August 25, 2012

Queer Review: Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writers: Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz, and John J. McLaughlin
Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Benjamin Millepied

Darren Aronofsky is a master at creating and depicting characters whose minds are in the process of disintegrating. In Black Swan Aronofsky uses his considerable talents to create a compelling examination of the price that must paid for sexual repression.

When Nina (Natalie Portman), one of the hardest working ballarina's in the company lead by Mr. Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is awarded the lead role of the White Swan in Swan Lake, she is thrilled. However, Nina finds herself in direct competition with a new dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis) who embodies the dark and sensual nature of the Black Swan. Thus begins a modern day retelling of Swan Lake.

The Queering
The notion that humans harbor dual personalities occupying opposite poles on the spectrum of good and evil, is an old one. For ages, stories such as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde have used this concept as their basis. Freuds' conception of the id, the ego, and the super ego, can be seen as a corollary. Although, I cannot think of too many versions that have used a female protagonist to demonstrate this idea, making Black Swan something of a first. This is quite likely due to the fact that society views woman and girls as simply innocent and pure, without any dark beasts lurking within.

That is not the only thing that makes Black Swan such an intriguing film. While Nina never "comes out" as a lesbian or admits to same sex desire, she consistently rejects advances from male suitors - even when she's on inhibition lowering drugs or in situations where giving in would benefit her career - but it is clear that she desires, and even eventually ends up having sex with, her arch nemesis Lily.

Even though Nina never comes out as a lesbian or bisexual, the lesbian sex scene establishes her as having same sex desire. The question is, just how queer is she? In one scene, Nina admits that she has had several boyfriends and is no longer a virgin. This made me wonder if this was simply a lie in order to remain in the closet. Or maybe it was not a lie, she never specified that she lost her virginity with the boyfriends. Did they exist, but were simply beards? In short, forget about the rule of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Arronofsky has managed to find an interesting use for the cinematic rule of "show, don't tell".

One of the themes addressed by Arronofsky, is the intense pressures put upon performers. Nina is obviously a character whose mind is fraying and not just at the edges. It is clear that she has worked insanely hard at becoming the best dancer possible, which means she has denied herself the possibility of a normal social life, much less allowed herself to adequately explore her sexuality. As a result of all this repression, she finds herself having paranoid hallucinating, which include frightening apparitions and visions of herself turning into the black swan.

Overall, the acting is nearly perfect. Natalie Portman successfully navigates the difficult role of playing the nice girl whose gentle facade hides a raging monstor. Mila Kunis essays a role that is well within her range. As the sexual predator Mr. Leroy, Vincent Cassel gives off the just the right amount of creepiness without going overboard.

I did have some minor grips about Arronofsky's direction. Early on, I found the use of hand held camera shots to be distracting. Also, I felt there were times when Nina turning into the black swan that were too overdone. Like I said, this falls into the minor gripe category, but there were times when I felt Arronofsky was beating the audience over the head with a drumstick when a more feather-light touch might have been more effective.

However, for those who care about quality films that offer up deeper thematic content, Black Swan is not one to be missed.

This is no ugly duckling. Swim across any lake in your way in order to see it.

The Rating
***1/2 out of ****


Want to find a review of a particular work? Check out the Title Index, the archive of all reviews posted listed alphabetically.

August 22, 2012

Queer Review: Making Love (1982)

Making Love
Director: Arthur Hiller
Writers: Barry Sandler and A. Scott Berg.
Cast: Michael Ontkean, Kate Jackson, Harry Hamlin, Wendy Hiller, Arthur Hill, Nancy Olson

Although, one of the earliest mainstream films to attempt a positive portrayel of gay male sexuality, Making Love actually succeeds at being one of the worst. The lone upside of the film is that this mind bendingly awful tripe was able to be made in the first place, could be considered a sign that queer content was losing the stigma it once held.

Married doctor and all around nice guy, Dr. Zach (Michael Ontkean) is vaguely troubled by his ill defined sexual orientation and attraction to other men. He meets and has an affair with writer and gay Lothario Bart (Harry Hamlin), who is uninterested in a committed relationship. Caught in the middle is Zachs' wife, Claire (Kate Jackson) who only wishes to start a family with Zach.

