March 26, 2013

If Same Sex Marriage Really Leads to Polygamy, Shouldn't Christians Want to Get Gay Married?

So, like Prop 8 is now going before the supreme court which is... interesting. I guess.

There is a little bitty part of me that wants to point out how awkward the push for Marriage Equality has become. How it has pushed aside other more pressing concerns within the queer community. Issues such as poverty, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, employment discrimination, trans issues. On why people never ask why state sanctioned marriage exists in the first place and why do married people deserve easier access to housing, education, and healthcare and so on.

However, I thought it might be fun to put together some responses to some of the reasons that are used to oppose same sex marriage.

Here goes:
Same Sex Marriage will lead to polygamy.
If this were true, all Christians should be wanting to get gay married. See, polygamy was practiced in the Bible so if polygamy were to be legalized in the U.S., the U.S. would therefore become a more Biblical Nation.

Same Sex Marriage is unnatural.
So is walking on water, turning water into wine, and rising from the dead.

Gays need to recruit in order for their numbers too grow
And remind me again what exactly these "Christian missionaries" who keep knocking on my door are doing?

Gay Marriage will destroy the very fabric of society
This is true, a lot of fabric needs to be cut up and destroyed to make wedding dresses and tuxedos. The solution is obvious. Ban Marriage! Save the nation's fabric supply!

Marriage is necessary for procreation.
True again! Nobody who is unmarried can get pregnant! And everybody who does get married can automatically have kids. Infertility is never an issue if a couple is legitimately married. Heck, God didn't even need to have sex with Mary in order for the birth of Jesus to occur. He simply got married to her and presto! Baby Jesus just happened! As opposed to God implanting a fetus in her without her consent and then sending an angel to tell her what had already taken place. I mean it couldn't possibly have been a legitimate rape or her body would
have shut the whole thing down! Oh wait...

All kids require two opposite sex parents in order to not grow up to become murdering psychopaths or bratty socialists.
Because Cain and Abel both had Adam and Eve as parents and turned out fine. Meanwhile, Jesus had two dads and he was a lazy brat who threw temper tantrums in church over the mere presence of hard working business men. One must assume he was jealous of their success, unnatural hippy socialist that he was.

March 12, 2013

Queer Review: Gun Hill Road (2011)

Gun Hill Road
Director: Rashaad Ernesto Green
Writer: Rashaad Ernesto Green
Cast: Esai Morales, Judy Reyes, Harmony Santana, Miriam Colon, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Franky G, Vincent Laresca, Robin de Jesus

Gun Hill Road is a film that does as many things wrong as it does right. Lacking in focus, while high in predictability, the main things that save this from being mostly a waste are strong acting and raw cinematography.

Enrique (Esai Morales) has just been released from prison and returns home to find out that his wife, Angela (Judy Reyes) has been having an affair while he was in jail. While this does not bother him too much, when he discovers the fact that his "son", Michael (Harmony Santana) is now in the process of transitioning to Vanessa, he finds it increasingly difficult to control his rage.

The Queering
Watching Gun Hill Road, I was frequently reminded of Pariah. Both films are small, independent features that depict inner city life for young individuals of color, who are LGBTQ identified. The plots also have remarkably similarly narratives, which ends up being Gun Hill Road's biggest undoing.

Familiarity maybe bread contempt, but that need not be a killer for most films, but when the plot becomes too predictable, there needs to be some other element capable of making the story compelling. Unfortunately for Gun Hill Road some naturalistic performances and a shaky cam that lends a feeling of "realness" -- even while the script is doing everything it can to take things in the opposite direction -- are not enough to save it.

There was also the unfortunate decision to make Enrique a focal point of the story. The main problem is that he was not a terribly sympathetic character, particularly after he assaults Vanessa and forces her to submit to a haircut. The fact that his character arc is the most predictable out of all the characters does not help matters either.

Now maybe I've taken too much sensitivity training on the subject, but the choice gendered pronouns and nouns by other characters when they referred to Michael/Vanessa bothered me a biy. I mean, I can understand why Enrique keeps using male pronouns, but why does Angela, who apparently was on board with the transition, keep misgendering Vanessa?

For those who prefer smaller films and independent cinema, Gun Hill Road may be a route worth taking. If not, this film may be better off being left the road less traveled.

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.

