May 30, 2011

Queer Issue: A Few Memorial Day Reflections on DADT and it's Repeal.

As of this writing, DADT repeal legislation has been passed by Congress but still has to be implemented and there is a whole bunch of shenanigans being done by homophobic politicians to prevent and make difficult that implementation.

Whatever. While I believe that repealing DADT was necessary, I never felt that it was the really huge victory that led to so much cheering and celebrating in the queer community. My reasoning for this view is two fold.

First, while I am not a complete pacifist, I am against the current occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. This begs the question, does supporting the repeal of DADT, mean supporting the military occupations Iraq and Afghanistan? While I do not always agree with Mathilda Bernstein Sycamore, she does make a good argument that this is the case in "A Fine Romance: Democracy Now's Amy Goodman and Lieutenant Dan Choi"
In its eagerness to jump on the bandwagon in support of the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, the antiwar left becomes complicit with US wars. These reporters can't get past their joy at finding a gay struggle to support, in order to step back and realize, wait: maybe this particular gay struggle is contrary to everything I supposedly represent. That's the nightmare of assimilation we're living in -- add "gay" to any reactionary goal, and the liberals will jump on the bandwagon, but the founding values of gay liberation -- fighting police brutality; challenging US imperialism; ending oppressive institutions like marriage and the military and organized religion; and creating personal autonomy for sexual merrymaking outside of conventional norms -- nope, we rarely hear anything about those queer values.

Irregardless of whether or not supporting the DADT repeal would in fact equate to supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a more pressing issue I want to talk about. While it is often perceived that we treat our veterans with only the respect and dignity that they justly deserve, the reality is actually a bit different. Let me put it bluntly, our country has a truly shitty history when it comes to the treatment of veterans. Not just kind of shitty, really, really shitty.

When I first started this article, I thought I was going to have to search high and low to find the data to back myself up on this. Frighteningly enough, I did not have to.

Let us start with something most people will have heard about, the Washington Post article, "Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility" that uncovered the nightmarish conditions facing returning veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The article opens up with the following paragraph:
Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

I tried to find information on whether or not conditions had improved at all since the Washington Post report was made in 2007, but failed. The Wikipeda article on the "Walter Reed Army Medical Center neglect scandal" only has information on a few administrators being fired and the government planning a review.

But the conditions at Walter Reed, whether they were fixed or not, is not the only issue. According to a government report by The Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs departments:
-- More than 3,000 cities and counties reported 75,609 homeless veterans on a single night in January of 2009; 57 percent were staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program while the remaining 43 percent were unsheltered. Veterans represent about 12 percent of all homeless people counted nationwide during the 2009 assessment;
-- During a 12-month period in 2009, about 136,000 veterans -- or about 1 in every 168 veterans -- spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. The vast majority of sheltered homeless veterans -- 96 percent -- experienced homelessness alone. Four percent of homeless veterans were found to be part of a family. Sheltered homeless veterans are most often single white men between the ages of 31 and 50 and living with a disability;
-- Veterans are 50 percent more likely to become homeless compared to all Americans and the risk is even greater among veterans living in poverty and poor minority veterans. HUD and VA examined the likelihood of becoming homeless among American veterans with particular demographic characteristics and found that during 2009, twice as many poor Hispanic veterans used a shelter compared with poor non-Hispanic veterans. African American veterans in poverty had similar rates of homelessness;

Again, that is not all the damning information I was able to find. According to the Think Progress Twitter Feed @TPHealth:
Something to think about this #MemorialDay: 10.9% of Iraq & Afghanistan veterans are unemployed, 2 %points higher than national average

Also, let me not forget the Time magazine article "Sexual Assaults on Female Soldiers: Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in which we get the following information:
The Pentagon's latest figures show that nearly 3,000 women were sexually assaulted in fiscal year 2008, up 9% from the year before; among women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number rose 25%. When you look at the entire universe of female veterans, close to a third say they were victims of rape or assault while they were serving — twice the rate in the civilian population.

To sum this all up, those that are cheering for the DADT repeal are arguably also cheering to allow LGBTQIA soldiers the chance to not only risk their lives serving their country, but for them to also face substandard medical treatment, greater difficulty in finding employment, an increased risk of homelessness, and for female soldiers, a greater chance of being raped. Ain't the DADT repeal just grand?

In all fairness, the public is often sold a much different image of the services provided to veterans then the reality of what really goes on. Memorial Day features a lot of patriotic flag waving, but almost no serious talk of the difficulties faced by veterans. At least none that I know about. I dislike public memorials for veterans because to me, they feel like ribbon cutting opportunities for politicians, that allow them to ignore the greater problems faced by veterans at a time when those politicians should be solving them. We owe it to those that have served our country in the military to understand their sacrifices and to see to it that they are treated properly upon their return from war. A couple of nice speeches and statues will not accomplish that at all.

WikiLeaks had a good quote from their article
"2011-05-30 Memorial Day in America: What the US Government Wants Americans to Remember vs. What WikiLeaks Thinks Should Be Remembered" to close this all out with:
American society does not remember the stories that soldiers like Ethan McCord [...] will live with for the rest of their lives. Society does not share the burden of memory that a soldier deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq experiences. It adorns yellow ribbons to the vehicles it drive around, awards medals to soldiers, offers minimal health care and ways to reincorporate into society upon return from deployment but little is done to give soldiers a public fora for expressing the anxiety, anguish, fear, pain or stress that a soldier brings back with him or her from a war zone.