The Queering
In my lifetime, I have been to my share of gay bars, as well as to what some people might refer to as "redneck" bars. And yes, I know the term "redneck" is overlaid with problems but bear with me for a moment. Oddly enough, none of the supposedly gay bars presented in Making Love really reminded me of any gay bar I have gone to. However, the bars do somewhat resemble redneck bars where the male patrons just so happen to like to gently hold each other or tenderly caress their partners shoulders.

There is no kissing though, as apparently someone declared law against the non-main characters kissing in this film. We do occasional see a bit of what might almost be considered necking, but really, the better term would be neck pecking.

And this is where the problems begin with Making Love. The strong sense of artifice that infuses every scene. There is not a single moment that does not betray the fact that it was dribbled from a writers pen. From moment to moment, I had a hard time deciding what was worse, the horrible acting or the gag inducing writing. The lone exception is Harry Hamlin, who gives the best performance by managing to display a moderate degree of charisma.

There are those who claim that Making Love was a groundbreaking film regarding positive portrayals of LGBTQ characters. That may be, but the film goes overboard in this regard, causing the characters to become 1 dimensional caricatures. In a romance, it is essential that there be somebody who can feel real. Here, the audience is given nothing more than hollow wisps blowing on empty breezes.

There are other problems as well, one that I previously pointed out inAnother Gay Movie. That is the film does not ever really feel like a queer film at all. Sure, some of the characters occasionally kiss members of the same sex and roll around a few sheets with them as well. But the film also goes to extraordinary lengths to point out the heterosexual nature and backgrounds of both Zach and Bart. There is far more straight kissing in this film than gay kissing.

For a film that portends to be one of the earliest major gay films, there was an awful lot of focus on the heterosexual relationships. The film even ends with Claire staring wistfully staring as Zach makes his final farewell to her. In real life she would have burned his cheating ass in effigy and moved on with her life.

Throw in the lack of any genuine examination of queer concerns -- at least outside of an occasional reference such as when Bart talks about his fathers' attempts to get him to engage in the manly pursuit of Baseball -- and I have a difficult time considering this an example of gay or queer cinema.

I can cite plenty examples of extremely problematic cinema from the late 60's such as The Detective, The Sergeant or The Boys in the Band but each of those films at least dealt openly with legitimate queer characters and issues. Which of course made them revolutionary for the time period that they came out of. That is not a statement that can be applied to Making Love which amounts to nothing more than the blandest pile of fluff one is as likely to find in the 80's. In a decade not known for its' substance, that is saying something.

I would rather make love to a rabid pack of feces flinging howler monkeys than watch this film again.

The Rating
* out of ****


Want to find a review of a particular work? Check out the Title Index, the archive of all reviews posted listed alphabetically.

August 18, 2012

Queer Review: Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Cool Hand Luke
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Writers: Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson. Based upon the novel by Donn Pearce.
Cast: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, J.D. Cannon, Lou Antonio, Robert Drivas, Strother Martin, Jo Van Fleet, Clifton James, Morgan Woodward, Luke Askew

A classic flick about a man sent to prison that mixes elements of the Christ story with Rebel Without a Cause, plus a few standard queer subtexts .

After a drunken bender where he vandalized a bunch of parking meters, Luke (Paul Newman) is sentenced to work on a chain gang. At first an outsider, Luke is eventually accepted, and then revered by the other prisoners. But when Luke's mother dies, he is not only barred from attending her funeral, the captian puts him in The Box for several days to prevent him from running. This only increases Lukes' desire to fight the system, and he makes several daring escape attempts, each one more likely to lead to his demise.

The Queering
While I was at times reminded of James Deans' Jim Stark from Rebel Without a Cause, Luke more often invokes the image of Christ. Luke, who starts the movie out as an outsider, ends up obtaining a following of dedicated disciples before turning into an outright martyr. In one scene, where he eats 50 eggs for a dare, leaves him in the classic crucifix pose, arms outstretched and his legs crossed at the ankles. Another scene, where he curses God during a rainstorm and asks to be struck down, is highly baptismal in nature.

Ultimately, Luke is a rebel, fighting against a system he does fully understand. In a very general sense, he can be read as a queer hero. Certainly, the counter culture movement that would give birth to the Stonewall Riots in 1969 is very much alive in Luke.

When the jail Captain utters the films most iconic line: "What we have here Gentlemen is a failure to communicate" it quickly comes clear that even the Captain does not fully understand the message is he trying to convey. He certainly opposes anarchy and rule breaking, but what does he stand for? Society often seems to consider rebels to have no cause. We ask what do the Lukes/Jim Starks/Occupy Protestors/hippies of this world want? But very rarely do we ask ourselves what is the point of order when it must be enforced with abject cruelty?