March 10, 2013

Of the Day (March 10th, 2013)

The Amazing Sassy
The Amazing Sassy - Boys Will be Boys

A term I don’t use anymore: TERF from Transstingray by Annetta Gaiman
American Assassinations For Dummies from NSFWcorp by By Mark Ames
Who are Democrats and Republicans representing, anyway? from Salon by David Sirota
Research shows everyone does worse with online learning from The Raw Story by Kay Steiger


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March 9, 2013

Queer Review: The Mark of Zorro (1920)

The Mark of Zorro
Director: Fred Niblo
Writer: Johnston McCulley. Based upon his novel The Curse of Capistrano
Cast: Douglas Fairbanks, Marguerite De La Motte, Robert McKim, Noah Beery, Charles Hill Mailes, Tote Du Crow, Walt Whitman, Claire McDowell, George Periolat

This 1920 silent film about Señor Zorro (Mr. Fox) contains more subtexts then one can shake a saber at. While not completely subverting the macho hero/effeminate villain paradigm, The Mask of Zorro does manage to come close.

The year is approximately 1820 and the oppressive Governor of California, Alvarado (George Periolat) has found his authority challenged by a masked vigilante, Señor Zorro (Douglas Fairbanks). His right hand man, Capitán Juan Ramon (Robert McKim), vows to capture Zorro, only to find himself humiliated when Zorro beats him in a dual. Meanwhile, the effete Don Diego Vega (who is really Zorro) is being pressured by his father, Don Alejandro (Sidney De Gray) to marry Lolita Pulido (Marguerite De La Motte), whose family is being persecuted by Governor Alvarado. This leads to an unfortunate love triangle when Capitán Ramon also falls for the beautiful Lolita.

The Queering
If you noticed any similarities between Zorro and Batman in the synopsis, they are not coincidences. Bob Kane admitted that the character of Zorro inspired the development of Batman. Here, in The Mark of Zorro the similarities can be seen everything from a proto-Bat cave to the trusty servant, Bernardo (Tote Du Crow).

Other elements that can be observed to have been mimicked in later superhero stories is the secret identity, Señor Zorro/Don Diego Vega, concept. It has been commented on that this element of the superhero mythos mimics that of the closeted gay or lesbian. That is, many superheros present themselves as "normal" during the day but at night, take on a different personality to fight crime. What makes Zorro interesting to me, is just how feminine Don Diego Vega was presented. In his first entrance, he is shown making a theatrical entrance to a bar using an umbrella. He even snorts tobacco (smoking it was considered "unladylike", so woman of the time would sniff tobacco instead). More importantly, he feigns a disinterest in girls, much to his father's consternation.

At the end, when Zorro is forced out of the closet, it can be seen as a reversal of the normal "coming out" experienced by LGBTQ people. Here, it's the effeminate, sub-textually gay personality that is revealed to truly be a heterosexual, butch avenger.

Further subversiveness is found in the role of Capitán Juan Ramon, who demonstrates sexual interest in Lolita. Granted, this is not a complete subversion of the butch hero/femme baddie, but Ramon is not shown to be any less masculine than Zorro and is certainly more butch than Don Diego Vega.

There is one element I found interesting that does not get replicated very much in the superhero genre, which is that Zorro is very specifically fighting a governmental authority figure, not a criminal enterprise. Superman fights "for truth, justice, and the American way". While Gotham's Police Department is shown to be utterly corrupt in Batman Begins, during The Dark Knight Rises Batman is shown fighting side by side with Gotham's Law Enforcement. Spiderman pretty much exclusively fights criminals and mad scientists. Professor Xavier in the X-Men films actually support the status quo, while Magneto is the one who attempts insurrection.

However, in spite of it's subversiveness, The Mark of Zorro is not a great film as the writing and plot were fairly simplistic overall. I must admit though, that the fight scenes with their over the top stunts and Zorro engaging in bizarre behavior in order to taunt his enemies, were certainly fun to watch. For the time period, the acting seemed fairly sedate from my perspective, although that might have been because I had recently watched Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Overall, a lesser silent film, but one worth taking the time to seek out for it's subversiveness and the absurd fight sequences. Would be worth getting marked with a "Z" upon one's flesh in order to see.

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.

Queer Review: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Director: Tom Shadyac
Writer: Jack Bernstein, Tom Shadyac, and Jim Carrey
Cast: Jim Carrey, Courteney Cox, Sean Young, Tone Loc, Dan Marino, Noble Willingham, Udo Kier

An overly transphobic and homophobic turd of a film from the mid-90's, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective commits the ultimate sin for a comedy; not only is it offensive, it isn't really all that funny.

