Gay Fandom and Crossover Stardom

James Dean, Mel Gibson, and Keanu Reeves

Gay Fandom and Crossover Stardom

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 33 b&w photos Published: August 2001

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Media Studies > Film

Why and how does the appeal of certain male Hollywood stars cross over from straight to gay audiences? Do stars lose their cachet with straight audiences when they cross over? In Gay Fandom and Crossover Stardom Michael DeAngelis responds to these questions with a provocative analysis of three famous actors—James Dean, Mel Gibson, and Keanu Reeves. In the process, he traces a fifty-year history of audience reception that moves gay male fandom far beyond the realm of “camp” to places where culturally unauthorized fantasies are nurtured, developed, and shared.
DeAngelis examines a variety of cultural documents, including studio publicity and promotional campaigns, star biographies, scandal magazines, and film reviews, as well as gay political and fan literature that ranges from the closeted pages of One and Mattachine Review in the 1950s to the very “out” dish columns, listserv postings, and on-line star fantasy narratives of the past decade. At the heart of this close historical study are treatments of particular film narratives, including East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, The Road Warrior, Lethal Weapon, My Own Private Idaho, and Speed. Using theories of fantasy and melodrama, Gay Fandom and Crossover Stardom demonstrates how studios, agents, and even stars themselves often actively facilitate an audience’s strategic blurring of the already tenuous distinction between the heterosexual mainstream and the gay margins of American popular culture.
In addition to fans of James Dean, Mel Gibson, and Keanu Reeves, those interested in film history, cultural studies, popular culture, queer theory, gender studies, sociology, psychoanalytic theory, melodrama, fantasy, and fandom will enjoy this book.


“[A] richly conceived and compellingly argued account of gay star reception that will be welcomed by many in the areas of cultural, media and/or queer studies.” — Brett Farmer , Media International Australia

“[A] very readable and engaging look at the making of gay icons and fans.” — Front Page

“[A]n intriguing area [that] DeAngelis treats with lucidity and tact. . . . This is an area halfway between gossip and fantasy. ‘Is he gay?’ easily becomes ‘How would it feel if he was gay, and . . .’ Both the actuality and the dream are weighed up and chronicled in this excellent publication.” — Bradley Winterton , South China Morning Post

"One of the most interesting and useful accounts of sexuality and the cinema that I have read. . . . DeAngelis writes exemplary poststructuralist cultural studies. . . . I was constantly thrilled by the evidence DeAngelis produces to support his arguments. . . . A fascinating book. Useful for thinking about cinemas, stars and sexuality. Well worth a look." — Alan McKee , M/C Reviews

"DeAngelis . . . explores how male film icons are both shaped by—and help shape—gay male styles and cultural representations . . . . The author is best on James Dean’s career, charting how the actor’s emotional openness and vulnerability often made him ‘look’ gay and how that image was exploited in his films (as in his highly erotic relationship with Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause) . . . . DeAngelis’s analysis of cultural trends in both gay male and mainstream culture is often provocative." Publishers Weekly

"DeAngelis has been diligent in researching star biographies, film reviews, studio publicity and promotional campaigns, as well as straight and gay fan literature." — Anthony Elliott , The Australian

"DeAngelis probes the connections between identification and desire. He shows how studio publicity, fan web sites, and ‘dish’ columns reflect changing attitudes toward gay icons, from Dean’s ‘in and out’ sexuality to Gibson’s heterosexuality to Reeves’s ‘panaccessibility.’ Although DeAngelis focuses on these three stars, the wider implications of his arguments merit consideration in a larger context . . . . His argument is clear and concise, leaving room for continuing debate on audience response, criticism, and popular films. Highly recommended for film studies on gay-audience response." — Library Journal

"I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone interested in the construction of queer identities, the negotiatory process of fandom and the star's management and negotiation of that fan attention." — Kerry Gough , Scope

"Michael De Angelis offers, in his Gay Fandom and Crossover Stardom, what is perhaps the most compelling account to date of how and why some self-identified gay spectators would cathect so strongly to certain star personas. In the process, De Angelis provides a (necessarily) truncated genealogy of the contemporary male homosexual subject and the role Hollywood cinema has sometimes played in the creation of that subject. More than any other recent work on queer reception, Gay Fandom and Crossover Stardom makes clear some of what is at stake in reading star images queerly.. . . [I]t is an important contribution to both film studies and queer theory." — John Champagne , Quarterly Review of Film and Video

“An important contribution to star studies, one distinguished by the way that it convincingly brings together queer theory, cultural studies, and close textual analysis.” — Steven Cohan, author of Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties

“What is James Dean’s appeal for generations of queer men? How did Mel Gibson win, and then alienate, a gay audience? What is behind Keanu Reeves’s sexual ambiguity? You will discover the answers to these, and many other, provocative questions about male stars and their male fans in Michael DeAngelis’s sharply argued and wonderfully written Gay Fandom and Crossover Stardom.” — Alex Doty, author of Flaming Classics: Queering the Film Canon


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Michael DeAngelis is Assistant Professor at the School for New Learning at DePaul University.

Table of Contents Back to Top


1. James Dean and the Fantasy of Rebellion

2. Stories without Endings: The Emergence of the “Authentic” James Dean

3. Identity Transformations: Mel Gibson’s Sexuality

4. Keanu Reeves and the Fantasy of Pansexuality




Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2738-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2728-8
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