Queer Issue: Who am I?

Okay, here is the issue I promised you earlier, the solution to the conundrum I raised here. That conundrum being, how do I define who I am, without using negative descriptions? For example, anything that begins with "I am not...".

Well, let me say it again, I do not wish to define myself as a man. Biologically, I am male, yes. Now by "biological" I am referring of course to our physical bodies, which have certain rules and restrictions placed upon them. Yes, I could have surgery to change my body but as I like I said before, I have chosen not to. However, there are restrictions placed upon what I can do. For example, I am not aware of any techniques that have been developed that allow a person to change their genetic code whole sale. We are stuck with whatever allowance or combination of X and Y chromosomes we were given at birth. Nor could I one day decide that I wanted my heart removed so I could put a giant nuclear reactor in my chest like Tony Stark did in the Ironman movies.

However, while our biological/physical bodies may have certain restrictions placed upon them, there are no rules that state that those bodies in turn force us into certain behaviors, self expression, outward appearance, or capabilities. Just because one has a penis or a vagina or is an intersex individual, does not mean that one should be restricted along gender lines in one's clothing choices, career and educational pursuits, or how one behaves in public or private.

That is to say, biology is where we begin, it does not have to restrict where we end up. Our physical bodies should not dictate how we identify ourselves or how we are treated by society.

But I am getting ahead of myself here a bit. What I wanted to talk about was how attending a wedding in Illinois led me to the solution I had wanted for some time now. It was while sitting in the audience, listening to a preacher give a heteronormative spiel along the lines of how "God made man for woman and woman for man" that it hit me. Why the hell do we focus so much on gender polarization so much anyways?

Why is gender itself, even necessary as a societal construct. As I talked about earlier, there are reasons, mostly medical, that make it reasonable to define ourselves along biological traits. However, there is almost no reason for us to make laws or impart social norms that create restrictions along gender. Think for example, of the laws in place at the time of the Stonewall Riots that said one had to have three items of clothing that matched your gender or one would be arrested. So let me repeat what I said earlier, biology is only the beginning, not the end. We are born with a particular set of body parts and genes, but these physical attributes are not a prison for our destiny. We can choose who we are.

What I am getting at is this: How come we cannot simply see ourselves as people? This finally, is my solution. I am not a man, nor am I a woman. I am human. That is all.

May 28, 2011

Queer Review: I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)

I Love You Phillip Morris
Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Writer: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra. Based upon the novel by Steve McVicker.
Cast: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Antoni Corone, Rodrigo Santoro, Leslie Mann

Overview
For a comedy starring both Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, I Love You Phillip Morris somehow managed to do a wonderful, although unfortunate, job of flying under the radar. However, this fast moving picture that sounds like it is about battling cigarette addiction, is really the story of a man who has no identity and yet still desperately seeking his true love.

Synopsis
Police Officer Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) is happily married and enjoying a "normal" life, when he makes the unfortunate decision to track down his birth mother. When she denies that he is even hers, he gets upset, quits the force, and moves away. Later, after an unfortunately timed car accident, Steven reveals to his wife (Leslie Mann) that he is gay and becomes a con artist to pay for what he terms "the expensive gay lifestyle". When Steven is caught, he winds up in prison where he meets Philip Morris (Ewan McGregor) and the two fall fast in love. Once they are reunited outside prison, Steven gets a job as a Chief Financial Officer (even though he lacks the credentials, education, and the necessary experience) and is soon engaged in yet another con job that lands him in jail yet again.

The Queering
First off, it is important to note that Steven Russell is a real person who managed to escape from prison multiple times in a narrative so preposterous, it seems that it could only be the province of fiction. But this movie is entirely true. Every single word of it. In fact, it might as well have been a documentary. And if you believe that, I have a bridge I want to sell you.

In any case, this fast paced, whip smart, and consistently entertaining comedy about two gay lovers makes for a fun con job of a film. What I find remarkable though, is that this story, which includes several scenes of gay sex, was able to land two major stars, Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. It is hard to think of a more perfect role for the rubber faced impersonator Jim Carrey than a con man who takes on several identities. The only performance of Carrey's that compares would be the one he gave in The Truman Show. Ewan McGregor is good, even though he tends to fade into the background at times, though I would excuse this as his character is supposed to be a bit of a wallflower.

At the heart of I Love You Phillip Morris is a tender love story between two mismatched individuals. There are some raunchier elements to the comedy, but these are mere window dressing. Steven Russell claims - although many reasonable people might have reason to doubt him - that his attempts to escape prison were for the love of his life, Philip Morris. These attempts, which are shown later on in the film, include dying some scrubs using felt pens to make green scrubs so he could impersonate a doctor and faking his own death by AIDS.

Altogether, the character of Steven Morris is a fascinating enigma and I bet there will be many post-screening discussions as to whether he was a bad guy for the crimes that he committed or merely another flawed human. While one may wish to know more about him, and the article I love you Phillip Morris: a conman's story may shed some insight into the matter, he remains somewhat of a blank slate. While this ambiguity may bother some people, I would argue it is fact the film's greatest strength.

