Saturday, 10 February 2018
Everything old is new again. I was chatting with a female friend of mine about the ‘Me Too’ movement, and I said ‘I think it’s becoming a movement about censorship.’ “Oh yes,” she said, nodding -- ‘it’s the Cavaliers vs the Roundheads all over again.”
I had to go Wikipedia and look up Cavaliers and Roundheads. It turns out that the Roundheads were the Puritan faction that tossed out King Charles I and the Royalist Cavaliers in 1649, and established The Commonwealth of England.
Those also closed down the theatres.
And that’s kind of what’s happening now.
The National Post tells us that comedy clubs are starting to post signs that say that ‘sexism racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, body shaming’ will not not be tolerated on their stages.
So what’s left that’s funny?
But seriously folks, I don’t mean to suggest that racist or homophobic or sexist comedy is the only comedy that’s funny. What I do mean to suggest is that the concerns of ‘social justice warriors,’ and the ‘Me Too’ movement -- as valid as they may be in the social sphere -- are starting to worm their way into the arts.
And art is not the same as social justice.
Because art is not real.
Shakespeare told us (sort of) that artists are all lovers and madman. The fact that Louis C.K. may be an asshole in real life does not make it right for you to limit distribution of his gorgeous, classic, Chekhovian TV shows. And yet this is the kind of thing people are talking about. I went to a queer conference a while back and somebody called for banning drag queens on the basis that their humour is ‘cruel.’ You’re damn right it’s cruel. I don’t know how to tell you this, but cruel is funny. In the wake of the public excoriation of Albert Schultz, Eva-Lynn Jagoe suggested in the Globe and Mail that we should reconsider the worth of Edward Albee’s Pulitzer prize winning play The Goat because ‘we have less sympathy for the man who has transgressive desires.’
I guess we’d better start banning work about ‘transgressive’ sexual desire.
It’s time to get rid of Nabokov, and Joyce, and while you’re at it, Shakespeare.
Yes folks, Puritanism is back; only it’s wearing a disguise. Don’t be fooled.
You may be against sexism, racism and homophobia, but that doesn’t mean you have to be against art.
Oh well. The Puritans didn’t rule England for long because they bored everyone to death.
Let’s hope the Puritan season lasts no longer here.
Monday, 15 January 2018
‘#Me Too’ has become a full frontal attack on the arts. It’s a shame, because the original aim of the movement was to combat sexism, everywhere. This was a noble idea. But '#Me Too," unfortunately, has moved on.
Consider this. I go online or pick up my newspaper, and the latest salacious headline centres on a choreographer, symphony conductor, gay photographer, or -- mostly likely -- James Franco. Regrettably, such arts-related news leads to random editorial musings, which begin with thoughts like: "Fascinatingly, Albert Schultz was considered a ‘pioneer in theatrical exploration’ who ‘pushed boundaries.’" Soon the pundits move on. They just can’t help wondering -- "Was Louis C.K.’s shocking comic material --- which often dealt frankly with sexual subjects -- in any way related to his backstage sexual perversions?"
It’s time to ask ask a much more important question. Where are the business and corporate leaders who are sexual molesters? Are we to believe that no women at Google, Exon, Dupont, Apple,Tim Hortons or Canadian Tire have ever been molested by their bosses? Apparently. And yet we know this isn't true. The question is, why are people champing at the bit to punish potential sex criminals in the arts, while at the same time leaving corporate and business leaders unscathed?
If this continues it can only lead us to the depressing conclusion that ‘#Me Too’ is not an actual political movement destined to transform the sexual dynamics between men and women forever but just the latest google trend. I say this because unfortunately '#Me Too' (like every other movement in western culture) seems quite helpless when confronted with corporate capitalism.
On the contrary, instead of criticizing the arts, it is time to praise artists for their courage. Perhaps the reason so many arts organizations are confronting sexism is because the arts have always been at the forefront of this issue. And artistic environment environments -- unlike corporate entities -- are not generally confined to money-making enterprises, but instead quite often are politically aware institutions that seek to forge cultural change.
