An exegesis of sexual subtext in “Predator.”
March 25, 2010, 9:46 pm
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An excerpt from Sir J. Thurgood Snorpington-Pittwickett’s classic “Sexual Tyrannosaurus: ‘Predator’ and the masculine struggle with homosexual self-identity,” first published in the 1988 Journal of Psychosexuality and Cinematical Hermeneutics 6, p. 122-254.*

“Using post-freudian dialectical analysis, it becomes clear that the 1987 action film ‘Predator’ is an allegory for the gay male struggle to accept a differing sexual identity than is appropriate in a dominant hetero-normative cultural system. As we see the character Dutch, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger struggle to understand and accept the existence of the Predator, we are actually witnessing the struggle for dominance in the psyche of a gay man who has not yet understood or accepted his own identity.  The jungle of Dutch’s mind is the setting for the fight between his Super-Ego, manifested in the team of hyper-masculine marines, and the Id of the Predator, who represents a pure homosexual archetype.

Dutch is the leader of his team, but just as society determines what conduct is normatively appropriate and thereby holds a strong control over our actions, Dutch’s team correspondingly operates to influence his choices. For example, Jesse “The Body” Ventura expresses disapproval with homosexuality when, on the chopper, he excoriates his teammates as “Slack-jawed faggots.” This works to maintain the hegemony of dominant heterosexual ideology within Dutch’s mind.  In spite of this, the film introduces the internal conflict raging inside of Dutch early on.  When he first meets his old friend, Dillon, played by Carl Weathers, we see hints of his inner turmoil.  Dillon is the model of a masculine authority figure, dressed in a too-broad tie and incredibly tight work shirt.  When he claps hands with Dutch, we see Dutch’s eyes light up at the touch of another man.  The film adoringly focuses on the masculine form, as we see the two gigantic biceps, veins bulging, arm-wrestle for dominance.  This mimics Dutch’s own internal struggle.  Will he embrace his own way, or will he accept society’s dominant conception of appropriate sexual identity?

Figure 1. The camera intimates the subtextual conflict.

By contrast, the Predator, dressed in obvious S&M gear, is a representative for the pure gay self.  The Predator is a literal “alien.”  It is cloaked in rejecting terms of the Other.  It “hunts” man, and the hint of seduction is a terrifying notion to the heterosexual men in the Marine unit.  The Predator is a perfect mimic, recording and repeating the vocalizations of the Marines.  The fact that a homosexual, like the Predator, can seamlessly blend in with what the Marine’s believe is their own private space, is threatening to their hetero-normative hegemony.  The Predator “skins” Dutch’s heterosexual companions, thereby depriving them of their power and revealing, literally, the irrelevance of their self-identity to Dutch’s experience. The Predator slowly kills off Dutch’s team members, who become weaker and weaker, as Dutch comes to express his own homosexuality more vigorously†. The Predator is invisible to Dutch’s companions and even to Dutch himself, just as Dutch’s homosexual feelings are suppressed by his Superego – neither he, nor his friends, are completely aware of his homosexuality.  Once the Predator, as a representative of Dutch’s long-simmering sexual desires, has completely eliminated all hetero-normative influence from Dutch’s mind, does Dutch begin to understand himself.  Dutch’s transformation takes a pivotal step when he is free from society’s stultifying influence.  He is free to indulge in his long-denied desires, EX: wearing makeup (albeit made of mud).

Figure 2. Bondage gear and outsized physical dimensions represent the gay ideal in the personification of The Predator.

However, it is only when he physically fights the Predator, that Dutch can accept his identity.  Although he admires the strength, and well-built frame, of the Predator, he cannot look at it in the face.  The Predator still wears a mask, a symbolic reflection of Dutch’s own mask of heterosexuality covering a homosexual identity.  In a scene reminiscent of a striptease, the Predator removes his mask, showing his true face.  Dutch cannot look away, but still refuses to fully acknowledge the significance of what he is seeing.  He calls the Predator “ugly,” because it is difficult, after years of indoctrination into the dominant ideology, for him to embrace the beauty of his own individual self-worth as a gay man.  However, Dutch’s self-realization cannot be undone.  The Predator can die, by suicide, because Dutch’s Ego has internalized the homosexual feelings the Superego had long neglected.  The unconscious correcting force of the Predator is no longer needed.   The Predator’s knowing laugh communicates to Dutch that he can now attain happiness as his own self-actualized person.  This revelation is symbolized by the orgiastic giant nuclear explosion in the “jungle” of Dutch’s mind.  Reminiscent of an orgasm, the explosion obliterates the allegorical trees disrupting Dutch’s view of himself.  As he flies away in the helicopter, his solemn face affirms that he now understands and accepts his homosexuality.

