The Great Awakening
The year is 2005.
I am 11 years old. I am sitting in a dark movie theater with my father beside me. Both of us are probably eating popcorn and candy - Sour Patch Kids for me, Sprees for him - our buttery fingers diving from box to box.
We are here to see Fantastic Four, and I am about to be awakened.
When Chris Evans appears on screen for the first time, I am mildly intrigued. But when he later takes off his shirt, I am stirred, shaken, ruffled. I feel something dormant inside of me blink, shake its head, and wake up.
That thing, which wasn’t alien to me before that moment and most certainly won't be alien to me afterward, was desire - a sexual desire, one stronger than anything I’d felt before.
A few years ago, I saw a meme on the internet about gay boys of my generation having their sexual awakening to Chris Evans in the 2005 Fantastic Four movie, and I almost spit out the iced coffee I was drinking. It was too specific, too exact to my experiences to possibly be a meme-able moment.
And yet, it’s true. Somehow, Chris Evans’ shirtless torso in a superhero movie awakened a dormant sexual desire in an entire generation of closeted gay children, an experience that each of us surely thought was unique to our own memories, but was actually a shared explosion of desire.
I remember fidgeting around in my seat when the movie ended and the credits started rolling. I was trying to buy myself enough time to figure out who the actor was who played Johnny Storm, who was also very-appropriately known as The Human Torch.
I saw his name - “Chris Evans” - flash across the screen, and I immediately committed it to memory. I chanted it like a mantra in my head on the car ride home, then sprinted upstairs and scrawled it on a notecard that I promptly hid in my bedside drawer. He was safe.
I don’t know what I did with that notecard, other than stare at it longingly while thinking of him, and maybe performing the occasional quick Google search on the family computer when my parents weren’t home.
But that notecard is significant to me, even today. It represented the first time I was so aware of my sexuality that I wanted to own it. I wanted to fantasize, so much so that I took the risk of keeping a notecard with a hot male actor’s name written on it in my bedroom, where anyone in my family could have found it if they felt like looking.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know I was gay before I saw that movie. Trust me - I’ve been intrigued by men for as long as I can remember. But I think Chris Evans helped me to pull the trigger on embracing my sexuality.
Sure, I continued to hide it from others for years afterward, but I was no longer hiding it from myself. I wanted men.
I could probably write an entire blog post about how boring and potentially problematic it is that so many young gays were sexually awakened by Chris Evans, a man who represents the “All-American” ideal of what it means to be physically attractive: chiseled jaw and even more sharply chiseled body, fair skin, blue eyes, a mouth full of blindingly straight, white teeth - teeth that are no straighter and no whiter than the body they live in.
Or how our attraction to his idealistic standards feeds into who the gay community is today, and how we treat both each other and ourselves when it comes to loving and being attracted to the bodies we’re in.
But I’ll save that for another day. For now, flame on.
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