Monday, January 14, 2019

Toxic Masculinity: Are We In Or Out?




    

Are we not men?


     "L" precedes "G" in LGBTIQ for good reasons, not the least of which is to remind gay men that pre-Queer tendencies to exclusion of all but the overtly masculine weren't quite as cool as we thought. A community like that isn't a viable or effective movement, nor is it acceptable to a socio-political alliance committed to broad change. Gay Liberation, as determined by gay men, hadn't lived up to the early-70s promises demonstrated by significant actions like forcing the American Psychiatric Association to de-pathologize homosexuality. For close to twenty years gay men accepted limited rights while establishing an elitist culture which often embraced the rise of Neo-liberalism and its attendant pitfalls. Homosexuality - as practiced - took a sharp turn from freewheeling counter-cultural liberation towards the fetishism of hyper-masculinity. A slightly cleaner psychiatric bill of health doesn't necessarily mean that a gay man will automatically question the psychology of masculinity.

For the homosexual to pursue and desire masculinity for the sake of masculinity means alighting upon a psychological minefield - best explored and navigated only with good psychology. As projection, we often indulge in desire for men we neither like nor respect - to much the same degree that our non-gay brothers cause exemplary shipwrecks in their pursuit of women. And since we're talking about male psychology, it's immaterial whether or not women do it, or the degree to which they might. While good psychology (and the life-skills acquired from it) are of prime importance to all, functioning as a man who wishes to experience positive outcomes from sex and intimacy with other men as well as negotiating life in general requires supportive psychology. That is, one which supports a unique, integrated self in being the best man he can be. Nothing "special" per se - just something which doesn't bulldoze the specifics.

I've complained for years that the field of studies we call Masculinities is a neglected and scattered pursuit which tends to retread time-worn tropes - especially notable when offset with related and component studies around feminism and gender. Ergo male homosexuality presents as a psychological dead-end street without some solid framing within masculinity as understood, and understood well. The likelihood of death for a man who desires other men at the hands of toxic masculinity is reflected in suicide and murder statistics, which aren't adequately or entirely explained by catch-alls like "homophobia". We can look at simple cause and effect only up to a certain point.
 
When it comes to masculinity, homosexualists certainly have skin in the game. And we owe it first to ourselves to sort out what masculinity is inherently good and healthy, and what is just plain toxic. Ruminating about men and masculinity is a pointless exercise if our discrimination isn't focused on concepts like "real men versus toxic masculinity". We're probably on a winning trajectory if our daydreams about real men turn to equating sexy masculinity with characteristics like the easy-going kindness which only comes from real masculine security. Toxic masculinity is very much at home in a binary narrative about tops and bottoms - less so if the narrative shifts to life's givers and takers.

The paradoxes of toxic masculinity are many, but the central paradox, i.e. that toxic masculinity seeks to both reward and punish its adherents goes a long way towards meaningful definition/s. And it's only recently been fingered as a belief system more akin to religion than good psychology. The appeal of toxic masculinity is both obvious and covert, with the dual promises of superiority and domination ahead of simple survival. Not unlike bad religion and bad psychiatry, its dark obverse is rooted in "curing" perceived threats to its ideological self by whatever means it takes.

Toxic Masculinity isn't an interchangeable term for  "patriarchal society", and while the latter nurtures the former, toxic masculinity opposes any real tolerance which may emanate from within patriarchy. Its toxicity lies within its archly reactionary but changeable characteristics, as well as its punitive practices. The tentacles of toxic masculinity aren't restricted to derision ("He throws like a girl!"), hurt feelings ("Just man up!") and exclusion ("Not man enough"). Coupled with social tendencies veering towards nationalism in a climate of to-be-desired hyper-masculinity, the syndrome manifests as distrust and extreme competition between men, to the degree that personal and deep love between men of all sexual preferences becomes less attainable.


Good Psychology Often Offends


   Though long overdue, good psychology flew in under the radar in August of 2018 when the American Psychological Association quietly dropped its APA Guidelines For The Psychological Practice With Boys And Men. Empiric inasmuch as they incorporate most responsible research and academia around masculinities from the last thirty years, when applied as psychotherapy there's every reason to be optimistic. A vacuous "Wikipedia On Masculinity" it's thankfully not, and a shit-storm of reactionary outrage has recently erupted from the usual suspects a.k.a. those who call themselves conservatives and traditionalists. That's the American experience so far.  It remains to be seen whether incels and "men's rights advocates" will follow U.S. Fox News in condemning the APA, if indeed any of the above give a rat's ass about the science and art of psychology, as scholastically researched and presented.

What's researched and presented however must be able to tick boxes like philosophy and ethics to pass muster before its work-ability can be evaluated. Otherwise it's just pop psychology, and may or may not be even appropriate to the times...although any good psychology is eminently appropriate to its times. While a psychology might do no harm, it's relative worth hinges on whether or not it actually works for individuals in ways that ideology and identity don't, and can't.

The APA Guidelines don't seek to entrench treatment (they're up for review in ten years), but are justified as holistically needs-based in response to what they rightfully claim: that boys and men have historically been the focus of psychological research and practice as a normative referent for behavior rather than as gendered human beings. That's an expansive brief to say the least, and certainly invokes the need for a disciplined approach to psychotherapy from practitioners. Queer consumers of same who desire productive outcomes are entitled to know what to expect in terms of practice and consistent common-sense service delivery. Any form of counseling which doesn't signal adherence to the guidelines should be approached with extreme caution.

The Ten Guidelines (minus rationale / treatment) are as follows:


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bobbie Gentry In Four Easy Pieces, and Pass The Bisquits Please




The lavish “The Girl From Chickasaw County” collection is on its way to becoming the music box-set of the year, as the compact disc format sails into its sunset era. After decades of low-level rumbling on behalf of The Legend of Bobbie Gentry, it's been served by the overdue release of her entire Capitol Records efforts, and then some.

Legends of course need to grasp on to something more than core substance for real traction. The embellishments and the made-up stuff take care of things very well when the personification of the legend itself/herself refuses to take the bait of “publicity” for any reason whatsoever. It remains to be seem what effect the glamorous box will have on The Legend: its most significant recent boost came courtesy of Neely Tucker from the Washington Post attempting - and failing - to flush her out in much the same way a curious press would stalk a killer on the run. It doesn't seem too iconoclastic to suggest that "finding where Bobbie Gentry lives" and "a slow news day" are probably one and the same thing, but Legends can always use sustenance. Fifty years after the fact, Rolling Stone are finally on board with Bobbie Gentry - albeit dismissing her as a country artist. (In the countercultural heyday of the mag, artists who made career choices like Bobbie Gentry were only ever acknowledged with snotty contempt if they were acknowledged at all.)

