Read of the Day: “Airplane! and The Unrepentant Sissy”
5:30 pm, September 11th | by Colette McIntyre
Airplane! is one of my favorite movies. I am not an unreconstructed ZAZ fan; I think The Naked Gun is overrated and there are parts of Police Squad! that could have been improved upon, but Airplane!remains in my mind one of the most consistently funny movies of the last thirty years. You know how one of the reasons everyone loved 30 Rock so much was the astonishing rate of jokes per minute? That’s Airplane!, but with the added benefit of Robert Stack. It’s one of the first in a rash of zany, anarchic free-for-all comedies that cropped up in the late 1970s and early ’80s, and it’s one of the best. Chances are that you’ve seen it (here I will succumb to gender essentialism and wager that you have seen it at least once with your father) and can recite what the white zone is for without prompting.
One of the best–and coincidentally, most radical–aspects in the movie is Johnny the air traffic controller, played by the brilliant Stephen Stucker. Johnny is part of that time-honored band, the movie sissy, and he’s the most magnificently unrepentant faggots to ever grace the screen in the entire 1980s….
Johnny is never slapped, pushed out of the way, humiliated, sidelined, mocked, or verbally bested by any of the grizzled, chain-smoking, heterosexual manly men running through the control tower with him. Not once in the entire movie is Johnny the target of a joke (he’s too busy making them himself), which is fairly remarkable, given the treatment gay and sissy characters usually got in most mainstream comedies at the time. There’s nobody else like him.
To read the whole piece (and you definitely want to considering there are great Airplane! clips to watch), click here.