Reading too deeply into these things since 1981

Author Archives: Philip J Reed

Why it Matters to Me That Green Lantern is Gay

June 6th, 2012 | Posted by Philip J Reed in comics | writing - (7 Comments)

…or perhaps that should be Why it Matters to Me That Green Lantern “is Gay.”

Without any question, you’ve heard about this already. Green Lantern is gay. That “is” is a present tense verb there, folks, and that’s why I have something to say about this. It is a fact that Green Lantern is gay. It is not a fact that he was gay, or always has been gay. And that’s a problem, because as progressive as this narrative decision might intend to be, it’s actually quite reductive, ignorant, and insulting.

The problem isn’t that there’s a major gay superhero now, no matter what the Parents Against Whateverthefuck groups would have you believe…in fact, they should be cheering this decision, because it makes it seem as though homosexuality is something that people can add and remove from their lives like an accessory or a piece of clothing…something to be picked up and worn when it suits them, and not at all until then.

That’s just downright wrong, not to mention preposterous. Homosexuality is not like facial hair…you don’t grow it out because you’re going through a phase or because you decided you’d look better that way. It’s an integral part of who people are…it’s what makes them human…and it’s always been there. It’s not a choice, any more than skin color, height, or voice is a choice. It’s part of who you are from birth, and while it might take a while for somebody to realize — or understand, or accept — that they are gay, that’s a gradual process of internal discovery…not an external feature plugged into us wholesale by some cosmic decider.

This reminds me in many ways of the hubbub over J.K. Rowling “revealing” that Dumbledore was gay, however many years ago that was. My concern then was similar, but it was overridden by my disgust for what she did to writing more than what she did to homosexuals.

In that case, it was a clear authorial trespass. As the author of her books, she was able to reveal anything she liked at any point. Until — and this is important — she finished writing them. After that, it’s hands off. She doesn’t get to reveal additional data elsewhere that isn’t sustained within the novels. I’ll admit openly that I haven’t read them…but I’ve known many people who have, and they’ve shared the same concern: there doesn’t seem to be anything in the novels that sustains such a reading. Certainly one could make it fit, just as we could make fit anything we’d like to imagine while we’re reading a book, chalking it up to it being one of the hundreds of trillions of things an author doesn’t tell us along the way but which we would like to believe is true anyway, but this isn’t a case of imagination…this is a case of after the fact authorial insistence.

Whatever else it may be, that’s bad writing. Either Dumbledore was gay all along and Rowling didn’t know how to handle that as an author and so she just stored it away for later blurting at a press conference, or he wasn’t gay until the moment she said he was, at which point she demonstrated an enormous disrespect to the world she created, and the imaginations of her readers that have taken them in other directions. Readers are supposed to meet books halfway…whatever they get out of it, whatever they hear, wherever their magical journey takes them, then that’s what they get from the experience. Rowling of all people should have known better about magical journeys. The author doesn’t get to inject details via syringe long after the fact.

In this case, though, it’s a comic book. Comic books have multiple authors, they span multiple generations, and there’s not just one author. What one might use as the groundwork for his character might be manipulated, discarded, or inverted by his successor. We can argue about the merits of that as well, but, for now, it’s a fact we have to take as read.

The problem, though, is that it’s still the same character. It’s a character that’s had a wealth of experiences and left an enormous imprint on his fans…fans who know every detail about what he’s actually said, done, and accomplished.

And now he’s gay. Just like that.

He wasn’t gay in the background. He wasn’t coming to grips with his sexuality for years. And he wasn’t just waiting for the perfect moment to reveal to those who care about him that he harbors a secret. He was just one thing yesterday, and another today. He donned his homosexuality like a wristwatch. Maybe he’ll like this wristwatch, or maybe he’ll take it off again once everybody gets annoyed by its loud ticking.

That’s unfair. That’s not how homosexuality works…scratch that. That’s not how humanity works. That’s not how people work.