Recommendation
Highly recommended. Can be easily enjoyed by all audiences.

The Rating





Trailer


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May 26, 2011

Queer Review: Chasing Amy (1997)

Chasing Amy
Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Cast: Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Dwight Ewell, Joey Lauren Adams

Overview
Chasing Amy represents the most mature work of the bawdy and controversial Kevin Smith. Frequently crude, caustic, and absolutely hilarious, Chasing Amy will probably offend even the most liberal audience members.

Synopsis
When Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) is introduced to Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams) by a mutual friend, Hooper X (Dwight Ewell), he finds himself falling fast in love with her. It is not long though, before Holden is shocked to discover that Alyssa is actually a lesbian and not interested in being anything other then friends with him. He eventually manages to wear her down her defenses and soon they are in a serious relationship, which upsets Holden's friend, Banky (Jason Lee).

The Queering
I can recall when I was in high school and watching Chasing Amy at a drama club cast party where the host's parents were away. I was the only one who was not drinking, so I was given the honor of controlling the remote control. Even with out being drunk, I can not recall that many movies where I laughed harder. In retrospect, the thrill at seeing something forbidden ended up being more intoxicating then any spirits could have matched.

Re-watching Chasing Amy now, many years later, I do have a somewhat different take on it. First, let me get the criticisms out of the way. Kevin Smith is the funniest writer working today in Hollywood, but I would not to be the first to point out that his directing abilities stink. Most of the scenes are poorly staged and the cinematography is crude. Also, while Joey Lauren Adams gives the most memorable, and at times, moving performance, she too often lapses into over the top histrionics. Ben Affleck and Jason Lee are not all that great either, but manage to succeed thanks to both of them giving rather charismatic and natural performances.

Chasing Amy however has more strengths then weaknesses. The characters are well developed and feel like the sort of real people one comes into contact with everyday rather than the invention of a screenwriter. This is particularly true in several scenes, such as when Alyssa and Banky compare battle wounds acquired through ill advised sexual mis-adventures or when Alyssa and Holden discuss what it means to lose ones virginity.

What is most refreshing is about Chasing Amy is the sense that Kevin Smith has the same attitude regarding political correctness that most fundamentalists have towards the anti-Christ. Hideous slurs and inappropriate language are thrown about like confetti at a parade. Through it all though, Smith manages to deliver a subversively pro-gay, pro-equality message. For example, take Hooper X who plays a black militant who screams about the white menace in order to sell comic books but is really actually a sassy black queen when out of sight of his fans. Later Hooper X has a speech where he gives a much needed bemoaning about the double discrimination faced by black queers and how his black power act is necessary for him to receive professional recognition.

Between the constant onslaught of political incorrectness and the fact that Holden does manage to sleep with Alyssa, many have argued that Chasing Amy is in fact homophobic. To me though, nothing could be more untrue. What Chasing Amy really does is revel in the sexual freedoms brought to light by Alfred Kinsey. This is also why the scene between Banky and Alyssa is noteworthy. Too often male and female promiscuity is treated differently by society, yet here, the promiscuous behaviors of a man and a woman are shown in the same light.

This is also a movie with the most sexually fluid cast of characters that I have seen. Alyssa is eventually revealed to have slept with guys other than Holden. Banky also clearly harbors feelings of some sort for Holden, which Holden acknowledges by forcefully kissing Banky in a key scene. Bisexuality is too often ignored or given short shrift by movies, yet here, Kevin Smith's uninhibited explorations of love and sexual relationships makes for some of the most compelling and hysterical queer cinema to have come out of the 90's.

Recommendation
Highly recommended for anyone who can laugh at (rather than be offended by) Kevin Smith's brand of crude humor.

The Rating




Trailer



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May 25, 2011

Back from vacation.

It has been a little while since I posted anything here. That was because I was away on vacation with my boyfriend attending the wedding of his nephew in Indiana. This is not going to be a post of much substance, but I thought I would give people a little preview of articles I am planning on doing in the near future.

First off, two new Netflix movies were waiting for us when we got back, so you guys can expect new queer reviews of Chasing Amy and I Love You Philip Morris soon.

Also, at one of the restaurants we stopped at, my boyfriend noticed that they had some Chick Comics out on display. I am therefore planning on doing an article on the issue of supporting businesses that support homophobia.

While I was at the wedding itself an idea came to me about the dilemma of defining myself that I wrote about here. Will therefore be writing more about this in the future.

This is unrelated to going on vacation but I thought I would offer up some thoughts on the TV series Glee. Ultimately, whether this one gets done or not depends on if I have the time to do it.

May 18, 2011

Queer Review: Spartacus (1960)

Spartacus
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writer: Dalton Trumbo. Based upon the novel by Howard Fast.
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis

Overview
Although he later to try and distance himself from the film, auteur Stanley Kubrick - who would later go on to direct such revered classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining - got his start by directing the epic Spartacus. Unfortunately, none of the talent he would demonstrate in later movies is on display here and Spartacus ends up being less an epic adventure and more an epic time waster.

