Culture / Entertainment

The Five Gayest Things about The Ten Commandments

Svay Rieng the_ten_commandments_john_derekFor those of us who have been eating only unleavened things in observance of the holiday of Passover, this has been a long week. Normally, I gorge on an unbalanced diet of matzo-n-cream cheese and dried apricots. But this year, I decided Passover would be a perfect time to try a low-carb menu. So far it’s going okay, except that I spend most of the day wanting to gnaw off my own arm.

Passover was my favorite holiday growing up. In our Orthodox Jewish home, we “turned over” the whole house, an excitingly topsy-turvy exercise, putting all our regular dishes in storage, replacing all the contents of our cabinets with Passover-friendly items, and covering the counters with custom-made plastic cutouts. But my favorite religious ritual was our family’s annual tradition of watching Cecil B. DeMille’s 220-minute epic film, The Ten Commandments, which aired every year on ABC leading up to Passover. My three brothers and I would gather round the television set and, like the snobby Hebrew Day School kids we were, guffaw over all the historical inaccuracies—you know, like the way they called Moses’s mother “Yoshebel” when her name was “Yocheved,” or the way Aaron seemed to be leading a Seder meal on the night of the tenth plague, when Passover was still literally in the making. [much eye-rolling] What was Cecil B. Demille thinking??

This week I thought about how much more fun it would be to sit around the flat screen with some obnoxious gay friends, pointing out all the obviously queer subtext. Sadly, I’ve never had the opportunity to do that. So, herewith, for fun, and to distract me from my low-carb starvation, are the top five reasons The Ten Commandments should have been included in The Celluloid Closet:

1. Between Charlton Heston’s oil-slicked chest and Yul Brenner’s muscular thighs bulging beneath his tiny skirt, there’s more male flesh on display here than in a Michael Lucas film. Not to mention all the leather and metal garb, whips and chains—looks a lot like a black party, doesn’t it?


2. When Moses returns to Egypt from his epiphany at the burning bush, Anne Baxter tries everything but pole dancing to get his attention. “I don’t believe that only the thunder of a mountain stirs your heart as you stir mine,” she whispers in that throaty growl that sounds like an orgasm. But he barely glances in her direction. I know he’s a married man now, but, hey—it’s Anne Baxter. Not even a look? He’s gay.

3. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but you don’t have to be Freud to notice all the holding, caressing and waving of Moses’s giant staff. The topper is the scene in Pharaoh’s court, when Aaron throws the staff down, turns it into a wiggly snake and then picks it up, skillfully returning it to a long, hard, rod. Ah, symbolism.

4. Anne Baxter. All else aside, her iconic, over-the-top-diva performance, all by itself, qualifies The Ten Commandments for the classic camp category.Anne Baxter

5. The Moses-and-Joshua thing. Sure Joshua has a crush on Lilia for five minutes, but they never get it on. Most of the film, he follows Moses around adoringly like a beautiful, bare-chested cabana boy, batting his blue eyes and superlong lashes. “The light of God shines from you, Moses,” he says, gazing up at him. Finally, at the end of the film, when Moses is going off to die on the mountain, who is the last person he kisses goodbye? Not his wife, but Joshua. You can almost hear him saying, “Joshua…I think I’ll miss you most of all.”

If all this sounds a bit blasphemous for a girl from Monsey, I’ll buy that for a piece of mandelbrot. But queer subtext is a little like hametz. Sometimes you have to search really hard, but eventually, you’ll always find a few crumbs. 

Chag sameach!


Tags: , ,


  1. I’m adding these to the Haggadah for next year. Instead of spilling a drop of wine for every plague, we’ll do a shot for every gay symbol. Brilliant!

  2. Jan Kaminsky says:

    Ha! Yes, the oiled chests are extremely gay!

  3. The Eagle ought to start a yearly Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights? party. Instead of their usual run-of-the-mill porn, the monitors can just show the John Derek gets tied up by Vincent Price scene in a loop.

  4. I think we should have a VillageQ communal viewing and see if we can come up with a list of 100. And then a drink for every one!

  5. Totally down with that!

  6. I wish I could post the photo I have of Vincent Price holding the whip around Joshua’s neck. I don’t know what I was thinking not including that one. Especially given the theme of bondage on Passover….it’s a shonda, really.

  7. Suddenly I want to sit down and actually watch the Ten Commandments MUCH more than I ever did before…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.