Archive for the “Best of (postmodernbarney.com)” Category
Mar 06 2009
Jan 16 2009
And now, for no particular reason other than that I can, here’s a list of my favorite Doctors.
Aw, man…I’ve managed to blow through all the books in print by the authors I’m currently reading. I am bookless. I gotta find something to read. I know, I’ll swing by the Local Chain Bookstore on my way home from work and pick something up. Take a look around, find something new. Yeah, that’ll work. How hard can it be to find something worth reading in a store with millions of books on the shelves?
Okay, let’s start here in the mystery section.
Okay. That’s…that’s maybe a little too high concept for me. And a setting I don’t really care about. Let’s look for something on the next shelf.
Ugh, no, no tech-porn
Christ, are there any other adjectives for female mystery protagonists? Let’s go in a different direction for the mysteries and check out the trade sized books with the fancy-dancy lettering
Oh, well, that’s only been done about a dozen times now. What else is here?
Okay, was there some wave of single-male adoptions in the 1900s that never got covered in history class? Okay, forget it, moving on…
Dan Brown has much to answer for.
Okay, it’s clear that I’m not going to find anything in the mystery section. Let’s try fantasy and sci-fi.
Well, at least no one’s plucky.
Are they seriously still making books like this?
Gyah! No! Kill it! Kill it with fire!
Ah. Gun porn. Fortunately, I have no anxieties over the size of my penis, and don’t need to read stuff like this.
Well, this is a bust. Let’s look at horror.
Wow…there’s like two whole shelves of books by relatives of better horror writers! When did this turn into a distinct sub-genre?
God, no! Holy Christ, there’s like six shelves of zombie books!
NO! No, no, no! Isn’t there one single fucking book in this entire damn store that speaks to me as a reader?
Yeah, okay, you’re worth wagering eight bucks on.
One of the quirks of online fandoms is their…interesting attitude towards the truth. When a fan says something is “true” it doesn’t necessarily mean what a non-fan might think it means. So, as a public service, and with pretty pictures to help make the lesson more interesting, in ascending order from “least true” to “most true” in the eyes of fans, I present:
Why, yes, they are in the right order. These are fans remember…
Jul 08 2007
Young Romance #196 teaches all of us some valuable lessons. The chief lesson is that romance comics are way fucking creepy.
Fortunately, Debbie’s mom has an empty void in her life and an inability to function without thinking of herself as a man’s property, so she’s right back in the dating scene.
Fortunately, before this becomes a “very special” episode of Degrassi, Debbie goes out with her pseudo-hippie boyfriend and discovers what her step-dad gets up to when Mom isn’t around, and the marriage is thankfully K.O.-ed.
Of course, Mom’s not complete without a man, so…
Is the creepiness over?
Anyway, Debbie briefly comes to her senses and takes up with her boyfriend not related to her by marriage.
It’s at this point that Debbie’s step-brother proposes they run off together, but Debbie tells him “no glove, no love.” No, wait, that’s not right. She refuses to go with him unless they get married. I’m not sure in what state their love is legal, but there you go. So she runs back to Bill, only he wants nothing to do with her because her mom yelled at him.
Luckily the story ends on this hopeful and not at all creep-tastic note.
So, remember back at the beginning, when Debbie asked us to judge her?
Debbie, what you did was sick and wrong!
If the Globe Theater had an internet message board:
“FUCK YOU SHAKESPEARE! WHERE DO YOU GET OFF KILLING OFF ROMEO AND JULIET? Clearly, you have no conception of how drama is supposed to work, since you won’t let your characters be happy!”
“It was a total rip-off of the sub-plot from Midsummer’s Nights Dream anyway. Talk about unoriginal.”
“I’m still waiting for WS to explain the continuity errors in Antony and Cleopatra. There is NO WAY that both AAC and Julius Ceasar can take place simultaneously!”
