Bright Lights Film Journal

The Pantheon of Macho-Fey


Sounds like some evil tournament Bruce Li would enter to find the man who killed his master, but no – “macho-fey” is a term coined by the celestial Kim Morgan (Sunset Gun) to describe the appeal of Roy Scheider/Bob Fosse in ALL THAT JAZZ. Fosse was, we must remember, a trailblazer in the art of being both a womanizing hetero-hedonist and a choreographer. Scheider is blazingly brilliant as Fosse’s fictional counterpart, Morgan notes:

..the ultimate macho fey (and there’s not many of those out there) is really based on… Roy Scheider. Scheider is so bad and good and sexy and human, and he can move (and God, how I adore those black pants and black boots). I love his whole, greet the day, “It’s Show Time folks!” after his daily ritual of showering, popping Dexedrine, and facing his still sinewy and handsome but now grizzled image in the mirror every morning.

– from 3 Obsessions.

Now that we live in the era of the IRON MAN, I would think that macho fey has arrived in force. One of the keys is, apparently, facial hair and the ability to laugh in the face of authority. When doctors and mothers threaten in their sternest voices, the macho-fey guy merely shrugs them off the way a benevolent owner might ignore the concerned whines of their dog or cat. Also, he’s confident enough that he can swagger to the point of being a bit “prissy.” He might get muscular and sweaty and covered in a thin sheen of oil (ala fellow-fey Lewis in BLOOD after a strike) but he’s not going to slow down his rapid-fire speech, his rumbling, cat-like purr; nor will he curb his tendency to act himself into a state of naked exhilaration, nor hide his ease around women, an ease that transcends sex to the point of seeming like a sister.

One of Stark’s clever mottos is: “Sometimes you gotta run before you can walk.” Only someone as permanently speed-addled as Downey could match the high intensity editing and optical overload that comes with the comic book adaptation territory. Downey could outmaneuver Bugs Bunny on a good day. When Stark wakes up and the first thing that happens is an array of information about the weather, stocks, international news, comes shooting in transparent screen whooshes across his balcony windows overlooking the Santa Monica surf. It’s more information than we can possibly absorb as first-time viewers, but we believe that someone with the hipster acumen and hyperkintetic frequency of Downey could. When you think of how many times over the last decades Downey’s career has been “wrecked,” you have extra awe for him. My GOD! The man’s conscious and insane and yet precision-controlled.

Do I mention this in time for Gay Pride week? Is Downey even gay? Should I go google and find out? No.. The beautiful thing is, it doesn’t matter. In not shutting out the traits he inherently possesses because society labels them “feminine” he opens the door for “full” real character to emerge.

To contrast, imagine Tom Cruise as Iron Man. Yeeeech, right? And he really wanted the role. Imagine how smug and unbearable his Stark would be. Part of the reason would be that lack of femininity.

We can safely ignore the issue of Downey’s private preference as unimportant, but to do so with Cruise courts risk of libel suits! in his big concern over the rumors going around he’s gay, Cruise has even put ads in the Times. Meanwhile, what about the gay world he does a disservice to? He could spin the rumor into a chance to do good by preaching tolerance, instead he acts as if he were being accused of pedophilia or Nazism. It’s one thing to deny, another to insult… and in this case, it’s a missed chance to spread some universal tolerance.

Thus in contrast, we see how Downey nails it, how opening up to one’s inner macho-fey can set you free to win both box office lucre AND a 94% on rottentomatoes. It’s like throwing off a sandbag from your soul balloon. So Mr. Tony Stark, run and worry not about walking; speak as fast as your non-bionic tongue allows. Let even straight people realize there’s a part of them that’s closeted and it’s time to open the door! And let the Tom Cruises sulk in their new age pavilions, alone with their precious macho sans feyness.