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The Maltese Falcon (1941)-the queerness of Joel Cairo and the threat of male society.

Hello guys,I am very how silent this blog have been….However I am determined to get in running after all my coursework is done. Now I would be doing a short insight on how film noir classic The Maltese Falcon shows the queerness of 1940’s  society and how it is a threat to the masculine mindset in that era.

Keeping in mind that film is under scrutiny of the Hays' Code which forbids the depiction of sexual acts,violence and even the character's sexual identity as "motion pictures present stories that will affect lives for the better, they can become the most powerful force for the improvement of mankind" Therefore homosexuals were depicted as laughing stocks or the antagonists in the film,therefore it is applicable that the Maltese Falcon falls under the negative depiction of homosexuals.

After showing the inciting incident of the murder of Spade (Bogart),and the introduction of the femme Fatale Brigid (Mary Astor). We are introduced to the other male character (aside the police). It was interesting what was Spade’s reaction after looking at the business

 What'll it cost to be on the safe side?

 Maybe it's worth it.

 Okay, go ahead.


 Quick, darling, in with him!

Bogie's reaction is seem out of disgust and yet filled with curiosity with this client. Here we get to seeJoel Cario (Peter Lorre),let me point that how contrasting the appearances are. Here we have Bogart's rugged features which he could be easily landed for the poster boy of the film noir genre,which focused on anti-heroes. In contrast,the bug-eyed and curly hair Peter Lorre is the total opposite of Bogart's looks. Even the way he perform seem effeminate, and reminded me of another performance of his,M (1931) by Fritz Lang where he played  a child murderer. Even the way,he stroked his cane while talking to Sam Spade have some phallic symbolism,and hints subtly of his sexual orientation. As Laura Mulvery talked in her essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema"

“Although the fiIm is really being shown, is there to be seen, conditions of screening and narrative conventions give the spectator an illusion of looking in on a private world. Among other things, the position of the spectators in the cinema is blatantIy one of repression of their exhibitionism and projection of the repressed desire on to the performer. ”

Peter Lorre in M (1931)

He shown his maliciousness to Bogart,where he asked him to raise his hand it probably symbolize in 40's society that homosexuals present as a "threat" as discussed in the HBO documentary The Celluiod Closet. However Bogart fought off his homosexual client perhaps symbolized the triumph of a traditional male society to the queer society in the 40's. He even whined in pain how his shirt was dirty,it seems that Huston fluffed up the queer stereotype as being whiny and afraid of that deeds.

In the confrontation scene between Sam Spade and the gang,we seen on heavy implications of the sexual relations,between Cairo and his gang members,by the way the way one of the henchman was called "gunsel" have an implied meaning of homosexuality. Interestingly the way they are positioned have a triangular positions which hinted a strange kind of and yes guns as the phallic symbolism appear in most of that scene.

Like how Sam Spade refused the advances of Brigid,Cairo rejected one of his gang members 'advances and suffered the consequences.Therefore it gives us an idea,that a homosexual must realize his actions and refuse his carnal needs

However as the ending of The Maltese Falcon,as most Classical Hollywood films treated its queer characters.Joel Cairo and his gang members were brought to justice and locked away in their 'closet". It was seem restored to the traditional ways of male society

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2 thoughts on “The Maltese Falcon (1941)-the queerness of Joel Cairo and the threat of male society.

  1. Great post 🙂 I love the Maltese Falcon. Joel’s character is certainly a weird one…Off the point a bit, but I always thought that Ren from Ren and Stimpy might have been based on him actually, haha!

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