Archive for August, 2008

Stories With Men and Women

August 26, 2008

Because my ego is too well-developed, I had just finished taking all my cards off the table when Adam called. My phone told me it was David.

— David is boring me. Let’s go to a movie.
— Fine. I think I need one right now.

Adam pulled up in David’s car. “Where is David?” I asked. “Reading! Being boring.” I couldn’t remember the name of the movie we had picked out of a hat when buying the tickets. The board above had it abbreviated as ‘Vicky Chris.” When I got to the front of the concessions stand, the cashier bitchily said, “Yes?” I replied “Yes!” back, and we shared a nice several second power stare-down during which I stared at her as she stared somewhere above my right ear. Adam smacked me and whispered “she makes four dollars an hour, lay off.” Already I was emotionally distraught. I felt this confrontation was a portent; coupled to the fact that I couldn’t remember what we were even seeing, I expected to hate the movie. I ordered my cherry coke and we made our way to the auditorium where I saw the full name of the movie was Vicky, Christina, Barcelona.

All I knew was that it was a Woody Allen movie. During the first several awkward seconds of narration, we were filled in. Vicky adheres to a serial monogamist’s viewpoint that commitment has an intrinsic beauty, whereas Christina clearly reads too much Anaïs Nin, dividing her love-objects into plural sites of dissatisfaction. Christina doesn’t know what exactly she’s looking for, but she knows she is looking for something more. I haven’t much appreciated Allen since he began raiding Young Hollywood for his cast. As mentioned before, I’m most a fan of his serious Bergman period, Interiors, September. Melinda & Melinda did turn out to be a passable experiment showing different ways of how the same story could be told switching off from comedy and tragedy. Scoop was a parody of Allen’s over-serious Matchpoint (which, in turn, was a sexy version of American Tragedy or the film adaptation, A Place in the Sun, — a quick check of wickipedia reveals that this is not an original observation, damnit — with Jonathan Rhys Myers showing off what Cintra Wilson refers to his gorgeous layer of ‘sub-cutaneous baby fat’.). The battle of tragedy and comedy gets a new spin in Vicky Christina Barcelona, as Vicky and Christina are simultaneously solicited by the same man, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem).

It is easy to think that this is another Woody Allen attack on neurotic women, but it seemed clear to me that a lot of the parody was directed at the pretensions of privatized sexuality in general, as well as the pressure valve release of bourgeois affairs (which my favorite person ever — that hair flipper, Laura Kipnis –, thinks are Just So Kewl!). For every “No means Yes” implied in the film, Allen twists with his own typical “Yes means No” — which is the element that many people tend to hone in on as Allen’s innate misogyny (read: women are fickle bitches). Woody Allen doesn’t have enough of an emotional range to be truly offensive. His subject matter is reduced and contained enough to be pretty innocuous. By now he’s right enough about the elements of intimacy that he’s been dissecting for the past 73 years or so. His contempt for each character’s verbalization of their own sexuality is hilarious. It makes some of the terrible actresses he chooses — Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson — palatable. My favorite scene is when one of the characters is in the middle of telling a joke, and, bored with him, the film’s sound cuts out to mute the douche-bag.

I’ve seen some well-done movies this summer, such as The Dark Knight, but I haven’t really enjoyed any since this one. It was also a nice change of pace to be able to see a movie without suffering diverse concussions in the queue outside. Also, Vicky Christina Barcelona is the sexiest title ever. It’s a classed up version of a 70s porn title, just with the verbiage and adverbs removed. Later, I asked Adam why David didn’t come. He had trouble putting it into words.

— He likes action movies… I just don’t think he likes stories about men and women.

I get this. I really do. It is difficult to take the representation of lunatics like Batman or the Joker (or the idiot from the Die Hard movies) personally, whereas several times I felt skewered by Allen when one of his characters would voice the kind of self-important thought that I might at puff up with at certain points. Watching this film, I could feel my mature ego unravel. What is likable about Allen is that after he humiliates the viewer, grinding our obviousness into the dirt, his overt decadence lifts us up. That’s true entertainment. The blatant lesbian fetishism of Vicky and Maria Helena (Cruz) screwing in the dark room after Maria Helena has declared, “I have thought of killing you many times,” was such a joyous celebration of Allen’s basest instincts that it becomes impossible to judge the shameless old pervert. And by extension, the viewer ceases judging himself.