†Some scholars, see S. Boolsbury-Lickworth (1987) If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: Romantic Tragedy in Predator, Harvard Press, have pointed to the indigenous woman Anna’s presence in the film to discount this psychosexual interpretation of ‘Predator.’ According to my close analysis, it is clear that Anna represents an attempt by Dutch’s Superego to manifest a hetero-normative relational dynamic. However, Dutch rejects this, since women in his regard are weak, helpless, and unworthy. It is demonstrative that Dutch never consummates this relationship or even expresses anything but remote disdain.”

*Idea originally conceived by a friend, and inspired by this piece by J.G. Ballard, and also by this.


36 Comments so far
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You are like some kind of god to me. Have you seen the trailer for Predators yet?

Comment by Daniel J. Hogan

Have I?! LIKE 18 TIMES! Also there is a 14 year old boy part of me that secretly desires to see Clash of the Titans.

PS – Peep this:

Comment by erik.

I forget. Do you live in the Castro? 😉

Comment by Michelle

I live in the Mission, but just close enough to the Castro to influence my understanding of 1980s action films.

Comment by erik.

So, then, what is the deeper meaning in the movie”Alien” when the mother monster pops out of the tummy?

Comment by mumsy

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with my previous related work, including the paper “Fear of Female Sexuality: The Psychoanalytic Character Arc in Alien.”

That is a real paper I wrote in college.

Comment by erik.

Yeah, but isn’t she (mommy monster) kinda penis-shaped in that scene?

Comment by mumsy

In Freudian Psychoanalysis, female sexuality is defined through the famous Oedipal complex. In that theoretical stance, the woman is attempting to replace the void of the Patriarchal penis in her life. Because she cannot kill her mother and marry her father, she must seek out alternatives. One would be entering a relationship with another man, who may very well be similar to the father. Another would be having a child. A child is a penis replacement. Alien makes this explicit. There is a lot in Alien that is freudian.

Comment by erik.

[…] Read the whole thing. It’s hilarious. Via /r/scifi. Share and Enjoy: […]

Pingback by Sexual Tyrannosaurus: ‘Predator’ and the masculine struggle with homosexual self-identity | brundlefly

[…] Predator – This movie is all about finding that special someone.  The hunt for that special someone, if you […]

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sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Comment by Chip

[…] An exegesis of sexual subtext in “Predator” […]

Pingback by Does what it says on the tin | Sinting Link

[…] Sore EyesLog inRemember, folks: 'subtext' is an anagram for 'buttsex.'April 11th, 2011An exegesis of sexual subtext in "Predator.":An excerpt from Sir J. Thurgood Snorpington-Pittwickett's classic "Sexual Tyrannosaurus: 'Predator' […]

Pingback by Remember, folks: 'subtext' is an anagram for 'buttsex.' @ Sore Eyes

I guess this needs to be posted…

Comment by Ben

[…] An exegesis of sexual subtext in “Predator.” (via MeFi) […]

Pingback by The Sexual Subtext of „Predator“ | Die Fünf Filmfreunde

Your work on The Predator is an excellent analysis. However, I feel I must disagree with a point regarding transvestitism via make-up. Dutch has already engaged in make-up use through his use of camo painting early in the narrative and before he obtained made any realization of his latent homosexuality. Of course, this takes place in the hetero-normative context of battle readiness. Instead, I would argue that the initial application of mud on Dutch points to another issue. Dutch is accidentally “soiled” in his first actual face-to-face combat with the Predator. Thus, the mud could be seen as accidental soiling indicating fear, or could represent Dutch’s fear of being soiled through anal sex. The issue of bowl control is underscored by Dutch’s intensely holding, then intensely expelling his breath while first soiled. The retention/expulsion issue is, of course, dramatically resolved in the direction of expulsion by Dutch’s purposeful soiling later. The initial soiling also marks a transition in Dutch’s relationship with the Predator. It is only after Dutch becomes soiled that he is able to enter into one-to-one and hand-to-hand combat (sexual congress) with the Predator. The act of self-soiling is also a way of Dutch to disguise himself just as the Predator is disguised. Thus we see Dutch practicing identification with the aggressor by adopting the combat styles of the Predator and also an early attempt to merge with the aggressor by joining him in invisibility. As you noted before, the Predator repeatedly attempts to communicate that personal identity can be (literally) stripped away. Dutch masks his identity and engages in a potentially suicidal confrontation with the Predator. This represents Dutch’s desperate and last-minute attempt at a psychological defense: to obliterate his identity in union with the homosexual. Of course, the narrative does not allow Dutch the escape of effacing himself by a conscious-less submersion into an homosexual identity. Rather, the Predator confronts Dutch and reveals its true nature, while leaving the identity intact: the unconscious becomes conscious rather than the ego being destroyed by the insight.

