In most Hollywood films, homoerotic desire is disguised quite well using the typical diversion method of placing the woman as apparent focus of desire (see above poster). Or, for example, when two men discuss, in great detail, their erotic encounter with a woman the previous evening, or what many a film is based upon, two men fighting over a woman. Now, this method convincingly allows us to assume that the men involved are heterosexual due to their interest in the woman. However, unbeknownst to us (and oftentimes, to themselves) the desire is actually being misdirected, it’s path changed by discreet, or sometimes overt, societal pressures. What those two men actually desire is each other, but feel a compulsion to only allow themselves to experience this desire through the medium of a woman.
Savages does this exquisitely. Not because they disguise it so well, nor do they call overt attention to it, but because it is simply homoerotic throughout – neither overtly nor covertly – it is just simply there, like a fly on the wall or a condom in your purse. The general plot focuses on the characters Ophelia, Ben and Chon (which is pronounced suspiciously like the irish name, “Seán”) who are in a polygamous relationship with one another. Well, that is, it is implied that Ophelia simply sleeps with both men, however, we soon encounter them having a threesome, with the overt “woman as objected of misdirected desire” trope being initially utilized.
However, Ben and Chon’s homosexual desire for one another becomes all the more present in the film as the plot progresses. As Chon and Ben’s weed business grows the Mexican Baja Cartel become interested in obtaining their knowledge and clientele. However, not wanting to be associated with such dangerous people, Ben and Chon decline their offer, only to discover that Ophelia is taken as hostage so that they are forced to work for the Cartel. With Ophelia removed from the center, both Ben and Chon’s relationship becomes exposed to the elements. Both men struggle with their homosexual desire as they delve into rescue missions that distract and ensure that neither one has time to focus on the persistent longing. Elena, the head of Baja Cartel, calls attention to their homoerotic desire as she discusses Ophelia’s situation with her: “They will never love you as much as they love each other”. Ophelia simply remains quiet when presented with this sentiment, perhaps considering whether or not such a statement is justified.
As Ben and Chon take the drive to trade for Ophelia, Ben turns to Chon and says, to paraphrase, “Have I ever told you I love you?” Chon simply requires, “Yeah, this morning”. The casualness of such a homoerotic sentiment is heartwarming, truly. The entire movie centers around these two men and their desire and love for one another, and the pressure that they are under to acquire a woman in order to maintain their bond. Nowhere is this more clear then in Ophelia’s version of events (that is, her romanticized version of events that is revealed to us as false). When Ben is fatally wounded, both Ophelia and Chon decide to commit suicide, thus insinuating that neither one of them desire a mono-amorous relationship, and thus Chon’s homoerotic desire for Ben is brought to the forefront.
Polyamorous relationships are becoming more common in modern society, however, the homoerotic undertones always remain just that, undertones. Savages does not shy away from the homoerotic element of polyamory, nor does it attempt to flaunt it in your face, it simply displays it as a natural aspect of such a relationship. Savages asks you to recognize the intimacy between the two men, without trying to devalue the role that the woman plays. All you have to do is look at the gazes that both men share with one another to note that their bond is essential to the relationship.