Saturday, November 19, 2022

Qatar 2022: The Beginning Of The End For LGBTQ?

Al-Sharq, Qatar, May 21, 2022
 “We welcome everybody, but we also expect and want people to respect our culture”.
~ Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, 2022

   The millions who ceased to be 'Je suis Charlie' within about seventy-two hours are the millions who know exactly what the penalty for not 'respecting our culture' is, and Salman Rushdie certainly could have clued them up if they didn't. They'd also be the millions who pay lip service to the struggle of Iranian women, while refusing to do what they ask: show solidarity by shunning the hijab. Such realities of course apparently play no part in determining how the international governing body of football (soccer) FIFA sets its moral compass: in 2010 the scandal-ridden organization inexplicably awarded 2022 World Cup hosting rights to Qatar. Its appalling human rights record - including but not restricted to LGBTQ - was matched by its logistical unpreparedness. But when it comes to homophobic complicity, it's two consecutive strikes against FIFA: Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup. The million who flock to Qatar however won't even be giving a damn about homophobia. But for the gays, the homos, the switch-hitters...the World Cup may very well be the time we take stock of ourselves and look realistically at what 'our community' really means in the big wide world, and what we need to do, and be, going forward.
Qatar's welcome mat can't even be taken on face value since Qatari media has been ramping up its anti-LGBT rhetoric all year, and menacingly doubling down its opposition to accepting anything like what a rainbow flag demands. Nice words are meaningless when very ugly laws are the law. The claims of Dr Nasser Mohamed aren't to be taken lightly.  As is entirely predictable, the furthest radical extreme of  'Western influence' is deemed to be homosexual values according to many in the Gulf states, who openly mock U.S. President Joe Biden's alliance with the LGBTIQ+ political brand. But business-as-usual is never quite what it seems in and across the Arab world, and beyond. At least one kingdom state is open to decriminalizing homosexuality, and the stop-start progress of Abraham Accords may very well soften apparently immutable stances. A window that's cracked open is a window which can open further.

LGBTIQ vs The Male Homosexual...And Female Women Too

   All of this of course is but a backdrop to the very real existential crisis facing LGBTQ itself. Anti-transgender rumblings for a few years in the United Kingdom came to a head in 2022, with 'Harry Potter' author J.K. Rowling facing furious backlash for simply making a reasonable case for innate sex and innate sexuality to not be erased by either transgenderism or its accompanying ideology. Her position is solid enough to pass the exacting scrutiny of liberationist Second Wave feminism but clashes with Third Wave feminists who insist that feminism include transwomen. [1]
The firestorm which Rowling lit caused both 'leftie' female women and sex-positive male gay men to review what's going on with the LGBTQ+ brand, as peddled by our organizations. In the activist lull which followed same-sex marriage achievements the broad LGBTQ  'community' clearly appeared to have morphed quickly into something else. And that 'something else' wasn't representational of progress and empowerment - it was a Special Victims Unit which had apparently regressed to little more than a plea for tolerance, recollecting Magnus Hirschfeld from a century previous and the trauma of Ed Wood's dilemma & his angora sweater. We became a thing - 'a member of the LGBTQ+ community' - with our sex and sexuality significantly diminished both within and without said community.
A Miss to build a dream on

