliveira, and Scholar Bryan Wuest. Then I'll be streaming games every day from October 29 to November 3. And on Sunday, November 4th, join us for another game of D&D featuring the drag queen cast of Queens of Adventure in full drag! We'll be serving looks, interacting with viewers, and encouraging everyone to donate to Seattle Children's Hospital -- 100% of everything you give goes straight to the hospital. Get the details and watch us live at bit.ly/extralifeseattle. See you starting October 28.

BTW, I hope you'll also join us for the next Sewers of Paris live chat, with special guest Trish Bendix -- managing editor of Into, the queer news site that's a part of Grindr. That's on Saturday October 13 at 2pm pacific. There's a link at the top of the Sewers of Paris twitter feed.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes The Sewers of Paris possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There's rewards for folks who back the show -- just click "Support the Show on Patreon." Or you can support The Sewers of Paris for free by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice -- that really helps people find the show. 

Head over to SewersOfParis.com to see clips of the stuff we talk about on each episode of the show. And for more queer podcasting, check out Queens Of Adventure to hear drag queens on an epic Dungeons & Dragons quest. That’s at QueensOfAdventure.com.

This Week’s Recommendation: Dune

Thanks again to Nathaniel for joining me. You can check out his new film, now available to stream, at DomainTheMovie.com. For my recommendation this week, I went looking for some queer science fiction -- spoiler alert, pickings are a bit slim. That's not to say there's none -- an episode of Deep Space Nice, some Dr. Who, Wizards vs Aliens -- but the offerings pale in comparison to heterosexuals bumbling through space.

But I do think you should check out some extremely compelling -- and weird -- queer visions of the future, and those are the scenes with Baron Harkonnen in David Lynch's 1984 film Dune. Just to prepare you, it is a long and very strange film, so even though I do think you should watch the whole thing, I'll forgive you if you seek out relevant clips on YouTube. You'll want to see the scene where Sting appears in a thong that looks like a piece of scenery in an art-deco theater. And then later there's a horrifying moment when the evil Baron commits a particularly atrocious act with a young man's heart.

The scene is with the heart is, and it's important that you know this, VERY upsetting. I do not recommend this scene because it's a delightful depiction of queer desire. On the contrary, it is grotesque. But the images, if you are confident you can stomach them, are so indelible because they feature a marriage of beauty -- as represented by the healthy, attractive young men -- and the hideous, represented by the unspeakable villainy and physical decay of the Baron. There's a simultaneous attraction and repulsion that makes the cruelty on screen even more upsetting.

There are a lot of problems with this movie, and not just with the ways that Lynch chose to associate ugliness with queerness and disability and size. But the combination of the beautiful and the horrible are so effectively nauseating that they evoke to me the worst anxieties about being gay -- the longing and the terror, the appetite and the guilt. It's dark, and horrible, and if you need a palette cleanser afterwards there's fortunately some hilariously goofy wire work in the scene; so if you don't want to see blood, you can always laugh at THAT.

Stuff we Talked About