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Literature / Kiss of the Spider Woman

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Kiss of the Spider Woman was originally a 1976 novel by gay Argentinian writer Manuel Puig. It was later adapted into a film in 1985 and a musical in 1993. And a 1983 play. But that one isn't as well known.

Set in a Banana Republic (Argentina in the novel and musical, Brazil in the film), the story follows the imprisonment of Luis Molina (William Hurt in the film), a trans woman who was caught corrupting a minor, and political prisoner Valentin Arregui (Raúl Juliá in the film), who is part of a leftist revolutionary group trying to overthrow the military dictatorship and is currently being tortured for information.

Molina passes the time by describing her favorite movies: the most prominent (and the only one featured in the film) being a romance story of star-crossed lovers... that also happens to be a Nazi propaganda film. Naturally, the Film Within a Film is draped with metaphors and symbolism relating to the two characters. It is later revealed that Molina was imprisoned with Valentin to spy on him in the hope that he will open up to Molina, using the film as a way of getting him to talk. Just one problem: Molina has fallen in love with Valentin. Cue moral dilemmas, political statements and gay angst.

Has nothing to do with any of the Spider-Woman characters published by Marvel Comics.

The story provides examples of:

  • All Love Is Unrequited: Valentin's girlfriend loves Valentin who loves Marta. Molina loves the waiter, and later Valentin, both of whom are straight. Subverted when Valentin agrees to sleep with Molina.
  • Banana Republic: The country the story is set innote  is a dictatorship that imprisons sexual minorities and “disappears” its political opposition. True to Real Life, in both cases.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Very embarrassingly happens to Valentin after eating poisoned food.
  • Bury Your Gays: The trans woman protagonist demonstrates her newfound bravery by accepting a suicide mission to pass a message to political revolutionaries. The same thing occurs in the movie, with the protagonist becoming a homosexual cis man.
  • Downer Ending: Molina dies and Arregui continues to be tortured.
  • Genre Shift: After Molina is let out on good behavior the novel is told through a series of reports and documents.

Additionally, the film provides examples of:

And the musical provides examples of:

Alternative Title(s): Kiss Of The Spider Woman