Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Welp, This Happened

This one's from The Fall, featuring Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) and Dr. Tanya Reed Smith (Archie Panjabi). To set the stage, the two characters, who are just friends/colleagues at this point, have agreed to meet for drinks. Dr. Smith is waiting at a table by herself, when a man walks up.

Then, Stella enters, and helps a friend out:


It is a scene to launch a thousand fanfics, as lesbian/bisexual fandom collectively thinks: "Turn baaaack! You've made a huge mistake!"

I kid.  For, in all seriousness, Stella is cool, chill, and knows how to take "no" for answer.  She made her move and if Dr. Smith isn't comfortable with the one-night-stand, that's fine, She's Stella freaking Gibson. There will be no cajoling.

Anyway, I hope you all have a safe and fabulous New Year's!

Peace out, 2015.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Movie Review: Carol

So, I saw the movie Carol over the weekend.

Honestly, I think my better movie reviews are when movies are bad, so I don't have a ton to say about this one. (Flash movie review by gay guy sitting in front of me at the movie theatre: "Too much talking, not enough scissoring!" To that I would just recommend a different movie.)

My take on things is that Cate Blanchett is divine in practically everything she does, and her portrayal of 1950s lesbian/bisexual Carol Aird is no exception. To be looked at by Carol, let alone loved, would be everything.

Why yes, I would come visit you Sunday. Thank you for asking.

Secondly, for a film featuring love between two women in the 1950s, I was pleased both by the non-tragic ending and its avoidance of making the heterosexual male romantic interests in the women's lives complete jerks. I mean, Carol's husband, what's-his-face from Friday Night Lights, was a jerk, but in the end seemed didn't turn out to be 100% jerky.

It always feels cheap and easy to get an audience to hate people who are unsympathetic and who have no redeeming qualities. For instance, some lesbian/bisexual movies will feature the women engaging in really awful sex with men, which is then contrasted with eventual fulfilling sex with women (as well as soft lighting and camera angles on unidentifiable body parts).

Yet, in my opinion, the best films and TV show people not as pure monsters or angels.  I don't want to be told who the villains are, I want to decide first if there are villains at all and second who they actually are, for myself.  Life and love are complicated, you know?  So, it feels more rewarding when heterosexual men in lesbian/bisexual films are shown as more nuanced while still inviting the audience to root for the women to end up together anyway (obvs).

That being said, the queer female gaze was strong with this one. Ultimately, I found the most sympathetic characters to be Carol and Therese, and it was their story that was central. Their responses to one another unfolded slowly and both Blanchett and Mara's understated performances seemed to mimic an era when same-sex love had to be subtextual, brimming below the surface, by necessity.

In sum, I thought Carol was an epic A+ lesbian/bisexual movie. And those, as we know, are rare.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

So, Rod Dreher Seems Nice

Here, Dreher, the Christian conservative writes:
"The 'Status Update' episode of of This American Life was one I almost didn’t listen to. Why? Because the first segment is a discussion of among the most annoying people on the planet — young teenage girls — talking about the most boring subject on the planet: their social media habits."
Oy. Adults bullying teen girls as a class is not a good look on anyone, least of all a middle-aged male blogger with a relatively large following. Petty.

Image result for mean girls gifs

Then here, Dreher has a bee in his bonnet about the TV show Transparent (a) existing at all, and (b) being featured in The New York Times. He hyperventilates:
"A political response is necessary, but a political response alone is radically insufficient, in part because it’s nothing but a delaying action. This Weimar America madness has to run its course. We religious conservatives had all better do everything we can to protect our institutions and our families from it. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not going to get any easier as the years go by, no matter who sits in the White House, and we had better prepare ourselves."
In comments, Dreher explains his Nazi allusion "Weimar America": it's "shorthand for an unstable and decadent state and culture marked by left and right extremism, in which the center could not and did not hold."

The suggestion seems to be that Transparent is a herald of the US turning into a Nazi-like state in which the rounding up and murdering of conservative Christians like him is imminent.

I chose both quotes to highlight here because, to me, they demonstrate the Christian Persecution Complex well in its current post-marriage-equality incarnation.