Synopsis
Spartacus (Kirk Douglass) is a slave training under the auspices of Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov) to become a Gladiator when Varinia (Jean Simmons), the slave woman that he had been in love with, is sold to Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier). This event serves as the impetus for a slave revolt that threatened to destroy the Roman Empire.

The Queering
Spartacus was made at a time when Hollywood was still competing with television for ticket sales and was clearly designed to show off the new technology of Panavision. There are some really nicely shot scenes of vast crowds and armies marching across the wilderness. Unfortunately, great cinematography does not make a great movie, otherwise we would have winner here.

It is hard to tell where exactly things go wrong as there is some great talent both behind and in front of the camera. A good place to start would be the romance between Spartacus and Varinia which causes proceedings to grind to a halt every time the two start looking at each other sappily. Then there is the epic battle scene which fails to get the blood pumping. Worst of all, Spartacus himself is so poorly developed by the screenplay that he never warrants much interest beyond a shrug, even when he is dying all Christ like on a cross.

The most interesting scenes are those that offer a behind the scenes look at the corrupt political maneuvering that was going on in the Roman senate while Spartacus was carrying out his revolt. These scenes are not only highly topical considering todays current political climate, but also have an authenticity about them that the rest of the film sadly lacks. There are also several blatant swipes at McCarthyism which should not come as a surprise considering that screenwriter Donald Trumbo had been blacklisted at the time.

I would like to point out that there is one queer scene of note. That is the scene where Crassus uses veiled references to make a failed pass his manservant Antonius (Tony Curtis). This scene was cut in the original 1960's release but later restored in the 1991 edition. If one wishes to see it, one can have fun sitting through all 3 hours and 16 minutes of the restored edition or one can watch the clip below.


Recommendation
Of little interest outside of anyone with a strong interest in film history or films with queer subtexts.

The Rating




Trailer



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May 14, 2011

Queer Issue: X-Men - First Class and the Unfortunate Straightening Out of Hollywood.

I probably spend more time watching movie trailers than I should. In fact I tend to be a little bit obsessive about it and I would argue that there is nothing wrong with this when so many movie trailers for redundant action movies and lame comedies are more thrilling and funny than the product they are selling.

This has nothing to do with what I actually want to talk about, other than it was while watching the trailer for X-Men - First Class that I noticed something that caught me attention. I have written before about the queer subtexts in the first and second X-Men movies. Therefore, I was a bit shocked when I noticed Mystique making out with a guy. After all, was not Mystique originally supposed to be a lesbian in the comic books? Although thanks to the Comics Code Authority, readers never actually saw her become the lover of the character Destiny (Irene Adler).

In any event, even though I have not seen X-Men - First Class, I must admit to being annoyed that one of the queer characters appears to have been straightened out. Unfortunately, this is a typical Hollywood practice that dates back to the days of the Hays Code, when depictions of queer characters was outright forbidden. This practice of course is that of taking previous material that contains queer characters or stories of real life queer individuals, and washing any queerness out.

Back during the days of the Hays Code, a movie such asThe Lost Weekend (1946) would have had to take any queer characters and straighten them out. Otherwise, the film could not be made as the Hays Code forbid depictions of "sexual perverts". While rather reprehensible, this practice might be understandable at a time when the rules were completely intractable. However, it did not end when the Hays Code was eventually replaced with the MPAA. To me, this is where things get really annoying.

It is bad enough that there are already too few depictions of LGBTQIA characters on film, but when filmmakers take a property or the story of a real person and massage it so that the queerness becomes invisible, the insult stings that much worse.

There have been many books that have been "straigtened out" in the years following the collapse of the Hays Code. Fried Green Tomatoes was made in 1991 and the two main characters are never once shown to be the lesbian lovers they were in the book. A more recent example would be Let Me In (2010) which not only increased the romantic factor between the leads but eliminated the queerness from the main relationship altogether.

Again, I think this practice is bad enough when it comes to fictional characters, but I would argue that the re-writing of history is even worse. When the world is portrayed as having been shaped by only straight individuals, and the accomplishments of queers are ignored, it is nothing less then an insult to our community. Take for instance, Enigma (2001) which was clearly based on the work of Alan Turing but has the character pursuing a romantic relationship with a woman or A Beautiful Mind (2001) which never mentions that John Nash "had recurring liaisons with other men".

It feels to me as if though Hollywood Producers are saying the same thing to the queer community that the evil Xerxes threatened to do to King Leonidas in 300:
There will be no glory in your sacrifice. I will erase even the memory of Sparta from the histories! Every piece of Greek parchment shall be burned. Every Greek historian, and every scribe shall have their eyes pulled out, and their tongues cut from their mouths. Why, uttering the very name of Sparta, or Leonidas, will be punishable by death! The world will never know you existed at all!

300 is of course a good movie to bring up here as a complete list of it's historical inaccuracies would be pretty long. For starters, Xerxes was not that evil baddie that he was portrayed as. Also, the ├╝ber macho Spartans portrayed in 300 were also known to practice pederasty. Pederasty, for those who do not know, is the practice of older men having sex with young boys.