While Bobbie Gentry’s 1967-71 Capitol recordings are almost her entire recorded output, they’re also representative of a career ethos which frustrates many who are looking for a musical integrity on their terms. Self-styled musicologists will miss the point of Bobbie Gentry if they’re looking for a slew of albums which "legitimize" her as Swamp Rock’s First Goddess, and pop fans of the era might be wishing for a lot more Top 40 fodder of the Jimmy Webb persuasion. And that's too bad for them: Bobbie Gentry, you see has no interest at all in curating a legacy or a legend. And good luck to the self-appointed arbiters of what is highbrow and what is lowbrow because Bobby Gentry presents a paradox or two for further consideration.

The recordings aren't, or weren't, a woman's work in its entirety. They are however the best documentation we have. Which suggests the first bullet point regarding The Legend of Bobbie Gentry:

She Made Her Artistic Statement


An unforgettable record like “Ode To Billy Joe” is a necessary ingredient if a Legend is to be baked. Original, evocative and mysterious, two or three generations on Earth know that Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchee Bridge. (Composer Gentry herself refused for close to a decade to explain why, but her approved writer for the film of the same name explained it all away on her behalf, since she never actually locked it in herself.  Billy Joe - for posterity then - had gotten drunk, enjoyed some dude’s dick, couldn’t subsequently get it up for his girlfriend and suicided off the aforementioned bridge. One more fag culled at the hands of Hollywood. Pass the biscuits please, indeed.)

While the first album attempted to replicate the title with a slew of soundalikes with the similar C7 / D7 ukulele-styled minor key picking, what was narratively strong is melodically unmemorable. The cello overdubs on the hit single established a haunted mood, but the formula wasn’t good for an entire album. But, most importantly, the lyrics are the lexicon of a poor rural south and the listener isn’t quite sure whether it’s 1967 or the Dust Bowl Depression. If not obvious or immediately accessible, it at least rings as both authentic and an artwork of sorts. As does does the singer / composer.

The sophomore effort takes a different tack: “The Delta Sweete” connects a mix of covers and  Gentry originals with musical interludes, giving it a cinematic feel while the singer moves easy with the blues. It’s minor masterpiece, and more than justifies the promise of the first instance. The final part of the trilogy (“Local Gentry”) attempts to locate her in the growing soft popschlock market which just isn’t as open to her darkly quaint originality as it is to Lennon & McCartney.

That market in 1968 however is very much open to Capitol’s own hick-in-residence Glen Campbell, so it probably made sense to team Bobbie Gentry with him. Commercially it certainly did: their duet album and singles cut into the country pop market and opened the door of national and international television to both. Far from a compromised change in direction, the exercise served to showcase both her originality and versatility at the very time when the 60's girl singer was on on her way to oblivion, with the American version of the product apparently by then extinct. Though not essentially a Top 40 artist, the indomitable Barbra Streisand was on a slide and headed for that final indignity of a greatest hits collection which belatedly arrived in 1970. Whatever constellations had lined up, the outcome was that Aretha Franklin was the only woman selling records consistently.

As a sidebar, only five women featured in the 1968 U.S. Top 100 singles, and none in the Top 10. By far and away the year's leader of the pack was Jeannie C. Riley, cleaning up with that country corn novelty about the Harper Valley PTA. It stands as a shit-kicking beacon of everything about the South that Bobbie Gentry sought not to emulate musically, although she would soon take a swipe at hypocrites who'd call her bad. The pre-Woodstock year was musically saturated with the dreck which "Elusive Butterfly" ushered in two years prior: an ersatz post-Dylan sensibility about angels of the morning, what weighs gently on minds and whether or not God made little green apples. And Bobbie Gentry was collared in the thick of it.

Country Soul is like pornography: difficult to exactly define, but you just know what it is when ya see it. "Arethaville" was a location as much as a sensibility, and that location was Bobbie Gentry's neck of the woods. Songbirds-in-decline like Petula, Dusty, Lulu and Cher all headed to Alabama chasing a finger-lickin' hit album.

With two albums either side of a new decade (“Touch ‘Em With Love” (1969), “Fancy” (1970)), Bobbie Gentry was making new artistic statements as a purveyor of the good and sexy stuff, while attempting to distance herself from all-consuming M.O.R. Still defined as backwoods tho beautiful in the U.S., she'd nevertheless become an international star chalking up career-defining hits like “Fancy”, and to many charmed punters the definitive version of Bacharach and David’s whimsical “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”. Her stylistically diverse records at this time (and where they charted) is, and was, quite remarkable.

That other great ingredient of Legend is often an artistic masterpiece which fails, thus feeding the sentimental and melodramatic aspects of Legend. While “Patchwork” may be Gentry’s final album and a commercial failure, it’s neither flawed nor a masterpiece. With no hit single, its good songs and production just make it a good record which rings true to an artist's vision. Entirely self-composed, the mannered character portraits are enchanting...again in a cinematic way. With a dose of revisionism and much projection, "Patchwork" is a great TV special in the hands of an imaginative director.

But 1971 was disastrous for Capitol records: their sales and earnings were decimated, and their shares plummeted. With no sense of irony, it’s nevertheless worth asking if “Patchwork” deserved its pauper burial - just when Carole King’s “Tapestry” soared up the charts, and on to a history which celebrates a fairly ordinary album in perpetuity.

And then she was outta there, but Bobbie Gentry’s exit from recording wasn’t career-ending but instead brings us to the next bullet point of The Legend:

She Entertained


And she entertained well. Surprisingly little of that bigger picture is extant, in terms of audio-visual documentation. The random television clips which survive don't even hint at her global superstar status as supported by that medium. For her live performances we only have incomplete stats and random memories. My brother caught her glitzy casino show and he was well-entertained: “Yeah...great show…she was good”.  A self-designed and idiosyncratic affair, she packed ‘em in with less tits and feathers than Ann-Margret, and more gay appeal than Elvis...since the headliner herself made sure there was enough quality equal-opportunity ass on display for everyone.

A precursor to solo Cher, she flaunted her hits and her beauty and her costumes as she gave the finger to that peculiar vanity the record business had acquired: rock cred, at all costs. If you, the paying customer, wanted to believe she was Fancy personified then your ticket and drink minimum entitled you to do so. Or maybe she was Belinda, or perhaps some kind of narrator. For her part, she fulfilled that undervalued aspect of the social contract: to entertain.

