Tag Archives: homosexuality

Link Dump: #9

Dwain Esper’s exploitation film Maniac (1934) is not kind to cats. They get thrown into rooms, forced to fight with each other, and are the subject of much bizarre dialogue. Even though vaudevillian-turned-fake-scientist Don Maxwell (Bill Woods) insists that he won’t use cats in experiments, he nonetheless plucks out his cat Satan’s eye and eats it. Thankfully, it’s obvious that they’re switching between a black cat and an already one-eyed tabby, but it’s still disconcerting. The film manages to butcher Poe by making his story’s far, far weirder. Anyway, here’s some links!

  • Oh my God, plushies and embroidery can be cute sometimes! Behold: Mr X Stitch. My favorite is the Catwoman.
  • The dating site OkCupid has aggregated statistics from their gay and straight customers. Some of their astonishing revelations: all gay people aren’t actually promiscuous sexual predators hungering for converts. Also, not all straight OkCupid users are totally straight all the time. (Shocking, right?!)
  • Jessica Winter of Slate writes about “The film career of David Bowie.” This includes plenty of The Man Who Fell to Earth. “Get out of my head!” (And speaking of Bowie’s film career…)
  • Really, MPAA? “Male nudity“? (Apparently, yes.)
  • Good ol’ cuckoo puff Armond White took a shot at bloggers and Rotten Tomatoes a few weeks ago. Man, is his critique scathing! It cut me to the bone, emotionally speaking. I think my favorite part starts here:

“Attacks from bloggers—crude interlopers of a once august profession— are not about diversity of opinion. What’s at root is an undisguised rivalry. Every moviegoer with a laptop claims equal—vengeful—standing with so-called professionals. This anti-intellectual backlash defies the purpose of the Circle’s founding in 1935. Professional dignity is the last thing Internetters respect.”

  • Oh my, no! I’m such an anti-intellectual Internetter! You know, White’s persecution complex would be a much more valid argument against online film journalism if his writing weren’t nonsensical shit. (I really dropped the sarcasm there.)
  • Apparently we were supposed to have some visitors from the stars on Wednesday. A retired NORAD officer said so!
  • These outtakes give some cool insights into Humphrey Bogart’s acting process. (For example: when he missed a line, he’d say, “Goddammit!”)
  • Adam Zanzie and Ryan Kelly, of Icebox Movies and Medfly Quarantine respectively, have announced a Spielberg Blogathon for mid-December! You’ve got two whole months to prepare.

On the search term front, we had a few good ones this week. The people looking for pictures of animal genitalia are getting more specific; this time around we had not only “frog pussy,” but also “chinese frog vagina.” What, American frog vaginas aren’t good enough for you? In the “Deeply Unpleasant” department, we had the classic “most excruciating climactic screwing of.” I prefer my climactic screwings of to not be excruciating, if you please. To the person who searched for “sex war 1945 pussy,” I’m sorry to inform you that the war from 1939-45 was actually a World War, not a Sex War. And finally, I can only stare in befuddlement: “sexy wig for masturbation.” Yes. That says what it looks like. “Sexy wig for masturbation.” Thanks for reading, folks!

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Link Dump: #4

[Via matthewwatkins84]

Things have been a little slow here lately at Pussy Goes Grrr, and for that we apologize. Ashley’s starting college classes at last (wish her luck!), I’m obsessively studying the history and form of comics (and just finished Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics), and our blogging has suffered as a result. But worry not, fearless reader! Our posting frequency will likely enjoy a post-summer upsurge by mid-September. Plus, we watched Monster with Charlize Theron last night, and I want to write something about that.

In other news, there are people who write things and put them on the Internet. Here are some examples:

  • I will be participating in Blog Cabins’ upcoming “30 Days of Crazy Blog-a-thon” by publishing my review of Jacob’s Ladder! So take a peek at all the crazy movies being discussed, and check in on them throughout September.
  • I have some issues with this list of “25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watch” from io9 – e.g., Tron, really? But it’s knowledgeable and well-written, so give it a glance. It’s pretty limited to mainstream favorites, but it does include The Road Warrior, Star Trek II, Brazil, which a lot of similar lists would gloss over. (Plus, the more Primer love, the better!)
  • The inestimable Stacie Ponder gives us a lol-tastic flowchart that can lead us to which exorcism movie we’re currently watching.
  • Here’s a sad but fascinating New York Times article about the muted interactions between gay students at West Point. DADT just needs to end, now.
  • Speaking of intolerance, here’s a piece by Racialicious’s Thea Lim about the fetishization of Asian women. Man, when race meets gender, you get a lot of depressing, outdated stereotypes.
  • Worried about the incipient zombie apocalypse? Don’t be! As Cracked.com’s David Dietle shows, there’s nothing to fear (except, well, zombies).
  • Here’s a fun analysis of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive as a model of postmodern confusion, from Cinematical’s Monika Bartyzel.
  • And speaking of postmodernism, the Happy Postmodernists keep on coming. Rebekah wrote a humor piece on Ian McEwan that was too hot for McSweeney’s, I wrote about her great-uncle, and Emily took a decidedly anti-Eggers stance.

Finally, here’s your reward for sticking with us through the links: the week’s most hi-larious, creepy, and/or vaguely pornographic search terms!

  • First of all: Google users, please stop searching for Simpsons-themed porn. Yes, the Internet does contain yucky images in which “bart [has] sex with his little sister” and “bart eats marges pussy,” but they are not on this blog.
  • A few searches stood out not because of their content, but because of typographical oddities. For example, in what part of the world is it logical to type “pussy blög”? Furthermore, is the reduplication in “fucking fucking body” really necessary? I think “fucking body” can get pretty much the same results. (I just tested this. Actually, the extra “fucking” turns up 300,000 fewer results.)
  • For the person curious about “gender roles in superheroes,” I recommend starting out at Gail Simone’s old but still useful “Women in Refrigerators” website.
  • “ugly fat lesbians that are mean to me.” Huh.
  • And to the inquiry “how does female body fuck,” I can only say that it depends on which female body you’re talking about.

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Body-fascism in Avatar and homophobia everywhere

So: my first week of spring term has come to an end, and I’m finally ready to blog again.  I’ve watched a lot of movies lately, started some classes, read some comics & nonfiction, listened to the new Evelyn Evelyn album, and of course read a bazillion things on the Internet. Lately both Ashley and I have been browsing the very awesome website Sociological Images, which has stirred all kinds of new ideas about how bodies are presented in the media.

Speaking of which! This morning I was reading the latest issue of Sight & Sound and received a pleasant surprise. In the Letters section on the last page was a missive from Dariush Alavi complaining about Avatar; he pointed out how S&S‘s review of Cameron’s mega-opus was, like everyone else, “cheering the money” despite the film’s “execrable politics.” (Politics which Ashley and I have attacked ourselves at great length; see here.) Alavi’s letter really struck home with one particular portion, which highlights some very problematic parts of the film I noticed, but hadn’t been fully able to vocalize.

Avatar must be one of the most racist, body-fascist and unimaginative high-profile American movies I’ve seen in a long time… With their cornrows and ‘generic African’ accents, [the Na’vi] represent all the worst aspects of the notion of the ‘noble savage’, and are evidence of the movie’s patronising attitude to its characters and audience. The uniformity of the Na’vi appearance – from the perfect teeth to the ridiculous waists – is almost as horrific as their facial features, which seem to be an extrapolation of the ‘nipped and tucked’ look favoured in California.

I think this letter makes some fantastic points. Superficially, Avatar is a simplistic man vs. nature epic, contrasting the technology and violence of the humans with the Na’vis’ spiritual connection to their environment. But the Na’vi (aka symbolic Native Americans/Africans) aren’t given subjectivities of their own, and Cameron colonizes them – and all indigenous peoples by extension – just as much as his evil humans do. They’re not characters so much as aesthetic objects, and they remain entirely passive (albeit still so visually pleasing) until brought into action under Jake Sully’s leadership.

And this passivity and objectification is intensified by Cameron’s total disinterest in individualizing the Na’vi. They live communally, I guess, so they don’t need to bother with any but the most cursory personalities – the chief, the priestess, the princess, and rival, and… the rest. Most of the Na’vis’ roles in the film pretty much amount to being eye candy – their director’s motion-captured harem. As Alavi points out, this isn’t just creative laziness: it’s also a desire to put good and evil in the most audaciously obvious of physical terms. Colonel Quaritch is scarred, therefore he’s evil; the Na’vi are enviably tall and thin, a race of Mary Sues, therefore they must be good. The most apt descriptor for them as a race isn’t even “peaceful” or “meditative” so much as “beautiful.”