To me, this might not be an issue if there were more examples of characters who were queered up. However, the the only example that I know of is V for Vendetta (2006)

Invisibility is not a the only problem facing the queer community, although it can be argued that every other issue (homophobic and transphobic motivated violence, job and housing discrimination, etc) is made that much more serious when people are left unaware to even the existence of LGBTQIA individuals. There are also plenty of sources to blame besides Hollywood for the erasing of Queers from history. Take for instance the "Don't Say Gay Bill" that would forbid discussions of "homosexuality" in Tennessee schools.

However, Hollywood exacerbates an already serious problem whenever queer characters and individuals are made to appear straight. History and fictional stories are not things that should be rewritten merely to serve the whims of those who find depictions of queer characters objectionable. Censorship is the objectionable practice here and the truth is what should be told.

May 13, 2011

Queer Issue: Defining Oneself

Man or woman, male or female, these are the choices that have been presented to individuals since the beginning. One was born, slapped on the rear by a doctor, allowed a good cry, and then either "It's a Girl!" or "It's a Boy!" or if one was an intersex individual "It needs surgery!"

Once this declaration was made, one was shepherded through life with this label emblazoned on every pink dress and blue bib. There was never any chance for any sort of grey. If one was a man, one was supposed to work to support your family, know how to fix a car, enjoy sports, and be better at things like math and science. If one was a woman, one was supposed to stay home to raise the kids, know how to cook and clean, enjoy knitting, and be better at things like writing and artistic endeavors.

While gender roles have slowly become eroded, women are entering the workplace and stay at home dads are not as uncommon as they once used to be, there still remains another issue. We still tend to think in terms of binary classification. The possibility that one is something other than male nor female, still tends to be ignored.

The reason I wanted to talk about this is because I never felt comfortable saying "I am a man". I also felt a little twitch whenever someone else described me as such. There are implications to go along with that suit and label that do not fit me at all.

So then I can that I am not a man. Fine, but what am I? What identity shall I choose instead? This question has arguably been bothering me for some time, nagging at the back of my head whenever I could not sleep at night.

Here's what I have come up with instead. I am not a man, but I am biologically male and see no reason to change that. I also do not want to identify as a woman either.

Unfortunately, that leaves me with a bit of a quandary, philosophically speaking. I know what I am not, but have a harder time figuring out what I am. I do not like the idea of defining oneself in negative terms. I can use the term gender-queer, and that fits me well enough that it will have to do for the time being.

So while I intend to continue to explore this issue, consider this my coming out as a gay gender queer.

May 8, 2011

Queer Review: Women in Revolt (1971)

Women in Revolt
Director: Paul Morrissey
Writer: Paul Morrissey
Cast: Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn

Overview
This Warhol Factory production attempts to satirize the Women's Liberation movement. Unfortunately, Women in Revolt is so painful an experience to watch, that I believe viewing it should be covered by 8th Amendment to the Constitution (the one about Cruel and Unusual Punishment).

Synopsis
Three women Candy (Candy Darling), Jackie (Jackie Curtis), and Holly (Holly Woodlawn) played by men in drag, come together to create a women's liberation movement called P.I.G. (Politically Involved Girls) and become lesbians. We the audience are then subjected to scene after scene - thankfully interrupted by some lengthy scenes of extended nudity - where these characters sit around and complain to each other about the evils of men and how tragic their miserable lives are.

The Queering
Women in Revolt was made by under the auspices of the Warhol Factory shortly after the attempted murder of Andy Warhol by radical feminist Valerie Solanas. It is not hard therefore, to see Warhol and company aiming the "satire" of Women in Revolt at Solanas. There is an obvious kinship between P.I.G. and the S.C.U.M (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto which was written by Solanas. I can understand the sentiment as I imagine Warhol was not exactly a fan of Solanas after that event. However, there is no excuse for him to have foisted this unfunny dung pile upon the public at large.

I suppose on one hand, there will be those who leap to write/director Paul Morrissey's defense here and argue that there is some sort of artistic vision driving the movie's nearly incoherent plot forward. These people will probably point out the symbolism and shocking irony of having most of the nudity provided by the men rather then the women.

I, however, find no difficulty in calling a pretentious pile of **** a pretentious pile of ****. After watching Women in Revolt I can only say that I developed an even deeper appreciation of Born in Flames, which was another low budget, pro-feminist independent film and that I kept thinking of fondly while watching this movie.

Let's start with the acting. The only nice thing I can say here is that some of the better performers did not grate on my nerves quite so much as the worst performers did. At least a few of them were obviously high while they were filming their scenes.

As for the production values, the camera work appears to have been done by somebody with only the dimmest sense of where they should be pointing the camera and the editing done by a drunken person with access to only a chainsaw and scotch tape. As for the writing, I am guessing that the dialog was developed using a technique that is now commonly referred to as mumblecore, although if there had been more mumbling and less screeching this film would have been a little easier to bear.

The only positive aspect of this movie is that there is a fairly large amount of male nudity and some female nudity. Although, if that is what one wants, one would be best served by watching porn, as most pornos would have better acting, writing, and production values than Women in Revolt

Recommendation
Too many revolting characteristics to be worth watching. Avoid at all costs.

