FROM THE WEB
Manning & the Law
CROSSING THE LINE
Corruption in U.S.
Activism Not a Crime
War in Arizona
James Patrick Jordan
Hyatt v. UNITE-HERE
Medicare for All
Chamber & Capitalism
Savage Imperialism 4
"No Progressive Champion"
CULTURE & FILM
The Gay Oscars
Saviors and Survivors
Zaps - 03/11
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The Gay Oscars
There is always a buzz in the LGBT gay press when a film with gay or lesbian characters is nominated for an Oscar or even wins a Golden Globe. So it was no different this year when The Kids Are All Right—the lesbian family drama starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore—was a winner at the Golden Globes and was nominated for several Academy Awards. Directed by Lisa Cholodenko (also written by Cholodenko along with Stuart Blumberg), The Kids Are All Right is being hailed as the new "big breakthrough movie" that will bring queer themes and characters to a large, non-homosexual audience.
This, of course, was the refrain when Brokeback Mountain was released; then Milk was the big film that was going to bring gay politics to a non-queer audience; and then A Single Man was going to bring the plight of queer love for a deceased partner to heterosexual moviegoers.
Now The Kids Are All Right will be the first Hollywood movie to bring a lesbian family drama to a non-queer audience. But is it really such a big breakthrough? And, more important, is it the gayest film being nominated?
As a breakthrough, The Kids Are All Right does score a modest win. Most Hollywood films with queer characters and content are about men. A narrative that centers on a lesbian couple raising children together—even if one has a fling with the biological father of the kids—is a step forward. But at heart The Kids Are All Right is essentially a sudsy family drama that has its roots in such weepers as the 1934 and 1959 versions of Imitation of Life and the 1937 Stella Dallas. The major difference is that all of those films dealt, in their own way, with themes of feminism, race, and class that elevated them above their genre. Although well acted and well directed, The Kids Are All Right is boring and its smug platitudes about middle-class family, albeit lesbian, relationships and loving your kids do nothing to challenge or startle its audience. True, it was a cross-over film and many heterosexuals saw it, but those were the sort of heterosexuals who already approve of same-sex couples raising children. At heart, The Kids Are All Right is totally straight in its sensibilities and its approach to how people live their lives.
I don't want to argue that all of the other films nominated for Best Picture are radical in their approaches to sex, orientation, and gender. That is clearly not the case. But this year's nominees include a number of films that have surprising queer sensibilities, or at least inclinations. Take The King's Speech, directed by Tom Hooper. While it involves matters of State and royalty, as well as two heterosexual couples, its main trope is the problem of overcoming a personal flaw that makes you a social outcast (even though you might become King of England). In this case it is Prince George's serious stutter. Clearly, there is no overt gay theme here, but the use of a physical or personal infirmity to signify sexual difference has deep literary roots. Think of Somerset Maugham's use of Philip Carey's clubfoot to signify the character's (and the author's) "deviant" sexuality in Of Human Bondage or any of Carson McCullers's characters whose physical deformities are stand-ins for queerness. Part of why The King's Speech is so moving is its innate, unconditional sympathy for the outsider who, through no fault of its own, is alienated from society.
David Fincher's The Social Network is a variant on this theme, but more complex since Mark Zuckerberg, the film's heroic anti-hero, is a dickhead most of the time. But what makes the film so interesting is that he is a nerdy, Jewish dickhead at Harvard who longs to be accepted at one of the school's elite clubs. As a history of the evolution of Facebook the film has some interest, but the emotional pain of the film—which drives its story and its character development—is the pain of the outsider. This film speaks more clearly and loudly to queer college kids than anything in The Kids Are All Right or Brokeback Mountain. David O. Russell's The Fighter is also about an outsider, but the emotional impulse of the film is in its subtext of the homo-eroticism of one-on-one contact sports. The taut, emotional relationship between brothers is reminiscent of Luchino Visconti's 1960s homoerotic masterpiece Rocco and His Brothers (which also features a boxer) as well as the weird, sexually ambiguous/ambivalent tensions of 1999's Fight Club. The Fighter is fueled by unspoken emotions of a same-sex, in this case brotherly, relationship.
Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky, is mostly silly. A camp romp of female madness with serious artistic ambitions, which several critics have compared to Michael Powell's highly-lauded 1948 The Red Shoes, Black Swan is a hysterical, compelling mish-mash of temper, temperament, and devotion to art (with a capital A). But the soul of Black Swan resides in seeing a diva go to pieces, which is a total treat for queer fans of diva worship. The falling-apart diva is a long established tradition of gay male culture—Bette Davis's 1952 The Star based on her own life, Susan Hayward's 1955 biopic of Lillian Roth, I'll Cry Tomorrow, the entire life of Judy Garland—and Black Swan is icing on an already too rich and unhealthy cake.
There is nothing very gay about Danny Boyle's 127 Hours or its star, the now ubiquitous James Franco. What is interesting is Franco's unorthodox career decision to play gay male role after gay male role: beginning as James Dean in the 2001 TV movie James Dean to Harvey Milk's boyfriend in Milk to Allen Ginsberg in Howl to playing gay poet Hart Crane in The Broken Tower (currently in production). Franco has been so bombarded by the question "Are you gay?" from the LGBT press, he has retreated from the "No, if I were I would say so" to "Well, maybe I am gay." Now that's progress, at least in Hollywood.
The Cohen Brother's True Grit is hardly queer, but it is feminist. The tale of an 11-year-old, take-charge female in the old west seeking revenge on the man who killed her father is at once a revisionist western and a feminist fairy tale that is feisty and funny. Far closer to Charles Portis's 1968 novel than the Henry Hathaway 1969 version, True Grit has a stronger female empowerment message than any five Julia Roberts movies put together.
So if The Kids Are All Right is not the queerest film of the year what is? My vote is for Toy Story 3. Since the beginning of the series in 1995, few films have managed to convey such isolation, fear, and potential tragic loss of a loved one. Sure, I know it's toys that are being left by a boy named Andy who is off to college (leaving the toys he has always loved behind) and the toys once again find themselves adrift in a world they cannot control and have to use their wit, energy, and ingenuity to navigate and survive. The emotional appeal of the Toy Story films is that they bring us into the inner world of an unnoticed, tightly knit, and loving community. The fact that they love Andy, even when he forgets them for long periods of time, makes the story even more poignant.
So what does it tell us about the state of queer life in the United States that the most "out" film up for an award this year is really, in the realm of what is being considered, the most conservative? As the LGBT movement fights for the right to same-sex marriage and the inclusion of queers in the military, seeking acceptance in the traditionally most conservative institutions America has to offer, is it any wonder that a band of raggedy toys battling for their survival and their sense of purpose in life would represent the true spirit and energy of the LGBT movement?
Michael Bronski is a senior lecturer in Women's and Gender Studies at Dartmouth College. His articles have been published in the Village Voice, the Boston Globe, GLQ, and the Los Angeles Times. His books include the current Queer Ideas and Action series (editor) from Beacon Books, Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps, and An LGBT History of the United States (forthcoming in May).
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.