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Speaking of "judging" Guggenheim said a lot of people who aren't reading Spider-Man or refuse to read Spider-Man are judging it based on misunderstandings. "Part of the problem with the controversy behind One More Day is the understanding of what was retconned overstates the extent of what was done," he said. "Everything that happened in the last twenty plus years of comic book history happened! The only difference is that Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson weren't married. They still dated. They still lived together. They still love each other. They just weren't married. Judging from the letters and death threats we received, I think some people were confused. It all still happened."
"Here's my attitude, if anyone is upset about the marriage going away, then they must all be pro gay marriage," he continued. Because if you're pro gay marriage, you understand the distinction between a marriage and a civil union -- that a civil union is not equal to a marriage. We downgraded Mary Jane and Peter to a civil union. If that bothers you, then you're pro gay marriage."
See what he did there? That's a rather nice bit of gay-baiting he pulled off. Guggenheim basically just called anyone who didn't like the One More Day story-line a faggot, while phrasing himself in such a way as to make it look like he's being gay-supportive. Now, it's possible that Guggenheim isn't really meaning to call people who didn't like the storyline faggots. You could read his statement as a knowing dig at the homophobia of comic fans. But, if so, that doesn't really help his case, because he just compared an ongoing civil rights issue, an issue that is at play in the current election cycle, an issue that affects real people's lives, to a fucking super-hero melodrama. That kind of belittlement of the issue is even more offensive.
I usually ignore those "XXty Greatest XXXXXX Movies" lists because, honestly, the lists are so subjectively put together and so barely plausible in their justifications of what belongs on the list and what doesn't that it becomes a fool's game to try to make any sense of them. And, shockingly, I find it hard to believe that anyone really cares how many of the "200 Greatest Car Chase Films" I've seen. But then AfterElton had to go and make a list of the 50 Greatest Gay Movies, and I realized that, oh yeah, I can be infuriatingly opinionated about gay films.
1. Brokeback Mountain: It's probably fair to quibble over whether or not this really qualifies as a "gay" film. Everyone involved in the production was straight, after all, but it's probably the most successful and well made film on gay themes to come out so far. The acting is superb, and it's an emotionally moving story, but it's problematic that the most widely acclaimed gay love story set to film is about two closeted men, one of whom dies at the end.
2. Beautiful Thing: The gay film genre is crowded with coming out stories, so it's nice to see the best example of the trope placed so highly, as it really is the only one you ever need to see to know everything there is to know about that particular sub-genre.
3. Shelter: I suspect this film places as highly as it does because it's very recent and well regarded. And it is a good film, to be sure, I'm just not certain it's "third best gay film" good. It's another coming out story, and it has the pacing problems common to independent films, but it's mercifully free of that irritating gratuitous male nudity that many gay films feel obligated to have while still showing intimacy between men very tenderly and believably.
4. Latter Days: Another film to benefit from recent memories, I suspect. It's a coming out film, again, but the religious back-ground of the story is an innovative and compelling variation of the genre, and the film-makers deserve some credit for taking the "sexy Mormon" subgenre of porn mainstream and taking it seriously.
5. Maurice: Unwatchable, melodramatic clap-trap, in my opinion.
6. Trick 7. Get Real
8. Big Eden: A surprisingly good film about being gay in a small town, even if the notion that no one in rural Montana is homophobic or racist is a bit fantastic.
9. The Broken Hearts Club
10. The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert: While the film is worth watching at least once, it inspired America's love affair with films about magical drag queens that solve people's problems, and I'm afraid that is a sin it cannot be forgiven for. And no, lots of shirtless Guy Pearce scenes don't make up for it.
11. Longtime Companion: A bit too earnest to really be good or enjoyable, but historically an important film. And still loads better than what Hollywood gave us when they decided to finally acknowledge AIDS.
12. Torch Song Trilogy: The second gay film I ever saw, and still one of the best. It's a funny, humanistic story about one man's search for love, and is easily one of those films that everyone really owes it to themselves to see at some point.
13. My Beautiful Laundrette: Probably my choice for "best gay film" and another one of those movies that anyone who calls themselves a film fan should have watched by now. One of the things I like most about it is the casual, matter-of-fact way that the gay relationship is handled. It's a film about two gay men in which the central conflicts have nothing to do with their sex lives, and that's still remarkably rare.
14. Parting Glances: A film important to indie film history and gay film history...and yeah, that's about it. It's at best mediocre, and even after all these years I strain to find any reason why everyone is so hung up over Steve Buscemi's character, as he's just a morose loser.
15. Just a Question of Love 16. Mysterious Skin
17. Summer Storm: Hey, everybody! They remade Beautiful Thing in German!
18. The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Really? Fifty films to list and you put this one there? Don't get me wrong, I love it for the pansexual, cacophonous riot it is, but to put it on a "best gay films" list is to narrow the point of the film so much as to make it laughable.
19. The Birdcage: And every gay man who voted for this film needs to go ahead and slap themselves right now. Hard. And promise never to take any drugs before voting in an online poll ever again. While the original French version might (and that's a pretty fucking conditional "might") deserve some leeway for being both a product of it's time and French, the people who unleashed this abomination on the world have no excuse. Unfunny, homophobic and just plain bad are the three words that come to mind when I think of this gut-churningly awful movie.
20. Sordid Lives
21. Hedwig and the Angry Inch: An amazing film with a fantastic soundtrack, that also feels strangely limited by trying to pin it down as just a "gay" film. You need to see it. It's as simple as that.
22. Shortbus: John Cameron Mitchell managed to pull off what many have tried to do and failed miserably at; making a sexually explicit film that is both dramatically satisfying and non-pornographic. It's a brilliant work, and I wish I could recommend it unconditionally, but I can't, because there is a lot of sex in this movie, in occasionally graphic detail. It works, because sex is such an important aspect of how humans relate to one another, and it never feels exploitative or cheap in the film. But we're Americans, we don't want sex in our films, especially not anything that reeks of non-heteronormative serially monogamous sex.
23. All Over the Guy: It's telling that I had to look to see who was in this film to remember if I'd seen it or not. It's that memorable. I remember enjoying it, but apparently it was very slight.
24. Another Gay Movie: A guilty pleasure. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or not that the gay film genre has matured enough that we can get cheap, exploitative teenage sex comedies on the level of American Pie, but we've got 'em.
25. Boys in the Band: It's a little disappointing this didn't place higher, as historically it's an important film, but it can be very hard going, especially to viewers used to more positive and upbeat gay films. It's probably best to view it as something of a time capsule; this used to be the reality for gay men all over the country. And, you know, it's actually good. It's funny when it needs to be funny, and dramatic when it needs to be dramatic, and pretty much every character is memorable and recognizable. And it's got one of the best "character introduction" lines in film history: "What I am, Michael, is a 32 year-old, ugly, pock marked Jew fairy, and if it takes me a little while to pull myself together, and if I smoke a little grass before I get up the nerve to show my face to the world, it's nobody's god damned business but my own. And how are you this evening?"
