CHAPPED LIPS

Kissing is in the air, and not just because it’s spring and my allergies are attacking my face to death.

No. Led by Tino Sehgal‘s “This Progress,” which opened at The Guggenheim back in January and featured “Kiss”, where exclusively male-female couples made out on the rotunda of the museum for like, all day, kissing has made a comeback of sorts, mainly because there still seems to be a lot of confusion about the politics of the action, and for that matter, representations of publicly expressed sexuality in general.

Long story short, Brennan Gerard and Ryan Kelly of Moving Theater Company got their hands on a casting call for Sehgal’s work, which was explicit in its request for “male/female” couples. In response, Brennan and Ryan have created “You Call This Progress?” Right now, it’s being discussed over at L. Ro’s WNYC blog, and I was originally going to post a comment there, but it turned into this state-of-the-union-length post, so I thought it would be better to just post it here. (Prepare thyself: from here on out–and for better of for worse–the language gets all academicky….)

I love that Brennan and Ryan have created this work; this constructive response to a gut reaction.

I think, through exploring their subjective reaction (as gay men) to seeing the public lionizing through performance of an exclusively male-female couple embraced in a kiss, they are getting at something essential to any argument about the human experience of/encounter with gender and sex, and therefore, sexuality: That gender and sex is always positive and subjective; and so sexuality and expressions of sexuality are also always positive and subjective.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the body, and I keep fixating on this idea of body-positiveness. We have this regard for the body as either complete (“Yep, all ten fingers and toes!”) or incomplete (anything less). But this way of regarding the body is predicated on an expectation of what the body should be, or should become. I would argue that a body can never be “incomplete”, since it is itself a totally positive manifestation of living matter: all living matter has “grown,” has “developed,” has one direction that is positive. If you remove a part, that does not make the total body that is left “incomplete”, it merely makes the body smaller and changes its shape, but the remaining body is no less positive. Maybe more broadly, one might say, EVERYTHING THAT IS, IS POSITIVELY.

In this same way, gender–particularly as social performance, and in the case of Tino Sehgal’s work, as performance art–is always positive. Gender, when gender is present, cannot be negated; like skin color cannot be negated; like height cannot be negated. We humans have this annoying habit of “looking past” things. A habit that stems from an avoidance of already “not looking” at things we find inconvenient to look at; i.e. social privilege for men, for white people, for heterosexuals, for the “fully abled”, for Christians, for English speakers, for the wealthy, et al. And so to keep ourselves from looking, we invent this idea of “looking past”, or “looking beyond” (usually expressed this way: “I don’t see you as [insert minority description].”), so that we never in fact have to confront the subjectivity of our own gender, race, or any other majority characteristic which we may be and/or express.

This false ability to “see past” essentially positive and immutable characteristics of the human body/experience (whether naked sexual characteristics, or the socially/personally constructed characteristics of gender, religion, political party, etc.), allows us to make all kinds of ridiculous arguments claiming that the body characteristics of the dominant group (maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, “fully abled-ness”, Christianity, the English language, wealth, etc.) are simultaneously “ideal,” “universal,” and “objective.”

This tethering of “idealism,” “universality,” and “objectivity” is the necessity of any dominant group politics. It enables the dominant group to maintain an assumption to unlimited and exclusive privilege. It positions them as the designers, adjudicators and beneficiaries of power and justice. It allows the rampant, excessive representation of their own subjectivity while excluding and suppressing the representation of “other” subjectivities. It allows artists like Sehgal to argue (even via here-say, you have to imagine some form of this argument must exist in his reasoning) that the representation of a minority characteristic within a work that is attempting to be “universal” will “complicate,” or “politicize” a work, or make the work suddenly “subjective.” The only complication homosexual subjectivity would deliver to “Kiss” would be the unraveling of a violent, homophobic assumption to heterosexual privilege. Which would be a good thing.

And this is precisely the double-bind heterosexual supremacy (or any kind of political supremacy) enacts upon homosexuals (or the dominated group). Homosexuality is politicized by homophobia; in fact, the more homosexuality becomes visible and socially acceptable, the stronger the push is to politicize the behavior by the passing of laws that restrict the rights and freedoms of gay people. So when gay people speak up against these offensive (and offensive) maneuvers by heterosexual supremacists, they–the homosexuals–are portrayed as “being political,” when in fact they are being compelled into political action out of survival by a dominant group that has enacted a political movement against them. But because our culture is dominated by heterosexuality, the political agency of heterosexual supremacy (and of exclusionary heterosexual performances like Sehgal’s) literally “ISN’T SEEN.” It is invisible, because, well, of COURSE, heterosexuality is “objective,” “universal,” and “ideal,” none of which apply to the definition of politics.