When the beloved Miama Dolphins football team mascot (Snowflake) goes missing, the teams publicist Melissa (Courteney Cox) calls upon the services of Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey) to get the aquatic mammal back. His investigation will take him on a bizare path, one filled with twists and surprises.

The Queering
There is a scene in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective where Ace Ventura, while searching for Snowflake, comes across a large aquarium. Instead of an innocent dolphin swimming inside, Ace Ventura finds instead a giant man eating shark. This moment is clearly intended as a sublime metaphor for the films tragic denouement. It's almost as subtle as the one featured in the opening scene where Ace Ventura is shown kicking a package down a hallway, thereby destroying the contents. This scene is clearly meant to tell the audience that the film ahead is an empty, soul eating endeavor that will completely destroy all that is funny or humorous in our world.

Or perhaps not.

So, in any case some of the higher ups for the Bush administration openly cited transgender/transsexual people as a security concern. What's amusing about this, is that they're concern could have easily been based off of a juvenile plot twist from this film. Never mind that if one wanted to change one's identity, it's much easier to change things like eye/hair/skin color then it is to go through the surgical procedures to change one's gender/sex. Height and weight are similarly malleable, but lord knows, nobody ever brings up banning spray on tanning products, hair dye, colored contacts, diet pills, or any of the kinds of surgery one could use to change one's physical stature or THE TERRORISTS WIN.

Sorry, but I digress.

In any case, if there is a transphobic or homophobic trope that this film misses, I cannot think of it. The main "twist" of the film revolves around the fact that one of the characters transitioned from male to female. Or maybe not. It's not clear whether or not the writers are even aware of the possibility of someone wanting to undergo surgery to change their sex for purposes other than deception. So we have "deceptive trans villain". Check.

In one scene we have Jim Carrey wearing a dress in order to intimate to a medical professional that he has a mental illness. This is on top of the numerous times there is dialogue blatantly stating that the villain is mentally ill. So, linking mental illness and transgender and transsexual identities? Check.

Then there is the scene where Ace Ventura gets all upset over the fact that he kissed a person with a dick. When he reveals this little factoid to the other police officers (the villain here also happens to be a police lieutenant) all of the police officers present react negatively, as if they too had been making out with the female lieutenant. So the idea of queer sexuality as gross and disgusting present? Check.

I could go on, but it's really not worth it. In the end, I could not help but think about how Jim Carrey, more than a decade later, would star in the excellent I Love You Phillip Morris. It got me thinking about the number of filmmakers who have worked on incredibly transphobic productions later going on to work on gay friendly ones. For example, Johnathen Demme making Philadelphia following criticism of Silence of the Lambs. Also, there were at least two episodes of The X-Files that could be considered gay friendly (All Things and X-Cops), but I Want to Believe contained an obvious trans villain. Off the top of my head, I could not think of a single counter example of a filmmaker who had worked on a homophobic film and had ever made another one featuring a positive transgender or transsexual character.

This pet detective can only be taken care of properly one way, with a pooper-scooper.

The Rating
Zero out of ****


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

March 2, 2013

If it's not one thing...

There is a part of me that is tempted to issue some sort of "sorry for not posting more often" apology thing, but given the fact that I'm not exactly under any obligation to put my writing out there on a regular basis, I do this for myself as much as anything else, I'm not sure there is much point in doing so.

In any case one reason for there not being too many posts recently was that two weeks ago, just after I was done getting all nice and settled into the new apartment and starting to get into a regular schedule with regards to my classes at Wilkes-Barre, I get the news that my grandmother passed away. I of course then went down to Maryland to be with my father on that Sunday. Thus, the last two weekends, which probably would have gone towards catching up on my reading for college, were spent driving around, spending some time with my father, and attending the memorial service.

While I was in Towson the first weekend, my Uncle Bruce and I went for a walk through a nearby federal park/historic site of a former slave plantation, called the Ridgely Plantation. While we were walking towards the site, my uncle gave me a brief lecture about the site. About how the planation had been used to manufacture arms during the Revolutionary war and such.

When we got to the site, there was one thing that stuck out and actually bothered me a little bit. Not something I want to devote a whole blog post to, but still worth pointing out. Around the plantation and various buildings, there were these signs that had information about the history of the site. Now I did not get a chance to look at all the signs, of the few that I did, all but one used the term "worker" rather than "slave". The one exception was the sign outside the slave quarters that actually identified the building as being the slave quarters. What made this really odd, was the fact that other terms like "master" "owner" and "overseers", were still used by whoever wrote the signs up.

Just a minor example of historical erasure I thought I'd bring to people's attention.

