The Harmless Psychopaths

Psychopathy probably does not exist in the way most people think of it.

Any psychological trait that varies between individuals is distributed on a continuum whose limits are defined by the trait’s fitness benefit. This is why the personality disorders are considered dubious by some: how much sense does it make to cordon off a particular quartile, decile, centile of the distribution and declare it an illness?

Antisocial personality disorder, which most people still call psychopathy or sociopathy, is characterised by a suite of “extreme” traits, and is identified through behavioural indicators. Those are the cases that go to prison and the ones that show up in the media. But if these people’s predilections were that abnormal, they would not exist – thanks to selection pressure. The heritability of APD is no lower than the general heritability of personality, suggesting that this concatenation of traits is a (mal)adaptation.

Estimates of the prevalence of APD are on the order of 1-3%. It is not the case that 1-3% of people are violent criminals, nor that everyone in prison has the diagnosis, so it is neither necessary nor sufficient for most crime. A good chunk of diagnoses must occur because of repetitious criminal behaviour. What of the rest?

It is news to no one, of course, that most psychopaths are not criminals. The question is: what separates the criminal from the law-abiding variety?

This is a moment of revelation for some, when they have their heads scanned and realise that their neurology is “consistent” with that of a Jeffrey Dahmer. But they are not Jeffrey Dahmer. So much for the notion that it is impossible to be unaware that you have this psychological profile. Thus, they turn to parenting and other things that do not matter as an explanation to assuage the headfuck.

One hypothesis, and a testable one, is that the difference is made by IQ. One begins to sounds like a broken record, but the link between IQ and crime is well established, and given that 1 US adult in 7 is unable to perform mental operations more complex than finding the expiration date on a driving licence, it is not hard to imagine what this does when combined with a temperamental disposition towards narcissism. Not only do they feel social norms “don’t apply” to them; they are too stupid to understand the consequences of violating them.

High-IQ individuals with Dark Triad traits often go undetected or are even wildly successful. You probably know a few, and it probably isn’t worth giving them a second thought. The proto-criminal types are easier to spot, but no one wants his or her child to be branded “high-risk” before any criminal wrongdoing is committed. Nor are they prepared to confront the fact that there is essentially nothing they can do to “fix” the problem, and so nothing (useful) is done. Isn’t that just too fucking bad?

Advertisements

Educational Formality and Its Abundance

Obsession with provisioning and protecting children is a trend in the norms of WEIRD societies. In a certain type of person this often leads to an array of strange, inconsistent beliefs. Some complain non-stop about the adult abdication of grown-up responsibilities and simultaneously claim that a 16-year-old engaged in active sexual pursuit of an adult is by definition a victim of child molestation. Others bleat on about the dangers of what they call helicopter parenting while asserting that a mother’s decision to leave her child in a daycare for 8 hours of the 24 in a day is tantamount to a form of child abuse. One may see the concrescence of these stupidities in a recent New York Times article about the harassment of so-called neglectful mothers by public busybodies.

Kidnapping and child molestation are and always have been rare, so this obsession is new albeit no one knows when it began exactly. Likewise, genetics has long since set the record straight on the relevance of parenting to adult behaviour: it barely leaves a dent except in cases of extreme abuse or neglect. Dote on your children or not; they are who they are. Thus, the discourse on how to treat children ought not to focus on how it affects them, but rather what we know to be pragmatic and efficient for both parents and children.

Bryan Caplan argues that education is primarily about job-market signalling, hence the phenomenon of credential inflation and repeated efforts to pour more money into teaching even though it is well known to have weak long-term effects. This means that almost no one remembers much of what they are allegedly learning, and what they do remember is of little use to them in their work lives. Formal education is in actual fact useless to anyone but the mid-witted. Geniuses tend to be self-taught and already know a thousand times more than their classmates by the time they get to school, meanwhile the borderline intellectual functioning struggle through it all and come out at the end with very little signalling currency (i.e. grades).