The nobility of the sentiment arguably outruns just making artistic statements, and Vegas always had the best sound systems anyhow. Which is a nice segue into bullet point number three:

She Made Her Money


Some approach The Legend of Bobbie Gentry with a clumsy neo-feminist by-line supported by the fact that she actually produced her own records. The Legend of Dusty Springfield offers up much the same. It’s not a weighty POV since structured corporations like Capitol ensured that production royalties flowed back to the company via titular employees. Many men and women “produced” their own records at the time, and Sandie Shaw actually refused the credit so as not to signal amateurish recordings. Credit is all very well and good, but a supermodel once told me with a straight face that her suggestions to photographers were more than worthy of credit and she was surely hard done by. Bobbie Gentry apparently took charge of most aspects of her image and performing career, for real, and with competence and intelligence.

The persona of Bobbie Gentry is itself a minefield for both Second and Third Wave feminist evaluation. And it's underpinned by a noirish sensibility and startling consistency: all the way from her self-naming (ex- Ruby Gentry) to her claim that her song “Fancy” was her feminist statement. The antithesis of "Five Easy Pieces" poor dumb (and disposable) Rayette Dipesto, she certainly reminded folks to not get too precious about how they felt about prostitution-lite and "gold digging". As witty as it's sensual, "Fancy"s L.P. cover slick may be a red herring but the the message was clear enough to defy what’s usually implicit and projected in current times: “Do I look like a victim?”

Nor was she. She achieved. And she was astute enough to get paid, and for that she’s to be admired in an industry which screws about 99% of artists, and usually gets to completely own their artistic output from their most fertile period. And always one is left to wonder whether or not there's some residual resentment towards Bobbie Gentry for being flush enough to call it quits when it suited her...as opposed to a more "endearing" being who had to sing and dance for her supper, for time (and facelifts) immemorial. While we give the poor thing a round of applause for being a "tough survivor" and earning a relatively worthless medal of sorts. Or as Marianne Faithfull once said: "Thank you but I'd rather prevail than just survive."

And Then She Left The Building.


The final bullet point invites Garbo-esque comparisons, but Garbo was regularly photographed post-retirement as she was courted by both industry and the celebrities of the day for a very long time. Bobbie Gentry simply left in the truest sense of the word. Ripely beautiful and just shy of forty, she disappeared. There would be no attempts to “keep it going”, as they say in The Business. No interviews, no irregular record releases on obscure labels. No online presence. No explanations. And no co-operation whatsoever, passive or otherwise, in establishing or maintaining The Legend of Bobbie Gentry.

As a lifelong Bobbie Gentry fanboy it's difficult to see her as an acquired taste when she's as accessible as any good artist. A perverse side of me enjoys the fact that she's neither iconic nor a diva: in all honesty I don't yearn for more from her but love what she's left. While rejecting the reductive "Southern Gothic" as catch-all, I do have some regret that culture sidelined forever the smoothly disruptive Southern woman as personified by Bobbie Gentry, with her nods to the generations who'd come before as empowered women in film, theater and real life. 

And if it all boils down to the simplified "Was she simply of the times?" then "Absolutely yes and absolutely no" is a most satisfying resolution if any questions need to be asked.


bobbiegentry.org.uk/ is the go-to site for all things Bobbie Gentry.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Homoerotics of Orientalism




While Homosexual History is a disjointed affair – the term “homosexual” being a relatively new concept comprising definition, pathology and vilification in equal parts – we the men who desire and have sex with other men can glean much from the past to know about our present day selves beyond modern Western ideas about identity.

We’re wise to take a “Well, yes and no…” approach when trusting academia to stay in its own lane: Queer integrity necessitates viewing “LGBTIQ” as a political collective whose successes rise and fall on being able to rally around overarching goals: goals which coincidentally intersect with race and broader gender issues some of the time. Masculinity itself however has been most poorly studied and consequently misunderstood, and male homosexuality as an offending sub-species of masculinity isn’t likely to fare well with that contextualization.

It’s then overwhelmingly impressive when an academic with impeccable credentials publishes something like “The Homoerotics of Orientalism”. Joseph A. Boone’s 520-page masterpiece (a fascinatingly informative and satisfying read) manages to take Orientalism from its old-tymey connotations and frame so much about how homosexualists are very real (and perhaps universal, if not timeless) participants in masculinity, although currently disenfranchised when it comes to effectively shaping masculinity.

No slouch himself when it comes to nutting out the finer points of Queerdom, race and transnational culture, (the following extract from) Eng-Beng Lim's excellent review highlights the degree of critical thought which pervades the book:



Boone's own preface reveals his clear understanding of the nuances of sexuality which must shape such a broad subject lest it be undone by dualistic assumptions or an overemphasis on differences. He expertly rises to the challenge of addressing both homosexual acts as well as identity, as they've historically played out for and by men of what was once known as The Orient. The author hasn't assembled a linear history as such - more a highly successful attempt to empirically gather evidence which isn't assembled to suit any narrative or foregone conclusions.


von Gloeden's 1890s Orientalized Sicilians
An actual Oriental / Ottoman same-sex couple circa 1920s













 






In focusing on Orientalism, Boone is able to relieve homosexual history of being determined by, or rooted in, Occidental Classicism and its uncomfortable associations with pederasty. In fact, more modern bridging images (as photographed by the likes of von Gloeden) appear to be rather old "boys" on close examination: with the knowledge that he coated his subjects in emulsions and used filters it's likely that his peddled images of "boys" and "youths" were anything but. (Anti-pornographers and their missionary kind are usually smart enough to avoid scapegoating von Gloeden as an exploiter of the poor and/or non-consenting: his models received good royalties from their images, and did so with the blessings of their communities.)

Von Gloeden's images are important inasmuch as they are the earliest photographic evidence of homoerotic Orientalism as it straddled the art vs. smut divide, as well as effectively refuting how European art had traditionally insisted on representing the penis size of sexually mature males from Classicism onwards. While some insist that the photograph itself is more of a vehicle of pornography (due to its infinite possibilities for reproduction) than any painting or sculpture, there's no doubting its superior ability to document. But what von Gloeden documented wasn't penises of exotic races - he documented forays into erotic Arcadianism and Orientalism by virtue of a then-revolutionary medium. In a way he made homoerotic Orientalism more real, and in doing so dignified it.

It would however be quite wrong to suggest that von Gloeden (or any image for that matter) defines or best represents homoerotic Orientalism, or that it had or has "watershed moments". The Homoerotics of Orientalism successfully prevents the topic (and the men) from being dismissed as products and images of Western projection: Orientals themselves certainly bring enough meaningful homoeroticism to inform the topic.



 
Professor Joseph Boone address (Van Leer Jerusalem Institute 2016)

 
Of course "The Orient" nowadays refers to territories, races and peoples far removed from what and where Orientalism flourished - Boone's milieu encompasses cultures of North Africa, Asia Minor and a broad Arabia. Language, dress and religion have significantly gutted the Middle-Eastern man of his benign homoerotic appeal, and Boone is courageous enough to invoke Abu Ghraib images of men to demonstrate that demonically dark side of homoeroticism, as practiced by men who torture.

