Movies, pop culture

I AM GAGGED—OSCARS 2017

Watching any award show can be frustrating—they’re long, they’re tedious, and there are too many commercials—so I’m not going to make this intro any longer/more frustrating than it is already.

Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture. End of Sentence. Let that be the end of the sentence.

Moonlight, the story of a black, queer man growing up in Miami, won the Oscar for Best Picture. Yes.

To change the headline, to say “HOLLYWOOD SCANDAL: STEVE HARVEY MOMENT AS MOONLIGHT ACTUALLY WON THE OSCAR” is to take away from this moment. This very important moment.

In a year and time when the rights and bodies of LGBTQ people are being arbitrated over, when people of color are being targeted, when minorities are being further marginalized, let us not sully this moment. Moonlight, an exceptional film, won. It won.

In their speech, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty touched upon diversity, boldness and strength represented in artistic works. Those are very important lodestones for us to carry with us into this next year—a year that has been marked by several different upsets of various sorts. La La Land, despite whatever accolades it deserved, wasn’t a movie that represented all of that. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t imporant. But it’s like how 25 won “Album of the Year.” It shouldn’t have.

“Of the Year” should indicate something that encompasses the entire year. And in the same way that Lemonade touched upon Blackness, womanhood, police brutality, and politics—Moonlight did that. And in this moment, in this time that is so fraught with chaos and darkness and meanness, it is such a relief that there is some recognition for the accomplishments and contributions of black and queer artists.

I think it’s a tough act to balance art with artists. It was tough to see Casey Affleck take the Oscar for Best Actor. Especially in this year, it is tough to watch men who have accusations of sexual assaults leveled against them receive widespread validation.

It was tough to see that as much progress the Oscars made this year—Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor as the first Muslim Actor to win an Oscar, Viola Davis won her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and is the first Black woman to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony for acting, obviously Moonlight, and more diversity in the nominations—we are still affirming white men with allegations of sexual assault.

Maybe Casey Affleck truly had an amazing performance, but what does it say about us that we validated that? That if your performance is good enough, we’ll forget those three instances of assault? That if you have enough money, not even a Pussygate scandal will cost you the Presidency?

On another note, Patricia Arquette pointed out that her sister, trans actress Alexis Arquette, who passed away in September of 2016, was not included in the “In Memoriam” at this year’s Oscars. And unfortunately, when talking about what the wider public can do for trans youth on the Vanity Fair Post-Oscar livestream, Arquette was cut off to make way for Jon Hamm & Co. talking about licorice (unclear). So I did a little research—you can donate to the ACLU, donate your money or time to the Trans Lifeline, get involved at your local level, and be vocal about support for trans rights.

Sometimes validation comes from the top, but most importantly—and most crucially—it comes from the roots, from the people, from us. On a $1.6 million budget, Moonlight grossed $25 million world-wide. Gavin Grimm, a young trans student from Virginia, is bringing his case to the Supreme Court. Change happens, great things happen, from the ground up. Small things become big things, and then those things become world-changing.

Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture.

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television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE EP. 5, “Heart of Darkness”

Grade: B

Out of all the horrors incurred upon Jason Blossom—shot in the face, forced to wear white, having creepy-as-fuck parents, bound and tortured for a week—perhaps the greatest one is the sickly-sweet nickname that Cheryl has for him: “JJ.”

Jason Blossom, whose previous acting credits include being a beautiful mannequin and “playing” “football,” is most definitely not a “JJ.”

This episode was all about the Blossoms—Penelope, Clifford and Cheryl (and also Grandmama Blossom)—living on the creepy Thornhill estate, the “house that all the kids avoid” (according to Jughead). The Thornhill estate includes: one massive mansion, an enjoined cemetery, and creepy-beautiful flowers that have flourished from soil nutrient-rich from decaying Blossom carcasses. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, Blossom to blossom—haven’t we all heard that before? And even though the body of Jason is being laid to rest in the ground this episode, the questions surrounding his death are scraping their way to the surface.

After waking from a nightmare where—I swear to God—I thought Cheryl was going to climb into Jason’s coffin, Cheryl finds her mother staring at her. Cheryl has taken to sleeping on Jason’s bed to get inspiration for her memorial speech. Well, not too fast, because Cheryl won’t be speaking at Jason’s memorial, according to Penelope.