Other subtle queer subtexts abound. For starters, Dragline, who becomes Lukes' most devoted disciple and who escapes with Luke on the last escape attempt, is constantly ordering the other prisoners to strip off their shirts during their long forced work details in the hot sun.

In fact, there are few scenes where any of the prisoners are wearing shirts. As a result, I had difficulty thinking of a film with so much exposed male flesh -- although outside of brief glimpse at a set of buttocks, there are no naked private parts on display. The HBO television series Oz comes close, if you consider most of the first several seasons.

As for the acting, Paul Newman is his naturally charismatic self, while George Kennedy gives a memorable performance as Dragline, who first fights against Luke before becoming a follower. As the captain, Strother Martin oozes a subtle menace more frightening than the rattlesnake that the prisoners discover on an open road.

Overall, Cool Hand Luke is a classic movie that delivers a powerful message about outsiders, rebels, and the price we subject ourselves to in order to repel chaos.

Stick em in the freezer or an icebox, do whatever you have to see Cool Hand Luke. If the price of seeing Cool Hand Luke was having to eat 50 eggs, it would still be worth paying.

The Rating
*** out ****


Want to find a review of a particular work? Check out the Title Index, the archive of all reviews posted listed alphabetically.

August 17, 2012

Silver Demon: The Homocaust and the Liberation That Was For Others

This is the third article on the novel, Silver Demon, that I am currently working on, where I talk about my influences in writing the book.

When we think of the Holocaust (or Shoah) the first thing that jumps to mind is that of the NAZI persecution of the Jewish population. It is true that the NAZI's exterminated millions of Jews in the most horrific example of ethnic cleansing of the 20th Century.

However, the Jewish people were not the only targets of the NAZI's. In addition, Jehovah Witnesses, Romanians, the physically and mentally disabled, communists and other political and religious dissidents, as well as gay and transgender men.

Around 10,000-15,000 men were convicted and imprisoned under Paragraph 175, which stated:
An unnatural sex act committed between persons of male sex or by humans with animals is punishable by imprisonment; the loss of civil rights may also be imposed.

While imprisoned, these men were marked with Pink Triangles, much like the Jews were marked with the Star of David. The pink triangle would later be adopted as a badge of honor by LGBTQ activists who wanted to reclaim the symbol.

The pink triangle prisoners were treated more brutally by the concentration camp guards, due to the stigmatization surrounding homosexuality the death rate has been estimated to be around 60%.

However, the worst part was the aftermath. At the end of World War II, the concentration camps were liberated by allied troops and the rest of the world came to know of what had occurred. However, the liberation for the gay men who had been convicted under Paragraph 175 did not occur. Still viewed as convicted criminals, many gay men were re-imprisoned and/or re-convicted in courts under evidence that had been obtained by the NAZI's.

Reparations by the German government that were made to the Jewish population that had been imprisoned by the NAZI's, did not come as easily to those prosecuted under Paragraph 175. Several survivors, such as Karl Gorath, Heinz Dörmer, and Pierre Seel, would fight for decades for acknowledgment and reparations to little avail.

Furthermore, much like the scientists who acquired medical knowledge while experimenting on concentration camp prisoners, no NAZI was ever prosecuted for war crimes committed against a homosexual prisoner. It was not until 2002 that the German government even apologized to the gay community for what had been done to us under NAZI rule.

August 15, 2012

Queer Review: X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006)

X-Men: The Last Stand
Director: Brett Ratner
Writers: Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Ellen Page, Daniel Cudmore, Ben Foster

If it was not for the presence of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this would easily be the weakest of all the X-Men movies released to date. As it is, it is currently tied for last place. Bad writing, too many characters, and the elimination of any potentially interesting queer subtexts, all cause this movie to lack the gumption to take any stand at all.

When a cure for the mutant gene is found, some mutants such as Rogue (Ann Paquin) are overjoyed, while thers are more cautious. However, Magneto (Ian McKellen) views this as a threat to all mutant kind and decides to declare open war against the human race. While this is going on, Jean Grey, who was believed to have died at the end of X2: X-Men United, has been reborn as the Phoenix, a dangerous creature capable of immeasurable destruction.

