Having spent a number of hours in close contact with an asymptomatic COVID-positive, I’m now in isolation for 14 days, looking forward to my second (and hopefully also negative) test. It was bound to happen, but it didn’t have to happen. I minimised my own exposure, but work is inherently risky, and my employer is still discovering imaginative ways to shirk their duty of care.

Assuming I don’t die, then comes the question of boredom. 14 days in isolation. This means blogging, of course, reading, eating, drinking (oh the drinking) and NetFlix. Today, it means breakfast, then a re-run of ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley‘ (1999).

Why Ripley you ask? Because I read an aggravating 2020 NYT article by Megan O’Grady, who insists Ripley is queer. In support, she (??) cites Anthony Minghella’s film, in which Ripley’s murder of Dickie Greenleaf is a “crime of passion… a form of queer rage, perhap.

Queers, I see queers everywhere!

Or perhaps not.

Because in the novel it was murder for advantage. O’Grady points to a very-gay bathtub scene Minghella invented as evidence — but this is also not in the book! Ripley may be a chameleon without conscience or moral compass who will seduce anybody, male or female, if that’s what it takes — but that doesn’t make him ‘queer‘.

It just makes him opportunistic, ruthless and facinating.

And that’s the problem. What is a bit queer is the insistence on shoehorning fictional characters into one of the letters of our new alphabet (LGBTQIA+). What’s totally queer is the belief that nobody who’s fascinating can just be hetero.

Nope, can’t have that in 2021! Has to be at least gay!

If O’Grady and Minghella are even semi-correct, then poor Gwyneth’s character Marge is a sad young fish-wife, because Dickie Greenleaf (in the film version) defintely bats left-handed. In the novel, on the other hand, he’s as cisgendered as they come, and Marge is a hottie.

not THAT Marge

The new totalitarianism dictates that Dickie and Marge must be in a mixed-orientation relationship where Dickie’s bi, Marge is trans (Gwyneth, 48, could reprise her role), Freddie Miles is gay (obviously), and our shapeshifty anti-hero is queer. Now we can all join hands and celebrate every colour of the rainbow — but only if we factor in Patricia Highsmith herself, that old lesbian!

But perhaps even more troubling is that Highsmith forgot to include a Black woman who, despite great adversity, wins out in the end. I think Ripley sees a Black person in the distance in one of her later books? Oh dear! Was Highsmith a filthy racist?



Oh, wait, though — Patricia Highsmith was a woman and a lesbian, so … maybe she did it on purpose? I know! To be subversive! Yay! She knew that by omitting positive Black (or Asian, etc) characters she’d raise awareness of white privilege and, you know, all that other stuff they talk about these days, blah blah blah.

Anyway, if you can still feel a chill in the air, it’s probably because you haven’t burned enough cancelled books. Eggs and coffee, then off to see if Tom Ripley is queer.

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