However, with the help of Veronica—who we’re calling “Ronnie” now? Unclear—“Hermes” Lodge, Cheryl gets her groove back. She invites Veronica over for a “sleepover” the night before the memorial—a sleepover that Veronica soon finds involves no one else but a dinner with the Blossoms where Mr. Blossom makes cruel digs over Hiram Lodge’s imprisonment. Sounds like a dinner at my house. But when Veronica finds out that Cheryl has been banned from speaking at the memorial, she resolves to help Cheryl. Any way she can.

“Heart of Darkness” saw the return of Shirtless Archie. He’s beating up a punching bag (is it redundant to say “punching a punching bag”?) in his room. He wants to get football captain, because getting captain gets him a scholarship, which gets him into college, which gets him into studying music. Has he thought of YouTube tutorials? One taught me how to knit, so I’m sure one could teach him about song-writing. Archie and Reggie square off to see who will be the captain. Spoiler alert: Archie gets it because despite being wildly sleep-deprived and under-qualified and young, the hot white guy always gets it. He’ll turn it down for music so that Reggie can have it—but Archie gets it first.

But because Riverdale is cruel, while we do have Shirtless Archie, we also have “Brooding Weirdly” Archie, and “Archie Together with Val of the Pussycats” Archie. Val gives Archie the connection to a new music tutor—Richie from HBO’s Looking—who, like everyone else, treats Archie so mean about his music. Archie is a gorgeous, strong-jawed musical athlete—HOLLYWOOD WILL SNATCH HIM UP. WHY IS NO ONE REALIZING THIS? DID NONE OF YOU WATCH GLEE?

Archie’s main task of the week is to write music, you know, while Veronica helps Cheryl get over the death of her brother, and Jughead and Betty try to solve Jason’s murder. Because you don’t always get the same as your friends.

Remember last week when I said that the tacit connections between Jason and Archie are becoming obvious to me? Well I was sort of right all along. Archie reveals—to Music Teacher Richie—that he began writing songs over the summer, and the first one was about Jason.

Side bar—wouldn’t it be amazing if Archie turned out to be bisexual and previously dated Jason?

But because we live in a gross world, I doubt that’ll happen, so Archie is just a murder-obsessed freakazoid. It’s like how Hayden Christensen played Anakin Skywalker and you forgive the fact that he’s an egomaniacal killer because he’s gorgeous. Hot people get an unnecessary amount of passes—and I know this because if I didn’t look the way I do, I would’ve been citizen-arrested by now.

The second instance is at the memorial. Archie has been wearing Jason’s number (oh that too) but retires it into the care of Mrs. Blossom. Penelope, who has been literally a monster, falters at the sight of Archie in his letterman jacket and red hair. She reaches up and caresses his face.

“You’re so much like him.”

That one small moment humanizes Penelope as more than a heartless bitch. She’s a woman who lost her son horribly, whose daughter lied to her, whose husband has an unfortunate haircut. There’s only so much one woman can take.

In the Adventures of Betty and Jughead (and I guess Kevin), they’re working on replicating Chief Keller’s “murder board.” Betty is going on a “date” with Trav, who was friends with Jason. Kevin wants to know if it’s more than a date—because gay people just exist to ask their straight friends about dating!!

Petty B and Juggie decide that during the memorial, they’ll sneak into Jason’s room for clues. Because the dead may tell no tales, but their browser histories do. Mine doesn’t, because I use Incognito, but the main search engine in this town is something called “Sleuthster” so all bets are off. They learn from Trav that Jason was selling off his possessions before he disappeared, and he was also selling drugs. The plot thickens.

MEMORIAL. Cheryl shows up in a STUNNING WHITE DRESS—the same one she was in when she last saw Jason. Archie is wearing a letterman’s jacket because he has no respect for fashion rules. Betty and Juggie sneak upstairs where they loudly open drawers until the Blossom Grandmama reveals herself from the shadow.