   When it comes to our organizations, seasoned activists know only too well the difficulties faced in keeping the bastards honest. While they gladly take credit for the results of direct actions, they're very much closed shops and most adept at pulling the wagons around when their business models and actual missions are questioned. The gay press worldwide stay far away from anything like unbiased journalism - it's heavy hitting is restricted to defending LGBTQ orthodoxy as determined by advertisers. Self-perpetuation is fundamentally important to the collective: it's very much about jobs for the boys and jobs for the girls. And they're very often mediocre performers who are there by the grace and goodwill of lesbians and gay men. As those organizations grow their business model becomes more  focused on bringing in the bucks for 'campaigns' ahead of providing services to individuals beyond hotlines. And when rats are smelled the very best idea is to follow the money while wondering how much of it's spent identifying what's most needed by men and women who have sex with each other, and proactively setting goals and objectives which are demonstrably worthwhile. The dollars which surge into and around Pride celebrations are just as worthy of following as are the dollars attached to Qatar's World Cup which is shaping up as the anti-Pride parade of the decade. 
Slogans like "Words Hurt!" beg for forensic language scrutiny, and more. Putting aside the obvious alarm bell of experienced hurt meaning victory for a bully, the self-respecting homosexual probably questions the true intent and purpose of the slogan. On the one hand words do indeed hurt, and Didier Eribon [2] makes a damned good case for language-induced trauma setting the stage for the self-doubt which plagues the lives of so many gay men, and experienced as under-achievements across most aspects of his life. On the other hand, while LGBT organizations bang the mental health drum loudly to solicit funding, it's becoming apparent that the specific mental health needs of gay men aren't being addressed appropriately, if at all.
Slogans are best paired with visuals, and the loudest drum LGBTQ bangs is the inclusivity drum. And it's a lucrative one to bang. Taking a cue from The United Colors of Benetton marketing campaigns, the original all-inclusive rainbow flag was nevertheless deemed to be not inclusive enough. Astute People of Color rightly deem the Progress iteration to be more segregationist than anything else but hey when LGBTQ is including you for the purposes of optics you don't get a vote. Your colors might just be there to lend cred for others demanding more visibility.
'Others demanding more visibility' are the many Lettered Others who have no legitimate history with matters of sexual liberation, or sex and sexuality for that matter. Looking at  'T' & 'A', we see rainbowed people from 'T' (for trans-) primarily concerned with matters of weaponizing self-identification, through to 'A' for asexuals ("aces"), primarily concerned with no sex at all. While transgenderism itself is the product of bad academia in opposition to Critical Thinking, its ideological impact is cutting across our institutions. It's in concert with popular thinking which values invented truth ahead of Truth which is apprehended by disciplined scholarship and rigorous scrutiny of all which is brought to bear.
Pride! Progress! Oops!
The cunning transvestite takes his cues from Rachel Dolezal [3], whose progress via blackface was driven by academic self-identification ideology. And so it is in varying degrees for trannys, she-males, sexchanges, transexuals, troons etc who've ridden in on the horse of trangenderism, brandishing sabres of transphobic accusation. While British gay men and female women are well under way with peeling the 'T' off LGBTQ at a local community level, across the pond Joe Biden got a rude awakening mid-November when a federal court rejected the Biden administration's attempt to redefine 'sex' in federal law, ruling that "Title IX’s protections center on differences between the two biological sexes."
Without a doubt the LGBTQ+ brand will survive as long as it's both lucrative and serves political expediency of the virtue-signalling kind. While constituencies rush through laws promoting self-ID and transgender ideology won't be purged from academia any time soon, LGBTQ is likely to suffer a severe bruising as the only true allies of gay men - female women - flex their muscles in the many ways they can, and will.
The show's just getting started.   


Oh, The Politics Of It All...

   One needn't be a Marxist of any iteration to best examine systems and come up with analysis in times when systemic analysis is dumbed down to the point that class barely rates a mention. The OECD dislikes chatter about Advanced Capitalism and prefers to weaponize terms like 'Socialism' as long as the concept is as bastardized as it's misunderstood. Thinking homosexuals often find themselves politically homeless in terms of Left and Right especially if they've questioned exactly what LGBT is all about terms of Left and Right, at least.

But LGBTQ certainly has a political home when relevant class analysis comes calling. David North's defining of the 'pseudo-left' [4] most certainly nails the collective to a modern petty bourgeois cross.

  • The pseudo-left is anti-Marxist. It rejects historical materialism, embracing instead various forms of subjective idealism and philosophical irrationalism associated with existentialism, the Frankfurt School and contemporary postmodernism.
  • The pseudo-left is anti-socialist, opposes class struggle, and denies the central role of the working class and the necessity of revolution in the progressive transformation of society. It counterposes supra-class populism to the independent political organization and mass mobilization of the working class against the capitalist system. The economic program of the pseudo-left is, in its essentials, pro-capitalist and nationalistic.
  • The pseudo-left promotes “identity politics,” fixating on issues related to nationality, ethnicity, race, gender and sexuality in order to acquire greater influence in corporations, the colleges and universities, the higher-paying professions, the trade unions and in government and state institutions, to effect a more favorable distribution of wealth among the richest 10 percent of the population. The pseudo-left seeks greater access to, rather than the destruction of, social privilege.
  • In the imperialist centers of North America, Western Europe and Australasia, the pseudo-left is generally pro-imperialist, and utilizes the slogans of “human rights” to legitimize, and even directly support, neo-colonialist military operations.

   Within that paradigm, the Post-AIDS political gay himself tends to be a fairly fluffy piece of work. Absolutely defined by an academia polluted by Foucault and devoid of respect for Critical Thinking skills and doggedly declining knowledge of his history, his always-relativist approach to progressing himself (and 'his own kind') hasn't yielded a lot of actual progress in three decades. From the understandings / misunderstandings of Sartre to Madonna via Foucault one could expect a few dynamic reinventions, as opposed to fizzlers of the shooting oneself in the foot kind. When it comes to shooting oneself in the foot, gay men who hide behind the skirts of trans activists in 'solidarity' may very well be committing firearms offenses of the worst kind. If social media is anything to go by, trans activists clearly have male gay men in their cross-hairs, and are maliciously doing psychological warfare on our innate sexuality.

A characteristic of the Post-AIDS political gay is to respond from a distinctly non-empowered bunker mentality to challenges, with a backlash often relying on that old pseudo-left standby: accusations of  being in bed with the 'far-Right' and invocations of Nazis under the bed. Reasonably, it doesn't take a lot of forensic work to identify who and what he - on behalf of LGBTQ+ - is in bed with politically. He's averse to taking a good hard look at all so-called allies who've infiltrated the movement: an apparently diverse mob comprised of neo-socialists, Palestine-freers, Antifa and the remnants of the Occupy movement are the tail which intends wagging the dog. The sexual liberation of the homosexual male is destined to suffer, not thrive, at the hands of new internationalism. We'll need to be the aggressive gatekeepers of our own homo- and bi-sexuality for what it is.

