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A Cannibalistic Dissection Of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

28 Oct Rocky Horror Picture Show

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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.

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.

 

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

24 Feb

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(EDITORIAL NOTE BY ME AUGUST 2018: Shit this predates the whole #ManFriday garbage by almost two years)

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.

Is Kylo Ren Queer-Coded? Well, Yes And No.

14 Jan

kyloren0Image from this comic by Andi Espinosa.

Since finally getting to see the new Star Wars movie about a month after everyone else did, I’ve found myself immersed in the surrounding discussions of it. Like, why the fuck was Han so excited to use Chewbacca’s weapon for apparently the first time in the decades they’ve been friends? How come in 30 years has none of the computer tech advanced past 16 color raster graphics, blinking lights and LEDs? Also is Kylo Ren technically yet another Disney queer-coded villain, and how awful are you for empathizing with the Nazified little shit in a queer way?

kyloren5Okay maybe I’m participating in different conversations than y’all.

I’ve been seeing a lot of talk lately about how Kylo Ren is the modernized face of impotent nerd rage. He’s like a one-man Gamergate, without all the Nazi imagery… oh wait. And, honestly, many of the traits that could be read as queer have been gradually integrated into uneasy heteromasculine posturing the past few decades, as addressed by fans and critics thinking of him as “emo“. There is a lot to be said about imagery of nerdbro ego projection and predation in many of his actions as well.

kyloren8Above borrowed from this comic strip.

And yeah I get that. I’m sure even more can be said in that regard. I’ve personally been humoring the idea that Kylo Ren’s encounter w/Han Solo is a commentary on neo-masculinity. Like Han represents old-guard swagger and grit and “benevolent sexism” and is a masculinity relic… he’s literally a cowboy. An artefact of a different age of manhood. Kylo Ren represents the new face of such: internally tortured, confused, with wildly inappropriate idealizations and bad posture. Watch Kylo Ren walk around uneasily in his uniform next time you see the film, see how forced his movements are. Kylo’s nervous stilted gait represents the new guard carrying the torch for men’s advocacy. Kylo winds up doing what he does (SPOILER: murders his dad) cuz of his misplaced interpretation of how masculinity works: aka a compulsive desire to “prove himself”.

But we’re not actually suggesting that Kylo Ren is queer. Or at least I’m not. But we have to keep in mind what queer coding is. We also need to differentiate queer coding from queer-baiting, a more modern trope of hinted sexuality, which also appears in the film.

kyloren1And how.

Spoiler alert, but I’m gonna be hammering on and on about this sort of thing over the course of several upcoming articles (not about Star Wars tho). In this case, I believe whether Kylo Ren is queer-coded or not may mean different things between folks older or younger than 30. Folks like us grew up with less media representation. Some of us may be a bit more sensitive or in-tune with the “nod-nod wink wink” aspects of this than folks growing up in an era where a character can actually be queer without also having to be a mass-murderer to satisfy some garbage moral clause.

To me Kylo’s unmasking scene in the torture chamber more than a little bit resembled when Ra unmasks himself in the first Stargate movie. The hard, cruel gray and black immobile feature-obscuring mask giving way to reveal a soft androgynous face and sensitive eyes. In the case of Stargate, particularly, strategically revealing the face of the actor that played a trans woman in The Crying Game just a couple years before, one of the most iconic and recognizable trans characters in film (for good or for bad).

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And it’s not like we haven’t seen the “prissy evil son in the shadow of an impossibly badass father whose shoes he may never fill” dynamic before.

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Also, this is Disney we are talking about. The company that pretty much wrote the book on queering up their baddies.

kyloren4Coincidence? I think… actually yeah probably coincidence.

The thing about Star Wars movies, however, is that just by existing they change the face of  everything they touch. While doing so, they completely reinvent the visual language surrounding such, from fashion to archetypes and of course special effects. These changes become so widespread because damn near everyone winds up seeing them.

kyloren7Well everyone that matters, anyway.

Perhaps this really is a calculated narrative side-step to replace tired Hollywood Golden Age homophobia with biting commentary on evolving male ego. If so I have to admit I’m impressed.

There Were No “Men Thinking They’re Napoleon” – Debunking Anti-Trans Armchair Psych

26 Dec

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Inevitably, when trans folks existence gets mentioned online, the topic gets bombarded with folks throwing out half-remembered medical/psychological diagnoses about what is “really” going on. Now, armchair philosophy isn’t exclusive to topics related to trans stuff by any means, or is it any less annoying or hostile. I’ve just observed enough that I found common patterns I want to address/de-construct directly.

Also, a reminder that if someone online is claiming to be a professional and throwing around dismissive and pathological implications of your behavior and what medical/psychological measures you “should” be taking to address them, that is very likely a violation of their professional license.