I do not in any way wish to minimalize the significance of any attack on any woman, anywhere.
In fact that’s why I am raising this issue. Like Catherine Duneuve and other prominent French feminists, I must wonder if #‘Me Too’ has morphed from a feminist movement into an attack on artistic freedom.
And until the day a significant proportion of the overall constiuency of rapists, molesters and harassers don't just happen be charismatic, googlable and tweetable stars of stage and screen, I fear for women.
Sunday, 14 January 2018
“No, I didn’t like The Shape of Water. I know I’m supposed to like it. Yes Guillermo del Toro is fabulous blah blah blah. Yes it was beautiful to look at. Yes the ‘creature’ was sexy and almost, kinda -- naked. Yes the acting was fabulous, and pretty well anything that Sally Hawkins does I love. She could just read a book or shine her shoes and I would watch. It’s just...okay. This is it. It took me a while to figure out that Richard Jenkins was the gay character and when I did, well I was just soooooo....disappointed! Why? Because okay...there he is, wearing his little sweater with the elbow patches, living all alone with his cats, and then when he makes that very shy approach to the young blonde man who runs the restaurant -- and then he gets so cruelly and homophobically rejected, I just -- ummm. Well, I just couldn’t. It’s just the whole image of this terribly nice man, who likes to have tea with his female mute best friend, and that’s his life. (Is this revealing something about me?) No, I’m not saying that there aren’t some terribly nice gay men who live all alone with cats in crumby apartments and have mute female friends that they adore having tea with. I’m just saying that that is the image of us that straight people are most comfortable with. I mean, it makes them feel a lot better about us than to think that we don’t live alone, or we don’t like cats, or we don’t have time for our mute female friends because we’re much too busy fucking in the back room at the Eagle. Do you get what I’m saying? And I don’t know if that’s a reason for me to reject the whole movie. And well -- I don’t reject the whole movie -- well maybe I do. And I realize it’s probably going to get a thousand and one Oscars. But it’s just one of those movies that manages to include every minority group. I mean there’s a gay man, and a disabled woman, and a black woman and even the ‘creature’ it turns out is kind of ‘trans.’ No, he is! Remember when Sally Hawkins has that conversation with Octavia Spencer who asks if the ‘creature’ has a penis and Sally says that it’s kind of hidden away -- yes for sure, the ‘creature’ is meant to be trans. Yes, so in this way Guillermo has like covered almost every shape and size of minority group and has proved by this movie that he is on the side of all of them. And all I can say is, as a member of one of those minority groups portrayed in this movie, I feel kinda taken advantage of. And it’s not because I don’t ever like any movies ever, that’s not true. For instance I like......well my most recent fave movie was I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore starring the super-duper talented Melanie Lynsky. Yes, it’s on Netflix. And yes, I really liked that movie a lot. But I didn’t so much like The Shape of Water. Oscars or no Oscars. Sorry.”
Thursday, 4 January 2018
Quite a lot actually. And we will never challenge rape culture and/or the sexual harassment of women until we fundamentally change heterosexuality itself.
We imagine that merely by routing out the guilty male parties (who seem, rather oddly, to all be in the arts or politics -- are there no serial abusers in the corporate sphere?) we have solved the problem. No. This is not to say that men who harass and abuse women are not guilty, nor is it to say that they should not be punished. But if wish to eradicate the problem -- not just place a pretty band-aid on it -- we must look deeply and critically at heterosexuality itself.
As a gay man, I can stand outside heterosexuality. I hope I can offer a fresh perspective on a the ‘heterosexual problem.’ (Sure, some gay men are abusers/molesters/harassers -- but for very different reasons -- so we’ll save that for another day!)
So how do we start solving the problem of heterosexuality?