Pride Without Progress



    In failing to effectively combat homophobia as perceived on the critical real-world battlefields where homophobia is best defended and perpetuated (like men's sports) then most certainly the LGBT collective has lost its way, and reasonable people reasonably ask what the hell is their purpose. Does LGBTQ actually foster the perception that gay men in male sports are unwelcome victims?  Quaint and hokey P.R.-curated personal 'coming out' tales from grown men are rarely the dynamic stuff of grown men asserting their sexuality as alpha-males...the role models who are desperately needed since homophobia itself is housed in all matters to do with male sex and male sexuality. Contrasted with the footballer star-power of LGBTQ 'ally' David Beckham currently pimping Qatari tourism for a fortune, media stories of men's men of lesser status coming out with a dash of victimhood  seem a bit suspect.
The LGBTQ collective long ago began white-anting principles of sexual liberation in favor of what favors it: abstract identity over objective sex and objective sexuality [5]. Men who have sex with other men stand to be the biggest losers because the reality of lethal homophobia is that it impacts more on males than anybody else. Movements change in a strictly temporal context, and across its century-long history the movement generally known as Gay Liberation has waxed and waned. The stale and untrue belief that 'alphabet people' have the very best interests of homos at heart is becoming hard evidence of the need for a hard reset, of the liberationist kind. We look at a society saturated in LGBTQ orthodoxy, yet a society unable or unwilling to come up with anything more than a tepid response to FIFA or Qatar.

The reductive homogenization of the male homosexual as a 'member of the LGBT community' is as dangerous as it's demeaning. We blinked, and society blindsided us in the name of including us on their no-dissenters-tolerated feel-good mission which is as anti-male as it's anti-sexual. We're essentially tied by the balls to Western ideological ideas of human rights, while the West itself appears to be on the skids globally. And Qatar 2022 is the ideal wake-up call for male men to critically examine the anti-male and anti-sexual aspects of LGBTQ as a causative flaw in the movement's abject failure to advance globally.

Liberation Psychology vs Ideological Universality

    Old habits die hard. Western chauvinism towards modern Middle East and North African Islamist men is underpinned by what conceals itself nowadays: with a few tweaks, contempt for 'the Arab' determined by early 20th Century European sexual neuroses becomes a contemporary need to have him conform to prescribed sexual mores of the West (as signified by the excesses of eroticism as public spectacle). A determination to 'civilize' by way of a Pride parade (that) what's of true conservatism only demonstrates complete disrespect and lack of understanding of what male sexuality is, and how it's experienced in any given time and place. Western conservatism may indeed have betrayed itself and become something else decades ago, but it would be erroneous to assume that that the modest and private sexuality of the Arab male is up for debate or reinvention in the name of modernity in wolf's clothing.

From Western Sahara to Iran, fifty years of taught Islamist homophobia is certainly evident. In a relatively short time-frame it's erased much of North Africa's traditions of private male sexuality which never conformed to European homophobic imperatives.  The innate and historic homosociality of 'The Arab' is still enough to trigger discomfort in the sexually neurotic Westerner, homosexual or otherwise.
The vanity of LGBTQ+ can never escape its foundational sexual neuroses - it's after all just a series of reactionary responses to American suburban middle-class neurosis. Its pretenses to sexual liberation for the Arab male aren't quite as bravely altruistic as it would have you believe, or ever likely to meet with any success when grafted onto old European sex-driven prejudices toward said males. As LGBTQ becomes more obviously anti-male in its gender-obsessed rhetoric, it will will lose, not gain, traction with 'The Arab'. He'll see that none of it is based in personal or cultural respect and demonstrated trustworthiness. When cultural respect acknowledges the difference between life-affirming conservatism and the brutality of its modern radical extremist cousin, the imposition of other sociopolitical ideology is doomed to failure. As the 21st Century ascendancy of the Arab male is assured, Westerners may be in for the rudest of awakenings when LGBTQ in both form and ideology is dismissed as cultism at best, and Western imperialism at worst.
   Way back when I was a neophyte in gay media I didn't think too much about about how my activism and getting ethically responsible programing on air would work. Luckily I had a brilliant mentor who pulled me into line: "Be the apolitical journalist the profession demands. Boil it all down to asking yourself the same question you should be asking the gay community: "Do you/we have more in common than sex and oppression?" I find my self re-asking the question when I consider community failures both locally and globally. Like many men I'm angry and frustrated that LGBTQ is becoming unfit for even the purpose of responding to the challenges homophobia always re-presents. Also like many men, I'm aware that the tougher and more resilient me has a respectfully compassionate duty-of-care to my brothers. And that necessarily challenges any ideas I may have about the value of ideology as opposed to the pursuit of liberation for the sake of liberation.
With that in mind, I'm refreshed and not depressed that the planets are lining up as they should. My  brothers doing it tough in Qatar aren't 'Arab gays' - they're my brothers. Qatar reminds me of that. Islamism reminds me. The World Cup reminds me. Free, fit and attractive men playing football reminds me about political footballs. The World Cup will come and go and David Beckham will continue to pimp homophobic Qatar as a place to go, with no impunity. 
So all in all it's a good time for homos to review the situation, as they say.  It's a good time to think holistically. It's a good time to think globally. From there we might think decisively about how best to prevail in a world which doesn't even promise survival. The great ideas after all have their genesis in the imagination, and the great battles are won with purposed strategies. 
If everybody gets to 'transition' then gay males get to transition into men who set the course of history, as opposed to being dedicated followers of fashion who are told what to be, and how to be it. Perhaps a weary world is waiting to make way way for us rather than opposing us.

