“Eau de Homophobie”, Withnail and I, 1985

I want to kick off a little series about scent in the movies.

In this short scene from Withnail and I, beautiful young Paul McGann (“I”) strides in a full length leather coat with his lovely curls across a grotty Camden pub to the toilet. A waft of whatever cologne he is wearing brings him great danger.

Pub scene from Withnail and I (subtitles option available)

The scene is played for laughs, and it is funny. But its also a neat, sinister snapshot of how homophobia and misogeny work and are knotted together:

Women wear perfume. Men don’t. Women don’t come in this pub.
That man is wearing perfume. So he’s acting like a woman. So he’s a ponce.
So he can’t be in my pub. And I need to batter him. Because I am a man.

I was so obsessed with this film when I was a teenager. I bet I can still quote huge chunks from memory. I don’t think I’d enjoy it on a re-watch, I can’t handle Richard Griffiths’ predatory Uncle Monty character.

I would love to know what scent Paul McGann’s character was wearing. Perhaps something with violets.

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