As was discussed at length, Avatar‘s story basically mirrored that of District 9, but made everything so much easier. In District 9, Blomkamp asks his protagonist and audience to empathize with a race of spat-upon, crustacean refugees referred to only with the pejorative “prawns.” But who’d think twice about becoming a Na’vi? Every subversive piece of Cameron’s story was itself undercut through extreme use of cliché, and the glamorous, better-than-human appearance of the Na’vi fits in this pattern. I think “body-fascist” is the perfect word for a movie that makes its oppressed minority into a species of supermodels, out of the fear that if any Na’vi were possible fat, or ugly, or not quite so sparkly as Edward Cullen, then the audience might fail to identify with them. By which I mean, fuck James Cameron.

Anyway! That’s enough for now about Avatar, the movie so bland it earned a zillion dollars. Why don’t we move on to something more interesting, like flatworm reproduction? Or alternately, also worth discussing: another letter from Sight & Sound, in which Andrew Brettell writes, “Why do film directors feel the need to add these qualifications to works about gay characters?” He refers to a statement from A Single Man‘s director Tom Ford, wherein he said, “It’s not a gay story, he just happens to be gay.” This ties in beautifully to a book I’ve been reading for months, Vito Russo’s classic study of LGBT images in film, The Celluloid Closet. [Caveat for what follows: I have not yet seen A Single Man.]

Russo introduces the chapter “Frightening the Horses” with a series of quotes from filmmakers involved with LGBT-themed movies of the ’60s and ’70s – William Wyler (The Children’s Hour), Rod Steiger (The Sergeant), Gordon Willis (Windows), Rex Harrison (Staircase), and John Schlesinger (Sunday, Bloody Sunday). The gist of all these quotes? The films aren’t about homosexuality; they’re about some other, non-gay theme, usually loneliness. It’s strange that despite the passage of 40 or so years and the flowering of a whole queer independent cinema in America, directors of mainstream movies about homosexuality are still compelled to qualify their work, and even when the directors themselves are gay, like Tom Ford.

I don’t necessarily blame the people making these statements, but I think it does provide insights into our straight society’s attitude toward stories about, gasp, gay people. It’s as if straight moviegoers need to be cajoled into the theaters. “Don’t worry; you won’t be asked to share in Colin Firth’s homoerotic desires. It’s just about loneliness! You can identify with loneliness, can’t you?” So maybe this method of framing movies is double-edged: it certainly looks like cowardice, backing down from the content of your own film, but it can possibly serve as a Trojan horse, a way to lure vaguely homophobic or at least homo-anxious people into a movie they might not otherwise see. They sit down in the theater, they start identifying with Colin Firth, and by the end they might say, “Wow! Oppression based on your sexual orientation does suck!”

So that’s a possible defense of these wishy-washy statements, which admit that the characters are gay, but insist that the movie’s about more universal themes: they’re giving a special point of entrance to ignorant, self-absorbed straight viewers. I think this also reveals a lot about how straight is seen as the incontrovertible default or norm. (Kind of like, oh, how women are women and men are people, or how black is an alternate option.) Even now, homosexuality is identified as, yes, different, strange, abnormal, wrong, sinful, and of course as synonymous with sex-obsessed. So gay men can’t be trusted with Boy Scouts, for example, or if you try to incorporate a gay character into children’s fiction, you’re perverting them and soiling their innocence.

Do you remember the outcry over King & King? Or any number of books for children with totally nonsexual presentations of gay characters? This is the big issue here: even though stories for kids are absolutely full of hetero relationships, whether it’s between princes and princesses, or mothers and fathers, or animals that fall in love, once you switch the genders, then it becomes dirty and sexual. Because male/female relationships are always pure and chaste and kid-friendly, and they reproduce in clean and unobjectionable ways, right? But if you say the word “gay” to a child, you may as well be shouting “ANAL SEX!” in their ear over and over. Except… that’s not true; the image of homosexuals as always craving and having sex is just a malicious stereotype. However, since the people (men) in charge – whether socially, politically, or economically – decide the stereotypes, they decide the children’s books, and they decide what’s normal.

