Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Mini-Reviews Again!

1. Really Fabulously Awful Please Run Don’t Walk……
The Vow. OMG! (ROFL) I’m telling you this box office smash is the most enjoyable piece of garbage made to please 13 year old girls that Hollywood has come up with since they broke the bed on their wedding night in the last Twilight movie! I was entranced! In the much celebrated ‘vow’ of the title, Channing Tatum says “I will promise to love you faithfully,” but because of his lack of good old-fashioned theatre school articulation training it comes out “I will promise to love you facially” which of course makes a lot of sense (if you watch porn). OMG! Channing Tatum farts in a car and Rachel McAdams closes the window so she can smell it! I’M NOT KIDDING! (That’s intimacy for you!) Okay one small quibble (it’s more of a kibble, actually…). There is no way that any self-respecting woman (or homosexual) would ever let Channing Tatum sleep naked on the couch instead of in bed where he belongs -- amnesia or not!
So there!

2.     Good  For 13 Year Old Boys And Me
Chronicle. Wow I really enjoyed this movie. What does that say about me? I liked watching all those boys flying and then I liked watching them come to the difficult  realization that they have to be more careful with their superpowers. It was kind of all about growing up. Kind of about my own life actually.

`     3. Wish It Was Better
We Need To Talk About Kevin. Too arty. And why doesn’t the kid look like his Dad at all? But I guess that happens. Unfortunately I kinda started laughing even when I wasn’t supposed to. The problem for me was the little boy who turns out to be (oops, spoiler alert!) a serial killer is a lot like most of my best friends. But to its credit, this movie brings up the elephant in the room for me (and I think everyone).  How come family members are always supposed to like each other? I mean, what if they don’t? And who said they had to?
Was it God?

      4. Ummm…I dunno
W.E.  I really don’t want to trash Madonna because I love her and I honestly think if someone else had directed this movie it would have gotten way better reviews. That said.….um…I think she wanted to make a movie about spousal abuse but somehow ended up making a film about The Duchess of Windsor by mistake. What she needed was someone to say “Which movie do you want to make, Madonna? Decide or else it will be a fucking mess.” But she divorced him, so….
Oh well.

Penis N. B.

I must comment on Joanna Schneller’s recent article about penises in The Globe and Mail. She complains that penis jokes have become predominant in television shows and movies and are therefore lowering the general cultural tone. On one level, I’m quite glad that Schneller is talking about penises. I believe they are the elephant in the room that comprises western culture.
But hey, it’s not their fault.
We live in a phallocentric culture. It should come as no surprise to anyone that people are making penis jokes from time to time in a culture where the penis rules (after all penises can be bullies, and bullies are terribly tempting to make fun of!).
The penis remains largely invisible in our society. And yet our cultural values are predominantly male. People who make a success of their lives must be strong and brave -- and well, hard. And those values are associated with the active partner in sex. We pay lip service to feminine values on Mother’s Day  – to vulnerability, grace, gentleness, sweetness, love, and acquiescence. But those who exemplify the feminine virtues do not receive our highest admiration. Ultimate praise is reserved for the active, (phallic) dominant, achievers. Men hold the power. They run everything, and the only fundamental difference I can find between men and women, is that men have penises and women don’t. Courbet painted a beautiful portrait of a woman’s vagina called The Origin of the World. But in fact we all know that the world did not begin between a woman’s legs. Women were only given the power to procreate after a snake screwed everything up.God created the world, and he was a man.
So if we live in a culture where men (and male values) rule, why are penises so  invisible? Well we are certainly embarrassed about our essential phallocentricity – that is part of it. But the reason phalluses are generally not talked about is because they are so terribly sacred that they must not be treated casually, i.e. considered as normal aspect of, let’s say, nudity. In other words we don’t want those penises pulled out unless we mean business, and unless the penis is at its active best (i.e. erect) So why would penis jokes, and even the odd penis sighting in a Hollywood movie (ie Michael Fassbender’s baseball-batty member in Shame) be typical of a culture that worships the phallus and is also terrified that something may threaten its ascendency? Well a joke releases, momentarily, some of the incredible seriousness that surrounds issues raised by the heterosexual ‘act of love’ (Will he get it up? Will he impregnate his wife? Will the human race, please God, continue?). And laughter -- as per usual -- triggers a release of this fear.
So the penis can carry on.
So, I would certainly have to agree with Joanna Schneller in two respects: not only are penis jokes cropping up in mainstream media somewhat more than usual, but they certainly are “a way to seem subversive without actually being subversive.”
But Schneller’s explanations for the recent media obsession with phallic jesting are less convincing. She says: “access to Internet pornography has created a world of sexters for whom nothing is off limits” and “the current generation of twentysomethings, raised with less homophobia, is embracing Kinsey’s theory that all sexuality is on a continuum.” I don’t think we can blame sexting (there was sex before sexting and penis jokes galore, too). And though our hypocritical, politically correct culture pays lip service to a sexual continuum, you won’t find adolescent males in high schools embracing the term ‘bisexual’ (these days only a very few timid college age females are willing to do so.) No, don’t worry -- we aren’t becoming (sigh!)  – yet again -- more ‘sex obsessed’ or ‘decadent.’ 
Hollywood and TV are obsessed with dick jokes because the mainstream media is an extremely closeted place. Though cultural commentators still get giddy with optimism when a new gay character arrives in a movie, (“Is Gay the New a Trend?” etc…) Ellen still has to be squeaky clean (ever heard of a dildo Ellen?), K.D. Laing must remain largely silent, and when it comes to all those out gay movie stars…um Rupert Everett anyone? The Hollywood Gentleman’s Agreement About Homosexuality has sealed so many pairs of otherwise gossipy lips that John Travolta can get caught kissing some dude on an airplane runway but hey – it just turns out that’s the way he always greets his baby’s nanny.
Schneller mentions the uncontrolled priapism in the upcoming hockey movie Goon starring Seann William Scott and Jay Baruchel. Well when I recently caught the sodomitically obsessed trailer for the film I thought “Wow – this movie is a big inside homo joke that the producers, the writers, and all the straight boys on the set are having with Seann William Scott!” (Scott is rumoured to be gay). Can’t you see the whole cast (along with Seann) giggling away in the out-takes over Seann’s necessary closeted faggottedness? But the only glimpse we get of that from Hush Hush Homophobic Hollywood is, of course a plethora of silly onscreen ‘did you drop the soap?’ gags.
The penis jokes we see in popular culture are the result of a sexually repressed, homophobic entertainment industry. All that pent up sexual energy and all those lies … well they have to go somewhere to find a release.
The result?  What Joanna Schneller seems to think are too many penis jokes.
But as far as I’m concerned (you may have guessed my inclination in this direction) there can never quite be enough.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Is Trans Gay?