Queer Review: Silkwood (1983)

Director: Mike Nichols
Writers: Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen
Cast: Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell, Cher, Craig T. Nelson, Fred Ward, Diana Scarwid, Ron Silver, David Strathairn, Bruce McGill, E. Katherine Kerr, Sudie Bond

Silkwood is a well acted, methodically paced drama based upon the real life story of Karen Silkwood, a labor activist at a factory that manufactured nuclear energy rods who died under mysterious circumstances.

Karen Silkwood (Meryl Streep) finds herself becoming suspicious that factory she works at, run by the Kerr-McGee company, is not adhering to proper safety protocols thanks to the fact that the factory is behind schedule on a large order of nuclear energy rods. As her suspicions increase, she becomes involved with the The Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union and is soon elected to their bargaining committee. After secretly attempting to find documentation to substantiate her claims of the dangerous working conditions, she tests positive for plutonium poisoning, raising the possibility that someone at the plant has poisoned her. As Karen becomes increasingly paranoid that company management is trying to silence her, she organizes a meeting with a union official and a reporter from the New York Times, telling them that she had managed to obtain incriminating documentation. She never makes it, dying in an unfortunate car accident on the way to the meeting. When the her car was discovered, none of the documents she had previously claimed to have were found in it.

The Queering
I had put Silkwood in the netflix queue because Keith Stern had listed Karen Silkwood in his Queers in History: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgenders. In the encyclopdia's article on Silkwood, Stern claims that she was lovers with her bisexual roommate Sherry Ellis. Therefore, given that Karen Silkwood is presented in this film as being exclusively heterosexual, I was all ready to rake the filmmakers over the coals for straightening out Karen.

However, in doing research for this review, I was unable to find any other sources to substantiate Stern's claim that Karen had both male and female lovers, outside of one source (that seemed mildly sketchy to me) that mentioned her being bisexual. There are other instances where Stern has overstated evidence so I feel a bit of reluctance to criticize Silkwood for straightening out the main character, since you can't really straighten out a character who was straight to begin with.

Furthermore, the filmmakers hold nothing back when it comes to Karen Silkwood's roommate, Dolly Pelliker (Cher). Dolly is shown not only engaging in a lesbian relationship with a hairdresser, but she also confesses to being romantically and unrequitedly in love with Silkwood. Furthermore, while both Silkwood and her male lover, Drew Stephens, are both mildly uncomfortable with Dolly's lover, the character is otherwise presented realistically and in a non-sensational manor. There is even a bit of a queer subtext between Dolly and Karen. The only thing that could be criticized about the character of Dolly, is that during a minor scene, it is suggested that Dolly might have alerted Kerr-McGee and betrayed to them Silkwood's attempts to obtain sensitive documents.

In regards to the overall film, there are many elements worthy of praise. Meryl Streep disappears completely into the character, giving her usual brilliant work. Cher is unrecognizable and allows herself to presented in a completely non-glamorous light while playing a working class factory stiff. Kurt Russell is not given a whole lot to do, other than walk around with his shirt off and give vague warnings to Karen about the danger she is getting herself into.

As I already mentioned, the pacing is deliberate. As a result, there were a few scenes that felt like they could have been shortened or cut. For example, there is a sequence where Drew walks around the house after it was stripped of it's contents while being searched for plutonium poisoning that felt unnecessary. However, there lots of details of the factory and the work being done, that manage to create a realistic picture of what the everyday lives of the factory employees were like. Silkwood in particular comes across as a completely realistic blue collar worker, who only gradually comes into her role as a labor activist.

In terms of historical detail, the filmmakers have wisely stuck to the established record. There is nothing that proves definitively that Silkwood was murdered to silence her before she could go public with any incriminating documentation she might have obtained but there is an overwhelming preponderance of evidence that points in that direction. The final moments of the film are expertly shot and edited to suggest many things while showing nothing clearly. The filmmakers point many fingers in different directions but ultimately allow the audience to draw their own conclusions. In the grande scheme of things, there is no reason that this story should have been told any other way.

Edit: Someone pointed me in the direction of the Lesbian Film Guide which describes Silkwood as bisexual and claims she had multiple female lovers. So we can now add this to the list of films which have straightened their LGBTQ protagonists. I thought the filmmakers had focused a bit too much on Karen's relationships with men for her to have been straight in real life. Now I know why they did that - they wanted to avoid even the suggestion that she might have been queer.

Highly recommended, particularly for those who are interested in learning about the story of Karen Silkwood.

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.