Out of one side of his mouth, Dreher and his people are victims, he claims. Yet, out of the other side of his mouth, he uses his voice to belittle teenage girls. "Transgenders." College kids. Black Lives Matters activists. Take your pick at the Dreher blog. When people such as these advocate for themselves, it is "decadence." They are being whiny "titty-babies."  Yet, take away a religious school's "right" to discriminate against gays, let a show featuring trans people be featured in a major newspaper, and watch out everyone it's a human rights violation of the first order.

The problem with Christians such as this is not that they are being persecuted in any meaningful sense of the word. It's both that previously-excluded groups are gaining platforms and visibility while conservative Christians are losing their previously-privileged standing and disproportionate power in US society, law, and culture.  It is akin to Men's Rights Activists (MRAs) who interpret gains for women as the sexism/oppression of men.

There is literally no threat to anti-LGBT Christians in the US right now that merits comparisons to either Nazi Germany or its precursor conditions.

As I noted back in June, when Dreher was given space in Time (because.... ummm?) to share his histrionics about the SCOTUS ruling, "The chief harm to opponents of equality is not that it impacts their own rights or liberty, but that the state no longer officially agrees with their moral and/or religious views about the matter. The state not being a Christian one is framed, not as neutrality, but as aggression and unfairness."

Yet, unfortunately, to paraphrase a quote, when God is a man, some men see themselves as God.

Many white Christian men are used to being authoritative overlords - indeed grow up with their scriptures affirming that status for them. They have it ingrained in them that their - our - voices don't matter, that our voices are, say, "the most annoying on the planet," unworthy of listening to, dangerous, a beginning to the end times.

In a recent essay, Rebecca Solnit makes an observation about that peculiar group of white guys who, because of the way society has long centered them and their voices, now demand constant coddling (while of course claiming it's others who need to be coddled):
"A group of black college students doesn’t like something and they ask for something different in a fairly civil way and they’re accused of needing coddling as though it’s needing nuclear arms. A group of white male gamers doesn’t like what a woman cultural critic says about misogyny in gaming and they spend a year or so persecuting her with an unending torrent of rape threats, death threats, bomb threats, doxxing, and eventually a threat of a massacre that cites Marc LePine, the Montreal misogynist who murdered 14 women in 1989, as a role model. I’m speaking, of course, about the case of Anita Sarkeesian and Gamergate. You could call those guys coddled. We should. And seriously, did they feel they were owed a world in which everyone thought everything they did and liked and made was awesome or just remained silent? Maybe, because they had it for a long time.
And so it goes. When men like Dreher are offended by, say, Transparent, we are to take it as a valid, serious, important concern. His delicate sensibilities - the priggish way he talks about trans people and "SJWs" -  demand coddling. Other people's sensibilities are seen as political correctness gone too far.

In all, it's a profound failure of empathy.

In her essay, Solnit goes on to note that, indeed, art can be dangerous. It can change the world. It can make us or break us.  It can elevate other voices. And, in the case of something like Transparent, can shift the female gaze from the margin to the center, and tell the previously-untold stories of people who have previously been marginal to the white male protagonist's story.

Only under the mindset that one particular group's story is the only one worth centering can the telling of other people's stories be framed as "decadent."  I mean, let's really take a step back and examine the self-absorption inherent in that claim: telling stories that center trans and female individuals is a sign of decadence, it is a luxury and sign of decline; unlike say the telling of cisgender white male stories, which is a social necessity, and a social good.

Perhaps to a conservative white Christian man with such a mindset, the celebration of other stories, perspectives, lifestyles feels akin to - for him - genocide.  If in metaphor only.

Make no mistake, though, it's not.

What a world.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Car Wash and an Ice Cream Cone

Today was brought to you by the opening of Lost Girl episode "Groundhog Fae."

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Lady Love Actually

All I want for Christmas this year is the movie Love Actually to be re-made so that all the romance plot lines are lesbian/bisexual in nature.

Is that too much to ask?

