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The “Gene Hackman in bad drag” song

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I have had a deep and unrestrained loathing for the song Celebration by Kool and the Gang, ever since I saw it in the 1996 English remake of The Birdcage, for which I also have a deep and unrestrained loathing. The song is now indelibly associated in my mind with the climax of the movie, in which the conservatives disguise themselves to escape paparazzi staking out the gay bar — hence the Gene Hackman in bad drag. I must say that he did very good bad drag, along with truly memorable Oh, sweet Jesus, what am I doing here?! body language, but I still hate the song…and the movie, the plot of which is predicated on a venomous level of internalized homophobia. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

Cards Against Humanity and the insidious trap of hipster prejudice

Cards Against Humanity and the insidious trap of hipster prejudice published on 1 Comment on Cards Against Humanity and the insidious trap of hipster prejudice

For those of you not up on the latest hip party game for people in their 20s and 30s, let me introduce you to Cards Against Humanity. Essentially a group form of multiple choice Mad Libs, this game features a bunch of black cards, which contain sentences with key nouns left out, and a bunch of white cards, which contain nouns or noun phrases. Each player draws a hand of 10 white cards, and then everyone gets a chance to read a black card aloud. After a card is read, players choose from their hand the white card that they think best completes the sentence. These cards are distributed to the reader anonymously. The reader reads the selections aloud and selects the one they like best. The player whose white card is chosen wins the black card. All players draw another white card to keep their hand up to 10, and the role of reading black cards passes to the next player.

In concept, Cards Against Humanity is the sort of game I love. There’s no competition and no real winning or losing. The game emphasizes creativity and amusement instead of points and strategy. It’s the type of game that grows exponentially more hilarious with more and more players, and it sparks very interesting side conversations when people ask or joke about each other’s choices.

In practice, however, I find Cards Against Humanity very problematic in terms of content and framing. The black cards, with their framing sentences, feature mostly topical references familiar to people in their 20s and 30s. Examples include: "What does Prince insist on being included in his dressing room?" and "What does Obama do to unwind?" Fine, no big deal.

It’s the white noun cards, though, that drive me up the wall. If they contained only generically amusing phrases such as "murder most foul," "inappropriate yodeling" and "licking things to claim them as your own," I wouldn’t object. But no, those cards are a distinct minority. The white cards focus heavily on topics apparently considered taboo or difficult to discuss by the white, straight, cis, male, bourgeois creator, including people of color ["brown people," "the hard-working Mexican"], people with disabilities ["amputees," "Stephen Hawking talking dirty," "a robust Mongoloid," "a spastic nerd," "the profoundly handicapped"], queer people ["the gays," "praying the gay away"], fat people ["feeding Rosie O’Donnell," "the morbidly obese," "home video of Oprah sobbing into a Lean Cuisine"], gender-nonconforming people ["passable transvestites"], genocide ["inappropriately timed Holocaust jokes," "helplessly giggling at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis"], Muslims ["Allah [praise be unto him!]," "72 virgins"], poor people ["poor people," "homeless people"], old people ["Grandma," "hospice care"], child abuse ["child abuse"], rape ["surprise sex"], paraphilias ["German dungeon porn"] and crap ["fiery poops"]. I could go on, but then I’d be quoting the entire suite of white cards.

Cards Against Humanity glancingly acknowledges the problematic structure of its game by billing its audience as "horrible people." "It’s as despicable and awkward as you and your friends," crows the main page of the game’s Web site. Of course, below this description are various cool publications and people praising the game, so clearly the game’s creators see being "despicable and awkward" as a coveted, desirable status. They quote condemnations from the Chicago Tribune ["absurd"], The Economist ["unforgivable"] and NPR ["bad"] in contrast with praise from INC ["hilarious"] and Boing Boing ["funny"]. Thus they associate criticism with old-fashioned, conservative, humorless media outlets full of old people and appreciation with the young, hip, cool crowd. To be "despicable and awkward," then, is ultimately to be cool. 

What does Cards Against Humanity’s concept of coolness — that is, their idea of rebranded despicability qua awesomeness — entail? Basically it means laughing at anyone who’s not a straight, white, cis, bourgeois, hipster dude [like the creator]. Don’t try to tell me that, because the game has white cards like "white privilege," it actually critiques those who are discomfited by the concept. No, it doesn’t, not when the majority of cards make marginalized people who lack privilege into punchline after punchline after punchline.

If you’re still not convinced, let me break it down to you with a single example: the white card that has the phrase "passable transvestites." There is so much wrong with this card that it’s hard to know where to start. Well, to begin with, clearly someone thought this phrase worthy of inclusion into the deck of white cards, meaning that someone perceived it as shocking, racy, funny and potentially ridiculous. So what’s shocking, racy and entertaining about "passable transvestites?" Yeah, a gender nonconforming person who goes out in public en femme so that they avoid being clocked always makes me laugh. The stats on trans and other gender nonconforming people being harassed, assaulted and killed provide comic relief every time I read them. The outdated language on this white card — the vexed concept of "passable," coupled with the no-longer-used, clinical-sounding "transvestite" — signals that the game’s creators are hung up on old-fashioned binaries of gender presentation, the transgression of which they find hilarious and pathetic, instead of a matter of life and death.