The Queering
One of the more enjoyable aspects of the X-Men movies has always been the presence of a very definable queer subtext. The mutants, by their very nature, are different from normal humans and their mutations cause the rest of the population to fear and hate them. Thus, the X-Men films have always been allegories about the dangers of prejudice.

In X-Men: The Last Stand though, a major plot point revolves around a "cure" for mutation that was developed by a pharmaceutical company. The problem with this is that there is no parallel that can be made with queer sexuality. In the real world, the only person who would give serious consideration to such an option would be an ex-gay pusher or the self hater.

Not that I want to turn this into a political polemic or anything but to be honest, I find the idea that this would even be considered a possible subtext for being queer absolutely offensive. The suicide rate for teenagers who have been forced into ex-gay therapies is staggering.

Then there are the artistic qualities of the film itself, or rather the lack thereof. The main problem is that there are too many new mutants running around, along with beefed up rolls for those who had little more than cameos the first time around. Therefore, no one having enough screen time to really make much of an impact. Character development, never among the series strong suit, has taken a nose dive for the worse.

As for the threadbare plot, it basically amounts to a scattered build up, followed by a dramatically void climax. As the X-Men's last stand, this is not a send off to get excited about. Audiences were understandably disappointed by what Brett Ratner offered up here compared to what had been accomplished under the direction of Bryan Singer in the first two X-Men films.

For die hard X-Men fans only. Everyone else is advised to take a stand elsewhere.

The Rating
** out of ****


Want to find a review of a particular work? Check out the Title Index, the archive of all reviews posted listed alphabetically.

August 12, 2012

Silver Demon: In the Name of Science

This past week, the curiosity mars rover landed on the surface of the red planet. A proud moment in science to be sure. Given that this was also at the height of the Chick-Fil-A madness, a meme quickly followed that went like this:
Dear Religion,
While you were busy debating which chicken sandwiches were okay to eat, I landed a rover on mars.
Your pal science.
This got a chuckle from me. However, perhaps this also is a good time as any to point out that science is not always a pure light into the darkness.

Hubertus Strughold is considered to by the father of space medicine and went to work for NASA following WWII. Dr. Strughold also once held a post at the NAZI Concentration Camp of Dachue. The experiments that Dr. Strughold were connected to involved placing concentration camp inmates in low pressure chambers, forced consumption of seawater, exposure to extremely low temperatures and submersion in freezing waters. These experiments are believed to have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of prisoners.
Dear Religion,
I shot for the moon by murdering the weak. Your Spanish Inquisition was nothing. Envious yet?
Your Pal Science.
Following World War II, Operation Paperclip went into effect. In a desperate bid to stay ahead of the Soviets during the Cold War, the United States aided numerous German and Japanese scientists in obtaining clemency and U.S. citizenship in exchange for the knowledge they had obtained from experiments that could easily be classified as war crimes. Or as it might also be said, crimes against humanity.
Dear Religion,
While you were busy persecuting those of different faiths, I exploited that bigotry for cannon fodder.
Thank you,
Your Pal Science.
A full accounting of the horrors of the medical experimentation that was conducted during The Shoah would be impossible. The NAZI's did tests to discover the effects of frostbite, hypothermia, malaria, mustard gas, dehydration, the transplantation of tissues, and more.

Under the NAZI regime, gay men and women were also persecuted and imprisoned in concentration camps. Experiments on gay men imprisoned at Buchenwald, undertaken by Dr. Carl Peter Vaernet, were attempted in order to find out if it was possible to use hormones to make gay men straight. If he were alive today, one wonders how readily Dr. Vaernet would fit in with the ex-gay movement.

While castration was only rumored to have been done to the pink triangle prisoners, the British actually went ahead and chemically castrated Alan Turing, who was instrumental in the defeat of the NAZI's, for the grand old crime of being gay. As a result of this hormone treatment, Alan Turing committed suicide by eating a poisoned apple.

Alan Turing, in addition to helping defeat the NAZI's during WWII, is considered the father of modern computer science and the person whom you should be thanking for the computer you are reading this article on.
Dear Religion,
While you were busy persucuting the homos, I've been busy developing the tools that let you do so.
You're welcome,
Your Pal Science.
The history of medical experimentation in the United States has been as equally horrific as that which occured in NAZI Germany. Children, the disabled, the poor, the homeless, prisoners, and military personnel have been among the most commonly used subjects. Prior to the Civil War, expirementation on slaves was a widely accepted practice.