To find an illustration of this absurd principle, one need only look at our judicial system. During Justice Sonya Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings, she was repeatedly grilled by white lawmakers about whether or not she would be able to exercise “objectivity” in cases that involved racial politics. The racism inherent in such questions was unabashed, if ultimately–and thankfully–impotent. But the principle governing such questions is still in place in common discourse regarding majority/minority politics and justice.

The question is always whether a justice of a racial, gender, or sexual minority will be able to be “objective” about cases involving race, gender or sexuality, respectively. In this question is figured a presumption that only white, or male, or heterosexual justices can be truly “objective” in these instances. Thus, laws created by whites, or males, or heterosexuals against non-whites, or non-males, or non-heterosexuals, are only able to be “objectively” adjudicated by members of the very group that made the discriminatory law in the first place. Sounds pretty fair, right?

In majority/minority politics, “objectivity” is always the privilege of the dominant group. I even heard a friend once argue that Anderson Cooper shouldn’t “come out” because he needs to be able to remain “objective” about “the issues.” As if his coming out would “politicize,” or “make subjective” his reporting on every possible issue, not just the gay ones. It is really sinister how pervasive these feelings are in our culture, going so deep that a liberal person who would vote for gay marriage would still be able to feel that all news anchors need to be heterosexual or closeted homosexuals in order to report objectively on anything. (OMG, we could probably spend another few thousand words on Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s argument that The Closet encompasses straight people as well as gays who are not out, but that is for another day or drunken evening…)

Seeing heterosexuality as objective is an illusion of privilege. Tino Sehgal’s “Kiss” is not objective. And Brennan and Ryan, in a stroke of genius, expose the subjectivity of “Kiss” by engaging language simply to describe what one is seeing at the Guggenheim. In the audio track accompanying the performance of “You Call This Progress?”, you hear them speak out what they observed in “This Progress.” They say things like “her right hand on his left shoulder,” “his left hand on her small of back,” “her right hand caresses his left chest.” All it takes is this rudimentary process of describing what is happening to show up the pretense of Sehgal’s “uncomplicated” vision. It also resonates brilliantly with one of Gregg Bordowitz’s scrolling questions, read aloud at the Burning Bridges performance of “You Call This Progress?”: “How is art a description?” How, also, is experience a description?

I was on the train the other day, and two black kids, maybe nine or ten years old, were playing a game, a version of Twenty Questions. One of them would pick out a random person on the train, and the other would ask questions in order to identify which person had been selected. The kid who was questioning would rattle off a preliminary course of dichotomous inquiries that went something like this: “Man or Woman?”; “Light or dark skinned?”; “Straight or curly hair?”; “Tall or short?” You get where I’m going. Our experience of bodies–and thus, our entire awareness of social order–is always accompanied by the tacit and necessary function of description. And the answers we receive are subjective and positive. We learn to understand the world by describing it. We know our place in the world by knowing our descriptions. To suddenly claim that subjective description of gender, or race, or sexuality is irrelevant to the experience of human interaction is to betray our history of understanding people only to service a purely conceptual maneuver of aesthetic sanitization.

Now, I am not arguing for the tyranny of description; of labels. But, whether we like it or not, we exist within this tyranny. Pretending that description doesn’t matter only strengthens the tyrannical grip of language over our bodies by playing into the privileges that language constructs.

And so we go back and forth between deflecting language’s/description’s limiting force upon our lives, and also employing language to affirm immutable characteristics of our bodies and of our identities.

I recently co-created a “Kiss-Out” with my collaborator Todd Shalom in response to a recent gay bashing that took place in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. We organized about sixteen people (of which, Mr. Kelly was one) to kiss at the corners of two street intersections near where the attack had taken place. The people were organized mostly in groups of two; mostly male-male couples, with one female-female couple, and one corner where I think two males and one female alternated configurations of two.

In one of the online discussions that followed (and in some cases, preceded) our action, an argument came up that suggested because we included male-female couples within our action, which was an action in response to homophobia, that this heterogenous makeup “negated” gender subjectivity altogether. The person who wrote this comment was trying to say that, essentially, if all sexualities are represented, then no sexualities exist.