[1] J.K. Rowling's apparently new 'radical feminism' is no such thing. Germaine Greer - arguably one of the finest incisive thinkers of the Twentieth Century - faced twenty-five years of academic vilification for her well-reasoned opposition to male-to-female transgenderism. So-called radical feminists who foresaw recent reversals of women's rights have been fairly reminding gay men for years that their alliance is required - citing the extraordinary contributions of female women to the lives of gay men during the AIDS crisis.

[2] Didier Eribon: Insult and the Making of the Gay Self (1999)
[3] Dolezal's most recent hustle is an OnlyFans account

[4] From foreword to The Frankfurt School, Postmodernism and the Politics of the Pseudo-Left: A Marxist Critique (2015)

[5] A. Camperio Ciani et al


Sunday, June 5, 2022

Alain Delon And The Homosexual Gaze

 "So what's wrong if I had? Or I did? Would I be guilty of something? If I like it I'll do it. We have a great actor in France named Michel Simon and Michel Simon said once, "If you like your goat, make love with your goat." But the only matter is to love." 


Alain Delon, on his alleged homosexual tastes (1969)

    And that's where M. Delon should have left the full knowledge that actors' 'truths' about themselves are often to be taken with the same grain of salt as speculation about their sexuality. But he didn't. With his more recent dotage he's become the proverbial whore in church spouting homophobia while writing fluffy books about the women he's loved. His claim to not be bothered about being wrong can be interpreted as evolved masculinity or next-level narcissism. Richly deserving of the 2019 Cannes Palme d'Or d'Honneur for his body of work, it's hard to argue that he didn't also earn some of the backlash and personal denouncements his award attracted. It was full-circle for Alain Delon: he'd first shown up at Cannes in 1956 as the escort of an older actress, rather than as an actor. According to Roger Ebert he nevertheless walked the red carpet with gay star (and lifelong friend) Jean-Claude Brialy. 

A Real Piece Of Work

    Even as his millions of fans have tacitly accepted every salacious and unsavory aspect of his life, so they've accepted many probable dalliances with men - be they for love or personal advancement. Or as Claudia Cardinale put it: "Alain Delon? Men and women were lining up to have sex with him." But no amount of vilification or self-promotion can ever destroy or create the work of art that simply is. Delon's on-screen magnetism was summed-up many moons ago with a simple and succinct comment: "You just didn't know whether he intended to kiss you or kill you."

An enfant terrible from the get-go, Alain Delon's movie stardom arrived within a few years of his being dishonorably discharged from the French Navy while spending undocumented times as a Pigalle denizen - no place in the late '50s for a young fella to be avoiding crime and whoring. Four film roles quickly came his way, and few failed to notice that his blazing male beauty heralded future stardom as a new kind of movie Frenchman: young, immaculately composed and New Wave cool. He also personified the masculinity and sexuality which many Anglo males still despise as being of Frenchmen. If ever a man was therefore entitled to The Homosexual Gaze it was, and is, Alain Delon because his appeal lies squarely on the spectrum as carnal significance in top gear: he's a fine piece of ass.
Despite half a century of concerted hetero-washing and gun-as-penis stylized menace, there's nothing more obvious than the fact that the Delon image has its genesis in not-too-subtle homoerotica, and that the homosexual gaze polished it and continues to do so. French cinema in the wake of Alain Delon demands of male stars his unisex appeal and committed onscreen intensity. As with Delon, Romain Duris' identifiable gait commands attention in a long shot and the late Gaspard Ulliel brought Delon's acting chops as well as his male model sexual sensibility during his all-to-short life. For the French, it's de rigueur to do gay roles and do them frankly and arrestingly. As of course to hope they'll invoke the allure of Alain Delon.