I can make the same points about Cards Against Humanity’s treatment of people with disabilities, the prejudice against whom can be summed up in a single white card: "Stephen Hawking talking dirty." Yup, yup, of course, people who are neuroatypical, emotionally atypical and physically atypical to the extent that society doesn’t really know how to accommodate them — they’re comedy gold! I mean, really — can you imagine a man with paralysis talking dirty? First of all, he’d be doing it with the help of his computer, which is inherently hilarious, you know, because he can’t really talk. Second of all, it would imply that he, despite being unable to move parts of his body, has active sexual desires and interests, which is a shock, because no paralyzed person has ever had sexual interests and agency before — ever! They’re just…like… wheelchair-bound automatons. Yeah, "the profoundly handicapped" are a gas all right. Yet again, Cards Against Humanity’s decision to employee the passe and offensive term "handicapped" shows that they’re not interested in mocking prejudice, but in perpetuating it.

EDIT: As rosettanettle points out in a comment on my LJ crosspost, the creator of Cards Against Humanity expressed regret for the "passable transvestites" white card, which is now no longer included in decks. This does not, however, negate any of my points. If anything, it reinforces them, since the creator’s expression of "regret," which came only because he was called on his transphobia, comes across as less a regret of treasuring bigoted tenets and more a regret at getting caught. I also suspect his theatrical Tumblr photoset of him lighting the card on fire of being a self-aggrandizing performance so that he may be showered with praise about what an enlightened ally he is. Why do straight, cis, white, middle-class dudes think they deserve extra special plaudits for meeting minimum standards of decency? "Despicable," indeed.

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1676643.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Warehouse 13 closes with a lackluster season 5.

Warehouse 13 closes with a lackluster season 5. published on No Comments on Warehouse 13 closes with a lackluster season 5.

This truncated set of 6 eps provided no particular closure, no interesting character development and nothing particularly interesting. The overall flaccidity of the 6 eps just highlighted the show’s problematic aspects even more excruciatingly.

In no particular order, the problems were:

  • Steve. The show never did this character justice. He had great potential, especially as someone with the power of discerning whether people were telling the truth, but the show never really knew what to do with him. Without a tortured past full of secrets like the other agents [or at least not enough of the past for a multi-ep exploration], Steve had no grounding, no motivation, no hook. He also never really had anything to do except for to be Claudia’s best friend, to die, to be resurrected and to keep the home fires burning while everyone else ran away on adventures. He was a thoroughly dull and objectified damsel in distress type. I feel like the writers identified him by a cluster of traits — former ATF agent, Buddhist, gay, human lie detector — and just had him mention those identities occasionally in lieu of developing an actual personality.
  • While we’re on the subject again, let’s bring up homophobia, one of the show’s perennial failings. In 6.4, Savage Seduction, Claudia and Steve investigate a frat where the brothers are using an artifact to split themselves into two parts: studiers and partiers. Claudia and Steve’s quest started promisingly with Claudia grumbling about "kids these days" [even though she was the age of the students] and Steve’s revelation that he had been part of a nerd fraternity with "book group and holiday a cappella." Then Steve got a hold of the artifact and turned into two Steves, one of which was usual Steve and the other of which was a painfully swishy stereotype. Where did that come from? Steve had never shown any indication of harboring painfully swishy stereotypes. It could have been interesting if those were his long-buried fears about what he might have to be when he found out he was gay, but nah — the show just played swishy Steve for laughs. Claudia also made a passing remark that she liked swishy Steve "a little bit more" than usual Steve, which was indicative of the show’s whole treatment of Steve’s sexuality: it was only ever developed jokingly, with reference to stereotypes, even if Steve was bringing them up to say that he differed from them. The show could not take him as a gay guy seriously and invested way too much prurient energy into his sexuality.
  • Speaking of sexuality, the show also capitulated to cultural pressures of heteronormativity. After five seasons of him being annoyed at her exactitude and her being annoyed at his immaturity, Pete and Myka realized that they loved each other. Well, that was pretty obvious. But why did they have to end up as a romantic couple? They may have loved each other and worked well together, but they were not characterologically compatible, so why did the show hook them up? Boring, boring, boring.
  • Furthermore, racism featured prominently in Warehouse 13’s final season. It was like they crammed all the racism that they hadn’t gotten to into a single truncated set of 6 eps. There were the gratuitous "g***y" references with the fortune tellers in the Ren Faire ep. There was the trash heap of "fiery Latino" stereotypes in the telenovela ep. Then, in the last ep, Leena, who was bumped off for no reason at the end of season 4, was given a flashback scene in which she foresaw her own death in the Warehouse and then, when Mrs. Frederic said that she would try to prevent it, said to her, "But it’s okay." No, you stinkin’ show — do not try to retroactively sell me on the useless death of one of the show’s two main characters of color. I won’t buy it.