She mistakes Betty for Polly and drops the major bomb that Jason and Polly were engaged. But Jason and Polly got into a fight, Polly tried to kill herself and was carted off to an asylum. It’s revealed that Hal Cooper—Betty’s dad and someone who I have NEVER seen before—knew all this. Hal’s anger over the Blossom family turns out to be incredibly deep-rooted. Generations ago, Great-Grandfather Blossom and Great-Grandfather Cooper were in the maple business together. Blossom didn’t want to share his profits so he murdered Cooper—duh. Murdered over maple. It’s a blood (maple) feud that tried to keep Jason and Polly apart.

In not even a B-plot (maybe a lowercase “c”) Fred Andrews flirts with Hermione Lodge, who shuts it down until the South Side Serpents threaten her with a live snake and Fred comes to her rescue.

Overall, the Sleuthsters determine that Hal Cooper is the one who stole the murder board from the Keller’s house. And now Hal is a suspect in Jason’s murder, with motives old and new.

Maybe this call is coming from inside the house.

And in the last moments, the Sleuthsters realize that they need to talk to Polly. YES. FINALLY.

NEXT WEEK: Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!

 

STRAY OBSERVATIONS:

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 4.54.24 PM.png

Source: CW//RICHIE

  • The characters pronounce Music Teacher’s name—Mr. Castillo—with such a forced foreignness, it’s bizarre.
  • This dialogue: VAL: “I heard Ms. Grundy used to tutor you.” VERONICA: “Understatement of the year.”
  • How many different-colored veils does Cheryl own?
  • Why are we not surprised that Archie has a punching bag in his room?
  • “She’s sick, and Jason made her sick.”
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LGBTQ, Politics

MEAN

Trans Lifeline

On Wednesday night, the Trump administration withdrew Obama-era advisement that schools that received federal funding allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that corresponds with their gender identity.

The measure was a joint effort by the Departments of Justice and Education, the heads of which are Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary Betsy DeVos, respectively. According to insider Republicans, DeVos was against rescinding Obama’s protections but eventually bowed to the combined pressure of President Trump and Attorney General Sessions.

President Obama made his guidance based on his interpretation of Title IX, which bans discrimination in schools on the basis of sex. In Trump’s letter to federally-funded public schools, there was no new guidance on how to handle the issue but simply stated that there was not “extensive legal analysis” on Obama’s interpretation of Title IX and retracted the advisement.

In a statement, the White House said that the issue should be left at the state-level for decisions. The letter comes weeks before the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student from Virginia who was denied access to the boys’ bathroom in his high school and had to use the bathroom in a converted janitor’s closet, would reach the Supreme Court.

As a senator, Jeff Sessions had a record of voting against the expansion of LGBTQ rights. In 2000 and 2002, Sessions voted against including sexual orientation in the definition of hate crimes. In 2006, he voted yes on a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. DeVos, according to several sources, was privately pro-LGBTQ rights but has not publicly voiced support to avoid going against her family, who have contributed financially to several anti-gay groups.

I had actually written an article about the possibility of Trump rescinding federal protection of transgender students a few hours before the official word came. I looked at the voting records of Sessions and Pence in their political careers. I looked at the promises Trump made during the campaign, saying that he was the LGBTQ community’s best option.

I looked at the effects bathroom bans have on transgender students. According to data, LGBTQ youths are four times more likely than their heterosexual peers to attempt suicide. 40 percent of transgender adults have attempted suicide, and 92 percent have attempted it before the age of 25. According to a survey, when transgender youths are denied access to places like bathrooms and housing, suicide attempts spike. Out of over 1000 youths surveyed for a particular study, a third had been denied access to bathrooms—60.5 percent of those denied access have attempted suicide.

Bathroom bills are purportedly for the safety of cisgender (that is, non-transgender) students. There are no reported instances of any transgender person assaulting a cisgender person in the bathroom. However, over 70 percent of transgender people have experienced being barred from using a bathroom, verbally assaulted or physically assaulted. Transgender students who are denied access to bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities have reported health issues such as kidney infection, dehydration and urinary tract infections. Those health issues can lead to missed classes and days of school.

Villainizing queer people is nothing new. Gay men were characterized as pedophiles, and homosexuality was only declassified as a mental illness from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973. Prior to 2003, same-sex sexual activity illegal in 14 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the military.

