Guy Ritchie: How Gay is He?

Is the hus­band of the world’s most fam­ous ‘gay man trapped in a woman’s body’ a homo­phobe?  Or a con­flic­ted homo­phile? Or both?

Promoting his new book, Madonna’s brother Christopher Ciccone has been claim­ing that absurdly straight act­ing Guy Ritchie’s homo­pho­bia is one of the reas­ons why he and his slightly more fam­ous sis­ter are no longer on speak­ing terms.

You don’t have to buy Ciccone’s mem­oirs though to unearth evid­ence that Guy has some ‘issues’. Just watch his homo­erotic, homoso­cial and homo­phobic gang­banger movies — all the ‘homos’ are here.  As luck would have it, there’s another due out shortly, called RocknRolla.  I’ve yet to see it, but reportedly, it’s even more ‘homo’ than his pre­vi­ous films — and no less confused.

In the mean­time, here’s a dia­gnosis I penned for the Independent on Sunday eight years ago when Ritchie’s second film Snatch was released. Like Eminem, another gangster/gangsta groupie who came to prom­in­ence around the same time as Ritchie in the early Noughties, the homo­pho­bia in his work seems like a kind of highly con­flic­ted and highly erotic homophilia.

Actually, it’s more like homo­mania — lit­er­ally being unable to stop think­ing and talk­ing about bum­ming and prac­tic­ally draw­ing pic­tures for us. Which is prob­ably what I have in com­mon with him — though I’d like to think I’m slightly more self-aware.

In Ritchie’s world — as in Em’s — bug­gery is the only kind of sex there is. The only ‘snatch’ in Snatch belongs to men.

what sort of a guy’s guy is Guy Ritchie?

Mark Simpson won­ders whether Madonna’s hus­band is a gay man trapped in a straight man’s body

(Independent on Sunday, August 27, 2000)

Do you have big brave balls,” asks human Rottweiler Vinnie Jones in a stand-off moment in Guy Ritchie’s new movie Snatch, “or min­cey fag­got balls?”

We don’t enter­tain any doubts about the cir­cum­fer­ence of Vinnie’s testicles — and not just because he flashes a gun big enough to make Linda Lovelace gasp. What’s more, with the birth of Guy Ritchie’s son Rocco, the whole world knows that the 31-year-old writer-director of the spec­tac­u­larly suc­cess­ful Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels has balls big and brave enough to impreg­nate Madonna.

But is this middle-class gangster-groupie so sure about what kind of balls he him­self dangles? On the basis of his curi­ously sexu­ally ambi­val­ent out­put, it seems Ritchie — like his vast, appre­ci­at­ive young male audi­ence — is more than a little wor­ried about the pos­sib­il­ity that he might have “min­cey fag­got balls” after all.

Let’s not beat around the bush here: the Lock, Stock and Snatch genre — and the lad magazine cul­ture from which it seems to have sprung — is a kind of gay porn for straight men (or, rather, straight boys). As with his first film, Snatch is obsessed with bug­gery. Its “mock­ney geezer” dia­logue is thick with ref­er­ences to “‘aving me pants pulled down”, being “bent over”, “full pen­et­ra­tion”, and being “f–ked”. This isn’t very sur­pris­ing since, as in Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and the spin-off TV series he executive-produced, women are con­spicu­ous by their absence — the only snatch in Snatch belongs to other men. Hence the obses­sion with “hard men” and “pussies”; those who take and those who are taken. The erot­ics of Ritchie’s cine­matic uni­verse seem to be that of the prison showers (or the pub­lic school dormitory).

Ritchie is a hot ticket at the moment because, in an age of mas­cu­line con­fu­sion, he is the pre-eminent example of a rising phe­nomenon: the homo­hetero. Exclusively and adam­antly het­ero­sexual in the bed­room, the homo­hetero is nev­er­the­less entranced by mas­cu­line images, forever fan­tas­ising about a world of homoso­cial­ity that is just a dropped bar of soap away from homo­sexu­al­ity. Could it be that Guy Ritchie — who lives with the woman fam­ously described as a gay man trapped in a woman’s body — is a gay man trapped in a straight man’s body?

