Tuesday, 14 May 2013
I turned on SLICE the other day. I don’t ordinarily watch SLICE because the programming is aimed at older straight women. True, as I get older I do begin to resemble an older straight woman -- although people do insist on calling me ‘Sir!’, which I find incredibly unnerving -- unless, of course, I’m in the backroom at The Eagle. At any rate, I don’t recommend you turn on SLICE any day soon, unless you want to be frightened out of your wits.
They have a new program called Golden Gays.
You heard it here first!
Be afraid: be very afraid.
My own personal fear of Golden Gays has absolutely nothing to do with my terror of aging! Well maybe just a little bit. As I approach sixty-one, let me tell you, the whole kit and caboodle seems perilously close to ending at any moment. So yes, I will admit that the prospect of watching gay men of a ‘certain age’ cavorting about on TV, reminds me far too much of my own mortality.
But my profound fear of the show is for a reason other than that.
I am not the only one who fears Golden Gays. Lots of my younger friends are also terrified of it. But they still find themselves drawn to it -- like a car accident on the 401.
What is it about Golden Gays that both haunts and entices us?
Let’s have a closer look.
Being old and gay, is apparently quite a jolly thing; especially in Palm Springs. The lives of the ‘golden gays’ revolve around– money, real estate, getting new photos taken, and ‘true love.’ And certainly the central characters are loveable and recognizable enough – two older self-identified bears who insist on hugging each other at the drop of a hat, and are conflicted about whether or not to sell their gay guest house or ‘hold onto that dream.’ Then there is the young woman trying to borrow money from her best friend who doesn’t want to lend it to her, but does anyway. And the 70 year old who is trying on new hats because he has found someone 42 years younger than himself with whom he is ‘in love.’ And last but not least, the old queen who puts on funny hats and ‘performs’ in a bar for his friends.
Let me tell you, it isn’t so much that I object to this cavalcade of witless, charm-free lightweights, as that I am frightened by how willing television seems to be to celebrate the sheer innocuousness of their sexless, inconsequential lives. (Sure there are lots of heterosexual boobs on reality network TV shows – pun intended – but they are balanced out by all the serious-minded, grown-up-but-not-aged sexual straight folks that populate HBO dramas.)
What frightens me is that a few years ago there was a show on TV called Queer as Folk, which (whether you enjoyed the show or not) featured -- not the nostalgic tales of endearing retirees -- but contemporary stories of young queers having lots of sex and living the prime of their lives.
So what happened?
The message queers are receiving these days from mainstream culture is this: ‘We are ready to accept gays and lesbian with open arms only if they are not having sex and not doing anything besides planning their retirement.
Think I’m exaggerating?
Witness the two much lauded ‘outings’ of the last six months.
Jodie Foster finally decided to come out as a ‘single person’ at the ripe old age of 50 -- after 47 years in the film business.
Jason Collins boldly came out at the ripe old age of 35 – which is when most basketball stars retire.
I wonder why they both waited so long?
Maybe because they were finally old enough and past-their-prime enough that people could handle it. (And besides, their former careers were basically over, anyway.)
Which makes me think that even though everybody seems to think that we’ve come a long way baby – is that really true?
Or that just the way it seems?
Saturday, 4 May 2013
Ordinarily I wouldn’t review a Toronto play. But one of the many great things about The Book of Mormon is that it features no Toronto talent whatsoever (as in days of olde, we provincials are being treated to a touring production, with a foreign cast). So praise be to God (to coin a phrase). I can actually review this play because no one I know is in any way connected with it.
The Book of Mormon is a fascinating cultural phenomenom. Why is this potty-mouthed musical about Mormons such a mammoth hit with old, Blue-haired Ladies? What in the name of hell (to coin a phrase) is going on?