Formal education before the age of 10 need not exist. It is glorified babysitting. I do not recall learning anything substantive in school for that period of my life, and I know no one who reports otherwise. Child care need not even exist unless the child is very young. Why not just let the kids run free? If this sounds alien and horrifying to you, please note that there are already places on this planet where children as young as 7 may perform most of the functions of daily life with no adult supervision and commute around gigantic megalopolises either alone or in troupes with other children. It requires an intelligent, high-social-capital society where crime is freakishly rare, which can be facilitated by homogeneity, embryonic selection for IQ (since IQ is linked to all things good), and deliciously brutal punishments for the disruption of public order and safety.

Another reason for the alleged necessity of early education is that a child must be socialised, which is to say interact with other children, and this speaks to the age-segregation trend of the First World. It hits high-IQ children the hardest: “He needs to learn to be with people his own age!” No one ever asks why, because no one actually knows why. Children who are adept at talking to adults are probably doing so out of frustration or boredom with other children, especially if they are bright, and it is not as if this “skill” is something they will carry with them for long – once they become adults, they (especially males) will be forbidden from socialising with children lest they be accused of child molestation.

In the days before institutional education was widespread, children socialised with other children, and adults, in their locale with no school, state, or bureaucracy sticking its nose in. Given the aforesaid prerequisites of high social capital, this is achievable to an even greater degree today. Smartphone addiction in children ought to be encouraged; it is the way of the True Aristocrat. Especially, encourage them to use it to get in touch with other children near them, on the same street or what have you, and then get on with their fun and games – no adult oversight needed. A nursery or daycare where I am from is often no more than a repurposed house in a residential area, much less fun than the setup I have described. This will make for less miserable childhoods and fewer put-upon and harassed parents, which, I think we should all agree, are good things.

The Accidental Eugenicists

This article is about 1) how a taboo against incestuous reproduction could be used to make the political mainstream comfortable with (explicit) eugenics, and 2) other ethical considerations surrounding human genetic enhancement – in that order.

One must differentiate what I call implicit and explicit eugenics. The implicit version encompasses those things which all people do in the interest of “good genes” but without actually thinking of it in those terms, such as mate selection.

An explicit, or more explicit, example is the outlawing of incest. The case for doing so is easy to make. Incest can lead to inbred children, and this is probably, in part, responsible for the neuroses that afflict the Islamic world, for theirs is a hyper-consanguineous culture. In recent times, I have come to think that the only chapter in the history of the European Church that one can praise without a dozen or more extensive caveats was their prohibition of inbreeding. As HBD Chick has discussed, this was instrumental in the evolutionary trajectory of (especially north-western) Europeans and the development of uniquely European traits such as individualism.

But how much difference do anti-incest laws make now? I would wager not much. Consanguineous breeding among Europeans is a highly marginal phenomenon even in places where it is legal, and I do not see how criminalising it could be any more effective than anti-drug laws. But Westerners have negative reactions to both incest and explicit eugenics. This could be seized upon, in theory: allow the consensually incestuous adults to have children, but make it mandatory for them to go through screening of the embryo’s genome first once the technology is widespread. The procedure could then be extended to, for example, mothers of advanced age, and then beyond.

The word eugenics is also a problem. Trying to revive it is pointless. A far better strategy would be to adopt a term which is descriptively accurate but with none of the nasty connotations, such as “directed evolution”. Saying “eugenics” purely to inflame people is childish.

I am sceptical of the reflexive libertarian position on human enhancement with respect to traits such as IQ, neuroticism, and all diseases with a genetic basis. Note: abortion-related concerns are moot since this is mostly about pre-implantation embryo selection. I do not see how refusing to use this technology when it is available is morally superior to child abuse. “You may allow a car to be built with a sub-optimal design, but you may not damage it once it is built” seems like the position of people who would condemn the latter but endorse the former of these. Allowing nature to take its course is now a choice, not an inevitability. Why should people be free to make that choice? Again, this is specifically with respect to the traits I mentioned.