That said, for starters, I actually kind of love when people start throwing this one around: because it proves their knowledge of psychology begins and ends with Bugs Bunny:

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That’s not a thing. “Men who think they were Napoleon” was never a thing. Ever.

It’s a frequently cited example of classic 19th century “schizophrenia” symptoms, but has no actual recorded documentation of such. On page 604 of William James’ 1890 treatise Principles Of Psychology, he describes instances of hypnotizing men to believe they are Napoleon (amongst other things), but only temporarily. It was also used an early-20th century comedy trope misrepresenting the Adlerian concept “Napoleon Complex”. It’s referenced in cartoons, Laurel and Hardy shorts, and even used as a prominent character trait for one of the antagonists in John Steinbeck’s classic story Of Mice And Men. Ironically, Napoleon Complex itself also been proven not to be a thing. Hell, Napoleon wasn’t even particularly short for his time.

But, nine times out of ten, the reason people think it is a thing is because of this:

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The classic 1956 Bugs Bunny cartoon “Napoleon Bunny-Part” more or less established this concept to mainstream audiences. And, hilariously, you see people reference it like they are citing a case study.

This sort of stuff, however, I don’t have quite the sense of humor for:

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Comparisons between gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia are inevitable, and always bunk. They aren’t clasified the same, they aren’t treated the same, and they do not respond to the same treatments. Conflation of the two is also very dangerous, because many trans folks experience dysmorphic disorders (eating disorders, self-harm ideations) that need to be treated separately. Also, reminder that Paul McHugh is a domestic terrorist hack and considered a laughingstock by his peers and pretty much anyone but the anti-trans right wing.

Anyway, the “really not thinking this through” award goes to this sort of crap:

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So, like, how do folks that propose this think this will work? First of all, it’s actually kind of difficult to get committed to a state mental hospital, without police or family escort. Unless you are considered an immediate threat to yourself or someone else, such places are actually reluctant to take folks in, because of costs. For that, these religous right dweebs can thank their idol Ronald Reagan. The idea that politically inconvenient folks can be mass-boarded in mental asylums away from the sight of “decent” people like in a Victorian Novel hasn’t been a thing for decades.

Speaking of cost, who would be paying for this? I thought these sort of dweebs were small government/no-taxation without representation don’t tread on me types?

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Right now, even as underfunded as they are, the average yearly cost per state to run their institutional hospitals is over $188,000. By comparison, even though data is limited, the cost for transgender health care is looking like around $77,000 a year (and this data is from an extremely liberal area). Opponents trot out the expense of surgery, but there’s only a handful of surgeons that even take insurance. Many of the well-known surgeons popular for their pioneering techniques do not. Yes, more surgeons will likely be emerging in the future, but what folks that aren’t trans may not be aware of is that word-of-mouth is a huge influence on doctor choice. Many of us forego insurance covered doctors for others with better recommendations. Coverage costs have always sailed way under predictions every time for this and other reasons.

And yeah, I’m definitely putting more thought into this than any of them are. I’m sure someone is gonna diagnose me with something or other for that. Feel free to do so in the comments I guess.

“STONEWALL WAS BY/FOR WHITE PEOPLE!” – #DropTheT Author Complains To Far-Right Website @FDRLST

9 Nov

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(EDITORIAL NOTE BY ME CIRCA AUGUST 2018: Oh shit, shout out to the time I literally burned this motherfucker’s website to the ground. What fun.)

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that The Assimilationists are at it again. Someone got really, really mad about Roland Emmerich’s terrible new Stonewall movie tanking and started a change dot org petition about it. Seriously. Then they staged an “anonymous” softball interview on far-right thinkpiece site The Federalist to complain about that. Give it up, Roland, your movie fucking blows.

According to “Clayton”, it’s the fault of the transgender movement that Emmerich’s terrible, terrible Stonewall movie flopped. Also apparently the “transgender movement” is the only reason Germaine Greer, famous for authoring a pedophile grooming manual, is considered controversial. Also blah blah blah someone’s still holding a torch for the stupid RuPaul/”tranny” debate from Spring 2014… how gauche.

So, first of all, that Stonewall movie is godawful. Even white gay guys agree. Nobody needs to insert “straight-acting” gay men into “historical” movies anymore, this isn’t the 90s. It’s pandering and insulting. It’s an appeal to respectability and catering to a demographic that honestly is no longer meaningful post-Ellen, post-Will and Grace, and post-RuPaul’s Drag Race, etc. At least to everyone outside the imagination of the petition author.

