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February, 2011

  1. And the Oscar goes to… The Person Playing the Homo: Are Gays the New Retards in the Oscar Acting Stakes?

    February 28, 2011 by admin

    It’s Oscar night, and Hollywood likes few things better than straight A-list actors portraying gay characters. It’s just shows off such versatility, such — such open-mindedness on the part of the acting community! Big ol’ self-congratulatory pat on the back, everyone!
    So this year, the race for Best Actress is all about lesbian roles. Will the Academy give the Best Actress award to Natalie Portman, for playing a beautiful, neurotic, fragile 20-something perfectionist ballerina with repressed lesbian fantasies, or Annette Bening, for her role as a grizzled, perfectionist, possibly alcoholic 40-something lesbian mom and surgeon with control issues? In Black Swan, we got to see Natalie and Mila Kunis make out in a frenzied passionate sex scene between two gorgeous ballerinas. In The Kids are All Right, we got to see Annette Bening and Julianne Moore try to get it on while watching gay male porn, and then fail, and then argue a lot, driving one to have an extramarital affair with a man.
    I’m guessing it’ll go to Natalie Portman. Hollywood will likely choose the lipstick lesbian fantasy over the grizzled reality. Is it shocking that the lipstick lesbian fantasy role was written and directed by a straight male, and the bitter reality lesbian role written and directed by a lesbian woman? Um, not really….

    Still, let’s call that progress of a sort. Twenty-seven years ago, Cher was nominated for her role as Meryl Streep’s lesbian roommate in Silkwood. She didn’t win, but since then, there has been a growing trend for straight actors and actresses to actually WIN the Oscar for portrayals of gay characters. This year, Colin Firth will likely win the Best Actor award for his performance as the stuttering British monarch, King George VI, in The King‘s Speech. George was straight, but the Academy also hasn’t forgotten Colin’s devastating Oscar-nominated performance last year as a gay suicidal English professor (also named George) in A Single Man. The year before THAT, many people thought Mickey Rourke should win the Best Actor award for his performance as a washed-up former wrestling champ in The Wrestler… but instead the award was nabbed by Sean Penn for portraying Harvey Milk, the openly gay and eventually assassinated San Francisco politician.

    And before that, let’s not forget previous Oscar-winning gay roles: Phillip Seymour Hoffman in 2005 for Capote, Hillary Swank in 1999 for Boys Don’t Cry, Tom Hanks in 1993 for Philadelphia….going all the way back to William Hurt in 1985 for Kiss of the Spider Woman. Not to mention the many other gay roles which have earned nominations and other critical acclaim, but not the actual Oscar (Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, anyone?) The 21st century has seen an explosion of Oscar-nominated homosexual roles in mainstream film… all of them played by straight actors, of course.

    So I think we can say: Gay roles are the new retards in the Oscar acting stakes. Dustin Hoffman playing an idiot savant in Rain Man? That’s so old school – you’re better off playing a homosexual if you want an Academy Award these days. Wanna up the stakes?  Try a combo.  As we all know, your chances of winning an Oscar increase if you portray:

    a) An ugly person

    b) A retard

    c) A Nazi, a Nazi sympathizer, a Holocaust survivor, or anyone who had anything to do with the Nazis

    d) A redneck or otherwise poor person with a Southern or Western accent

    e) A member of the British royalty

    f) A gay person!

    I’m not quite sure what it says about Hollywood that homosexuals, British royalty, rednecks, Nazis, ugly people, and retards are all in the same boat in terms of Oscar -worthiness. But try combining any of these categories and the Academy will sit up and notice you. It’s like applying for tax exemptions – the more boxes you can tick, the better.

    For example, Nicole Kidman hit A and F as Virginia Woolf (ugly-ish, bisexual) in The Hours in 2002. She won an Oscar . A year later, Charlize Theron ticked off A, D, and F when she portrayed Aileen Wuornos (ugly, redneck, and lesbian) in Monster. She also won an Oscar. And it almost worked for Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. (He was D and F – a gay, poor cowboy.) But that year, the Oscar went to Phillip Seymour Hoffman anyway, for Capote.