“Don’t get me started on Ceasar! HEY STUPID WILL! THE PLAY IS CALLED JULIUS CAESAR NOT BRUTUS WHINES FOR THREE ACTS!”
“Ugh, you think the Julius Caesar continuity is bad? Falstaff fucking disappears between the second part of of Henry IV and the start of Henry V! It’s like WS forgot all about him!”
“yo tardo falstaff dies inbetwen storis lololol”
“PLEASE SIGN MY PETETION FOR A FALSTAFF MEMORIAL IN HENRY’S CASTLE THANK YOU!“
“Of course Shakespeare wants his characters to be miserable. He’s the last person I’d go to for something fun. All he writes is gorey garbage like Titus Andronicus and continuity porn like the Henry plays.”
“He so badly wants to be Kit it’s kind of sad.”
“The worst was King Lear. Cordelia’s death was just another cliche ‘Woman in an Icehouse’ moment from Hacks-peare.”
“The man clearly has issues. I mean, Taming of the Shrew? Women are shrews? I feel sorry for his wife. No, I don’t, she must deserve it if she has so little self-esteem to be with him. Othello is one of the most offensive and racist pieces of filth I’ve ever had the misfortune to see. And Merchant of Venice is just as bad. I’m honestly surprised people still give him work, he so clearly has an anti-diversity agenda.”
“Is he really all that bad? I thought Hamlet was sort of okay.”
“Oh, please, the plot of Hamlet makes no fucking sense. There’s a ghost and incest and an army on the border, yet they have time to fart around with stupid little plays that do NOTHING to advance the story? It’s stupid. And he clearly killed Rozencrantz and Guildenstern because of his anti-fun agenda, as has already been noted.”
“According to ‘Reclining in a Ditch’ WS doesn’t even really write the plays anyway.”
“With incompetents like Hackspeare writing plays, it’s no wonder that kids today spend so much time at the bear baiting pits instead of going to the theater.”
“Shyea, whatever, I’m waiting for the folio anyway.”
I have been in a contemplative mood of late, and one of the threads I keep coming back to is images of masculinity that resonated with me as a child.
The Earliest Memories
How Men Act: Errol Flynn and Cary Grant
Between the two of them, I formed a notion that men were meant to be elegant and dashing, eloquent and just a bit biting in their wit.
The Adventurers: Sinbad and Hercules
The Heroes: Tarzan, Zorro and the Lone Ranger
I Give In To Pop Culture: Han Solo
Nov 02 2006
The result of this was that, as I was becoming aware of sexual feelings within myself, the men I found myself looking at were, more often than not, sailors. That image of the sailor was not only becoming my conception of “what a man looks like” and “what a man acts like” but was also leading to a discovery that what I liked looking at was men. At this point the entire notion of homosexuality was completely foreign to me. I seriously doubt I’d ever even heard of a “gay man” at this point. As far as I could tell, I was the only boy in the world who really enjoyed looking at men and couldn’t understand what was so special about looking at girls. Well, me and one other boy in the neighborhood, but that’s not a story for here.
My first exposure to the concept of homosexuality was actually in health class. Someone, apparently, had decided that we should have this AIDS business explained to us, because it had been in the news and didn’t seem to be going away any time soon. AIDS, we were told, is a disease you catch by being a gay man. A gay man is a man who has sex with other men, instead of with women. So as long as you’re not gay, you don’t have to worry about AIDS, we were told. As the rest of the class nodded at the sagacity and logic of our teacher, I was deep in thought over something that had never occurred to me: men could have sex with men!
Of course, simply knowing about the existence of gay men didn’t make me any more astute necessarily about what I was. Simply knowing that there were such things as homosexuals didn’t make me able to spot them. Which is where the sailors come in again. At this time, we were living in Italy, in a small city north of Naples. A good chunk, perhaps even a majority, of the population were American military families and expats from other English speaking nations. Two doors down from our house was a small house that two enlisted men rented. We didn’t mix much. They were too old for me to be really concerned with them, and as my dad was an officer, being needlessly social with them wasn’t really done. Both men had apparent girlfriends, two young women also in the service, but they only ever seemed to be over about once a month, when the men would throw parties for a small group of enlisted men and women. Eventually one of the men was transferred to another base and the other moved out of the house.