Orientalism as a viable homoerotic pursuit probably had its last days of innocence in our own lifetimes immediately before the demise of the busy cruising areas around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They hosted Israeli and Palestinian men coupling in the name of Eros...oblivious to the reality of The Other being rapidly recast as The Enemy. Given what came before (The Crusades) and what has since transpired, it's not too simplistic to isolate these acts of homosexuality as possibly the only tangible evidence of men behaving with any degree of sanity toward each other in the entire region for a very long time.


21st Century Homoerotic Orientalism: The Middle-Eastern Male, The Pesky Questions,



Some modern North and South American pornographers do their best to promote one vaguely Orientalist stereotype of Arabic virility in the pursuit of a niche buck. But the authenticity of the sentiment is as suspect as the true erotic content of a pizza delivery. As Orientalism, this erotica barely meets the brief of Western product for a Western consumer, lacking even the trappings of "mystery" and featuring models who could never vaguely pass as Arabic, Assyrian or Semitic - or anybody vaguely Oriental for that matter. Gone also are nods to youth and not-unattractive feminized aspects of homoerotic Orientalism: dimensionless Postmodern hypermasculinity - and little else - apparently being at the core of  Western homoerotic desire. (Notably, recent "Orientalist" homoerotica requires the consumer to choose between the mutually exclusive Arabic and Israeli sub-genres, with "Middle Eastern" and "North African" being unavailable options unless post-colonialist mixed-race French is your thing.)

Is the non-sexualized modesty of the traditional Eastern male actually a powerful erotic driver? If so, commercial porn as we know it seems oblivious to the idea. The oft-debated issues of modesty and flaunted sexuality are as relevant to Arabic men as to Arabic women, with few Westerners able to grasp how the Eastern perspective interlocks sex with privacy. That debate about immodesty and prohibition doesn't effectively address arousal for what is, or the fact that modesty itself (or more correctly, "what is covered") can be a potent sexual stimulant.

Have politics and religion subliminally caused modern Western homosexuals to deny Arabic men their unique homoerotic due? If not, who then is this man in the 21st Century? An online search ("sexiest hottest Arab men") will invariably turn up model Omar Borkan, whose main claim to fame is being deported from Saudi Arabia for "being too handsome".

Hamdan / Fazza redux

Hamdan / Fazza










As an internet sensation with a million followers, his cosmetic Orientalism somehow doesn't quite ring true beyond the damp-pantie world of Instagram. He's of course channeling Sheikh Hamdan, Crown Prince of Dubai - affectionately known to his six million-plus followers as "Fazza". What Hamdan does, so apparently does Borkan...albeit with depilated nipples and to-be-expected pencilled eyes boring into the camera. From affection towards horses thru poetry to even falconry...Borkan remarkably does it too! In terms of the sexual sensibility of modelling itself, Borkan certainly meets the brief of "white enough, and exposed enough".  In terms of camp sensibilty, Borkan seems to meet the "Florence of Arabia" brief in the same fey way as most who attempt artsy-fartsy homoerotic images invoking Orientalism rather than being it.


How do you like your Fazza? Hypermasculine Western...
...or mysteriously and exotically Eastern?





















Fazza himself is marketed to both Easterners and Westerners as everything from extreme sportsman to sensitive poet to astute modern leader. Importantly, he actually has the credentials. Still single in his 30s, the soulfully beautiful Fazza presents as perfection in Arabic homosocialization - he's never photographed with  female dates. Together with the added cachet of intact royal mystery and billions in the bank, he should be able to launch a thousand Arabian nights fantasies in Western gay men regardless of Orientalist leanings, but doesn't. Obversely, the British-educated Hamdan-as-Westerner on Grindr would make out like a bandit.

"Taste choices" aside, isn't there a silly queen or enlightened gay man somewhere who's come to think of him as a beloved and composed a poem to dignify the sentiment... as appropriate homoerotic (or at least homosocial) communication? Being a self-realized man with agency, perhaps he altogether subverts the exploitative European colonialist underpinnings of Orientalism, and therefore that aspect of homoeroticism. Perhaps again the breakdown of mutual East / West same-sex eroticism is an ongoing casualty of colonialism - continuously refueled for more nefarious purposes, from both sides.

Have we therefore - as politicized "gays" - become so dumbed-down that what we find attractive and unattractive is determined by forces outside our normal and curious desires...desires which have traditionally at least refuted racism to some degree?  On one hand it's very right to not emotionally engage with any person or thing which is of homophobia, but all Arabic men aren't of homophobia. (Secular Arabs were, and are, horrified by Islamist celebration of the Orlando massacre.) Islamicate homosexuals aren't likely to benefit from the advances made by Western homosexuals any time soon, since politics rarely even pays lip service to increasing human rights abuses in the 21st Century. If our tendency to love and/or desire them has been subliminally replaced by a fear and/or hatred of them then we all are diminished. Additionally, Westerners who believe they're progressive, and that Easterners are always playing catch up, are simply spinning their wheels in a quagmire of post-Colonial arrogance and chauvinism.

It's also tempting to buy into an alternate view that Islam is bravely staying Eastern and pure, and purging itself of Western thinking and influence and to be respected for doing so. Sadly this rhetoric (peppered with toxic homophobia) is ISIS Propaganda 101, targeted at disaffected young males and seekers of "purity" everywhere. Islam therefore needs to take a good look at itself before it condemns male homosexuality (and the innate right of all men to enjoy it) as something innately Western, impure or undesirable. But then again Western men aren't quite able to make that shift in reason, or enough to be in any position to criticize Islam in any meaningful or useful way. And less so because European men have a very long history of invoking sodomy to demonize their enemies.

One can't help but look back further into our history and wonder how Alexander The Great would have sorted out this mess: I'm betting on a bloodshed, albeit with a return to homoeroticism coupled to a decisive reset on what masculinity is. In other words, a globalization of gay culture, but quite unlike anything we may be ideologically committed to in the present.








Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Seditions and Subversions of "Querelle"





The thought of murder often evokes thoughts of the sea…of sailors…and what 
eventually follows thoughts of the seas and murder is the thought of love and sexuality. 


Querelle by Cocteau 1947
   Or so the opening credits voice-over for R.W. Fassbinder’s Querelle claims. The credits themselves state that the film is about Genet’s “Querelle de Brest” - rather than "an adaption of” or “based on” the book. The novel's anti-hero is both pretty homosexualist and psychopathic killer. Some knowledge of the classic 1947 Existentialist tome may or may not be a hindrance in appoaching the 1982 Expressionist-cum-Surrealist film. Querelle challenges direct access from almost every approach: the narrative is Querelle himself, and that’s underscored by anti-cinema devices like bad dialog, obvious sets, melodrama and the darkest of comedy.