The Style And Substance Of Homoerotica

When nobody else finds you attractive or desirable

    No amount of lived experience as a unisex object of desire could prepare Alain Delon for René Clément's Plein Soleil / Purple Noon (1960). The lead role in the first filming of "The Talented Mister Ripley" required acting skills far beyond what excellent direction could declare as believable. At twenty-four, Delon delivered a bullseye performance as the otherworldly Tom Ripley - seamlessly demonstrating pathos, menace and sexual ambiguity of the mostly creepy kind. A risky role, it fell to the amorphous quality of star power to succeed. The camera sent Alain Delon directly to the imaginations of audiences - any and all disparate gazes perceived exactly what their psyches craved. As we swoon we ignore the fact that nobody in the film finds Tom Ripley particularly attractive.

Originally up for the much easier second male role of the cruelly masculine Phillipe, Delon coveted the lead and his pitch to Clément and the producers (who humiliated him as "a little prick who should pay to be in the film") was that he shared Ripley's character. Watching Alain Delon in Plein Soleil does little to support any counter-arguments.

The role also demanded style, which Delon expertly served up as suave stardom, rather than something of an actor in good wardrobe. Well into the 21st Century, men's fashion writers globally invoke Delon as Ripley to demonstrate what style is, as they peddle expensive retro-ish fashion to men pursuing the myth of the alpha male with no regard for the amusing sidebar fact that they're being urged to impersonate an impersonator.

Commerce sometimes picks up on good ideas, and French style done properly gives a man an enigmatically attractive edge when being like him and being with him become blurred as sublimated homoerotic feelings. Of course, there would be no more aggressive salesman of Alain Delon Style than Alain Delon himself, as he merchandised as many aspects and accoutrements of his potent youth as possible through an endlessly extended middle-age.

A Piece Of Work In Progress: The Visconti Factor

    The homosexual gaze as passively experienced is one thing. The homosexual gaze as artistic inspiration and motivation is something else again, with few willing to acknowledge that some of the greatest art of Western civilization is the creation of homosexual men. Or that it was so before the term was even invented and pathologized. Luchino Visconti didn't make gay movies per se - the highly-educated aristocrat's cinema is as obtuse as it is rich in its social commentary while appearing unconfined to stylistic considerations.

Neither dissolute playboy nor self-absorbed trained actor waiting for breaks, Alain Delon immediately grasped all that cinema is, and set about being a great star actor within the collaborative process. His appetite and respect for great direction paved the way for what he had to be and do when chosen by Luchino Visconti as the titular lead in Rocco e i suoi fratelli / Rocco And His Brothers (1960). While Plein Soleil went a long way to establishing the Delon stereotype, Rocco as conceived by Visconti is an allegorical opposite. He's arguably the most womanly manly male ever to grace a cinema screen. While he could box with the best of them, Rocco's saintlike character is entirely of female components like tenderness, loyalty, protection, sentiment and sacrifice. Visconti clued us up early in the piece by sending Rocco out in the cold to happily do labor in his mother's sweater.

Taking direction or asserting intimate territory?
   While Rocco's 'sweetness' throws most critics to this day, it only makes sense to see him as the compleat male lover, as defined by an intelligent director who valued womanhood as much as he cherished masculinity. And it's just as reasonable to assume that the actor became what he played in some form or another.
People still speculate as to whether or not Delon took on Visconti as his lover - or vice versa - at this point. Interestingly, the morality of the place and time simply accepted the term 'protege' for all it implied. Candid on-set photos certainly indicate an unusual intimacy between an intimidating director and an up-and-coming actor.
   The Visconti / Delon relationship didn't end when 'Rocco' wrapped: within the year, Visconti decided to direct Delon and Delon's then-girlfriend on stage in his adaption of the scandalous Tis Pity She's A Whore. Neither had any stage acting experience, but Alain Delon had the experience of working Visconti's way i.e. he ran his sets as precise and disciplined stagecraft, permitting no improvisation. The Parisian critics  snorted disdain while the public and Delon in Elizabethan tights made it a huge success. As with the filming of Rocco, Visconti fussed with Delon's makeup while simultaneously applying his imposing stage skills to driving the theatrical event. All in all, it can't be assumed that Visconti took upon himself the sad role of an older gay man longing chastely for the unattainable - that's just the plot of  Visconti's Death In Venice (1971).
No faked period makeup for Tancredi
   Luchino Visconti was already rewriting and preparing to direct Il Gattopardo / The Leopard: an international big-budget adaption of the popular Italian historical novel, which as a film serves as a timeline precursor to Novecento/'1900' (1976), with Burt Lancaster further linking the two. Although Warren Beatty was being heavily lobbied by financiers for the key second lead Tancredi, he unsurprisingly got nowhere near the role while Alain Delon and Visconti were whatever they were. Retrospectively deemed  a masterpiece, 'The Leopard' truly is great cinema and it's difficult to imagine anybody but Delon as the sensually fresh and charismatic Tancredi. His balletic and glamorous departure-for-battle scene with his doberman is wonderful cinema inasmuch as it prevents the film from slipping early into a leaden, masculinized costume drama. Rarely feted, Alain Delon's graceful energy as Tancredi is the embodiment of 'dashing', while also being a man who knows what must be done to survive in a changing world with no sure way forward.