There’s also been an outcry over mentioning homosexuality in middle/high school sex ed courses. Which basically shows how parents want their kids to grow up either not knowing that gays exist – invisibility – or else regarding them as weird, vaguely predatory, but ultimately pitiful creatures who crawl around the fringes of cities (i.e., the dominant image presented pre-1960s, and sometimes post-). There are so many entangled fears here that it’s hard to straighten them out, but I think a huge one is fearing that their sons/daughters just might be gay (“I knew I shouldn’t have listened to so much Elton John when I was pregnant!), and if they learn about homosexuality in an accepting social climate, then dear God, they might just feel comfortable coming out. And then not only will the queers have invaded the TVs and radios with their icky, anal-sex-having selves, but they’ll have invaded poor God-fearing folks’ families, as well. As if homosexuality is a tumor you can eliminate with enough bigoted chemotherapy.

So that’s my brief take on, oh, the fears that put the “phobia” in “homophobia.” It reminds me of a basic tenet from my melodrama class last year, propounded by Linda Williams: “home as a space of innocence.” One of her exemplars of this theme, it’s worth mentioning, is D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, which could make a pretty good template for the kinds of new homophobic myths that have been developed over the past few decades. According to these hateful, deluded people, they’re just protecting their homes – be that literally, or  referring to all of America as Reagan’s “shining city” – and spreading homophobic lies is just like preemptively nailing all the doors shut or putting up a fence. Thankfully, through the beauty of tolerance and increasing education, that’s all starting to change.

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Mississippi Hetero-Prom Bullshit

So, I’ve been stranded up here in suburbia lately, with my only Internet access coming in bite-size chunks at the public library. That said, I’m going to take the scant time I have to write a little. Ashley’s been working on a post about the history of Disney princesses in relation to feminism, and I would like to eventually comment on similar topics, as prompted by The Princess and the Frog. In the meantime, however, I want to address an ongoing controversy involving institutionalized homophobia. It’s the Fulton, MS Prom Discrimination.

The situation, which can be understood from glancing over a few news sources, is relatively straightforward. Constance McMillen, an 18-year-old student at Itawamba Agricultural High School, asked if she could attend the prom with her girlfriend, and wear a tuxedo. School officials told her no. Then they cancelled the prom itself, claiming that they were “taking into consideration the education, safety and well being of [their] students.” Students become upset with McMillen, although supposedly she wasn’t the reason for the cancellation, controversy flared nationally, and the ACLU sued the school district.

The results? The judge found the school district wrong, but felt it would also be wrong to forcibly reinstate the prom on April 2, because apparently it would “only confuse and confound the community on the issue.” Fulton sounds like a community that’s pretty easy to confuse and confound. Since the news broke of the school district’s bullshit decision, however, McMillen has become a rallying point for the rights of LGBT teens. A Facebook page called “Let Constance Take Her Girlfriend to Prom!” has hundreds of thousands of fans, and Dan Savage recently advocated donating to her cause. So, awesome! A lot of cool people are very much behind this brave young woman.

I think the above paragraphs should give you pretty much the objective background necessary to form an opinion and, if desired, show your support. And now I must subjectively say: Fulton, Mississippi, what the hell? Both my father and girlfriend went to school dances with same-sex dates, just because they wanted to, and neither was held to some nonsensical, arbitrary school policy. I don’t want to invoke my Yankee bias against the intolerance of the Deep South, but I see few other answers here.

The ACLU has also helpfully turned up a flyer handed out to Itawamba High students, informing them that their “guests… must be of the opposite sex.” You may notice that these aren’t “dates,” but “guests,” and it looks like as long as the two of you make a nice hetero couple, your “guest” can be just about anyone of any age. Why, exactly, was this rule in place? According to McMillen, the principal’s excuse involved same-sex students not in relationships trying to buy the cheaper tickets for couples instead of two more expensive individual tickets. Uh-huh.

So basically, in their effort to force students to pay through the nose for prom tickets, the school was willing to dismiss the existence of homosexuality. Ahh, what a pastoral dream world those Mississippian school administrators must be living in. Where women wear dresses, men wear tuxedos, and the two go together like peanut butter and jelly. (And you’re also forbidden from mixing peanut butter with peanut butter?) Here’s a little video where you can hear from Constance herself on the matter.

The matter of the tuxedo is similarly baffling. It reminds me of a story from last October where Ceara Sturgis, a 17-year-old lesbian student in Jackson, MS, was banned from wearing a tuxedo in her yearbook photo. As in McMillen’s case, it was chalked up to the ominous but inevitable “school policy.” I.e., it’s always been this way and that’s how we likes it. Granted, I don’t know why these girls want to wear tuxedos; in my thankfully limited experience, they’re uncomfortable as hell, and I’d rather wear a dress in an instant.