It’s not a decision, it’s not an immediate restructuring. This is something people learn over the course of a lifetime. For Green Lantern and Dumbledore, apparently, they just become gay because someone said so. That’s terrible writing, and even worse humanity.

Regarding this radical change in which one person we’ve been learning about for so many years is killed off and replaced by a person similar in all ways but also gay, writer James Robinson said this: “It’s a realistic depiction of society. You have to move with the times.”

You’re not moving with the times at all. You’re reducing homosexuality to a character trait that can be picked up or discarded at will…that’s emphatically behind the times. That’s the mentality that keeps gays from marrying, or being recognized as functional human beings. If someone can just snap into gayness, well, just don’t snap that way and you can marry and be respected and do all the things us normal folks so love to do. That’s wrong, Robinson.

That’s wrong.

Think of it as though this weren’t a question of sexuality. Think of it as though this were a question of race. Batman, in an issue to debut next month, is revealed to be black.

Not a new Batman. Not somebody else who becomes Batman because Bruce Wayne dies. But the Batman we know. The same guy. The dead parents, the wise butler, the wonderful toys. The one we’ve seen in countless movies and comics and on television.

He’s black. And he always was. That’s the grand reveal.

Could that possibly make any sense whatsoever? It’d be absurd. It wouldn’t get people up in arms about reductivism, because it’d so clearly be impossible.

That’s what we’re dealing with now. Only the impossibility is being ignored. Not debated…just ignored.

I can’t think of a worse way to treat homosexuals than by demeaning the fact that their sexuality has shaped them, affected their lives, and helped them grow into the individuals they are today.

Green Lantern is gay, Batman is black, Wonder Woman actually contains a misplaced space and she’s really Wonderwo Man, and Poochie died on the way back to his home planet.

“It makes sense because we said it makes sense. It goes this way because we say it goes this way.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything worse than that to say to a homosexual man, woman, or child today.

The Transit of Venus

June 5th, 2012 | Posted by Philip J Reed in books - (1 Comments)

“Oh. And what happen’d to those Transits of Venus?”

“There we have acted more as philosophical Frigates, Ma’am, each detach’d upon his Commission,— whilst the ev’ryday work of the Observatories goes on as always, for the task at Greenwich, as at Paris, is to know every celestial motion so perfectly, that Sailors at last may trust their lives to this Knowledge.”

“Here,” the Col° beams, “more fame attaches to the Transits,— Observers station’d all ’round the world, even in Massachusetts,— Treasuries of all lands pouring forth gold,— ev’ry Astronomer suddenly employ’d,— and all to find a true value for the ‘Earth’s Parallax.’ Why, most of us here in Virginia wouldn’t know a Parallax from a Pinwheel if it came on up and said how-d’ye do.”

“Yet, what a Rage it was! the Transit-of-Venus Wig, that several women were seen wearing upon Broad Street, Husband, do ye remember it? a dark little round Knot against a great white powder’d sphere,—”

“And that Transit-of-Venus Pudding? Same thing, a single black Currant upon a Circular Field of White,—
– and the Sailors, with that miserable song,—

‘Tis time to set sail, [sings the Col°] Farewell, Portsmouth Ale,
Ta-ta to the gay can-tinas, For we’re off, my Girl, to the end of the world
To be there, ere the Tran-sit of Venus.
— She’s the something something,—”
“Goddess of Love,” Martha in a pleasant tho’ impatient soprano,
“— Shining above,
Without a bit of Meanness,
Tho’ we’ll have no more fun till she’s cross’d o’er the Sun,
‘Tis ho, for the Transit of Venus!
[Col° Washington joining her for the Bridge]
Out where the trade winds blow,
Further than Sailors go,
If it’s not Ice and Snow,
‘Twill be hotter than Hell, we know,
Wave to your Dear, stow all your gear, and
Show a bit of Keenness,
Bid Molly adieu,
She isn’t for you,—
For you’re for the Transit of Venus!”

By the last four Bars, they are facing and gazing at one another with an Affection having to do not so much with the Lyric, as with keeping the Harmony, and finishing together.