Perhaps this is why Snatch begins with a jokey dis­avowal of homo­sexu­al­ity. “Turkish”, the cent­ral char­ac­ter and nar­rator (played by the very hand­some “man’s man” Jason Statham), intro­duces him­self and “me part­ner, Tommy”, adding quickly, “I don’t mean ‘part­ner’ in the sense of ‘old­ing ‘ands.” And there’s cer­tainly a lot to dis­avow. The nearest thing to a sex scene in Lock, Stock was the lov­ingly shot, soft-focus, all-male pub party where the lads get very drunk, wrestle and light each other’s farts, before fall­ing into a bliss­ful, exhausted post-orgasmic sleep. In the first epis­ode of the TV series, they try to flog some dodgy porn to a fence. “It’s not gay, is it?” he asks, wor­riedly. “Do we look like a couple of rear-gunners?” the pretty boys retort.

Well, now that you ask, yes.  After a fash­ion. Certainly, as shown in his films, Ritchie’s rela­tion­ship to mas­culin­ity is a bit “gay”. Like Loaded and FHM — lad mags selling a com­mod­i­fied, aes­thet­i­cised mas­culin­ity back to a gen­er­a­tion of young men ali­en­ated from it in their own lives — it’s the sup­plic­at­ory, ner­d­ish and slightly mas­ochistic per­spect­ive of the wan­nabe. Take Ritchie’s idol­at­rous, near-erotic camera-worship of “hard man” Vinnie Jones. The most mem­or­able scene in Lock, Stock fea­tures Vinnie repeatedly slam­ming a car door on a man’s head in slow motion to uplift­ing music. The power of this reli­giously intense scene stems from the way that much of it is shot from the point of view of the vic­tim — Ritchie and the audi­ence are look­ing up admir­ingly at Vinnie “doing his nut”. It’s a moment which Jean Genet could have directed.

Ritchie can be touchy about his image. Asked a few wor­ship­ful ques­tions recently about his taste in clothes by FHM, he became a tad defens­ive, spray­ing about the words “fruity”, “queeny”, “f—ing fruit-tree” and “min­cey”, and declar­ing that he would be hap­pi­est “in a gla­di­ator out­fit” (a leather skirt?).

But then, Ritchie’s dis­avowal is deep-rooted. Though he now denies claim­ing any­thing of the sort, Ritchie is fam­ously said to have rein­ven­ted and relo­cated his past: “I’ve lived in the East End for 30 years,” he was quoted as say­ing last year. “I’ve been in a load of mess-ups … I’ve been poor all of my life …” It was sub­sequently revealed that he spent much of his child­hood at Loton Park, the 17th– cen­tury home of his bar­onet step­father. Coming from this back­ground, Ritchie under­stands that “street” is sexy — and that, con­versely, middle-class balls are “min­cey fag­got balls”. “They’re poofs. Soft as shite … fag­gots” is the ver­dict of one of Ritchie’s crims in Lock, Stock on the clown­ish public-schoolboy ganja grow­ers — who are humi­li­ated and dis­pensed with early on in the film.

It’s not just the nice middle-class boys, though. In a post-feminist era, most men are won­der­ing what a mas­cu­line world might look like. As Brad Pitt puts it in another homo-hetero movie, Fight Club: “We’re a gen­er­a­tion of men raised by women. Maybe another woman isn’t what we need.” (Appropriately enough, Pitt makes an appear­ance in Snatch, repris­ing his Fight Club role as a bare-knuckle fighter.) No won­der a gen­er­a­tion of boys is so inter­ested in see­ing “big brave balls” at the cinema.