But then again, that’s why I’m me and they’re them, isn’t it? Because I’d prefer a dress and they’d prefer those stiff, black-and-white iron maidens we call tuxedos. And I’d also guess that just because they’re in Mississippi and surrounded by heterosexuals (and bigots), that doesn’t mean said identity rubs off on them. So thankfully the tide is turning and such outdated school policies are starting to change. As the Facebook page I linked to above mentions, a recent attempt by a Georgia high schooler to take his boyfriend to prom was successful, and McMillen’s trials may well have been a factor.

This piece of Internet access is rapidly coming to an end what with the library closing, so I’ll conclude hastily. The school district’s actions in this case is just self-evidently ridiculous. It reminds me of last Christmas, when Ashley’s hometown of Chambersburg made national news for its decisions about the displays in the town square: If the atheist veterans are going to get one, then no displays for anyone! Apparently the school administrators of Fulton have a similarly childish approach, and it’s kind of blown up in their face. I say good luck to Constance McMillen and the ACLU with their struggle to get this all sorted out in the name of equal rights, and fuck you to oppressive, illogical school policies everywhere. Now, take everything I said and apply it to gay marriage, too.

(PS: regarding the tuxedos, it’s not like they were planning to go naked or topless or wear bikinis or anything. They were going to be very heavily clothed, just in clothes that weren’t strictly gender normative! Any school that has a problem with that deserves to have its idiotic intolerance plastered all over the national media.)

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My Favorite Movies: Glen or Glenda

Favorite movies don’t always overlap with the canon of great movies. Sometimes they’re not even good. I wouldn’t call this selection a “guilty pleasure,” really; instead, it’s a movie made with so little talent and so much enthusiasm that I can spend hours pondering its mysteries. It’s Glen or Glenda (1953), the first feature film directed the infamous Edward D. Wood, Jr. I don’t remember when I first learned of this film. It’s hidden deep within the recesses of my childhood.

Coming from a family of devoted B movie fans, Ed Wood was of course in our pantheon along with Roger Corman, William Castle, and Inoshiro Honda of Godzilla fame. I saw Plan 9 at any early age (and many, many times since), as well as Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. (I think my father was disconcerted by how many times Martin Landau says “fuck.”) And somewhere along the line, I learned that Wood, the reputed “worst director of all time,” had made a movie about crossdressers. Some years ago, I turned up a DVD copy at the public library; my initial response was a mix of amazement, shock, and some third adjective involving surprise at the film’s low quality. Plenty more viewings would follow.

Glen or Glenda is a curious animal. On the one hand, it follows in the long tradition of classical exploitation filmmaking: movies made starting after WWI that pretend to educate while attempting to titillate. Glenda producer George Weiss had already attached his name to such movies as Test Tube Babies and Racket Girls, the latter of which has been in MST3K, and is probably the least sexy movie about female wrestling. Glen or Glenda was intended follow in this long-standing mold by ostensibly telling the public about sex-change operations while actually providing a teasing glimpse of taboo sexuality. All the trappings are visible, but with Wood at the helm, the film took off in several very strange directions at once.

Initially, Glen or Glenda looks like your usual exploitation movie. It has a topic, its selling point, and it’s even got what Eric Schaefer (writing in Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!: A History of Exploitation Films) calls the “square up”: the title card at the beginning justifying its existence, and warning that “this is a picture of stark realism”—generally code for “There might be some stock footage of a woman giving birth that shows her vagina.” However, for reasons unknown to anyone, the film then jumps to an aged, morphine-addicted Bela Lugosi sitting in a room full of skeletons and holding a book. His incomprehensible, long-winded monologue, all delivered in Lugosi’s inimitable Hungarian drawl, sets up the unpredictable, inexplicable structure of what is to come.

As Lugosi’s monologue demonstrates, it’s largely Wood’s script which keeps this from being just another bad exploitation movie. His dialogue is often redundant, usually stilted, and never good, yet grows increasingly strange, as if Wood had been drifting in and out of touch with reality (and the art of writing) while creating it. Similarly, the narrative as a whole makes stabs at being conventional, but consistently misses its mark, as if Wood’s internal compass were driving him toward the avant-garde.