I wholeheartedly disagree with the slippage from regarding sexual orientation as positive only-in-the-context-of-opposition/exclusion to regarding it as negative in-the-context-of-togetherness. Bodies are not like pigment, in the sense that when all pigments are present, we see white, or, the illusion of no pigment. Rather, when you see a straight couple and a gay couple expressing affection together, even in solidarity, there is no way of perceiving either action as negative or negated: They are both happening, and they are both happening positively. Likewise, excluding one from the other–as Sehgal’s work does, and as Brennan and Ryan’s work also does (which they call themselves out on)–does not strip either from their essential subjectivity.

I think what many of us are agitating for goes much further beyond a limited and perhaps ineffectual idea of “breaking down barriers,” which are usually understood to be the barriers of labels, or description, or language. Rather, we want to eradicate prejudice and privilege within the arena of description, so that both a heterosexual kiss and a homosexual kiss are seen as positive, not as oppositional. We also want to eliminate compulsory participation in descriptions that do not apply to our sense of identity. Because I do not identify as “heterosexual” does not mean I want to identify as “nothing.” If “heterosexual” is a construction that is at odds with any other configuring of sexual orientation, then I am happy to apply any secondary and following class of labels that all fall under the category “non-heterosexual” to myself. However, I would rather understand heterosexuality as a positive iteration of human sexual possibility that is equal to and co-existent with other positive iterations of human sexual possibility, whatever we end up calling those.

And we also want to forge an at-will relationship with identity. Maybe today I feel like “a man.” Maybe tomorrow I will feel like “a woman.” Maybe the next day I will feel something in between those two categories. Maybe I am currently in a homosexual romantic relationship, but maybe there will be room for a heterosexual relationship in the future, or, as Brennan and Ryan seem to argue for, a relationship outside of the structure of the couple.

But to understand any of these possibilities, which are exciting, and which seem to present an amazing opportunity to use language as constructive, but not as restrictive, in determining individual or group identity, we have to be able to call out the illusionary offspring of prejudicial identity politics and the teetering house of cards that is built upon its upward spiraling shoulders.

Is It Possible To O.D. on the G.A.Y.?

No.

And now that I’ve pretty much resigned to using the Counter Critic as a platform for advocating for all things gay–for the time being–I’d like to share with y’all a Fan Page I started that is dedicated to drawing attention to and discussing the ideas in Sarah Schulman’s groundbreaking book “Ties That Bind: Familial homophobia and its consequences.”

In reality, this site has always addressed queer issues. C.C. has never shied from nor apologized for, well, being gay. Steady readers would figure out pretty quickly that the man behind the mask is a big homo. And the more I really consider the world and its parts, the harder it is for me to separate in any real sense homosexual politics from anything we experience in our culture. The fact is that “the homosexual” has been politicized by society, and this politicization (via suppression, oppression, and repression; pick your favorite) is evident in all aspects of culture, from works of art themselves (their content, their context, their reception) to how these works of art are produced (who’s making them, who’s curating them, how they are being written about), and that we can observe this as an injustice in virtually anything we experience. So, I guess I don’t think that using this site to explore homophobia is really a departure. And I hesitate to define the choice as an obsession, or a higher concentration of explicitly queer subjectivity. I’m more inclined, if anything, to feel that this lean would actually be more representative of the actual world in which we live, make work, and experience art. And I don’t believe in the neutrality of the critic, since gay critics have to repress their own gay subjectivity, while straight critics enjoy the privilege of not having to worry about it. (I suppose this begs for a whole other article about critics and the closet. Good idea!)

At any rate, what difference is there really between our experiences of art and life? Art is part of life. And vice-versa. So now I’m giving you a full fusion of my art (CounterCritic) and my life (Facebook) and some ideas that are pertinent to both, since it is all the same fucking thing.

Thus, here’s is a topic of discussion that I hope C.C. readers will find interesting. And if you haven’t read “Ties That Bind,” please do so now:

More Thoughts on Brian Burke story in Sports Illustrated

I’ve been thinking more about the case of Brian Burke, and it seems more and more to represent to me how limited our conversation on homophobia is, namely, that homophobia need only be addressed and confronted once a homosexual person in our lives is identified. That is, that we don’t need to worry about our homophobic tendencies as long as we don’t think there are any homosexual people around.

