Posted by: Harold Knight | 08/02/2010

To Be (a heartthrob) or Not to Be (a heartthrob)

(Another posting in which most readers will, I fear, have trouble following me from “point A” to “point B.” That’s the way it is. Nothing about this is scholarly, either. Purely opinion.)

Two Australian heartthrobs. Heartthrob—“an object of infatuation.”  Studly men both. Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. I don’t use “heartthrob” pejoratively. “Heartthrob” as a medical term has been around since 1839; it’s been used descriptively of persons since 1928.

Heartthrob and movie dad

Heartthrob and movie dad

Not pejoratively. I think both of them are heartthrobs. And I’ve thought so ever since I first saw them (as did anyone else who was paying attention) in gay movies. Or should I say they were in movies playing gay men. First, Guy Pearce in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (1994), and then Russell Crowe in “The Sum of Us” (1995).

Writing about heartthrobs is hardly my cup of tea. However, both of these megastars (besides being heartthrobs) exemplify for me a kind of risk-taking that I, personally, have never managed to accomplish, and that hardly anyone I know personally has done. Russell Crowe in a passionate love-scene with a man. Go figure. And Guy Pearce prancing around nearly naked in the Australian desert doing a drag-queen routine worthy of a New York gay bath show.

I saw both movies with my partner shortly after I moved to Dallas. I would probably never have noticed either one if he had not insisted we see them. I don’t pay much attention to movies (or, as my students will quickly tell you, any other pop culture). I had to go to the ubiquitous IMDB to check out Guy Pearce’s current activities (two movies this year) to try to figure out why my blog posting about Memento (November 3, 2009) keeps getting so many “hits.” I still don’t understand.

[An aside. I love that movie for many reasons, most of them summed up in the words of Leonard Shelby—played by Guy Pearce—I quoted on November 3.

I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world’s still there. Do I believe the world’s still there? Is it still out there?. . . . Yeah. We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are. I’m no different.

Every person who deals with a seizure disorder (Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, for example) knows exactly what those words mean. That little speech still chokes me up.]

But back to taking risks. “I have to believe in a world outside my own mind.”

On July 28, 2010, the Associated Press filed the following report:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — At an event in Chattanooga earlier this month, [Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron] Ramsey said: “You could even argue whether that being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult or whatever you want to call it?” CNN reported that Ramsey also said that although he supported religious freedom, such freedom may not include allowing “sharia (Islamic) law into the state of Tennessee … into the United States.”

The Candidate

The Candidate

I could be flip and say that Ron Ramsey obviously does not believe in a world outside his own mind. But I won’t. I will, however, point out the apparent rejection of the First Amendment. The First Amendment guarantees that Congress (and by the extension of the 14th Amendment, state and local governments—Gitlow v. New York, 1925) can make NO law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. That seems to be part of the world outside Ron Ramsey’s own mind.

Apparently it is the world outside the minds of many Americans. I will not dignify them by calling specific attention to the recent attempts in the United States (“to form a more perfect union”?) to block construction of mosques in certain (apparently sacrosanct to christianity) places in American cities. But Carl Paladino, Republican candidate for governor of New York; Sarah Palin, Republican Candidate for Queen of the World—who does not know that “refudiate” is not a word in the English language; the Bay People of Sheepshead Road, Brooklyn; and other folks across the country are trying.

Back to Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. Making money and garnering fame are without doubt strong motivators for young, handsome, straight actors (or any actor). I don’t particularly care about the careers (or even the off-screen lives) of movie stars. Or any other pop-culture idols. I know about Lady Gaga only because two years ago she was so obscure she was playing gay bars in Dallas. I know about Justin Bieber only because I heard the people on NPR’s “Marketplace” (which I had on for five minutes on my way to a meeting) waxing awestruck over how much money one can make by launching a career from YouTube.

All of that is part of the world outside my mind.

a world outside my mind

a world outside my mind

Here’s getting from ‘point A” to “point B” (I didn’t say there was a logical connection, only that I will get from one to another). Taking risks. Having guts. That’s the connection. Where are the christians—or even the atheists—who are taking the risk to stand up to the Tea Baggers and their ilk in this country to say, “Enough Islamophobia is enough!”

For example, Mayor Bloomberg of New York is the only politician I have read about who has said specifically that the move to prevent the construction of a Masjid near “Ground Zero” (even though the Tea Baggers under Sarah Palin have done their best to mischaracterize the center, which is not to be a Masjid but a community center) is wrong. I have not been able to find a “refudiation” of Ron Ramsey’s unconstitutional statement from Democratic candidate Mike McWherter.  And so it goes.

My beginning this posting with Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce was not simply an attempt to get attention. The lines Pearce says in “Memento” are personally important to me—taken out of context as a sort of philosophical mantra. And they describe what I suppose ought to be a truth for everyone. There is a world outside everyone’s mind.

“The Sum of Us.” Russell Crowe’s career was not ruined by playing a (handsome) gay man; rather, his role in that movie caught the attention of many Americans and gave his career a great boost. He took a risk. That’s not the only reason I used him as part of “point A.”

The title of the movie is “point A.” What, given the absurd and unconscionable Islamophobia rampant in the United States, is the sum of us? “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”




  1. It’s wonderful to read about the World Outside Your Mind and how you bring it back inside and then put it outside.



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