Carl Jung spoke of the wanderer archetype, which states certain people are destined to wonder the world seeking meaning, but normally never finding it. Vampires fulfill this archetype; they are beyond the bounds of society. They are on the outskirts, always forced to watch but never truly be a part of life. In Joel Schumacher’s film The Lost Boys, Kiefer Southerland and his gang of misanthropes are teenagers filled with angst. They are cursed to live their immortal life constantly filled with the adolescent rage of being young. This is why it was aptly named Lost Boys, a Peter Pan reference. Lost Boys is a film that transcends the lines of horror, because first and foremost it is a teen film. It also conveys the wanderer archetype more so than other vampire films. There is a scene in which the clan takes Michael, (Jason Patric) their new recruit, to a spot near Santa Carla to show him what he has become. They sit in a tree watching a group of surf Nazis partying; they tell Michael that he needs to feed to survive. They lunge at the surfers and feast. This is an example of how vampires are forced to watch society and never be a part of it. They are without meaning and to retaliate they destroy the society in which they are in exile of.
The Lost Boys has become a cult film, and while it can be seen as a straightforward teen-vamp film, there is also an undercurrent of homosexual themes throughout. From the moment Lucy and her two sons (Michael and Sam) enter Santa Carla, to the Echo And The Bunneymen’s cover of “People Are Strange” comes on, we know we are entering a counter-cultural seaside town. Santa Carla acts as a safe haven for individuals on the fringes of society. A perfect place for homosexuals to live openly. In keeping with this subtext, Michael inhibits a bi-sexual curiosity.
On their first night roaming the boardwalk, they go to a beach concert. Performing on stage is Tim Cappella – singing and playing saxophone on the track “I Still Believe.” He is shirtless, muscular, oily, and grinding his hips for the audience. His purple skin- tight pants provide eye candy to a mostly male crowd. Sam thoroughly enjoys the performance, while Micheal’s attention drifts to one of the only females in attendance. He shows an interest in her while still keeping an eye on the sax man. This marks the first glimpse of Micheal’s questioning sexuality.
Later, when Michael first meets Star, he is contemplating getting his ear pierced. He also dons a leather jacket. These changes indicate a lack of identity and a desperation to find one. When he meets David and his boys, the two of them share a look, and Michael becomes more infatuated with David than with Star. We learn later that Michael was selected to be Star’s first victim, but once he and David share their moment it is clear that David has a new agenda.
David and his cohorts can be coded as homosexuals rather than simply vampires. They dress in leather suits which connects them with the underground gay club scene of the early eighties. Mainstream society did not know it, but the fashions that became a mainstay were developed by a seedy underworld of leather clad sadomasochistic homosexuals who were into pain – see Al Pacino in Cruising (1980). If the clothing does not fully denote their homosexuality then the fact that the lost boys have to drink David’s fluids surely makes a statement.
Once David lures Micheal to their lair, he flirts with him by making him believe the Chinese food is infested with bugs. After a few longing gazes back and forth, David offers Micheal a drink that will make him a member of the group. The lost boys chant a variation of “one of us,” and even after Star warns him it is blood, he drinks anyway. When the night is over Micheal feels regret for his actions. It isn’t until he is shown what it means to be this type of vampire/homosexual that Micheal fears his transgression.
Star and Laddie are used by David to lure new members into their group as a way of providing a facade of the nuclear family. After Micheal denounces his homosexual tendencies he does the most heterosexual thing he can: he races off to have sex with Star and takes her and Laddie to protect them as his own ‘normal’ family. Micheal’s fear of living out of the closet, and his rejection of his own homosexuality lead him to destroy the lost boys. Ironically, he must stab David with a phallic antler to kill him in a highly sexual sequence.
While Micheal questions his sexuality, his brother Sam can be read as unquestionably homosexual. There are a few references within the film that code Sam as gay. His clothing is bright and flamboyant, but since he’s moved from Arizona to Southern California it could be an attempt to fit in. His bedroom decorations seem out of place if Sam were an adolescent heterosexual. The Rob Lowe poster is not one that shows Lowe as a cool teen idol, it is a titillating pose that showcases his heartthrob status (the midriff shirt and washboard abs say it all). Sam has also adorned his room with a Molly Ringwald poster. Ringwald was very popular during the mid-eighties and rightfully so, her John Hughes characters felt very real and genuine. Maybe, because of her friendship with Ducky – who was also seen as a homosexual character – she developed a massive homosexual fan base. While she is a brilliant actress, she has never been admired as a pin-up. Further speculation on Sam’s sexuality can be seen in his lavish bubble bath and singing the line “I ain’t got a man,” from Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry’s “Ain’t Got No Home,” as the most blatant homosexual reference in the film – which I think sax man is still more homoerotic.
If Sam is indeed gay, he would then represent the most healthy image of homosexuality within the film. David and the lost boys fit within the mainstream paradigm of the mid-eighties homosexual. During this era, the AIDS fear was being promoted as a gay disease and the ‘average’ American believed there was an epidemic of gays wanting to make everyone into a homosexual. As a homosexual director, Schumacher could have used his teen vamp film to actually tell a different story, one that may have been a critique on how mainstream society viewed homosexuality. David and his group embody these irrational fears. He uses his blood to make others like him and by doing so spreads disease. They also adhere to other stereotypes such as an amoral nature and by being a vampire/homosexual they are condemned by the church. Another ridiculous fear about the gay community is that they all have the potential to be pedophiles. Max fulfills this fear by courting Lucy to get to Micheal and Sam, while also siring the teenage David. Now, if we place all of these elements into the narrative, we find Sam to be the true champion of the film.
Sam befriends the Frog brothers who come across as prototypical Reagan era action heroes – they even mimic Rambo in their dress and speech. The Frog brothers absolutely abhor vampires, which if we place this into our context makes them homophobic. If even the word vampire means homosexual, then when they force Sam to read Destroy All Vampires it is actually a piece of hateful propaganda. While Sam is comfortable with himself, reading literature designed to promote hatred makes him terrified to become one of “those” homosexuals. When Sam realizes Micheal is becoming one of “those,” he seeks guidance from his absent mother then later from the Frog brothers.
Sam brings the brothers and Micheal together and they learn they need to all work as a group to defeat the horrible stereotypes directed at the homosexual community. Through helping Micheal, Star, and Laddie, the Frog brothers are able to overcome their prejudices and fight for “truth, justice, and the American way.” While the Frog brothers are not ‘cured’ of their hatred, they have at least learned that not all homosexuals are like the ones they read about in their propaganda. The Frog Brothers may one day overcome their homophobia, but grandpa never will: “One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, all the damn vampires.”