 

This entry was originally posted at http://modernwizard.dreamwidth.org/1652430.html. You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

How not to write, part seven zillion in a neverending series

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I just finished Libba Bray’s latest doorstop trilogy opener The Diviners. Set in New York City in 1926, it follows a group of teenagers with magical powers as they pursue and attempt to thwart a murderous fanatic who wishes to cheat death by bringing about Hell on Earth [or something — this point wasn’t entirely clear]. Characters include protagonist Evie, an obnoxious flapper wannabe and burgeoning lush, who can learn about owners by holding their possessions; her best friend Mabel, whose major conflict in this book is about whether she should bob her hair; Evie’s new friend Theta, a Zeigfield girl and apparent pyrokinetic; Memphis, Theta’s boyfriend, who has healing hands and a possessed little brother; Will, an absentminded professor stereotype, who heads a museum of the occult and ostensibly watches over Evie; Sam, a pickpocket and male version of Evie [only with less alcohol], who can become invisible; Jericho, a tragic cyborg with the power of hulking menacingly; and Naughty John, the aforementioned murderous fanatic. Shenanigans ensue.

I’m going to finish this series because Bray knows how to write mindlessly engaging entertainment. I am not, however, finishing this series for its literary merit. In fact, the book presents many beautiful examples of how not to write. I have gathered them in a list below for your convenience in no particular order.

1. Perpetuate the very racism you’re clearly attempting to avoid. Bray strains so hard to be modern and non-racist by making Memphis, an African-American kid who wants to be a poet in the Harlem Renaissance, a point-of-view character. Furthermore, she takes pains to demonstrate that Will is enlightened enough to disapprove of the Ku Klux Klan and that Jericho is liberal enough to detect the racist and classist subtexts of the eugenics movement. In her occasional overview vignettes, in which Bray tries to capture a cross-section of the country in its anxious modernity, she even regularly mentions Native Americans. See? See? She’s progressive!

Actually, she’s not really. Memphis’ world, while convincingly realized, also comes across as an info-dump truck that the author uses to haul in and show off all the research she did about Jazz Age Harlem. [See my note on the perils of research below.] Furthermore, for all her direct engagement with some of the racist currents of the day, Bray uses an offensively coy, glancing euphemism — “a name he didn’t like” — for “n****r,” without even trying to evoke the rage, shame and vulnerability that Memphis might feel upon hearing himself called that. This omission that makes it clear that she doesn’t really care about her characters of color.

Bray’s treatment of New York City’s Chinatown also demonstrates racism. Evie and Will go there for unknown reasons, and Evie, the terminally ignorant, sees what the denizens are doing — worshipping, placing protective charms, etc. — and asks Will what’s going on. Will answers her with textbook-worthy, objectifying explanations that make the practices in Chinatown seem like inscrutable, laughable superstitions. Apparently Bray spent all her empathy on her depiction of Harlem and had none left over to make Chinatown as robust and sympathetic.

To add to the dehumanization, a young Chinatown woman who can see the future appears at least three times in the book. Given the fact that Naughty John’s victims are named, biographically sketched and given interior monologues before being bumped off, I assumed that this prophetic woman would rate the same treatment. Nope. She doesn’t even get a name. In fact, she suffers the indignity of being referred to only as “the girl with the green eyes,” a fetishization of her mixed-race heritage. We never learn what’s going on in her head either, though I’m sure it’s much interesting than what’s going on in Evie’s.

2. Perpetuate the very anti-gay bias you’re trying so hard to avoid. Theta’s best friend Henry is also a struggling artist. He plays the piano, writes show tunes and serves as Theta’s Best Gay Friend [TM], providing moral support when she has relationship difficulties. Could he be any more stereotypical? In a truly unrealistic display of acceptance, Theta has no problems whatsoever with Henry’s being gay. Bray loses the chance to accurately portray the rich and secretive gay subculture of Jazz Age New York City by shoehorning a modern stereotype into the 1920s and leaving him at that.

In another example of homophobia, Bray introduces one of Naughty John’s victims as a gay Mason who lovingly thinks of giving his partner cufflinks for his birthday. Then he’s killed. What’s the point of taking pains to establish a character as gay if he’s just going to die two pages later? This comes across less as a bit of humanizing characterization and more as yet another tired example of The Queer Character Bites It.

Also there are no lesbians.

