Wednesday, September 16, 2009
So this week New York magazine has done a cover story on Neil Patrick Harris, whom they dub the first (openly) gay break out TV star.
So what do they have him doing on the cover?
That's right -- putting on lipstick.
Do you think they would have asked a straight actor to do that?
Yeah, that's what so many gay men do (especially in the bear community) -- put on their shirt, their tie -- and then slap on some bright red lipstick.
I was gratified to see that on the magazine's web site plenty of people were put off, a bit appalled, and even angry about the dumb cover.
Of course, some people just don't get it.
One commenter said that actors wear make up and that it would be funny if a straight actor put on lipstick, so what's wrong with a gay actor doing it etc. etc. etc. Another posted that it was part of a "theatrical" scene not a "gay" scene. Surrrrre. C'mon, did they have to tout this openly gay actor with a shot of him putting on lipstick!? [Besides, Harris is not wearing drag but what appears to be a typical business outfit, so why would he fucking need lipstick?]
The point is that straight men and gay men are perceived differently in our society. Gay men have been struggling for decades to be accepted as men.
Why did Harris even agree to pose for this shot? In the reasonably well put together article by Emily Nussbaum he says, in reference to his boyfriend, "if I say something like 'He didn’t wave flags,’ it sounds like I’m disrespecting people that do, who I think are tremendously important, but there’s more than one way to get into people’s psyches."
That's always been one of the big problems for the gay community. Celebrities always get more attention than activists from the media and general public (and the gay community) but celebrities don't always have a strong gay identity or feel any need to "wave a flag" or think responsibly about the gay image.
Later in the article, which looks at other Out actors and their chances for becoming stars or leading men, Nussbaum writes: "When Grey’s Anatomy’s T. R. Knight came out, it underlined his lack of chemistry with his female co-stars."
I never watched Grey's Anatomy but I always bristle at the suggestion that a gay actor can't do convincing love scenes with women . I mean, Rock Hudson certainly did and he was by no means a particularly great actor. Suggesting that gay men can't be convincing leading men in hetero romantic dramas or comedies is forgetting that it's all about acting. [In any case, Harris has just been cast in a leading "straight" role in a romantic comedy.]
Back to Harris and his lipstick. I don't know if it was a straight person who came up with this idea (or Harris?) or a really dizzy queen who thought it would be cute -- oy vey! -- but combining "gay" with make up is so old hat and tiresome, so indicative of the narrow perception in which the very diverse gay male community is held, that it really makes you think that even forty years after Stonewall it's "three steps forward and two steps backward."
And I think of all the homosexual men who stay in the closet or won't identity as gay because they think (rightly, I'm afraid) that the dominant gay male image in most people's minds is that of a silly "queen" who wears make up and pliably swishes about on the command of some dumbnut photographer.
New York will probably justify the cover by saying that it's edgier and more attention-getting than a more standard shot of Harris would have been. But where is their imagination? Is Harris putting on lipstick really the best they can come up with?
Not inventive. Not imagination. Not clever.
Just stupid, disrespectful -- and debasing.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
A newspaper in Portland, Oregon reported:
"Sharing a meal at a Loaves & Fishes Center gives senior citizens the opportunity to save money, get out of the house, catch up with old friends and make new ones. Now GLBT seniors can enjoy these activities at a new Loaves & Fishes site designed as a safe, welcoming space for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex seniors. This is the first program of its kind in the Northwest."
Don't get me wrong. I think there should be special spaces and programs for LGBT seniors, but what made me laugh is the inclusion in the news story of the word "questioning." [The inclusion of "intersex" also gave me pause, as I doubt if there's any -- or many -- intersexed individuals in Portland or anywhere else. Not putting anyone down, here, just being factual. At least they didn't include "asexual!"]
I mean, imagine being a senior citizen and you're still "questioning" your sexuality!
Of course, this probably isn't as bizarre as it sounds, as there are many repressed and closeted individuals-in-denial of all ages within the fringes of the gay community. Larry Craig, anyone? And all those "straight" guys seeking regular sex with men that gay therapist Joe Kort thinks are really heterosexual. Give me a break!
Still, imagine that you're pushing eighty and you're still confused about your sexual orientation!
Confusion is understandable in youth. You don't fit the stereotypes, you have some (minor) interest in the opposite sex, you're dealing with internalized homophobia and so on. But after awhile one has to face the facts.