26. Philadelphia: How telling that when Hollywood finally deigned to making a movie about AIDS, it was all about a straight man learning to have pity on those disgusting faggots.
29. The Wedding Banquet: Ang Lee's first crack at a gay movie, and slightly more relateable than his masterpiece. It's obviously an earlier example of his work, but there's some nice character development here, with more recognizable motivations.
31. My Own Private Idaho: The fetishistic devotion some people have to this film astounds me. It's really, honestly, not very good, with some truly dreadful acting and an absolutely charisma-less leading man. It's cold and emotionally uninvolving, but one of the stars died young, so we have to pretend that it was some great work of genius.
32. Jeffrey: One of my favorite films, to be sure. Yes, it's fluff. But it's funny, but a gay romantic comedy was almost unheard of at the time, and it managed to deal with the reality of AIDS without getting (too) preachy. Plus, it's the finest work of Patrick Stewart's career. He's amazingly good in this.
33. The Trip
34. Edge of Seventeen: It's...okay. It's, yet again, a coming out film. Anderson Gabyrich is good in it, but the main cast are not particularly compelling, and the big dramatic "coming out" scene is so unintentionally comically melodramatic that screen-writer Todd Stephens even parodies it in his later film Another Gay Movie.
35. Priest: You watch it now, and you're hard-pressed to see why it was so gosh-darned controversial at the time of release. I guess, given all the things people suspect of Catholic priests nowadays, for one's big bad secret to be that he's gay is small potatoes. Still, it has a love scene that I've had more than one straight man tell me almost converted them.
36. In & Out: This is just merely bad. It has it's heart in the right place, but that's about all you can say in the film's favor. And yes, some men come out late in life, but it strains believability to think that a man could reach his fifties without the question ever occurring to him.
37. Eating Out: Utter garbage, and patently offensive. The "gay guy in love with straight guy" angle is played out and tired in porn! The only reason why anyone ever recommends this movie is the nudity. It certainly can't be for the plot or acting, because you know what? THERE ISN'T ANY! So, naturally, it was a massive success and generated a sequel...
38. Velvet Goldmine: A love-letter to the glam rock era. It's very good, and criminally under-rated, with fantastic music. The pastiche of Citizen Kane was a clever touch, and the shadow of Oscar Wilde that hangs over it is a brilliant element as well. For you slash fans, it also has Obi-Wan making out with Batman.
39. Angels in America
40. Love! Valour! Compassion!: I know I've seen it. But, even straining, all I can remember is that John Glover plays a stock "tragically doomed" gay man. So not a very memorable or compelling picture, then.
41. The Sum of Us: Amazingly, this is not the film which gave rise to the phrase "maybe someday Russell Crowe will play a straight character." Father/Son dynamics are frequently overlooked in gay themed films, as most film-makers seem obsessed to nearly Freudian levels with dysfunctional Mother/Son relationships. It's nice to see the focus turned the other way, especially since this is also one of those rare Father/Son films in which the Son is not beset with maddening Daddy Issues.
42. Burnt Money
43. Transamerica: I want to like it, but ultimately I just find it a little too problematic. I get prickly about actresses being cast as male-to-female transsexuals, especially when, as in this case, they seem to have cast a woman only to have an excuse to bury her in prosthetics to make her look like a man. She doesn't, she looks like a woman in a prosthetic mask.
44. Victor Victoria: Now, I love Blake Edwards. I love Julie Andrews. I love James Garner. I love Lesley Ann Warren. I love Robert Preston. And I love the songs. But this? Very much of it's time. You've got the "Magical Fairy" thing going on with Robert Preston's character, you've got the "he thinks he's in love with a man, but he's really a she" bit that worked in Elizabethan drama and not since. It's an amusing little comedy with some pleasant actors to watch, but oh, it can be cringe-making viewed out of it's time and place.
45. Bent 46. Yossi and Jager 47. Bad Education 48. Gods and Monsters
49. Making Love: Any goodwill the film might have earned is undone when you remember that it came with a fucking disclaimer.
Why No Love? The films I'm surprised not to see on the list. Adam and Steve: It suffers a bit from indie-itis at times, but it's a refreshingly mature romantic comedy that deals with issues that many, if not most, gay men will recognize and relate to. It's not a fantasy of gay life, nor is it a melodrama, but it's warm and funny and squishy-feeling romance. Straight-Jacket: A snappy comedy about a closeted, Rock Hudson-esque actor, set against the back-drop of the anti-Communist witch-hunts in Hollywood. It's got great comic timing and characters, and a setting that's been underused. The Ritz: The first gay film I ever saw. It's another one of those time-capsule films, possibly best viewed today as a reminder of what the gay world was like. But it's an early gay-themed film in which the gay characters are not the butt of the jokes. And I can only imagine how the world reacted to the notion of a comedy set inside a bath-house. It's worth seeing for Rita Moreno's role alone, in any case. The Hanging Garden: Magical realism comes to gay drama. It's a heavily symbolic film with the lines between reality and fantasy and shared fantasy heavily blurred.
Oh Thank God It Wasn't Listed Hellbent: If anyone ever tells you this is a good movie, you can safely ignore their opinion on anything. Even by the standards of "basic cable stars in peril" horror movies, this is a sub-par example of the genre. That we're meant to pretend that it is somehow transgressive or ground-breaking because all the victims are gay is just perplexing, if not downright insulting. Honestly, we're supposed to be glad that the "the gay guy dies at the end" school of film-making has come back?
No, that doesn't happen. Oh, sure, I've heard those sub-Dane Cook level comedians make those same sophomoric jokes: "Hnurr hnurr, I wish I was a lesbian, I'd just stare at myself all day, amiritefellas?" It's not funny. It's really kind of offensively stupid. And the joke really doesn't translate when being applied to gay men. Especially not when it appears in a comic aimed at 25-35 year old man-children who would probably shriek in terror at the thought of a nude gay man. And yes, this is me being appalled at something in the worst comic since Skate Man. A fool's errand at the best of times.
Speaking of people who have apparently never met a real-life homosexual, I'm a little weary of people trying to make the Machine Gun Joe character in Death Race some sort of indicator of the progress of gay characters in mainstream films. In the film, when the question of the character's sexuality is introduced, it is quite clear from the context that it's just a homophobic taunt. From one of the likable "good" characters, naturally, homophobic insults still being something that it's okay for protagonists in mainstream films to say. Unlike smoking or racist insults. Now, I'm aware that some of the film-makers have said that the character is meant to be gay, while others have not. In any case, there is nothing in the film itself to suggest the character is gay, save that insult. The character himself never declares himself to be gay. And the one vaguely "homoerotic" moment in the film is almost instantly deflected by the normalizing return of heterosexual values. In a way, the film-makers have stumbled upon a neat trick; they get to take credit for a "ground-breaking" gay character in an action film without ever actually having to deal with a gay character.