3. Perpetuate ableism. Jericho’s backstory is rank with it. Jericho got polio at an early age and had to be put in an iron lung. His parents abandoned him in the hospital [Tragic Cripple stereotype]. Then some secret government project recruited him with the promise that he could escape the iron lung and walk once more [Obsession with Ambulation stereotype]. Jericho joined other men, including veterans of the Great War, in becoming cyborgs, but he was the project’s only success. The other test subjects had mental and physical breakdowns. In fact, Jericho’s friend, a veteran with no legs and one arm [described as “less than half a man” — the Disabled Person as Less than Human stereotype], asked Jericho to help him commit suicide [Mercy Killing of the Tragic Cripple stereotype], which Jericho did. Jericho now hides his cyborg innards and his dependence on an unidentified blue serum from everyone except Will [Disability as Shameful Weakness stereotype]. The reader falls asleep from the sheer unoriginality of it all.

4. Make your protagonist a) exceptionally obnoxious and b) dull compared to everyone else.
As I mentioned, protagonist Evie spends much of the book getting drunk, having hangovers and using every single piece of Roaring Twenties slang that Bray could possibly scrape up. Evie’s also a self-centered, manipulative, whiny person who requires being the center of attention. Her momentary insights that she probably parties too much and that she regularly steamrolls her supposed best friend do not redeem her because they do not prompt any lasting change in her actions. I think Bray means for readers to be attracted to Evie’s insouciance, but she comes across as an insensitive brat who doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut.

Furthermore, Evie has the least interesting backstory and interior monologue of nearly all the main characters. Her parents send her to Will’s house because she scandalizes her small Ohio town when she reads an object and learns that the village’s golden boy had sex with a servant of his. I’m actually much more interested in her relationship with her brother, who died in the Great War, and why she keeps having vivid dreams of being on the front, watching charges ignite and people’s faces melt. These points are not really enlarged upon, except insofar as the dead brother gives Evie a Tragic Past [TM] that activates a key plot point during the climax.

Compared to most of the other cast members, Evie’s pretty flat. I care much more about Memphis, who runs numbers during the day and, by night, hangs out in cemeteries writing about his mom, who he failed to bring back from the dead. I’m also very curious about Theta, an orphan who escaped an abusive adoptive stage mom by tumbling into an abusive marriage with a handsome guy, who she may have inadvertently killed with her pyrokinesis, after which she escaped, had an abortion [?!] and moved in with Henry. Heck, I’m even more invested in the smarmy Sam, the name-changed kid of Russian immigrants, on a search for his missing psychic mom that led him to run away and join the circus. I just don’t care about Evie, and her complete lack of insightful interior monologue just adds to my apathy.

5. Never use a single detail when 85 will do. Bray, as she informs us in the acknowledgements, did copious research in preparation for this series. Unfortunately, it shows, and not in a good way. Her idea of evoking Jazz Age New York City involves hitting the best-known highlights of the period and hitting them repeatedly. A typical chapter in The Diviners includes flappers, bee’s knees, a hot tomato, the berries, the cat’s pajamas, Bolsheviks, Wobblies, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Klan, Langston Hughes, Lost Generation malaise, speakeasies, police raids, Zeigfield girls, Rudolph Valentino, etc., etc., and then all of these elements mentioned again at least five times elsewhere in the book. Bray does not write with parsimony or suggestiveness. She writes with anvilicious brute force, and it’s painful.

Bray’s worst offense appears in her use of 1920s slang. Evie cannot say a sentence without at least two period terms. I’m not talking about period terms that remain intelligible today, like “baby” for “sweetheart,” “heebie jeebies” for “goose bumps” or “nifty” for “great.” I’m talking “cheaters” for “glasses,” “chin music” for gossip and “giggle water” for “booze.” Bray seems to go out of her way to toss about terms that do not remain intelligible today, thus giving the impression that the 1920s were a strange place where people spoke a foreign language. The indiscriminate slang slinging does not impede my understanding, but it’s certainly distracting. It’s also a huge irritation. I positutely swear — if Evie says, “You betski” one more time, I’m going to beat it and get ossified, since that’s much niftier than this baloney. I’m under the distinct impression that Bray set The Diviners in the 1920s merely because she thought it was cool.

6. Use the wrong word. As I wrote above, the antagonist of the book is referred to as Naughty John. To me, “naughty” means “bratty” or “mischievous,” sometimes “risque.” It is entirely too mild a word to describe a creepy, merciless weirdo who kills people and eats their selected body parts in a bid to gain immortality and rule the world. Wicked John, Evil John, Creepy John, Cannibal John, even the rather generic Bad John — all of these would work. Naughty John just makes the guy sound less evil and more silly.

7. End abruptly, in the middle of a scene, without resolving anything. I know about the narrative requirements of trilogies, as well as the narrative requirements of cliffhangers. In trilogies, the first book almost always sets up the major players and storylines, resolving some important B plots by the end, while leaving the larger A plots for future development. In cliffhangers, the story builds up enough tension to draw the reader in, then frustrates their expectations by cutting off at or just before the climax, thus forcing the reader to wait for the next installment.