Imagine for a moment:

Jane Lynch would replace Billy Bob Thornton as the swashbuckling US President. Obviously. Archie Panjabi would play the UK Prime Minister and Zoie Palmer, perhaps, her nerdy-yet-charming new foreign policy advisor. After a falling out in which Palmer's character quits, Panjabi's character would go on a charmingly-funny door-to-door search for Palmer's character. On this search, two little girls would ask her to sing a Christmas carol and there she would find out that her bodyguard (portrayed by Abby Wambach, making a cameo) had surprisingly good vocals. She would, of course, end up with Palmer’s character, and being a gay Prime Minister would be a non-issue.

Ellen Page would play a character with an ex-girlfriend/best friend, played by Taylor Schilling. Schilling's character would be newly-married to a character played by Jamie Clayton, with whom Page's character is secretly in love, and for that reason overcompensates by being nasty to Clayton's character. One night, Page and Clayton's characters would run into each other at a karoake bar. Page's character would push the nastiness too far. As Clayton's character left the bar, Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time" would come on. Page's character would grab a microphone and, tragically but beautifully, sing to Clayton's character, now gone. She would have given her all the stars. But also, she would never actually tell that to her best friend's wife, because that would be an emotionally-confusing, asshole move.

Gillian Anderson would play a character mourning the loss of her wife. To her young son, she would casually mention her longstanding crush on actress Lucy Lawless. By the end of the movie, Lawless would eventually make a cameo as a single parent at her son's school. It would be implied that Anderson and Lawless's characters end up together, effectively resolving the fantasies of many lesbian and bisexual women of a certain age.

Ruby Rose would play a character who travels to "Wisconsin" to engage in genderqueer advocacy at a university. While the advocates ze meets would be entertained by zir accent, and engage in many sexual escapades, it would be zir smarts and personality they truly admire. Zir friend, played by Samira Wiley would immediately join zir from across the pond.

Cate Blanchett would play a character in a longstanding and lackluster marriage to her husband. At her design agency, of which she is the CEO, she would develop feelings for her new secretary, played by Naya Rivera. Realizing that she has long denied her bisexuality, Blanchett’s character would leave her husband and go for Rivera's character. To be honest, she's always been a little bit of a cougar and there's nothing wrong with that.

Jenny Shimizu and Kate Moennig would play two characters who are playing two characters in a sex-positive feminist film featuring two strong female leads. In their movie-within-a-movie roles, they would embark on a sexual relationship, in consensual, empowering ways. Although mutually attracted to one another, both characters would be entirely too cool to ask the other out.

Kerry Washington would play a thoughtful writer who leaves for the French countryside to finish her novel. While there, she would fall in love with her Portuguese housekeeper played by Lucia Moniz (she can stay in the movie). She would have complicated feelings about the power differential between herself and Moniz's character, so she would not make her move until after the employment relationship has ended. Showing that U-Hauling perhaps is a universal language, Washington's character would quickly propose. "Yes" would "being" the answer.

Amy Rae and Emily Saliers would play two folk musicians who have mixed feelings about how they "sold out" by writing a popular Christmas song for a contest, fame, and fortune. At the end of the movie, they would come to the realization that, although both are lesbians with an inherent sexual tension between them, they prefer their platonic companionship. They would celebrate the Solstice by reading to one another aloud, by the hearth, from Virginia Woolf's diaries.

Lastly, Wanda Sykes would replace Mr. Bean and there would be no storyline that involves an irritating cell phone ring and sexual frustration.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What the Ever-Loving Hell Am I Looking At

I was browsing Internet recently when an obtrusive pop-up ad for a movie called The Ridiculous 6 barged onto my screen.

Perhaps you've heard of this.... this movie, as well. But if you haven't, here's its IMDB description:
"An outlaw who was raised by Native Americans discovers that he has five half-brothers; together the men go on a mission to find their wayward, deadbeat dad."
And, if you will, its Wikipedia plot description:
"In the Old West era, a calm man named Tommy Stockburn (Sandler) is raised by Native Americans, where he is named 'White Knife,' due to his tendency to use knives. He is due to marry an Native girl named Smoking Fox (Jones)."

I mean, what? Why?! Nonononononononono!