Quick note: Mr. Burke has chosen quite bravely to speak out about his life and his relationship with his son. It is in that spirit of openness and discussion that I’m writing out these ideas. I am not callous to his situation, or to the awfulness of his loss. I hope he would appreciate my interest in his story, and my willingness to engage in conversation.

That said, it struck me as worth considering at more length the way Mr. Burke reflected on how he raised his son after his son came out to him. His immediate conclusion was that he “never told his children that there was anything wrong with homosexuality.” For the record, and coming from a family that did exactly the opposite, I think that’s very commendable.

But I’m curious about how not teaching that being gay is wrong is somehow equated with or understood to include teaching that being gay is good. In actuality, these are not the same thing, and one can easily do the former without doing the latter.

I would posit that if there were actually no homophobia at play in Mr. Burke’s family, then his son would never have had to come out to him in the first place. If families were really not homophobic, and were really open to seeing for their children all the possibilities of future happiness, they would create for their children, from their very earliest age, an environment in which the homosexual potential was equally celebrated as the heterosexual potential.

An example. When a three year old boy would tell his mother, “I want to marry a boy,” instead of either correcting him erroneously by saying “boys can’t marry boys”–because they can in several places in this country and in the world–, or instead of freaking out and changing the subject, or leading her son toward looking at girls instead without explicitly saying there is anything wrong with wanting to marry boys, the non-homophobic mother would instead say, “Oh, good. Which boy do you want to marry?”

But this doesn’t happen, does it?

READ THE REST OF THIS COMMENT HERE.

NO SERIOUSLY! THE NEW GAY THEATER IS NOT POLITICAL!!!

"I want to have sex with you. I just don't want to do it in a way that could be construed as political." Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

From Neil Genzlinger’s review of “Yank!”:

“Yank!,” with music by Joseph Zellnik and book and lyrics by David Zellnik, his brother, of course has an added resonance because of the current debate over whether to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But this is hardly a political show. Its subtitle, “A WWII Love Story,” encapsulates its main aspiration: to depict a same-sex couple as so many heterosexual couples have been shown over the years, struggling to capture the elusive thing called love against a backdrop of grand events.

If by “a backdrop of grand events” Genzlinger is referring to the social pathology of homophobia that unfairly punishes gay people for being gay and uses the mechanism of government to manipulate gay people’s lives, to deny their very existence, and to prevent them from even developing loving relationships with the people they want, then NO, SO MANY HETEROSEXUAL COUPLES HAVE NOT BEEN SHOWN THIS WAY OVER THE YEARS. OR EVER.

This “hardly political” love story literally cannot exist outside of politics. It takes place within a political system. And it is a condition that is enforced on gay people by heterosexuals who participate in the homophobic establishment. Am I taking crazy pills? If not, please point me to the nearest pharmacy?

How do you solve a problem like Lady Gaga? Give her a penis, apparently.

Image via Jezebel

I’ve been thinking about Lady Gaga. (But who hasn’t?)

I first became aware of the seemingly unstoppable pop sensation when Gawker sister-site Jezebel began posting paparazzi images of her back in January. (They’ve just published the year-in-Gaga anthology of images; definitely worth a looksie.) She emerged—to me—as a mute, mysterious image; a person fixated on being fixated upon. I didn’t know who she was or what she did, just that she was obviously creating a spectacle that was enticing enough to already leave a gossip trail. And to be honest, I thought the stage name was a little heavy handed.

My first encounter with her music was actually facilitated by Carmine Covelli and Adrienne Truscott during one installment of Kenny Mellman and Neal Medlyn’s outlandish and outstanding Our Hit Parade at Joe’s Pub (the final shows of the year are tonight, and you should try to catch one). Covelli voiced a pre-recorded cover of “Poker Face” while a video of Covelli’s face was projected onto Truscott’s naked torso; her bush serving as occasional soul patch to Covelli’s grinning lower lip. The performance was fun and strangely moving; the song, as rendered by Covelli, had a plaintive, humble urgency. I didn’t know it was Lady Gaga until I heard her version on the radio while driving up 3rd Avenue in Gowanus one weekend with my boyfriend.

Now that we’ve seen Lady Gaga propel herself from fringe pop-star to outright megastar in just under a year—culminating with an interview with Barbara Walters and an introduction to the fucking Queen of England—it might be fun to ruminate some on the artist, her work, why her work works (or doesn’t), and where it comes from.