So, I keep thinking about Kevin's posts about bad retailing decisions, mostly because I'm baffled that smart people keep missing Kevin's point so badly. Either they think it's a good thing for a retailer in a small margins business to actively discourage sales in the names of "integrity"--which is an argument that really phenomenally misses the point that comic shops being run like club houses instead of businesses is bad for the industry, or they keep bringing in this asinine restaurateur metaphor, as if a waiter suggesting the crab cakes because the clams with linguine are a bit off tonight is anything remotely like a retailer sending out a mass e-mailing to existing and potential customers insinuating that they're idiots if they like a comic he doesn't. It all makes me reconsider that "smart" adjective. But what I keep coming back to is that telling your customers your opinion of a book, and still selling it to them, are not mutually exclusive.
Amazing Spider-Man #2338; While many fans, myself included, were upset with what it took to bring the character to the new status-quo, the new creative teams on this title have met with critical and commercial success. A new storyline starts here for those curious about what's been going on. Astonishing X-People #2222; While the combination of Ellis and Bianchi are not to my taste, a new storyline starts here, tying in to the larger "Manifest Destiny" branding in the X-books. It's a good jumping on point for those who enjoy Ellis's super-hero work.
Hey, whoa, did you see that there? I gave as neutral a judgement as I could while still finding a way to tell interested customers to check the book out. And it was easy. Of course, this doesn't address the concerns of those bloggers who see nothing wrong with what the retailer in question did because he was bashing super-hero books in his newsletter. But I'm sure that if he had slapped a big NOT BUY on Kramer's Ergot or Love and Rockets, the art-comix bloggers would have had my back.
So, you know how some people keep insisting that manga is the great hope of the comics industry, because the lack of sexism and misogyny won't drive new readers away the way super-hero comics allegedly do? (And how those of us who have been reading manga for longer than the current shojo boom hear this sort of thing, and just shake our heads?) Well, I bought Ral Grad, the new manga from Death Note artist Takeshi Obata. And while it's twisted in the ways I usually like I'm not sure I'll be picking up any future volumes.
That sort of thing? All over the damn book. Hell, Ral's primary motivation to become a hero is so that he'll have ample opportunity to grope women. This was published by Viz, as part of their Shonen Jump line. So it's a kid's comics.
And I'm not calling for a ban on the comic, or hoping to prompt an outcry, or anything like that. I'd just like to take this opportunity to remind people that, you know, Japanese comics are just as bad, if not worse, than American comics when it comes to the whole sexism thing.
And on a lighter note:
So, the message for this ad seems to be: if I use their product, I'll miss out on seeing hot guys make out. Yeah, I think I'll go without Bluetooth accessories for my phone a bit longer, in that case.
So, I've come across a few people here and there expressing confusion over what, precisely, is meant by the term "gay-baiting." I think it's easiest to demonstrate by the compare and contrast method. So, for example, here is 'King Herod's Song' from Jesus Christ Superstar as it was filmed in 1973 and again in 2000.
In the first, Herod is a mincing queen, surrounded, yes, by women, but also by effeminate men with pursed lips and make-up. In the second, he's more of a thirties showman. There are other significant differences in the stagings as well. In the former, we're meant to despise Herod for his queerness decadence. In the second, we're supposed to fear him. In the former portrayal, all we're meant to see is a rather tired gay joke.
With some of the rather silly and strained defenses I saw for the "gay-baiting Batman" scene, I'm half-surprised no one went with the obvious defense; that it actually is in character for Batman to be a gay-baiting asshole.
To wit, Detective #570:
So, we have a villain who is coded as gay. How do we know that? Only his right ear is pierced, and he sticks his pinky out when he drinks. Both are accepted visual cues for homosexuality. If you don't know that, well, your media illiteracy is not my fault.
And how does Batman act when dealing with a character that's coded as gay?
Let's go over that again, for the slow of thinking who need symbolism painfully pointed out to them:
Some of the recent talk about gay representation reminded me that I wanted to point out an example of someone doing it right. I usually read light fantasy and humor novels on my lunch breaks. It gives me something to get my mind off of managing inventory and purchasing for half and hour to forty minutes, and so I want something I can open, read a bit of, and finish, without having to feel any pressure to really think about what I'm reading. For this, the "young adult" aimed novels that tie into the Doctor Who show are great. I can get through two or three chapters of easily digestible prose while I eat, then go back to work.
Now, one of the hallmarks of the latest incarnation of the show has been the commitment to racial and sexual identity diversity. Not every character on the show is white, not every character on the show is straight. It's a science-fiction program that actually acknowledges that not everyone in the world now is a straight white male, much less everyone in the future or the past. In one of the recent batch of books, Forever Autumn, by Mark Morris, there's a gay character. It's a minor role, just a hapless townsperson the Doctor and Martha must rescue, but he's there. And the text acknowledges he's gay. It's just his interesting back-ground detail, something to keep him from being Mr. Generic Town Guy. This is a young adult novel that ties into a massively popular (in its home country) television show. And it deals with gay characters (and black characters and Asian characters and female characters) as just yet another aspect of the world.
The Doctor Who franchise can do this because the producers and creators want to do this. They could very easily have brought the show back and had a curious dearth of characters with melanin. They could have avoided those icky sexuality discussions entirely. They chose not to. And that's the difference.
In much the same way, one of the most successful authors of our time, an author that has already borne much undeserved scorn for her works by closed-minded people, found time to obsessively detail every adolescent heterosexual crush of her characters, but decided that openly dealing with the fact that some boys like boys and some girls like girls wasn't something she was interested in doing. In much the same way, a major American comic book publisher could have decided not to hire the outspoken homophobe to write a book featuring two lesbians of color. But for that author and that publisher, dealing realistically and positively with issues of sexual orientation, well...it's simply something they didn't want to be bothered to do.
I was going to make a post about how little J.K. Rowling "outing" Dumbledore matters, but Kalinara beat me to the punch and said just about everything I was inclined to say anyway. This was not a "brave" move on her part. Waiting until after the character has been killed off, and after the book series is complete, to throw out, as an after-thought, "oh yeah, and Dumbledore was gay" is actually kind of craven. It suggests to me that, mindful of the occasional "why are there no gay characters in the Harry Potter books" complaints she gets, she decided to throw the queers a bone and let them have Dumbledore. So, let's not rush to congratulate Rowling for her bravery or her commitment to diversity. She had seven books in which to make the barest suggestion that Dumbledore was gay, and couldn't be bothered to.
Hey, check out this cute scene from the most recent issue of Justice Society of America:
It's the JSA having a pancake breakfast with a bunch of firemen and kids. Only, someone's missing. Give it a moment's thought, I'm sure it will occur to you.
That's right, where's Obsidian? What really drove home his absence for me, though, was this panel:
So...firemen hitting on an underage Stargirl is played for laughs, but Obsidian is, yet again, a no show.