1. As children, we are taught that most men are sexual (The Beast), and that women are, generally -- not sexual (Beauty). We are also taught that there are some women who do happen to be sexual. They are called ‘whores.’ If a woman has sexual desires and speaks about them then she is not a ‘nice’ woman. This is the most important thing we must change: women must be empowered to speak about sex and desire -- frankly, honestly -- freely and often.
2. The best way to make a baby, for years, has been to insert a penis into a vagina, and then wiggle it around until the man has an orgasm. True. But this fact has no significance. It means nothing. (It’s even less important nowadays, because we could all use a little de-population!) The fact that this is the most pleasurable way we’ve come up with to make babies (so far) has nothing to do with the way women and men should or can act in or out of bed. Sex involves power play; if there is no power play, then it’s simply affection. But the power games we play in bed say nothing about who we are out of bed. All that man-on-top-woman--on-the-bottom stuff -- if you like it in bed -- must stop when you get out. Period.
3. Finally. (Please take a deep breath, this is tough one.) Monogamy doesn’t work for most of us -- male, female and ‘other.’ It’s best to try and find a mutually agreed upon, palatable alternative.
Hey -- heterosexuals! Just start working on these three very important things! I promise, you’ll be fine!
Take it from me -- I’m gay!
Friday, 8 December 2017
Do you frequent Church Street? Do you like to meet guys on Grindr?
Are you living in fear?
According to a recent article in the Globe and Mail you are terrified because ‘unease has been growing in recent years as a result of a spate of missing-person cases that remain unsolved.’
Tu Tanh Ha’s article is blatantly homophobic: filled with unproven speculation and misinformation.
Yes, it is true that queer people (gay, trans and lesbian) have been, at times in the past, beaten and killed by homophobic and transphobic people. And yes it’s also true that recently there have been posters in the gay village for a missing man --Andrew Kinsman. And it’s true that recently a woman named Tess Richey was killed near Church Street.
But are queer people scared to go out on Church Street? Should they be?
The answer is a resounding ‘NO.’
The article in the Globe and Mail seems to lay all the blame for one young woman’s death on Crews and Tangos, and blames the disappearance of Andrew Kinsmen -- with no proof -- on online dating apps. First of all, the writer calls crews a ‘village drag bar.’ In actual fact Crews and Tangos -- as anyone who hangs out on Church Street knows, is a bar that, like many other bars on Church Street, features drag queens. But its clientele is made up mostly of younger bi and straight people of all genders, many of whom are just ‘out’ or experimenting with their sexuality. Secondly, just because a woman who visited Crews and Tangos was tragically killed is that the bar's fault?
And when it comes to gay online dating apps, are they dangerous -- as this article says -- because gay men aren’t properly introduced online to their sexual partners?
Who says? Where’s the proof?
Why is the Globe and Mail publishing this garbage and fermenting fear and lies around queer institutions and organizations?
I don’t know. But it sure seems like somebody at the Globe and Mail doesn’t like us.
This is an era when all around the world people who are threatened by terrorists have decided not to live in fear but instead bravely party as usual, no matter what the threat.
But the Globe and Mail is implying that queers should stay home.
It’s negative propaganda about our community, and I, for one, don’t like it one bit.
Wednesday, 29 November 2017
The recent apologies to the LGBT community on behalf of the Canadian government are certainly admirable. But one wishes they might be more comprehensive and look towards the future, rather than the past. Interestingly, the apology at this point has not extended so far as to offer compensation to those who were victims of the Bawdy House Laws during the 1981 Toronto bath house raids; men who were publicly exposed for being gay ‘perverts’ and in some cases jailed as found-ins. I find this interesting because -- although straight culture seems comfortable with granting queers civil rights -- straights are still not too comfortable with the gay ‘lifestyle.’ No one has ever really defined the gay lifestyle -- though in most people’s minds it seems to have something to do with ascots, extravagant vacations, and an effeminate drawl. However the real gay lifestyle is this: honestly admitting that a separation exists between love and sex, and that the two don’t always happen at the same time -- and what’s more; that's perfectly okay.