The Rating



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Queer Review: Stonewall Uprising (2010)

Stonewall Uprising
Directors: Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

Overview
It was called many things, The Stonewall Riots, Revolution, Insurrection, Rebellion. Stonewall Uprising is a comprehensive documentary on the events at the Stonewall Inn on June 28th, 1969 that launched the LGBTQIA civil rights movement.

Synopsis
Stonewall Uprising tells the story of that fateful night when the Stonewall bar was raided by police and the inevitable riots that followed. Also explores the conditions faced by Queers prior to the Stonewall Riots in order to demonstrate the impact that the riots had.

The Queering
Documentaries can be a tricky thing. They can too easily become boring and pedantic, especially if the subject matter is well known. Stonewall Uprising does not fully overcome this problem, but covers a wide enough variety of topics to avoid becoming deathly dull.

This is the strongest aspect of Stonewall Uprising, that it does not limit itself to the events of that night. It discusses how and why the Stonewall Inn came to be run by the Mafia, as well as the widespread oppression faced by queers prior to the Stonewall Riots. One thing I really appreciated was that it did not ignore the fact that there existed - what was referred to at the time - The Homophile Movement, as too often those who cover the Stonewall Riots in an attempt to beef up the importance of those events. However Stonewall Uprising also does show the limited impact groups such as the Mattachine Society had.

Since few photos and no video footage exists of the Stonewall Riots themselves, obviously a lot of hard work had to have been done by the filmmakers to fill an hour and a half movie. There are interviews from those who participated in the riots and most remarkably from police officer, Seymour Pine, who led the original raid on the Stonewall Inn. Unfortunately, it is difficult to gauge his true feelings on the matter. While on one hand he does weakly defend the actions of the police, he also states at one point, “You knew they broke the law, but what kind of law was that?"

Recommendation
Strongly recommended, particularly for those with an interest in the history of the Queer/LGBTQIA civil rights movement.

The Rating





Trailer



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Queer Review: Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)

Reflections in a Golden Eye
Director: John Huston
Writers: Chapman Mortimer and Gladys Hill. Based on the novel by Carson McCullers.
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Brian Keith, Robert Forster, Julie Harris, Zorro David

Overview
Sexual obsession, longing, and perversion come together in this tale about a repressed gay military officer, Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando).

Synopsis
Major Weldon Penderton is an effeminate officer, whose wife Leonora Penderton (Elizabeth Taylor) is having an affair with Lt. Col. Morris Langdon (Brian Keith). Landon's wife Allison (Julie Harris), on the other hand, is suffering from a mental illness that keeps her indoors where she finds solace in the antics of another effeminate male, her servant Anacleto (Zorro David). When Major Weldon Penderton spots Pvt. L.G. Williams (Robert Forster) outside doing some naked horseback riding, Penderton becomes obsessed with him, while at the same time, Williams is also becoming obsessed with Lenora and begins to stalk her.

The Queering
Honestly, I am not sure what to make of this movie. There is a lot going on beneath the surface of each character, but I did not find myself enthralled trying to figure out the boiling emotions that must be going on deep down within each of them. While I have come across a few reviewers who have referred to Reflections in a Golden Eye as a classic, I have to say that it appears to me that it must not have aged well over the years.

It is clear to me that the filmmakers were trying to make a more mature/adult film and for the time period, Reflections probably was. However, to me, much of what the film was trying to say felt facile. I get that the Hays Code, which was on it's last legs at the time that Reflections was released, would have prevented open acknowledgement of Penderton's sexual orientation, but the film still treats being gay as a pathological disease. There is something unsettling about Penderton's obsession with Pvt. Williams and the character comes across as a creepy lowlife. I was somewhat shocked that Penderton was not killed off at the end, which is what the Hays Code would have dictated. I can only assume that the lack of punishment at the end for Penderton, was a sign of the Hays Code's waning influence.

Now supposedly Marlon Brando was the greatest actor of his generation, so it's unfortunate that he does nothing to show that here. Rather, in Reflections in a Golden Eye, Brando tend s to come across as an overlarge ham. Elizabeth Taylor fares a little better as a superficial army brat and I would say she gives the best performance of the film. No one else does that badly but, other than Taylor, there are no stand out performances.

On the whole, the movie appears more concerned with shallow gimmicks than with trying to make any kind of interesting insight into human nature. The golden infused cinematography is one example of this. In the end there is very little to keep me from labeling Reflections in a Golden Eye as both deadly boring and highly pretentious. Keeping the eyes open so they can continue to reflect the golden imagery will ultimately be a chore for most people.

Recommendation
Recommended only for those with a strong interest in older movies with queer subtexts, there is not much here for anybody else.

The Rating




Trailer



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May 7, 2011

Queer Review: X2: X-Men United (2003)

X2: X-Men United
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Zak Penn, David Hayter, Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, and David Hayter
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming

Overview
X2: X-Men United continues the adventure started in the first X-Men movie. There are new mutants and villains, such as Nightcrawler (alan Cumming) and Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) joining the cast. Ultimately, X2: X-Men United is a bigger, bolder version of its predecessor.

Synopsis
X2 opens with a memorable sequence with Nightcrawler attempting to assassinate the President of the United States. This gives William Stryker (Brian Cox) the reason he had been waiting for to obtain authorization to lead an assault on Professor X's School. Soon, Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) has been captured by Stryker, and the X-Men team seperated from their leader must join forces with the recently escaped Magneto (Ian McKellen) - who had been imprisoned at the end of the previous movie. All the while clues indicate that Stryker has plans that present a grave danger for both mutants and mankind.