History is easily forgotten and when it comes to queer history, our community has been faced with a particularly virulent purge of anything that could possibly be construed as rainbow tinted.

This has been one of the main reasons I have been motivated to do the work that I have done on my novel Silver Demon. The subject of medical experimentation, particularly the tests that were conducted during The Holocaust, is one that will feature heavily.

Nobody wants to remember the dirty and grimy parts of history, only the roles we played as heroes. I cannot count myself as an exception to this. Frequently, I find myself wanting to bury my head in the sand, only to discover that there is no sand, only the ashes of the innocent.

August 10, 2012

Queer Review: Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Suddenly, Last Summer
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Writer: Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal. Based upon a play by Tennessee Williams.
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift, Albert Dekker, Mercedes McCambridge, Gary Raymond

An ugly mess. In spite of being written by two prominent gay writers (Gore Vidal and Tennessee Williams) Suddenly, Last Summer somehow manages to include almost every last queer bashing technique ever dreamed up by Hollywood.

Dr. Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) is asked by Mrs. Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn) to perform a lobotomy on her niece, Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor). However, when Dr. Cukrowicz interviews Catherine, he suspects that she is in fact perfectly sane, albeit severely traumatized by mysterious events surrounding the death the previous summer of Sebastian (Mrs. Venables' son). He also suspects that Mrs. Venable has an ulterior motive for wanting Catherine lobotomized.

The Queering
(This is an older film but I plan on discussing explicit details of the ending. For those who hate SPOILERS, you are now warned.)

If there is a gay bashing trope used by Hollywood that Suddenly, Last Summer does not somehow use, I am unaware of its' existence. The relationship details that Mrs. Venable shares with Dr. Cukrowicz show she and her son had a creepy, bordering on incestuous, relationship. Mrs. Venable also describes her son as being "fastidious" and other details reveal him to have been what could be described as a "nancy boy" (not that I think there is anything wrong with that). Catherine also, apparently justifiably, describes Sebastian as being an emotionally manipulative user.

For added bonus, Sebastian is suggested to not only have been an active pedophile, but the ending reveals that he was eaten alive by the same boys that he had preyed upon sexually. Yay!

How two gay writers were able to create such a homophobic crapfest is a little difficult to explain but not entirely. After all, 1959 was the same era that had the Mattachine Society attempting to argue that gay men were in fact mentally ill and that criminalizing homosexuality was pretty much the same thing as outlawing wheelchairs.

Suddenly, Last Summer is flawed in other ways besides being homophobic. The characterization of Catherine Holly is just awful. Catherine should be demonstrating symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but more frequently simply displays an amalgamation of Hollywood stereotypes about the mentally ill. To top it off, both Catherine's mother and brother are among the more irritating characters that I can recall having witnessed on the silver screen. Both ma and bro Holly suffer from what I shall call "Jar Jar Binks Meets Nails on Chalkboard" syndrome.

On the plus side of things, Katherine Hepburn gives a riveting performance as the Mrs. Venable. There is also some nicely composed cinematography. Make note of how a painting of Saint Sebastian is shown before being explicitly referenced by Mrs. Venable. I would also like to point out that there are several intriguing shots of skeletons (or statues of skeletons) which may or may not be intended as simple metaphors for death.

Unfortunately one good performance, a few nicely composed shots, and a couple of stabs at complex visual symbolism are not enough to undo the overall awfulness that is Suddenly, Last Summer

Only for those with a strong interest in the history of queer cinema. Everyone else would best serve themselves by suddenly seeing something else, be it summer or any other season.

The Rating
*1/2 out of ****


Want to find a review of a particular work? Check out the Title Index, the archive of all reviews posted listed alphabetically.

On Censorship, Rape Culture, and the New Comments Policy.

Generally speaking, I tend to like to pretend that there is no topic too offensive that it could not be discussed by reasonable adults. Censorship is evil I tell you! EVIL!

There are of course moments when reality hits and I find myself forcing to take a hard look at my positions on free speech. A few days ago was one such day.

It came when I found a comment on the post Gore Vidal, Rape Apologist that basically defended Vidals' statements. Among other lovely little dripplings, the comment included the sentiment that somehow determining whether or not a rape victim was a virgin at the time they were sexually assaulted was somehow relevant.

