International Writers Magazine: Comment
Loves Vince'; The Queer subtext of The Mighty Boosh
Howard: Thats what this is all about me
and you the arguing, the bitching its all because
of the sexual tension, the deep, powerful, molten, sexual tension
that has been brewing up between us
(From Party, episode 5, series 3)
What other possible
explanation other than the deep, molten, sexual tension
could be the reason for two characters as wildly different as Vince
and Howard to stay together? The various episodes of The Mighty Boosh
are a twisted courtship between the two of bickering, sniping, and sometimes
just plain cruelty, yet always underneath this is a very real affection
and tenderness for one another.
If one of them is in trouble (often through their own fault) the other
will come to the rescue. This complex relationship dynamic is recognised
by peripheral characters, the running joke being that Vince is always
referred to as being Howards wife, and often has to
avoid the advances of amorous male characters. In many episodes Howard
and Vince pursue women, frequently unsuccessfully, so that at the end
of the story the status quo is maintained. The story finishes with Howard
and Vince being reunited, any women often long forgotten.
The writers Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding explored the Queer facet
of Howard and Vinces relationship in the episode Party.
In a complicated plot ploy to save Vince being killed by the Head Shaman,
Vince kisses Howard. After the kiss Howard declares his love for Vince,
and that he now embraces gaydom. Vince initially brushes
off Howards advances, it is only when Howard dumps
Vince in favour of a woman, that Vince decides to stake his claim on
Howard. On the surface Vinces sudden possessiveness of Howard
seems to be motivated by jealously, however it is also about control.
Frequently it is Vince who chooses a possible sexual partner for Howard.
Vince will often be the one to initiate contact between Howard and the
woman he has found for him (Electro, Nanageddon). Ironically
the woman that Howard dumps Vince for is the same woman
that Vince paid earlier in the episode to flirt with Howard and encourage
him to have a birthday party in the first instance. Vince only backs
down on his claim to Howard when another woman appears. However, even
though Howard and Vince end the episode by finding women the viewer
expects that the situation will be resolved so that by the time the
next episode airs the status quo will be reinstated, and the Howard/Vince
relationship will once maintained. This device of returning to the status
quo also allows the couple to go back to their arguing and bitching,
safe in the knowledge that their verbal sparring is their way of showing
each other affection, an affection which they do not want to acknowledge.
In the programme much is often made of Vinces androgynous dress
sense and he is often mistaken to be a woman by other characters. As
well as being androgynous, there is also a question mark over his sexuality,
Vinces ability to swing both ways being confessed
by Vinces brain cell in Journey to the Centre of a Punk.
Vince revels in these sexual and gender ambiguities; he describes himself
as the confuser because of his ability to make men desire
him, and confuse men about his gender identity. If we take Queer to
mean the blurring of gender and sexual boundaries, then in this sense
Vince is a very Queer character. Queer is celebrated in The Mighty
Boosh and is a recurrent theme just look at Old Gregg who
appears in The Legend of Old Gregg he is part fish/part
human, part man/part woman, he dresses in a pink tutu, has a mangina
and is hopelessly in love with Howard. Old Gregg appreciates Howards
strong arms and other masculine traits that Old Gregg believes
Howard possesses. But Old Greggs downstairs mix-up
repulses Howard, although in the 2006 Live show Howard and Old Gregg
are caught in a clinch. Old Greggs Queer is a more extreme version
of Vinces Queer Vinces androgyny is only surface
deep, whereas Old Gregg is a true hermaphrodite. Like Vince, Old Gregg
is a mish-mash of gender and sexuality, neither gay nor straight, neither
man nor woman. And, as always, it is Vince who rescues Howard from the
advances of Old Gregg, Vince resplendent in a silver glitter scarf and
lavender paisley suit.
The Booshs version of Queer is about blurred gender and sexuality,
make-up and smudged eyeliner. Vince would not fit into a small town
gay bar, perhaps he would not fit into any gay bar, and because of his
Queer outlook he has more in common with a sexually confused teenager
who listens to pseudo-gay indie music while pouting into a mirror.
Queer is The Mighty Boosh.
© Jodie Corney Jan 2008
Jodie is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at the University
of Portsmouth and is currenly in training to be a teacher.
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