Film school teaches that script is of elementary importance. Consumers of porn know it isn’t. Fassbinder knows how to get ‘em where they think, and in doing so abandons most traditional elements of film-making in favor of images and sound which can steer a viewer in diverse or conflicting directions. The film's sound design incorporates narrations which mock the idea of Great Truths being told. Occasional title inserts from Genet serve as other theater-in-the-round asides. "Clues" are often thrown from long shots, and some scenes back-reference others within the labyrinthine plots. Querelle was gutted prior to release - twenty percent of the film was edited after Fassbinder's death for running-time considerations. Scenes have been rearranged, and secondary characters like Matrose and Mario's stool pigeon / boyfriend Dede are gone. Querelle's earlier murder and robbery of  The Armenian has been excised altogether.

Three and a half decades of being relegated to cult-but-not-camp status haven’t anointed Querelle with any revisionist patina, causing it to be celebrated for something it isn’t. And what it isn’t is a film with a clear story line – the auteur rightly deemed the book as coming up short on story. Nor did he attempt to create one: the convolutions of Querelle’s exposition challenge us to focus on what we get as fact or fantasy. As Dylan’s wordy “Lily, Rosemary and The Jack of Hearts” assembled shady characters, ideas and images for an unresolved musical tale with cabaret and crime motifs, Fassbinder does it cinematically. He approaches the source material thus:


“As far as discrepancy between objective plot and subjective fantasy is concerned, “Querelle de Brest” may be the most radical novel in world literature. On the surface, its story, when divorced from Genet’s world of images, is a fairly uninteresting (in fact, third-class) tale about a criminal, and as such is hardly worth our while.
Only those who are truly identified with their own selves no longer need to fear fear. And only those who are rid of their fear are capable of loving nonjudgmentally. The ultimate goal of all human endeavor: to live one’s own life.” 

 

 Token Identities

 


Querelle...sailor
Lieutenant Seblon... Querelle's voyeuristic superior and closeted admirer 
Lysiane...Madame of the Feria Bar bordello, wife of Nono
Robert / Gil....Brother of Querelle, lover of Lysiane / Unwitting patsy to Querelle
Nono....Husband of Lysiane, gatekeeper of the Feria Bar
Vic...Querelle's partner in crime, his murder victim
Mario...Corrupt police officer, Feria fixture
Roger....pretty boy, brother/substitute of Gil's unseen girlfriend

A pox be upon this house and all it stands for: the Feria bordello


   On a massive soundstage sits the set of Brest redux - an Expressionistic  re-imagining of the French port destroyed in World War 2. Dominated by the Feria Bar bordello, replete with enormous phallic statuary. Like a mosque of sorts, there's little doubt about what overshadows the town's trade and sensibility. The theatrically lit and painted port of no fixed temporal identity is not unlike its denizens and visitors, inasmuch as they too are of identities of dubious substance, and of no particular age. All exist as interchangeable people - not limited to, but most notably within sexuality considerations and the inherent vagaries of same.

If a bordello's secondary social purpose is to keep men from straying to queerness, then the Feria has certainly lost its way by the time Querelle arrives. It's probably not the place for a slow-starting son to brought into the fold of traditional manliness, nor would it be an ideal mobile brothel for an army in need of approved sexual release. The identities of the Feria's top brass have caused its culture to morph from prostitution into something else.
  
Enter Querelle then, a loner fresh off the recently docked Le Vengeur ("The Avenger"). While negotiating an opium sale to Nono at the Feria, he runs into his brother Robert, currently ensconced as lover of the ageing voluptuary Lysiane. He decides he "wants" Lysiane - especially when he learns that a toss of dice will determine whether or not his ass first goes to Nono. Lysiane lives in a blurred world of confected desirability, "womanly wiles" and tarot cards. Games of chance it seems determine how love and sexuality become manifest at the Feria, or at least how they are deconstructed.

Both milieu and subculture conspire similarly with the individual in search of identity, and in the case of homosexuality, identity often is experienced as mirrored male bodies defined by dicks and asses and the what-nots of will-to-power. Querelle however is no genital fetishist: within his apparently disoriented sexuality he seeks a way to prevail without having to ritualistically compete with other men on time-honored terms. But not by assuming “fairy” characteristics (like affected softness and non-violence) will he seek identity: grabbing at crumbs from the table of "real men" isn't his style. Querelle’s world according to Fassbinder isn’t one of misogyny or fascism – it’s one in which femaleness and femininity are ineffective and superfluous...regardless of who attempts it.

Querelle will take upon himself what the Feria is failing to accomplish: the task of how to best purpose a hard dick towards one's own best interests. Too much a narcissist to think with his own -  or to assign magical powers to the dicks of others - the foundations of Querelle's sexuality lie far beyond the simple tawdriness of most men's fears and fantasies.


Subverting the Rough Trade Mystique

 



Querelle 1982

  The protagonist Georges Querelle, of no fixed past and no fixed morality (beyond being a sailor and a criminal) is presented for consideration. As exhibited by Fassbinder in the form of Brad Davis, he’s a ripe Tom of Finland cartoon come to life as a gay archetype: short-legged and working class and presenting as dubiously attractive...in a butch kinda way. Revealed as sexually submissive though murderous, the seafaring trash is enough to signal any homosexualist that there’s a rocky road ahead in terms of identifying with, or desiring Querelle. Within our own sensibilities, we’re not even sure that the boy-man can be pegged as gay or non-gay. And he’s not young enough in close-up to earn sympathies one way or the other, despite his claims to be a neophyte when it comes to bending over.

The murder of Vic has transpired for no good reason. While he's stripping down to wash, Querelle involves him in a hypothetical exchange about what men Vic would have sex with, culminating  with Querelle himself on offer. Vic’s rejection costs him his life, and Querelle's sexuality becomes entwined with betrayal and killing. As penance for the murder of his partner in crime, Querelle returns to the Feria to purposely lose a toss of the dice. But the punishment is a most Catholic one: he unexpectedly climaxes quickly while being sodomized, and instead of expected pain he experiences pleasure and no sense of humiliation whatsoever.

Death - the wages of not sinning with Querelle


While  Querelle inhabits no fixed era, Fassbinder is prepared to go balls-deep into rough homosexuality in a way that Genet couldn’t fully explore post-World War 2. Genet’s set pieces of homosexuality within Existentialism  might still tag him today as a literary enfant terrible, but the rough trade “bisexuals” who fuck, slice throats and betray without remorse weren’t unique to Genet’s tastes and times. Life, love and survival still often play out on the edge of a knife, symbolically and otherwise. 

