The Erotic Power of ‘Hocus Pocus,’ Han Solo, and Megan Mullally: Mae Martin’s First Thirst

First Thirst: "'Hocus Pocus' did things to me that I didn't understand, and I kept having dreams about those witches," the comedian said of the iconic '90s film.
Mae Martin crush first thirst
Courtesy Everett Collection

First Thirst is dedicated to the onscreen moments that awakened our earliest desires.

As culture lovers, we know that our earliest film and television loves often go hand in hand with childhood crushes and other new and (ahem) exciting feelings. Ask someone their favorite childhood movie, and it’s more than likely they also had the hots for one of the main characters, even if it was a cartoon fox (hello, Disney’s “Robin Hood”).

Most people can easily pinpoint the first time they obsessed over a movie star, or the sex scene they stumbled on a little too soon. You don’t have to be a cinephile to agree that movies shape our beliefs around sex and sexuality, and carry messages about gender and gender roles. Whether positive or negative, awakening or shameful — we all have vivid memories of our first onscreen crush or sex scene.

For IndieWire’s first installment of First Thirst, we spoke to thoughtful and hilarious comedian and writer Mae Martin. Known for creating and starring in the excellent Netflix series “Feel Good,” which explored gender identity, trauma, and addiction through a darkly funny lens, Martin’s name likely appears on more than a few screen crush lists.

In their Netflix special “Sap,” Martin’s first filmed hour-long comedy special, they boldly take on transphobia in comedy with a light and always amusing touch. It’s the perfect balm for weary watchers in trying times.

During a recent phone interview, IndieWire tapped Martin to find out the first pop culture moments that made them sweat.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


IndieWire: Who was your first thirst? Your most lasting early crush or sexual awakening from either film or TV?

Mae Martin: Well, I’ve talked a lot about Bette Midler in my comedy and how foundational she was for me. The movie “Hocus Pocus” did things to me that I didn’t understand and I kept having dreams about those witches.

Oh, my God, yes. Specifically Bette Midler?

Bette Midler was who did it for me, totally. It was the combination of all three of them. But, yeah, it was always Bette. I had pictures of her all over my walls and I watched all of her movies. I loved loud, confident, funny women. I was also obsessed with Megan Mullally in “Will and Grace.” And [Barbra] Streisand.

That may be the gayest thing I’ve ever heard, and I feel very seen by it. 

I think even before that, my parents showed me “Rocky Horror Picture Show” when I was like five, because there’s a family connection to it. My grandfather was in the stage show and Frank-N-Furter really blew my tiny mind wide open. I had a huge thing for Frank-N-Furter and I really identified with Rocky. I wanted to be the kind of naive creature that he’d created just for sex, that really did something to me.

HOCUS POCUS Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, 1993
“Hocus Pocus”©Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Interesting. It’s not the macho-ness, but the naivete that you connected to.

Yeah. Rocky’s not macho in any way really. He’s sort of like a muscly twink. But I think Frank-N-Furter’s probably the sexiest character of all time on screen. And also he’s so powerful and he thinks: “Don’t dream it, be it.” That’s a pretty good motto for life.

Is there an early memorable sex scene that you perhaps watched a tad too early in life, that really stayed with you?

It was definitely the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” sequence where Frank-N-Furter goes first into Janet’s bed and then into Brad’s bed right afterwards. And it’s all done through silhouettes. So it leaves a lot to the imagination, but it’s very hot. And it just sort of made me realize there’s a world of possibility out there. And I’m ferociously bisexual, that’s sort of how I felt.

I’m getting a theme. There’s bisexuality and gender fluidity. What do you think these moments taught you about sex or sexuality?

I’m just so grateful for “Rocky Horror” because I can’t think of many other pieces of art around that time that were so sex positive, that celebrated hedonism and pleasure in that way and didn’t have a ton of shame attached to it. I remember seeing “Gia” and that was hot to me, but they were so tortured. So I think “Rocky Horror” exists in its own little pantheon.

What about negative portrayals of gender roles? Is there anything you saw early on that made you internalize certain messaging that you wish you hadn’t?

Everyone around me in school was internalizing messages about sex from “American Pie” and that genre of comedy from that time period, the late ’90s or early 2000s where it was not great for women. So I’m sure I internalized some of that.

And I have friends who are deeply traumatized by “Buffy” because they were like: “As soon as Angel comes, he becomes evil. So I can never sleep with a boy because as soon as he comes he’ll become evil.” But luckily I had this foundational core of these powerful witches in “Hocus Pocus” and all the characters in “Rocky Horror” who were kind of liberated by their sexual freedom. My parents were very sex positive as well, so I’m lucky.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW Peter Hinwood, Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, 1975.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

Any other onscreen crushes you want to shout out?

I was very attracted to Han Solo, and Angel and Buffy. Kiefer Sutherland in “Stand by Me” playing the bully, Ace Merrill. I was very much into him. I was into a lot of villains, like Disney villains. There’s something cathartic about a villain. Talking about it now, I’m like, “God, I’m just full of hormones, just raging hormones.”

Besides “Rocky Horror,” is there a piece of pop culture that helped you discover your queerness?

It’s pretty slim pickings, isn’t it? But I guess “Foxfire.” I remember watching that and being like, “OK, yeah.” I’m sure it was Angelina Jolie stuff when I was about 15. “Tomb Raider,” too. I went to see on a date with a boy, and we both agreed that she was very hot. And I was like, “Cool.”

Mae Martin’s “Sap” is currently streaming on Netflix. 

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