Now, setting aside that unfortunate "saving Obsidian from being further molested by other writers" talk before the series launched, and setting aside the creepy symbolism of putting a gay character in the book and then never showing his face and (almost) never having him talk (I think he's said all of two sentences in nine issues)...Geoff Johns apparently expects us to believe that Obsidian turned down a chance to have breakfast with hunky firemen!
So Johns has no clue how to write gay characters is what I'm getting from that. It's time to either give him more to do in the book than imitate wallpaper or let other writers use him.
This year's ad for the Folsom Street Fair (site probably NSFW) has generated some controversy. Well, I say it's generated controversy. Really, the only significant complaints I've found have been from the (male) spokesman of the Concerned Women of America, Matt Barber, who said of the ad "Scripture says that God is not mocked, yet it doesn't stop people from trying. As evidenced by this latest stunt, open ridicule of Christianity is unfortunately very common within much of the homosexual community. Gay' activists disingenuously call Christians 'haters' and 'homophobes' for honoring the Bible, but then lash out in this hateful manner toward the very people they accuse. In their version of The Last Supper, Christ, Who gave His life for our sins, is despicably replaced by sin itself as the object of worship." You can read a press-release about it here, but I don't recommend investigating that site too much.
Now, outrage from the hard-right Christian fundamentalist community is nothing new, and nothing to be surprised at. But what I always find interesting, and depressing, enough to find the term "interpressing" appropriate, is the number of (apparently) gay people who find offense in the ad. Andrew Sullivan doesn't like it, but Andrew Sullivan is a notorious right-wing crank and hypocrite, so fuck what he thinks, frankly. But if you look at the comments section at popular gay blog sites like Towleroad and Joe.My.God, you'll see lots of everyday-gays attacking the ad.
The basic complaints all boil down to one thing: ads like this make us look bad to "them." Ad like this alienate "them" and that hurts gay rights. You see variations of this argument all the time. Drag queens in Pride parades make us look bad to "them." We should distance ourselves from that married politician who had an affair with another man because it makes us look bad to "them." Effeminate teenage drama queens on the Internet should be scolded for making us look bad to "them." I'd like to chalk these arguments up to internalized homophobia, but more often than not they simply seem myopic to me. Because the counter-argument I'd like to propose is that it really doesn't matter what we, as the gay community, say or do in our efforts not to offend "them." Because "they" hate us. Not for what we do, but for who we are. It doesn't matter what we do, "they" are going to be offended. Things like kinky ads, drag queens, closeted politicians and effeminate teens just give "them" a convenient excuse.
Every gay person in the country could be a white, middle-class Republican, living in the suburbs, not ever dreaming of doing anything remotely kinky or "gross", up to and including actually have sex with a person of the same sex, violently insisting that no, really, we don't want equal rights, equal protection under the law or to be treated with basic human decency, and "they" would still hate us. What makes me so sure of this? Because there was a time, not so long ago, within the living memory of many gay men certainly, where the idea of a kinky leather festival was unheard of. Not just unheard of, unimaginable. When there were no such things as Pride parades, much less drag queens marching in them. When closeted politician's careers were over, and quite possibly their freedom. When effeminate teenage queens might as well just kill themselves, because they had nothing to live for. A time when the only homosexuals were "good" homosexuals, living in the closet, in fear and shame, and risking their jobs, homes and livelihoods just to go to a gay bar. Because if the police decided to raid it the night you happen to be there, well, kiss everything you have and know goodbye. And "they" hated us then. Quite possibly more so than "they" do now.
So no, ads like this don't hurt gay rights. Gay people sniping at other gay people to "behave, look presentable, and for God's sake stop acting gay" hurt gay rights. The failure of people in our community to support one another against hateful outside pressures hurts gay rights more than all the kinky leather daddies, drag queens, closeted politicians and teenage queens ever could. So you don't personally approve of any of those things. So what. Find a gay cause or group you feel you can support, and simply sigh and move on when one of those horrible, evil leather daddies or drag queens comes into view. It's far past time that gay people stop worrying about making "them" happy.
Two slight codas, one visual allusions to the Last Supper are nothing new. And they haven't elicited controversy or complaints in significance before. This, I think, really drives home the point that this outrage and controversy is manufactured, and driven more by homophobia than any sincere religious feeling.
Also, one of Matt Barber's comments bears closer scrutiny: "We further challenge the media to cover this affront to Christianity with the same vigor as recent stories about cartoon depictions of Mohammed and other items offensive to the Muslim community." Ah, so Matt, you want the Christian community to be portrayed as a bunch of small-minded, ignorant, backwards fundamentalists, who threaten people with murder if they don't get their way, all because you're not culturally sophisticated enough to understand the principles of free speech, artistic expression, and learning to live and let live? Because, I got to say, you guys are doing a bang-up job of that all on your own.
Plus, all those guys in that ad? Hot. Heck, even that woman on the left gives me a funny feeling...
Extra Note: I really hate playing the "Pete card" but in the context of this discussion I thought it worth mentioning. So, Pete, my boyfriend, of nine years? The minister in his church and director of a gospel choir? That Pete? Cool with the picture. Kind of likes it, actually. So let's cool it on both the "Christians are evil" and the "gays are irreligious" talk, shall we? Actual quote: "I think it's great they used a black Jesus."
So, let's look again at that William Friedkin quote about Cruising: . A lot of the protests against the film in ‘80 said that it seemed to indicate that the gay lifestyle brought about murder, death, violence… and strangely, you know I find that so off-base. I never got the same criticism from the French government when I made The French Connection and the dope smuggler is a French guy and the guy working for him as his hit man is another French guy. And I never heard from French people that I was accusing all French people of smuggling heroin into America, but that was one of the tacks taken by the protests in 1980. And I think they were reaching – I think there was an enormous reach to find a foundation for the criticism.
The obvious point is this: in 1980, if you wanted to find a film with positive portrayals of French people, you could. But at that same point in time you really couldn't find many positive portrayals of gay people. And many of the ones you did find were problematic for other reasons: sissies and queens tended to be the dominant image of gay men in film and television. So it's a laughably absurd false equivalence that Friedkin is building there. Secondly, on the off chance that some person of French ancestry was offended by The French Connection there was an entire French film industry that person could turn to in order to find less offensive portrayals. But in 1980, we were still about ten years away from the "Queer Cinema" days (for good or ill). There were pretty much no mass media portrayals of gay people other than the homophobic or otherwise problematic portrayals in mainstream films. And lastly, Friedkin is apparently the least text-aware director of all time, because both his film and the novel it is based on do rather explicitly make a case that all gay people are deranged predators.
I'm fascinated by this, not because Cruising is a particularly good film or one worthy of commentary (it pretty much deserved all the negative reviews it's gotten over the years, to set aside the accusation of homophobia in the film), but because it's recent release on DVD is coincident with the return of an ever-popular media meme about gay men: the sexual predator.