First, The Book of Mormon puts the word ‘comedy’ back in musical comedy. You see, a musical comedy is not just a play laced with pretty songs (sorry, Andrew Lloyd Webber). The songs have to be funny (or at least witty). Rodgers and Hammerstein often ride the fine line between sentiment and comedy. But at the heart of the American musical lie songs like “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No!” and “Doin’ What Comes Naturally’ (a song which by the way is as dirty – at least by implication -- as anything in The Book of Mormon). Parker and Stone have written a smart, entertaining and truly witty musical comedy, so we can all breathe a brief (and perhaps illusory) sigh of relief.
But what is the goddamn play about? One might be forgiven for being uncertain. The publicists for the touring show are certainly doing their best to confuse us. They seem to view Torontonians as a passel of hay-chewing rustics in a know-nothing hick town. A tiny piece in the Globe’s Friday May 3rd issue – planted by the play’s publicists, no doubt -- suggests that The Book of Mormon is a pro-Mormon, religious musical. The brief article informs us that the young stars Mark Evans and John O’Neill visited Rochester, New York – apparently an historic Mormon place -- and that the visit “gave them new respect for what they’re preaching onstage.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a canny display of misrepresentation in the history of theatrical publicity.
The Book of Mormon does not preach Mormonism though, understandably, the publicists would like to fool all The Blue Hairs into thinking it’s so. No, the show is a very funny, didactic satire of all organized religion, bigotry and of the institutionalized ignorance that is so often attached to fundamentalism. At the climax of the play the two heroes go so far as to question whether religions need rules, beliefs, or even faith in God! And during the course of the play Christian white fundamentalists learn about life and the human spirit from the non-white people they are seeking to teach.
So why in the name of heaven (to coin a phrase) are The Blue Hairs buying it? Why don’t they get the real message?
Let me tell you, three things really help a lot to sell this wildly inventive experiment in theatrical hucksterism to small town hicks everywhere:
1. The people who swear, use foul sexual language and have AIDS in the play are black, not white – them, not us. (Usually the characters in American plays who swear, use foul language and have AIDS are gay. But I guess we’re finally getting tired of that tired old trope).
2. Most Christians have no idea of what what their religion actually says. And frankly, most of them don’t care. Once I got dressed up in drag and interviewed a bunch of young Catholic women (don’t ask, it’s a long story). I asked them -- how can you reconcile being a young modern woman with the Catholic church’s stand on abortion? All of them basically agreed on one rule of thumb: “There’s my religion, and then there’s my life. Never the twain shall meet.”
3. Finally, the theme of The Book of Mormon is that the specific beliefs of any religion are less important than the fact that people believe in something – anything -- whether we’re black, white, Christian, or ‘pagan.’ The Book of Mormon is a success partially because it has the same theme as many other hugely successful American musicals – The Music Man, and 110 in the Shade (to name two). These musicals posit that the shyster/huckster figure (exemplified by Mormonism in The Book of Mormon) is an okay guy, because we all need a little magic, and we all need ‘a dream.’ It’s not the content of the dream, but the fact that you dream at all, that’s important.
Okay now that I’ve explained the whole Goddamn Jesus thing for you (to coin a phrase), I hope you’re happy.
Saturday, 27 April 2013
I must take this opportunity to apologize to Bert Archer. Many years ago he wrote a book called The End of Gay that very much angered me. Now, so many years later, I am ready to eat my words.
Gay is definitely over.
I have only one quibble with Archer’s theory. He used his own burgeoning bisexuality as a symbol for the irrelevance of labels. And like the early gay liberationists, Archer believed that it was possible to transcend prejudice. And he believed essentially that such a world would soon arrive.
I completely agree that gay is dead. But it has not died a natural death because of the decline of homophobia. On the contrary, gay has been murdered. And both gays and straights are left holding the gun.
Does this mean that men will not continue to have sex with men (and women with women)?
No, of course not.
But unfortunately ‘MSM’ is all that’s left of our identity. AIDS statistics are no longer collected using the category ‘gay.’ The CDC has decided that the term gay inclusive enough. So gay men don’t get AIDS anymore -- because gay men don’t exist. All that’s left are the ‘MSMS’ -- men who have sex with men.