On the 'Il Gattopardo' set (1962)

A Body Of Work, The Scent Of A Man


    While female starlets doing publicity in bed sheets wasn't revolutionary for 1958, it certainly wasn't commonplace for male starlets. And still isn't. But Alain Delon's sexuality and attitude weren't of brutish machismo, so sprawled out in a messed-up double bed and enjoying a probably post-coital cigarette possibly seemed like the next best thing. Not an early image-building miss-step, the notion found form as the Plein Soleil camera lingered on him being woken up and revealed as an eyeful in the broad light of day. At barely 180cm he was nevertheless proportioned well enough to look as good in and out of bed as he looked in and out of clothes.

Delon's notorious swimwear getup for 'The Yellow Rolls Royce' (1964)

    Hollywood never knew what to do with Delon, but nevertheless took a shot at imagining what a Frenchman wore for a swim. Never bulge-friendly, MGM wasn't so shy about taking the tits-and-ass approach. While The Yellow Rolls Royce hasn't achieved any measure of esteem after the fact, the same can't be said of Delon's black terry-cloth trunks: a decade ago at auction a version attracted four times their estimated value. The following year, The New York Times review of Once A Thief took a veiled and bitchy pot-shot at his masculinity by declaring he "appears to be a romantic intellectual, and not a rough-tough type". While Delon's masculinity was at odds with Hollywood's male all-American graceless lumpiness, it resonated with men of the Far East: in a long-shot he passes as an Asian male ideal and that ensured a lifetime of idolatry and superstardom in territories east. 

Gratuitously nude in 'Shock Treatment'

The still from 'La Piscine' which informs its modernized artwork, and then some

   While Delon nude helped sell The Girl On A Motorcycle (1968) it didn't help sell Traitement de Choc / Shock Treatment (1973). Sexualized Delon in a Courreges bathing suit however still sells La Piscine (1969). In fact, it still sells not only the movie but a whole lot more: in 2010 Alain Delon became the face of Eau Sauvage when Dior relaunched the sensational 1966 men's perfume. Vintage 60's photos of Delon in print ads, and a TV commercial of clips from the aforementioned film, heavily feature Delon in the aforementioned swimsuit. Eau Sauvage was our bourgeois gateway to the Houses of Guerlain and Sisley, and it's only appropriate that Alain Delon being of the senses takes us to that place when and where the world is sensed as better, with just a dash of something like class.

   On a good day it's easy to part the mists of Avalon à la recherche du temps perdu, and be on a sun-drenched Mediterranean with a man who excites our senses...all of them. He looks good, he smells good, he infuriates us, he impresses us, he indulges our projections and we're more alive for the experience. He's insouciance and he mixes a damned good Boulevardier. You may have met him in Saint-Tropez but then again you may have met him in the brig. He's probably Alain Delon.



Saturday, May 14, 2022

Gay Romance Movies: Too Niche Or Too Much Of A Threat?


"I inserted a gay romantic subtext" - Gore Vidal on 'Ben-Hur' (1959)


   Gay men experience a twice-removed relationship with movies. As both artform and persuasive social modeling, movies have traditionally defamed and excluded us, with what we pick up at the movies substantiating the Dhammapada's reference to herons by a lake with no fish...for a lifetime. What's been an endless banquet of approving acceptance for non-gay men is just sustained yearning and proscribed loneliness for the homo psyche. Hollywood certainly isn't stepping up to the plate as it excises token homo characters and scenarios in order to sell to flagrantly homo-hating global markets. Little good is likely to come from lucrative export product which may or may not pander locally to The American Dream, as filtered through the prisms of what commerce determines to be our just desserts.


   Forty years have come and gone since Vito Russo first published The Celluloid Closet. Groundbreaking in its focus and scope, it still clarifies how filmic culture best defames homosexuals – be they men who identify as gay, or men who simply like to have sex with other men. A co-founder of GLAAD, Russo’s work lives on as that U.S. organization’s benchmark criteria. The Vito Russo Test lucidly articulates how film-makers can best avoid their petticoats showing biased intent, and worse. The Test is necessarily applied consistently to all genres like drama, romance, comedy, and documentary.

· The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT).

· That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. the character is made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another).

· The LGBT character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline; the character should matter.


Cinema For Losers - The Parables Of Disingenuity

   Now, we’re almost twenty years into the Vito Russo Test guidelines, and as far as male characters go there’s little or no evidence that the guidelines are being implemented with any seriousness by film-makers. Or, more to the point, by American film-makers and their European counterparts. Seemingly, death and the misery of failed love are the normalized narratives for popular gay-themed mass entertainments – be they Philadelphia (1993), Brokeback Mountain (2005), or Call Me By Your Name (2017). The emptiness of Britain’s Weekend (2011) is no more sincere than Australia’s Holding The Man (2015), which sincerely believes its own lived-experience shallowness.