Rescinding the protection of transgender students goes beyond name-calling or petty villainizing. It condemns them to health problems, physical and verbal assault and suicide. It condemns them to death.

There aren’t many ways I’m able to process this. I can use facts and statistics to paint a picture of why this is wrong. I can look into the voting records of Sessions and Pence and the ilk. I can point to those things and say, “Do you see? Can’t you see?” But this reaches a place deeper down in me, someplace raw and unhealed.

There are no words that encompass the illness roiling around inside me. The abject cruelty. The first time I was called “faggot.” The red heat in my cheeks as I was harassed in my high school locker room. The shoves into the lockers. The cruel, fondling hands. There are no words to describe being treated as subhuman. Because that’s what it comes down to: they don’t see queer people as human. You can’t rationalize it as any other way.

It’s mean. I guess that’s the simplest way I can break it down. The most juvenile, childish word, but the one that makes the most sense. It’s mean. It’s mean because it makes no sense; it comes from no logic, no wisdom, no statistics, no facts. Because if you look at any of those, you would realize that transgender students are amongst the most vulnerable minorities in America. At every turn, they are scorned, harassed and maligned. They are treated as subhuman. We should be offering our protection to them, not protecting against them.

It’s mean because Jeff Sessions doesn’t actually care about protecting cisgender students. He knows that there is no threat that a transgender teen poses when they’re just trying to use the bathroom. But Jeff Sessions wants to curtail the expansion of LGBTQ rights. That’s the logic I can find—in his voting records. In the way he views us. It’s mean because Trump, no matter what he said on the campaign trail, is as bad as Sessions in his ambivalence. And ambivalence is as deadly as hate because it’s still the same victim mangled in the maws of government. It’s still that teen. That teen is who asking nothing more than the barest, most threadbare human dignity.

“These bills are not about bathrooms. They’re about whether trans people have the right to exist in public space.”

-Laverne Cox on her recent CBS This Morning appearance.

Also published on The Buzz website 

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LGBTQ, Politics

ACCORDING TO SOURCES, TRUMP TO RESCIND FEDERAL GUIDANCE ON TRANSGENDER STUDENTS USING BATHROOMS OF THEIR GENDER IDENTITIES

According to reporting done by the New York Times, the Trump administration is drawing up paperwork to rescind former President Obama’s order that transgender students can use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was in opposition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the issue of leaving the choice up to the states. However, the Department of Education ruled in 2014 that protecting transgender students falls under Title IX, a federal law that prevents discrimination on the basis of sex.

DeVos, despite her family’s prominent donations to anti-gay organizations, apparently opposed the order. However, President Donald Trump sided with Sessions, who has a history of opposing the expansion of LGBTQ rights, and wanted DeVos to drop her objections.

Apparently there is pressure to move the paperwork along so as to avoid confusion with upcoming cases. The issue comes right before the case of Gavin Grimm, a Virginia boy who is transgender, will be brought to the Supreme Court. Grimm sued his school county when they refused to let him use the boys’ restroom and instead offered him a separate one converted from a janitor’s closet. The Obama White House rejected accommodation like that as unconstitutional and discriminatory.

According to insider Republicans, DeVos was uncomfortable with the idea of revoking protections for transgender students. This is in direct opposition to what Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a White House news conference that DeVos was “100 percent” on board. And apparently privately, according to several sources, DeVos is quietly pro-gay-rights.

This directive needs the joint support of the Education and Justice Department, meaning that Sessions needed DeVos on board to move forward.

According to the website, OnTheIssues.org, Sessions has a history of voting against LGBTQ rights expansion. In 2006, he voted yes on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, limiting the definition for marriage to between one man and one woman. In 2000 and 2002, he voted against adding sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes. He was rated 20% by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record, and 0% by the HRC, indicating an anti-gay-rights stance.

On the campaign, Trump was tentatively pro-LGBTQ rights. He said that the issue of same-sex marriage was settled when it was legalized and that he would not go back on that. He famously invited Caitlyn Jenner, transgender former Olympic athlete, to Trump Tower and that she could use whichever bathroom she wanted. In April of 2016, Trump spoke against North Carolina’s bathroom ban, saying that people should use “the bathroom they feel is appropriate.” However, when the Obama administration issued guidance that all transgender students should use the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identities, Trump said that it should be left up to the states.