Many mainstream leftists who balk at these possibilities are happy to accept that vaccinating one’s children be mandatory. So am I. So why not: increasing children’s genotypic IQ above a certain threshold (whatever it may be), or reducing their genetic propensity to experience negative emotion? Again this is a morally inconsistent position: “You are allowed to improve your car once it is built, but you may not just make better cars or, heaven forbid, mandate that better cars be built.” These mainstream leftists should just accept the moral salience of willfully increasing potential for future harm to their children by either refusing to have them vaccinated or refusing to genetically enhance them.

People will make excuses for why the analogy with vaccination is not a comparable situation, but people only come up with these post hoc. It is like when libertarians whine about the government’s taking away all their money but have no problem with huge global corporations’ outsourcing jobs to foreigners, either home or abroad. The net result is the same: fewer job opportunities – and therefore less money.

Neuroticism and low IQ are things that we happen to not give disease-like names to, up to a point. Where and why is that point set? Well, with neuroticism it is where you are continuously anxious about everything and nothing (generalised anxiety disorder), because this impedes daily functioning. With IQ it is 70, because a person with an IQ below 70 seldom if ever has the wherewithal to perform basic tasks. That threshold will go up, however, when society is technologically complex enough that even those of us between 100 and 135 are rendered useless. As for neuroticism, people are shit-scared of jumping out of planes even though skydiving is, statistically, probably less dangerous than a whole lot of other things they do without a second thought, such as driving. People’s brains are not equipped to assess risk in a technified society such as ours, and neuroticism is strongly anti-correlated with about a thousand negative life outcomes. Some people argue that there is a trade-off to be made with it for “creativity”, but one does not need an anxiety disorder to be creative, and I doubt that whatever difference it makes is worth it in QALYs.

“Everything is allowed unless it is explicitly forbidden. Something is only explicitly forbidden if it can be shown empirically to be harmful.” I do not literally think of those words every time I am pondering solutions to some social problem, but if you reverse-engineer my ideas about society, you will end up with some formula similar to this. I believe this is quite close to the mentality of the typical libertarian, except the primary difference is that most self-identified libertarians would never countenance forbidding inaction, e.g. not vaccinating one’s children. Luckily, I am not so arrogant as to assume the point of view of the universe. Not everyone agrees with me about what should or should not be mandatory. That is fine. They should not have to live around me, nor I them.

Roger Blackstone: The Politics of Aesthetics

Blackstone speaks as if he were a god, “I’m Roger Blackstone. I have dedicated my life to advancing civilization and furthering human progress, from finding cures to deadly illnesses, to radical life extension, to building utopian cities. Imagine a world where you can get on a fast train in Miami and be in New York City in 30 minutes. Imagine an end to aging and illness. I have the power to re-write the human genome and end all human suffering. Imagine an end to all ecological degradation, preventing utter ecological catastrophe. I have the solutions to end our petroleum based economy, implementing high speed railway and monorail networks; vertical farms and renewable energy from unknown energy sources. I will help rebuild our suburban wastelands into magnificent walkable communities, accessible to mass transit and parklands; but most importantly true freedom. The freedom to live in the utopia you desire, whether it is a vertical garden-city, a neon-lit retro wonderland, or a European-style village. I’ve actually built these things and understand that true freedom will only occur when people can live in their very own utopia.” Noam’s mom scoffs, “Sounds like just another one of his commercials for his real estate developments, rather than an appeal from a public statesman. He wants to turn all of America into one giant theme park. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about ecology.” Blackstone continues, “Imagine no work! Robots will do all the work, and there will be a guaranteed basic income. People will no longer be slaves to dead end jobs and will be free to pursue their dreams and reach their full potential. Imagine no ugliness! I will offer economic incentives for the most attractive women to have multiple offspring and implement an immigration policy limited to only the most attractive women; the best looking European models and economic incentives for all young blonde Israeli women to immigrate to avoid military conscription. I will further human enlightenment with the legalization of LSD and DMT. I will fix our broken economy with a repudiation of all debt, home mortgages, and student loans, and an end to all interest with nationalization of the banks. Vote for me. I will make your dreams come true!” Noam’s mom interrupts, “Faux populist fascist pig! His gaudy casinos prey on the working class, his tastes are stuck in the 80s, he objectifies women, and he has done nothing to empower women and minorities! His father Alistair wrote this bizarre creepy fascist manifesto advocating for the aristocracy to enslave the proletariat, and I know Roger is influenced by that fascist shit.”