Comment by jluebben

It is inexplicable to me that this grotesque off-hand joke has earned such curiosity. I admit when I (half-drunk) wrote this thing, sometimes I had to stretch into nonsense (like the makeup thing, or the S&M business). Genius work! How could I have shot so wide of the target! Thank you so much for contributing to the important and emerging field of Predator hermeneutics. It is through dialogue like this that we can reveal the true meaning of this profound work of art.

Bonus points for using “sexual congress.”

Comment by erik.

[…] this? It’s an analysis of the homoerotic subtext of Predator. Go. Go […]

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I know that I am late to the party, but surely some vagina dentata issues could have been worked into Dutchs psychlogical house of cards once the Predator took off its mask?

Not that I could accuse you of slacking or anything. That piece is hilarious.

Comment by sho3box

Your comment shows that there is a wealth of valuable information regarding the psycho-sexual structure of man in the modern age, if only people would apply modern psychoanalysis to subject A.S. Personally, I see him as the Kafka of our new age.

Currently, I am in deep meditation over Terminator II.

Comment by jluebben

Allow me to submit this rather meaningful clip from “Raw Deal.”

Comment by erik.

Good call on the vagina dentata. Even together with all of our combined analytic brainpower, we cannot even scratch the surface of the fathomless depths of “Predator”.

Comment by erik.

[…] An exegesis of sexual subtext in “Predator” […]

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This is embarrassing. There is nothing worse than reading into subtext that clearly doesn’t exist – anyone can find subtext if they look hard enough. Pathetic.

Comment by Nick Griffin

Reponse #1: If I gave you $100, would you promise you would buy or lease a sense of humor?

Response #2: Predator is the gayest movie made (excluding sparkling vampires)

Comment by jluebben

If this was a joke, this was genius and hilarious. If not… well you sir are strange. One would think it should be easy, but in this world…….

Comment by MetalHealth

[…] convincing rough, tough guy demeanor. It’s a fun action movie in the same vein as the 1987 more-than-slightly-homoerotic Schwarzenegger action […]

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[…] An exegesis of sexual subtext in “Predator” Using post-freudian dialectical analysis, it becomes clear that the 1987 action film ‘Predator’ is an allegory for the gay male struggle to accept a differing sexual identity than is appropriate in a dominant hetero-normative cultural system. As we see the character Dutch, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger struggle to understand and accept the existence of the Predator, we are actually witnessing the struggle for dominance in the psyche of a gay man who has not yet understood or accepted his own identity. The jungle of Dutch’s mind is the setting for the fight between his Super-Ego, manifested in the team of hyper-masculine marines, and the Id of the Predator, who represents a pure homosexual archetype. […]

Pingback by Predator (1987); Homosexual awakening, or “cautionary” AIDS parable? | The 360° Review

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Comment by Kupplerin

[…] You can’t blame someone for getting kind of bored somewhere in the middle, when the villain begins to just pluck them off, one-by-one, watching them shoot their guns into open spaces until there is only one left. (And, yes, you already know which one is going to be left standing if you know who is in the movie.) I couldn’t help but notice the way that the film focuses on the masculine form, the way they treat the sole woman in the story, the emasculating insults they jokingly hurl at one another, and *SPOILER* the suggestive way that the alien basically only goes after the men in the movie *END SPOILER*. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone out there has some kind of theory about the film’s homoerotic subtext. Oh wait, here you go. […]

Pingback by Review: “Predator” | The Viewer's Commentary

Isn’t the battle more on the sense of feminine x masculine halves, also? Like in LOTR. By the way, no coincidence that the Predator’s face is a vagina with teeth.

Comment by Chaostikka (@Chaostikka)

[…] P.S: Je me suis rendu compte, après la rédaction de l’article, que je ne suis pas le premier à proposer cette interprétation de Predator. Pour une analyse plus cohérente, mieux construite, et un peu moins crétine, voir : […]

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