In case you haven't noticed, the fact that self-indulgent, caterwauling, adolescent-manboy-humor Adam Sandler movies get made, while so many other stories don't get to be told, absolutely presses all of my rage buttons.

Netflix is/was disrupting the TV/film industry. It has brought us Sense8, Jessica Jones, Master of None, and Orange is the New Black. It is/was awesome because these all seem like shows we wouldn't have otherwise seen via the more traditional route of being pitched and created through the established networks.

I hope to all the gods above and below that The Ridiculous 6 is not a signal of Netflix now backsliding to the re-centering of the racist and sexist white male gaze and his travails with his wacky buddies and token stereotypical female love interest.

[See also: Brian Tallerico's review at Ebert. Since I refuse to watch this damn thing ever.]

Monday, December 14, 2015

Explain a Film Plot Badly

I had some fun on Twitter this weekend with the above-headlined trending hashtag. Although, to be honest, I don't think I was so much describing film plots "badly" as I was "explaining them accurately but shortly." Oh well.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

In Which I Agree With NOM For First Time Ever

Yesterday, the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM) endorsed Ted Cruz for president of the United States.

Obviously, I don't agree with that endorsement. But, in the organization's press release about it, they wrote:
"The decision to endorse in the Republican primary race was a very difficult one," [NOM's Brian] Brown said. "There are many tremendous candidates remaining who have made support for marriage a pillar of their careers in public service, including Sen. Rick Santorum, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Dr. Ben Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio. We realize that our endorsement of Sen. Cruz will be very disappointing to them. Should any of these candidates emerge as the Republican nominee we would enthusiastically support them. However, there is a real danger that conservatives will split the vote allowing someone like Donald Trump to emerge from the crowded field, which would be disastrous."
Yes, it's like a "who's the worst person ever" contest as judged by the worst group ever, but I bolded the part I agree with.

And at the same time, I have absolutely no sympathy for bigots and Republicans who are now seeking to distance themselves from Trump and acting appalled that he says out loud what they only dog whistle and imply. For decades, Republican and conservative leaders have fostered bigotry for their own political gain, thereby creating this very base of millions of people for whom Trump is their un-PC hero. As a result, they (and we) are all reaping what they've sown on that front.

What even is this country right now?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Clementine Ford and Backlash Against Consequences for Men

On the Internet Civility front, Clementine Ford has posted a piece explaining her decision to report misogynistic abuse she received online to the man's employer.

For brief background, a man left a single word comment "slut" on Ford's Facebook page.  As his Facebook page included his employer, she took a screenshot of his comment (along with his agreement/approval of racist jokes) and shared it on his employer's Facebook page. The employer ended up firing the man. Some additional context here is that Ford is an Australian feminist and reports receiving ongoing abusive comments/emails, as one does when one is a feminist online.

I have said repeatedly that advocacy for the Internet to be an "anything goes" free speech "utopia" works as its own silencing mechanism. For, such an environment doesn't mean that all people are actually participating freely. It primarily means that people like the man Ford reported can bully lots of people into not actually participating.  Thus, the voices that end up sticking around are those who are, by and large, not targeted, threatened, and harassed to the extent other groups are (or who accept the abuse as a condition of their participation).

The issue is made worse by application providers who do not adequately address abuse or who treat the issue as "not their problem" even though they create these platforms (and make huge sums of money off of them).  Ford writes:
"Facebook's methods for responding to abuse are useless, and the company has made it pretty clear that their scope for community standards lies squarely on the side of free use of sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and ableist slurs. The only recourse possibly left to the women ritually targeted by gendered harassment is to try and create consequences for people in their everyday lives. The alternative is for women to remove themselves from the online world - a space which is not separate to the 'real world' but now intrinsically enmeshed with it - and be silent. And while I know that's the preferred outcome for the boys and men who have never been made to take responsibility for their actions, it's also complete bullshit."
Ford also notes that, because the man she reported has been fired, some of his defenders are claiming that she's ruined his life or taken away his ability to support his wife and kids (that he doesn't even have).

Well, I don't know about that. I'm sure there's a spot for someone like him in Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

I say that only half kidding.

