A Cannibalistic Dissection Of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

28 Oct

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A week before the writing of this, FOX aired a remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, subtitled Let’s Do The Time Warp Again. I’m not averse to the idea of seeing it, but I’m not going to go out of my way either. Not for any particular reason politically, just simply because the original is so clearly and deeply rooted to a particular time period it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to update it. I’ll have more on that in a moment.

The main (and only) thing I need to know about the remake is that it showcased front and center a black trans woman, on the same channel FOX News is broadcast from, during a time when the right wing has dedicated themselves to a war against trans bodies. Regardless of any other merits or flaws in the project, I still find that deliciously subversive in a way the original never dared.

If you were hoping for more talk about the remake, I do apologize. There are plenty of other people talking about it, I swear. I’m not writing yet another thinkpiece about how problematic or transphobic or whatever the movie is. Plenty of other folks covering that ground. I’m not interested in RHPS creator Richard O’Brien’s bizarre and absurd notion that he can decide how much of a woman he is but nobody else can. Just yet another tired old has-been queen desperate for attention and latching onto trendy notions of “edginess” and “anti-political-correctness” as far as I’m concerned. The fact that he hates the remake makes me want to enjoy it out of spite tho.

What will I be talking about then?

Well lets start by talking about the Hays Code (and later rating systems) and the role of pulp sci-fi on queerness. Stories of alternate sexualities and gender explorations were all over the place in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, but due to publisher restrictions had to be formatted in a certain way. It was honestly surprising how far they were capable of going, as long as they didn’t directly show intimacy and all queer characters were punished at the end for their transgression from conservative mores. Here’s a sex-change sci-fi story from a 1953 comic book that covers the bases pretty well, with an exception I will elaborate on in a moment.

Rocky Horror Picture show even opens with the song “Science Fiction/Double Feature” which waxes nostalgic about shiny underwear and phallic Triffids, name-checking classic titles and names from films that would have been staples of a sci-fi obsessed 1975 audience’s childhood. Self-aware nods to these tropes echo throughout the film.

Lets line them up and see how the beats play out, shall we? We have aw shucks traditional protagonist(s), an audience insert for voyeuristic heterosexuals or questioning/curious queer folk:

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The protagonists find themselves stranded from the values and culture they took for granted, in a lawless anything goes environment:

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This leads to an awakening where deep, transgressive desires are brought to light and actualized… but at what cost?

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And at the end all transgressions are punished and the moral is driven home that some doors should never be opened:

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The spectre of conservative Americana glares disapprovingly at the dissolution of traditional values throughout the film. Not just figuratively, but directly and literally symbolized by multiple repeated vignettes evoking the sullen stoic gaze of the iconic Grant Wood painting American Gothic (a now campy and frequently satirized artwork that history forgets incited Rural Iowans to send the painter threats of violence).

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However, you will note that there is something missing from this one-to-one comparison between the sex-change comic book and Rocky Horror Picture Show. This is because in sex-change stories, the antagonist is the clothes or the transformation itself. This is as true in Glen Or Glenda in the 1950s as it was in The Danish Girl in 2015. This story has an antagonist with a distinctly more visceral presence, a hyperqueered fantasy to Brokeback their mountains and tempt them away from their traditional lives.

Enter Frank.

Frank is a transgressive nightmare, a culmination of everything feared about the sexual awakenings of the late 1960s/early 1970s. It goes well beyond the crossdressing and sexualization; Frank was meticulously designed to provoke. He literally hunts down, murders and later cannibalistically devours Eddie, a symbol of naive notions of 1950s “safe rebellion”. Eddie’s entrance, to the song “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul“, reflects an entirely different sort of nostalgia filled with sock hops instead of gruesome horror movies. Frank nonchalantly eulogizes Eddies murder by his hand as “a mercy killing! He had a certain naive charm, but no… muscle.”

Indeed.

When Frank displayed a pink triangle on his labcoat, the symbol was still viscerally shocking and radical. The book The Men With The Pink Triangle, documenting homosexual men’s experience in Nazi concentration camps, had only come out a couple years before. The infamous Paragraph 175 of German Law under which those men had been imprisoned was still on the books.

