Friday, December 17, 2010

Behind the Purple Veil: Homophobia and the Hulk's Penis

The Hulk’s pants would never stay on,
an unspoken truth
I’ve always lived with, a secret
I’ve packed away like
a sock beneath a zipper, but now
it’s ripping through
the purple veil of Puritan homophobia
like Lou Ferrrigno’s thighs
through Bill Bixby’s blue jeans.

To resolve this dilemma of the Hulk’s
magic pants,

I invoke the heroic nude demigods
of our Ancient Greek ancestors,
from whom the Hulk surely descends.
Stroll with me down the mythic columned mindscape
of classical antiquity’s highest of high art--
haunted by the heroes of ripped beefcake statuary
that never demurred behind tights or capes.
Notice their marble and gilded bronze penises like
little snails in the foreskin shell;
now picture them green.

Green primal id
Hulk has no prudish reservations
about his undraped form,
massive demigod,
the child of both
archetypal myth and atomic power,
free of society’s tight denim of decorum;
he is the binary of masculinity,
the roar of Prometheus,
not just a body builder in green makeup
who sports the purple fig-leaf of Eden’s shame--
our comic book corporations just like Pope Clement,
cloaking the archaic penises of hero statues in the Vatican
in the name of contrived decency.

It’s time for the purple pants to fall away,
for the Hulk’s waist to stretch Puritan prudity.

Listen up, Marvel--

we demand Hulk penis now
in comic books and on the big screen.  
What’s the holdup?
The glass ceiling for nude superheroes
has already been shattered--
we’ve all seen Dr. Manhattan’s blue penis just dangling there.  
I’m not asking for too much you know--
no need to see Hulk head.
The pencilers and digital animators
can keep our superhero’s gamma-glans
safely tucked away
inside bullet-proof foreskin
just like Dr. Manahttan’s tasteful precedent,
simple and understated,
no unnecessary flopping in action scenes
or close-ups on bulging veins--I’m not unreasonable.  
As a child, I had two Hulk dolls,
and I pulled off the pants, of course--
alarmed to find
the sexless smooth doll crotch
just like seraphim.

When Ang Lee arrived on the scene
with his vision of Hulk-as-newborn,  
I hoped for an end to the sartorial paradox of Hulk pants,
but instead Hulk wore purple pants provided by the military,
which survive fiery explosions and descents from the stratosphere.

Even Edward Norton laughed at the purple stretchy-pants in the follow-up.
What would happen if the purple veil of Hulk pants fell away
and the American audience
were violently confronted
with a gamma-radiated Hulk penis
(proportionate to his size of course).
We need our friend Frederic Wertham
to detail how this might convert
our sacred straight sons to deviant homosexuals,
or introduce a deep psychic trauma
much worse than
seeing a boob at the Super Bowl.
But I know the real reason we’ll never
see the Hulk sans purple pants:
The Hulk is American masculinity embodied,
more redwhiteandblue than green,
part-Hercules, part-WWE,
nicely packaged in the purple pants of homophobia,
the ultimate Schwarzenegger of our unconscious desires
(the Hulk-howl of emasculated frustrations for power),
every part of him an erection of
swelling unbridled manliness run amok.

You see,

the American audience isn’t ready
to see its reflection in a green mirror,
or frankly admit that
it wants a peek underneath the Hercules fig leaf,
or once might just
take a harmless, appreciatory glance
in the locker room shower.

Xmas Zombie Poem

Here's my Xmas zombie poem, which also prominently features my favorite mirror witch, Bloody Mary (she's also a major player in my upcoming book, Vampire Bridegroom).  I wrote this poem in fall of 2005 and recently revised it for my book, Pop-Up Book of Death.  I think I was feeling very apocalyptic about Xmas at the time--partly because of retail burnout (I worked in a bookstore) and partly because of abusing credit cards to pay for Xmas gifts, which always seemed a little self-destructive.  I loved the idea of zombie carolers, which seemed like a wonderful nightmare image, an idea which has gained prominence lately with a zombie book of beloved Xmas carols.  I also loved the idea of zombies wearing those cheesy baseball jerseys and caps that I always wore as a kid in little league baseball (a traumatic experience).  I wove in an urban legend subtext, something we were studying and writing papers about in the English 101 class I was teaching at the time--urban legends, especially the horror legends, are a pet obsession of mine.  I worked briefly for a plumber, always a source of strange stories (and it was honestly also a traumatic experience), so the persona of this poem is like my plumber "shadow self."  I've always been fascinated with bomb shelters, especially after seeing that episode of the Twilight Zone when the entire neighborhood is trying to crowd into one bomb shelter.  This poem is also one of my very first attempts at combining horror elements with a surreal landscape that is characterized by very dark humor.  I've always thought this poem would make a great little comic book short.  I hope you enjoy this poem.  

Here it is:

Zombie Horde

It's Xmas Eve and
the zombie horde gathers
like every Tuesday
for brains in my back yard
and they leave the gate unlatched again
for my dog to run away

and Bloody Mary comes through the portal
of the bathroom mirror without any eponymous chanting
and I give her a sponge bath in the tub
and we discuss the brainwash vanities of the
cosmetics industry

and my plumbing shop
sponsored the zombie horde again this year
like a little league team
with adjustable snap ball caps and
fiery-sleeved jerseys

and all of my certified callused plumbers write poetry
unplug horrifying obstructions
like Mary's bandages and cigarette butts
and numerous varieties of rejected pets
that form colonies in the sewers

so merry Xmas sings the zombie horde
and its just another day closer to nuclear holocaust
and my bomb shelter now holds enough DVDs to reach
my 70th birthday
and I smashed all the bathroom mirrors
down below
and if my dog comes home I'll
never hear the scratching through the concrete
so its merry Xmas at the end of the world
and if I grow old I will never see

from Chad Helder's Pop-Up Book of Death