All of this is to say that the end of The Diviners is neither appropriate for a first book of a trilogy or a cliffhanger. It resolves no significant B plots, thus depriving readers of any intermediary satisfaction and sense of reward that would propel us to continue with the series. It also does not cut off at a moment charged with suspense. It ends when Evie kisses Jericho in an attempt to forget for a moment the impending doom of unresolved plotlines. I have to assume that this passes for a conclusion since Bray, exhausted from larding her doorstop with 1920s slang, had no energy left for an actual ending.

Catholic Church leadership and Boy Scouts of America leadership both adept at hiding rapists

Catholic Church leadership and Boy Scouts of America leadership both adept at hiding rapists published on 2 Comments on Catholic Church leadership and Boy Scouts of America leadership both adept at hiding rapists

The Catholic Church leadership and the Boy Scouts of America leadership are similar in another way besides their virulent anti-gay sentiment and policies: they both abet child abuse. Just like the Catholic hierarchy, the BSA hierarchy apparently has a history of ignoring allegations, letting accused child abusers move to other troops or locations and otherwise keeping abusers around.

It's extremely hypocritical that both the organizations denounce the immorality of queer people and yet fail to recognize the immorality being perpetrated largely by straight dudes inside their organizations.

Estate planning, part 3

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Well, it looks like I can't use Unsworth Law after all. Though I had a very good experience with the legal assistant, the primary lawyer says in his bio that he is on the advisory board of the Salvation Army, a disgustingly militant and profoundly anti-queer organization.

Guess they don't really care about us after all.

The leadership of the Boy Scouts of America reminds me of the leadership of the Catholic Church.

The leadership of the Boy Scouts of America reminds me of the leadership of the Catholic Church. published on No Comments on The leadership of the Boy Scouts of America reminds me of the leadership of the Catholic Church.

Both organizations piss and moan obsessively about the evils of queer sexuality and trans identities while refusing to recognize the reality: namely, that queer and/or trans people exist within their ranks and that “ACK COOTIES GET IT AWAY!!!” is not a compassionate, acceptable, morally defensible¬†to address these people.

I’m going to talk about the Boy Scouts because I have more experience with them than with Catholics. Sometimes I think that what happens in BSA hierarchy and what happens in local BSA troops are completely different. For example, all my family members involved in BSA describe an enjoyable experience of making friends, playing with their peers, going on adventures and learning fascinating things. I will not claim that everyone’s BSA experience is like this, but I will note that, in my admittedly unscientific sample, nobody mentions “pissing and moaning obsessively about the evils of queer sexuality and trans identities” as a primary pursuit.

What is wrong with the BSA leadership? Why are they so pathologically focused on what a very small number of people do with their bodies? Don’t they have better things to do, like run the damn organization?

Estate planning, part 2

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After my horrible experience with Clarke Demas and Baker’s disgustingly heteronormative policies, I searched for an explicitly¬†GLBT-friendly estate planner in Vermont, vowing to ask if this one had up-to-date forms. One of the few firms whose site clearly mentioned experience with same-sex couples was Unsworth Law.

Preliminarily, I can say that my experience with Unsworth has been much better than my experience with Clarke Demas and Baker. For one thing, the firm is clearly in touch with reality. For another, the legal assistant sympathized with my outrage at Clarke Demas and Baker. She could actually say the words “same-sex marriage,” which shouldn’t be that much to ask, but which made me feel very pleased. I’m going to a general seminar by Unsworth about estate planning next week. Further bulletins as events warrant.

Heteronormativity at the estate planner’s

Heteronormativity at the estate planner’s published on 2 Comments on Heteronormativity at the estate planner’s

My financial advisor has been bugging me to make a will, power of attorney, health care agent, all that sort of thing, so I finally got around to scheduling an initial consultation. At my sister's recommendation, I chose Clarke Demas and Baker, a Vermont-based law firm, and scheduled an appointment.

I received a PDF intake form for a single person, but wanted a Word document so I could make notes on it. When I received the Word intake form, I noticed that it was for married people, but I decided to use it anyway.

Then I looked closely at the married intake form. It was divided into 2 columns, one labeled "Husband" and the other labeled "Wife."

Outrage overcame me. [It does that a lot these days.] We've had marriage equality here in the state since 2009, but Clarke Demas and Baker apparently refuses to accept reality by simply changing their forms to read "Spouse 1" and "Spouse 2." They may have experience doing estate planning for same-sex couples, but their forms betray what they really think of us: we don't exist.

I refuse to patronize a law firm that thinks I don't exist. My business is going elsewhere, and I'm telling them why.

EDIT: I just explained to the legal assistant my cancellation and my reasons. I said that they should update their forms. She said, "I apologize; we do have a form for that."

Now I'm really glad I'm not using their services. My God, if the legal assistant can't even say the phrase "same-sex marriage" and if, for some reason, there's a separate form [separate but no doubt "equal!"] for same-sex spouses, the firm clearly devalues me and my ilk.

Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

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Dan Savage, a gay male advice columnist who writes for the Seattle Stranger, has some cachet among liberals/Democrats/progressives as being queer-friendly, pro-kink and open-minded, but he still has lots of privilege as a thin, white, rich, cis, married, U.S. man. I’ve collected several criticisms of his advice which should make you think long and hard before calling this columnist helpful, progressive and open-minded. In no particular order…here they are…
Continue reading Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

I hate Lifetime Xmas movies part deux!!!

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Yesterday, I watched another Lifetime Xmas movie, The Road to Xmas, in which a woman is happily engaged to an Italian man. He’s preparing a surprise wedding for her in Aspen and, when one of her photography shoots is canceled, she decides to fly out early to surprise him. When her flight is canceled, she hitches a ride with a widower and his teenaged daughter. The woman [naturally :p ] falls in love with the widower, conveniently discovers her fiance’s infidelity and dumps the fiance for the widower.

For a Lifetime Xmas movie, The Road to Xmas was surprisingly tolerable. This is probably because the movie itself was a road-trip romance that happened to occur arround Xmas, rather than a film in which Xmas plays a starring role as the holiday of cliched and enforced happiness for all.

Because I could watch Road to Xmas without gagging on holiday cheer, its problematic elements stood out all the more strongly: 1) homophobia and 2) domestic violence.

You see…the photographer’s fiance wasn’t just having an affair with some random woman…he was sexing it up with the male wedding planner. After unbelievable excuses, the fiance protests that he really wanted the wedding between him and the photographer to work out, which makes him seem like not only a cheater, but a cheater deluded enough to think that a straight marriage would somehow keep both parties happy when one party is secretly gay. After an entirely heteronormative movie, two gay characters appear only to provide a devastating [yet convenient] end to the photographer and fiance’s relationship, thus reinforcing the idea that gay people are selfish homewreckers.

I also objected to the domestic violence at the end of the film. When she discovered that her fiance was gay, the photographer swung her fists at him, slapping him and pounding him in the chest. He said something like, “Please don’t hit me!” or “Why are you hitting me?” Her response was something like, “It’s the only thing I can think to do, and it feels good.” The photographer’s blows against her fiance were shown to be ineffectual and comic, but just make the assailant a man and the victim a woman to see how chilling this exchange truly is. Can you imagine a male character justifying violence against a female character by saying, “It feels good”? Most people would recognize such a situation as the abusive behavior it is. When the assailant is female, however, and the victim male, the situation is minimized, diminished and played for comic relief so that the violence seems more palatable, even acceptable and dismissable! Vomitorious.

Hooray, more misogynist, homophobic commentary on vampires!

Hooray, more misogynist, homophobic commentary on vampires! published on No Comments on Hooray, more misogynist, homophobic commentary on vampires!

Brian McGreevy on Vulture [for New York magazine] vomits forth a puerile lump of garbage with his opinion on popular portrayals of vampires in True Blood and the Twilight saga:

"Much has been made of the damage inflicted by the ‘male gaze’ in film, but what of the female gaze? It’s taken the Romantic vampire and cut off his balls, leaving a pallid emo pansy with the gaseous pretentiousness of a perfume commercial. We are now left with the Castrati vampire: This is pornography for tweens, as well as a worrying reflection of our time."
 

Reading this screed, one can’t help but think that McGreevy is just pissed that a vampire series written by a woman has become so popular. He seems to think that the Twilight saga is wretched just because it represents a young female character’s point of view. I mean, God forbid that someone address a pillowy fantasy novel to the vast hordes of ravenous teenaged girls and young women who form the Twilight saga’s primary audience! No no, books should be written by manly men only about manly male subjects, such as Romantic vampires with really big schlongs.

I never thought I’d be defending the virtues of the Twilight saga, a series that I find insidiously sexist and intensely problematic, but there it is. No, Mr. McGreevy, the sex of an author is not a legitimate subject for one of your irrelevant tangents about how biliously poxed with prejudice your brain happens to be. How the sex of an author informs his or her writing is indeed pertinent, but criticizing an author for being a certain sex just proves the source of the criticism [that’s you, sir] to be a bloviating bigot.

“Vampires have overwhelmed pop culture because young straight women want to have sex with gay men.”

“Vampires have overwhelmed pop culture because young straight women want to have sex with gay men.” published on 6 Comments on “Vampires have overwhelmed pop culture because young straight women want to have sex with gay men.”

I didn’t say it. Stephen Marche says it in Esquire. He thinks that the recent spate of popular vampires represents not, oh, say, dangerous sensuality or suave seductiveness or something, but the desire of straight women to get into bed with gay men. He provides no actual evidence for his claim, other than noting that True Blood’s anti-vamp crowd ["God hates fangs!"] sounds a lot like the anti-gay crowd. In fact, not till the end of his blithering ramble does Marche reveal what may be his thesis:

And so vampires have appeared to help America process its newfound acceptance of what so many once thought strange or abnormal. Adam and Steve who live on your corner with their adorable little son and run a bakery? The transgendered man who gave birth to a healthy baby? The teenage girl who wishes that all boys could be vampires? All part of the luscious and terrifying magic of today’s sexual revolution.