For, it seems Trump's very popularity is largely due to (a) the general assholishness of many Americans, yes, but also (b) the raging backlash against the idea that white men and bigots should be held accountable for their words that offend nearly every group other than white men.

Anyway, this is not a new thing - this idea that male reputations and livelihoods outweigh women's. I'm glad to see the pushback.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Workplace Rules #3: On Seeking Staff Opinions

To continue my completely sporadic series on Workplace Rules, today I'd like to reference the management practice of seeking staff input on things but then never actually using that input.

Let me start with an example.

At a former Horrendo Fucko Workplace, I was on a team with a supervisor who, within his first 3 months on the job, asked us to rate his performance. His Super Scientific way of measuring his performance was to find an employee review template from the Internet that included a series of questions with a 1-5 agree/disagree scale. At the end, he included some blank space for "other comments."

My co-workers and I had some rather specific concerns with this supervisor's behavior, two of which were an apparent anger management issue and constant phone usage (as in, during all meetings, whenever he or the CEO were not the ones speaking, he would be tapping away at his phone, ignoring other people's contributions).

In short, we felt both unsafe and not listened to by this person. So, in the "other comments" section of his feedback form, several of us delicately and as constructively as we could noted these concerns. At a later team meeting, which he led, he gave us the numerical "results" of his "performance review," claiming that he "got a pretty good grade." Nevermind that, as he was the only person being reviewed, no basis for comparison existed for whether or not his grade was, actually, good or bad.

When he then addressed people's "other comments," all he said was, "Yeah, I've been told these things my entire life and, well, I'm really going to look to you all to keep me in check on those."

Thus, rather than changing his behavior on his own, he put the onus on his direct reports to "call him out" when we thought he was acting rude. As a reminder, one of our concerns was his anger management issue.


My points in sharing this story are (a) it's somewhat cathartic to get it out, to be honest; and (b) here was a clear example of a manager seeking out staff input and then completely dismissing it.  And, the whole thing was completely demoralizing.

His sole purpose of the performance review was theater. He wanted to appear to give us a say in team and morale matters, but he didn't want to actually do so. (In fact, he took his review score to a senior team meeting with the CEO and bragged about how much we all liked him. Flash forward three months later, and every single person on his team had quit).

My point here is people in management positions have to be really careful about how they seek input from staff and how they communicate with staff regarding how the workplace will or will not use that feedback. It's obvious as hell, and completely destructive to morale, when managers make a big show of "getting stakeholder buy-in" on matters but then do whatever they fuck they want anyway.

For those who aren't managers, and who feel comfortable doing so, perhaps when staff feedback is sought, it would be worthwhile and enlightening to ask a manager you trust how staff feedback will or won't be used.  I think just asking that question can sometimes prompt management to think, "Oh, shit, we might have to actually address/use what they say."

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Root

When I was kid first watching The Neverending Story (1984), little-me thought that Atreyu was a girl.

This, even though, male pronouns were probably used to describe Atreyu. To be honest, I was at an age where I mostly followed along to movies by the pictures rather than the dialogue.

Thus, in my head, the story was cool adventure girl character something something what amazing flying dog! something something magical book something something cute princess girl.

And, I thought this Atreyu girl was the greatest.

For, I thought that Atreyu was not just any girl, but that he was, perhaps, a lesbian girl. Not that I even knew what a lesbian was, back then. But, I thought Atreyu was a girl that was different from other girls portrayed in movies. Maybe, say, a girl like myself. (And, mind you, imagine a child assuming that of course a girl would be central to a child's fantasy adventure story! Ah, the innocence of youth, before Hollywood had disabused me of that notion).

Anyway, I think what I'm trying to say is that I identified with this gender non-confirming "girl" Atreyu. And that, perhaps, the movie was one of my lesbian "roots."

Discuss this, or other things.

Like, Jessica Jones. People are watching this, yes?!  And Stephen King's Wizard and Glass is, like, the book that will not end, am I right?  It's entertaining, but again I will need to disinfect myself with some good queer/feminist science fiction/fantasy next.