Vice President Pence, when he was the governor of Indiana, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which protected business owners who discriminated against LGBTQ people on the basis of religion. Pence was also critical of Obama’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” saying without it, the military would be a “backdrop for social experimentation.”

Even if Trump himself doesn’t personally hold any opposition to the expansion of LGBTQ rights, by dropping down the impetus to the states to decide what protections to offer transgender students is deeply troubling. These are children who are just trying to go to school. When transgender students are barred from using the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities, suicide rates increase and health issues arise—dehydration, kidney infections and urinary tract infections. The health problems alone can lead to missed days of school and increased levels of stress.

That Trump himself doesn’t bear any ill will against the queer community does not translate to protection of LGBTQ rights. He totes himself as “the least anti-Semitic person you’ll ever meet” and “the least racist person you’ll ever meet” but if you’re not taking active steps towards the protections of these marginalized groups, you are in effect leaving them to be crushed under administrative oppression and discrimination.

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Politics

PRESIDENT TRUMP NAMES NEW NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER

 

President Donald Trump has named his new national security adviser, military strategist Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, a man whose name sounds like he should be a character in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. The naming comes a week after Michael Flynn, Trump’s previous national security adviser, resigned amidst revelations of discussion about sanctions with Russian officials.

McMaster is a career military strategist who will be stepping into a role dealing with immediate issues from North Korea, Syria and Iran. So much for a “Welcome to the job” Carvel ice cream cake.

Other possible candidates were Lt. Gen. Joseph K. Kellog, Jr., who served as acting adviser this past week, and Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, who turned down Trump’s offer.

Flynn resigned after it came out that he had several conversations with Russia’s ambassador. The calls, which were recorded, included discussion of the sanctions former President Obama placed on Russia. Flynn alluded that once Trump was sworn into the office, the sanctions might be lessened.

That, however uncouth, is not technically illegal and allegedly not why Flynn resigned. In actuality, Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence. He told Pence that sanctions had not come up in conversation, and Pence repeated that lie—unwittingly—on national television. Big no-no. Yuge. That little lie put, according to the Justice Department, Flynn at risk for blackmail by Moscow.

During Trump’s first solo press conference, he claimed that the media’s coverage of Flynn is what led to Flynn’s resignation. Which…okay. In one moment, he claimed that the leaks were true, but the news was fake because “so much of the news is fake.” Flynn’s interactions with Russia were poison to the Trump White House because it added another dimension to the Trump-Russia connection, something Trump is trying to distance himself from.

Flynn’s resignation was quick Monday evening, with Kellyanne Conway asserting early Monday that Flynn had the full confidence of Trump and later Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, told press that President Trump was evaluating the situation. According to Spicer, Trump was told by the Justice Department weeks ago that Flynn had not been truthful and had been evaluating him since then.

The resignation of Flynn follows a month of changes in the White House, described by Senator John McCain (R-Ari.) as “in disarray.” In Trump’s first month, he saw his immigration ban be hastily implemented and then overturned, his pick for Secretary of Labor, Andy Pudzer, withdraw his nomination, another nomination—Betsy DeVos—be the source of contention and Senate gridlock, leaks from within the White House, and a member of his private club posting Facebook messages about the White House official carrying the nuclear codes.

In comparison, while I am not the leader of the free world, all I managed to accomplish this month was finally getting a haircut. It looks good, fyi.

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Review, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE EP. 4, “The Last Picture Show”

Grade: B (good, but filler)

The town of Riverdale unfolds with every episode, the corners of the map stretching farther and farther, wider and wider. This is the first week where the drama took place almost entirely outside of the high school, and just that shifted the entire tone. In a lot of ways, the episode was just like the drive-in movie, the last one before the theater shuts down. You’re watching the drama, and even when the tension gets racheted up, you feel largely cossetted and safe. You know that what you’re watching won’t leave the screen, but you can’t shake the feeling of melancholy with the knowledge that as every second slips by, the movie is getting closer and closer to the end.