Sure, a story starts up: a transvestite named Patrick commits suicide, a dim-witted police inspector goes to talk with a psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist launches into the usual “Let me tell you a story…” spiel that frames many exploitation films, Reefer Madness being a well-known example. But no sooner does he attempt to narrate the life of Glen/Glenda than Bela interrupts, signaled (as always) by a flash of stock footage lightning, and begins commenting on the psychiatrist in the vaguest terms possible: “There is no mistaking the thoughts in man’s mind… the story is begun…”

Lugosi’s presence is one of the film’s true mysteries. The obvious answer is that Wood was friends with Lugosi, and wanted to give the ailing veteran some work. Furthermore, Lugosi’s (somewhat faded) star power could potentially lend the movie some slight mainstream credibility; hell, he gets top billing. Even so, why locate him so undecipherably within the movie, intruding on the actual narrative, and generally making the entire film inaccessible to ordinary moviegoers? Both his dialogue and milieu feel drawn from another, even weirder movie, perhaps some uneasy mesh of fatalism, mysticism, and mad science.

Even without Lugosi, Glen or Glenda would be an outlier among exploitation films. Not only does it deviate heavily from its intended sex-change subject matter, but at times it feels uncertain what its subject matter is. Transvestites, or modern man’s inability to overcome destiny (albeit phrased much less coherently)? While most exploitation films let their morality tale plots flow unhindered, the psychiatrist frequently stops his own story to meditate on sexuality and tolerance. At one point, Glen visits his friend Johnny for advice, and Johnny tells his story, within a story, within a story.

All of this is exacerbated by the production values, which are even lower than those in Bride of the Monster and Plan 9. During the psychiatrist’s digressions, the film resorts to merely suggesting the existence of a set: a sign reading “BUS STOP” indicates a bus stop, and a water cooler evokes an office. Wood’s extreme dependence on stock footage also has its consequences: many scenes are reduced to voiceovers underscored by the same few seconds of cars on a freeway, or people on a busy sidewalk, and over a minute and a half of the Alan/Anne story consists of WWII battle footage (this, in a film that’s barely an hour long). Other uses are total non sequiturs, most infamously the buffalo herd stampeding while Lugosi chants, “Pull the string!”

Granted, pointing out badness in an Ed Wood movie may be like shooting poorly executed scenes in a barrel, but I think these examples help show why this movie is worth all the attention I give it. Many of these creative choices weren’t just bad, but unnecessary, and not really justifiable. I’d say this willingness to do the wrong thing, even if the only effect is undercutting traditional narrative cinema, sets Wood apart from the bulk of exploitation craftsmen, who were content merely to film their hackneyed story and maybe inject it with a few minutes of burlesque shows.

Glen or Glenda does have the requisite burlesque padding—inserted, may I add, right in the middle of the movie, with no narrative context whatsoever—but it has so much more going on that the drawn-out stripteases and softcore bondage porn feel like an interruption from the normal outside world of ’50s sleaze, in opposition to the ascended gibberish Wood’s been serving up. This padding is also sandwiched inside Glen/Glenda’s nightmare, the point in the movie where the main narrative (the psychiatrist’s story) intersects with the oneiric horror movie atmosphere of the Lugosi interludes.

This is a movie that takes its subconscious’s noctural soliloquies and puts them on the surface for the audience for the audience to puzzle over. During the nightmare sequence, both the visuals and the sinister, cackling dialogue become completely opaque, and you wonder, if this was transcribed and psychoanalyzed, would some new truth about gender identity be revealed? Or is there no meaning, just intimations toward one? Also, is that guy the devil?

It really is a movie brimming with mysteries, possibly wrapped in additional riddles and enigmas. Its incessantly tangential structure doesn’t help, as the movie repeatedly doubles back on itself, leading the viewer down stories and lines of argument that look eerily familiar. A few salient points can be gleaned from these many approaches, however, and the clearest of these is a plea for tolerance. Ultimately, this is a movie rooted in autobiography and personal interest—Wood’s own transvestism. And it’s remarkably progressive, in its own surreal way, asking (sometimes) for an acceptance of all gender and sexual identities.

Admittedly, the film does make more than a few self-contradictory statements and engages in some obviously false reasoning, but what emerges from the majority of the viewpoints presented is an internal consensus: if a man feels more comfortable in woman’s clothes (or a woman’s body) then those options should be available to him. (Unsurprisingly, female transvestites and transsexuals aren’t even considered.) The film’s one mention of homosexuals comes when the psychiatrist specifies that Glen is not one, but it’s not a condemnation by any means, itself a minor triumph for an era when the word “homosexual” was verboten in mainstream cinema.

