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Is Big Daddy Gay?

Jordan Catalano Profile Photo
Jordan Catalano
Broadway Legend
joined:10/9/05
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 11:35am
Watching CAT last night, I started to wonder if the very mean Big Daddy was also gay. His understanding and compassion towards his son when talking about the issue combined with his attitudes towards his wife got me thinking. I tried looking online to see if I could find any analysis that discussed this but didn't see anything.

I'd never thought of the character in this way before, and maybe it's just the way that Ciaran Hinds takes on the character, but is this common thinking or am I just reading too much into it?
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wonderwaiter
Broadway Legend
joined:10/4/05
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 11:45am
"For example, in Sedgwick’s terms, Big Daddy may better exemplify
homosexual panic than does Brick. Big Daddy is outwardly entirely
unpanicked by possible homosexuality. He himself, he says, ‘‘knocked
around in [his] time . . . slept in hobo jungles and railroad Y’s and flophouses
in all the cities . . .’’ (Cat 85–86); he even implies that he had sexual relations
with Straw and Ochello, who left the plantation to him. But Big Daddy’s
knowingness about homosexuality and his implied comfort with it are also a
strategy in dealing with double bind, also a mode of self-deception, since,
in our culture, homosexuality and homosociality cannot, in fact, be
distinguished. Male teenagers who attack some supposed evidence of
homosexuality in a victimized boy in their group with the taunt ‘‘We Know
What That Means!’’ (Sedgwick, Epistemology 204) are trying to draw a line
between themselves and the homosexual and place themselves on the right
side of it. In fact, any claim to know homosexuality is a lie, which, according
to Sedgwick, ‘‘animates and perpetuates the mechanism of homophobic
male self-ignorance and violence and manipulability’’ (Epistemology 204).
Big Daddy may thus be in deeper denial than Brick, and his apparent
comfort with homosexuality – which implies confidence in his heterosexuality
– may be a deeper form of the ‘‘mendacity’’ than that he deplores.
It is striking that, just before his scene with Brick, Big Daddy emphasizes
his desire to find a woman and ‘‘strip her naked and choke her with
diamonds and smother her with minks and hump her from hell to breakfast’’
(Cat 80) – a perhaps overstated display of heterosexual desire. Brick responds
to Big Daddy’s forcing him to deal with his potential homosexuality
by revealing to him that his family has lied to him and he is going to die
shortly of cancer of the bowel. As several critics have noted, bowel cancer is
associated in Williams’s writings with homosexuality; specifically, it is, as
David Savran says, ‘‘the currency of moral debt in Williams’s homosexual
economy’’ (101), the price that must be paid for a homosexual secret. Big
Daddy’s panicked reaction to Brick’s revelation of his affliction could thus be
viewed as a manifestation of – or perhaps a metaphor for – his fear of his own
potential homosexuality, a fear that his urbane knowingness has only
masked. Because this happens at a much deeper level of psychic
symbolization than does Brick’s response to the homosexualization of his
relationship with Skipper, it more accurately reflects the kind of role
Sedgwick sees homosexual panic playing in our culture."


Arrell, Douglas (1), AUTHOR
Source:
Modern Drama; Spring2008, Vol. 51 Issue 1, p60-72, 13p

Sorry for the wonky formatting, but I was copying and pasting from a pdf.


"The tale doesn't so much unfold as ooze out..."
Updated On: 1/2/13 at 11:45 AM
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 03:02pm
^^^Formatting will be your last worry when Pal Joey catches you quoting Edie Sedgwick. And I must say, when Mr. Arrell suggests that dismay at a diagnosis of bowel cancer must mean one is a closet queen (as if straight men don't mind cancer), I see Joey's point.

The post-modernists quoted ignore the very simple fact that for Big Daddy's generation, hetero- and homosexuality were defined by sexual position (active/passive) not the sex of one's partner. As long as Big Daddy was the penetraTOR, he was secure in his normalcy. He also displays a surprisingly tolerant attitude toward penetraTEEs, such as his friends, the previous owners of the plantation, but they are the ones who are "different".

So did Big Daddy enjoy what WE would call "gay sex" when he was a young man? Apparently.

Is he gay (in his terms or ours)? Probably not.


