Follow TV Tropes


Film / Ben and Arthur

Go To

"We don't need prayed for... YOU need prayed for!"
Arthur Sailes

A tale of Arthur's quest to get married to his hunky boyfriend Ben, in the face of opposition from Arthur's psychotically homophobic brother Victor, Victor's psychotically homophobic church buddies, Ben's psychotically homophobic wife, and a legal system which is just as psychotically homophobic as...something very homophobic.

A labor of love for writer/director/star Sam Mraovich, which quickly became a magnet for mockery in the wake of its release, it has been likened to "a gay version of The Room" — though it was actually released a year before Tommy Wiseau's epic — thanks to its minimal production values, entertainingly dreadful acting, and one of the most unsubtle deliveries of its message outside of a 1950s propaganda film.

Ben and Arthur provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Heteronormative Crusader Victor has a few campy mannerisms and some homoerotic subtext with his brother Arthur. Word of God is that Victor actually is gay, though in complete denial about it, but the film doesn't do a very good job of making it clear.
  • Artistic License – Law: With the option to marry Arthur in Hawaiʻi now gone, Ben mentions to Tammy that he and Arthur can marry in Vermont instead, as a means to dismiss Tammy's claim that "men can't get married in the United States". Vermont allowed same-sex civil unions in 2000, but same-sex marriage itself was not legal in Vermont until 2009.
  • Artistic License – Military: Arthur's bizarrely hypothetical speech about him being drafted and dying for a nation that won't allow him to be married doesn't make any sense, since at the time of the film's release, gay men were not allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Why exactly they felt the need to make something up when the reality (the U.S. military will discriminate based on sexual orientation) is actually much, much worse is a mystery.
  • Artistic License – Religion: Do note that most of these examples might be explained in-universe as Victor's church having unique... quirks (see Church of Happyology below):
    • Holy water is water that has been blessed by a priest. Chemically speaking, it's ordinary water. Sam Mraovich, however, believes that holy water is concocted through a recipe.
    • The church, which is meant to be a strict fundamentalist Catholic church (so much so that the congregation protests about the brother of a gay man attending until he's forced from the church by a priest), takes the ideas of karma and negative energy seriously. Specifically, "negative energy" is a concept whose definition varies between esoteric groups, while "karma" is a belief found in religions whose origins stem from India (e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism). Neither concept is discussed in the Bible and you would be hard pressed to find any Christian denomination that teaches them.
    • While Victor is clearly seen entering and leaving a Catholic church, much of what he espouses, especially regarding the need to be saved, is more aligned with Protestant teachings.
    • The priest also has a beard and manner of dress most consistent with an Eastern Orthodox priest, rather than a Catholic or Protestant one.
    • Upon fatally shooting Ben, Victor claims that killing him "saved his soul". If anyone in this film actually cared about real dogma, they'd realize killing Ben without giving him a chance to repent of his sins would be doing the opposite — putting it in great danger of damnation. Possibly justified in this case, seeing as Victor seems to have completely lost his mind at that point, so thinking logically wouldn't really be his strong suit.
  • Association Fallacy: Victor gets excommunicated because his brother is gay and the congregation fears that somehow he'll infect their children by proxy.
  • Author Avatar: Arthur is pretty obviously a raisonneur for Sam Mraovich, though apparently some of Ben's backstory is also that of Mraovich.
  • Author Filibuster: The whole film really, but Arthur's speech about how he wouldn't want to fight for his country if he can't get married in it stands out in particular.
  • Ax-Crazy: Victor wasn't really the pinnacle of sanity beforehand, but by the end of the film he completely loses it. Heck, even Arthur rightfully calls him out on it!
    Victor: Did you know that they threw me out of the church!?
    Arthur: Well maybe it's because you're some crazy psychotic fuck!
  • Big Bad: Victor is the only consistent antagonist in the film (i.e. who doesn't disappear 10 minutes after being introduced), and the second half of the plot focuses on Ben and Arthur facing off against him as he tries to cure them of their homosexuality and later try to kill them.