The following is a brief set of observations on Roger and Alistair Blackstone’s political agendas in Robert Stark’s novel Journey to Vapor Island. There is also an episode of the Stark Truth that covers much of the content here.

On Alistair Blackstone’s manifesto:

“Those who were born to serve.” – bears some resemblance to notions of a natural aristocracy, see: Ralph Waldo Emerson, HL Mencken. Also, this is what Marx would have called the lumpenproletariat, and the “petite bourgeois” is actually a name that some Marxists gave to the distributist movement, but at the same time there’s some evidence that Alistair is sympathetic to distributive economic philosophies, because capitalism has this negative effect or this stultifying effect on the creative class. Later on the term “aristocratic radicalism” pops up, which I think is used to describe Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy, but I don’t think Nietzsche himself came up with it.

“An immigration policy limited to only the most attractive women.” This makes humans, rather than just art and architecture, the subject of aesthetic concern.

“Conformist masses.” This is part of the idea (espoused by Crowley and others) that society is made up of loners (non-conformists) and “the herd” (conformists). Some would suggest, as per aristocratic radicalism (or Crowley’s term, “aristocratic communism”) that society ought to be geared towards empowering and emboldening those people who are naturally non-conformists, artists and intellectuals and so on, and maybe creating some more of them.

“Garden paradise.” – Environmentalism?

“A new priest class descended from a lost ancient civilization shall decide who is fit to rule.” This reminded me, although I suspect it is probably unintentional, of Roman myths about the founding of their city, i.e. there was the notion that the patrician elite were descended from the officials originally appointed by Romulus. It makes sense that this would be a concern given the references later in the book to Roman sexual mores and aesthetics.

On Roger Blackstone’s Politics:

“Advancing civilization and furthering human progress.” This implies a rejection of the NRx reading of history (inverted Whig view of history) and assumes, contra NRx, that some forms of progress are actually meaningful.

“I have the power to re-write the human genome and end all human suffering.” Reminded me of recent developments in genetics, how one could completely re-engineer the human genome to enhance human potential, etc.

“European-style village.” New urbanism and the necessity of creating aesthetically pleasant living spaces. Also possibly reflects a kind of implicit racialism since European architecture is treated as superior or at least as the default.

“Live in their very own utopia.” Relates to the idea of simple libertarianism just not being enough and how we need people to create intentional communities for every possible group both racial/ethnic and ideological.

“LSD and DMT.” Could be related to the book The Chemical Muse about the prevalence of drugs (especially entheogens) in premodern societies, e.g. Graeco-Roman societies, the importance of drug use to a lot of artists and anticonformists, etc.

The Push to Normalize Polonophilia

 

 

 

Above are two evocative images: one of Akihabara, Tokyo, and the other of what seems to be the object of onanistic fantasising by nationalists civic and ethnic within the Anglosphere – in fact, beyond the word nationalist, it seems the only thing on which the two factions agree. The thought of the Japanese may conjure all sorts of verbal associations depending on whose story about them you have imbibed. Opinions differ on whether they are based or degenerate, whatever either of those terms is taken to mean. If you are of the #trad persuasion, you may even choose to spend a while in one of their cities and come back with a marvellous tale of woe about seeing nonagenarians waiting to die and fawning over other people’s children because they have none themselves – which you know to be true through your telepathic powers of intuition. However, something about Based Poles (this time I shall resist the bad habit of appending a trademark symbol) mysteriously curbs that telepathy, and the unanimity of opinion surrounding them and other countries of the former Eastern Bloc has little precendent in Reactosphere circles. Why, though?

