After watching Gregg Araki’s film Mysterious Skin, I cannot help myself from reimagining the scene where older Neil’s rubs the rash-stricken skin of a stranger he met at bar. An overwhelming sympathy collided with my fear of the man as we watch him only ask for Neil to rub his back, begging Neil to “make me happy.” It is a portrait of AIDS that goes beyond the skin to depict how the disease can devastate a human socially. The extreme closeup of the eyes of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring hanging above the bed emphasizes a change in Neil, where we see him attempt to look past a person’s skin and attempt to reckon with possibility of something being much deeper.
In context of Muñoz’s piece the “Dead White,” the scene may also act as a perfect depiction of a white-washed New Queer Cinema. Muñoz’s defines what he calls the “normative imprint” as “an image of ideality and normativity that structures gay male desires and communities,” which cause camouflaging effects as whiteness becomes being both nothing and everything simultaneously (Muñoz 129). Araki’s choice to present a sickly white body queer that is neither ideal or normative does anything but camouflage the skin to provide a disturbing visualization of the disease and suggests the idea of a skin as a shell. To apply the observations of “Dead White” to such a scene feels very shallow, but at the same time necessary. While the scene addresses the quality of the skin, it never focuses on the color. Much to Muñoz’s point, it reiterates the concept that AIDS is not only gay male disease, but a white one. Araki may be trying to have the audience connect with the soul of a human trapped in a shell, but this act counterintuitively brings more attention to the shell itself. Much like the camouflaging effects of a white majority, on a singular level, the skin of the character is both everything and nothing at the same time.