[p284, Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon. Enjoy today the Transit of Venus…an event that won’t be repeated until 2117, and which — long, long ago — heralded mankind’s alleged entry into the Age of Reason.]

Liveblogging The Master of Disguise

June 2nd, 2012 | Posted by Philip J Reed in film | liveblog - (9 Comments)

It’s hard, and probably impossible, to express just what a disappointment Dana Carvey’s career has been. After all, an entire generation — my entire generation — of Americans came of age watching him on Saturday Night Live, bringing an infectious and masterful comic flair to a cast that included such instant heavyweights as Phil Hartman, Adam Sandler, Jon Lovitz, Mike Meyers, Chris Farley and Chris Rock, among others. He managed to stand out among a cast of standouts…but once he left the show, there was no going back. It was over. Dana Carvey — as an entertainer — might as well have ceased to exist.

Anyway, I’ve never seen The Master of Disguise. I’ve heard it’s shit. I think that’s probably true. I did see Clean Slate, which is the other movie that sunk Carvey from the public consciousness forever, and that was most certainly a pile of trash.

Long story short my girlfriend’s on vacation, my dog is asleep, and Netflix just recommended this to me because it doesn’t like me very much, so let’s watch this mother.

12:25 – Already Netflix is taunting me.

It says almost ready because I still have a few crumbs of dignity I need to lose.

…and, ready.

12:27 – Wow, this is a Happy Madison production? I guess it didn’t ruin everyone’s career then.

12:28 – It’s almost funny to see Dana Carvey get first billing. That’d be inconceivable today. Oh, and James Brolin is in this. Because he was hoping he’d die on set and his family would get a lot of insurance money.

12:30 – This theme song sucks. It’s just some…actually, wait. This sounds like Belinda Carlisle. Don’t you dare fucking taint my Go-Gos, Master of Disguise..

12:31 – A screen of text appeared, and then a narrator decided to read it to us. Guess what, filmmakers…if you do one, you don’t need to do the other. A caption (mercifully not read aloud) informs us that we’re in Palermo, Italy. I’m glad it told me, because I definitely would have thought we were on a barren soundstage with a scenery budget of $40.

12:32 – A woman flees from a bunch of criminals or something, and the narrator tells us it’s really a man, ruining the joke that comes immediately afterward where it’s REVEALED THAT IT’S A MAN. Again, movie, you don’t need to do both. Oh good, and now we’re in “America present day.” I guess punctuation costs extra.

12:33 – Dana Carvey is wearing a shaving cream beard and holding a hockey stick. Great. Now it shows us some clips of his younger years, including a scene in which he slaps the doctor for slapping him as a baby, which I’m sure is hilarious to somebody somewhere, probably to a chap of around six. Now the flashback is over and he kisses his dad(?) and leaves shaving cream on him. His dad makes a face at the camera so we know we should be laughing. Don’t remind us of that fact, film.

12:34 – “Walking on Sunshine” is on the soundtrack, because of course it is.

12:35 – Dana Carvey’s name is Pistachio in this movie. He has a terrible Italian accent for some reason. Oh Christ, now he’s impersonating both Shrek and the Donkey. This movie came out after Shrek? What better way to chart the difference in career trajectory between Wayne and Garth? I mean, I hate Shrek, but at least people went to see it.

12:36 – Pistachio’s last name is Disguisey, because life really isn’t worth living. He sees a hot girl and wants to masturbate to her, but his dad shows up. And also he’s in public. Even if he weren’t, though, come on. His dad showed up.

12:37 – Hey, Jay Johnston is in this! From Mr. Show! That’s really depressing! He trips Pistachio who drops spaghetti on some fucking people who just sit there woodenly because they’re unpaid extras and don’t get any lines and therefore don’t need to act.

12:39 – Someone says “meatballs” to Pistachio and it makes him wig out. That makes sense, since Pistachio is a waiter at an Italian restaurant and is an Italian child from an Italian family and therefore has never heard that word before.