Ironically, it was the disgrace of two conservative politicians, Bob Allen and Larry Craig, that got the media latched onto the gay sexual predator angle, with some help from the increasingly bizarre antics of Fort Lauderdale mayor Jim Naugle. Allen and Craig, for those living under a rock, were both arrested for soliciting undercover officers for sex in men's room, while Naugle has made keeping gay men out of public restrooms an obsession, much to the embarrassment of his constituents. These three men have kept the media talking about the idea of public sex, cruising, and the role of gay men in both. What's been over-looked, of course, is that these incidents aren't really about gay men. Craig and Allen both claim to be straight, and honestly, I believe them. For the most part, gay men don't resort to cruising for sex in bath rooms. Closeted "straight" men do, however. They do this because societal homophobia either keeps them in denial about their true sexuality, or they're self-hatred expresses itself in self-destructive ways. But "gay men have sex in public bathrooms; what freaks" is an easier story to sell to the public. More recent news stories, particularly a story about pre-adolescent boys engaging in school bus fellatio, seem to suggest that this kind of salacious and insulting news reporting is going to continue for awhile.
There were, of course, other reactions. You can see some of them on display in this thread at Kotaku. For those without the patience to read through, and I don't blame you for not having it, a certain segment of the on-line video gaming community responded to the attack with some variation of "they had it coming." Not because it's a gay site and gays are icky, mind you. But because by specifically setting up the site as being primarily for gay and lesbian gamers, they're setting themselves up for these kinds of attacks. Because they're setting themselves apart. Because they think they're better than you. Because they have to be special. Because it's only about sex. Because they want special rights. Because they want their issues catered to. Because there's no "need" for a gay video game site, because sexuality has nothing to do with video games, and it's not as if all the other video game sites are for straight people.
I don't have to say it, do I? The very fact that the site was attacked in a homophobic manner points out the need for a gay video game site. That people are so used to the heteronormativity of video games that they can't see that, yes, video game sites assume their readership is heterosexual, points to the need for a gay video game site. That the default insult for the teen/post-teen male audience that most video game sites cater to is "gay" or "fag" points to the need for a gay video game site.
Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to comics. Whenever the topic comes up of gay issues in comics, or women's issues in comics, or race issues in comics, the response, very quickly degenerates into that same kind of "why do you think you're special, why do you need to be catered to, there's nothing about comics or the comics industry that's hostile to women, people of color, or gays." There is a certain degree of overlap in the comics community and the video game community; they're both primarily geek-centric activities, after all. And although I've noted before the basic conservative inclinations of nerd-dom at large (coupled with an oddly knee-jerk, unexamined libertarianism), I don't think that's whats really at issue here. Because I don't see this willful cluelessness as something confined to geek-culture, but instead it's something I see in the culture at large. It's a deliberate unwillingness to understand the issues and concerns of minority groups that quickly turns into open hostility towards the very idea of people that are different from the majority wanting to have either their voices heard in the mainstream or to have their own spaces. But I see this unwillingness and hostility especially prominent in geek circles. My initial reaction is that the geeks who feel so threatened already feel so ostracized and out of touch from the mainstream that any thing that threatens to unseat them from their self-imposed status of persecuted martyr must be shouted down. In other words, it's the usual fan entitlement rants as applied to identity politics, only in their world nerds are more disenfranchised than any other group in history.
Or, you know, they're just petty, small-minded jerks. In which case this picture of John Tristram should cause their heads to explode:
Neilalien has a short piece up responding to the "Doctor Strange is teh ghey" meme, which most recently reared it's head at right-wing news-site National Review Online. An important point he makes is that Doc is actually quite the stud and lady-killer...but the model of virile masculinity he's based on is very much out of time.
I'm not usually one for picking on the "scans_daily" crowd (it's a real "fish/barrel/gun" proposition at the best of times), but I felt this thread was noteworthy. I'm honestly baffled by the number of people who seem to seriously think that this:
Is an actual forth-coming cover for the Wonder Woman series. Now, I don't expect everyone on the internet to immediately recognize that picture as a Glen Hanson piece that's at least a year old (NWS link, by the way), as I did, but come on! To even think for a moment that DC would ever seriously consider putting an image like that out on a cover shows a painful disconnect from the realities of the comics publishing world. What's worse are the responses that seem to think that, okay, because here's an unabashed piece of super-hero themed beefcake, that excuses all the sexist and misogynist portrayals of women in super-hero comics. Uh, no. When Newsarama forum posters get the joke you have to have fallen pretty far off the clue train to miss it...
Oh, what the hey, have a Wildcat picture, from Sensation Comics #36:
Yeah, yeah, it's a cheap-shot, "fagged" just means "tired" in this context...but that's actually a guy in drag Wildcat's fighting. Subtext becomes text!
Barry Allen is characteristically late to a date with his wife Iris, at the look roller derby rink. Iris is working on a story about the star of the roller-derby, Kate Krasher. Clearly, an early human interest piece on the gay rights movement, because we all know what kinds of hard women get involved in roller derby, don't we? Barry knows for sure, because when he finally finds Iris he's none too pleased:
"New fish! New fish!" all the girls seemed to be chanting.
When we finally meet Kate Krasher, she's the largest, manliest woman in the rink. You can almost sort of feel Cary Bates trying to get away with using the term "bull dyke"...
Of course, when Lee Marvin goes toe-to-toe with Mary Tyler Moore, the inevitable happens.
Iris responds to Kate the way you'd expect any uptight, middle-class Republican to react. By imagining her as some sort of alien creature.
Oh, Iris, is it your beourgeosie background that gives you such a talent for othering people who are just trying to live their lives?
In case all that girl-on-girl violence wasn't enough for you, Central City is then hit with a "scientifically impossible" earthquake.
At the Science Institute, the earthquake's origin is determined to be...can you guess? That's right, the roller derby rink? When the Flash heads over to investigate, he finds that all the roller skates glow with an unearthly radiation. He then pulls a Hal Jordan.
Waking up and finding himself trussed up over the rink, Flash, and by now the reader, is not at all surprised to find that Kate Krasher is, in fact, the bad guy, and she plans on destroying the world. Starting with Central City. Using the awesome power of roller derby. Hey, it was the 70s. Just go with it.
I believe this panel was later reused in Maude's Handbook to Geology.
Anyway, Flash escapes, he undoes the earth-quake machine by skating around it in the opposite direction of the coil, and he saves the day once again for heteronormativity.
So, that picture of Citizen Steel I posted the other day...there's been some discussion of it on other comic sites and blogs. Most of it, oddly, focusing on how "inappropriate" the image is. To no one's great shock, it seems to be straight men who are bothered by the image.