The Queering
As sequels go, X2 can be seen as a bigger, badder version of the first movie. Many of the same strengths and weaknesses are present here. Bryan Singer's sense of style is just as strong here, as it was in the first movie. The large cast, while still keeping proceedings interesting, continues to hinder character development and identification. On the other hand, Stryker, while played with panache by Brian Cox, makes for a much less interesting villain then Magneto.

X2 starts out strong with Nightcrawler bamfing his way through the white house and has a few memorable sequences in the middle, such as Pyro losing control of his power to manipulate fire. The climax however, is somewhat muddled, and a key character's death fails to leave any significant impact.

However, Singer does a good job of continuing to highlight the queer subtexts, which are much stronger here than in the first movie. There is a notable scene where Iceman comes out of the closet to tell his parents that he is a mutant which many queers will be able to relate to.

Recommendation
Overall, X2: X-Men United is of the same quality as the first movie, therefore I strongly recommend X2 as well.

The Rating




Trailer


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May 5, 2011

Queer Review: X-Men (2000)

X-Men
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Tom DeSanto, Bryan Singer, and David Hayter
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn, Bruce Davison

Overview
The first X-Men movie was released at a time when comic book movies were at a low ebb and ended up kick starting the current modern comic book movie craze that is still going strong more than 10 years later. While there are no overt queer characters, there is an interesting subtext regarding prejudice and bigotry that is particularly relevant to the queer community.

Synopsis
X-Men takes place in the near future where human evolution is starting to "leap forward" and humans with strange and interesting powers are starting to come forward. Normal humans, however, are filled with fear at these mutants and one U.S. official, Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) has proposed legislation requiring all mutants to be registered with the government. There are those who oppose him, such as Magneto (Ian McKellen) who wishes to start a war between the mutants and the rest of humanity. However, there are others, such as Professor Xavier (Partick Stewart) who wish to prevent this war from starting by using peaceful methods to obtain equality.

The Queering
Science Fiction movies have a long history of using allegorical stand ins to tell general messages regarding the evils of bigotry - District 9 being a more recent example. X-Men can be seen as a part of this tradition. Magneto, who is Jewish and suffered through the concentration camps, is simply trying to prevent a second Holocaust - although his methodology leaves a lot to be desired.

However, there are many small parallels between the struggles of the mutants and specific queer experiences. For instance, the mutant powers come to exist in adolescence and many mutants hide their powers in order to avoid persecution. Openly gay director Bryan Singer admitted that he saw these similarities as well, the biggest of which is the way the mutant registration act is quite like DOMA. Also, in the comics, Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) was supposed to be a lesbian, but thanks to the Comics Code, that never happened.

X-Men has a strong sense of style although it is not quite on the same level as some of the stronger super hero movies that came afterwords such as Superman Returns or The Dark Knight. Also, one can make the case that Spiderman or Ironman provide better entertainment value overall. However, the strengths of X-Men are it's diverse cast of characters which prevent proceedings from coming boring - although the large number of mutants also tends to prevent character identification - and the moral complexity of its main villain. Magneto makes for a more interesting antagonist than most comic book baddies.

Recommendation
Considering its strengths as a comic book movie with a queer subtext, I highly recommend X-Men.

The Rating




Trailer


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May 2, 2011

The Feeling of Hope.

It has been an eventful few days. Friday kicked off the 16th Undergraduate Philosophy Conference and the first one not to have had the guidance of Dr. Shrader. Instead, it was lead by Dr. Koch (who had been my Academic Advisor when I was a student. I do not think it possible that a better replacement could have been found. Make no mistake, a better advisor than Dr. Shrader would have been difficult to find as well.

I had been sitting in on some of the conference classes to lend my expertise from having worked on previous Conferences, and I plan on emailing a list of critiques and suggestions to Dr. Koch. Make no mistake, the conference committee and Dr. Koch were able to pull off an amazing conference this year, my suggestions will simply be of stuff that was done in the past and therefor I hope will be useful for Dr. Koch to know about as he continues forward with the conference.

After the conference ended on Sat. there was a memorial service in the late afternoon for Dr. Shrader. It was a time of mixed emotions. On one hand it was a pure joy to observe the conference will be able to continue. On the other, it's hard to think about the philosophy conference without him.

The weather was nice and it was a beautiful day. It was also nice hearing the stories that other students shared. I finally got the details of the story of how Dr. Shrader met his wife Barbara by eating a whole banana, including the peal.

Then on Sunday I heard the news that finally Osama Bin Laden was dead. I wish to repeat what I said before, I feel there is danger in finding joy in the death of another human being. I do still think though, that catharsis is an appropriate thing. I used to think that catharsis was this esoteric term that also had spiritual implications for those dealing with grief. Then my philosophy of art professor asked us to look it up, and I found out that it was an old school term for an enema. That's right to have a catharsis, all you need to do is stick a hose up your ass and...

Therefore, I really do mean that this is a catharsis. Something shitty has been removed from this world. I might have been a little pessimistic with my last post. While I do not think we should let down our guard, I do hope that this really is a serious blow to Al Qaeda that they will not easily recover from.

