Deplorable Gay Villain Stereotype, or the Only Interesting Character in “Tron: Legacy?”

Jacob Bernstein of The Daily Beast has an interesting piece out today on how Tron: Legacy’s prancing bad guy Castor (played by actor Michael Sheen) is part of a long and unfortunate Hollywood tradition of coded gay villains going back to Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon.

“The [Tron] character is a tired hybrid of Ziggy Stardust and Joel Grey circa
Cabaret, a person who nearly sinks the universe while prancing around
in his too-tight suit as techno music blares in the background.”

I haven’t seen the movie yet, so not certain how on the money Bernstein’s assessment is, but here’s a Tron: Legacy clip where you can see the character in action:

While it’s true the character is never specifically referred to as gay, it is made screamingly obvious. Calling the hero “Prettiness” and suggesting they retire to his “private lounge?” All right, we get it already.

This isn’t really problematic in and of itself, but as in so many other movies before it, the prancing gay shtick is also used as a shorthand signifier for villainy. That’s right, Castor is a very bad guy and audiences are meant to pick up on that by the fact that he’s flirting with the hero.

But maybe this isn’t as terrible a transgression as Bernstein thinks it is. (He calls the character “deplorable,” the worst thing in an already terrible film.)

The online comments for the video clip above are interesting and tend to disagree. Many of them concede that Castor’s effete behavior is a Hollywood cliche – but also point out that he’s by far the most compelling character in the film. In fact, they’re disappointed that he’s only in the film for twenty minutes, and they wanted far more of him!

In short, it seems like some audiences might actually like Castor because of his prancing. Or maybe moviegoers just hated the rest of the movie so much, it was easy to root for the villain!

So what do you think? If you’ve seen the movie already we particularly want to hear from you. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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