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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).

kyloren3

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.

kyloren6

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.

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Godey’s Magazine Mockery Of An 1851 Men’s Rights Convention (With Actual Sources)

2 Jan

1851mensrights6Pic Unrelated

It’s a brand new year, and a weekend, so I can understand why folks may be choosing to phone it in at their chosen profession. “Best Of” Articles and such are all over the place; I get it. But the sadclowns over at A Voice For Men have taken it a step further, recycling material from two centuries ago. Unable to find an example of men’s oppression in the past two hundred years, they are currently ugly sobbing about a satirical article from 1852. 1851mensrights7

But rather than, you know, make any commentary on it, they just copy-pasted the text and called it a day. Because ethics in crying about 200 year old satire, I’m sure. They didn’t even post source material, just a couple half-ass links to Wikipedia. With about ten minutes on Google, I managed to track down the source material, which I will now post/reference because public domain. Also, I want this archived somewhere besides A Voice For Men.

1851mensrights8

Anyway, the article comes from the April 1952 issue of Godey’s Magazine And Lady’s Book. The magazine itself was incredibly popular in pre-Civil War America. Edgar Allen Poe got his start there, when they published several of his short stories (including “The Cask Of Amontillado”!). You can find archives of the entire print run of the magazine at archive.org and at accessible-archives.com. The article in question can be found here:

https://archive.org/stream/godeysmagazine44gode#page/268/mode/2up

As for the author, Chericot, Google is really not helping much with finding details. Apparently they also wrote a short story (with a sequel) called “Who Wants A Monkey” for Arthur’s Home Magazine around the same time. Maybe a pen name?

The article itself is as vicious as it is hilarious, in an olde-tymey way.

On taking- a survey of the meeting, one thing struck us very forcibly—the uneasy and restless anxiety that characterized the demeanor of most of the men; the slightest noise caused a general sensation; and, in one instance, the shrill cry of a fishwoman threw a gentleman into hysterics, which he explained, on his recovery, to have resulted from his mistaking it for the voice of his wife.

The basic premise is that the author is beholding a formative “Men’s Rights” meeting, in which a bunch of 19th-century sensitive “nice guy” patriarchs get together to kvetch and wring hands about how empowered their wives have gotten. It’s pretty brutal.

That an unblushing claim has not only been made on our clothes, but on all our masculine privileges; and as this evil has resulted, in the first place, from the impunity with which the women have put their hands in our pockets, and as it will end only in the usurpation of our business, and of our sole right to the ballot-box, it becomes necessary for us to impress upon this rebellious sex our united determination to resist their aggressions

As a work, it definitely hasn’t aged well in terms of racism. There’s a scene involving a Native American MRA that is as embarrassing as it is unnecessary. Seriously, skipping over it doesn’t even make a hiccup in the narrative.

The proceedings themselves are a series of bickerings, non-sequitors and displays of plumery until such moment as the founder’s wife appears, beckoning him home. After which the henpecked revolutionaries tuck tail and disperse.

“Here I am, my dear 1” said a sharp voice, and a small, thin, vinegar-faced lady entered the room, and walked up to the platform, at the head of a numerous procession of females. “My love,” continued she, “it is late; I am afraid you will take cold. Hadn’t you better come home?”

“If you think so, my dear, certainly,” replied Mr. Husband, turning pale, and trembling so he could scarcely stand, perceiving which, his wife affectionately offered him her arm. Mr. Easyled meekly obeyed an imperative gesture from Mrs. Easyled, and Mrs. Bluster picked up the general, who had fainted, and carried him out in her arms.

Exeunt omnes, in wild confusion.

Scans of the article are below:

1851mensrights3a1851mensrights3b1851mensrights4a1851mensrights4b1851mensrights5a1851mensrights5b