But this fas­cin­a­tion doesn’t come without its own anxi­et­ies. And, iron­ic­ally, it’s the squeam­ish­ness of Ritchie in par­tic­u­lar — and homo­het­eros in gen­eral — about actual homo­sexu­al­ity that gives the lie to their lowlife fantas­ies. In Lock, Stock, one of the lads explains the per­fect scam: place an ad for “Arse Ticklers Faggot Fan Club anal-intruding dildos” in gay magazines, and wait for the cheques to roll in. Then, send out let­ters say­ing that you’re out of stock and enclose a cheque stamped “Arse Ticklers Faggot Fan Club”. “Not a single soul will cash it!” we’re told. (Obviously Ritchie didn’t know many fags when he wrote that.) It could be said that Ritchie and lad cul­ture have been run­ning that scam ever since the appear­ance of Lock, Stock — selling us a prom­ise of some­thing tit­il­lat­ing that never quite arrives.

All in all, it seems both a para­dox and entirely apt that big brave ball-fixated Ritchie lives with the ulti­mate gay icon: a woman whom many men would con­sider to be the biggest ball-buster in the world; an older part­ner whose own suc­cess and fame eas­ily dwarfs his. But watch­ing Lock, Stock, Snatch et al, maybe Ritchie’s interest in Madonna isn’t so sur­pris­ing. As he puts it him­self: “I like her, because she’s ballsy”.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2008

This essay is col­lec­ted in Sex Terror: Erotic Misadventures in Pop Culture

11 thoughts on “Guy Ritchie: How Gay is He?”

  1. JDG: You’re right that GR’s take on homo­sexu­al­ity appears to have changed since then (‘Rocknrolla’ had an openly gay char­ac­ter, played by Tom Hardy).

    I sup­pose you can’t live with Madonna in West London for all those years and not get to know a lot of gays. And be ticked off by some of them for your adoles­cent views. And who knows? Guy might even have finally con­sum­mated his fas­cin­a­tion with bumming.

    But I almost find myself nos­tal­gic for the boys-together, backs-against-the-wall homo-obsession of yes­teryear. AFter all, it’s what I grew up with — like Ritchie, I went to an all-boys board­ing school.

    I’ve not seen the second GR ‘Sherlock Holmes’ but I think I’m going to have to in order to update this analysis.…

  2. Hey Mark, it’s been 11 years now that you’ve writ­ten this first art­icle, and I’m verey inter­ested in know­ing what you think of the two Sherlock Holmes Ritchie realesed these last yars, because this time he’s not exactly diss­ing gays any­more, and his two main char­ac­ter are almost openly gay.
    Sounds like the tone of Ritchie’s take on homo­sexu­al­ity has a bit changed. How do you read this slight change of direction ?

  3. Gays have it all wrong … Guy Ritchie is a typ­ical straight guy!!

    … And, yes, he does seem to have a strong sexual thing for men, but that is what makes him all the more straight.

    Because, all males who are really straight have a strong thing for men. And being straight is actu­ally about being a mas­cu­line gendered male, and not really about being a het­ero­sexual, whether exclus­ive or not. The lat­ter is a WRONG defin­i­tion of straight cre­ated by west­ern ‘third genders’ (queers).

    And yes, all straight males (ok, nearly all) hate ‘homo­sexu­als’ because, homo­sexu­als are third genders who wrongly define them­selves as ‘men who like men’ and thereby take away the space for the actual men to like men. And the ‘homo­sexu­als’ are the ones who have forced the defin­i­tion ‘het­ero­sexual’ on the actual men.

    And, yes, straights also intensely hate the ‘homo­sexu­als’ because its because of them that a man can­not love another man without los­ing his man­hood, without being seen as an effem­in­ate, as unmanly … that a man can­not love another man without being isol­ated from the men’s spaces and iden­tity, into the third gender ‘gay’ cat­egory. In other words, men today can­not love another man without being ‘gay.’ And this is why the more intensely a straight man feels a need for intim­acy with men, the more hos­tile he becomes towards gays, and gay rela­tion­ships. There really is no con­fu­sion here, except in the minds of queers.