    Unfortunately, Categories C,D, and E appear to be mutually exclusive — unless someone can dream up a character who is simultaneously a Southern redneck, a Holocaust survivor, and a member of the British royalty. (I‘m sure someone in Hollywood is currently working on it.)

    But how about… an ugly, retarded, lesbian Nazi? Wait a sec, Kate Winslet already won an Oscar for portraying an ugly-ish, illiterate, sexually deviant Nazi sympathizer in The Reader. Close enough, right? After all, you don’t want to run the risk of going full retard. Illiterate Nazi is good enough. Then how about…. An ugly, retarded, secretly gay member of the British royalty? Oscar GOLD written all over it! And screenwriters probably won’t have to look very far to find inspiration in real life…

    Of course, the good thing is that out of all these categories, Annette Bening this year only ticks off E, and Natalie Portman just barely qualifies as E. So maybe Hollywood is learning to appreciate a more subtle approach to gay characters. Or not. You never know with Hollywood.

    Some people might point out that the larger issue is not that these gay roles are being written, but that they are still being played by straight actors. After all, won’t there be a day when the gay roles can be played by (openly) gay actors? Mmm… well, yes, that‘s a nice thought. But unfortunately Hollywood’s A-list actors tend not to be openly gay. And you can blame that on a whole variety of factors, one of which might beg the question: Can an actor make it to the Hollywood A-list if he or she is openly gay? (Jodie Foster came out long after she won her two Oscars.)

    Then there’s the argument that acting is about convincingly portraying something which you are not. So if you’re actually gay and playing a gay character, then you’re not really acting. This is a rather dumb argument. You might as well say that if you’re black and playing a black character, then you’re not really acting. Ah, but if you’re straight and playing a gay character, that’s gotta be more of a challenge than if you’re a gay playing a gay, right? Um….

    My secret, rather silly theory is that the Hollywood establishment is making it difficult for openly gay actors to succeed because otherwise, what kind of juicy roles would be available for straight actors to play and win Oscars for? It’s not politically correct any more to black yourself up and play a different race (although did anyone else notice that the Indian character in The Social Network was played by a white actor?), but thankfully, it is still politically correct to play a different sexual orientation. And therein lies a treasure trove of possible acting Oscars.

    But once we draw the line at sexual orientation, IS NOTHING SACRED?! Then you might as well say that only real rednecks can play rednecks, only real retards can play retards, and only real ugly people can play ugly characters. And Hollywood doesn’t allow real ugly people on screen. If you go further and say that only real members of the British royalty can play members of the British royalty, then you might as well pull up a few chairs in front of a wall and ask the public to watch this lovely white paint dry. There’s a reason people pay to see Colin Firth and Helen Mirren portray British royals – because they’re infinitely more interesting to watch than any real-life members of the House of Windsor.

    It’s the movies, after all. It’s artifice, but it’s meant to be entertaining and touching and hopefully thought-provoking. So at the moment, let’s just say whomever can deliver the best performance, regardless of sexual orientation, is the right actor for the role (and also has the cache to pull in the rest of the finance and get the project green-lit, but never mind that for the time being…) So I’m not sure where this rant got me. You might say it’s a delicate balance. On one hand, yes, I wish the commercial film industry was more encouraging for actors to be openly gay. On the other hand, I really want to see a movie about an ugly gay retarded Nazi who goes into hiding in the Louisiana swamps only to find out he’s an illegitimate relative of British royalty. And somehow, I don’t think we’ll be able to cast an actual gay, retarded, ugly, Nazi, etc actor for that role. We’ll have to settle for a straight, liberal-minded, A-list actor with Oscar aspirations. Damn.




  2. Valentine’s Day Edition: Amsterdam, Gay Politicians, and Tolerance for PDA

    February 14, 2011 by admin


    On a recent weekend trip to Amsterdam, I figured a responsible fag hag like me should swing by something called the Homomonument.  Located amidst the picturesque canal-front homes of the Keizersgracht,  the Homomonument is a subtle, barely noticeable collection of three stone triangles, one flush with the surface of the sidewalk, one slightly raised above the ground, one jutting into the nearby canal.  I nearly missed it when I wandered past.