Updated On: 1/2/13 at 03:02 PM
Jordan Catalano Profile Photo
Jordan Catalano
Broadway Legend
joined:10/9/05
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 03:21pm
So are you saying he's bisexual?
JoeKv99 Profile Photo
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 03:22pm
It's been a million years but I always thought Big Daddy screwed around with boys but "did his duty" and settled down with women. His anger at Brick is over Brick not being able to move on and do his duty with Maggie. It's time to put that aside and father some children, Brick.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
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PalJoey
Broadway Legend
joined:3/11/04
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 03:24pm
Formatting will be your last worry when Pal Joey catches you quoting Edie Sedgwick.

Edie Sedgwick's views on Big Daddy's latent homosexuality would have been fun.




He quoted Eve Sedgwick, who, may she rest in peace, was never a lot of fun.

yr pal,
joey




Blocked so far: suestorm, Master Bates
Jordan Catalano Profile Photo
Jordan Catalano
Broadway Legend
joined:10/9/05
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 03:25pm
But seeing his disgust with Big Mama leads me to believe that he might have "done his duty" but he hates having to have done it.
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wonderwaiter
Broadway Legend
joined:10/4/05
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 03:29pm
That was just the first article that turned up when I searched my library's database... I didn't mean to imply an endorsement of either Arrell or Sedgwick, but rather to let Jordan know that he wasn't reading too much into it.

I'm sure there's more but I didn't have time to dig any deeper at that moment.

"The tale doesn't so much unfold as ooze out..."
Updated On: 1/2/13 at 03:29 PM
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 03:30pm
Jordan, according to Freud (and Williams was in Freudian analysis) almost EVERYONE is potentially bisexual.

Joe, you're right that Big Daddy implies homosexual behavior is a sort of fooling around that boys and young men try, and I'm sure he expects Brick to "grow up" and do his duty. But without rereading the play, I'm not sure that means Big Daddy prefers child play to adult heterosexual activity or that he has sublimated his own homosexuality out of "duty".

It was a pretty common attitude when I lived in the Deep South: boys fool around together and then stop when women become available to them. If that's what Daddy means, it may not even matter who penetrates whom. Age would be the defining factor rather than sexual position.

Okay, now *I'm* going to be in trouble with Joey, too.
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 03:32pm
Thank you, Joey. Yes, I meant Eve, not Edie. The former, by the way, was capable of writing an occasional page of brilliantly clear prose which she would then bury amidst many chapters of post-modernist jargon.

***

And FWIW, who among us, gay or straight, would NOT be repelled by Big Mama? I don't find that particularly significant.
Updated On: 1/2/13 at 03:32 PM
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 05:42pm
Jordan, I know you don't cry in the corner because I (or anyone else) disagree with you; but I should have acknowledged that of course you are entitled to see CAT differently than I do. And differently than Williams does as well.

I think conversations bog down sometimes with too much "of course you're entitled to your opinion but" posts. But of course you are.

For the record and IIRC, Williams always insisted that Brick himself was heterosexual, that his problem is that others (his friend and his wife) fail to live up to his ideals. And that in turn causes him to question everything, including himself.

So if Williams wrote Brick as hetero, I doubt the playwright intended Big Daddy to be secretly gay. But that's just Williams' opinion. You and I are entitled to our own.

***

P.S. to Pal Joey: the irony is that I have read three books by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. All I know about Edie is that she shot Andy Warhol. As Dan Quayle put it, "A mind is a terrible thing not to have one." Or maybe it was Antony Quayle...
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CarlosAlberto
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/10
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 05:43pm
Of course he's gay, how'd you think he got the name "Big Daddy"?
"I was raised to be charming, not sincere"
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/2/13 at 05:48pm
^^^The same way children in the South remain "babies" until they graduate from college. It's a different language.
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JayG 2
Stand-by
joined:12/19/12
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/3/13 at 01:15pm
If it's a Rob Assford production - EVERYONE is GAY!!
ghostlight2
Broadway Legend
joined:12/5/04
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/3/13 at 02:36pm
I'm never sure if you're joking, GavestonPS, but Valerie Solanas, admittedly a contemporary of Edie Sedgewick's, shot Andy Warhol.

Oh, topic? No, I don't think Big Daddy is gay.
Owen22
Broadway Legend
joined:2/24/11
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/3/13 at 03:29pm
Big Daddy Bear!!
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/3/13 at 07:32pm
Thank you, ghostlight. Yes, sometimes I'm joking. Just as often, I'm clueless. Alas, this thread appears to inspire the latter. I appreciate the correction.