Side bar: The tone of each episode oscillates wildly. So while I enjoyed this episode, it was a total filler episode after last week’s LITERAL INSANITY. #StickyMaple

Rewatching last week’s promo for this episode, the CW definitely fucks with your head. They made it seem like Grundy was a psycho-killer, who killed the real Geraldine Grundy and took on her life like a snake slithering back into a dry, papery shedded husk. But tonight the drama was minimal—especially compared to episode three, the fourth episode was decidedly placid. The tension was eerie and achey. Within the span of hours, multiple main characters found out about the relationship between Archie and Ms. Grundy.

At the end of last episode, Dilton Doiley told Jughead and Betty that he had spotted Ms. Grundy’s car on the banks of Sweetwater River the day Jason Blossom was supposedly killed (we know now that Jason died almost a week later). Betty knows that Archie was also at the river’s edge that day, and quickly puts together the obvious. I mean, she didn’t witness the two idiots making out in band room like Jughead did, but she’s not dim.

But once Betty knows, the entire cast of characters glossed over the whole “statutory rape” aspect of Ms. Grundy and Archie’s relationship real quick, if you ask me. Like, I don’t mean to cause drama, but if it had been Mr. Grundy and Archina, I’m betting Grundy would be hogtied in someone’s car trunk by this point. But that’s just my opinion.

Because Archie is actually maybe an idiot, Betty takes it upon herself to dig into Ms. Grundy’s past. She finds that there is no trace of her from beyond a year ago—the only Geraldine Grundy she found was an elderly woman who had died previously. SpOoKy. And using journalism as a cover for a probing investigation—jorunalism is really given a bad rep in this show, no thanks to the fucking Cooper family—Betty discovers something quite…interesting.

Jason Blossom was a private student of Ms. Grundy’s last year. That Jason Blossom.

The episode strengthened the tacit parallels between Archie and Jason, something I no longer think is coincidence. It happens first when Grundy drops the knowledge that Jason was a past student of hers, the overarching question of, “What kind of relationship was it?” And later, Betty and Mrs. Cooper are at odds in Betty’s bubblegum-fantasy room when Betty makes her mother say her name.

“Elizabeth Cooper,” says Mrs. Cooper, in the only real emotion I’ve seen on her face.

“Not Polly Cooper. And Archie is not Jason.” But the parallelisms are already in place: the world sees these two redheaded boys (one decidedly brawnier and hotter than the other: spoiler, it’s not the one in white kid gloves) as mirrors of each other.

I always begin every episode thinking Betty is so cool and fun, and end every episode thinking she should be committed. This episode was the rare exception, but I’m not holding my breath. Whether she’s breaking into Ms. Grundy’s car and finding her real ID (Jennifer Gibson) AND A GUN or trying to get Archie to see that Grundy is, like, definitely a child predator, Betty was MVP this episode.

An example of this would be this small exchange when Betty is trying to convince Archie to open his eyes. She has found the gun and the real ID.

BETTY: You didn’t ask anything about her name? Where she had been before this? Why not?

ARCHIE (in his head): Um she’s a teacher sleeping with a student; kind of assumed it was obvious she’s a creep.

ARCHIE (out loud): She’s not doing anything wrong.

In the B-plot, essentially every parent in Riverdale is the absolute worst. Veronica, shoved to the backseat this episode, witnesses her mother do some shady dealings with Riverdale’s local gang—the South Side Serpents. Just a comment, but even the gangs in this town sound like something out of West Side Story.

Hermione Lodge tries to convince her daughter that everything is fine, but after a shady dealing with the mayor—Josie’s mom—we learn that from jail, Mr. Lodge has been paying the South Side Serpents to terrorize the drive-in theater, depreciate its value, and then snap it up for real estate development. Remember this—I can’t even do math without a calculator.

Side bar: When someone says “When have I ever lied to you” when assuring someone they’re telling the truth, you can almost be certain that they are lying to you right now, and probably every other moment of your life.

In fact, all the parents are the worst tonight. The Serpent who was threatening Hermione is Jughead’s dad. Josie’s mom is engaged in backdoor deals. Alice Cooper finds Grundy’s gun hidden in Betty’s room and characterizes it as “just for starters” as wrong. JUST FOR STARTERS. And my favorite (sarcasm) gay (only gay) on the show—Kevin Keller—finally gets a storyline (making out with a gang member). And guess what, it’s about dudes. Kevin asks for the truck and his dad, Chief Keller, is like “please no more cruising.” If my dad had found me cruising guys in the woods and later I asked for the truck, he would be like, “What truck” because we don’t own a truck. But then he would break my legs. Who are these parents?!