Yeah, I too hate it when I've been conned into thinking this is now the 21st century.

In any case, I deleted the comment. I realize that I have now invited scores of people to decry my position as hypocritical. So be it. If someone out there wants to start a blog and pontificate about how morally upright rapists are, and how their slutty victims were asking for it, go ahead. But I will not allow such poison on Queering the Closet.

For the record, I have now updated the About page to include a section outlining the new commenting policy.

August 6, 2012

Politifact: Bad at Politics and Not So Good With Facts Either

Mitt Romney, as it has been widely reported, has not released his tax returns. Speculation as to why he is breaking a tradition his own father started, has almost become an Olympic sport unto itself. One of the more commonly floated theories is that Romney paid little to no taxes for the past decade.

On July 31st, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in an interview with the Huffington Post, claimed that a reliable, albeit anonymous, source had told him that Romney had indeed paid no taxes for the past 10 years.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. Politifact, a site for which I have previously pointed out, has in the past demonstrated an unfortunate inability to distinguish between fact and opinion, took it upon themselves to label Harry Reid's claim Pants on Fire.

Basically Polifacts' reasoning for this label boils down to speculation on the part of tax experts who say that it would have been extremely difficult for Romney not to have paid taxes. Otherwise, this issue remains Reids' word against Romneys'.

So why is Politifact not giving Romney a Pants on Fire rating either? After all, Romney could very easily prove Reid wrong by, you know, doing what pretty much every Presidential candidate has done for decades and simply release his tax returns.

In short, if Romney could prove Reid is in fact a liar, why should Politifact take his side? It is after all easier to imagine reasons why anonymous source would want to remain anonymous (particularly if they do indeed work for Bain Capitol as Reid claims) then it is to imagine why a presidential hopeful would refuse to follow tradition and release his tax returns. For example, I do not think that it is out of the realm of speculation (cough) to assume that there is a substantial chance that Reids' source might get fired for making such sensitive information public.

Then there is the issue of Polifact describing Reids' anonymous source as "shadowy". Really Politifact? What is your evidence for that? Is it now common journalistic practice to label all anonymous sources as "shadowy"? Do know why the term "weasel word" was developed? Is there any possible reason to include such a label, outside of oh say, if one were deliberately attempting to create a partisan smear?

Which brings me to my next issue. Why even bother rating for Reids' claim in the first place? Does Politifact really think that most people do not know what the term "anonymous" means? This is not an issue in which the particulars are not well known to the public.

So what exactly makes a ruling so desperately necessary? If, as Politifact claims, their standards dictate they must hold Reid accountable, why are they not also holding Romney accountable? Why is speculation considered a deciding factor but not an anonymous source?

If Politifact really is all about helping people find the truth in American politics, why bother reporting on an issue in which the details are already well known? Their article and justifications bring no significantly new angle to the table. Speculation at this point is only just that, speculation. The pondering of experts is worth considering, but I fail to see how they constitute substantial evidence in this case.

The truth of the matter is that unless Reids' source decides to go public or Romney decides to release his tax returns, the actual facts are unknowable. Which makes Politifacts posturing about Reids' pants being on fire, all the more galling. By pretending this is an issue in which the truth can be determined, Politifact has instead created a lie of the highest order.

August 5, 2012

Silver Demon: Riddle Me This.

So, in any case, I've been working on a novel for, well, some time now. The title that I have (for right now) is Silver Demon and I would classify it as falling within the queer superhero genre.

Now, while doing research for Silver Demon, I happen to keep coming across little tidbits and things that I want to either share publicly or comment on, but up until now, have not bothered to do so. Which is why I'm making this post.

There is a scene in the story where one of the characters ends up being tested and has to answer several riddles in order to proceed. Naturally, I did some research to look for inspiration for riddles to use in this scene.

One riddle that I kept coming across goes as follows:
A man and his son are out driving when they are in a terrible car accident and both the father* and son are horribly injured. Both end up being rushed to different hospitals. When the Doctor at the E.R. sees the son, she turns and says, "I cannot treat this son, he is my son."
*Some versions have the father being killed instead of injured.

Naturally the answer that is always given is that the Doctor in question happens to the patients' mom. Ha, ha, didn't think of that you sexist misogynistic pigs!

The thing is, generally speaking, that riddles are supposed to have "tricks" to them. That is, the answers are not supposed to be obvious, otherwise they would not be riddles. The trick to this riddle is that people (apparently) do not generally consider the possibility that women can be doctors.