I have seen the phrase “anima projection”, borrowed from Jung’s schema of unconscious archetypes, to refer to the situation in which a man becomes smitten with a woman as he projects his every fabulistic notion of what a woman should be onto her – falsely. Although not exactly scientific, I cannot help thinking of this when I see everyone from anarcho-capitalists to Ted Cruz clones to MAGA fetishists to WAs (white advocates) heaping praise upon these eastern European countries, especially Poland. Therein lies my gripe; not, of course, with the typical (I dare say normie) eastern European person.

What connecting tissue binds these ideological groups? Well, most of them are white Americans, and most call themselves traditionalists. But to be a traditionalist, apparently, is not the same thing as subscribing to a tradition. Few of these people are pagans or Christians; they are atheists who like paganism or Christianity. Indeed, some of them like paganism and Christianity, and if that does not scream “Raging Larper” to you, nothing will. What they share could more accurately be called social conservatism of various shades, which is really a personality trait for Anglospherians more than a belief system.

Poland and its neighbours are probably not what you think they are. Their women are not popping out ninety kids apiece. Their birth rate as of 2015 was lower than Japan’s, and on UN projections of population decline between 2017 and 2050, Japan came in 11th. The top ten, including Poland, were all in eastern Europe. Japan, incidentally, has a single metropolitan area (the Greater Tokyo Area) whose population is quite close to that of the entire Polish nation, and yet Japan is referred to as the ageing nation.

As explored in an earlier blogpost, the reason organised religion is just about dead in my country, and across the First World, is that its psychological foundation, mortality salience, has ebbed away. It is not the fault of the Jews, neo-Marxism, or elaborate cultural conditioning. Poland could be just a few decades behind Britain and the US in this regard, unless there is some unknown variable. With the rural US, another possible exception to the rule, the variable seems to be some mixture of bucolic communitarianism and, interestingly, patriotic feeling. There is already evidence suggesting that ethnocentrism and religiosity are neurologically linked. This may be why the iconography of Jesus in the US so often goes hand in hand with waving the ‘Murican flag. It does not seem crazy to postulate that something similar is happening with Poles, given that the land they call home is among the most historically blighted in the world. When you see the religious imagery present at Polish nationalist rallies, this should become obvious.

How religious are they, anyway? 87.5% identify as Roman Catholics. Of those, 36.7% actually attend church. That gives us 32.1% of the country’s people who attend church regularly. That puts me in mind of the curious datum which showed that 45% of self-identified UK Christians say they do not believe in God, although it is not quite the same thing of course. It it also likely to vary by region, as in the American case, with even fewer true religious adherents in large metropoleis. Latvia, the Czech Republic, and especially Estonia are all deeply irreligious, so the legacy of communism and reaction thereto do not account for Poland’s religiosity either. The Vatican does have a great influence over Poland’s governent – that most legendary of Jesusian organisations through whom God imparts his wisdom about the sanctity of migrant life, for the Lord’s only constancy is fickleness.

It ought to go without saying the last “problem” on Earth WAs should care about is the nonexistent ethnic struggle between the Germans and the Poles, or between the ghosts of the dead regimes that once ruled them. Yet, so many people are rushing to defend this, “Because national pride.” Some, mostly Americans, use this to outright dodge WA matters. Eastern Europe is homogeneous, and lo and behold, suddenly this is a cultural and religous question, not a racial one. But when these countries’ leaders say they want to protect their Christian heritage from refugee inflow, do they really mean to say that if their current citizens all deconverted tomorrow they would happily replace them with African Catholics?