Finally, Alice Cooper tells Archie’s dad that Grundy is sleeping with his son. They go to the school—WHERE ARCHIE HAS JUST GIVEN GRUNDY A GIFT—and confront her. Alice says the magic words, “Child predator”—the ones that no one has thought to say before this—and is just about to ruin both Grundy and Archie when Betty steps in.

Side bar: What is with the victim-blaming on Riverdale? First Grundy says that if they come clean, Archie will get expelled? And now Mrs. Cooper is blaming Archie for sleeping with a predator? Guys, let’s have some chill.

Betty threatens that she’s pretend she made the whole thing up and confirm everyone’s worst fears—that Betty is crazy like Polly, and Alice drove her to it. thankfully, the small part of Alice Cooper that is still human recognizes her daughter’s resolve, and settles for just driving Grundy out of town.

BETTY ROCKS.

This episode was largely a stand-alone—it hardly dealt with the murder. But to keep the thread strong, the last scenes of the episode are the Kellers’ arriving back home from the movie to a door slightly ajar. Papa Keller’s murder collage for Jason Blossom has been ripped down, and the mystery of Jason’s killer continues. Overall this episode was a yaas.

NEXT WEEK: The funeral of Jason Blossom, redhead at large.

STRAY OBSERVATIONS

  • Archie wasn’t shirtless at all. And we had to see him crying. Double boner killer.
  • Presented without comment: Jellybean Jones.
  • Not thinking ahead is kind of what fucks over every statutory rapist in the end—when it comes down to the brass tacks. Also the whole “fucking an underage kid” thing. Who am I to judge? Love is love. Except when it’s, you know, not.
  • This time I’m on Betty’s side. “I’ll prove that crazy runs in the family.” UM HENNY U ALREADY DID THAT LAST WEEK.
  • Kevin makes eye contact with a gay snake, AND a homosexual South Side Serpent (self-five).
  • ARE. A. CHILD. PREDATOR. JENNIFER. And stop wearing those Lolita heart-sunglasses, dick.
  • Mrs Cooper says CHILD PREDATOR: but then she’s a freak about Archie. For one second I was on your side, Alice!!! Fuckk
  • I thought that either the SSS was stabbing Kevin or fucking him, and I can’t decide which I would rather see less. Of course, the serpent’s name is Joaquin, because why not.
  • Jughead is homeless!!!!
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LGBTQ, television

THE GAY-FOR-PAY PROBLEM ON CW’S RIVERDALE

Adapted from a column written for class. 

If you watch bad television enough, you begin to realize that hot people are all hot in the same way. And if you watch bad young-adult television enough, you begin to realize that all hot gay guys on television tend to look exactly the same. They just cloning the same beautiful people over and over again—Brave New World-style.

CW’s Riverdale is a dark, sultry teen-thriller interpretation of the Archie comics. The show mixes the idealistic setting of the comic, which began issue in 1942, with weird, neon sex appeal. The show carried onto screen Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character in the comic. It was a breakthrough in the comic and it was a breakthrough on screen—in pre-premiere interviews, the cast prized the character Kevin as “more than” a gay best friend, sassy sidekick or comic relief. He would have a storyline, nuance and depth. Great.

On screen, Kevin Keller is played by Casey Cott. When I first saw him, I thought Cott looked familiar: gorgeous in the Ken Doll, teen drama kind of way. Full lips, chiseled jaw, dark hair parted severely. But then I realized that he just looked like every hot twentysomething playing a fourteen-year-old on TV, and I assumed that the actor was gay. I assumed Cott was gay because…I just did. I had no reason to not to.

I followed him on Instagram because I’m a masochist and love to torture myself with photos of more attractive, more successful gays. I saw that he had posted a ton of photos with his cast members. That’s how they’re marketing themselves: best buddies—two straws, one milkshake kind of buddies.

Side bar: I’m not close enough with anyone to split a milkshake with them. And I’m not friends with anyone stupid enough to try.