That issue aside however, there are a couple of points I want to raise about this riddle. We know the current gender of one parent. We know nothing about the gender of the other parent. This of course leaves open several possibilities. The son is being raised by a gay couple and therefore has two fathers or the doctor is transgender, intersex, or gender queer, or more generally falls outside the gender binary.

In any case. the point remains the same, the riddle is set up so as to mock sexism but merely ends up also reinforcing heternormativity.

A better joke in the same vein - for which the punchline is now ruined (sorry!) - is as follows:

There is a terrible car accident in which it is obvious that one of the occupants is badly injured. A man and a woman rush up to the car and arrive almost at the same time. The man roughly shoves the woman aside, saying, "Excuse me lady, I know first aid."

The woman steps back for a few moments, then walks up to the man and says to him, "when you get to the part about calling a doctor, I'm right here."

August 4, 2012

Otsego County Pflag: PFlag National Statement on Chick-Fil-A

Otsego County Pflag: PFlag National Statement on Chick-Fil-A: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 3, 2012 Contact: Liz Owen |> | (202) 467-8180 ext. 214 PFLAG NATIONAL RESPONDS TO CHICK-FIL...

August 2, 2012

Gore Vidal, Rape Apologist.

For those who were unaware, Gore Vidal, American author, and stringent anti-imperialist passed away this week.

I will admit to having been a little upset about the news when I first heard it. Vidal after all was an extremely quotable writer. I found the following quote from him to be particularly incisive:
At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice.

However, that quote took on a decidedly ironic overtone, when I came across the following statement that Vidal had made in an interview with The Atlantic (published in 2009) in response to the question the interviewer had asked regarding Roman Polanski raping a 13 year year old girl:

I really don’t give a fuck. Look, am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she’s been taken advantage of?

Honestly, I am not sure where to begin on this one. The facts of what Mr. Polanski had done were well established at the time of this interview.

First off, the individual in question was 13 years old at the time of the incident. A little young to be engaging in sex work, one might think.

Second, I must have forgotten to read the memo that says that sex workers give up their right to refuse consent when they are working.

Third, the thirteen year old victim was drugged by Polanski before he raped her. The victim was with Polanski, as Polanski had promised her mother that she (the victim) would be photographed for an edition of Vogue. Which is another memo I must have lost, the one that argues that getting photographed for a non-pornographic magazine is the equivalent of engaging in sex work.

What makes Vidal's defending Polanski so reprehensible is that Vidal makes it very clear that this comment was not simply off the cuff, he genuinely believes in what is saying.

As the interview in question proceeds, Vidal goes on to claim that Polanski's persecution was motivated by antisemitism and had nothing to do with, you know, Polanski raping a 13 year old.

I am reminded here, of when I doing research on Harry Hay and finding out that he had, at one point defended NAMBLA (North Atlantic Man Boy Love Association) an organization that essentially promotes pedophilia. And while doing research for this article I found out that Allen Ginsberg had also defended the organization.

It seems as if you can't knock too hard on the door of anybody's closet, without knocking out a skeleton or two. There is a line between defending sexual activity between consenting adults and defending sexual activity with those too young to give consent. Too bad there are pro-queer activists who were unable to make that distinction.

I am also reminded here of the response to the Sandusky scandal at Penn State and the revelation that many members of the Penn State elite -- such as Joe Paterno -- had covered up for Sandusky. Consider also, the cover ups that occurred within the Catholic Church over numerous incidents of sexual assault by priests against children.

Coming back to Vidal, it is worth noting that he was not the only celebrity who had defended Polanski. Over a hundred of Hollywood's elite signed a petition to demand the release of Polanski following his arrest in Switzerland while he was traveling to a film festiveal.

It seems that as a species, few of us are immune to the desire to stick our head in the sand and ignore any problem that is shoved in front of our faces. But a problem cannot be solved through ignorance, nor by blaming the victims.

While Gore Vidal may have been a talented and progressive author (he did after all write one of the first major pro-queer novels in the United States) I cannot defend, his slut-shaming, rape defending, comment. Nor do I think it should be dismissed. By claiming that a 13 year old, who had been drugged and raped by a man in his 40's, was a "hooker" who had simply felt she had been taken advantage of, Gore Vidal committed a sin too ugly for description.