Stan Lee Presents

August 20, 2008

Stan Lee and Marvel Comics are proud to present…

The Red Queen!
coming at you monthly in the pages of Uncanny X-Men.

I am in love with the Red Queen. I experienced a hot-flash, memory loss, anxiety and depression just reading about her.

On his blog, Brian Cronin broached the issue of gay bashing that I mentioned in my last post, and explained the difference between textualist and intentionalist approach to reading comics. I’m glad Cronin introduced the terminology, even though I find the distinction overlegalistic and a bit inadequate to the situation. The Red Queen begs for a psychoanalytic interpretation. (Off with your dick!) And her creators are clearly crying out for counseling. Actually, I have to praise Fraction and his co-plotter, Ed Brubaker, for having done their market research. Anyone who knows comics understands that BDSM is a big interest for lovers of Chris Claremont’s “classic” run on the X-Men.

Cronin reports that Marvel is swerving on the matter.

Apparently there is a leaked copy of the original script of Uncanny X-Men #501 making the rounds of the internet, and in it, the characters at the beginning of the story are referred to as either “queers” or “queer freaks,” I forget which one [EDITED TO ADD: A helpful editor at Marvel dropped me a line to note: “[A]fter looking at the script, I saw no mention of queer/queers/queer freaks. I don’t know what’s going around the ‘net, but it’s not real.”

Technically, that is correct. The script is for Uncanny X-Men #500, not #501, and, even more technically, they were leaked proofs — not a script, per se. No, they’re not a fake. I don’t think there’s any need to post them, though, since the crassness of the plot is obvious even without emphasizing the queer-baiting overtones that were edited out at the last minute. It’s a bit of a no-win situation for Marvel since the scene was gross enough as is, but they couldn’t even bring themselves to go whole-hog. There’s nothing worse than passive aggressive bigotry.

Others have written more eloquently than I can about the danger in writing to Current Events — picking out a topic you’ve glanced at in the latest Economist and running with it. Marvel authorized a guy to post on one of their message boards that “the story is going somewhere” — good to know dude. In other news, Ed Brubaker is indignant!

Being as Matt Fraction is one of my best friends, and as I’m co-plotter of said X-Men issue, allow me to laugh in the face of anyone who thinks that either Matt or I are homophobes or ignorant idiots.

I guess I could point out my GLAAD award, or all the gay and lesbian characters Matt has written without making it an afterschool special, but that seems like it would be too much.

A tad over-wrought, non? I really do hate to be bitchfull about this (I do!), therefore I leave comments open to other people who want to make creative suggestions for what Ed can do with his GLAAD award.

How Do You Like To Take Your Gay Bashing?

August 15, 2008

As you all know, I am an X-Men fan. Partly this is out of habit; partly, I like to use the franchise as a touch-stone for how good and bad the superhero genre can get. I also tend to like the fans, who create discussion threads such as, “Are Clones Real Characters?” X-Men comics and fans are simply the ones I know the best. Typically, my tone is sarcastic when discussing the book; almost never is it angry. But I’m pissed off right now.

One comic book character I really did like (as you can see in previous posts) is Dazzler. I just think they made up a great little gal when they created that girl. One doesn’t usually like comic characters, but you can’t help but like Alison. In honor of her return to the X-Men book, and as a favor to my friend Ben, who is the biggest Dazzler fan on the planet, I’d written up a post about the Dazzler comic and female ordinariness. I was especially fascinated with one issue from her 1980s solo series, which was an issue dedicated to Dazzler’s experience of terrible pick-up lines and come-ons. All I needed was preview art from issue #501 to break so that I could headline the essay with a picture of an updated Alison Blaire blasting the reader with rainbows. Instead, I log onto the net and get punched in the gut.

When I read Uncanny X-Men #500 and saw the Hellfire Cult converge on Pixie (if you don’t know her, she’s literally a superhero fairy) and her gay friend after a Dazzler concert, I felt a low grumbling in my stomach. They certainly wouldn’t get gay-bashed, would they? In interviews for CBR, Marvel announced that Dazzler would return to comics in issue #501. I was certain that Dazzler would step out of the concert venue and dazzle the shit out of the Hellfire homophobes.

I was mistaken.