It had never occurred to me at the time, but it now of course seems patently obvious that the sailors were gay, and furthermore a couple. That the “girlfriends” were more likely than not lesbians who also found themselves in need of a convenient cover. And that the parties had such a limited and select guest list out of a sense of self-preservation rather than exclusion. And I don’t come to those conclusions out of any desire to sentimentalize my childhood or create some sort of proto-gay role models out of whole cloth. I simply never realized until later that the men had to have been gay. Shortly after they moved out, me and…another boy in the neighborhood, in searching through their empty house and discarded boxes and trash (as we did, often…the sheer number of empty, half-constructed and ruined buildings made our neighborhood into a wonderland for boys in early adolescence), discovered a small garbage bag containing pornographic magazines, all consisting of pictures of naked men and men having sex with other men. It didn’t mean anything to me at the time, nor to my friend I would guess, other than that it was porn. Porn of any kind, because of its forbidden nature, was immensely cool. If anything we were pleasantly surprised to discover that there was porn featuring naked men. That the only kind of man who would own gay porn is a gay man never occurred to me until I was older.
Some time after my father retired from the Navy, we talked briefly about the time we lived in Italy. He told me that one of his specific job duties was the investigation of servicemen suspected to be gay. It was not, he told me, a job he enjoyed doing. He’d have much rather the Navy spent time and money discharging stupid people than gay people (a particular favorite example of his was the pilot who kept crashing his plane into trees, refusing to believe the radar operators who told him he was flying too low). From time to time I think about those men. I don’t remember their names. I don’t even really have a clear memory of what they looked like. When I think of them, I wonder if my father knew what the real story behind them and their girlfriends and parties was. I wonder how my life would have been different if I’d have been aware enough of the world around me to realize that I wasn’t the only gay person in the word. Would I have been less frightened of myself, and of the world? Would I have been more confidant as a teen? Would the other boy and I have felt less guilt, shame and terror over the things we were doing?
I often think of those men on those days when I get damn sick and tired of my very existence being used by politicians to exploit the prejudices of their voting base. I think of the unlikelihood of those men finding each other in the first place. I think of those men having to hide the truth of their lives. And I think of what it must have been like for them when they learned that one of them was being transferred. And I marvel that the world is just as petty and stupid now as it was then.
Oct 26 2006
One of the interesting things about horror movies is how very gay they frequently are. At first it may seem surprising, but it really makes a kind of sense. At their heart, most horror films are about ordinary people trying to survive the warped reality they’ve been introduced into by something that, in some way, violates the natural order and the way the world is supposed to be. This is not significantly different from the bulk of anti-gay rhetoric you hear from political and religious leaders. There’s a certain kinship, in that sense, to gay people and the monstrous denizens of horror films, and not just in the sense that they’re both preying on nice, normal heterosexual teenagers. In the bulk of horror films, these connections are unintentional or so deeply subtextual and coded as to be easily missed. But every once in a while a film comes along that plays with the themes and connections in interesting ways.
Charlie Brewster is a typical American teenager. He’s a mediocre student, he likes cheesy horror films, he’s got a girlfriend reluctant to go all the way with him, and he’s got a vaguely queer sidekick he can push around. He’s also got a mysterious new neighbor who only seems to come out at night. That neighbor, Jerry Dandridge has attracted some conversation amongst the neighborhood women. He’s handsome, an agent of suburban gentrification (he fixes old houses for a living), dresses in an affected style with long coats and scarves, and has a “live-in carpenter.” Charlie’s mother, for one, is quite curious about the nice gay couple who have moved into the neighborhood. Charlie’s a little more suspicious. He’s heard strange sounds, and seen women go in who later turn up dead. Oh, and there’s the fact that Jerry has fangs. In short, Charlie’s convinced that the nice homosexual next door is, in fact, a vampire. And he can’t get anyone to believe him.