Like a sickly medication, the tropes of gay drama are relentlessly regurgitated as menace and struggle, with gained 'resilience' ostensibly the best payoff imaginable. Awards and rewards flow, with few asking whether or not the underlying takeaway of 'Toughen up, princess' is nearly enough when few practical ideas like a punching bag ('Cuatro Lunas', Mexico (2014)) or a rifle ('Marilyn', Argentina (2018)) are offered up as ways princesses might toughen up, rather than sucking it up. It's hard to dispute that Moonlight (2016) isn't just more of the Stateside same as it applies to the filmed male homosexual experience. While female gaze upon the male body is notionally welcome, sitting through writer / director Eliza Hittman's sordid 'Beach Rats' (2017) just might be cause to hope she never does it again, and that critics and film festivals alike stop celebrating dated soulless junk about men who have sex with other men.

In a shorthand media age it's hard to avoid lists, and the prolific '50 Best LGBT / Queer Films' lists are far more suspect than their daffy nods to community and inclusion imply: as a recently-created genre of the socially constructed kind it first needs to be evaluated for soft-sold multi-group segregation intent. By the time one's eliminated what has nothing to do with men loving men or men who've actually 'come of age', the leftovers are for the most part formulaic and anti-progressive. We're reminded that neither Gregg Araki nor Gus van Zant has been able to deliver the contemporary gay male masterpiece expected of New Queer Cinema, let alone it having found form as a seductive romance...where somebody actually gets the guy with no suffering involved. You just know segregation's alive and well when two men who attractively hit it off rarely appear in 'mainstream' movies of any genre - even as secondary or support characters.
The Wheel of Misfortune - step right up fellas!  
It’s not naïve or unrealistic to expect happy endings, and when cinema consistently delivers the opposite we’re wise to suspect all that hides behind quasi-documentary struggles lest we're giving a pass to perpetuating victimhood. It's worth noting that both Brokeback and Call Me... feature photogenic locales which serve to numb what's most unattractive and pleasureless about their storylines. It's also worth noting that with some goodwill and ingenuity the device can be purposed to support uplifting stories about diverse men who elevate the romance genre to its rightfully gratifying and most powerful place.

We're probably all hard-wired to crave at least two of the three components of romance: attraction, lust and attachment. The genre of romance in media embellishes it all with chivalry and what's seductive about faraway places and men with strange-sounding names. Our healthiest selves always anticipate a future which may have little to do with what we have now, and there's nothing quite like a romance movie to get the dopamine cells firing...why, it's almost like being in love.


Some Speak Of 'Journeys'...

   It's not that North America can't make excellent and deeply satisfying gay romance movies - it seems the continent just won't. A notable exception is Yen Tan's Pit Stop (2013). This slice of pure Americana about two purely American sweethearts of men who've been hurt by love very quickly accesses our better selves as we wait in suspense for what must surely be their destined assignation. Ernesto and Gabe have problems 'moving on': they're not gay extroverts given to such dubious journeys. The dark hand of LGBTQ media politics is entirely absent from Pit Stop, as evidenced by no cliches of tragedy and identity. Director Tan drip-feeds us these fellas with everything but cheap gay chemistry. And as with the best of romance, we're seduced by thoughts that deserved love really comes to those who deserve it. 


Reviewers and commentators alike are thrown by The Man With The Answers (2021), with quite a few not knowing what to make of a male romance which fails to spell out 'sexual identity' (or even career identity, for that matter) on its calling card. With no obvious dramatic precipitations to justify itself, writer / director Stelios Kammitsis' road movie is most European, as its men are most matter-of-fact. Its allure lies in that sweet spot where the mundane plays against sumptuous scenery, magnificently photographed. Too short at around 80 minutes, the road of trust and seduction Victoras and Matthias take is clunkier than the old Audi they're in but both are eminently serviceable ways to get from A to B.


Do we know who's driving or where we're going to?

One would expect the movie to stumble somewhere (or everywhere) on its cliches but it's so well directed and acted that you want the trip to not end so soon. Kammitsis certainly has his ducks lined up, and knows exactly where a gay relationship stands in the grand scheme of things.



Washing their sins away...or something

The Man With The Answers can be experienced as counterpoint to - or refreshment - from He Loves Me (2018). Writer / director Konstantinos Menelaou's voice-over'd rumination about two very gay men taking their very urban crumbling relationship to a deserted beach to re-find love in the dunes (and in the raw) is as confronting as it is self-indulgent.

As a bitter indictment of many gay relationships, He Loves Me very much presents the relationship Marianne Williamson ascribes to two emotional cripples joined at the hip. The film hasn't found many gay fans beyond the soft-core porn crowd and that's remarkable because it's not unrelated to the celebrated Weekend (2011), which conclusively proved that gay men can talk shit with the best of 'em when it comes to relationships. A peculiar and uncomfortable film, He Loves Me goes directly to where we angels fear to tread: damaged men and interpersonal dysfunction, as pressure-cooked by an urban gay lifestyle. It's probably a fine romance, of the been-around-the-block kind.