I do not think a civic identity that is only implicitly white is in itself bad. This is arguably the way many Europeans thought of themselves prior to the mid-20th century. This is where I think people get the wrong idea about Steve Sailer’s citizenism, a position for which I have some respect. It is perhaps the case that whites today will simply never gravitate to an explicitly racialist message and prefer thinking about abstract philosophies. But almost all of those abstract philosophies, from libertarianism to ecological activism, are the province of whites anyway, and once whites secure territories somewhere, we could enact ethnic migration quotas of the sort that existed in the US pre-1965 but with a rationale geared towards the belief systems of the community and an emphasis on ensuring the citizens’ welfare. Japanese ancestry is not needed to become a Japanese citizen, but >95% of Japanese residents are the same group who were there a century ago. I see no problem with this model. Call it “implicitly white white nationalism”, if you like (citizenism also works). White advocacy may not always be necessary, although combating anti-white rhetoric probably will. But ethnic nationalism of the classical variety is little more than a distraction at the present time, particularly when it is a vicarious ethnic nationalism viewed through the eyes of conservative Euro-Americans.

I have observed a tendency to equate any pan-Europeanism with the European Union, but this does not stand up to scrutiny unless you would also compare the original stock of the United States, Australia, and New Zealand to the EU, or unless you would object to the Polish diaspora population, which is among the largest on Earth.

Criticism of ethnic nationalism does not imply the dissolution of all borders or population unitarianism (i.e. the melding of all ethnicities into one). The EU has not managed that yet, and I doubt it will. But it is simply not reasonable to expect people to adhere to ethnic identities as doggedly as they did in previous centuries. The way forward is through intentional communities, and there are more than enough differences among people in WA circles to become their own ethnic or quasi-ethnic identities. Whether any kind of singular consciousness shared across all these groups is possible remains to be seen, although increasingly I suspect not. The internet gives us something of a blueprint for this – being a kind of “ideostate” if not an ethnostate, which connects groups who have little in common with each other beyond their affirmation of Europeans’ right to continue existing. How that will translate into life is an abiding, and exhausting, mystery.

A Cornflower By Any Other Name

Call Me by Your Name is a 2017 film about a transient ephebophilic romantic entanglement between two diasporic Jews living in “northern Italy” (not otherwise specified) in the 1980s with a shared interest in European high culture and in the fact that they are both Jews. It is the type of premise that makes a typical person of These Circles™ apoplectic, and one could almost say that it was that, combined with simple curiosity, that made me watch it.

I am continually amazed by how many people flippantly throw about the term “paedophilia”. I recall Ryan Faulk remarking once that the word “racist” is useless because to brand someone with it tells one nothing about what he believes; it is used only to manipulate. Ditto here, it seems, when the younger person in the relationship is 17, which is fully four years removed from what clinicians would define as paedophilic territory. Equally amazing is how many people are saying, “But the age of consent in Italy is 14,” as if that even matters. Would this become a “paedophile movie” to these people if Italy’s age of consent were 18 in 1983?

Why Italy was chosen is indeed interesting (much of this may apply to the source material as much as the film) and segues into several other curious choices made in the film about what to show explicitly, implicitly, or not at all. Debates rage on whether Italy or Germany deserves to be called the heart of European civilisation, but it should be borne in mind that both are young countries, and the region of Italy in which the film is set was part of the same political entity as what is now called Germany for a significant chunk of its history. The two protagonists – Oliver (the man) and Elio (the teenager) – roundaboutly evoke these themes in a dialogue about classical composers, eg Bach (a German) and Busoni (an Italian).