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Frank also dons a Lewis Leathers Aviakit Plainsman biker jacket adorned with badges from the Hell’s Angels and other recognizable biker gangs (including patches with the distinct Nazi Deaths Head and Eagle iconography of the Angels). This wasn’t the “making toy runs for sick kids” Hell’s Angels, this was the “locked Hunter S Thompson in the trunk of a car for several days” Hells Angels. This also presents contrast to Eddie’s sanitized pompadour-and-motorcycle schtick as the corny posturing it was.

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Frank’s fawning over his Frankenstein Atlas, Rocky, was another uncomfortable tribute/unmasking to the underlying homoeroticism in body-building culture, a subtext simultaneously acknowledged yet dismissed within said subculture. With Rocky as the dense and sweetly naive foil to Frank’s sexual innuendo, it’s presented as yet another affront to the values of yesteryear.

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Enabled through Frank’s brazen transgressions, the protagonists find themselves freed from convention to explore their own desires. This is illustrated in the floor show scene where the players vocalize their inner conflicts onstage. Columbia is full of regret and heartbreak, Rocky and Brad have newfound sexual urges that neither can quite figure out, and Janet feels empowered by the whole experience. Shortly afterwards, Riff-Raff and Magenta stage a mutiny to topple Frank as leader. Riff-Raff’s accusation says it all:

Frank-N-Furter, it’s all over
your mission is a failure
your lifestyle’s too extreme

Ironically, after forty years of cultural advance, a film that sought to deconstruct stifling tropes and liberate expectations has for the most part been relegated to yet another formulaic exploitation. It has a historical place, as a love-letter to the queer-coded villains of Hollywood’s golden age, but at this point Frank has joined them. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still a fun ritual for voyeuristic straights, closeted drama club queers and assorted connoisseurs of camp and kitsch and likely will be for at long as movie theaters continue to exist. However, the cultural critique is a bit toothless and obvious now, the references collecting dust, and subtext lost under performative rote.

And maybe the ritual is the point now, a sort of mystery cult initiation for average folks looking for an excuse to buy a corset. But I believe an occasional reminder of what it all means couldn’t hurt either.

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#Wikileaks And #AltRight Annouce Plans To Build Reaganbook 2.0

21 Jul

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It gets boring hiding in a foreign embassy all day, I’d imagine. Not exactly sure what crawled up the ass of rapist/webhost Julian Assange this morning, but he decided to throw one of his periodic racist tantrums on the Wikileaks twitter. Previous tantrums he’s thrown mostly involved piss-crying everywhere about Black Lives Matter, but this time he had a martyr. Twitter’s permabanning of some white supremacist twink well past his use-by date has got a lot of the most repulsive creatures on the internet bothered, Assange is no exception. After pestering the CEO of the company over it, because disallowing private companies the ability to refuse service is a libertarian cornerstone all of a sudden, he made a proclamation of “creating a new service”. Cool, go for it.

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Wait a minute. A far-right anti-gay racist-friendly cesspool social media site with administration that is absent and/or incapable to handle trolls and other internet dregs? Turns out one of those already happened; it was called Reaganbook. And it burned to the ground within a week of launch almost exactly two years ago.

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To be fair, Reaganbook was just the latest in a line of similar experiments. Preceding it were sites you’ve totally heard of like Tea Party Community, Social Postup, and FreedomTorch. Reaganbook was founded by Ohio Republican Janet Porter, from the activist group Faith2Action, in protest of Facebook’s acceptance of the gay community. Steeped in Republican Christian persecution complexes, she considered her rights violates somehow and strove to create a safe space for conservatives to gather.

To make sure things were as free as possible, there was no moderation to be seen and no verification for new accounts. Because freedom. A lot of folks found this hilarious and decided to join and watch the trainwreck, myself included.

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It started out mildly entertaining for the first couple sessions. Lots of ironic usernames and groups and folks taking the piss out of each other. And watching the actual conservatives trying to use the site and getting flustered was amusing.

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Before long the feed was swamped with beastiality porn, surgery videos and photos of gore. Just trying to make funny posts seemed pointless so I logged off for good. Within a couple days the website shut down completely.