Don’t let a misogynist homophobe give Obama’s inaugural invocation!!

Don’t let a misogynist homophobe give Obama’s inaugural invocation!! published on 1 Comment on Don’t let a misogynist homophobe give Obama’s inaugural invocation!!

Use this information collected here at Shakesville to let the organizers of the inaugural ball know that you too disapprove of misogynist homophobe Rev. Rick Warren’s selection to do the invocation at Obama’s inauguration. Pass along to your friends!

Here’s what I sent to Emmett Beliveau, emmett@pic2009.org, the CEO of the inaugural committee:

Dear Mr. Beliveau:

I am writing to express my strong displeasure with the choice of Rev. Rick Warren as the one to perform the invocation at President-Elect Obama’s inauguration.

As a woman, I find Warren’s anti-choice views misogynist. Warren’s inclusion in a prominent position at the inauguration represents hypocrisy on the part of the Obama-Biden team, who ran on a platform advocating women’s reproductive freedom.

As a queer person, I also find Warren’s homophobic behavior despicable as well. His anti-marriage “slippery slope” argument equates gay marriage with incest and rape. How can Obama, who has said on record that he supports gay civil unions, condone Warren’s bigotry by letting him give the inaugural invocation?

Warren’s narrow-minded intolerance should have no place at an event supposedly heralding positive change. Choose another speaker for the invocation, one who truly represents the liberalism, hope and open-mindedness to which the Obama/Biden team has so frequently appealed.

“You have to be GAY for that poor dead boy and bring him into the light.”

“You have to be GAY for that poor dead boy and bring him into the light.” published on 2 Comments on “You have to be GAY for that poor dead boy and bring him into the light.”

I am so pissed at the latest ep of my favorite currently running show, Supernatural. It takes a set-up with meta-humorous possibilities and flushes it down the toilet with a send-off of homophobic cliches. The conceit is that a team of amateur doofuses, the Ghostfacers, wish to film a reality show of their investigation of a haunted house. Their investigation becomes serious when an actual murderous ghost shows up. Fortunately, Sam and Dean arrive to save the doofuses and dispatch the ghost. You can find details at Television Without Pity’s blow-by-blow summary. I’d like to concentrate on the goddamned stupid fucking homophobia.

One member of the Doofus Brigade, Corbett, has a crush on another member, whose name I forget, so I will call him Blond Guy. I have no problem with Corbett’s stereotypical infatuated actions [smirking, complimenting, lingering glances] in the early part of the ep, nor with the rest of the Brigade’s discomfort with Corbett’s interest in Blond Guy. But that’s about the only part of the ep I don’t have a problem with.

Troubles begin when the murderous ghost takes Corbett hostage. Ghost also takes Sam hostage, but only kills Corbett. Corbett then appears in an endless replay of his death, which can only be resolved by the Blond Doofus snapping Corbett out of it and making him realize he’s dead. The Other Doofus Guy urges Blond Guy to be “gay for that poor dead boy and send him into the light” [or something like that]. Other Doofus insists that Blond Guy is the only one “brave enough” to do so. Blond Guy then bullshits to Corbett about how much Corbett meant to him. Corbett realizes that he is dead. Touched by the Blond Doofus’ admission of feelings for him, Corbett saves his friends by attacking the murderous ghost. Both the murderous ghost and Corbett dissolve and go to hell. One of the doofuses closes the reality show ep by remarking that he’s learning that “gay love can pierce through the wall of death and save the day.”

In the wake of this ep, this is what I have learned:

1. Gay guys are simpering, pathetically enamored, wibbly, weak individuals. They have little composure, little gumption, little bravery, little self-restraint and little strength.

2. They are also expendable.

3. In fact, in the overall calculus of horror movies, if you line up a bunch of innocent nubile female heterosexual virgins next to a gay guy, the gay guy is going to get it because he is more vulnerable. This ep proved that indirectly by putting both a gay guy and a nubile young woman on the Doofus Brigade and then making sure that the only one who bit it was the gay guy.

4. Homosexuality is more horrifying than murderous spirits. Notice how the only circumstances in which bravery is explicitly invoked are the ones where Blond Guy is encouraged to “be gay for” Corbett’s dead and tortured soul. So apparently you don’t have to be brave to enter a haunted house or to search for your kidnapped friend or to confront a murderous ghost; such challenges are nothing compared to the excruciating torture of a straight guy admitting to another guy that he cares for him.

5. Homosexuality is such a threat that it must be completely killed, then silenced, effectively erased. Corbett dies once by the hand of the murderous ghost, but it’s not enough that he’s the only Doofus Brigadeer who croaks. No, he has to go further and become the Saintly, Self-Sacrificing, Repressed, Unfulfilled Character when he saves his friends by attacking the murderous ghost. So, not only does Corbett die, but he also completely destroys his soul in defending his friends. I don’t care what his motives were because the fact remains that he meets the same end as the murderous ghost. In the show’s calculus, the murderous ghost was a murderous pervert, so he deserved to die. By the same logic, because he met the exact same end, Corbett must have deserved to die as well. But what did he do to merit death? Answer: He was gay. 