I will admit that I have resisted Lady Gaga for one reason: The appropriation of queer (specifically gay male) culture that is then recontextualized within a framework of heterosexual theater (regardless of her private sexuality or personal activism,–I know Lady Gaga is an activist for the gay agenda!–the overarching erotic narrative in her music and videos is heterosexual).

Her look draws almost exclusively from drag—whether it’s referencing the freak-drag legacy of Leigh Bowery, the fantasy glam of David Bowie, or literally donning the couture drag of Alexander  McQueen, but her cultural situation is one of either a swollen female object of male desire, or an obsessive addict to the heterosexual male’s cold shoulder. It is possible to perceive Lady Gaga as a stand-in for the homosexual male’s position within the erotics of our society, in that she both sexualizes the heterosexual male (which he is uncomfortable with) and then is abandoned by him and left to suffer the impossibility of long-term attachment (because he is in control…isn’t he?), so she plunges into the role of freak, of outcast, and theatrically manifests her condition through costume, camp, persona, and subjective exaggeration (e.g. the persona of Lady Gaga is superficial, only interested in money/sex/power, etc.). This may over simplify a lot of things, or may not apply at all. But what is true, and what bothers me, is that Lady Gaga’s drag is rewarded culturally because she is a woman. What an artist like, say, Fischerspooner (as only one example) does and has been doing with pop music and concert performance only to remain obscure (or localized, however you want to look at it), Lady Gaga has done to mass audience appeal and mass media attraction. This is by no means Lady Gaga’s fault. It’s just the way things work in a society that still gets mad when boys dress up like girls. Continue reading

REGARDING ART, PERFORMANCE, AND THE PRINCIPLE OF CONSENT

Wednesday night, I attended Steven Cohen’s presentation of film works at CPR in Williamsburg. During one of the brief discussion breaks—led by a becostumed Cohen—one audience member prefaced his question by stating that “the audience inevitably becomes part of your work.” The assumption went unchallenged.

It struck a particularly live chord for me, as throughout that evening, I had been wrestling with this question: To what extent are the unsuspecting people in Cohen’s film documentations a part of the work? For me, it is not a closed case.

The co-existence and co-contextuality of Cohen and the people his performance reaches—generally a live, public, and incidental (if targeted) audience—is certainly integral to the constitution of his work. The two cannot be entirely separated.

But I am suspicious about just how readily Cohen and many others transmute real live autonomous human beings into works of art, which is what we do when we say that an audience “becomes part of the art”; we have circumscribed the audience within the material boundary of the art; we have taken away their autonomy and their will.

Cohen’s work, like the work of certain other artists creating work today (and also like the work of many artists over the last handful of decades), blurs the conservative separation of performer and audience. But while blurring may occur—and I’m starting to understand most definitions as blurred lines, rather than crisp lines—I don’t know that it’s actually ever possible to erase that line.

For me, performance must always be consensual. Absolutely. No question.

It is interesting that in the beginning of the first film Cohen showed, he includes documentary images of Jews in Nazi-era Vienna who were forced to scrub the streets with toothbrushes before crowds of jeering onlookers. This presents us immediately with—well, above all else, a morally reprehensible action, but also—a precise illustration of what performance cannot be. Continue reading

About The Bacchae

The Public Theater's "The Bacchae" - Photo by Damon Winter, for the New York Times

The Public Theater's "The Bacchae" -Photo by Damon Winter, for the NYT

I know it’s been a while since I threw down a bona-fide review around these parts. So I’m breaking silence with some thoughts on The Bacchae, which wraps up its run The Public Theater’s Shakespeare In The Park this week. (Warning: this may fall more under “rant”.)

It’s also been a while since I had been to one of the Delacorte shows. Getting older leaves you less zest for pulling an all-nighter at The Works (now closed (sad face)) and stumbling over to be one of the first people in line on Central Park West at 3am, just to get tickets to see Meryl Streep in “The Seagull”; although, it was totally worth it just to see her do a cartwheel on stage.

At any rate, this year’s Virtual Line made it easy for the old folks (hit “send” when the Mac strikes midnight) to get in, so I drug myself up to Central Park to check out what a friend of mine said he “wished I had seen”. He later clarified that he was just curious about my opinion, and wasn’t really recommending that I see it. Hmm…

Well, I suppose I would categorize this show under the old-artists-got-picked-to-do-a-big-gig-together-and-no-one-pushed-them-to-do-better-work category (I’ve still got my eye on you, Trish). The wafts of arrogance this production exudes is troubling. Not blatant arrogance—although, there is plenty of that in Jonathan Groff’s petulant Dionysus—but the “we’re great artists and don’t we know it, and the public won’t know any better” kind of arrogance; casual; comfortable; like a nice pair of orthopedic shoes.