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They’ve later relaunched as Freedombook, but that site hasn’t exactly been booming. Interested in seeing how this new far-right troll coddling site turns out. Maybe it’ll last two weeks? Anyone wanna start a betting pool?

Who Owns Queer Culture? Not Exclusively Cis Gay Dudes.

14 Apr

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I will admit to a difficult, but not entirely negative, relationship to the nihilistic queer media of my youth in the 90s.

It’s what I grew up on, and what I reciprocated in my own writings of the time. Despite the progressive, laid-back image, the 90s still had a lot to feel hopeless and pessimistic about as queer youth. My formative young adult sexual experiences began under both the continuing spectre of AIDS as well as under Texas sodomy laws. Not to mention, um, Texas. Matthew Sheppard was only a bit older than me, and a year later a drag queen/trans lady (like myself) in the same scene I performed in that was saving money for transition was stabbed 60 times and dumped in a ditch.

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So, I mean, I get the appeal of the medium. I also get the cheeky “scribble an anarchy symbol on your high school notebook and call it politics” attitude fueling writer(?) Tomas Allende’s recent screed in some neoreactionary buzzword factory imaginatively named “Trigger Warning”. Yawn. It’s a rambling, premise-less manifesto basically insisting that transgressive art, and thus “queer culture” is exclusively the realm of angry edgy gay boys that jerk off to anime. Double yawn.

That said, the article opens up promisingly enough. Allende describes the struggles of his closeted youth in Chile, a story I can deeply sympathise, along with his awakening through discovering the Greg Araki movie The Living End. A damn fine movie.

He then states:

“Queer cinema was not about married same-sex couples with a furry pet in the suburbs. It was the disenfranchised, the freaks, and the non-apologetic crowd of queers that served no purpose other than to be themselves. It was nihilistic, pointless, and fucking fabulous.”

And I’m inclined to agree.

I’m quite familiar with the films of Araki and Todd Haynes, as well as similarly bleak works like the short stories of Dennis Cooper and darkly humorous romps like “I Shot Andy Warhol”. I have a soft spot in my heart for all those tragic transsexual movies that I’m supposed to hate. If the story involved some nervous twenty-something trying butt stuff for the first time in the second act and then dying tragically in the third, I was probably all about it in the 90s.

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Strangely enough, this protest by Allende against banal gay assimilation just sort of hangs in the air, and is never elaborated on. In fact, things he says paragraphs later completely negate it.

Allende then begins gibbering the same sort of tired knee-jerk incomprehensible MRGay boilerplate about “third-wave feminism” you’d expect from the sort of chronic masturbator that would still have the Gamergate hashtag in his Twitter bio in 2016. Wait, holy shit he actually does. You can’t make this up.

It’s interesting, because second-wave feminism wasn’t exactly friendly to or inclusive of gay folks at the time. It took the intervention of a lot of folks now considered part of the core of the third-wave movement to reconcile the archaic racism and homophobia of the second wave.

Bringing up real history hardly means anything in this context, because Allende isn’t actually talking about culture. He talks about movies. He believes video games are a political movement. He admits the wild bareback fucking hard-partying boys in his cinema daydreams bear no reflection on his actual life. He exists in some reactionary simulacrum of the radical queer life he both idealizes and loathes.

I find it interesting that, despite claiming to be a fan of Greg Araki he spends two paragraphs railing against formation of sexual identity. Araki made A GODDAMN TRILOGY of movies about literally that. Totally Fucked Up is about exploring the boundaries of homosexuality, Doom Generation is about exploring the boundaries of heterosexuality (literally billed as “A Heterosexual Movie by Greg Araki“, and Nowhere explores a sexual landscape akin to pansexuality. If you don’t believe that term existed back then, here’s queer actor Alan Cumming describing himself as such in gay magazine OUT in 1999.

Allende: “The characters in those films… would never attempt to garner pity”

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Even after denying that queer folks experience oppression (or something), Allende laments how “being gay meant abuse, rejection, and the possibility of contracting an incurable disease which could lead to a horrendous death”… in the past tense.

Newsflash: HIV is still around. It would take more fingers than I have to count off the number of folks I consider reasonably close that have to deal with it as an immediate medical reality. There are still a staggering amount of homeless queer youth, due to rejection and abuse at home.