  • Bury Your Gays: The film's climax sees Ben shot dead by Victor, with Arthur and Victor then shooting each other dead at the very end. If you go via Word of God, this also includes Victor himself, plus the attorney, who is also killed by Victor at an earlier point in the film.
  • Camp Straight: Victor. However, this is subverted in an interview with Sam Mraovich, where he says that Victor is actually a closet homosexual. Too bad the film makes no mention of this.
  • Captain's Log: Arthur writes an entry in his diary, in the only scene throughout the film where we see him do this. The film reveals the entry's contents through a voiceover, which describe actions that occur in the next scene anyway.
    Arthur: [voiceover] I think I took it rather well. I guess regardless of how well you know someone, there's always more to learn. The important thing is, we're gonna stay together.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Attempted with the gun which Ben's ex-wife threatens him with, which ends up being found by Arthur in the film's climax, and used to kill Victor. Amusingly, a mistake ends up switching gun props, creating the impression that Victor opened the drawer with Tammy's Beretta, decided he liked it better, and took it while leaving his dressed-up water pistol in the drawer for Arthur to find.
  • Church of Happyology: Victor's church comes across this way, even though it's probably supposed to be of a standard Christian denomination (despite serious mentions of Victor bringing bad karma and negative energy by being related to a homosexual). The congregants believe that Victor's brother being gay will somehow turn their children into homosexuals, and the priest encourages Victor to kill Arthur in order to get into heaven. Even Arthur, who isn't a fan of religion, regards this as being one monumentally screwed-up church.
  • Clueless Aesop: The film tries very hard to deliver An Aesop about how gay people are oppressed and the role that organized religion plays in this oppression. But the critiques of the US government are full of logical inconsistencies and breaks from reality, while all the individual homophobes are deranged and cartoonishly evil, and the homophobic church acts nothing like churches in real life, so the aesop lacks persuasive power.
  • Cluster F-Bomb:
    • The priest, of all people, gives one as he looks for white-out in his office.
    • Victor becomes a fountain of F-words in his bedroom after the priest kicks him out of the church.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover implies that Ben is the main character, but in reality he has way less screentime than Arthur does. More glaringly however, the "Holy Soldier" mentioned in the tagline wins, even if it does turn out to be a Pyrrhic Victory in the end.
    • A special mention also goes to the Spanish DVD cover, which attempts to make the film look like a violent action movie.
  • Cure Your Gays: Attempted, but utterly failed by Victor on several different occasions.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Arthur turns into this at the end of the film, when he threatens to rape Victor at gunpoint, before the two fatally shoot each other.
  • Downer Ending: Victor kills Ben, and Arthur dies from the gunshot wounds inflicted by Victor after Arthur shoots him in the head.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him:
    • Ben gets shot dead with about ten minutes to go, then just gets kinda forgotten about for the remainder of the film's running time.
    • The attorney only gets mentioned twice after her death, and the whole subplot about launching a lawsuit against the state of California is completely forgotten about.
  • Easily Forgiven: After being punched and knocked out by Ben, Arthur forgives him shortly after as though it never happened.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even Stan (who had basically been Victor's Dragon) thinks Victor's plan to kill Arthur is "a bit extreme".
  • Evil Plan: There are actually three of them: The first, where Victor and Stan attempt to "cure" Arthur; the second, which is called the "Final Plan" and is never elaborated upon; and the third, which is known as the "Final Deed" that calls for the death of Arthur.
  • Experimented in College: Inverted; Ben experimented with the idea of being heterosexual in college, and ended up getting married as a result.
  • Fan Disservice: The pudgy, balding, pasty-colored Arthur is nude when he is baptized by Victor and later when he is left sprawled across his own bed.
  • Flat "What": Arthur gives this when he learns that Ben is actually finishing up his divorce with Tammy.
  • The Fundamentalist: Victor, and most of the members of his church, who are so set in their ways that they're willing to excommunicate Victor for merely having a gay brother, and willing to kill Ben and Arthur for being gay.
  • Get Out!: Victor enters his own apartment and suddenly finds Arthur inside. After a brief confrontation, Victor brandishes a gun and orders him out.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The first half of the film features Ben and Arthur trying to have the state of California legally recognize their marriage; the second half focuses on Ben and Arthur dodging the sinister machinations of Arthur's brother Victor.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Victor and Stan.