Self-proclaimed “power bottoms” have much to learn from Querelle, inasmuch as doing it effectively possibly requires varying degrees of contemptuous psychopathy as well as a simple need to be loved and protected. By his own calculation, passive anal homosexuality requires no love at all, but actively fucking requires a little…for a short time at least. He therefore presses his body into service as an object upon which to turn the tables of power in his favor, with sexual gratification as a mere bonus rather than a Muse-like calling or a compulsion. The homosexual queerness of Querelle is of the entrenched European kind, and is repeatedly defined as acts between men: not binary Anglo-American gay couplings of tops and bottoms.



Thursday, December 28, 2017

Jason Gould: Dangerous Man? Maybe. Maybe Not.



If ever a man was entitled to leave a media footprint, then Jason Gould’s remarkable talents would make it so. If ever a man was entitled to sip from the often poisoned chalice of fame and celebrity then that dubious honor would fall to Jason Gould before many others. Strange then, that we know so little of Jason Gould the artist. Or the man for that matter.

While Gould’s body of work thus far is too sparse to sustain fandomania - gay or otherwise – he has created earnestly, albeit on his own dabbling terms. In doing so he has dropped many clues of a road hard traveled as a gay man. Some time has passed since that intense boy with the violin piqued my attention in a clip from 1991's “The Prince of Tides”, and his just-released album “Dangerous Man”. In between there’s his triple-threat short feature “Inside Out” and a 2012 EP song folio which certainly proved that the boy can sing and write. Intriguing then, is just what kind of first album he'll present at age 50, as representative of a musical vision.



Jason Gould: more prodigy than prodigious.
Producer Quincy Jones isn't likely to waste his expertise on an album for an unimportant talent or his art: "Q"s diverse artist roster ranges from Sinatra to Ray Charles to Michael Jackson. For Jason Gould, he eschews current pop sensibility and dance beats in favor of something far more sympathetic to an essentially introspective artist.

“Dangerous Man” isn’t just another gay singer/songwriter strutting his stuff for the masses. Or for a  cabaret audience either. He sings with elan and polish, but not so much that you can’t hear “Please love me” as a theme. A siren song perhaps, and Gould seems honest enough to know it. He tinkers with romance and virtuoso performance early in the album: “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” is the go-to showcase for a great set of pipes. But he takes his time to set up an intimacy few others bother with before letting it rip on the song. His innate musicality is assured (and assuring) across familiar songs like “For All We Know” and “The Way You Look Tonight”, along with superior reworkings of “Morning Prayer” and “This Masquerade” from his earlier EP.

The real payoff however comes with the album’s second half. Jason Gould shines when the arrangements get adventurous. The title track (“Dangerous Man”) is an apparent victim song…with a sting in its tail for the sake of some truth. “All’s Forgiven” encapsulates a central tenet of Attitudinal Healing. But not as a sappy Hallmark Card set to musical schlock: here it’s an emphatic anthem. Modern crooners have much to learn about just how to get it right, and Gould's reading of Jones' obscure "The Pornbroker" is a worthy template. The closing track ("One Day") suggests a return to love, in order to best know the freedom of a heart at peace. In our saner moments, we always hope that's engraved on a gentleman's calling card.



And so Jason Gould steps up to the plate once and for all as another gay man with a tale or two to tell about loving and living. And abandonment, rescue and redemption of the spirit. Not for the sake of gaiety however: “Dangerous Man” is as rich a musical exploration of one man’s experiences as it’s likely to get this side of bad taste. We may not know the man, but his weathered authenticity is most attractive. A sex symbol for the thinking man? Why not? We all seduce ourselves ultimately, and if a man like Jason Gould gets us there musically it can’t be such a bad thing.

And a little less levity for the Holidays was all I asked for: how sweet it is that I got some music for grownups!  😌

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When Is It Time To Start Paying For Sex?


Self-esteem is a wonderful thing. Regardless of age, we all should have it. But alas, sometimes The Mists of Avalon close in, and everybody is...well, just so dammed inadequate. They don’t seem to give us that self-esteem boost we need.

Take this simple test, and find out if it’s time to break out the wallet and pony up!


1. I think of myself as a 10, and therefore I deserve a 10.

2. I’m looking for fun, and whether or not I'm much fun isn't the issue.

3. Needy guys turn me right off.

4. I can’t quite bring myself to see a guy again after I’ve had sex with him.

5. I don’t like the guys who like me, and the guys I like don’t reciprocate.

6. I believe I have limitless choices, but haven’t crunched the actual numbers ‘round town recently.

7. My sexuality is entirely about having my desires, fantasies and fetishes met.

 8. I believe I have a lot to offer, but haven’t offered anybody anything lately.

 9. I prefer to have a social, intellectual and financial advantage over guys, but…

10. …I find it personally insulting when people suggest I should be paying for sex.

Scoring:

0-3: You might get laid soon for free.

4-6: Your freebie days are numbered…get familiar with curb-crawling and $$$ negotiations.

7-10: Make a weekly booking with an agency, and demand they send new meat every time!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Is That All There Is...to a Holocaust?

Another International Holocaust Memorial Day has come and gone, with a new "leader of the Western world" and his partners in denial choosing to “de-judify” it altogether. While it’s factual that many others perished in the Holocaust, you'd be right in thinking it's incumbent on those who publicly mark the day to actually acknowledge by name all groups who were persecuted to death. Is the Holocaust on its way to becoming something else…like just another aspect of war?

Holocausts and stuff…I’m reminded of delivering one of my best friends’ eulogy when he succumbed to AIDS. Steve loved the very best of everything – especially literature. For him alone, I drew on Hemingway’s “A Farewell To Arms”, and how Papa H. likened the dead soldiers to becoming nothing more than concrete numbers and dates on roads and regiments. And how honor and courage seemed like obscene abstractions. (I lost my audience in that little chapel early on: neither an ashamed mother nor a motley collection of homosexualists drew comfort from my words. But the non-denominational celebrant at least claimed to get it.)

Come as you are. Or are not.

 The fact that the modern skinhead haircut was pioneered by queer AIDS activists as a Holocaust reminder is something apparently forgotten by gays and fashionistas alike. Analogies don’t always work because nothing is quite the same as anything else. But Shoah teaching principles aren’t as exclusively Judeocentric as one might think, and homosexualists can draw much from them. As we note that effects ripple from cause, we also note that ACT-UP was as much about honour and courage as it was about anger.

Perhaps all we take away from that Holocaust is that we’ll never meet the grandsons. Those nice Jewish and Gypsy and Black and Slavic boys we should be meeting. And that’s okay, because at least we’re relating the “then” to the “now”. We can, and should, remember “our own kind” as well. And also ask ourselves what legacy of theirs we’ve been deprived of. (Notably, our own kind weren’t liberated from concentration camps when the good guys showed up: they were transferred to other prisons to complete their sentences…‘cos, well, the law (for fags) is the law.)

