Essay, LGBTQ, Life, Love & Romance, Millennials, Movies, Thinkpiece

CALL ME BY YOUR SAME

I watched Call Me By Your Name on a flight back from Amsterdam recently (brag!). And whether it was the combination of airplane red wine and altitude, or perhaps a human, beating heart, I was so deeply affected by the viewing that I’ve floated in a fog the last few days, one that I’ve characterized as a “gay funk.”

A gay funk is a peculiar and particular kind of funk for me – and trust, I’ve got plenty of funk genres. It comes from a place of mixed happiness and sadness – the font of queerdom, the well of homosexuality.

I’m not going to get into it here – for a multitude of reasons, including that you are not paying me, sis, and also I doubt my psychiatrist would recommend that I do it – but I’ve spent the last few months coming to terms with the fact that a lot of my high school experience was fucked-up, and painful, and distinctly not okay. It’s hard in a lot of ways, to recharacterize something after the fact, but I’ve felt lighter for it.

So the idea of watching a movie that essentially splays out the past traumas I’ve been dealing with – youth and queerness and masculinity and love – sent red flares in my vision and, if I’m being honest, I actively avoided seeing the movie. But with the stretch of eight hours ahead of me and nothing to do but sit, I finally relented.

It also comes from a very legitimate place of cynicism. Queer men, particularly gay, white men, are luckier than others in our community in the fact that we have had more and varied representation in the media. But still, the idea of a movie that depicted my experience made me wary and scared. We get so few chances, and I didn’t want one to be squandered. I wanted to remain unseen.

But in a similar way to Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name truthfully and honestly depicted shades of my life in ways that felt like a tribute, rather than an exploitation.

It was painful to watch, Call Me By Your Name, but it was a curious pain because I felt it lancing me softly and beautifully. I felt parts of me uncoil, spirals of sadness that have been clamped up for so long. I was sad watching the movie, and jealous in ways, and unjealous in others.

Surprise, surprise, but I did not have a love story like Elio and Oliver’s in my high school experience. I had one, very intense and unrequited love – in the way that only seventeen-year-old closeted kids can love – but I related to the breathless, heartsick trill of their relationship. And honestly, I can’t ignore the fact that Armie Hammer is of the same mold as my high school crush: blonde and strappingly all-American.

So much of the romance in my life has been wrapped up with shame, longing, sadness and guilt, and that what I felt the movie portrayed so honestly. How love is propelled by a desire to satiate your own loneliness, quell the turmoil and the self-sabotaging desire to jump. Despite growing up in a world that was growing more and more tolerant of being gay, I don’t recall any positive representation of queer love in my childhood. I had no interactions with gay people, had no inkling that they could be thriving adults.

Watching Call Me By Your Name invoked a sadness similar to the first time I read Giovanni’s Room, sadness that our experience of love is so often colored by pain. I know that this can be a universal experience, but it feels particularly like the nexus of queerness. It’s sad, but it’s also comforting; that we’re a part of a lineage and history that extends beyond your singular, mortal self, despite that mantle being so wrought with pain.

Hence the gay funk: so many of the queer people I know didn’t get to have clean, cut-and-dry first experiences. They were tainted by who we were, and how the world treated us. So watching Call Me By Your Name made me viciously jealous of a tenet of teenhood that I missed out on. The movie made me sad for the kid that I was. The kid who was robbed of so many things, so many experiences. For all the love that I did have, there was so much love spilled on the ground, wastefully draining away. I’m sad for what he had to go through, for what he didn’t realize he was going through, and for what he would be going through.

But the movie made me happy in a lot of ways, because that pain was clarifying for me – it crystallized, for good and bad, the person that I am. It made me a fighter and empathetic and clumsy, complex and ruthless and fragile. It made me question who I was – it made me fight for myself. It grounded me in my own soil. It also reminded me that, in spite of it all, I loved being a teenager. I loved feeling all the nuances and complexity of emotions – first best friends, first break-up, first disappointment, first triumph. Like Mike Phelps was built for swimming, I was built for feeling things deeply. A lot of that (lol) was depression, but I think that even without being depressed, my body would be carved for intensity of feeling.

