Queer reference as indictment, the commodification of identity, and the beauty (and horror) of FaceTuning

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Lord Bussy and Jurgen at their screens

(Author’s Note: You can find my interview with the Fake Friends, where we talk more about memes, white supremacy, and queer aesthetics at theLA Review of Books. These are some excerptsfrom our two-hour conversation which didn’t make the final cut.)

In terms of queer aesthetic being reappropriated or weaponized and becoming a tool of white supremacy. Was there anything within the show that you sort of, discussed or hesitated about as far as that also kind of falling into the same trap?

Michael Breslin: Yeah, I mean we can all talk about this in various ways. But that was the main question in every single rehearsal, and every single writing session. Cat, who plays Eva Maria has this really great way of thinking about this, which is, if you’re going to critique something, there’s a very slippery slope to, falling into doing the thing that you’re you think you’re critiquing, right? So we’ve rewritten this play so many times, because that is a real threat. …


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i contain multitdes!

Like many of you, I have had a treasure trove of time on my hands. I decided to fix some of the gaps in my film watching and catch up on some classic films, like finally watching Seven Samurai, as well as revisit old favorites, like playing that one clip of Daniel Craig walking out of the water in Casino Royale on a loop.

  1. Casino Royale
  2. Playtime
  3. “Dale and Elyse’s Playtime”
  4. Naked
  5. “Naked Ambition”
  6. Inserts
  7. “Shawn & Ellian Buddy Up”
  8. “Breaking in Paul”
  9. “Travis & Max: Unscripted”
  10. Real Housewives of Potomac: Season 4 — “Showdown at the Hoedown” (yeah I know it’s TV, but if those dweebs talking about Twin Peaks can get away with it, why can’t I?) …


How “Glee” blew up and went off the rails in ten(-ish) songs

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don’t stop believin’

(Author’s Note: This piece was originally written in late 2018, timed to the show’s tenth anniversary in May 2019.)

Introduction

It seems to me I’ve heard that song before

It’s from an old familiar score

I know it well, that melody

It’s funny how a theme recalls a favorite dream

A dream that brought you so close to me

I know each word because I’ve heard that song before

— music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn

In high school, I was a Kurt. Or, at least, I would have been in a more precise way if my school had been big enough. I was a bit fey, not yet out, so opinionated that my art teacher once took me aside and told me my friends thought I was condescending about my perspective on film and culture, swinging back and forth between indulging in my wallflowery existence and my loud, slide on the floor while singing “All My Loving” by the Beatles flamboyance. My friends knew I was a Kurt before I knew I was a Kurt, but, regardless of the implications, seeing “porcelain” Chris Colfer daintily sing “Mister Cellophane” — ostentatiously holding one particular note as he ostentatiously adjusts his hair — while auditioning for a glee club in May 2009 spoke to me. That scene was, I would have said at the time, made for me. And looking back at that time is, unsurprisingly, tinged with a little regret, disappointment, a bit of nostalgia. …


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Ooten shoeless

She has a lot of stuff in her bag, and she — nameless, archetypal physically, defined primarily by her zeal — will tell you about each object, every over-enthusiastic inflection nearly roaring in place of the story behind the object, be it a dorky pen, cans of non-perishables, or the GoPro camera with which she documents her ambitious endeavor to walk barefoot across the United States of America (from Providence, RI to Paris, CA, she tells us) to raise money for the Water is Sacred Collective, amplifying awareness of climate change. …


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I think your “ScarJo is Asian” jokes are stupid

In 2014, which seems like eons ago, Scarlett Johansson was cast in the American remake of Ghost in the Shell, based on the Manga by Masamune Shirow and the subsequent film adaptation directed by Mamoru Oshii; the American film, directed by Rupert Sanders, was released in March 2017, also seemingly a century ago. In 2012, Emma Stone was cast in Cameran Crowe’s film Aloha as a character of Asian and Hawaain descent, which would not be released until 2015. And, rightfully, those both of and beyond the Asian and Asian American community called attention to these examples of whitewashing. Johansson has gone on to put foot in mouth in interviews and other casting announcements. …


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very inclusive Gay New York

The next supposed “great work” about Gay New York starts but never begins

Matthew Lopez’s play The Inheritance, directed by sob maestro Stephen Daldry, has a scale that is like the breadth of New York, crowded and overwhelming, loud and busy, dramatic and exhausting, unwieldy and intoxicating and full of piss. Well, that’s the scale, at least, so I’m told by its aggressive marketing, its conjuring of images from Gay New York history past and present, its chore-like runtime.