But when we go to the theater, we don’t want orthopedic shoes. We want riveting ideas, and risk-taking gestures. We want to be pushed (although, not necessarily physically pushed, Ms. Young). We want to know that the artists are pushing us, and themselves, to the level beyond where we are. We want the art to be in front of us, so, by going to it, we are taken to a new place. This production fell far back and behind what we know about theater and what we know about ourselves. It eschewed the central subject of the play with demure stereotyping and philosophical meandering. (In case you’re wondering, the central subject of the play is Dionysus: The god of drinking and fucking.) And along the way, presented us with several examples of exactly how not to use drag and homosexuality in the service of constructing a heterodoxic narrative.

What director JoAnne Akalaitis was thinking when she conceived this piece is beyond me (I’ll get to details when I get to them). For help, I looked to the program notes. Sometimes, you just have to.

In the notes, Nicholas Rudall, who made the translation for this production, is quoted as saying, “The Bacchae is a play rich in themes, and one of its most disturbing is the inadequacy of rational human government in the face of the ecstatic irrationality of Dionysus…The Bacchae is, in the end, a document of human folly. Dionysus lacks mercy. And to assume that human wisdom and human rationality are forces that can resist him is a monumental mistake.”

Umm, wrong. Continue reading

BTW, John Hughes: “Yes, you’re a total fag”

Anthony Michael HallSorry to hate—once again—on a recently deceased beloved creator of popular entertainment, but I have to. Not just to be contrarian (as a darling friend accused me of being, just yesterday!), but to voice a legitimate criticism of John Hughes’ work that I have held in recent years.

I should say that, if I die, I would want people to look at my work clearly, for what it is, and not to confuse their judgments about my work with their feelings of appreciation for me as a person. Can’t we hold these two things separate?

To get to my gripe, John Hughes’ work will never, to me, be considered truly great work because of the string of casual homophobia that runs through all of his teen movies. All of our favorites. All of those movies we now, collectively share and reminisce over. All of these seem to have characters that reinforce the pressurized teenage use of homosexual pejoratives.

One of my favorite Hughes movies—a film I will share in communion with my sister in perpetuity—Sixteen Candles, is the culprit from which I derive the subtitle of this article. The self-empowering  use of the word “fag” by Molly Ringwald’s “Samantha” toward the nerd-geek “Farmer Ted” (played by a scrawny, if tenacious Anthony Michael Hall), is just one example (and notable because it is uttered by a female character) of how Hughes teens understand and wield the power of institutional homophobia. I don’t have the research to list just how many times a gay slur punctuates these iconic scenes of teenage turmoil, but I encourage everyone, as they review the canon of Hughes films (as we all will now) to take notice of the numerous ways this form of homophobic game play crops up.

Now, the ways in which these slurs are used are always casual (if I recall correctly), and are never more than a simple fact of the socio-political rules that define teen relationships. They are often (again, if I recall correctly) not targeted at identified homosexual characters, but, rather, are employed in their more pervasive usage, whereby the slur is used to belittle a male heterosexual character; to challenge his power; to intimidate him; to ridicule him. While not as outwardly destructive as the kind of bigotry directed at suspected or openly homosexual characters, it is no less damaging, particularly in how it sustains the illusion of the assumed heterosexuality of the person who uses the pejorative while putting the recipient of the pejorative on the defensive of his own compulsory heterosexuality.

If you don’t think these moments send loud and clear messages to young  people who lap up these films for all the other wonderful, smart things Hughes movies offer, you’re wrong. There is no shortage of homophobic reinforcement in our culture, and in the 1980s, homophobic discourse had not yet reached the roadblock of political correctness that, for better or worse, has squeezed out much of the room that slurs like “fag,” “faggot,” “queer,” and “homo” used to have.