  • Hollywood Atheist: A rather strange aversion, since Arthur does fit most of the usual criteria for a Hollywood Atheist, but his positions are obviously those that Sam Mraovich himself (who converted to Mormonism several years after the film's release) had at the time.
  • Human Mail: An unintentional example. When Ben and Arthur fly from Vermont to Los Angeles, the film shows a plane with a very obvious FedEx logo taking off.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: In the film's climax, Victor shoots Arthur seven times, but Arthur hangs on long enough to fire off a single shot at Victor — which hits him right in the forehead, killing him instantly.
  • Incest Subtext: The whole final fight scene, with Victor forcibly baptizing a nude Arthur, and Phallic Weapons abound.
  • Informed Ability: Ben is supposed to be both a nurse and a musician, but is never seen practicing either (if you don't count a brief moment during his honeymoon with Arthur when Ben is called in to work as a nurse). Instead, Ben works at a café washing paper cups with Arthur, with the pretext that he left his nursing job to focus on his music.
  • Informed Attribute: Mildred is supposed to be Ben and Arthur's neighbor, and (surprise, surprise) psychotically homophobic. This is never made clear on-screen however, meaning she gets pissy with Arthur at the coffee shop for no obvious reason (and in fact comes off as justifiably angry at Arthur's unenthusiastic service), then later turns up without any explanation at Ben and Arthur's apartment to tell them of the bike theft, with Arthur amusingly slamming the door in her face before she even finishes speaking.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Tammy, trying to get Ben to call off the divorce at gunpoint. And if he really is gay, then she'll just be gay too, and then it'll be okay for them to get married again, huh? When Ben points out that none of this makes any sense, she screams at him more:
    "I don't make sense? You don't make sense. I make sense, that's who makes sense."
  • Jerkass: Arthur was clearly intended to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold; however, he is so tactless, obnoxious, inconsiderate, lazy and unlikable that he becomes borderline insufferable and impossible to root for.
  • Just Plane Wrong: Footage of a cargo plane is used for the shot where Ben and Arthur arrive in Vermont. According to Sam Mraovich, he just filmed the first plane he saw arriving at LAX, and didn't realize until editing that it was actually a cargo plane, by which time it was too late to do anything about it.
  • Kill It with Fire: The priest at Victor's church, who is torched by Arthur, who uses what is supposed to be liquid fuel but is probably water. Subverted in that, while a match is lit, we never actually see the fire or even hints of one.
  • Laughably Evil: Victor. It's unknown if this was intentional or not, but he's so irrational, prone to temper tantrums and petty that it's hard not to find him amusing to watch.
  • Lazy Bum: Arthur, Arthur, ARTHUR! He's so lazy that his Establishing Character Moment is him complaining about having to get up from a nap.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Why, oh why is it important to see Arthur vacuum his carpet after Victor visits and admonishes him?
  • Manchild: Arthur, whose demeanor is essentially that of a whiny Emo Teen. Notably, his first instinct upon finding out that Ben is married is to run to his room and write a whiny entry in his diary about it.
  • Misplaced Vegetation: The tropical plants and palm trees in the garden where Ben and Arthur get married, which supposedly takes place in Vermont.
  • Motive Decay: Despite explicitly plotting to kill both Ben and Arthur during the last act, for some reason Victor decides at the last minute to just kill Ben, then baptize Arthur in an attempt to cure him of being gay.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Ben, who appears shirtless several times and tends to wear sweaters that show off actor Jamie Brett Gabel's body pretty well. Arthur also wears some very revealing outfits and has a rear-nude scene, though whether you'd actually want to see Sam Mraovich naked is a different matter entirely.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Victor believes he must perform the "Final Deed" by killing Arthur in order for the church to readmit him. Far from dissuading Victor, the priest gives Victor a phone number for an assassin that can do the job. The assassin succeeds in killing Ben... except that Ben is later seen to have survived the attempt, but missed out on killing Arthur, who was away on errands. On the second attempt, Victor takes the assassin with him, only to dispense with his services when both of them are already in the building. Victor then enters Ben and Arthur's apartment alone to (permanently) kill Ben and, later, baptize and kill Arthur.