Don McPherson tries to put the picture into context by comparing it to gratuitously sexualized images of Catwoman and Supergirl. While his point about the depictions of women in super-hero comics is taken, I really have a tremendously hard time (no pun intended) in seeing the Justice Society of America cover as being anywhere near the same league as a statue of Catwoman with her breasts popping out or the nymphet Lolita Supergirl statue. The entire point of those statues is to present the characters portrayed as erotic objects. I have tremendous difficulty believing that Alex "gay writers are molesting Obsidian" Ross intended the same effect. The real howler of a response is Brian Cronin's description of the image as "creepy." It's such a bizarre over-reaction to the image there really isn't any way to engage it. Chris Butcher's response to the whole thing is well worth a read, especially as he's not afraid to call a small shovel used for digging a spade, and very accurately assess the revulsion straight men claim to have for the image as homophobic in nature. Cronin uses the word "creepy" or a variation of it five times. McPherson compares it to yaoi (boys love) manga, which was a nicely subtle bit of gay-baiting, I thought, to compare the image in a perjorative sense to material depicting gay relationships.
But for me, what I'm most struck by in this anxiety over whether or not Citizen Steel's manhood is threatening to the reader is the blatant insincerity of it. There seems to be a condescending undercurrent of "oh, I get it now! This depiction of an unerect penis completely covered by clothing which isn't even close to the focus of the piece has made me feel so insecure in my own masculinty and an object of sexual desire that I now understand why female bloggers were complaining about that Star Sapphire cover of Green Lantern!" to this whole affair. Which, again, is nonsense. A picture of a fully clothed man, who appears to be generously endowed, in a heroic, athletic pose is miles away from a woman in a latex bikini which barely covers her sexual organs, posed to display both ample cleavage and her ass. Perhaps if Citizen Steel's costume was a mesh-nylon thong and Ross had posed him thrusting his hips forward, his crotch in the dead center of the image, we might be able to say that the cover is sexualizing men. Even most of the examples Tim O'Neil dredges up are more crotch-tastic than Ross's image.
The real kicker, of course, is that the image really isn't much to get excited about. Yes, Ross's model appears to have been of a nice size in the pants department, but all Ross has done is use highlights and shadow to suggest that. And Ross, say what you will about him or his art (and I'm not a particular fan), is nothing if not faithful in his efforts to realistically portray his subjects. Chris Butcher made a good effort at illustrating why this image isn't really as direly sexual as people seem to think, but, what they hey, it's been awhile since I posted semi-naked men. So, to recap:
Good sized soft penis, fake:
Good sized soft penis, real:
Good sized hard penis, real:
Good sized soft penis, real, blatantly detailed and outlined by clothing:
I think it's pretty clear that the painting by Ross is, by far, the tamest of the images.
I've been entertained by the weekend debate over whether or not Marvel dropped the ball with giving retailers enough advance information on the contents of Captain America #25 to set adequate order numbers. And by "entertained" I mean "amused by the folly of man."
The general response from retailers (and you can read many thoughts on the subject here, as well as at Mike's site), has been that Marvel's solicitation and promotion information was not adequate, and that orders would have been much higher if Marvel had chosen to share the contents of the issue with retailers instead of, say, Wizard, CNN and the New York Daily News. The dissenting opinion has largely boiled down to "nuh uh!" One particular "internet personality" (and really, how pathetic is that tier of fame?) keeps insisting that Marvel gave retailers more than enough information to anticipate the slow news day driven demand for the issue from people who never bothered to buy issue 24 of the magazine nor have any intention of buying issue 26, and furthermore, if retailers had read his sleazy online column at a second tier PR republishing comic news site, in which he never actually said that Marvel planned on killing off Captain America nor had a multi-media news onslaught prepped for the day the issue went on sale, they would have known to order more copies. Because, of course, internet gossip and innuendo are better predictors of sales than cycle sheets and regular customers. This is, again, despite scores of retailers saying no, actually, the information we were given was insufficient to set orders on non-returnable product correctly.
Hmmm...whose opinion do I find more credible? People who order comics for a living, and have done so for years...or a self-aggrandizing publicity-whore?
Of course, that decision is made ever easier by the fact that fine folks like "DanteHicks1972" are taking the bold stand that Marvel is incapable of doing wrong: It seems like any time something doesn't go the retailers way the crying begins. Sometimes it's justified others like this seems like sour grapes. With all the rumors, innuendo etc if Marvel said it was going to be big it's their fault for blowing tem off. The fact that Wizard speculated correctly and made a few extra $$$ more power to them. I'm jus t glad my local retailer held alot of issues back for subscribers who don't normall pull Cap.
Okay, two things deserve comment here. One, by naming yourself after a character in a Kevin Smith film, you pretty much waive all right to having your opinion taken seriously. And two, learn to be friends with the English language and it will be friends with you.
I liked this article about 300 by Francois Peneaud and Joe Palmer for being fair-minded while acknowledging the problematic aspects of the way the original comic dealt with homosexuality. It still doesn't make me want to see the film because, as I've said before, I thought the original comic was pretty dreadful, and nothing about the film version gives me reason to reassess my opinion. I am fairly intrigued, however, by the ways in which people have been projecting highly contradictory meanings onto the film. It's homophobic. No, it's homoerotic. It celebrates fascism. No, it's an indictment of imperialism. It's racist. No, it's misogynistic. No, it's racist, misogynistic and homophobic.
It seems to me that if the film is this open to so many mutually exclusive interpretations it's probably a muddled mess with no strong central theme. And really, I can't imagine my reaction would be substantially different from Tim O'Neil's.
There was apparently a game developers conference in the Bay area this past weekend, and GayGamer has the best write up I've seen on a panel that was held about gay and lesbian gamers and gay and lesbian themes in games. This particular panel was interesting because it's the first example I've come across of gays and lesbians in the game industry talking about the industry being open to gay themes in games, as opposed to the usual straight white men talking about how open the game industry is to gay themes.
Of course, I'm touched by their naivete in thinking that gay themes would be welcome in more games, given that most of the responses in this thread can best be summarized as "faggots are disgusting and I wouldn't buy a game with gay characters."
There are times when my response to an e-mail or question is roughly this:
And such was the case with people wondering what I thought about Ann Coulter's latest bon mot. To be frank, my initial reaction was pretty much "fuck Ann Coulter." She's about as far as you can get from what passes for reasonable political discourse in this country. But reasonable political discourse isn't her function in the Republican noise machine. She really serves two roles for them. Her minor function is to speak to the dark, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, classist heart of the contemporary conservative movement. Her job is to say the things that make all decent people recoil in horror, but a certain segment of the population longs to hear. But primarily her role is to make other people seem less outrageous in their beliefs and statements by comparison. Let's face it; neither Mitt Romney nor John McCain fundamentally disagree with Ann Coulter on the subject of gay rights. But now they get to portray themselves as moderates by distancing themselves from her. Not that they won't fully take advantage of her notoriety when it serves their interests again.
For a real treat, try this thread about "sacrilegious and anti-Christian" characters. Zauriel The Spectre Nightcrawler Storm Raven Supergirl Venom Lobo Zatanna Scarlet Witch Juggernaut Dr. Strange Dr. Fate Any character that uses magic, sorcery
I can sort of see most of those but...Supergirl? Lobo? Nightcrawler?