    What, you were expecting something gaudy and garish, with flashing pink lights, mirror balls, and a recording of Barbra Streisand belting out showtunes as you walk over it?   

    Ok, fine:  the triangles are made out of pink granite.   But that’s about as camp as the Homomonument gets.

    The fact is, gays can be subtle when they need to be, and the Homomonument is appropriately subtle, given its somber significance.  The official placard reads:

     “The objective of the monument was two-fold: to serve as a memorial for the gay men and women who were persecuted and killed in the Second World War, and as a source of inspiration for gay men and women who ‘continue to suffer persecution today.’”

    Under the Third Reich, roughly 100,000 men were arrested in Germany for being homosexual, and up to 15,000 of them were sent to concentration camps, where they were subjected to hard labor and medical experimentation  (read: castration).  In the concentration camps, homosexuals were forced to wear pink triangle badges — a symbol and color which the gay community has since appropriated to mark a collective gay pride.

    In fact, right next to the Homomonument stands the Pink Point, a free information booth about gay and lesbian life in Amsterdam.  The Pink Point waves a rainbow flag from its roof, and right behind it looms the Westerkerk, the largest and one of the oldest Protestant churches in Holland, opened in 1631.   And there you have an example of Amsterdam’s legendary social tolerance:  the Church and the gay community co-existing peacefully, side by side.

    Stepping back from the explanation of the Homomonument, I noticed it was flanked by a poster for The Torture Museum, advertising a “Medieval Exhibition:  Punishment and Instruments.”  Hmmm…  so in one image, we had the Church, medieval instruments of punishment, and a memorial commemorating the persecution, torture, and killing of homosexuals by the Nazis…  You could have one heck of a BDSM fetish club right here, next to the Keizersgracht.  


    But that’s what I love about Amsterdam.  It’s a city which does not shy away from the sorts of unexpected juxtapositions crowding our contemporary, liberal world – religion, gays, medieval torture, Holocaust memorials, all next to each other.   

    In another part of town, the infamous red light district, the 14th-century Oude Kerk (Old Church) rang its 2:00pm bells just as I walked past.  On the other side of me, directly opposite the church, the lit windows of a brothel displayed a few bored-looking prostitutes .   I accidentally made eye contact with one of them, but I don’t think I was her target clientele….  (Like most red-light districts, the one in Amsterdam is largely male-oriented.)   

    But this is a country where prostitution was legalized in 1988, brothels in 2000, and gay marriage in 2001. It seems odd for me to even group gay marriage in the same category as prostitution,  but I guess by the standards of “normal” straight society, both fall into the seamy classification of “deviant sexuality.”

    This is also a country whose most influential right-wing politician in 2002 was openly gay.  I repeat: its most influential right-wing politician was a faggot.  Could you ever see that happening in the United States?  Pim Fortuyn rode to popularity on his anti-immigration, strongly anti-Muslim viewpoints.   The fact that he was even able to gather a socially conservative following despite being gay speaks miles about how advanced Dutch society is in terms of homosexual tolerance.  (Multicultural tolerance is another matter, given how popular Fortuyn’s anti-Muslim policies were.)  

    Pim Fortuyn was later assassinated in 2002 by a man who was a vegan animal rights activist.  He killed Fortuyn not because Fortuyn was gay but because he was arguably racist.  Now that’s what I call progressive.  

    What I mean is that in Holland, you don’t have vegans, feminists, gay rights activists, and multicultural activists all grouped together under the same pan-liberal banner.    They’ve advanced to the point where being publicly gay isn’t even a political issue anymore.   In the US, there are Republicans like Fred Karger, who is openly gay and launching a bid for the presidency.   But his chances are slim, since the Republican establishment is, um, not very gay rights-friendly.  But heck – even Barack Obama defines marriage as strictly heterosexual, even though he advocates same-sex civil unions with all the same benefits as a straight marriage.    