And having sex with men, is unfortunately, ALL that’s left for us. Gay was once a swishy walk, a witty remark -- it was camp, it was leather chaps, it was an ‘open’ relationship, it was a late night assignation -- perfume, performance, plush velvet curtains, fierceness, anger, and, well, dicks in a darkroom.
We’ve said goodbye to all that.
Gay culture has gone the way of the dinosaurs. The only gay plays we like these days are ancient clinkers like Rent, The Normal Heart and March of the Falsettos, melodramas that chronicle the lives of gay men when AIDS was not manageable, and gay men were dying like flies. There are almost no gay novels. I dare you to name me a new gay poet who has recently made a mark.
We live in an age where gay men continue to be promiscuous, but mainly online. Gay liberation was about ‘coming out’ being openly gay IN PUBLIC, being loudly seen and deafeningly heard. The web serves men who are still ashamed of their sexuality, because they can make contact in secret.
The trans movement doesn’t seem very interested in gay liberation anymore, viewing gays and lesbians as oppressive for their attachment to gender labels. (I would respectfully argue that if we get rid of the categories male and female, we say goodbye to sex!)
And finally there’s gay and lesbian marriage -- all those sad photos of queers who have somehow figured out what outfits to wear at their weddings, filling up Facebook.
Why do gay weddings sadden me? Because the ‘murder of gay’ does not mean that gay men have sorted out their identities, or have gained new self-esteem, or feel unashamed of cocksucking, or are proud of being effeminate. If anything, gay marriage will serve as an enormous pressure for young gays and lesbians unable to find a life partner.
But we will go on. Just as women, and people of colour struggle go on, despite the lie that racism and sexism are over. Indeed, for some of us, in many ways, things are worse off than before. We have black president in the U.S.A., and yet we have more young black males in U.S. prisons (mostly on drug charges) than at any other time in history. More women are attending university, but an infinitesimal number have high-ranking corporate jobs. Women, like gay men, are reeling under the pressure to ‘have it all’ -- excel at both marriage and at a career. And, with all the pressure to be perfect, healthy, buff, married, middle class, and masculine, and with all the pressure to be perfectly comfortable in a culture that refuses to reflect the details of our lives -- is it any wonder that so many young gays are turning to drugs and unsafe sex?
Who murdered gay?
Our puritanical culture just couldn’t bear the idea that men might act like women, and women might act like men, or the idea that everyone doesn’t ‘mate for life,’ or the idea that queers (god forbid!) have their own language, icons, and ribald humour.
I will continue to be a gay writer. And as I witness my gradual erasure, I shed a tear, less for myself (hey, I’m okay) -- than for the vision of the fierce, effeminate, sexual young man I once was
A young man who grew up in a community that affirmed his worth.
The Place Beyond the Pines
It was good and I’m not just talking about Ryan Gosling’s abs and eyes. Though it’s a bit patriarchal (father son shit, not my cup of tea!).
Um……I liked it. Not bad for a Canadian movie. But teachers should never sleep with their students even if they are teaching at a fucking progressive school.
The Company You Keep
Too bad this is such a crappy movie about The Weatherman who by the way were not terrorists but principled left wing radicals who only killed people by accident.
OMG I’ve never seen such a stupid pretentious piece of boring shit in my life! And Rotten Tomatoes is – like this is so avant-garde and profound! Give me a break emaciated yuppies in skinny jeans fondling flowers and being infested with larvae what does it all mean? IT MEANS NOTHING and I DON’T CARE! Why is it that people go to this horrible shit? Is it because they think it means they’re smart? Aren’t there a whole bunch of TV shows like this with impossible storylines that no one can follow and that actually lead nowhere like THE KILLING, and LOST? Jesus Christ I hated this piece of crap movie. Okay spoiler SHE KILLS THE PIG GUY at the end. But this garbage movie is not over (there are thousands and thousands of blank screen moments when you think and hope and dream it’s over) until the lead girl with the pouty lips and the vacant expression finally gets a new hairdo
Monday, 8 April 2013
The media is all a-twitter about zombies. Golly gee whiz – why do we love them so much? The Evil Dead movie doesn’t even have to be watchable, it will get 65% on Rotten Tomatoes and still be sold out. The Walking Dead is the hottest new series on TV and people are addicted. What’s going on? What can account for this mildly shocking, yet thoroughly entertaining and discussable, cultural trend?