In other words, if you're questioning whether or not you're gay, you're probably gay.
And as I've said many times, it's okay to be gay.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
OF SOAPS AND COMICS
When I first mentioned the new lesbian Batwoman in Detective Comics, I mentioned how there had been a very sympathetic lesbian character, a cop, in Superman some years back. Well her name was Maggie Sawyer and she's now captain of the Major Crimes Unit. Guess who shows up in only the third installment of the new Batwoman series (Detective 856)? Our gal Batwoman, dressed in a tuxedo and with an odd make up job [definitely a "lipstick lesbian"] runs into Maggie at a fundraising gala in Gotham -- or is it Metropolis? Anyway, Maggie, too, is dressed in a tuxedo. Somehow Maggie [who used to have a lover] immediately surmises that Kate/Batwoman is a lesbian and asks her for a dance [see photo].
Frankly, I find this all just a little too precious -- and self-conscious, for lack of a better word. I don't think a tuxedo on a woman is necessarily a code for "lesbian." [Generally whenever I see woman in tuxes they tend to be orchestra conductors, but that doesn't mean they're gay.] The whole business with Kate and Maggie is just a little too cute.
I have no idea of the orientation of the writer Greg Rucka. Rucka writes in today's typical comics style, meaning he takes up right where the last installment left off, there's no synopsis to remind you of who the various players are, and you're left to fend for yourself. Rucka does try to maintain a certain level of characterization, but I'm not certain he has any real idea of how to deal with Batwoman's lesbianism.
But then I confess that I had no idea that the new female Question -- who has a back up strip in Detective -- was also a lesbian and had just broken up with Batwoman. [We saw the break up in the Batwoman strip.] I was told this by a comics fan at my favorite bar. This back story about The Question may have been revealed in another comic at some point, but it certainly wasn't made known in the story itself.
Moving from the comics to the soaps:
I wrote a while back about the actor who quit The Young and the Restless in a huff because he didn't want to play a gay role ["Adam"] and kiss another actor. Big mistake. The "kiss" -- when it came -- was off-camera so we never got to see anyone lock lips. There was no actual softcore or after-glow sex scene, either. We just saw the two men buttoning up their shirts when it was over. Adam insists that it was a one time thing, but neither Rafe, the man he slept with [basically to use him, but still ...], or Adam's girlfriend, are convinced -- in fact, she broke up with Adam when she found out. Adam's father, Victor, told him he was okay with his being gay and Adam really didn't say anything, although he probably still identifies as straight. Adam is a fairly loathsome character, being nasty and under-handed to his father's new wife, Ashley, who has done nothing but be kind to him. Rafe, on the other hand, is a much more positive character, and is openly gay.
The Young and the Restless also introduced another gay character named Phillip Chancellor. Actually the character -- and the actor -- were on the show twenty years ago when Philip was killed off. Now the story is -- and this could only happen in the soaps -- that Phillip faked his death because he couldn't deal with being a Chancellor [with all the expectations that went with it] and with being gay. I've heard of some weird reactions to being in the closet, but faking your own death! Phillip is played by an openly gay actor, Thom Bierdz -- who played the role twenty years ago as well -- but he seems to do little else but wander around trying to bond with his son and ex-wife and apologize to the family members who were shocked that he never gave them a chance to accept him for who he is. A nice-looking man, he seems never to have had a long-time relationship, doesn't seem that happy being gay, and certainly has zero gay identity. If this is Y&R's idea of a positive gay character, all I can say is that they've got to be kidding. Hopefully Phillip will lose that hang dog expression and be given an actual storyline or two. It would also be interesting if Adam comes to accept that he's attracted to men.
The gay characters are much better handled on As the World Turns, as I wrote about a while back. Luke and Noah remain a positive and interesting gay couple, but it's obvious -- this being a soap opera, after all -- that their commitment will be tested in future episodes. The show has introduced a cute professor who is helping Noah work on his screenplay. [In a completely absurd development, Noah had to fly to Hollywood on the day of Luke's father's funeral to meet with -- get this! -- Jude Law about his screenplay. Right. A college kid with no agent and Jude Law. Law himself did not appear on the show, but of course no one expected he would.] Luke seems to be getting a bit jealous of all the time Noah spends with the professor.