12:41 – Whose idea was it to give Dana Carvey a film in which he speaks in this stupid accent the whole time? This is as bad a decision as that Heartbeeps movie where Andy Kauffman plays a robot.

12:42 – Pistachio just quoted “Papa Don’t Preach” to his dad, out of context, for no reason, and that’s a joke.

12:43 – Now he sees Jay Johnston and the girl from earlier making out in an alley. Pistachio wants to masturbate again, but now it will be sad masturbation. That’s what we call character development.

12:44 – Some gangsters or mob members or whatever are attacking Pistachio’s dad. I don’t give a shit. Pistachio doesn’t see it happen but he’s still able to report every detail to the police over the phone, who hang up on him causing him to drop the phone, because that’s how that works.

12:45 – This seems like it’s supposed to be an Airplane!-style sendup of something…but there’s no movie to send up, so Pistachio just makes funny faces.

12:46 – He tells his grandfather about what happened to his dad, and his grandfather says, “Did you hear something that sounded like this?” and then punched him in the face a few times. Pistachio enthusiastically replies, “Yes! Just like that!” That was actually funny. Then Pistachio has to add, “But without the pain on my face…” which kills it. Just leave the laugh line alone, Pistachio!

12:47 – Pistachio is groping a fat Spanish woman’s face because it’s actually his grandfather in disguise and Jesus Christ this kind of thing is going to happen a lot in this movie, isn’t it?

12:48 – Flashback to George Washington chopping down the Cherry Tree, just as I was hoping, only the tree gets up AND LEAVES GET IT.

12:49 – Abe Lincoln is now dancing to that “I Like to Move It Move It” song.

12:50 – I can’t tell how old Pistachio is meant to be. Dana Carvey seems like he’s playing a three year old, so I can’t tell if the joke is that he’s a grown man who acts childish, or a little kid who looks like a grown man. If I have to wonder about it, I guess, it’s probably not worth the effort.

12:51 – Pistachio and his grandfather go into the attic and find a brass sphere that can open washing machines and light candles. Then Pee-Wee’s breakfast machine starts up, revealing…revealing…I couldn’t hear it. I don’t know. His father’s wardrobe or something. Now Pistachio can be the master of disguise. Or participate in a montage wherein he does silly things with costume accessories. The song playing in the background seems to be called “Master of Disguise” and was probably recorded just for this scene by a group of young people who killed themselves later that afternoon.

12:55 – Pistachio’s dad is strapped to a chair. His wife will be burned to death unless he agrees to become a Master of Disguise for the mob. The mobster farts and pretends it didn’t happen. I wish I could do the same.

12:57 – We rejoin Pistachio demonstrating Ashton Kutcher-like levels of racial sensitivity by dressing as an Indian Man and talking like Apu having a stroke.

12:59 – He charms a snake by playing the recorder, which emanates elevator jazz when he puts his lips to it. Now the snake is eating cheese out of his hand and kissing his face. Would you like to watch this movie? Somehow I don’t think Dana Carvey would like to watch it either.

1:00 – Grandpappy Disguisey is showing Pistachio how to fight by using a wooden dummy. The expression on the dummy’s face is my favorite thing in the movie so far.

1:01 – It’s funny when old people say “Who’s your daddy?” so granddad says it over and over again while he slaps the dummy. Hee hee.

1:02 – Pistachio’s dad dresses like a black guy and the mobster farts.

1:03 – The robot slaps Pistachio a bunch of times and says “I”m your daddy.” Then Pistachio and his grandfather see a woman who turns out to be a man so they put ice cream in their mouths and make their eyes bug out. Then they are at a street cafe talking about disguises. This movie feels like a bunch of 6 second scenes stitched together, and not like a movie with a continuous flow at all. Oh, and now there’s another montage, wherein Pistachio chooses a sidekick — why would people apply for that position anyway? — while “Whip It” plays. I honestly think they just lifted this entire soundtrack from some other movie. Or, like, 40 other movies.