    That is why third genders (those who rather wrongly define them­selves as ‘homo­sexual’), are not lying when they see through the intense desire of straight males like Guy Ritchie for men, how­ever, what they fail to see is that this does not make Guy Ritchie a non-straight, … and it doesn’t make him one of the ‘homo­sexu­als,’ or queer or non-straights — not because Guy Ritchie has proved him­self by hav­ing had sex with Madonna and pro­du­cing a baby, but because Guy Ritchie is a ‘man,’ a mas­cu­line gendered male, while the ‘gays’ or so-called ‘homo­sexu­als’ are queers or third genders.

    The essence of homo­pho­bia is not a dis­like of sexu­al­ity or intim­acy between men, but its a strong dis­like of third genders, of male effem­in­acy. And this dis­like is not a fault of straight males, but of the queer males them­selves, for it is them who have infringed upon the sexual and social spaces of men, and con­fused their gender ori­ent­a­tion with sexu­al­ity, by cre­at­ing the invalid concept of ‘sexual orientation.’

  4. oooh i just luv ..misssssss guy ritchie„shes so gay ..isnt she.….useing as a beard,honestly ‚realy ..dear.. these poor little rich boys fet­ish­iz­ing rough tuff work­ing class men ..lit­teraly wor­ship­ping them..jesus tooooo much..guy dear it gives the game away..girl..and to be homophobic..dead givaway..come out..come out where ever you

  5. He does look like a text-book example — even if I spend most of my time burn­ing text-books. He looks, in fact, like I might have done if I hadn’t had a highly developed sense of the ridiculous.

    But per­haps the clincher is that Madonna’s (ex) brother claims that it’s down to Guy that he became per­sona non grata and he’s also the reason that Madge has no gay dan­cers any more.

    He can’t stand the competition.

  6. Any man who acts over-the-top mas­cu­line is either a gay guy straight-acting or truly over-the-top mas­cu­line. In 90% of cases, it truly is a gay guy straight-acting, and this seems to be the case with this Ritchie fellow…

  7. Mr Madonna has a ser­i­ously gay face. I know we are not suposed to say that,but c’mon just look at him!It is some­thing about those little pouty lips.…

  8. Poofery & poncery indeed!
    Mark, you mean to tell me that Guy Ritchie and Madonna have any­thing other than a purely hetero, chaste, lov­ing, legit­im­ate rela­tion­ship… and he makes bad films?!

    Well, his “beard” just turned 50 and looks more like a lad than he does at this point! I just hope that when he finally splits from Madge, they set aside loads of money for the ther­apy that Lourdes, Rocco & little David will most def­in­itely need!

    Please write your next missive about my other favor­ite hot English mess Amy Crackhouse, I mean Winehouse!

  9. Mark dah­link, what IS this poofy shite dis­par­aging a par­agon of con­tem­por­ary mock­ney hobo­sexu­al­ity? Gay Ritchie is CLEARLY the straight­est man on EARTH — hell, just ask his bald black kar­ate instructor he likes to wrestle with, as I saw in some shit­box Maddy ho-flickershow cockblock­doc where she was bemoan­ing the face he seemed to enjoy wrest­ling with his lovemate more than her.

    And let’s face it, who wouldn’t? Maddy has a big­ger cock than I do these daze. She’s s far cry, and a far wank, from the soft fem­in­ine tit­jiggle hotcunt gigg­letease bird she was back in the early-to-mid 80s. I love how English middle class cinema reveres the old Alfie-alike arche­type, the fanny­fucker fuck-off-poofs straight­boy hard cunt (or hard cock, whatever), because it knows it so so soft and weak and pathetic, emo for cinemagoers.

    Fuck it. I had a point some­where but lost it. Guinness and sun­stroke will do that for you; and I’m sure Gay would like some son strok­ing him somwhere…


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