WARNING: This Isn’t Your Modern Family

 I considered making this post about the banning of Travis Matthews’ 2012 film I Want Your Love to evaluate on a larger scope the overall climate of LGBT media content’s distribution, revealing why it’s so shunned and limited. But, that analysis is maybe a little too much to take on in a simple blog post. Let’s go off the assumption that it’s pretty bad. My friends hear me griping about it all the time, almost to the point of bitterness, so I’ll try to refrain from my usual diatribe. This film is great. I enjoyed it. The ban in Australia of all places, a relatively modern, major area is ridiculous. Yes, it’s explicit. But, even the word “explicit” has an unnecessary taboo meaning. I like that it’s explicit. Too often filmmakers shy away from depicting sex or do it in a sanitized, staged, and unrealistic way. My favorite is hearing someone who thinks he’s a movie critic because he‘s seen Wes Anderson or Darren Aronofsky or Wachowski films make the charge that certain sex scenes are gratuitous. Those “critics” usually come from a prudish place. All the more reason to explore sex in an artistic way to analyze these reservations. What I love about the film is that those scenes aren’t extraneous to the narrative. They are seemingly small but important moments for these characters – scenes that explore them psychologically and propel their lives to change. Travis Matthews could defend the necessity of these scenes in the film to the point of exhaustion, but that would be missing the point. People — straight, anyway — are afraid of gay sex. This ban is a clear indication in the huge double standard (i.e. the counterexamples of straight sex scenes just as explicit receiving an exemption). An exciting movement in queer cinema is happening right now – honest, realistic, and nuanced portrayals of modern gay lives — that won’t reach the audience it could. Lack of circulation and offensive official bans like this reinforce the conditioned wincing at real intimacy between gay people.

This ban is outright censorship. But, aren’t films like this tacitly censored to an extent even without an official block? Some comments have expressed dismay that Australians are denied this film. Those who want to see it and own a computer can see it though. And, even though I luckily don’t live somewhere it’s prohibited by law, I admittedly saw it from an online download. Louisville – a city in the shallow South that’s fairly progressive with an ample arts scene – didn’t screen it anywhere I knew of. And, if they did, it was probably somewhere small for one night only and wasn’t widely advertised. This film only circulates in the festivals, specifically queer/LGBT ones, a niche. For instance, I highly doubt Baxter or Village 8 would ever carry this even for a week given the production company and unrated status. The way the industry is set up is unofficial censorship.

Does this push the boundaries for straight audiences? I can‘t play coy by saying it won’t for many. I’ve recommended Weekend – a film I love so much – to most everyone I know, and gauging those reactions has been interesting. One friend I know said that it was definitely extreme in its sex scenes, not in a bad way, but compared to a movie like Brokeback Mountain or A Single Man. Well, I Want Your Love is a good deal more graphic. But, at the same time, the tone is subdued, a chamber piece about a quiet character going through a reevaluation of himself with his sexual identity, his place in the world, his artistic ambitions, and what his life has meant up until that point as he prepares for a life altering move. It may fall into navel gazing territory, but it’s allowed to b/c gay people can finally navel gaze on screen just as much as someone like Woody Allen does. It’s a beautiful, artful, and poignant piece. I shouldn’t have to say this, but feel the need to because I know people: Straights who are curious, you will absolutely need to go into it with the most open mind you’ve ever had viewing LGBT content, but I encourage it.

Call Your Girlfriend

I watched Robyn’s new video last night, then went about my life, and then the more I thought about it, the brilliance of it started to resonate slowly. It’s one long single shot, she dances, lights flash. What’s the big deal? It’s the simplicity. In a culture of pop music in which videos are ADD central, and each shot is quick and the cuts sharp, most feel like a visual assault. So, that’s why this is so refreshing to me. I watched it again when I got off work, and again, and then a fourth time. It’s mesmerizing, demanding that the viewer focus without realizing that’s what’s being demanded. For the most part, I don’t listen to much pop music, and for the acts I do, I usually deem them my “guilty pleasures” and won’t admit to liking save for around a select few people. Robyn is my exception. I feel like she’s everything Lady Gaga should be but isn’t. She’s unique. Just look at those dance moves and 80’s wear! The difference is that she’s just herself without the contrived image. This video re-affirms my opinion, and I wanted to share. I started listening to her Body Talk series in January, fell in love with it, also wrote this post in which Robyn was a part of my discussion, and she’s been blowing up my ipod for a solid 5 months now, and I’m going to see her on Sunday, which I feel is like the culmination.

