WHITE MUSCLE DADDY and Queer Catharsis in Horror

From a young age, I’ve had a deep appreciation for the horror/thriller genre. Early faves were the creepy Goosebumps novels, which opened the door to Stephen King’s massive output, leading to the silver screen teen screams of the 90s. These brought me to the classics on VHS and DVD: Psycho, The Exorcist, The Thing, Nosferatu, A Nightmare on Elm Street… mama, I could go on and on and on — let’s not even get into my contemporary faves (but here are a few: Stranger by the Lake, Us, The Neon Demon, The Lure, Knife + Heart, Midsommar, etc, etc).

Born on Halloween, I guess this was at least somewhat inevitable — my ookie-spooky Scorpio energy needs a vessel, after all — but what truly fuels my love of the genre is how it can help process some of the more painful aspects of life. No matter how bleak things get, I can turn to scary content and, in a controlled environment, process and release those emotions. A temporary fix, no doubt, but still effective. This potential for catharsis is, in part, why I chose to tell the story of WHITE MUSCLE DADDY through a horror lens. It also happens to be a genre that from its earliest days has been rife with queer subtext and themes. If you’re in the community you can probably relate to a certain almost daily level of fear, anxiety, alienation, or demonization — especially if you’re trans or a person of colour.

Because horror is so thematically malleable, there’s also an opportunity in the central struggle of our lead character Jeremy to poke at issues like the role of white supremacy and capitalism in our lives. Jeremy feels his existence has stagnated to the point of no return: he’s stuck in a shit job for little pay, feels he’s out of shape, feels he’ll never be beautiful enough for the kind of guys he’s truly attracted to. But then a man who embodies everything he’s always wanted to be enters his life and Jeremy’s obsession grows, pulling his world apart. If only he could be like this man: so hot, so muscular, so masc… if only there was an easy, quick-fix way to become him, damn the consequences. Perhaps a dip in the crimson waters of vampirism doesn’t sound so bad?

So much of mainstream imagery is filtered through whiteness and wealth and queer spaces aren’t immune. Think of the most liked lists on hook-up apps, or the countless films that focus on buff lantern-jawed white guys falling in and out of love, or how it can feel to walk into queer parties and be confronted by a sea of white men, or all the rainbow skins and surface representation corporations slap on their logos and in their ads to separate us from our money. Yes, the entire 2SLGBTQ+ community is marginalized, but that doesn’t mean we’re all running the same marathon. There’s still an unspoken hierarchy: white men atop the mountain as the rest scratch and claw at each other to make it to the peak. And if we ever do, our position is only guaranteed so long as we adhere to their standards, otherwise we’re sent tumbling back down. 

Oh, the anxiety of living up to beauty standards, the fear of being targeted for being too feminine or not “passing”, the fear of rejection for things you can’t change, and more and more and more. This affects us on a deep level and I think it’s safe to say we all need a little release once in a while. And not solely through traditionally happy, positive things! Those are wonderful, not saying otherwise. Queer joy is beautiful and very necessary. But we contain multitudes and isn’t there an innate healing and, dare I say ecstatic release, in seeing a hero triumph over an attacking menace? They’re tired and bruised, but a survivor! Often the only way to confront a fear is to look it in the eye and feel it fully and completely. Horror creates space to do just that. (Also, I got you boo: there’s a ton of queer joy in WHITE MUSCLE DADDY’s sibling play The Effeminates *wink*.)

Our collective at Pencil Kit Productions is so excited to share this work with you in the coming years. For now, I’d like to say thank you to Buddies and their wonderful staff for supporting our most recent workshop. For two weeks we experimented with live video feed, shadow, and projections. We learned A LOT and feel well-primed to leap into our next phase. I’d also like to say thank you and acknowledge the hard work and thoughtful contributions of the super talented artists who joined us for the workshop: Chel Carmichael, Rohan Dhupar, Lucia Linares, Roxanne Luchak, Jay Northcott, Brandon Pereira, and Taylor Young. Hire them all immediately, they’re amazing! 

Lead image is a still of Chel Carmichael from a series of short videos created by Roxanne Luchak and Lucia Linares, which provide a window into the world of WHITE MUSCLE DADDY. Stay tuned for their release, coming soon. Pencil Kit Productions is developing WHITE MUSCLE DADDY as part of the Buddies Residency Program.

Raf Antonio

Raf Antonio (he/they) is a writer, director, and sometime photographer working in theatre and television. For more, visit www.rafantonio.com.

Read all posts by Raf Antonio

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