 It's A Big Wide World 


    There's a lot to bemoan when we're enslaved to our own cultural presumptions. Thankfully there's much to experience and enjoy when we're not. My own comfort zone suits me best when it's inhabited by men just like me as well as men not like me at all. Along those lines, if travel broadens one's horizons then cinema can do the next best thing - especially if it's directly sex-positive as our culture becomes less so.

It hadn't occurred to me that I'd never seen a homo onscreen who was just like me until very recently. And I was completely overwhelmed when it happened: Alec Secăreanu's take on Gheorghe in God's Own Country (2017) seemed ripped from my soul and the sense of validation I experienced was life-affirming in a way that many ideas I had about identity and being a gay outsider melted away. Such is the power of cinema, and the British movie uplifted me in ways that a dozen of the finest academic writings (or self-help books) about homosexuality never could.


Gheorghe and his Johnny..quite simply, for better and for worse

An exceptionally well-made first feature by Francis Lee, it's magic is propelled by its earthy connection to nature in an alternately beautiful and hard landscape requiring some knockout acting to match: these guys actually do something besides living in their heads and immersing themselves in the inorganic. They farm. They adapt. They live, they love. The heart of God's Own Country just might be as simple as chances taken and given are their own rewards.


The passion and the pride of Antonio & Lucas
The day movie theaters closed in 2019 at the onset of this century's pandemic was the proposed opening day for Chilean writer / director Omar Zúñiga Hidalgo's Los Fuertes but that misfortune is balanced by the fact that it's been generally widely available. Probably too short and positively crying out for a sequel, it takes its own sweet and sexy time to get to the point: at what age does a man need to crunch the numbers and think twice about leaving the apparently perfect man in the far regions to pursue urban gay ambitions? And of course there's the question of how the fisherman who's being left behind is supposed to feel when neither man is a callow college boy.

In substituting an almost end-of-the-world landscape for societal menace, Hidalgo elevates his story of men who love into a film of rare observational intelligence which isn't chasing such an honor.

    Argentina is a home-base of sorts for gay male films these day - due in no small part to the prolific output and sensually arresting films of Marco Berger. Lessons have been learned from Spain's Almodovar - that gay genius film-maker has never subjected a character to 'coming out' over four decades, or even thought that audiences needed to share such a ritual. Perhaps just dash a of hot-blodded male arrogance with its heart on its sleeve is all it takes for some men to refuse to build or refurbish their own closets.

From the pen of Andi Nachon, director / producer Papu Curotto deftly crosses a few borders (and some might say boundaries) with Beyond Borders: Esteros (2016). The nominal wetland estuaries refer to both the regional setting in Argentina's far North East and what happens when fresh water meets salty sea. Or male romance within an ecological allegory if you like. Matías and Jerónimo were childhood friends who developed a mutual, pubescent sexual attraction prior to the former's family relocating across the border to Brazil. Predictably, a decade later they re-meet by chance - with Jerónimo as a single but secure gay man while Matías is ensconced in a relationship with a woman.

Not waiting for Grindr to sound

What presents as a predictable bittersweet pill for gays to swallow isn't what Curotto has in mind at all: Jerónimo is well and truly out, not inclined to subservience to heterosexual imperatives, resents having been apparently 'cancelled' by Matías and is quick to remind him that he was indeed Matías' 'first' when it comes to sex. The delightful payoff is exactly what it should be for any man willing to take charge of his life and loves.

But that's not all. It would be remiss to not re-mention two remarkable Brazilian features which transcend the dubious trappings of youth-themed coming out epics: The Way He Looks (2014) and Hard Paint (2018). While they may not enchant us by appealing to our stereotypical instincts to form an attachment of desire to one or both of the male leads, we're hard-pressed to not think about falling in love with somebody far removed from our normalized urban Prince Charming fantasies.


It's Only A Movie

   Or is it? Vito Russo concluded The Celluloid Closet all those years ago with a special mention for all the queers who work in Hollywood, in the full knowledge that powerful Hollywood product was, and still is, insulting to great degrees. Those who consistently choose to remain silent, regardless of how much power they wield, have newer faces but but are of the same old politics. We may have been lulled into thinking that things have changed, but what exactly has changed when high-minded awards and critical praise are handed out for the mawkishness of 'coming through adversity'...with just enough menace to subliminally keep victims as victims?

However, as we've seen - and going with relatively narrow but informative criteria - film-makers are making films which dignify gay men doing what gay men can do, while standing as excellent and original films in their own right for all audiences. Remarkably diverse (although not significantly diverse when it comes to class or race), they're the results of our broader worldwide communities committing to that muse that is the cinema. New auteurs are exploiting newer ways to bring their visions to the world, be it by streaming services, crowdfunding and even giving their art away for free. Usually years in gestation, they're often preceded by shoestring-budgeted short films to drum up interest. We're wise to know that something based on a true story doesn't legitimize it: assumed gravitas shouldn't be mistaken for truth or art or satisfying entertainment.

And then again, if art just reflects life it's not too much to ask that the cinema now and then reflects a life well-lived i.e. a life which knows that there's only love and fear, and that they can't co-exist.