Who cares? Why talk about identity categories at all? When people ask me why I am interested in terms like gay, straight or transgendered, I speak of Brandon Teena, who was murdered in 1993 in Lincoln Nebraska, or Jamie Hubley, the Canadian gay teen who committed suicide due to depression over bullying on October 15, 2011. In such cases words like dyke, fag and trannie are hurled at people as terms of abuse. In other words I would  -- like the founders of the gay liberation movement -- be pleased when we all become ‘one.’ Unfortunately, the time has not arrived. Until it does, we must own the terms of abuse that are so often hurled against us and be proud queers, dykes and trannies.
I am specifically interested in whether or not transgendered people are gay. This is not because I don’t like them, or because I am jealously guarding my own personal identity category. (In fact, in The Globe and Mail I recently spoke out about what I think is wrong with the gay identity today). No, my concern is about what seems to be a general assimilationist tendency in minority politics. In other words many think that racism, misogyny and homophobia are pretty much over, and that people are tired of listening to what whining feminists, anti-racists and gay libbers have to say. Even many members of the Tea Party and the ‘Occupy’ protesters work hard to be considered representative of the majority.
Gay men are obsessed with reminding everyone how much like straight people they are. They’re the only ones these days that really want to join the army (Bradley Manning may be one infamous exception) and still line up for the best pews at Church. And long after most straights have come to view marriage with cynicism, gay men still get all dewy-eyed at the prospect of turning their favorite dirty ‘john’ into their respectable husband Johnny.
And while many trans people are passionately committed to being members of a radical minority, others, well -- they’re kinda not.
I should begin by stating that I consider myself a transgendered person. I do not live 24 hours a day representing myself as belonging to the gender that I was not assigned at birth. Many people consider this to be the working definition of  transgendered. But I am a proud drag queen and an effeminate gay male, one who makes others uncomfortable with his often unintended ‘flamboyance,’ and is often denied basic human respect, because of that.
In our community there are two kinds of people:
a)  those who want to assimilate
b)    those who celebrate and enjoy ‘difference’
What excites me about the transgender movement is the comittment of those who celebrate their visible outsider status. What is less exciting to me are those who -- when they are able to pass -- decide to take full advantage of the rights and privileges offered to them as heterosexuals. For some transgendered people the goal is to marry a person of the opposite sex, have children, go to church, get a good job, buy lots of cheap products from Walmart, and not ruffle any feathers. Of course one cannot blame them for wanting to affluence and acceptance. But they are not gay – at least in the old 'gay liberation' sense of the word.
To all my trans friends who are married, and have children, and who pass, I would say – more power to you. But unless you want to proclaim your queerness and your difference every day, and experience the corresponding loss of privilege -- which is what being ‘out’ means -- then I would suggest you just call yourselves straight.
            I say this because I used to be one hundred percent behind all trans people. This was partially because I am one, but also, because trans was once the only queer identity that seemed to enjoy challenging the status quo. However, I recently read an article in Toronto’s GRID magazine (by Sarah Liss) about high school Gay/Straight Alliances that stated “‘coming out’ can be a very fraught issue in the trans community, where passing can be a significant part of identity.” As I say, I have nothing against trans people who wish to pass, but if their ‘don’t rock the boat’ approach to their lives persuades young members of the already too conservative gay and lesbian community that the closet is okay -- then we are all in big trouble.
            Yay trans! Yay gay, queer, dyke, fag! (And, yes, okay, yay straight!) But if you want to be exactly the same as everyone else, you are now part of a bigger club that some of us don’t actually want to join, but instead would love to challenge fundamentally -- at the core.