So not only was Corbett killed and his soul destroyed, but then, at the very end of the ep, Dean and Sam erase the ep covering the Doofus Brigade’s adventures so that no one will know the circumstances of Corbett’s death. Dean and Sam remark that, with this destruction of evidence, “no one will ever know the truth” about the Ghostfacers. Well, no one will ever know the truth about Corbett either. He died once by the ghost’s hands, a second time by sacrificing himself and then a third time in the erasure of the video footage that told his story. By implication, homosexuality is as pernicious as the evil spirits that Dean and Sam eradicate, and those who practice it must be killed, then killed some more and killed again. Truly, this is the most disturbing aspect of the ep, reminding me of those medieval punishments of hanging, drawing and quartering. Of course, being hung, then drawn, then quartered, is overkill because the dead person is already dead after the hanging, but you still need the drawing and the quartering to really punish the remains for the extra heinous crime. Corbett’s self-sacrifice and the erasure of the tapes function as his drawing and quartering, excessive, spectacular violence heaped upon his already dead self just to reinforce how bad his crime of homosexuality was.

Ghostfacers ends up illustrating how silence can kill. It’s pretty obvious to me that the Doofus Brigade killed Corbett with their own stupid homophobia. They allude to this fact at the end of the ep when they say that they have learned something about themselves, but they remain oblivious to the sinister extent of their viciousness. They didn’t just fear Corbett; they drove him away and, in some sense, killed him THREE TIMES with the force of their revulsion. I find that deeply disturbing, truly horrific and very unsettling that the ep doesn’t even realize its true source of horror. Instead, we’re meant to approve of Corbett’s self-sacrifice and Dean and Sam’s erasure of the Doofus Brigade’s tapes. We’re supposed to laugh and ignore the venomous hate seething at the core of this ep.

Well cry me a river of machine lubricant tears!

Well cry me a river of machine lubricant tears! published on 2 Comments on Well cry me a river of machine lubricant tears!

I got this for Copyranter, a copiously illustrated stream of snark about modern advertising. Fun fun.

Last year Svedka Vodka [?] advertised on phone booths in New York City with some transgender robots. Svedka_Grl, a cute robot, claims, “I’m a gay man trapped in the body of a fembot.” I don’t buy it. He should just be able to buy some mechanical attachments. If humans can modify bodies that they feel trapped in, why can’t robots who are made to be modified?

I will accept the trope of using the objectified female form to sell something unrelated, like alcohol, but why mention gay men? To do so puts the viewer’s mind into a series of mental contortions to figure out what exactly that means. [It means that the bot will come on strong to straight guys because it’s a “trapped gay guy.”] It may be memorable, but it’s not clever or humorous or useful. [Here’s an example of a funnier use of transgender imagery — offensive, yes, but also funny. Incidentally, why is it the vodka ads that show such penis-o-phobia?] Svedka apparently wanted to put “gay” in there to be edgy and hip, but they come across as copywriters flinging words wildly against a wall to see what will stick.

Boys Beware (1961)

Boys Beware (1961) published on No Comments on Boys Beware (1961)

So I just watched Boys Beware (1961), a mental hygiene film warning teenaged boys against “homosexuals.” My brain broke because

there was so much stupidity in the film that I didn’t know where to start in addressing it. I could do an exhaustive analysis of the film, but I’ll just say three things.

1. The boys in the film were so stupid, even by the standards of the day. Hitchhiking I can understand, as it was more societally acceptable, but what about hopping into a car just because some guy says he’s chasing kids on stolen bikes? Or just watching your friend hop into said car with a stranger and doing nothing, not even trying to dissuade him from vrooming off with a stranger, but only casually writing down the car’s license number? All of that is appalling ignorance that demonstrates a complete disregard for self-preservation.

2. While the film technically has a correct definition for “homosexual,” the film is only about homosexual desire in the most general sense, in the same way that a story about a father sexually abusing a daughter is about heterosexual desire. Since the film focuses on sexual predators who pursue children, any uses of “homosexual” should be replaced with “child molester.” There is no equivalence between the two terms, just a confusion on the film’s part.

3. Of all the misguided, harmful and downright wrong things in this film, a comment near the end struck me the most. The narrator says something like, “Never get into a stranger’s car unless you have your parents’ or teacher’s permission.” This sentence is the culmination of an entire film that portrays the perps of sexual abuse as predatory strangers, foreign intruders who stand in stark contrast to trustworthy parents and teachers. The film’s inaccurate conception of molesters as strangers disguises the true statistical fact that a child or teenager is much more likely to be taken advantage of by a parent, a teacher, a clergy member, a babysitter, a relative — someone familiar with the victim who abuses the victim’s trust.

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