If one draws a line, roughly, under Bologna, everything above is unambiguously white. Everything below is white too, but it is palpably not the same. Northern Italy is also the least Jewish part of the country, as Elio notes quite early on, to which Oliver says that he is from New England and is “used to being the odd Jew out.” Elio is plainly uncomfortable with his identity, which is one of the things that cause friction between the two at first. Oliver, though, is overbearingly confident and looks like a figure from a 50s film noir poster, just at the time America’s Anglo elite had begun its steady decline. One could easily believe that he was indeed a New Englander, and he spends most of his life absorbed in European cultural artefacts, but internally he cannot bring himself to abandon his apartness, his selectness, his (I dare say) chosenness. He also has five-pointed stars on his trainers, on which the camera at one point lingers for a few seconds – as if this were connected to the Star of David he wears on a discreet necklace. It is not, though. It really only puts one in mind, again, of old films, and of that place which is home to all things formless, superficial, and vacuous.

Elio is attracted to these qualities in Oliver, but when he tries imitating Oliver’s behaviour, wearing a Star of David round his own neck, it comes across as strange and hollow. His mother would apparently disapprove of it, because his family are “Jews of discretion”, but she never comments on it, which makes one wonder what was the point of even mentioning it in the first place.

Elio’s family, naturally, are odd. He sounds American. His mother and father sound English and American respectively, but it is still not clear. All of them speak at least four European languages, and they live in a bucolic Italian paradise, but it is apparently only one of their houses (do they have one for every season of the year?). They act almost as a mosaic arrangement of the clichés of European Jewry; deracination, neuroticism, feigning detachment from things.

Elio’s father, “Mr Perlman”, is an archaeologist, so the film is replete with discussion about classical antiquity, particularly their aesthetics. However, despite taking place in Italy, most of the names I remember hearing were Greek, which I found interesting because Greece had few settlements in that part of Italy – the northernmost outpost of Magna Graecia was at Adria, but it was very much an outlier. Mr Perlman waxes lyrical a few times in the film, the first time when he is showing Oliver a slideshow of classical statues and saying that they look as if they are “daring you to desire them”, at which Oliver gives a quizzical look. This comes on the heels of escalating tension between him and Elio – and afterward, his inhibitions seem to diminish. That is the explicit link to Hellenic pederasty. The implicit one is by far more interesting. Although both actors (Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet) are adult men, they could not have found two men who were more physically different. Hammer is above the 99th percentile in US male height and nearly as fetching as the Greek statues, whereas Chalamet is glabrous and gangling. Elio is at an ephebe’s age, more or less (he is played by Chalamet). He is cultured but rather unworldly and naive – and by the end of the film (like an eromenos, one is tempted to imagine), when he is inconsolably broken-hearted, one finally sees a change in his demeanour. By then he has come to terms with himself in multiple ways, not just with his incipient sexuality.

Neither one of these characters is straightforwardly gay; Elio has a girlfriend for the second half of the film with whom he copulates, and Oliver eventually ends up getting married. It is better this way, I think. If they were gay then their relationship would be that much less remarkable, since it would be the default for them both to be attracted to members of their own sex anyway. Since this is not the case, attention is drawn not to the same-sex nature of their attraction, but to everything else about them – their erudition, Oliver’s strange obsessiveness, etc. Oliver’s doctoral thesis, the reason he is staying with Elio’s family, remains a mystery except for the fact that he is assisting Elio’s father in some way, but that is never really explained either, and there are probably a load more things like that that I have missed. The performances of the two lead actors, who eat up >90% of the screen time, are among the most “real” I have ever seen in a film, and I do not recall any scenes that you would have to be gay to enjoy. There is also not a single histrionic outburst from anyone in the entire film about Elio and Oliver’s relationship, which stops it from falling into familiar(ly tedious and clichéd) territory, and Oliver even seems to remark on this towards the end when he says something to the effect of, “You are so lucky. My father would have had me carted off to a correctional facility.” In fact, the extent to which their relationship is even mentioned explicitly by any of the other characters is very limited even at the end.

So it’s worth watching, I think. But if you are the sort who would be put off by Robert Stark’s novel, this is probably not for you either.