And that's quite enough of that. I told Andy he could change one graphic, one. It will be awhile before he's allowed anywhere near the site again.
Although he did want to say that he was very put out by those of you who suggested that he's not real. That was his actual phrase too: "put out."
My all time favorite stupid DC message board thread of late has been this one: Obsidian: Radical Changes Needed!! It might surprise you to learn that the "radical change" in question here is not "give him more screen time than three silent panels in two of three issues published so far." No, I'll let the original poster explain what the problem with Obsidian is: For the past few years, Obsidian has fallen into decandence... in my opinion Obsidian was WAY BETTER in JSA: Darkness Falls!! From the time he quitted, his story became a huge nonsense... I'm not making discrimination, but I really think that him changing his sexuality was the biggest mistake ever made to this character! From there Obsidian was taken less seriously than he have been!! If there was a potential storyline in my mind, it'd be Obsidian with Nightshade (which will also help explain if the "World Of Nighshades" is or isn't the "Shadowlands"... Making Obsidian part of the JSA was good, but unnecessary for Alan Scott alredy has a place there. Obsidian was better off being evil... I hope the DC Editors will think about it REALLY WELL for I've followed DC Super Heroes since I was 2 years old and I never got disapointed in the comics! I hope I won't ever get... Then again, this is NOT discrimination... but this character should have stayed the way he was before... He's the decendent of one of the earliest superheroes, he should not have been inflicted with such a decadence... I hope you understand what I'm trying to say.
But lest you think that perhaps homophobia motivates this anti-gay Obsidian post, be assured that's not the case at all: I was not discriminating by saying that Obsidian was better before... the best way to prove it is that Freddie Mercury is one of my favourite singers! The thing is that Obsidian should have gotten a better "base" (if you understand the term).And it was, most of all, the fact that Alan Scott would have no more succesor in his bloodline after Obsidian's death that bothered me... that's it!! If anyone has a problem with that than express your feelings... but calling me a homophobiac is the proof that you did not read and understood the sentence : I'M NOT MAKING DISCRIMINATION. I wrote this because I knew some people would understand what I meant in a different way that I expected. So if you can't read, quit comics!
I swear, the thread is a treasure-trove: adreyenko said himself that he MADE obsidian gay in an interview, which PROVES that the hero wasn't always gay. adreyenko should have left todd rice alone. his run on manhunter led to only one thing: THE CANCELLATION OF THE TITLE!! wtf??!! obsidian had a relationship with harlequin III, why can't he stay the way he was?? it's not because he was shy or had mental illness (which were because of his mother's genes) and that his first relationship had a little difficulties that he is gay! and it's not because nuklon is his best friend and that he was avoiding homophobia and because he didn't have any relationship or love neither. don't call me narrow-minded because that's not true, it's just the damn truth!! the ones who say he's gay say it because they WANT him to be like that... but he was never meant to be!! PS: if he turned evil, it was because of his mental illness!!!!
Alright, maybe Obsidian's mental illness wasn't revealed until Darkness Falls, but come on guys... it's more coherent for him to have this as a hertitage from his mother than his change of sexuality!!!!!! Darkness Falls was one of the only stories that made Obsidian important, and his decadence started from the time he came back! Now he's just a shadow doing nothing exept when Jade died!! Give me a break... this dude needs RADICAL CHANGES so that he can become better!! He looks pathetic now... and if writers don't do anything about it, he'll soon be useless and so he won't be used that often... AND HE'S THE BLOODY SON OF ALAN SCOTT!!!! Come on... it looks like the death of Jade didn't affect him that much, for they only made him furious in 52... but he's not carrying the sadness, while he should, for it would go on well with his darkness. This character could use alot of work, which would fortunately pay well amd make his popularity increase. He should also get closer with his dad. And can anyone answer me this question: Is the shadowlands the land of nightshades?? I hope you understand that Obsidian is not taken seriously AT ALL right now. The Infinity Inc. should also get worked up, and have a more important role in the DCU. I hope that the JSA title will CORRECT Obsidian's MISTAKES, and make him have an important role in the team that just being a useless shadow security guard. Make the true POWER of his powers come out, for he's VERY powerful, the writers just don't use all of his qualities, and rather make him gay for some stupid unknown reasons (exept for Andreyko's Manhunter selfishness). Remake him te way he was before, and add all the things I said in this post... then come up with an amazing story... and there you'll have the REAL Obsidian.
Now, most of the other posters take "goldenagebat" to task for his attitude, but there's at least one other poster, "dixon64" who has his back. At any rate the character is not being as well received as he was and it is precisely because of that change that he isn't. How is that good for a company if their goal is to sell as many copies of that title to consumers as they can ? It is not. But if I had a political or social agenda sales would not matter to me. But the idea that we are going to cry on the internet because of it is foolishness. DC and you are assuming we will continue to buy the book. I love "The Justice Society of America" . For years and with it's return I have stated vehemently that it is hands down with no close competition the best title on the market, but don't let it fool you into believing that I wont leave that and every other DC title on the shelf if I see it that DC doesn't hear my voice for the $3.00 I pay for their title. The character of Obsidian has been diminished and DC shouldn't suffer the loss of that asset nor should they suffer it on the consumers who purchase "The Justice Society of America"
Now, setting aside that Obsidian really only became interesting as a character when he came out, what I love in that last excerpt is the notion that negative fan reaction to Obsidian is having an adverse effect on the Justice Society book. And here I was thinking that the vast bulks of criticisms I've heard about this latest relaunch is the over the top violence. Silly me.
I'm not actually overly bothered by the violence in Justice Society to be honest, but nor am I overly concerned with the pace of Justice League, so clearly my taste is suspect. My concerns for the book are born out of pure fan entitlement selfishness. I don't like the bitter and mentally scarred Damage, especially since it seems to be broadly telegraphing a heel turn, especially with the introduction of his "father" Vandal Savage into the storyline. I don't like a suddenly emo Wildcat who resents having to train younger heroes, something he's been consistently portrayed as enthusiastic about in the past. I don't like the apparently Alex Ross mandated sidelining of Obsidian. And I really hate the masturbatory insertion of elements from Kingdom Come into the book.
Speaking of DC comics that are failing to meet the expectations of their audience, I've noticed, here and there, a number of people who feel that the tone of Trials of Shazam is excessively dark, especially in comparison to Jeff Smith's Monster Society of Evil title. Which is a fair enough exception to make. My own response to that is that I've been thinking of Trials as more of a Captain Marvel Jr. story, and Freddie Freeman's adventures have always been a bit darker in tone than those of Billy and Mary. Let's compare their origins for a minute.
Hey, Billy, how'd you get your powers? "A wizard gave them to me!" Cool. How about you Mary? "A wizard gave my brother powers." Okay...And you Freddie? Where did your powers come from? "Nazis killed my family and crippled me." Wow...aren't you a bright and shiny figure of escapist fun for little children.