Previews for issue #501 show the following:

Enlarge This Shit

A boot to the face and a baton to the head. Srsly, Land? You did not just trace a prostitute orgasming to represent a 15 yr old girl in the middle of a hate crime! Later in the issue, out Vietnamese lesbian, Karma (Xi’an Coy Manh), is targeted by the same thugs after they’ve already had their way with Pixie and her nameless queer buddy. Dazzler does not show up to protect her gay following.

Instead of diva fabulousness, we get dead lesbians walking and a ridiculous new hormonal BDSM super-villainess, The Red Queen, whose career is certain to end at menopause. It’s enough to make me want to seek out acclaimed writer Matt Fraction and forcibly shave off his straight-boy hipster soul patch. Not even my reviled enemy, CC, would pull such a bald-faced stunt! He’d at least try to veil it in a “deep” allegory. In the meantime, we have Cyclops and Emma in bed in three different comics in a month, literally, trying to reproduce for the sake of “the mutant species.” Suck it, Fraction, you fagmo. I can already see Marvel now backpedaling to tell us that the bashed kid wasn’t gay — he just happens to be a teen into Disco.

And I can hear the little pests demanding answers to the following bullshit questions:

  • How do u know he’s gay? Rn’t you just stereotyping urself?
  • So, gays in superhero comics should be exempted from getting hurt?
  • Don’t you think the author is trying to make a point?
  • Why should writers censor ugly realities?
Gay bashings are a fact of life, non? Ergo, we must have them in our super-hero comics! Many of them! We all know that the struggles of gays and lesbians to walk down the street are a rich mine for metaphor. And because we must have some, how do you prefer to take your gay bashings?

Freedom Ring Enjoys His Bashings with a Side of Penetration

  • A) Dignified Bashings: Alfred the Butler (Batman) – takes his many bashings with dignity.
  • B) Current Events Bashings: Abu Graib style torture for the Young Avengers/Runaways gays/lesbians (all four queer characters (only those four) — two couples, Lucy in the Sky & Xavin, Wiccan & Hulkling — were tortured together in a crossover issue. One big GLBT Family).
  • C) Bolt from the Blue Bashing: Connor Hawke – this Eurasion faggot takes his bashings with a laser beam from space (also see Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
  • D) Our Heroes Fight for Tolerance: Karma + Pixie & her gay Dazzler fan friend will overcome!
  • E) The Buttplug Incident – Freedom Ring killed by penetration from a dozen angry buttplugs.
  • F) Gays Make Good Zombie – Northstar, the most famous gay superhero, killed by Wolverine and turned into an evil Ninja Zombie (also see the new X-Files movie with the gay-married zombie serial killing couple)
  • G) After School Special Bashing: Terry Berg in Green Lantern – “Gay Bashing is Bad! OMG!”
  • H) Don’t Worry It Will Grow Back: Anole loses arm – emo gay teen suicide kid loses arm, but that’s ok. He’s a mutant lizard. Those things grow back.
  • I) Don’t Let Your Friends Drink and Drive: Mariko Yashida killed by Mimic on a drug/mind control binge.
  • J) With Cream

The openly gay Northstar has recently been killed in three “alternate reality” comic book universes — twice in once month — (“Age of Apocalypse”; the Enemy of the State story in the main comics; “Ultimate Universe” steroid overdose). When editorial prevented a writer from giving Northstar AIDS, he was once transformed into a fairy dying of fairy diseases until his religious sister saved him with light. Honey Lemon of Big Hero 6 once pulled an alternate reality Sunpyre out of her power purse and they became lovers, yet where is Sunpyre these days?! A couple of years back, Karma and her coffee shop love interest were written out of New X-Men/Academy X, apparently because teen readers didn’t need to see an ongoing lesbian relationship. In a recent summer event, Phyla-Vell was widowed when her girlfriend, Moondragon, was killed (a couple of issues after her ear was cut off).

I don’t really think this is a Women in Refrigerators thing. In most cases, Death by Butt-Plug is not about making nearby straight male protagonists seem emotionally deeper. Something else is at work in these killings. It seems to me to be a more overdetermined phenomenon than that. Gays and lesbians seem to represent the very concept of victimhood.

Alas, in protest, Ben has deleted his fabulous Dazzler blog. It’s a shame. I was highly anticipating his entry about Dazzler being called a “queer lover” in Uncanny X-Men #505.