Charlie’s efforts to expose Jerry lead him into increased conflict with Jerry. As Dandrige plays a sadistic game of cat and mouse with Charlie, Charlie only succeeds in alienating his friends. In desperation, Charlie turns to horror movie host Peter Vincent. Vincent is more concerned with the fact that he’s just been fired because vampire movies are old fashioned, kids today want “demented madman running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins,” to take Charlie seriously. And when he realizes Charlie is serious he hightails it out of there, only to be roped into helping Charlie’s girl-friend Amy and side-kick “Evil” Ed prove that Dandridge is only human. The experiment back-fires, however, as Vincent instead realizes that Dandridge is truly undead, and he flees the scene, leaving Charlie and his still skeptical friends to their fate.
The film largely rushes towards it’s climax at this point. Jerry seduces Ed and sends Ed to kill Peter Vincent, while Jerry comes for Amy, who just happens to be the spitting image of his long-dead love. Charlie and Peter are compelled to act together to rescue Amy and stop Dandridge. And at the end, heteronormativity is successfully restored, as Charlie and Amy get back together, all the challenges to the “normal” world are dispatched and Peter Vincent gets his job back and decides to stop showing vampire films. But there are still a few interesting twists to get there. The seduction into vampiredom of Evil Ed is just that. Ed is differentiated from the rest of the cast by his dark and sarcastic demeanor, his interest in horror and the occult, and his proto-punk/goth attire. He’s marked out as an outsider amongst his peers. Jerry’s speech, however, hints at even more of a reason why Ed is an outsider. “I know what it’s like being different. Only they won’t pick on you anymore. Or beat you up. I’ll see to that.” It’s that suggestion of bullying violence that finally triggers the gaydar on Ed. Ed’s a weird kid. A more conventional narrative would have him largely ignored in school. And Jerry doesn’t attack Ed to transform him, rather Ed comes to him and, in fact, hugs him. It’s very much like a “coming out” scene.
The post-transformation scenes with Ed and Peter Vincent are remarkable as well, and only accentuate these queer tones. For one, Peter Vincent is played as a slightly fey but dignified aging queen by Roddy McDowall. You don’t cast McDowall if you want any implications of heterosexuality in a character. It’s simply not the “type” that he plays. And the vampire Ed adopts an even more outrageous and campy persona than he ever had before. If human Ed was a closeted teen, vampire Ed is a flamboyantly out queer. At one point he even adopts a strange, rag-doll drag to trick Vincent.
The heavy gay implications in Peter Vincent are hard to ignore as well. McDowall plays the character as a kind of cross between Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. He’s got the faded dignity of Cushing, but the fey archness of Price as well. You have, in effect, a man known for playing gay-coded characters aping the mannerisms of two other actors who play gay-coded characters. It’s a fascinating ororobous of affected mannerisms and mincing caricatures.
The relationship between Jerry Dandridge and his assistant/servant/lover Billy Cole is noteworthy as well. There are other hints of Dandridge’s homosexuality, particularly a telling exchange with Charlie in which Jerry says he doesn’t have a choice about his nature, but this relationship is the most prominent. The film does explicitly posit their posing as a gay couple as a cover for vampirism, but there are these incidental moments of tenderness and affectation between the two that implies more to their relationship than the standard Master/Renfield relationship in vampire narratives. It’s why the introduction late to the film of Dandrige’s obsession with Amy feels like a false note. She happens to look like an ex-lover, so he takes her from Charlie and transforms her into a vampire. It feels off, despite Dandridge’s previously established habit of feeding off prostitutes (a brief implication is made via off-screen newscasts that Dandridge feeds on men as well, but we only see him feed off women). It’s a peculiar statement of heterosexuality in a film steeped in gay characters and imagery, almost seeming like an attempt to deny the queer implications of the narrative. And, given the realities of film-making then and now, not an implausible explanation for it.