Not that I have any idea how a good, law-abiding citizen of the United States could watch those episodes in anything resembling a timely manner.
Carla's tale of trying to find a contemporary Iron Man comic for a kid reminded me an awful lot of my days working comics retail. Marvel used to have this peculiar knack for capitalizing on their film release dates with wholly inappropriate material in their promotional comics. Such as a twenty-five cent Hulk comic with an attempted rape but no Hulk. Or an X-Men comic featuring graphic crucifixions when the second film came out. They've gotten marginally better about it, though I do sort of wonder why there was no general audience appealing Ghost Rider comic this month.
Patrick Fillion has some preview pages up for his forth-coming gay barbarian comic, Zahn. I shouldn't have to tell you that the link above is not safe for work, but be assured it is.
Destructoid profiles a game I enjoyed far too much, Pokemon Snap. It was the best puzzle/photography game I ever played. It was the only puzzle/photography game I ever played. I would absolutely download it if it became available for the Wii Virtual Console.
The Brave and the Bold #1, by Mark Waid, George Perez and Bob Wiacek, published by DC Comics
I'm an unashamed fan of the concept of The Brave and the Bold. There's something very satisfying, on an intrinsic level, about super-hero team-up adventures. It's a great joy and delight for the little kids hidden inside super-hero comics fans. And this latest iteration of the series captures that perfectly. It's big dumb super-heroic adventure, but without the melodrama that has come to dominate the genre of late. Mark Waid's penchant for exhaustive continuity based story-telling is well suited for the concept, and he writes the characters, in this case Batman and Green Lantern, in a way which makes them familiar to long term fans of the characters and sketched in enough for those unfamiliar with a particular character to get an idea of what they're about. Perez was an inspired choice for artist as well, having a broadly appealing style that looks, importantly, suitably super-heroic. His figures "act" well, being very expressive and detailed, yet loose enough to still possess a sense of dynamism. The final product is an unpretentious book which revels in the fun of the shared universe concept.
For a while now, I'd been hearing mutterings of discontent amongst the on-line bear and gay communities about dissastisfaction with Bear411, a hook-up site for gay men who identify as bears and bear admirers. I hadn't really paid too much attention to it because, to be perfectly honest, I'm pretty much over the whole bear thing.
See, when I was first coming out, I was very welcomed by the bear community. It was nice to be in the company of gay men who didn't buy into the gym bunny/twink imagery that dominated the gay press and porn industries at the time. It was nice to be in the company of "regular guys" who just happened to be gay. But over time, and as the prominence of the bear community grew, it started to feel just as insular and cliqueish to me as every other gay sub-group. I found myself being snubbed at bear events because I wasn't hairy enough, or fat enough. In fact, it was starting to look to me like "bear" increasingly meant "twink who stopped going to the gym and grew a beard." And as more and more bear clubs and events started appearing, it became even clearer to me that the "bear" identity, rather than being the reaction to the limited images of gay men that proliferated in the wider media and the gay media that it had started as, was now just another convenient brand-identity for parting gay men from their money.
Eventually I did a little more reading into what exactly the issues with Bear411 were, and it mostly boiled down to people being denied accounts with the service, apparently for failing to meet some sort of "correct" bear standard. Which, on the face of it, is patently ridiculous. If you're going to put up a site, focused on getting large hairy men laid, you have to someday realize that not everyone into large hairy men is large and hairy themselves. There's always going to be chasers, and frankly some of us prefer the chasers to the chased. What truly bothered me though, was the appearance of asianmen (links via) in particular being turned away from the site. I'm not surprised by that, sadly, as looks-ism, as applied to race, is rampant in the gay community. But I'm annoyed that such a blatant display of bigotry is happily excused by a group that has its roots in reacting against judgements of worth based on appearance.
There's been some question in the gay blogosphere if this ad from the Super Bowl should be considered offensive or not:
The joke here seems to be that casual homophobia is funny. Which, at this point, if you have to have why it's not funny, or appropriate, explained to you, well, there's probably no point explaining it to you. For myself, I find the ad more stupid than offensive, and it certainly doesn't make me want a candy bar.
What I found more troubling was the reaction videos Snickers used to have on their web-site, in which football players expressed disgust at the notion of two men kissing. Homophobia in professional sports is a real problem, and one that most American sports leagues have been more than willing to turn a blind eye to, and it's disheartening that advertisers would seek to profit off it.
This picture has also made the internet rounds lately:
Now, I look at that picture, and I see a very attractive man. But apparently most gay men online are looking at that picture and seeing a big, fat, disgusting, fat, piggy, fat-fattie.
How fucked up is the body image of most gay men that they look at Morrissey and see someone fat? I'm not ashamed to admit, he's in better shape than I am, and he's in much better shape than most Americans. But then the attitude of Americans towards their bodies is out-right schizophrenic; we're quite probably, if not certainly, the fattest nation on the planet, but we loathe any body-type that strays from an impossible notion of perfection, so this sort of thing really shouldn't surprise me.
I've become interested in the culture that has sprung up around massively multi-player games. Enough so, in fact, that I finally broke down and bought a copy of World of Warcraft. This is as much a surprise to me as anyone, as when I had played WOW before, I hadn't really liked it very much. The emphasis on the game is very much on grinding to the maximum level possible, and then running the same dungeons over and over again to collect better and better equipment. There are also a great deal of time-sinks built into the game, designed seemingly to keep you playing and distracted from the highly repetitive nature of the missions. I'm still continually baffled by some of the "loot" drop rates, which more often than not defy all common sense: "Go and bring me back eight wolf paws!" "Okie-dokie, that just means go out and kill two wolves. No problem." Three hours later... "Boy, I can't believe there were over two hundred paw-less wolves in this forest."
And the less said about crafting systems and auction houses and other manifestations of in-game economies, the better. No, the City of Heroes games are much more my speed. The missions aren't any less repetitive, but there's a "get on, beat bad guys up for an hour, team if you want to, log off" approach that suits my lifestyle a little better.
So, why did I get the game, if it's not really my sort of thing? For some variety, mostly. Now, when I want to pretend to be someone else, I have another option besides "superhero" or "supervillain." I even went a step beyond, and put the character who has evolved into my "main" on a role-playing server, a step I'd always been reluctant to do in other on-line games. I'm not sure why I ever hesitated, it's not as if anyone on the role-playing servers ever, you know, role-plays their characters, but it was the thought that counted. Plus, as I said, I'm finding myself intrigued by the cultural significance of MMO games, and WOW is definitely the biggest one out there, so it felt like it was worth investigating.
Plus, I played a little bit of a "free" MMO from a major publisher that was basically a complete and utter knock-off of World of Warcraft, but without a tenth of the charm or appeal but plenty of fanboy pandering geek humor. After seeing WOW done wrong, it suddenly made the real game look a thousand times more appealing.