Gay Car On the Freeway, or, the Eternal Return of Glen A. Larson


Knight Rider fans, rejoice: Harvey Weinstein has delivered you from exile. Michael and KITT will ride again, on the big screen, in search of whatever it was they were always in search of. I never actually watched an episode of Knight Rider, being at best a lukewarm fan of David Hasselfhoff (or as a high school friend of mine used to call him, in a South Jersey drawl you had to hear to appreciate, "Harry Hasselhoff"). But in one of's finest hours, Mark Dery decrypted the sexual orientation of HAL-9000 (it's hard to believe that as recently as the late 1990s there was still great sport to be had in spotting unnoticed gay subtexts); and in the process he gave a very special supporting role to Michael Knight's longtime electronic companion:

But even if we "prove" that HAL is gay, what's the significance of outing a fictional supercomputer, outside the context of extreme sports for semioticians? Most obviously, gay machines such as HAL and his descendants—among them KITT, the campy RoboCar in Knight Rider (of whom The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows straightfacedly writes, "It was love at first sight between Michael [Knight] and KITT," who was "peevish, a bit haughty, but totally protective" (of his hunky rider)—prop up the sagging machismo of male heroes whose derring-do, in the Computer Age, consists largely of sitting in a chair, pushing buttons. This is the glaring irony that renders Star Trek's Perma-Prest Captain Picard and his beefy sidekick, Lieutenant Riker—torchbearers for a rock-ribbed masculinity—unintentionally funny: In the final analysis, they're overgrown gameboys in pantsuits, jabbing at touchscreens in an earth-toned rec room. Prone to hissy fits, sissified machines such as C-3PO, Star Wars's fussy, high-strung Felix to R2-D2's Oscar (with the femme-butch subtext that implies), reaffirm the rugged manliness of these armchair adventurers, by contrast.

Glen A. Larson, one hopes, will continue to be our chief resurrector of homoerotic subtexts. When will we see the Magnum PI movie, with its mustachioed hero tooling around in his short-shorts and Hawaiian shirt with his pals T.C., Rick, and the fussbudget Higgins? For that matter, when will William Daniels portray an Adams again? He's never played Henry.