Basically a spacey sexual assault. Freddie does an unsettling job of soundtracking a mystical mind control power, and using pitch bend to simulate some kind of unsettling climax.
It’s really unpleasant, and that’s all there is to it. You could just pitch it as some more wonky space ominousness on something a little Theramin like. But of course, they leave in Dale’s moans, turning it into a cheapy, creepy, synthy, rapey 50 second version of Je t’aime.
If it wasn’t coercive, we could have some discussion about teledildonics and sexuality as represented in music, but I just can’t face it.
Which means I’m stuck.
Again, this was a moment I read simplistically as a child, just a bit of evil objectification, a villain forcing someone to dance for them. I can’t remember if that’s all it is, but the soundtrack version really emphasises the sex side of it, leaving you with just moans and synth to judge the mood with.
And of course, it ends with another man stepping in an claiming ownership.
I’ve been worried about writing about this record for ages, just because of the sheer volume of tracks (and stupidly promising wordcount per track, not per album), but in fact the challenge is talking about something that doesn’t just have lyrics to be problematic, but whole narratives and sets and story and pastiche.
Soundtracks are weird, I guess. They aren’t intended to stand alone, but we do isolate them, and put them in new contexts. Listening to the ‘hypnotic seduction of Dale’ feels much more shocking here than on camera, because we don’t have the technicolour fantasy to distract us, all we have is a title and a set of sounds.
And maybe if I took it back to those sounds, it would be okay, being aroused by music is a fine thing, and consensual magic ring play is all fine. If it was just the sound of someone getting excited, it would be weird (because the music isn’t sexy, and the pitch bend would break the mood into one of those mid sex sniggers) but it would be fine.
But you can’t quite divorce the sound from the image, if you’ve seen the film, if you read the title. Hypnotic seduction is already a problematic term, as it already implies coercion. So we’re left with a creepy set of notes, made creepier and creepier the more context you give it, whether that’s the vocal arousal or the stereotypes surrounding it or the plot and narrative itself.
Or just the moment when Flash barges in and reasserts ownership of someone he met a few hours ago (most of which spent asleep in a tin can, surrounded by Roger Taylor).
Ugh Ugh Ugh.
Sci-fi is often creepy. It’s got a male gaze problem up the wazoo. The audience is assumed, and the attitudes are wrapped around them. There’s still fun and interest to be had in the pulp, but you have to pick your moments, and sometimes hold your nose.
It’s occasionally worth it, but to be quite honest, the film Flash Gordon is not an artistic hill I’m willing to die on.
Queen: An Exploded Diagram is me having big and little thoughts about every Queen song in chronological order. If you want to support me, making it more financially viable and easier to explain to people at parties, please back my patreon.
Illustration by Emma.