Broadway initially felt a direct effect of AIDS because it hit their bottom line hard: a multi-million dollar business built on the back of homosexual creativity. The shows had much difficulty going on. But that particular loss was in and of itself. Schlagers, tits and feathers aside, it doesn’t address legacy or community: the cumulative knowledge and extraordinary talents of an era’s gay men weren’t handed on to homo replacements on Broadway or anywhere else. Our rate of replication couldn’t quickly assure that clever hands and astute minds would be replaced in a generation. Gay men worldwide lost our best and brightest across the boards, and as a generation or two of men on the planet we’re diminished for it.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Prison Walls & Eros - Part 2: The Ridiculous


The male heterosexual imperative isn’t as persuasive a force as we’re led to believe: we depend on media saturation and extensive social engineering to prevent men from naturally slipping into varying degrees of homosexual experience. The truths and mythologies of male-to-male relationships within the most overtly segregated male institutions – school, the military and prisons – are rarely ever taken seriously beyond the assumption that no good will come of men being deprived of pussy. That assumption of course is entirely point-of-view dependent.

 Prior to punk rock and the 1970s reframing of the politicization of sex – and prison sex specifically – the “punk” was a behind-bars fixture: usually young, he dressed up and made up to advertise his sexual availability. At a price, he was as much predator as victim since he was often of quite ruthless character. Not “queen” or “fag”, it’s highly debatable as to whether or not his place in the prison hierarchy was most subordinate. To arbitrarily define and dismiss him as someone who “assumes a submissive female role at the bottom of the inmate gender hierarchy” isn’t necessarily as informative as it purports to be. While acknowledging the system in which he functions, he isn’t necessarily the poster boy of a feminist degradation narrative. He may very well as a man experience his role as intensely physically satisfying…for starters.

 
The archetype of the prison “punk” is mid-50s Elvis Presley: an obviously made-up and flamboyantly dressed longhair with wide-ish hips that moved slightly forward just like a lurid stripper. He didn’t disturb males of decent society for no good reason: if you hadn’t spent time in the slammer yourself and simply knew what Elvis Presley was, then word-of-mouth would quickly bring you up to speed. He wasn’t a non-threatening joke-queer like Liberace who laughed at himself: he was something else again…something dangerous, with heavy makeup and hair dye and silks and satins in defiance of repressed and suited conformity.

While much has been made of the fact that he further popularized "race music", the gender nuances of the young and raw Elvis Presley have become obscured by time and revisionist history. His self-invention as a punk for the masses can probably be attributed to the exhibitionist naiveté of a mama’s boy following intuitive gender callings. He hadn’t had the experience of incarceration, but was hypnotically attracted to the flashy drag and not-quite-male sexuality he promoted.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Culture of Suicide: Enough Already.



It’s no secret that men’s mental health in Australia is worsening at an alarming rate, and suicide statistics confirm it. If eight lives a day were being lost to terrorism the whole damned country would be on red alert, with a national hysteria of unprecedented proportions. Suicide in itself isn’t necessarily a desire to kill oneself as much as it’s a desperate attempt to make overwhelming distress and emotional pain stop.

We’ll never know how many of those men were actually troubled by their homosexual thoughts – when researching the subject some time ago I turned up anecdotal evidence of “suicide-instead-of-coming-out” notes secretly destroyed by shameful families, and a Sydney imam as a matter of course advising a young man that suicide was the only honorable option for a Muslim man with homosexual desires. By default, the Australian culture is apparently unable to effectively respond to male suicide - past and present. The above anecdotal snapshots are indicative of the pernicious and diverse co-factors which need to be addressed, and it's doubtful they're included in the key LGBTI stats:

• LGBT people aged 16 and over scored an average K10 score of 19.6, indicating moderate psychological distress
 • 15.15% of LGBTI people aged 16 and over report current thoughts of suicide in the past 2 weeks
 • 37.2% LGBT people aged 16 and over reported being diagnosed or treated for any mental disorder in the past three years
 • 35% of Transgender people aged 18 and over have attempted suicide in their lifetime
 • 60% of people with an intersex variation aged 16 and over had thought about suicide on the basis of issues related to having congenital sex variation
• 20.3% LGBTI people aged 16 and over reported that they had been diagnosed with anxiety in their lifetime
 • 30.5% of LGBT people aged 16 and over have been diagnosed or treated for depression in the last three years
• 16% of LGBTI young people aged 16 to 27 reported that they had attempted suicide

 Queers now have an opportunity to positively shape the future of mental health in Australia for LGBTI people of all ages, and men in general. With a bit of effort we can step up and proactively be the guys who make a difference.

 The recently-released Fifth National Mental Health Plan will seek to establish a national approach for collaborative government effort over the next five years, with a focus on achieving a better integrated service system for consumers and carers. LGBTI inclusion must be approached as a priority rather than a sidebar. The National LGBTI Health Alliance encourages members, project partners and networks to actively participate in these consultations to support adequate inclusion of LGBTI people and communities. Consultation dates and times across the country are underway, and listed on the above Plan link rollover.

Please contact MindOUT / National LGBTI Health Alliance in your capital city if you are attending a consultation / workshop and wish to discuss LGBTI inclusion in the Fifth National Mental Health Plan.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Milo Yiannopoulos: Truth-Teller? Iconoclast? Fucked-up Queen?

 

The phenomenon of a gay man shilling for the far right in socio-religious politics is nothing new: as such, Milo Yiannopoulos isn’t an original. The timing of the Alt-Right “movement” however has provided Yiannopoulos with a visibility and a platform which annoying gays with Histrionic Personality Disorder can only dream of, and he’s riding the donkey for all it’s worth.

But is he just another aberrant homosexualist who simply tells the truth, and damn the torpedoes? Is he a legitimate alternate gay male voice who sticks it to the sacred cows of LGBT political correctness as one should? Clearly he’s not an intellectual heavyweight: his consumerist queeniness with fashionista pretensions (in the worst sense of the words) underscores shorthand nihilistic opinions. It’s all marketed as take-no-prisoners edginess, via Breitbart. It’s hard to take his journalism seriously when decorated with glamour pix which appear to refute his powdered once-Mediterranean looks.

The above notwithstanding, he’s currently enjoying a good run on that bandwagon much-loved by conservatives: free speech. Free speech is a very good thing, as self-censorship is to be reviled. We’re led to believe that the down-side of free speech is hate speech, with truth sometimes being collateral damage. Any smart manipulator can run with that obfuscation of the left, and parlay it into a case against everything from feminism to identity causes. Of critical importance however is exactly how much capital-T Truth is being unleashed when the gloves are off. And specifically, how much truth is Yiannopoulos telling as he proudly trolls for the sake of trolling…like Anonymous Meets Perez Hilton.