Of course, Glen or Glenda doesn’t even come close to being a systematic or intelligible defense of transvestism, but that’s hardly its purpose. Instead, I see it as Ed Wood personally expressing, under the only circumstances he could, his feelings about crossdressing and gender identity. And amid a flurry of hysterical expressionism, he manages to say that people should accept ideas even if they seem strange at first. If Ed Wood had had a shred of talent or artistry, he might’ve been Jack Smith or Kenneth Anger. But he didn’t, thank God, and thus he was Ed Wood. With its indecisively multifaceted narrative, its manic mix of genres and messages, and its wildly idiosyncratic take on human sexuality, Glen or Glenda is one of my favorite movies.

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Star Trek fanzines and sexual freedom

A few months ago, I briefly mentioned “The Ring of Soshern,” an early example of Kirk/Spock slashfiction. Since then, searching for “Ring of Soshern”-related information has led a number of intrepid netizens to this blog. Thus, I’ve decided to devote some time to talking about this story as well as Star Trek fandom in general. You see, growing up, one of my best friends was a self-described “Trekkie” (he identified me, with my lesser devotion to the franchise, as a “Trekker”). I think his enthusiasm has waned some since 5th grade, but my point is that I was exposed to a wealth of Trek-related phenomena in my formative years. Hell, I used to play a game that involved listing off TNG episode titles for fun. (Did I mention I was a weird kid?)

The point of this autobiographical detour is to say that I have some small experience in the world of fandom, which is sometimes funny, sometimes depressing, and other times enjoyable. And Star Trek fandom is one of the oldest, best-established realms of nerdiness. The original series (aka ST:TOS), in its original run, lasted only from 1966-69, but had a profound impact – eventually leading to a Trek resurgence in the form of a film series, 5 (and counting) additional TV shows, and a wealth of peripheral media, including countless novels.

Then there’s everything made by fans, and that’s where we find “The Ring of Soshern.” Unfortunately, I can’t find the story online. I’m not sure why it hasn’t made the jump to the Internet; you’d think that as a nonprofessional, pseudonymous, but highly sought-after work, it’d be easily accessible. And yet. I’ve discerned that it was first distributed via photocopies around 1976, so about 7 years after TOS ended. In her essay “Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Study of Popular Culture” (published in, among other places, Cultural Studies), Prof. Constance Penley of UC Santa Barbara describes “Soshern” as a “highly revered and imitated story.” In 1987, it was anthologized in Alien Brothers, a high-quality fanzine that collected K/S stories.

From there, however, I have no idea where “Soshern” is gone or how to find it. Tracking down a copy of Alien Brothers would probably be the next step. As Penley’s essay suggests, K/S slashfic, and slashfic in general, evokes some worthwhile questions about free speech, homoeroticism, and the subjectivity of female fans. E.g., issues of obscenity – since slashfic is usually just glorified porn – or, for Penley, whether Kirk and Spock, as portrayed, are intended to actually be homosexuals, or whether other psychosexual processes are at work here in the mind of the author.

Something else I find fascinating (as Mr. Spock would put it) is the aesthetic divergences that fanfics and fan artwork can take from the original material. For example, just glance over the covers depicted in this index of Trek fanzines dating from around 1970-2005. I’m a huge fan of zines in general, looking at the evolution of independently printed publications prior to the existence of the Internet, and so for me, these are just gold. Nowhere in the canon of Star Trek would you find a visual sensibility like those on the cover of Spockanalia 5, Precessional, Two-Dimensional Thinking, Nova Trek (by the editor of Alien Brothers), or Spock 61. It’s just beautiful.

I feel like these little discoveries should at least somewhat counteract the popular perception of diehard Star Trek fans as nerdy losers who resemble Comic Book Guy; instead, they’ve sometimes been revolutionaries in terms of creative independent press and sexual openness in amateur literature. Decades ago, they took material produced for commercial television and adapted it into something personal, prized, and different, a format through which they could explore freedom and desire. In short, they went where no one had gone before.

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NY State Sen. Diane Savino on gay marriage

Really quick: courtesy of the blog Feeling Listless, I just found this video of New York State Senator Diane Savino speaking passionately and eloquently about gay marriage. She’s funny and moving. Enjoy!

[Sadly, the bill about which Savino was speaking failed by a vote of 38 to 24.]

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