Homoerotic Subtext in Beverly Hills Cop: An Inventory

WARNING: Spoilers to follow.

I. Let's start at the top with Axel Foley, our main character. Clearly based on Loki, the shape-shifting (and bisexual) trickster god of legend, his fluid personality changes and suggest an openness of character - to quote Cole Porter, "anything goes." A more modern comparison might be Bugs Bunny or Woody Woodpecker, whose own homoerotic subtexts are well-versed. He frequently uses homosexual norms as a way to "disarm" (sometimes literally) those around him - in the nightclub scene (of which more later) he even mocks his own success, saying to one baddie, "What's with all the hostility?"

II. Curiously, his only attempt at a "macho" persona (wherein he adopts an intimidating officious cop persona in order to dictate orders to customs personnel) seems out of character - all other times he uses his personae to evoke pity, empathy, or outright confusion (a telling word.) It make sense as a person, of course - as a cop, he has no doubt had plenty of interactions with loudmouthed brawny (and distinctly heteronormative) types - and even in this caricature of them, we see plenty of winks at both the audience and his hapless victims.

III. Axel's relationship and interaction with women (or lack thereof) is so flagrant in the film one cannot see it simply as passive efforts to focus on Axel's role as cop; it shows deliberate actions on the part of the screenwriter, director, and (presumably) actor. The only substantive speaking female part in the entire movie is Jenny, an "old friend" Axel goes to visit upon arriving in Beverly Hills. Axel and Jenny hide whatever sexual chemistry there might be between them, and display no signs of romantic history or current sexual interest. At one point after a long day's detective work, Jenny accompanies Axel to his hotel room. "A-ha," we might think. And, true to form, Jenny lies down languidly on the bed and for the first time attempts to overtly evoke the dominant male gaze of the audience and Axel. Then a curious thing happens: nothing at all. Axel (focusing on his newly-acquired police tails) instead dials up room service to deliver an exquisite (and rather effete) meal of shrimp salad sandwiches to the boys. No more is made of Jenny's subtle seduction.

IV. Axel takes Detectives Rosewood and Taggart to a gentleman's club - surely this settles the issue. Except when we examine this decision and the scenes closer, a different conclusion emerges. Why does he choose the strip club? First, since Rosewood and Taggart are on-duty, it simply serves to further his transgressive nature. Additionally, by making them uncomfortable, he takes the upper hand in their relationship - the simple methods of the trickster god revealed. However, it's as the scene plays out that we see the true reasoning - here is a place to lower the professional guard of his new conquests, to invite them into his circle of friends, and to ingratiate himself to them. He pays no attention to the numerous gyrating naked women around him except in appreciating his new friend Rosewood's own appreciation (his aside about "dicks getting hard" is definitely more homosocial flirting than actual sexual braggadocio. Who goes to a strip club to talk about penises?) Here he is at his most comfortable, forthright, and thoughtful - and it is this lack of distraction that is so telling. And of course most tellingly we have Axel, in the midst of female sexuality in its rawest form, paying more attention to the men entering the club (and subsequently foiling an armed robbery.)

V. We can also consider Axel's relationship with Michael, the friend whose death is the impetus for Axel's trip to Beverly Hills. They laugh about their old days in "juvie" (we won't insist you go there, but there it is), they invade each other's personal space with an all-too-intimate ease and frequency, and their conversation is littered with hints of an old fling died down. Watch it again and tell me I'm wrong.

VI. Banana in the tailpipe. 'Nuff said.