Well let the critical voices be silent; I am in possession of the answer.
We love zombies because we are zombies.
Zombies, as I understand it (and my knowledge is probably faulty) are beings that can walk around and, it seems -- according to some movies -- (Warm Bodies for instance) even fall in love, and have sex. But there is one tiny problem. Their brains are dead.
Yeah. Just like us.
I say this because ya know, there was a time when people read books and went to see movies (outside the house!) and attended something called ‘the theatre.’ And people were (I know it’s scary to think about, but not in a zombie way) sometimes challenged by what they read or saw.
Once, there were things called ‘bookstores.’ Does anyone remember them? Books were things that people would read (often in the bathtub) and discussed with their friends. It was archaic, I know, people would actually say to themselves ‘Hey I’ve only got about 20 pages of Ulysses left!’ as they plowed on to the end. Also, people used to go to ‘plays.’ Yes, plays -- not megamusicals. The weird thing about ‘plays’ was that no one sang songs in them (you know, songs, where the whole cast of poor, struggling, attractive youths – usually in either Paris or New York, and usually dying of AIDS or Tuberculosis -- stand together and belt out something that makes you cry about people worse off than you?). No…a ‘play’ had no songs. There was something called a ‘plot,’ and there were ‘ideas,’ and ‘wit’ and…I know. I know….I’m confusing you. And when it came to movies well – the movies (believe it or not) also had ‘plots’ and ‘ideas.’
(I’m sorry, I don’t mean to stress you out with all this….)
Nowadays it’s different. If you go to Broadway you have a number of choices. Let’s see, should I see a revival of The Lion King, or Mamma Mia? Or maybe The Phantom of the Opera? Oh dear me, which revival will it be?
And movies are made the way capitalism and the internet have taught us to make everything: find out what the consumer is buying and sell it. There are six categories of movies these days --
1. Horror (the zombies are attacking -- Ahhk! Eesh!)
2. Science Fiction (the aliens are attacking -- Eeesh Ork!)
3. Thriller (Will he kill her?)
4. Romance (Will her marry her?) N.B. These are usually ‘women’s movies, ‘ but
don’t worry, women have the vote now and some of them are pretty pushy:they usually can
get their man to come!)
get their man to come!)
5. Action (Car races with another car; car crashes and burns up!)
6. ‘Tween (Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, The Host)
Nowadays movies are released at two times of the year: Oscar Time, which begins in December and stretches until March, and Summer Time, which begins in April and stretches until October. (Occasionally in November they accidentally release movies with characters, plots and ideas, but don’t worry cuz nobody watches them!) And nowadays you don’t even have to look at a trailer that’s not almost identical to the movie you are seeing. If you’re at a thriller you will see nothing but thriller trailers. And no romantic trailers will ever bother you -- unless you’re trying to get a little free nookie with your girlf at a romance movie.
Do you think I’m being sarcastic here?
WE DON’T WANT TO BE CHALLENGED ANYMORE! WE DON’T WANT TO CONFRONTED BY ANYTHING DIFFERENT! WE JUST WANT TO BE REASSURED THAT WE ARE LIVING OUR LIVES RIGHT SO THAT WE WILL FEEL GOOD ABOUT BUYING MORE THINGS!
Stupid, pessimistic old movies and books like Farenheit 451 and Brave New World predicted book burnings and federally injected drugs and a Fascist government that forces people to stop thinking.
But that’s not how it happened. We live in a free country. But the ‘free’ internet won’t publish certain books (Thomas Waugh’s Lust Unearthed was recently censored by Apple) and most of us are on some form of prozac or other, and we just want more Iproducts -- more, more, more! And we would rather not think about something called ‘art’ because it might make us uncomfortable!
Me, me, me! I want! I want stuff that will make me feel good -- not think!
Welcome to our Zombie World!