And it’s funny, because if I saw that kid – seventeen-year-old me – I would think that he was beautiful. I would admire his grit, his humor, his broken attempts at concealing how deeply and tumultuously he cared. I would’ve found him brave, and witty, and endearing, even as he attempted to be as spiky as possible. It’s the lasting echo I’ve carried with me since watching the movie: deep, bursting love for the kid that I was, despite everything, despite all the pain. And that’s what the end of the movie was about. Closing yourself off from grief is another kind of trauma. Feeling things deeply is not a curse, it’s part of the experience.

So much of life is love tempered with pain. One doesn’t exist without the other.

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2018, celebrity, Movies, pop culture, social media

2018 GOLDEN GLOBES: MEN, WE NEED TO BE DOING BETTER

Header source: MIKE NELSON/EPA-EFE via USA Today


Last night was the 2018 Golden Globes. I did not watch, but *shocker* I have opinions.

While scrolling through Twitter because Keeping Up with the Kardashians was boring – if it’s not a pregnancy confirmation, I’m rapidly losing interest – I saw that Greta Gerwig, the writer and director of Lady Bird, was snubbed for a Best Director nomination. One could always make the argument, “Oh maybe she wasn’t the best director?” which would be valid if not for the fact that she was nominated for Best Screenplay and Lady Bird was nominated, and won, for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and Saorise Ronan, the actress portraying the lead character in the film, was nominated, and won, Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Laurie Metcalf was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture.

Sis, Saorise Ronan won when nominated against Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Margot Robbie and Emma Stone. And while Saorise Ronan is an incredible actress, she was directed by an incredible woman – Greta Gerwig.

There are a lot of reasons why I’m upset that Greta Gerwig wasn’t nominated. Lady Bird was an incredibly beautiful, and personally moving, film. It portrayed Catholicism and high school and youth and parental relations in a way that felt seen, not dumbed down, and funny.

In fact, despite directing passionate, beautiful and interesting films – Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, Dee Rees’ Mudbound (the latter of which Mary J. Blige was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture) – Gerwig and other female directors were not even nominated in that category. Instead, the list of nominees for Best Director were entirely male and entirely white.

Again, you could make the argument that the nominations were based on merit – these are all incredibly talented nominees. But, hon, you’d be wrong. How can a film win Best Picture if it had an awful director and writer? How can a woman win Best Actress if she were not guided by an amazing director?

Natalie Portman remarked on the inequity while presenting the award for Best Director. “And here are the all-male nominees,” she said.

And here’s the thing: this is not the moment to be snubbing talented female directors, and it belies the troubling nature of Hollywood. Sexual abuse, harassment and assault was rampant in the entertainment industry – it is not limited to that industry; harassers and abusers plague every work industry – but Hollywood is quick to applaud their own action. Men wore “Time’s Up” pins on their tuxedoes; Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic replaced their “Who are you wearing” with “Why are you wearing black?” But that’s a lot like politicians offering up “Thoughts and prayers” after tragedies. What we want is action; we want reaction; we want laws and retribution. There were sexual predators, assaulters and abusers in that crowd; some of them probably even received awards. We’re not ~done~ with this movement, and I don’t think we will be done for a long time.

There were highs of the night: women like Debra Messing and Eva Longoria mentioned Catt Sadler’s pay inequality. Seth Meyers, as much as a white, straight man on NBC’s payroll could, addressed the fact that this is the first awards show after the massive saying of names.

Oprah received the Cecil B. DeMille award and gave a speech that touched upon sexual assault, the heartbreaking way it affects black women and women of color in particular – she told the story of Recy Taylor, a black woman who was raped and who Rosa Parks investigated on behalf on; Recy’s white assaulters were never charged. “She lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. And for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.”

It’s frustrating to see that women are shouldering the burden of reminding us about sexual harassment and assault and urging us to act. It’s frustrating to see that more men have not stepped up to the plate. This culture of harassment, misogyny and sexual abuse was allowed to continue entirely because of the passivity of men. They, we, need to be doing more. We need to be stepping up and showing that we do not co-sign the actions of men like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. We need to be doing more, and I hope that we will.

“In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave: to say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere, and how we overcome,” said Oprah in her speech.

“I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, ‘Me too’ again.”

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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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