It's hard to forget young Richard Gere, with his ridiculous burgundy sunglasses, his jacket thrown over his shoulder, walking down the street wearing pants so tight you could see everything.
Even 42 years later, his film, American Gigolo, still has sex appeal. How could it not? He was a handsome brunette with the perfect profile and a cocky attitude--his swagger, his refusal to be owned or even loved; it was intriguing, and the film didn't shy away from open displays of sexuality. There was phone sex, real sex, and nude pillow talk.
Gere played that camera like a fiddle. Now there's a new gigolo in town, played by Jon Bernthal in a remake television series with the same name, and while we don't mind looking, there's a lot more to it than sex appeal.
What is American Gigolo About?
Originally American Gigolo was the profile of a cocky male escort who specializes in older women. He'd take them out on the town, pretend to be their chauffeur or bellhop, then ease them into bed. As the film progresses, he finds out that he's being framed for a murder that he didn't commit.
This new show changes the timeline. It begins with Jon Bernthal, who plays Julian Kaye, freaking out in an interrogation room. Detective Sunday (Rosie O'Donnell) is trying to convince him to confess, but he can't remember killing anyone. Fifteen years later, he's a convict, exercising in his prison cell.
Sunday shows up, apologizes, and tells him that he's a free man. DNA evidence led them to the real killer. Like the original film, this story is about getting to know Julian, but it delves much deeper, giving us a glimpse of a world the viewers might not be familiar with.
The Show Is Focused on Something Else
The 1980 film showed us that men could be sexual objects just like women. They could spend their time picking out the perfect outfit and preen, and women would love every second of it. It was somewhat revolutionary, and it caught on right away.
Fans obsessed over Richard Gere, the scar on his back, his hair, his features, and his curves. The costumes were designed by Giorgio Armani, and it was the first time an actor was allowed to show full frontal nudity in a Hollywood production. Gere went on to star in the award-winning romantic comedy, Pretty Woman, and American Gigolo was largely responsible for that success.
In 2022, we don't need to be reminded that men can be sexual objects. Hollywood has gone from flashing nude women to focusing more on the male physique. Jon Bernthal is sexualized using the female eye. They show off his arms, his butt, and his back. His hair falls over his forehead, and he has a way of moving that could make you shiver. But the focus has shifted. Instead of proving that man can be a sexual object, we're shown what it's like when they're treated as one.
American Gigolo Has A Fresh Take on Male Sexuality
Like its predecessor, 'American Gigolo' brings us a new perspective we don't often see in film. We talk a lot about what it's like for sex workers, the trade, the danger, the mental illness and addiction that often permeates that world. We're perfectly aware of how brutal it can be, how men take women, groom them, and sell them. We know that sex work is a risk. There's all sorts of violence and cruelty, often intertwined with the act itself. Women disappear. They end up getting hooked on drugs by pimps who want to make them dependent. Sometimes they're held against their will, and many of them enter the the trade when they're young. But every single time this subject comes up, we talk about women. We don't talk about men. We act like it doesn't happen to men or that it's different for men. Most of us aren't even aware of what these things do to the male psyche. We think that women suffer more when they go through that.
American Gigolo Puts Male Sex Work in the Proper Context
We often see gigolos as the luckiest men in the world, spending their time doing what they love best. They get to have as many women as they want, a ton of money, nice clothes, and cool cars. But we're wrong. In the TV series, Julian Kaye is sold, beholden to an abusive pimp, beaten, exploited, and forced into dangerous situations. It proves that men experience all of the same mental anguish that women go through, the subjugation, and the humiliation. There's a sickening feeling Julian gets--they portray it so well. It's trippy, frightful, and anxious--pure dread. He'll stop moving and stare off into the distance, and that energy will just waft off the screen. We see that shown on film with women all the time, how it burns itself into their psyche, making them want to shriek. 'American Gigolo' shows us that men can feel that too, and it's time we recognized that.
American Gigolo Could Set a New Trend
In the past five years, society has evolved quite a bit when it comes to our perspective on sexuality. We're starting to get to a place where we can understand what victims go through, their pain, and how they deserve to be treated. But again, that movement has mostly been confined to women. Men are shoved aside. They stay quiet. They don't talk about it, partially because they know they'll be mistreated. Most people have no idea what they go through, and it's not something we talk about often. 'American Gigolo' could change that. With a compelling plot, attractive characters, and a distinctive style, it's starting to catch on. Soon, people will begin to talk about the themes in the show and the male experience--something society desperately needs to address. We can't keep shoving victims aside and demeaning what they go through. We owe it to them to help people understand.
Perhaps society is ready to listen to this message. It's not hard. It's not a stretch. There's no significant opposition to it. All it would require is a simple shift in perspective. We can make that happen, and 'American Gigolo' could help.