    Here in the UK, the same hetero definition of marriage still legally stands, although gay civil partnerships have been recognized since 2005.  Just yesterday, it was announced that the British government would work towards enabling gay civil partnership ceremonies to take place in religious settings.  Perhaps this will one day pave the way towards gay marriage in the UK… 


    But enough about politics.  One of my gay friends, “V,” explains that in Amsterdam, he feels much more comfortable with Public Displays of Affection (PDA) than in London.  Really?   This prompted me to run an informal poll amongst my gay Londoner friends: “Would you feel comfortable holding your partner’s hand in public in ALL parts of London?”  Answers ranged from “Not really” to “No!” to “OMG I’ve had beer bottles thrown at me in Bermondsey.”

    And it’s true.   A few years ago,  “V” and his boyfriend were holding hands in a popular pub in Piccadilly Circus.   Eventually, the bouncer came up to them and said: “I’ve had complaints that you’re making people uncomfortable, so I’ll have to ask you to leave.”

    Really?  In 21st century London?  Christ, if they did that to all straight couples holding hands, they’d be out of business.  

    Now that just strikes me as sad.  And rather hypocritical, because I’ve seen straight couples shoving their tongues down each other’s throats on the Underground and nobody seems to bat an eye.

    In contrast, I’d like to bring up the shocking story of Ian Baynham, a 62-year-old gay man, beaten to death in Trafalgar Square by drunk teenage girls.  They saw him holding hands with his partner and began to hurl homophobic abuse at him.  When their friend knocked him to the ground, the two girls, aged 18 and 19 at the time, kicked and stomped on Ian’s head and chest.  He died later of brain damage.   

    This took place in 2009, in the touristy heart of London.  I know the Third Reich was over fifty years ago, but those drunk English teenagers would have been prime candidates for the Nazi Youth.    Yes, we can all agree the Nazis were evil  and today’s current European governments  much more accepting of homosexuality, but it seems the public still has far to go in terms of tolerance.   The Metropolitan Police believe homophobic attacks are on the rise in London.  And gay civil unions may be legal, but if gay couples still get attacked in central London for holding hands in public, how tolerant are we really?

    I’d like to highlight the irony of all this on Valentine’s Day, a day when we’re all encouraged / brainwashed to publicly show our affection for our romantic partners.  In the same way that the Third Reich pushed a conformist love of the Aryan nation, retailers around Valentine’s Day push a conformist purchasing of champagne, chocolates, jewelry, expensive dinners, and tacky stuffed animals bearing unoriginal messages.   You WILL spend money on the one you love!!!, shout the Valentine’s Day Nazis.  You WILL gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes!!!  You WILL hold hands in public!!!!

    That is, of course, unless you’re gay.  Straight PDA is generally expected on Valentine’s Day.  Gay PDA is another matter.

    “It’s just hard to be romantic in public,” “V” says. “When other people start reacting weirdly to seeing an openly gay couple.  You want it to just be personal, between you and your boyfriend, but every public display of affection become politicized.”

    So yes, as I wrote in Paragraph Four, gays can be subtle when they need to be.  Often my gay friends feel they need to be subtle in showing their love for each other, even if they’ve been married for years, even if the straight couple next to them can get away with public handholding, kissing, and more.   I’m hoping Valentine’s Day might be a bit of an amnesty,  a day when we can strive to be more tolerant of romantic love in all forms, even while we’re hemmorhaging stupid amounts of money on gifts and dining out.  The one day in the calendar year when both straight and gay couples can get away with public displays of affection and not worry about getting kicked in the head by drunken teenagers.   

    Then again, on Valentine’s Day, all the disgusted single people might stage a mass revolt and start thrashing all the couples.  I find that concept rather satisfying….  Wait, did I say that?  I think I need to get myself to Amsterdam again.   After all, as a single person, I too must learn to be tolerant of couples.   Especially on Valentine’s Day.