For most, Top Gun is the ultimate ‘lads action film’, scripted by the US Armed Forces, the film is about pilot Maverick, who is sent to the Air Combat school Top Gun (Burston, 2005, p128). While there he attempts to become the divisions best pilot. During which he meets, and falls in love with naval instructor Charlie Blackwood and battles to win her affection.
However many people interpret the script differently, in a way that is similar to ‘slash fiction’ (Jenkins, 2006, p110). Suggesting that Top Gun is actually about Mavericks struggle with his own sexuality. Henry Jenkins says that slash fiction is often “written about gay men, yet [is] not ‘about’ gay men,” and this theory could be apply to Top Gun (Jenkins, 2006, p79).
Within ‘The Superhero Reader’ it is said that the question of Batman and Robin’s sexuality is not what is important because they are fictional characters, but that what is important is ‘what readers do with the raw material that they are given’ (Medhurst, 2013, p240). Telling the story of a young boy, who had begun to question his sexuality at age 8, who’s interpretation of Batman helped him find solace in himself (Medhurst, 2013, p241). Again, this could apply to viewers of Top Gun.
For many, sexuality remains an undiscussed topic within films such as Top Gun, as they either do not believe the theory or do not see the relevance of it (Jenkins, 2006, p.79). For others Iceman and the other pilots represent homosexual men, while Charlie, represents heterosexuality (Jenkins, H. 2006, p102).
What is obvious is Mavericks very close friendship with the married Goose, the two of them have a couple like friendship, which begins to hint at Mavericks struggle with his own sexuality. Their relationship is portrayed as having the ‘emotional make-up of homosexual men’ and they act in the way a couple might (Jenkins, H, 2006, p.79).
It is not until his arrival at Top Gun that this struggle becomes clear, with the relationship between him and Iceman. From the outside it appears that the tension between the two of them is fuelled by their determination to be the best, but many studies suggest that in reality it is driven by the sexual tension between the two, and a lust for each other (Jenkins, H, 2006, p80).
Maverick is the outsider of the group, he doesn’t follow the rules the others do, he is cocksure and overly confident, and, for the moment heterosexual. Iceman on the other hand is the opposite, he has a ‘frigid demeanour with blond-boy good looks’, he follows the rules, and fully respects his seniors (Burston, 2005, p127). Eventually earning the title of ‘Top Gun’.
The fact that the two are ‘polar opposites’, fuels this theory, as many romantic films are based upon the fact that ‘opposites attract’ (Burston, 2005, p127) . The tension between the two is often very sexual, for examples the long stares and comments between them (Burston, 2005, p127).
What is interesting about the film is that it was scripted largely by the US Armed forces who were in a recruitment drive, which is why many people question the ‘gay theory,’ as homosexuality had not been completely accepted at the time.
Those who support the theory say that the Armed Forces did not have a political homosexual agenda and that they were not targeting homosexual men, but teenage males in general whose sexuality was ‘raging’ at that point in their lives (Jenkins, 2006, p106). Enticing them with the male antics of the pilots, including the jokes surrounding their sexuality. It worked, with a reported increase of 500% in applications.
As opposed to an attempt to recruit homosexual men or to convince those hiding their sexuality to come out, made evident by the films ending where he falls in love with Charlie (Jenkins, 2006, p107). It is more of an attempt to reach out to those questioning their sexuality, suggesting that the armed forces can help you overcome these questions.
The sexuality of the pilots is hinted at during a training video at the beginning of Mavericks time at Top Gun, when Iceman reacts to the video by saying, his very first line in the film “This gives me a hard-on” to which his flying partner Slider replies “Don’t tease me.” The entire film is fuelled by homoerotic language, including the very obvious “Get your butts above the hard deck,” “I want butts!” that elude to films hidden homosexual meaning. This scene appearing straight after a locker room scene, where Paul Burston (2005, p128) suggests that one man is ‘contending with an erection through his towel’.
Then of course, there is the infamous volleyball scene. Where the sexual between Iceman and Maverick reaches its peak, fuelled by the incredibly intense competitive nature between the two.
The sexual tension owing much to the specific shots editing and filming, ‘stripped to the waist, the men jump in the sunlight, their torso’s glistening under the customary coat of sweat’ (Burston, 2005, p128). He is attempting to persuade Maverick that he is homosexual.
There is also the scene straight afterwards where Maverick goes to Charlie’s house for the very first time, they are flirtatious and suggestive and Maverick uses her shower. These scenes are purposely after one another, Maverick has just been in touch with his homosexual side and is struggling with this.
In this scene he is with Charlie who represents Mavericks straight side, he is at hers, covered in sweat after Volleyball match and goes to take a shower, it is highly suggestive that they will have sex in this scene and that Maverick will commit himself to the straight side, but they do not, instead, Maverick leaves.
In the next scene Charlie is seen wearing very masculine clothes, a mens baseball cap, aviator glasses and the same jacket as Iceman and the sexual tension between them appears stronger. She has experienced the last scene where the sexual tension led to nothing and has seen how Maverick acts around the other pilots and has decided to act on this.
The pivotal moment in the film though is the ending sequence where he seemingly earns the respect of Iceman after his meltdown and is also greeted by the return of Charlie, who had left for good. This is where he has to choose between homosexuality and heterosexuality, after the fight with the Russians, the pilots and hugging and kissing and it appears that Iceman may have finally got Maverick and he exclaims “you can be my wingman anytime” and Maverick replies “No, you can be mine.”
It appears as though Maverick has chosen homosexuality and that Iceman has won. Charlie has left and Maverick has just overcame his fear of flying, with Iceman’s assistance. The group have a strong togetherness, they have overcame the Russians, they have overcome Maverick’s fear of flying and they have overcame Maverick’s heterosexuality.
However Charlie then returns in the closing scene, the two of them discuss a potential relationship and then kiss. Maverick and Iceman’s potential relationship, and Mavericks homosexuality are over. In an attempt to ‘reaffirm his hero’s heterosexuality, the director throws in every known romantic cliche’ (Burston, 2005, p128).
This theory provides a strong argument, but in reality as Jackson Medhurst (2013, p240) states, it is not what the film actually means, but ‘what readers do with the raw material that they are given.” If the film helps people as Batman and Superman did with the eight year old boy, then that is what is important.