Bright Lights Film Journal

O Captain! My Captain! Master and Commander

Master and Commander wants to raise your mast

There is a queer theory for everything. And if there isn’t, there should be. My queer theory for Master and Commander is this: Dr. Stephen Maturin is queer for Captain Jack Aubrey.1

That’s about it, really. There’s nothing I can say or do to slow down this blockbuster, which isn’t bad, if you have a hankering to revisit the good old days when every man-jack and jack-tar was happy to give up his balls for dear old England. The gags in Master and Commander make the one-liners in Friends look recherché, but the packed house I saw the film with roared at every one.2 If there were any nay-sayers in the crowd, they kept it sotto voce.

Jack and Doc are really like husband and wife. Jack breaks Doc’s favorite knick-knack. Doc sulks. Jack buys him a new one. He cares! He really cares! Besides, Doc has this cute one-armed cabin boy to hang out with.3 There’s more than a hint of James T. Kirk and Science Officer Spock in all of this, the high school quarterback and the, um, cheerleader.4

But enough with the witticisms! If you’re in the mood for Star Trek in a fo’c’s’le, get on down to the multiplex. Or would you have Old Bony humping the Queen and your children singing La Marseillaise5?

  1. “Are you in the mood for something more aggressive?” Doc asks Jack as they start fiddling around below decks at the beginning of the picture. []
  2. The guy sitting behind me laughed louder than the actors on the screen, and they were getting paid to laugh. []
  3. Or is he a midshipman? Or a foretopman? Who knows? Who cares? []
  4. High school! Fucking high school! We never fucking graduate! []
  5. Contrarians like me can’t help pulling for the French in this picture. Captain Jack seems to think he defeated Napoleon all by himself. In fact, if Old Bony hadn’t been such an asshole as to invade Russia, the Brits never would have won. But busybodies never last. []