Quee­ring the Screen

Siegessaeule - - Film -

> I lo­ve it when a Ger­man asks me what my fa­vo­ri­te mo­vie is. Al­most in­va­ria­bly, they've ne­ver even heard of it. “You me­an, you've ne­ver se­en Tim Bur­ton's first full-length film?“I ask, and then strap them to a chair and force them to watch Pee-wee'sBi­gAd­ven­ture. The ti­tu­lar cha­rac­ter was a boy play­ed by a man wea­ring rouge as bright as his bow­tie. He was glee­ful­ly eff­emi­na­te, and his films and TV show are what taught me that it was OK to be dif­fe­rent. Pee-wee Her­man was per­haps the quee­rest en­ter­tai­ner on child­ren's te­le­vi­si­on in the U.S. He was crea­ted by co­me­di­an Paul Reu­bens, who ne­ver pu­bli­cly bro­ke cha­rac­ter throughout the 80s. Every Sa­tur­day morning, I tu­n­ed in to Pee­wee'sPlay­hou­se. My par­ents we­re sus­pi­cious of me ido­li­zing such a freak. The show was cam­py as hell, and even sub­ver­si­ve: the­re was an epi­so­de in which he re­marks that he lo­ves the fruit sa­lad he's ea­ting. His fri­ends jo­ke, “Then why don't you mar­ry it?!” He ac­cepts the chal­len­ge and li­te­r­al­ly holds a wed­ding ce­re­mo­ny with a bowl of fruit, ma­king a far­ce of the he­te­ro­se­xu­al in­sti­tu­ti­on. Pee-wee's co­horts we­re li­ke the Vil­la­ge People on LSD: a pas­tel-clad cow­boy, a bio­lo­gi­cal­ly fe­ma­le drag queen and a li­fe­guard ba­ring his chise­led chest. The most flam­boyant of all, though, was Jam­bi the ge­nie, who was a queen from he­ad to toe (ac­tual­ly, he was just a floa­ting he­ad). And the show's the­me was sung by fag hag Cyn­di Lau­per. I re­mem­ber how exci­ted I was for his star-stud­ded Christ­mas spe­cial: at that age, I had no idea who Cher, Litt­le Richard, Gra­ce Jo­nes and k.d. lang we­re, but any fri­end of Pee-wee was a fri­end of mi­ne. What I re­mem­ber even bet­ter was when the plug was pul­led on the Play­hou­se in 1991. I as­ked my dad why Pee-wee wasn't on TV any­mo­re. “He was, uh, caught by the po­li­ce, ex­po­sing him­s­elf.” I had no idea what the hell that meant, but six-ye­ar-old me didn't ask fur­ther qu­es­ti­ons. Ye­ars la­ter, I lear­ned the sto­ry: un­der­co­ver cops al­le­gedly spot­ted Reu­bens mas­tur­ba­ting in a porn thea­ter. Alt­hough he was ne­ver ac­tual­ly found guil­ty of in­de­cent ex­po­sure, the fact that a child­ren's en­ter­tai­ner was watching porn was a scan­dal in Pu­ri­tan Ame­ri­ca. Pee-wee was es­sen­ti­al­ly dam­ned by the pu­b­lic and the cha­rac­ter was re­ti­red. Af­ter a few ye­ars away from the me­dia, Reu­bens re­tur­ned to ac­ting, but ta­king on va­rious ro­les on sit­coms ( Mur­phyBrown, 30Rock) and in films ( Blow, TheS­murfs). Over the past de­ca­de, he has be­en teasing us with a new Pee­wee flick, and I'm pe­eing my pants in exci­te­ment: Pee-wee'sBi­gHo­li­day is out March 18, ex­clu­si­ve­ly via Net­flix. Reu­bens is back in the tit­le ro­le, joi­ned by Tru­eB­lood's Ta­ra Buck and Joe Man­ga­ni­el­lo. John Lee ( BroadCi­ty) is di­rec­ting, with Judd Apa­tow as pro­du­cer. Thir­ty ye­ars af­ter its re­lease, Bi­gAd­ven­ture re­mains time­l­ess. I'm cau­tious­ly op­ti­mis­tic to see what the filmma­ker be­hind The40-Ye­ar-Ol­dVir­gin has do­ne with a 63-ye­ar-old ac­tor play­ing a litt­le boy. Wha­te­ver the ca­se, I will al­ways lo­ve Pee-wee. Then why don't I mar­ry him?! <

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