That may be part of the appeal, frankly; the new supposedly great gay epic of theatre touching down onto the streets of Broadway after a much lauded run in London now has the opportunity to, it hopes, aim at gay New Yorkers’, and their allies, hearts. It is, after all, about “Gay New York”, a fairly contemporary vision of the social creature, reeling, more recently, from the 2016 election, and more literarily from the trauma of gay history and oppression. A loose adaptation and riff on EM Forster’s Howards End, The Inheritance concerns mostly three characters, and a few attached to them, and then a few others in their orbit. It’s about life, and death, and trauma, and history, and community, and art, and I know this because the play literally tells you as much in its opening five or six minutes of strangely amateurish writing, explicitly laying bare its thematic preoccupations like the opening paragraph of a high school essay. And it is about New York. New York is a character in lots of fictional texts, but Gay New York rarely gets its due in comparison. There are name drops of landmarks, so many name drops, of Film Forum, of BAM, of the New York Film Festival (erroneously implied to take place in November), of restaurants and theatres, bars, and The Strand Bookstore. So, The Inheritance, a play about many things but, for the sake of this short argument, a play about Gay New York (one that premiered in London) can take its place and perform for Gay New York. It’s a startling bit of meta-theatre, in a way; Gay New York as a stage to which many have emigrated, and a platform for those to perform not their ideal selves, but a version and an idea of their ideal selves, not yet necessarily fufilled. Like the play’s minimalist staging, featuring mostly just a platform that, when raised, looks like a gigantic table or stage, and when lowered can be a sink hole, you can write your own history and graft your own desires onto New York. …


An idea of what a canon of Mayor “Petite Bourgeois” might look like

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“I am not skilled enough or energetic enough to craft a persona. I just have to be who I am and hope people like it,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for President aspirationally and preciously as a Democrat , said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, disappointing tens of Boystown boys across boys and towns in America whose Grindr profiles indicated interest in more of a shapeshifting, Gemini-esque personality. Authenticity is the name of Mayor Pete’s game, his ~story~ long having been the crux of his campaign like a once-appealing, now-dusty-and-facile story at the Moth, as is a dutiful time in the service, even if it means that his idea of authenticity is about as “authentically” diverse as the welcome packet for a liberal arts university in Vermont. That’s okay. …


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Art: Matt Cokeley

On seeing your honest true self in a Sith Lord

I still have a Darth Maul blanket from 1999. It’s warm, in good condition, stark in its red and black colors. Nostalgia can pervert the past. But it can also bring the present into focus in unexpected ways. Darth Maul paraphernalia lined the shelves of my childhood bedroom — books, soap, watches, toys, dolls. I was entranced by that iconography, by his fury, by what his presence implied about power and masculinity. I was drawn to his darkness when I was six.

Six is an impressionable age. For other Star Wars fans — for other boys — Darth Maul was threatening in a cool way (double-bladed lightsaber, man!) For me, he suggested something more dangerous and more intimate, like a kind of complicit nod or glance in the back of a bar. …


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like father, like son.

The faint sounds of Jimmy Buffett’s “Last Mango in Paris” play as the pre-show music, but as the lights dim and the show starts, the music becomes gradually louder. It sounds like it’s being played on a mid-2000s car radio. The curtain rises and reveals an aggressively chic movie theater lobby, with incongruently and amateurishly chosen antique furniture on stage right; a pretense dripping little candy shop towards the center that stretches a few feet back into the stage; large signage with faux-vintage lettering announcing pretentiously movie times (Over the Hedge and Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace); which hangs above a little checkout station. KYLE, 25, sits on the edge of the desk, dressed in denim jacket festooned with pins, brown boots, and burgundy pants. …


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Camp. Where is that bar?

The casual menswear company’s pitch — shirts, with shorter hemlines, designed to be untucked — is the perfect encapsulation of the bizarre artifice of hetero-masculinity

“8. Camp is a vision of the world in terms of style — but a particular kind of style. It is the love of the exaggerated, the ‘off,’ of things-being-what-they-are-not.” — Susan Sontag, “Notes on Camp”

UNTUCKit, the casual menswear brand that’s like the sad rich but insipid and useless cousin of J Crew, has only one thing to its unintentionally gay name: shorter hemlines. Okay, two things, if I’m being generous: shorter hemlines and the randomly workable and unworkable “fitted” styles, that give you a tapered look or more room in the body. The Relaxed Fit, which gave about an inch and a half more room in the body, was all the rage for guys who needed more room in the body of their shirt and did not want to tuck it into their pants, as if it would kill them. They seem not to be a fan of the “French tuck” either. (For shorter people, like myself, you’ll still be left buying in the young people’s section at Macy’s, telling the cashier you’re buying it for your progeny.) When on the phone as a customer service agent speaking to clients, it took a great deal of will power for me not to say “more room in the body-ody-ody.” You look at a man in an UNTUCKit shirt, and you think, “Why is this finance bro walking so slow?” Or “Oh, he’s the guy who wrote, ‘I don’t tip because you don’t deserve a living wage’ on my check, right?” …

About

Kyle Turner

Snarkoleptic. Queer monster. Amateur critic. Professional snob. Freelancer. I am relieved to know that I am not a golem.

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