1:04 – A little kid falls of his bike and his mom shows up and she’s hot so Pistachio gets a boner.

1:06 – Really sick of Pistachio’s “accent.” He’s describing how he’d like to have a woman who has a big butt like his mother.

1:07 – Training over, I guess. Grandpa’s leaving, which means Pistachio will have to incorrectly wear costumes and make silly faces for inappropriate reasons all by himself.

1:08 – They are dancing.

1:10 – The woman is his sidekick so they dig through a dumpster and Pistachio wears hilarious goggles. They find a mobster’s cigar butt, which the girl recognizes but Pistachio does not.

1:11 – Now he is dressed as a turtle man and the movie is halfway over. He keeps saying “turtle.” Why wouldn’t he. Isn’t a master of disguise supposed to be inconspicuous? Otherwise why dress up? Why not just show up as Pistachio? Nobody knows who the fuck he is at this place. Why is he making an ass out of himself? Why is he making an ass out of me for watching this?

1:15 – Oh fuck you.

1:16 – Pistachio bites some guy’s nose off, then spits it right back onto his face. Now he’s spinning around on the floor like Curly from The Three Stooges. Then he finds out the girl has a boyfriend and he is disappointed, because everything was going so well up until she said that.

1:18 – Jesse Ventura is in this movie. He steals the Liberty Bell, as if you couldn’t guess.

1:19 – The mobster re-farts.

1:20 – Pistachio is nice to the little kid but the girl’s boyfriend is not. “Eye of the Tiger” plays for no reason. Pistachio is dancing again. I’d wonder if this film even has a script, but even the worst improv is better than this shit.

1:21 – The dog is riding a skateboard.

1:22 – Pistachio wrestles the dummy because it went berserk. The robot pulls Pistachio’s pants off.

1:23 – The robot again pulls Pistachio’s pants off.

1:24 – Now Pistachio is dressed as Wilma Flintstone. He calls somebody an idiot, which is not an appropriate thing for an older woman to do, so everybody makes a face.

1:25 – He’s acting obtrusive and awful again. Why is he bothering with disguises? He could just go in his normal clothes and not act like a dick.

1:26 – A cover version of “Walking on Sunshine.” It was definitely worth hearing again.

1:28 – Now he is dressed as Tony Montana and he says “Say hello to my little friend” because that is a line from that movie.

1:29 – The girl is sneaking around in the mobster’s house. She finds some pictures and stuffs them in her purse. Then she says, “I’m going to take these,” in case we didn’t know why she was putting them in her purse. In the film’s defense, yeah, it could have been for any number of reasons!

1:30 – That “Come On Shake Your Body Baby Do the Conga” song by Gloria Estefan is playing now, so Pistachio dances for the hundredth fucking time.

1:31 – They are chasing Pistachio and throwing him out. I don’t think anyone involved in making this film had any idea of what disguises are for.

1:31 – Now he’s doing Jaws. The whole fucking “shark in the water” monologue. It’s like this movie so ashamed of itself that it keeps reminding you of better movies to distract you from the fact that you’re watching Master of Disguise.

1:34 – Now Pistachio disguises himself as a pile of cow crap and someone else sings “Master of Disguise.”

1:35 – He’s dressed as Peter Pan crossed with Ed Grimley or some shit. I think they’re just cycling through a bunch of disguises in a row so they can put them all on the VHS box cover.

1:36 – Now he’s some Scotland Yard investigator or something and this fucking sucks. Not one of these disguises has been funny, and the movie seems to think this should be the funniest damned thing I’ve ever seen.

1:38 – Just a half hour left. The hot girl from earlier in the movie is here and Pistachio spills water on the guy she’s with, who turns out to be the new hot girl’s boyfriend. Pistachio gets all sorts of boners and they fight.

1:39 – “Can’t Touch This.” Of fucking course “Can’t Touch This.”

1:40 – Jessica Simpson is in this. I thought it might be Ashley. I don’t give a shit that I was wrong. I guess they wanted everyone in the theater to go nuts about all the surprise cameos. There was just one little flaw: nobody was in the theater.