In any case, while dudes like Tomas are sitting at home watching 20+ year old movies and harboring political views less radical than my grandparents, there are people actually living in queer culture. Working to develop and upkeep sustainable communities of support. Making our own art to communicate with each other.

Maybe we don’t need you or your tired-ass homocon opinions.

Going Poly Made Having Sex With My Exes Partners Much Easier

1 Apr
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Yeah yeah yeah. It’s April 1st. Don’t get too mad at me. My first time doing this.

 

Sissy Killer: Silence Of The Lambs’ “Good/Bad Queer” Dynamic

24 Mar

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It’s been 25 years since Silence Of The Lambs was released, and there have already been plenty of hot takes to go around. Recently, Jos Truitt over at Feministing posted an unflinching and thorough deconstruction of what the character “Buffalo Bill” represents to the trans community. Naturally, cis people completely lost their shit.

“How could anyone identify with a serial killer?” they lamented. Good point, it’s not like Hannibal Lecter wound up in four novels, five films, and a television series currently on it’s third season where he is the protagonist. Oh wait.

sissykillers2Dinner’s Ready.

Why is it considered ok to empathize with Lecter and not Jame Gumb? Both were brutal mass murderers known for short tempers and for mutilating their victims. Gumb was a gender dysphoric survivor of child abuse and neglect, and Hannibal Lecter was a calculating abusive manipulator that shut her off from medical care and murdered her boyfriend. So why do people root for Gumb getting gunned down yet also for Lecter’s escape and promise to kill again?

Seriously, check out the last couple minutes of Silence Of The Lambs again. Lecter all decked out like Truman Fuckin Capote bragging about “having an old friend for dinner”. He’s a triumphant anti-hero rather than a villain. And it gets worse with each subsequent film/tv depiction.

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The answer is simple: Lecter represents the “good kind” of queer, and Bill represents the “bad kind”.

While I don’t share Truitt’s particular tattoo choice (although I have seriously considered both the spear wound and the “LOVE” hand tattoo), I do have a tramp stamp of “In Voluptas Mors”, and yes it is a reference to Silence Of The Lambs. I, also, have a bit of a soft spot for the movie. A particularly fascinating element of the movie is that it features two queer codedsissy villains”, but coded in different ways and pitted against each other.

What’s that? Hannibal Lecter isn’t actually gay? That’s ok, because Jame Gumb “isn’t actually transgender”, right?

sissykillers3Meanwhile, the only definitely gay person in the movie is dead.

In the book, the infamous “tucking scene” also invites the reader to voyeuristically review Gumb’s hormone regimen, thinning body hair, voice training, electrolysis and even passing mention of breast development. This is presented with both a clinical air and a sense of disdain at the progress. But this is ok because Gumb is not “really transgender”, right?

Later in the book Agent Crawford threatens to have federal funding cut from the Johns Hopkins sex-reassignment wing and have the surgery re-classified as of non-medical necessity. There’s no telling how many transsexuals ongoing medical treatment were effectively being held hostage as an afterthought in this power-play. But this is ok because Gumb is not “really transgender”, right?

I’m sure there is also something to be said about namechecking the Johns Hopkins Trans Surgery wing as a plot point in the book, considering the actual one was shut down a decade before.

And even as Ted Levine’s lumbering, gangly tr*nny monster performance is frequently superimposed over depictions of the lives of trans folks, and the spectre of which haunts discussions of everything from “bathroom bills” to TSA clearances, Lecter represents the opposite of this stereotype. Lecter is theatrical without camp. He is effette but not effeminate. He drips with sarcasm and is impeccably refined and cultural and worldly.

The comparisons don’t stop there. In the novel, through Agent Starling’s feminist hero eyes she recognizes Lecter as “small, sleek, and in his hands and arms she saw wiry strength like her own” in contrast to Gumb’s frequently referenced large hefty frame. In the film, Lecter is depicted as deliberately clinical and meticulously clean, a contrast to the squalor of Gumb’s living area and poor hygiene and posture. Anthony Hopkins came up with the idea of having Lecter dressed in white in order to invoke imagery of doctors and dentists and peoples instinctive unease around them. But it also positions him yet again as an virtous-appearing authority figure. Perhaps this is why we are expected to continue to take Lecter’s gatekeeping of Gumb’s dysphoria at face value, despite the fact that it’s coming from a man restrained in a strait jacket and spitter’s mask.

