Frodo, Hannibal and the Gay Elephant

When the movies came out, the jokes about Frodo and Sam
having a sexual relationship were not in short supply

"But I must go at once. It's the only way."

"Of course it is," answered Sam. "But not alone. I'm coming too, or neither of us isn't going. I'll knock holes in all the boats first."

Frodo actually laughed. A sudden warmth and gladness touched his heart.

-Fellowship of the Rings

Men can be close friends with men.


I’ve been writing a lot this year about the social challenges to male-female friendship. But the hyper-sexualisation of our culture is such that it hinders the formation of deep male-male friendships as well. This is one of the reasons many adult men are so lonely - after the age of 30 and especially after marriage.

Doreen Gellerello pointed out yesterday that – like the Lord of the Rings - the finale of Hannibal last weekend was akin to having 'a gay elephant in the room' (article here). So rarely are intimate male-male friendships seen in entertainment that viewers find the whole concept unusual and suspect an ulterior, Freudian motive. Gellerello points out (correctly)

The friendship between Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is, along with Hannibal, one of relatively few modern attempts to portray intensely emotional male homosocial relationships with absolute sincerity, and the number of gay jokes made about Frodo and Sam in the wake of the films’ release speaks to the fact that audiences weren’t (and still aren’t) quite comfortable watching straight male characters get emotionally intimate with one another.

The Hannibal finale had Will and Hannibal
die in each other's arms

This suspicious mind-set has not been present through most of human history. The Romans, the Greeks and the Hebrew people all celebrated the close, non-sexual and emotive brotherhood that two men can share in friendship. In the West, it was the public trial of Oscar Wilde for sodomy and the theories of Sigmund Freud that have made emotional and physical displays of affection between men so rare.

On the rare occasions when men do express love to each other, they jokingly add ‘no homo’ at the end or laugh about it being ‘bromance’. The things that a society jokes about shows you what they are uncomfortable with. Men often feel more comfortable doing some activity together while chatting - as the intimacy that can occur in a sit-down discussion over coffee can prove uncomfortable for many of them.

In 2 Samuel chapter 1 the warrior-king David mourned the loss of his friend in battle saying, ‘I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.’ If that line were delivered on TV today – the viewers would assume David was gay.

David may have been many things – but gay wasn’t one of them.

In other places, I have challenged how - past a certain age - men and women stop engaging in friendship for fear of misunderstanding. They don’t want to be seen by others as adulterers. I believe that’s an unrighteous phenomenon that should be challenged, particularly by Christians. But - perhaps even more important – we need men to develop and display bonds of affection with one another – without fear of having their sexuality challenged. This isn’t easy. I’m now passed young adulthood and am soon approaching ‘middle age’ - I feel how hard it is to reach out to other men. We lack protocol and vocabulary for this deeper bonding that we need in order to flourish. But I don’t want it to be that way for my sons' generation. They should have examples of David-Jonathan friendships to imitate.

Can we give it to them? Bro?

Or my book on male-female friendship called Forbidden Friendships  (UK) 


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