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This sort of mamby pamby “straight acting” Log Cabin assimilationist bullshit has in reality done little to advance gay rights. This change.org petition comes from the same mentality as Gay Pride Whoppers and Rainbow Snack Chips. Many of us in the gay community consider it cloying and insulting to our intelligence. Which is funny because the author claims to be a left-leaning socialist with feminist leanings, while also gushing fondly about the attention his petition received from MRGays like Milo Yiannopolos and white-supremacists.

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In summary, as a personal remark to the petition author: how dare you. I’ve been out over 20 years myself, as bisexual and shortly afterwards about my struggle with gender dysphoria. I’ve been disallowed from donating blood my entire adult life because of the same shitty bans that gay men experience; transitioning didn’t change that. I grew up in a state where being gay was illegal until my mid-20s, casting a shadow on many of my formative sexual experiences; transitioning didn’t change that. During that time, I witnessed police crackdowns on drag bars where I worked and was dramatically shaken by the brutal “gay panic” murder of a local fellow drag queen/transsexual. Transitioning didn’t change that.

But hey, you insist there is a line to be drawn between you and I, and I’m inclined to agree. You may have been a “socialist” and “radical” at some point, but now you’re at best you’re a useless bougie liberal prop for the status quo, and I am and will always be a bigger faggot than you ever will.

Drop that.

 

Let’s Play (And Overthink) Clash At Demonhead: Part 1. #retrogaming #NES #

30 Jun

Honestly, I have no idea why this game was so obscure when it came out and didn’t become a classic with multiple sequels for this reason alone: THIS GAME GIVES YOU A JETPACK AND A SUIT THAT LETS YOU SWIM IN LAVA. Seriously, think about that for a second.

clashatdemonhead1Don’t worry, we’ll wait.

This game is amazing and full of wacky goodness, really. Anyway, this post is gonna focus more on the “Overthink” than “Let’s Play” part because there’s already plenty of play-by-play analysis of the game these days. I just want to compile all the oddball facts about the game into one place, because there is a surprisingly large amount of weird trivia for a one-off game.

clashatdemonhead8For instance, I went decades without knowing the names of all the bosses.

Also, I’m not gonna mention Scott Pilgrim. Because, meh.

Anyway, Clash At Demonhead was a platform game released on the NES in 1989 from Vic Tokai, the communications branch of a natural gas company. Seriously. A natural gas company. Apparently EVERYONE in Japan tried their hand at making video games in the late 80s.

The game has you playing Billy “Big Bang” Blitz, a secret agent who, for some reason, looks like he’s auditioning for My Chemical Romance. In the actual game itself, at least the English version, he’s just called Bang. However, his full name is leaked in this Nintendo Power spread about the game, which also mentions a few other things left out of the translation from the original, called Dengeki Big Bang.

clashatdemonhead2Which, incidentally, had a way cooler title screen.

Sargent Bang is pulled back to duty from vacation to rescue Professor Plum, who’s been captured by an evil gang called The Lawbreakers to build a Doomsday Bomb that threatens to blow the world up. What the gang planned to do after blowing literally everything up is not elaborated upon.

clashatdemonhead3These guys can’t collaborate on a dress code, much less a plan.

The bomb is set atop a mountain that dominates the map, which is possibly part of the Bear Lodge Mountain Range. You chase the members of the gang and other assorted baddies through this map, which might be set in North-Eastern Wyoming, based Devil’s Tower being a prominent in-game landmark.This would make the dense forests in the surrounding area part of the Black Hills Forest, which are dominated by pine and hardwood trees, much like the game depicts, and the winding river would be the Belle Fourche.

clashatdemonhead4I’ve, ahem, put a lot of thought into this.

As you go along, the plot spins completely out of control with a strange series of subplots involving demons and aliens, mind control, clones. At one point you even talk to a dead guy. You recover a magic sword and board a spaceship, fighting samurai, goblins, robots, punk rockers, bigfoots, and talking skeletons and mushrooms. And that’s before you even defuse the Doomsday Bomb. This game has everything.

clashatdemonhead6even, um, this

One of the really amazing things about this game, however, is the attention to detail and revolutionary programming/gameplay elements for a game with no licensed property involved. Apparently, it incorporates whatever Variable Width Fonts are, which is apparently a super rare thing. There’s also a huge range of dialog images depending on whether you are wearing any special suits. Not only that, but the outfit you wear changes the way some of the lower level enemies act around you.

clashatdemonhead7and they apparently get increasingly sarcastic

But seriously, the game is a whimsical treat with a ton of easter eggs and definitely worth tracking down. I plan on doing a sequel of this piece sometime where I follow a playthrough I created as a teenager, where you stumble across all the cut scenes in the correct (or at least most sensible) order and you don’t repeat paths (well, you don’t repeat paths more than a couple times, there’s some situations you can’t avoid it). There will also be comparisons between this and the import version.