1:41 – The mobster farts.

1:43 – The woman kisses Pistachio. Some serious emotional content in this scene. Those emotions are boredom, indifference, and irritation.

1:45 – This happens.

1:46 – The mobster shows off the lunar lander he stole and it seriously fucking looks like this movie had a prop budget of less than I make in a week. It’s construction paper and tinsel! Kevin Nealon is in this movie as well, so far the only other Saturday Night Live alum I noticed, just to remind everyone of why we hadn’t seen him anywhere for 10 years.

1:48 – Pistachio comes out of a pie.

1:49 – He fights the mobsters and the whole thing is broadcast live on eBay. Yes, really.

1:50 – The third separate rendition of “Master of Disguise.” They paid for this song and fucked if they weren’t going to get their money’s worth.

1:51 – Grandpa shows up to witness Pistachio’s victory. Really; that’s what he says out loud. The mobster farts. Farts. Farts. Farts. Four. Motherfucking. Times.

1:53 – Pistachio and the mobster fight on top of the lunar lander, which Pistachio grabs onto as he falls off and the mobster steps on his fingers because somebody saw North by Northwest.

1:54 – The mobster was actually Pistachio’s dad so everybody hugs.

1:55 – The Disguisey family walks side by side, and the narrator says that Pistachio married the girl and everything worked out great. Well, gee, if we weren’t going to see any of this pan out, why not just tell us all that shit upfront, narrator? Save us the hassle of watching.

1:56 – The movie is over but the filmmakers needed to squeeze in Carvey’s famous Bush impression. This time it’s W. The mobster falls underwater and farts.

1:57 – The end credits feature the fourth fucking rendition of “Master of Disguise.” We see each of the main cast members and some of the minor ones dance, because we haven’t seen enough of that already. Also Pistachio says “Say hello to my little friend” again, in case we forgot that he said that earlier.

1:59 – A million bloopers. He does the “you like-a the juice?” thing from Saturday Night Live, just so we know the precise distance he’s fallen.

2:00 – There sure are a lot of fucking outtakes. Including impressions of Groucho Marx, Bob Ross, some ancient Greek guy…oh, and now more dancing. Of course more dancing.

2:01 – A scene is ruined because everybody starts laughing at Carvey’s antics. Maybe that’s the problem…they put everyone who found him funny in the movie, so there was nobody left to go see it.

2:02 – A deleted scene has to do with Pistachio being hypnotized by the big butted women the mobster trots out, which explains — but by no means justifies — the ass obsession in this movie. Then that ends and we see more credits and outtakes. I swear to fuck a fifth of this movie is gag reel.

2:03 – W. dances, and the turtle man. Gee, it’s like coming home to old friends.

2:04 – It turns out a midget was in the dummy, so he and Pistachio are slapping each other. This movie ended like 10 minutes ago…why is it still showing itself to me?

2:05 – Oh good, an epilogue is appended to the film, in which the midget and Pistachio make amends. Pistachio wonders aloud what we’re still doing here. He could have asked that five minutes into the thing, really.

2:06 – Yet ANOTHER fucking epilogue, in which the dog talks and says “No more dog food.” This is like watching a movie that fell from space. It looks and sounds a lot like the movies here on Earth, but fuck me if I have any idea what they meant by it.

2:07 – And now, at last, it’s over, and another little sliver of my life has been peeled away forever. Not the sort of feeling comedies usually like to leave you with, but there you go.

(Bonus) Friday Musical Interlude

June 1st, 2012 | Posted by Philip J Reed in friday musical interlude - (0 Comments)

Doc Watson and Richard Watson, “Walk On Boy”
Third Generation Blues, 1999

RIP Doc Watson

Your Friday Musical Interlude

June 1st, 2012 | Posted by Philip J Reed in friday musical interlude - (0 Comments)

Bee Gees, “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You”
Idea, 1968

R.I.P. Robin Gibb

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