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Constantine’s Gabriel Messed With Gender and Expectations


Tilda Swinton in Constantine

Screenshot: Warner Bros.

Once we first meet Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) in Constantine, it’s not the type of introduction you anticipate for an archangel. Constantine (Keanu Reeves) approaches rigorously, like he is aware of higher, however he’s going to take action anyway. It’s uncomfortable to look at as a result of Constantine is uncomfortable. Gabriel is an angel of God. He kills demons by invoking the identify of the Lord. It’s a second.

Gabriel is in a pinstripe swimsuit, going through the hearth. Constantine approaches and darkish wings seem, flaring outwards. Constantine averts his eyes, nearly reverent; that is, in spite of everything, the creature titled the power of God. The show is supposed to impress and frighten. (“Be not afraid,” bitch, what if I’m? Mark me down as scared and attractive.) Gabriel turns, and so they’re carrying an enormous tie, a traditional blue button down, sporting an asymmetrical, androgynous haircut and with none type of magnificence make-up on. All my life, I had imagined Gabriel as a person (even within the Hellblazer comics, he offered as a person), and right here was a very completely different model of the archangel.

After I let you know I used to be modified, I imply it. This movie got here out in 2005, and for 15-year-old Linda, who was bizarre, queer, made to go to church and examine the Bible as a baby, who grew up within the South and liked tales, the concept Gabriel could possibly be one thing… else? Not a person, not a lady, however a 3rd unknown, completely different factor? Unbelievable. I used to be obsessive about this movie instantly, and captivated by Tilda Swinton as Gabriel for all the remainder of the movie, and after I let you know I’ll dealer no unfavourable criticism for this movie I imply it. Only for Gabriel, this movie is ideal.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Tilda Swinton has made a collection of pointed profession selections centered round dismissing gender as an inconsequential side-effect of mortality. Apart from Gabriel in Constantine, Swinton was additionally the titular Orlando within the display screen adaptation of the gender-fuckery/bisexual time-travel romance novel of the identical identify by Virginia Woolf. Orlando, for these unfamiliar, is a narrative of a poet who adjustments genders and lives for hundreds of years, interacting with well-known literary figures. Additionally they romantically pursue (and are pursued) by each women and men, together with the Archduchess/Duke Harriet/Harry. All through the novel Orlando meets an array of gender non-conforming individuals, and the ebook is essentially thought of a groundbreaking piece of romantic queer literature. (I’d additionally argue that Swinton’s vampire character in Solely Lovers Left Alive additionally performs with gender, however that’s a weblog for an additional time, I feel.)

It’s not simply Gabriel that occupies this third-thing house, nevertheless it’s additionally that the entire movie is obsessive about crossing boundaries, difficult authority, and destroying binaries (bear in mind what Consantine says about cats? “Half-in, half out anyway”). There is no such thing as a rule or piece of lore laid out for us that’s not damaged in some unspecified time in the future over the course of the movie. That is dramatically revealed within the ultimate third act of the film when it seems that Gabriel themselves is trying to launch the anti-Christ, the spawn of Devil, on the earth. Lucifer, not so eager on the concept, saves Constantine’s life in a match of jealous rage, and Gabriel is defeated, rising out of the pool with their wings lopped viciously off. No matter they’re now, it isn’t holy.

When Gabriel appears towards the end of the film, it’s in an outfit that is exceptionally queer and campy—an all-white number that emphasizes a more masculine shape. They’re acting as an independent agent of chaos. They are defeating the binary of good and evil in order to create a new thing that is both worse and better. Gabriel, servant of God, adherent of heaven, the holy messenger, is moving toward a purpose of their own creation; they are creating a new meaning for their life, one that destroys our expectations for whatever Gabriel, angel of the Lord, is supposed to be. Even at the end of the film, Gabriel is about choice—they tell Constantine that he can be the hand of God if he choses to be—that he’s always had a choice. In a way, Gabriel is also talking about themselves. They have always, no matter what, made their own choices. God’s plans be damned. Literally.

The fact is that Gabriel didn’t just fuck with gender, they fucked with everything. That’s the best part of their character: that Gabriel is not defined by simply crossing gender boundaries determined by a casting choice, but that Gabriel is defined in the film as crossing every boundary. This is what I was really drawn to as a kid—this character who was able to clearly break free from all expectations, from casting to performance to story, who was able to choose, every time, to be a third, different thing, to say fuck it all, and then, despite that, they are still given space to define themselves, to change their story, and to own all of their decisions, good, bad, and whatever else.


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