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 sort of introduction you count on 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 title of the Lord. It’s a second.

Gabriel is in a pinstripe swimsuit, going through the fireplace. Constantine approaches and darkish wings seem, flaring outwards. Constantine averts his eyes, virtually reverent; that is, in any case, the creature titled the energy 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 sporting a giant tie, a basic blue button down, sporting an asymmetrical, androgynous haircut and with none sort of magnificence make-up on. All my life, I had imagined Gabriel as a person (even within the Hellblazer comics, he introduced as a person), and right here was a very totally different model of the archangel.

Once I inform you 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 research the Bible as a toddler, who grew up within the South and cherished tales, the concept Gabriel may very well be one thing… else? Not a person, not a girl, however a 3rd unknown, totally different factor? Unbelievable. I used to be obsessive about this movie instantly, and captivated by Tilda Swinton as Gabriel for the whole remainder of the movie, and once I inform you I’ll dealer no destructive 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 decisions 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 adaptation of the gender-fuckery/bisexual time-travel romance novel of the identical title by Virginia Woolf. Orlando, for these unfamiliar, is a narrative of a poet who modifications 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 e book 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 one more time, I believe.)

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 thought, 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 seems in direction of the tip of the movie, it’s in an outfit that’s exceptionally queer and campy—an all-white quantity that emphasizes a extra masculine form. They’re appearing as an unbiased agent of chaos. They’re defeating the binary of fine and evil as a way to create a brand new factor that’s each worse and higher. Gabriel, servant of God, adherent of heaven, the holy messenger, is transferring towards a function of their very own creation; they’re creating a brand new which means for his or her life, one which destroys our expectations for no matter Gabriel, angel of the Lord, is supposed to be. Even on the finish of the movie, Gabriel is about selection—they inform Constantine that he may be the hand of God if he choses to be—that he’s at all times had a selection. In a means, Gabriel can be speaking about themselves. They’ve at all times, it doesn’t matter what, made their very own decisions. God’s plans be damned. Actually.

The actual fact is that Gabriel didn’t simply fuck with gender, they fucked with every part. That’s one of the best a part of their character: that Gabriel will not be outlined by merely crossing gender boundaries decided by a casting selection, however that Gabriel is outlined within the movie as crossing each boundary. That is what I used to be actually drawn to as a child—this character who was capable of clearly break away from all expectations, from casting to efficiency to story, who was in a position to decide on, each time, to be a 3rd, totally different factor, to say fuck all of it, after which, regardless of that, they’re nonetheless given house to outline themselves, to vary their story, and to personal all of their selections, good, dangerous, and no matter else.

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