In terms of the ‘gay lifestyle,’ Trudeau (and most present day heterosexual culture) still trails behind Noel Coward. I treated myself recently to the new movie release of Present Laughter brilliantly directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel and starring Kevin Kline (the entire cast was superlative). The play -- which recently closed on Broadway -- is often dismissed as a trifle. But it is actually one of Coward’s three great comedies; plays that are not only witty and touching explorations of human love and loneliness, but have a particularly modern attitude to sex.
Present Laughter offers us not only a funny and touching portrait of a man who has an irritating tendency to perform his own life, but the leading character Garry Essendine reveals, in one of his several hilarious speeches, that sex is ‘over-rated.’ What Garry (with two ‘R’s -- he is a star!) means is that we should just stop worrying about sex, and instead start having lots of it. All of the characters in the play, married or not (just as in Coward’s two other comic masterpieces Private Lives and Hay Fever) are engaged in different varieties of promiscuous activity outside of the marital bed. Essendine implores all of his friends, essentially, to -- calm down, forget about ‘sacred institutions’, and have a good-old time, carnally.
In the post-1950s sexual culture we now live in -- where even gay men get flushed and embarrassed by their own profundity when describing the precious holiness of matrimony -- it’s refreshing to know that Noel Coward would have had us do precisely the opposite (something present day gays promised to do but never have) open up relationships, and ‘queer’ marriage.
Shocking ideas, eh?
In 1942 they were shocking for Coward’s audiences, and here they are, shocking us yet again today.
Everything old is suddenly new again.
Friday, 3 November 2017
Sexual abuse is serious. Anthony Rapp’s accusation against Kevin Spacey may serve his career but it will do little to halt the sexual abuse of women -- because it sets up a false equivalency. By raising this issue at this particular time, Rapp’s abuse inevitably becomes part of the ‘Me Too’ campaign, implying that Harvey Weinsten and Kevin Spacey are somehow comparable.
They are not.
Harvey Weinstein is a rich white heterosexual man. Heterosexism gives him the power and in fact congratulates him on ‘conquering’ women. Kevin Spacey is a rich white homosexual man. He was in the closet until Anthony Rapp ‘outed’ him without Spacey’s consent. (Rumours about Spacey’s homosexual orientation were inflamed after an Esquire article in 1997. Spacey moved to London in order to avoid Hollywood homophobia.)
Gay men are part of an maligned and hated minority. Queer youth are still afraid to ‘come out’ to their parents; Gay/Straight Alliances are still contentious issues in high schools. The fact that Rapp was abused by a closeted gay man doesn’t excuse Spacey’s actions. But if we really wish to fight the abuse of women then we must dare to be unforgivingly critical of heterosexual culture and stop making false equivalencies. We must come to the painful understanding that male abuse of women is rooted in heterosexual sexism which can no longer be tolerated; it is not simply a ‘universal’ problem that everyone faces on daily basis.
Why did Anthony Rapp ‘out’ Kevin Spacey in this manner? It’s important to note that Rapp himself is not fully ‘out.’ He’s been playing the same game Spacey has been playing for years -- because like all gay actors in Hollywood, he is frightened by homophobia in the entertainment industry. He has been quoted as saying “I have been in loving relationships with men...I haven't said 'I am gay.’” Rapp wants us to know that -- unlike the ‘gay’ Spacey (meaning the lecherous, profligate Spacey) -- he is a good person (which means a loving, not very sexual person). And, let’s face it, Rapp is obviously quite thrilled to be famous. And like so many gay men today, he wants everyone to know that though he may not be straight, he is just the same as every straight person in practically every way.
Well, he’s not; he is part of a very different culture -- gay culture.
I was told recently by one of my students that young straight men these days actually speak of female sexual conquests as ‘kills.’
We might think about the implications of that.
And forget about the opportunistic Mr. Anthony Rapp.