“He’s not a transsexual, Clarice. He just thinks he is, and he’s puzzled and angry because they won’t help him.”

There’s almost definitely a “high/low functioning” mental illness dynamic going on as well that someone may choose to explore further down the line. How does nobody ever question Lecter’s capacity to make psychological diagnoses not only without clinical observation but while also himself deemed in a dangerous enough capacity mentally to warrant institutionalization?

sissykillers4Definitely someone with authority’s best interest in mind – Everyone Somehow

It’s not like positioning the audience to arbiter Lecter as a gatekeeper of queer sexuality is limited to his interaction with Jame Gumb. I mentioned earlier his murder of Gumb’s boyfriend, named after a leftist French intellectual. In the opening to the movie Red Dragon Lecter is literally shown in judgement of Raspail’s performativity, and Jesus Christ as Lecter scowls at Raspail’s unsatisfactory ability to blow the flute I’m sure Freud was doing cartwheels in his grave. And then, in the following scene, a bunch of progressive intellectuals giggle over Raspail’s missing status and subsequently nonperson him based on the same inadequate perfomativity Lecter judged him worthy of death over.

sissykillers5He’s either decided to kill a man or poop himself.

This sort of gatekeeping, this arbitration of judgement over folks less desirable is clearly the role the unexamined audience wants from Lecter. He returns to this role over and over and over, evolving from a useful monster to a justified protagonist in his own universe, while his gruesome body count silently grows.

Maybe y’all should re-evaluate what you consider so identifiable in Hannibal Lecter.

Shout Out To A Decade Ago When I Was The Guitarist Of A Pop-Punk Band.

29 Feb

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One upon a time I was a tragically weird, hard-drinking scrawny homo working in a lesbian bar that was about to close down a few months later. I was dating a really cute drag queen at the time as well, but that relationship was kinda falling apart. I had also decided to part ways with Destroyed For Comfort’s guitarist/other founding member Dave Bates, and wasn’t sure if I could perform solo yet. Summer 2005, and damn near everything seemed up in the air.

So I joined a pop punk band as the 2nd guitarist.

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Secular End had just relocated to Austin, Texas from Phoenix, Arizona. I’d seen them perform a few times before then, and even booked one oft their early shows (the above is the flyer for it, but they aren’t listed). Shortly after I had joined, they released the album “Revenge Of The Phoenix“, and most of our live sets were based off that album. They had an undeniable clockwork tightness, and I brought a chaotic energy the band never had before or since. They performed in understated jeans and tshirts, while I spat fake blood and wore wild costumes and makeup. We played to larger crowds than either of our projects had attracted before; it was pretty damn cool, honestly. We even had a music video that had rotation on Austin Music Network, something else that no longer exists sadly.

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I was in the band for about a year before we parted ways and I started booking shows as Destroyed For Comfort again. It still remains this odd episode in my life, this surreal adventure.

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“Gender-Critical” Extremists Encouraging Men To Undress In Women’s Restrooms.

24 Feb

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As of the writing of this article, there are over 40 bills targeting transgender individuals being voted on in various states. This is despite having zero justification to do so, as transgender protection laws lead to no increase in crime. In response, a group of self-identified “gender-critical” activists has been encouraging men to undress around children and women. What sort of men would do this sort of grotesque predatory exhibition, what could possibility be their motivation?

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Gender-criticals don’t care, as long as you say you hate trans folks. Just ask gender-critical convicted pedophile Nelson Garcia, who rants all day about the evils of transgender bathroom use on his sad little blog.

gendercriticaltoiletTERF2…and still fantasizing about men having sex with little boys

Anyway, these men acting out their creepy predatory fantasies out of some perverse sense of righteousness does nothing to test or examine the laws in place. These men were ejected, the laws work the way they were intended. And yet these creeps turn around and continue scaremongering based on the actions of their own protesters.

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If that isn’t repulsive enough, they are also attempting to goad their children into illegal acts of sexual assault.

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Astonishing.