Image Credit: BLADES OF GLORY: Suzanne Hanover
Blades of Glory (2007) promotes intimate male friendship while parodying the politics and melodrama of figure skating. The documentary style form that introduces Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy directly parallels the expository videos which highlight athletes in the Olympics. If the athlete bios aren’t obvious enough, filmmakers include grand trumpet theme music, joined circle motifs, real champions such as Scott Hamilton and Sasha Cohen, and medal ranking familiar to audiences around the globe to make the comparison crystal clear.
With skintight sequenced suits and glitter galore, figure skating is the most theatrical sport of the winter games, a point made all too clear by a fictionalized interviewee who when asked his thoughts regarding the male-male pair responds, “As if figure skating wasn’t gay enough already.” The two-man team is viewed with initial contempt by Bible-thumpers to hotdog sellers. After all, pairs skating traditionally involves opposite sex partners whose performance relies on implied romance, the man assuming the dominant role. Essentially dancing on ice, the male duo is bound to be interpreted in homoerotic terms.
The film does not dance around the homoeroticism of the sport. On the contrary, the comedy milks each queer moment for maximum laughs. During tryouts, Chazz and Jimmy execute a number of tricks that mimic sexual positions from sixty-nine to scissoring. Embracing intimacy, however, is precisely the key to their success. The duo casts aside their pseudo-machismo in favor of honest, close companionship. True friends finally, the men achieve victory, winning gold in addition to the hearts of viewers who are fed up with the phoniness of catty couples like Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg who lie and cheat their way to the top. Viewers also find refreshing the unabashed display of male bonding.
Critics who deem Blades of Glory homophobic need to realize that the film both celebrates and encourages male intimacy in sport and real life. In fact, heterosexuality is presented grotesquely in the figure of Chazz. Chazz, a sex addict, buries his repressed insecurity in female flesh, sleeping with most anyone—even considering his friend’s love interest a viable option. Stranz and Fairchild, brother and sister, French-kiss at the movie’s end, revealing disturbing and disgusting incestuous desire. Jimmy and Katie’s straight passion meanwhile is shown as juvenile and unexplored. While the only explicitly gay character, Hector, does possess stalker tendencies, he is also responsible for discovering the loophole allowing Jimmy and Chazz to compete together. Spawning Jimmy and Chazz’s road to redemption, Hector is the film’s hero who saves them from a destructive path of dead-end jobs, depression, and addiction.
Outside of the screen, males are not permitted to ice dance or figure skate together as partners in the Olympics. Systematic homophobia in Russia, host of the most recent winter games, as well as worldwide prejudice proves that progress must still be pursued. If we all shed homophobic ideology, embracing intimacy’s spectrum, we will be winners in the game of life; the prize more priceless than any medal—bronze, silver, or gold.