Which is why the casting of Amanda Bearse in the role of Amy is so brilliant. Seen now, years after she has come out, it only furthers the gay text of the film. But even ignoring that, Bearse’s Amy is a very tomboyish character. She keeps her hair short and wears bulky, mannish clothing for most of the film. Her vampiric transformation, in contrast to Ed’s enhanced sense of camp, transforms her into a slinky, long-haired seductress, the stereotypical “sexy female vamp” of so many films. It’s a ludicrously oversexed and overdone vision of heterosexuality, in contrast to the relatively normative homosexual relationship of Jerry and Billy.
However, since this is a commercial film, and since this is a horror film, the monstrous queers must be dispatched. Peter Vincent successfully defeats Ed, in a scene ending with a protracted transformation sequence in which Vincent is overcome with sympathy for the boy he has just killed, and together Peter and Charlie dispatch first Billy and then Jerry, who never, it seemed, had the good sense to simply brick up the two dozen windows in his basement, rather than simply paint them black or put heavy curtains in front of them. No, it simply wouldn’t be a vampire film at all if one of the more stupid and contrived plot devices of the genre wasn’t present. But, not only are the queers killed and heteronormativity restored, but Charlie finally gets to go all the way with his handsomely boyish girlfriend. So heteronormativity is really restored. Though, tellingly, a hint does exist of at least one gay survivor, still in the shadows.
Fright Night is an interesting film for me, not just because of this playing with gay themes that it does so thoroughly. It also represents a kind of response to what were prevalent themes in horror at the time. Supernatural horror, especially of the “classic monsters” kind was, as it largely is now, out of fashion. Vincent’s line about “demented madmen in ski masks” was as true then about the audience’s taste in horror as it is today. The rise of the “gore and torture” films in recent years was mirrored in the early eighties by the masked slasher films. Fright Night was an attempt to return the supernatural elements to the horror genre, in an entertaining way, updated for contemporary sensibilities. As opposed to the peculiarly anti-sex and anti-pleasure themes of the slasher movie, writer/director Tom Holland makes a case for the sensual pleasure of the supernatural, as well as emphasizing the sense of fun and humor that those films had, as opposed to the grim seriousness of the gore genres.
In contrast to your typical tired and schlocky vampire, Chris Sarandon as Dandridge manages to make him appealing and sinister. He plays up the camp and queer undertones without ever allowing them to degenerate into a fag joke or an explicit condemnation of Dandridge for homosexuality. While largely dismissed at the time of it’s release, the playing that Holland and his cast do with the conflict between “classic” monster themes and modern sensibilities and the coded gay subtext of the horror genre are still remarkable, and have not really been duplicated, or rarely even attempted to this day.
Oct 18 2005
Oh sure, we’ve all seen by now the various columns and blog posts on the topic of “Hey Nerds! Now that you’ve found a woman desperately lonely enough that she’s willing to overlook your personality defects, lack of socialization and poor hygiene to date you, now you need to passive-aggressively manipulate her into reading comics!” We’ve even seen a few “Hey gals, want to get your guy to read your manga, but don’t want to have to explain to him that those characters are actually both guys, or what they’re doing to each other?” type writings here and there. But what we haven’t seen, and what we really need, is a guide for men who read comics and want their boyfriends to read comics as well. And this is that guide.
Step One: Set The Mood
Step Two: Build Up To It
Step Three: Acclimating Him To Super-Heroes
Boy Next Door–Superman or Spider-Man
Step Four: Encouraging Him To Read More
Step Five: Taking Him To The Comic Book Store
Step Six: Exposing Him To The Comics Internet
Step Seven: Sharing Comics Together
Yes, you can successfully build a two-comic-reader household if you follow these simple steps. And why wouldn’t you want to? I mean, who ever heard of a successful relationship in which both partners are accepting of each others interests?