But taking into account the era in which these films were made does not excuse Hughes’ recurrent use of these homophobic slurs. Did it accurately capture teen life in the 80s? Perhaps. But wouldn’t that still be the case today? I can’t imagine that youngsters have stopped ridiculing each other via these homophobic tropes (in fact, just the other day, my boyfriend and I were walking past some pre-teenage kids, one of whom had pulled his shirt off and was sort of gyrating and dancing as we passed; a friend of his was quick to point at him but say to us, “He’s gay! He’s gay!” It was cute, and funny, although by bf made a good point, “In a few years they’ll be pointing at us”). But today, these slurs would more likely be used in film to critique the homophobia inherent in the experience of youth (much like Brüno targeted homophobia as it actively sought to elicit it). In important contrast, Hughes’ homophobia is always used in a way that affirms the empowerment of homophobia via the positive, clique-inclusive currency of the slur; i.e. the user is always elevated above the receiver, who is laughed at. Let’s also keep in mind that these films are not documentaries, but are scripted, pre-meditated, and edited compositional works of film art.

I’m not saying we can’t enjoy these films. I don’t even need to articulate how many great things we can take away from them. But we should keep in mind that as we enjoyed these movies, we also absorbed the dark ethos of teenage homophobia. And that, no matter who you were, or how much you did or did not understand sexuality and issues of sexual orientation, when Samantha called Ted a “fag,” you knew you didn’t want to be one.

The 4 Flavors of Sotomayor

4 Flavors

So, we’ve never done one of these “poll” thingamjiggers, and not sure why we’re busting one now. And maybe we’re alone on this one, but we thought the Sotomayor testimony was riveting, and, I think we fell in love. So, if you care to click on the poll, let us know which Sotomayor look you think is most supreme

TO DO: DTW Lobby Talks

Lobby TalkLobby TALKS

The New Media of Dance

(not in performance)

Photo: Ed Rawlings

Jun 9 at 7:30pm
Dance Theater Workshop

219 West 19th Street, New York, NY

Organized by Chase Granoff

“As the internet continues to develop and mature into a powerful platform for communication, marketing, networking, and criticism, we will look at how these technologies have influenced dance. How has this development challenged and changed the landscape of dance journalism and criticism? Does print media remain relevant? How are dance artists and companies utilizing social networking and other Web 2.0 technologies?

“Panelists: Caleb Custer, Director of Marketing, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet; Marlon Barrios Solano, creator of dance-tech.net & DANCE TECH/The Program; Andy Horwitz, Founder & Editor, Culturebot.org; Claudia La Rocco, Performance critic, WNYC’s Art.Cult blog; Kristin Sloan, Founder, The Winger, Director, New Media, New York City Ballet; Ryan Tracy, Counter Critic; Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody blog, Body and Soul podcast; and Chris Elam, Artistic Director, Misnomer Dance Theater.

“Lobby TALKS creates a forum for open and in-depth discourse on contemporary issues in dance and performance. Organized around specific themes, each meeting uses as a starting point one or more of the artistic investigations, methodologies, and motivations that can be seen in performance today. Subjects will be investigated, challenged, and considered by an invited group of artists, critics, and theorists, and is open to all who would like to join the conversation.”

TO DO: “Pussy Faggot”

pf_tote_eblastTONIGHT @ The Delancey, ubiquitous downtown producer Earl Dax is throwing a birthday bash for himself, which doubles as a fundraiser for Dixon Place’s HOT! Festival of queer performance.

In light of Claudia La Rocco’s insightful piece on the negative impact capital campaigns and anchoring real estate ventures can have on the missions of small arts organizations, it’s probably more important than ever for us all to start giving money to venues like Dixon Place to support actual programming!

Plus, this party, colorfully titled “PUSSY FAGGOT” (here’s some fab background in the Village Voice) is bound to be epic, with the fiercest queer performers coming out of the woodwork to celebrate Dax and his return to the HOT! Festival. Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman are slated to be there, along with a host of other transient downtown artists.

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION ALERT: My very own Collective Opera Company will be doing an opera intervention/interactive performance of two excerpts from our upcoming project, SCARLET FEVER, an opera transposition of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s iconic (and hilarious) novel, The Scarlet Letter!

Come out and support some hot Hot HOT performers while raising cash for ye old Dixon Place.

It’s here. It’s queer…That pretty much sums it up.

MONDAY, APRIL 6, ’09
Earl Dax Birthday Party + HOT! Festival Money Maker =

“PUSSY FAGGOT”

9PM-4AM

The Delancey Lounge
168 Delancey (between Clinton & Attorney)
Advance Tickets $16-ish with code “hotfest (must purchase in advance!)
Regular Advance Tickets $18 / $25 at the door.

Click through for fierce elaboration from Dax on what, exactly, “Pussy Faggot” is… Continue reading

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