The theme of gays in the military and the arrival of the Messiah in Virgin Molly, by Susana Cook
I was getting to the end of Virgin Molly and there was no pregnancy in the story yet. How is he going to deal with the guy getting pregnant in just 9 pages? I thought. Until that point the main theme seems to be gays in the military; this is the track Long creates for his story. He carves deep into the psychology of these fanatic men creating very intense scenes with the erotic at the center of it. Scenes of role-playing, authoritarian abuse and humiliation lead us to the cathartic moment when the abusive Corporeal puts in action some kind of torture session to force the accusing homophobe Harmon to confess. The torture inflicted on him is to become a woman, to act effeminate. The drag queen theme appears (as in The Bacchae) as humiliation and punishment.
The author explores the theme of gender normative behavior and the military’s antiseptic idea of manhood. Quincy Long insinuates at the beginning that Molly Petersen is androgynous, maybe even a hermaphrodite. “My mom. She was sure in her heart I was going to be a girl… I am built kind of funny. Kind of a girl and everything.” (13-14) He says to the Captain. Molly is a gender variant person; he is not gay.
The tension begins to grow through a fantastic element introduced in the story: the letters and phone calls that start pouring in the military headquarters. Some of them are sent anonymously, some of them from very important people who are concerned about the development of Molly’s evaluation. This element creates a powerful reaction in the viewer/reader. It gives us the illusion that the forgotten and oppressed nobody will be rescued by some anonymous hero. It could also be interpreted as a call to action by showing us how external pressure can make a difference in an abusive situation.
When the letters start arriving it resembles Amnesty International’s work (sending letters to prisons where they keep captive political prisoners) Then it becomes exactly the device J.K. Rowling uses in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone (The letters keep arriving from everywhere, warning his adoptive family that they had somebody important in their house, a kid that they were abusing and neglecting). The captain inquires to Molly about his family or special contacts he may have with powerful people. Exactly like Harry Potter, Virgin Molly has no idea who could care about him. He is innocent and abused, but he is also special.
The mysterious letters, phone calls and the pregnancy all get resolved in the last pages by the addition of a new element, a religious mystical moment: “Jones and Private enter from the head amidst a brilliant light, holding hands” (83). Molly is giving birth. We hear voices from offstage announcing the birth of the messiah, “Leading us to the promise land” (91).
Then we realize that the magical- mystical element was somehow present throughout the play in the character of The Civilian. Nobody seems to see him, except Molly, and the audience. He carries a suitcase with a homemade bedspread. I guess the Civilian character represents God and it seems as if it was added after the first part was written. It feels like a device that was probably added to give some anchor to the very religious magical ending.
I am not taking the play as a realistic effort but the problematic issue presented is very real: homophobia and abuse in the military. He carves deeply into this theme, even through satire and extreme portrayals. But after presenting a real problem he runs away from it by introducing a new magic or religious element that will solve or end the story.
I was trying to draw a message or concept transpiring from the play it would be: The only thing that could save the androgynous -gays in the military, is the arrival of the Messiah.
Long, Quincy. The Virgin Molly. New York: Playscripts, Inc, 2007.