Then today my iPad 2 arrived. Overstimulated? That's me now. Rather then take too much time trying to set it up with all my accounts/passwords, I spent some time watching music videos. I found that the vast majority of the videos that I had were from post-9/11.

That's something I think worth reflecting on. 9/11 happened just before I became an adult. I found that today, I had a hard time remembering what it was like in a world prior to 9/11. I remember things that I know happened before that date, but I could not remember what life itself *felt* like.

I could not remember what it was to live in a world without terror alerts. I could not conceive of what it was like to not be a citizen of a nation that was involved with two foreign wars, nor could I recall what it was like to not know the name of Osama Bin Laden.

Tonight, while watching music videos, I started to recall what it felt like. It wasn't strong, it had glimmered through at times, but it was there as I watched music videos such as Kryptonit by Three Doors Down that I had enjoyed from the time before 9/11.

What I hope for now, is that this feeling will become the norm again. I can hope can't I? Or at least, is this what hope feels like?

Osama Bin Laden is dead.

It was nearly 10 years ago that the United States suffered those horrible attacks that I still cannot find the words to adequately describe. September 11th was was exactly 3 months before my 18th birthday and has cast a shadow over everything in the decade since.

While I believe that Bin Laden's death is certainly both a relief and a genuine catharsis, I am hesitant to ascribe to it joy or to engage in celebration. Make no mistake, I believe that even the darkest, most rank places in Hell are too good for Osama Bin Laden, but I cannot find pleasure in the death of another human being.

Instead, I believe that this is a time for reflection. I believe that we need to understand Osama Bin Laden as a human being. I say this, not because I believe we should empathize with him, but because it is only with that understanding that it will be possible to create a more secure and safe world. Remember, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it and if we forget the evil that humans are capable of, we will enable the creation of others like Osama Bin Laden.

Furthermore, let us not forget that terrorism is like the ancient hydra, for every head that is cut off, two more will be created. This is a symbolic victory. Yes this is a cathartic victory, but terrorism will not end with the death of one person. We have killed the head, but let us be aware that many more could be given life.

May 1, 2011

Queer Issue: The Problems of Marriage Equality

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 16th Annual SUNY Oneonta Undergraduate Philosophy Conference. I have been a part of this conference for some time, starting 5 years ago when I joined the 12th Annual Conference planning committee with the mere thought of fulfilling the "public speaking" gen ed requirement I needed for my bachelors degree. I had no idea that it would lead me to becoming a philosophy major, plus 2 more times on the Philosophy Conference Committee, concluding with me chairing the committee two years ago. Last year, after I had graduated, I came back to serve as a discussant on a paper by David Naples which he discussed the subjective grounds that arguments for and against marriage equality are based upon. The abstract can be read here.

This year, Naples was the discussant for another paper on gay marriage by Kirk Schneider and the abstract for his paper can be found here. I was glad when Naples claimed that Schneider was not radical enough, as Schneider's arguments were limited to same sex marriage, and argued this year, that the entire issue of marriage needs to be analyzed and questioned, particularly when it comes to issue of societal approval.

To put it another way, Naples was arguing for a point of view that closely resembled one adopted by Against Equality: Queer Challanges to the Politics of Inclusion, as well as the viewpoint adopted by the editors of That's Revolting! Queer Stratagies for Resisting Assimilation.

According to Against Equality:
Gay marriage apes hetero privilege and allows everyone to forget that marriage ought not to be the guarantor of rights like health care. In their constant invoking of the “right” to gay marriage, mainstream gays and lesbians express a confused tangle of wishes and desires. They claim to contest the Right’s conservative ideology yet insist that they are more moral and hence more deserving than sluts like us. They claim that they simply want the famous 1000+ benefits but all of these, like the right to claim protection in cases of domestic violence, can be made available to non-marital relationships.

On the most general grounds that marriage ought not to confer rights that should be guaranteed to all, I agree with Against Equality. However, I feel that are still situations which are being ignored here by Against Equality that need addressing.

In general, I feel that term marriage should be left to religion and not given any special legal standing. However, civil unions between can and should be given legal recognition and considered the same as any other legally binding contract that can be made between two or more consenting adults. This civil union contract would then be used in cases when issues or questions regarding custody of kids, medical decisions when one partner no longer has the capacity to make those decisions, and inheritance of property when one partner dies.

Notice how all of those cases can be decided without the need to engage in a civil union, the simple advantage of them being recognized by a civil union contract would be a bundling effect. That is, rather than having to decide each item separately, this civil union contract would have defaults that would come into play whenever certain situations arose.

To conclude, I would like to point out that a general philosophical issue that I had with Against Equality was that its purpose, as far as I could tell, was defined in the negative. That is, while Against Equality, was objecting to broad problems within the LGBT rights movement, specifically the problem of the push for marriage equality, I did not notice that many specific solutions being proposed. In fact, a lot of what I read had a negative attitude in general. I should point out though, that I did not do a thorough investigation of the site, so I cannot make a definitive claim here. However, I would argue that Against Equality raises enough valid points that they should not be ignored or dismissed out of hand simply because of this negativity.