Quite obviously, I don't know who the hell Edie Sedgewick is, so God only knows why I brought her up in the first place.
Updated On: 1/3/13 at 07:32 PM
FindingNamo Profile Photo
FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/3/13 at 07:41pm
Maybe you should just relax and stop making such painfully visible struggles to keep up?
'First the Bastille than the butt plug.' -- M ______
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/3/13 at 07:53pm
I'm perfectly relaxed, Namo, and I had no problem keeping up with the actual topic of this thread.

I did make errors in a couple of flippant one-liners, which I readily admit. Doing so caused no detour in the actual discussion, however.

If you're saying that I should think twice before making wisecracks, I'll admit that you may have a point. Not saying I'll change, just that you are probably right.

Updated On: 1/3/13 at 07:53 PM
ghostlight2
Broadway Legend
joined:12/5/04
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/3/13 at 08:22pm
"I don't know who the hell Edie Sedgewick is, so God only knows why I brought her up in the first place."

Oh, quite possibly because someone else quoted Eve Sedgwick, and the names are quite similar? Easy mistake to make. As to the rest, both Edie and Solanas had direct connections to Warhol, so you weren't totally off-base there, either.

"Maybe you should just relax and stop making such painfully visible struggles to keep up?"

And possibly you could be just a little more kind about a simple and understandable error? Consider just letting it go without making a comment that serves no other purpose than to be pointlessly nasty?


Edie Sedgwick bio
Updated On: 1/3/13 at 08:22 PM
FindingNamo Profile Photo
FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/3/13 at 08:44pm
My point was not to be nasty.
'First the Bastille than the butt plug.' -- M ______
Jordan Catalano Profile Photo
Jordan Catalano
Broadway Legend
joined:10/9/05
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/3/13 at 08:56pm
Why are you guys fighting about the chick from THE CLOSER? Is SHE gay?
broadwaybabytn Profile Photo
broadwaybabytn
Broadway Star
joined:12/30/10
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/3/13 at 09:29pm
"The same way children in the South remain "babies" until they graduate from college. It's a different language."

As a Southerner all my life, I don't understand this. It's a different culture, and the language is sometimes used differently, but the heart of it is the same.
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EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/3/13 at 09:49pm
Of course to clean itself up, the film took the idea that Brick simply has to "grow up" and ran with it--instead of any specifically homosexual behaviour, Brick's problem is made one just of delayed adolescents.

It's true that in interviews Williams' maintained that Brick was straight (though he was much more vague about it after he himself publicly came out in the early 70s on TV)--but I don't buy it for a minute and I think he was just trying to twist people's perceptions and point out something by saying that. That's a massive presumption for me to make, but I think any reading of those interviews with Williams makes it pretty obvious he wasn't being fully serious.
ZiggyCringe
Leading Actor
joined:5/16/05
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/4/13 at 02:38am
NO, Big Daddy isn't gay.
Brick? YES. Big Daddy GETS that Brick is a homo. Ergo the problem.

GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Is Big Daddy Gay?
Posted: 1/4/13 at 05:38pm
As a Southerner all my life, I don't understand this. It's a different culture, and the language is sometimes used differently, but the heart of it is the same.

Also from the South, I was joking. I believe "Big Daddy" and "Big Mama" are terms for grandparents, to distinguish them from Brick's brother and his wife who are "Daddy" and "Mama" to their own children. (But I haven't reread the play in 10 years.) "Big Daddy" also serves to symbolize how the man is seen by everyone.

***

If Brick is gay, then Maggie is just a fool in her final speech and the play is pointless. IMO, obviously.

Brick's problem is that his wife and his best friend have betrayed him by not living up to his ideals. Maggie's point is that we don't stop living just because we experience disillusion. Yet surely we all know by now that sexuality isn't a duality but a spectrum, so, yes, in that sense, Brick may have glimpsed the homoeroticism inherent to close male friendships and may be troubled by it. That's not the same thing as being in the closet.

All of this would be quite clear if I could just use the Warhol Factory group as an extended analogy. But I have eschewed that behavior at Namo's request. (Thanks again, ghostlight2.)

Updated On: 1/4/13 at 05:38 PM

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