    • This should not be confused with the "Final Plan", which Victor mentions after he learns that Ben and Arthur did not ingest the potion but before he is expelled from the church, meaning that there would have been no incentive to kill Arthur during that span of time.
  • Name and Name: Somewhat misleadingly, since the film isn't really about Ben and Arthur's relationship so much as Victor's attempts to turn Arthur straight and later kill him and Ben.
  • No Accounting for Taste: The second type; as the film progresses, we never learn why Ben would stay in a relationship with an irritating, thoroughly unattractive man like Arthur, or what virtues make Arthur an otherwise worthwhile love interest.
  • No Bisexuals: Though it's more due to bad writing than anything — Ben was married to a woman but has been having an affair with Arthur. He repeatedly insists that he's gay and was only using Tammy as a cover... despite him and Tammy being married for years.
  • Only Sane Man: Ben is probably the nearest to this. Arthur is the one who's actually meant to occupy the role, but he doesn't do it very well, especially when he burns the priest alive.
  • Police Are Useless: There's no evidence that the police even bother doing any work to investigate the attorney's death at all, and they certainly don't discover that Victor was the person responsible. Later on they do actually take the time to investigate the unsuccessful attempt on Ben's life, but that subplot vanishes after a few scenes without any suggestion that they made any progress there either.
  • Precision F-Strike: Victor and Arthur each trade one when they dine together.
    Victor: You know what? I'm never gonna have any nieces or nephews ever, because, you know what? You're so fucked up, you know that?
    Arthur: Yooooou FUCK! How dare you talk to brother like that.
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Tammy. Granted, one could see how she was being pissed off as being used as The Beard to a gay man for several years, but screaming in his face, refusing to divorce him, and threatening him at gunpoint to stay married is a bit much.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: More specifically, about two-thirds public domain music, and one third synthesised loops contributed by Sam Mraovich.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Insomuch as he counts as a villain, the intern private investigator specifically says that he has no problem with gay people (and possibly not even gay marriage), and is only taking Victor's job because his boss told him to.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Victor has one in a lot of his scenes.
  • Serious Business:
    • Ben gets really upset when Arthur forgets to lock up their bike, resulting in it being stolen.
    • Victor is so determined to turn Arthur straight that he ends up murdering the attorney, and later Ben.
  • Shout-Out: The end where Arthur tries to seduce Victor is taken almost word for word from Scarface (1983).
  • Sinister Minister: The priest of Victor's church.
  • Smug Snake: Victor and (unintentionally) Arthur.
  • Stock Footage: The journey to and from Vermont is represented by stock footage of a cargo plane.
  • Straight Gay: Ben plays this trope straight, to the point where even Victor is surprised that Ben is gay, while Arthur is a mix of this and Camp Gay.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Husband: Arthur and Ben, respectively, although they're not married.
  • Unexplained Recovery / Back from the Dead: Ben. Even though Victor's assassin clearly killed Ben, Arthur is later seen carrying a weak (but very much alive) Ben into their apartment. This is despite coming home from the hospital, where Ben should have ostensibly received better care.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Several characters disappear as the film goes on, most notably Tammy (last seen being run out by Ben and losing her gun), the cop investigating the initial, unsuccessful attempt on Ben's life (questions a few characters, then leaves), the (intern) private investigator that Victor hires (does one job, then leaves) and Victor's partner Stan (sent away after Victor decides to kill Ben and Arthur himself).
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: Ben punches Arthur for accusing him of preferring his bike over him. He then tells him that it will "teach him not to say stupid things". The implications behind this line are...disturbing to say the least.
  • Worst News Judgement Ever: While the overturning of Hawaii's decision to legalize gay marriage would be a pretty significant event, it's highly doubtful that any California newspaper — at least at the time that the film was made — would run it as their front-page story. Had the film been made a decade later, however, odds are it'd be a much lesser example of this trope thanks to the controversy around Proposition 8.