One blonde girl kept popping up in every photo who wasn’t a cast member. It would be him in a close-fitting fedora (very LA), leading man KJ Apa (Archie Andrews), and Blonde Girl. Him, co-star Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl Blossom), and Blonde Girl. Blonde Girl everywhere. I thought she was a close friend, a far-distant E-list celebrity/YouTube star/model who was hitching her wagon to his. I accepted that explanation because I know when I become famous, I’m going to drag some of my friends into stardom with me. Everyone needs personal assistants, amiright?

Curious after seeing her multiple times, I clicked on her tag and went to her profile. Her curation of photos was much more deliberately of him and sans the Riverdale cast. Her and Casey Cott on set. Her and Casey getting coffee. Casey and her dog, playing together. The pieces began to fall together and the truth was confirmed with her caption under the photo of Casey and the dog.

“PSA: Your dog will steal your man.”

They were dating; this groundbreaking historic gay character was being played by another straight guy.

It shouldn’t matter—but it does.

On the show, Casey toed the line of playing to the stereotype and then subverting it when playing Kevin. I mean, they ended the first episode with Kevin going to hook up with a closeted football player on the riverbank and finding Jason Blossom’s dead body. So when Kevin was overplaying the flamboyance and I thought the actor was gay, I accepted it.

Part of Riverdale’s charm is indulging stereotypes only to discard them. The classic trope of Archie as a jock torn between music and sports is dragged up tiredly, only to be tossed aside when Veronica Lodge asked, “Can’t we, in this post-James Franco world, just be all things at once?” And so I assumed that’s what they were doing with Kevin—trying to by cheeky. They were saying, “Hey, you know we don’t actually think gay people act like this—we’re chiller than that.”

I took it as ironically challenging the stereotype; of toying with expectations until he was given a deeper storyline. But even if Kevin Keller gets a great storyline later on, a part of me will forever be salty.

It was revolutionary to have a gay character introduced into the canon of a comic series that began in 1942. It’s not revolutionary to have a straight guy playing gay on screen, no matter how much winking accompanies the bitchy rapport. It invokes the very damaging idea of “gay for pay” (an entire OTHER article that I need time to unpack), that the most attractive thing for a gay guy to aspire towards is actually heterosexuality. 

Riverdale marketed itself as sexy, bold and risk-taking. It made the conscious effort to be “woke.” The character of Josie—of the Pussycats—is played by Ashleigh Murray, a woman of color. Cole Sprouse made the comment that he hopes his character, Jughead Jones, is portrayed as asexual. (Thank you?)

But the fact that the only gay character, in a line-up of actors so bland you could bag them as Wonder Bread and sell them for sandwiches, is played by a straight person undercuts any progress they think they’ve made. Because the acting choices Cott made when I thought he was gay turn from satirical to patronizing.

There’s the argument that the actor was simply the best person for the role. And maybe that’s true, but there were definitely gay, bisexual and queer actors who auditioned for the part. Actors who were probably handsome in the exact same way as Casey Cott, with the same full lips and dark, severely parted hair. Actors who do not have the advantage, unlike Cott, of oftentimes playing the reverse. Straight actors can play gay roles, and are often congratulated for them, but the opposite is hardly ever the case.

The easiest question is “Why not?”

Why not go the extra mile and find someone who is actually representative of the progress you are so proudly claiming? If it was a priority to honor the character of Kevin by bringing him to the screen, why was it not a priority to honor the character by finding him a gay actor? Because it’s 2017 and if you’re going to be resting on the laurels of progressiveness, you should be progressive in every aspect.

It shouldn’t matter, and maybe it won’t eventually, but it does right now. We as a community have fought for too long for half as much. And it might be childish to invoke the struggles of the community when discussing a CW show. But it’s what that CW show stands for. Honor our stories and our identities by giving work to someone who can tell that story. The problem is not that Casey Cott isn’t a great actor, or that he portrays the character well. It’s that there was a queer actor who probably could’ve done the role just as well. We shouldn’t accept whatever portrayals we can get. We shouldn’t accept the minimum. That’s not fair. And that’s not right.

Will I still watch the show? Yes—I’m hooked. Will I still recap it? Yes. But this was also bugging me, and I needed to figure out why.

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