The press about Richard Hatch, the Survivor everyone loves to hate, seems to go out of its way to overlook the obvious. To judge by various write-ups, Richard is "mean" and "scheming" and "fat"; he is a "conniving nudist" (oh, the worst kind) and he is, according to the New York Times, which was also quoting his "critics" (they are presumably legion), "a manipulative Machiavellian egomaniac."
That's great, but let's mince words no longer.
Richard is an Evil Queen.
That is why viewers are drawn to him. His homosexuality has been rendered nearly irrelevant on that tropical microcosm of CBS's "Survivor," but in his twisted way Richard has done more for gays than a thousand Wills, with their attendant Graces, could ever do. He has proven what the military and Boy Scouts must on some level have always dreaded, and it is this: The power of one determined gay guy--the archetypal Evil Queen--could collapse a nation.
Absent anything to be gay about (not only was there no love interest for Richard, he also didn't bring a rainbow-striped porch flag as one of his luxury items), he set out to do what all Evil Queens do best--he colluded and gossiped and immediately forged those morally fraught "alliances" that have propelled the "Survivor" game to its conclusion tonight. He stabbed. He clawed. He was wry about doing so; when confronted, he was contrite or aloof.
He was the key producer of the ersatz castaways' dinners, which are so important in gay culture; what were Richard's daily catches of tropical fish if not a metaphor for the full-on homosexual sit-down brunch for eight? The Evil Queen always lets you know how hard (s)he worked. What a wonderful meal, her guests will say. Oh, it's nothing, the Evil Queen says, deceptively, just a little something I whipped up. (Inside, the Queen broods: You idiots. Without me, you'd be eating only rice and rats.)
Watch as poor heterosexual chest-shaving Sean staggers out of that ocean empty-handed. Watch truck-driving, tough-talking Susan come back with a fish, yes, but with a nasty sting requiring bandages. They cannot "fish"; the Evil Queen can.
One is never quite sure if enslaved children or winged monkeys are busy toiling in the Evil Queen's lair. That Richard was arrested in April for allegedly over-punishing his chubby adopted son while on a 4:30 a.m. "family jog" around their Middletown, R.I., neighborhood is only too in line with what we know about Evil Queens. (Richard has recently countersued the city, for wrongful arrest.) There was something a little too "Mommie Dearest" about all that, calling to mind the Evil Queen's motto: No more wire hangers, ever!
The straight world is conditioned to think of homosexuality as a handicap, a weakness, a fey stereotype. The gay rights movement tries to present a warm, united front and yet somehow amplifies the notion that gay men and lesbians are marginal, lacking in power.
Ha! This is exactly where the Evil Queen strikes. How many neighborhood associations have voted Bob--a nice older bachelor who lives down the street and has such a pretty yard and bakes tasty brownies--into the chapter presidency, only to find themselves living in a totalitarian state that forbids driveway basketball hoops? The gated community is now ruled by Bob, who has morphed into the Evil Queen! (She wants to turn the Dalmatian puppies into a coat!)
There is no doubt that the Evil Queen is capable. Witness the Barry Dillers, the David Geffens, the J. Edgar Hoovers. See how Richard--apparently unconstrained by his flabby torso, the physical affliction of many an Evil Queen--dives deep and straight down into the coral to seek out and spear the delicious stingrays he prefers. In the hands of an Evil Queen no task is unsurmountable: the stockholders' meeting, the final legal details of a mega-merger, the choreography for the Super Bowl halftime show.
But there will be casualties. Some people won't hack it with the Evil Queen. The EQ praises the weak, even as they toil, while thinking of a way to unload them. (Personally, "Survivor" makes me want a Xanax. All those people being awful to one another, and for what?)
Maybe it's comforting to know the Evil Queen never quite wins, that somebody always discombobulates him. ("You fools! The prisoners are escaping!") In our Disney consciousness, it is safe to root for the Evil Queen, because good will prevail. It will be interesting to see if such lore applies tonight on the island.
Gay bars, for the duration of the show's Wednesday night sensation, made a happy hour out of "Survivor"-watching. The Washington Blade recently ran an editorial cartoon praising Richard's EQ-ness, elevating him to a level held by the likes of "Bewitched" mother-in-law Agnes Moorehead. It's a curious thing to look on as a barful of men stare at the TVs above them and cheer for the Evil Queen. It's easy to identify; it hurts, actually, to watch an EQ like Richard in action. Gay men have all either dated an Evil Queen, or befriended one. They have been on the receiving end of his wrath, and finally, each must admit to himself, "I could be an Evil Queen."
Yes. They are everywhere. Almost anyone in an office or retail store has worked for or with an efficient Evil Queen. You tell the Evil Queen your secrets and wind up wishing you hadn't. (But the Evil Queen has such good advice, offers such trust!)
Anybody on a cheerleading squad or in the drama club production of "Oklahoma!" was possibly coached by an Evil Queen. Do not, however, solely rely on these cliche sightings: The Evil Queen is also the CEO or the systems operator, or the department chair, or the air-traffic controller. Richard is a "corporate trainer" by trade. That sounds like flip charts and overhead projectors and motivational speeches. (Such evil.)
Watch what you say around him and know this above all: Until it plays out differently, Evil Queens are in control. (And a special P.S. to the fine folks at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation--I know. I know and I'm sorry, but it had to be said.)