 Now permanently banned from Twitter (for inspiring a bullying campaign against actress Leslie Jones) it will be interesting to see how he fares post-POTUS election. He claims the ban has made him more famous. But considering that currently the entire Alt-Right movement is essentially a social media exercise, time will tell whether or not it’s actually a viable political force. Yiannopoulos himself isn’t: his hubris and wing-nut Western European politics haven’t seen him advance up the media food chain with any notability. Sexuality – especially his own self-hating variety – appears to dominate his interviews and fly in the face of the identity politics he claims to oppose.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Prison Walls & Eros - Part 1: The Sublime



We don’t often delve into our psychosexuality when responding to the homoeroticism of sex behind bars. It’s a staple of modern pornography. From a getting-off perspective it’s a no-brainer. One aspect of why prison sexuality continues to figure so strongly in both gay and non-gay male sexual fantasies is quite obvious: incarceration is a very good excuse to fully and without inhibition explore the male taboo of enjoyment of the homosexual experience. The fact that it’s best enjoyed with another man’s body isn’t helpful in honestly addressing what is usually felt as internalized homophobia but experienced as most pleasurable. In short, choice has nothing to do with men’s attachment to thoughts of prison sex, and that’s its attraction.

But pornography only addresses desire – that’s its band-aid purpose. It doesn’t address existential loneliness, or the pervasive longing which in many ways defines much of our culture and individual selves, regardless of what relationships we may experience (or, all too often, reject).

It’s tempting to imagine that bridging the gap between pornography and longing is a future topic to be addressed by gay men. However, some digging into our culture yields up Jean Genet’s silent film “Un Chant d’Amour”(“Song Of Love”) from 1950. Reviled as pornography from its onset, this short masterpiece of homoerotic existentialism is peculiarly more relevant than ever. It’s still deeply subversive inasmuch as there is no refuge within for the homophobe of any persuasion – the viewer is denied that dubious payoff.


Set in an oppressively gloomy prison, the familiar dance of The Boy’s capitulation to both The Man and homosexuality is perfunctory and speedy – the need for connection jolts him from his narcissistic auto-eroticism. The Man’s tears of nothingness give way to a bashful smile of being, when he's "accepted".  The film has been fairly critiqued as a damnation of the walls men build around themselves.

Juxtaposing the bleakness of the wall of separation, Genet offers a sweet counterpoint fantasy of bucolic contact, respect, sensuality and liberation. Much has been made of Genet’s insistence on aberrant homosexualism as a valid and menacing repudiation of “civilized society”, but “Un Chant d’Amour” is as decent as it gets for the thinking homosexualist: as it documents immuration, it also documents our lost history when homosexuals (and homosexuality) actually had the ability to transcend age, race gender and identity.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Aberrance Is Its Own Reward: The Michael Lucas Edition



As a veteran of the Queer Wars of the 90s, I’m all ears when an activist with a dissenting voice is denounced as a revolting extremist, a moronic bigot, a Queer Supremacist, a hate spewer, a hypocrite and a whore. (It’s par for the course, and you’re probably not doing anything worthwhile if you haven’t been similarly denounced by “your own kind”). The reactionary loathing which Lucas’ brand of Zionism attracts from gay men isn’t substantiated by logic or reason, and we’re wise to ask why. While not wishing Israel well isn’t proof of anti-Semitism, it just happens to be one of the very best indicators currently at our disposal.


For close to a decade, Michael Lucas has been a very uppity Queer. He’s the aberrant homosexualist par excellence. Not happy to just live the shadowy dual persona of pornographer and pornographee, he regularly walks the burning coals between political left and political right and lives to yell about it.  An opinionated homosexual is nothing new, but one who can actually put up without drowning himself in Post Modernist rhetoric certainly is.

One case in point is the subject of Israel. Lucas regularly picks at one of the sores of sloppy liberalism: concurrent promotion of gay rights as well as so-called Palestinian rights... a cause which bathes itself in claims of no anti-Antisemitism whatsoever. It’s indeed a rich mother lode to be mined by the skeptic: the narrative is always framed in terms of a juggernaut of Israeli violence committed against innocent victims, with the only historical reference being the Holocaust - as in “They’re doing exactly what Hitler did!” That the fallacy isn’t regularly repudiated by facts - or simply laughed off – is certainly indicative of a mindset which doesn’t accommodate at its core a Jew’s basic right to exist. By logical extension, you can be certain that a militarily-protected homosexual state would similarly unleash a hatred which is masked by sympathy for the “victims”, no matter how loathsome their beliefs or what ends they desire. Lucas was quick off the mark to point out a fundamental lie of the broadened “Islamophobia” meme: despising a murderous religious ideology can’t be seriously construed as racism unless you're a stupid dilettante or worse.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"The Way He Looks": Another Look


Whatever voyeuristic discomfort a grown man expects to experience with the subject of pubescent boys “coming of age” is quickly dissipated by this 2014 Brazilian charmer. Writer/director Daniel Ribeiro deftly delivers a big romance within a smallish movie, disarmingly free of any obvious agenda - we don't even get to find out whether or not first love lasts. Decidedly purged of Americanized LGBTism and its attendant pretense and posturing, “The Way He Looks” is thematically Old Hollywood: part “Enchanted Cottage”, part “Ugly Duckling”. 

You see, Leo (as unforgettably played by Guilherme Lobo), is blind. His disability is compounded by over-protective parents who curb his desires for independence at every turn. Physically awkward, he’s looked after by school gal-pal Giovana, who soon will be replaced by The New Boy In School, Gabriel. Just about the right amount of teen angst ensues, as clumsy non-starting heterosexuality is replaced by a surer homosexuality. Latin sensibility (and Latin sensuality) easily dispense with “the blindness problem”: Leo can’t look at his beloved, but he sure can similarly experience him by sense of smell. Free of sighted self-consciousness, Leo can treat Gabriel to an extended perusal of his rump in the shower to nobody’s embarrassment: the camera pointedly reminds the rest of us that he’s to be desired and not pitied. Perhaps he’s also admirably blessed: he knows as proven fact that looks have nothing to do with the homosexual matrix, or love for that matter.

As an unapologetic homage to the transformative power of love, “The Way He Looks” is on sure footing from beginning to end. Director Ribeiro refuses the viewer predictable distractions like the grubbiness of guilt and shame, gratuitous violence and messages about “real” homosexuality.  As a movie experience, it’s a deeply satisfying emotional manipulation. We just know these guys are going to be okay, and maybe our take-away is that we’re going to be okay too.