Late Night Internets

I now have the internet in my house, which means I can search old live Judy Garland performances on youtube when I come home after a night of drinking with friends : )

Perfect end to a night.

I will still never get a TV! or sign back on to facebook!

Music Labels



The cover of the compilation album

 ”This is the gayest song of the year,” is what one commentator wrote about the above song accompanying the video. If you don’t know, it’s “Dancing On My Own” from Robyn’s Body Talk — a series of 3 EPs she put out in 2010. If anyone hasn’t checked it out yet, I highly suggest he or she does. Of course you remember Robyn, the classic 90’s singer. Okay, she had one strong hit — “Show Me Love.” Is it coming back? Yeah, I barely recalled her too. I do remember that song all over the radio in the later part of the 90’s, but it’s one of those songs I could easily pinpoint but couldn’t tell anyone the details of what album it was from or even who the artist was for that matter. With this killer comeback, I’m glad I know who she is now. Since buying the compilation album at Ear X-tacy I’ve been listening to it more than occasionally. It’s addicting and has been deemed one of the best of last year by many critics.

Gayest song of the year
What does this even mean? Obviously on first read it could be a criticism. You know, the infantile eighth grade slur that “gay” means “stupid” or “lame.” No, the posts are pretty much a lovefest for Robyn, so I’m assuming this person meant it as a compliment. Or is it pointing to the aesthetic of the musical style? Ever since my three week love affair with Body Talk I’ve been contemplating what “gay music” is exactly. Robyn’s style is electronic dance, so is that what it is? Music you can dance to that would likely be played in a gay club? I don’t hear anyone pegging Tiesto as an artist with a gay appeal. So, do gender politics play into it? Is the artist typically female? This notion is pretty base, but I’ll admit both are accurate to a point. Gay culture has embraced dance music from female artists since the early days when the bars were illegal and run by the mob. So, does that mean “gay music” is what the majority of gay people listen to? I listen to Iron and Wine. Are they a gay band? I’ll stop with this incessant questioning, because I think their rhetorical nature and point has been made, and the answers are fairly obvious. Then again, I don’t think I’ve come to any definitive conclusions and have used this paragraph as a sounding board. What I’ve perhaps gathered is that the answer to its opening questioning isn’t easily answered, and maybe doesn’t have one specific resolution.


Cover art for “Hold It Against Me,” Britney’s latest

Judy Garland. Madonna. Britney Spears. Lady Gaga. These are only some of the mainstream artists pegged as being integral in gay culture, and looking at what they all have in common, it’s easy to decipher the reason. I can only speak from my own experience. I’m about to relay some pretty embarrassing personal history and guilty pleasures, though I hate that phrase. Growing up, I was obsessed with Britney Spears. Part of it stuck. For instance, I get excited when I hear she’s putting out a new album, and my level of thrill with the release of her new song is no exception. No shame. I’ve attempted to analyze why she appealed to me so much. Don’t blame me. She was my generation’s Madonna. I recorded her appearances on TV, learned her dance moves, spent time on fan sites. In psychoanalyzing my young teenage self, this unhealthy interest was appropriate. At a time when I couldn’t express the sexuality I wanted to, a sexuality pegged as feminine, she did it for me in her performances and lyrics. She exuded a sexuality that appealed to men, which is what I wanted to do but couldn’t. It was an escape of sorts. I think this is typical of young boys trying to cope with same-sex feelings. We found someone else to identify with. And, if anyone questioned it, we could explain it away by claiming that we were sexually attracted to this female singer, and that’s even partly true. Identify. That’s the key word, and what these artists have in common. The way Judy Garland’s personal struggles easily mirror struggles gay people go through in the feeling of not being good enough and shamed by one’s body and sexuality. The way Madonna shed repression by sexually inverting religious iconography. The way Britney Spears is a victim of horrendous slut-shaming by the media. The way Gaga celebrates those considered “weird” or “abnormal” with a careless attitude to negative judgment.



The one and only

Then, the actual music itself should be put up for analysis, as I’ve only alluded to ways of identification in these artists’ personal lives and reaction to their commercial persona. In the history of gay culture, mainstream songs by female artists were anthems and played at gay clubs as early as The Stonewall Inn, because of the way the lyrics can have a double meaning to highlight the gay experience of unrequited love, loneliness, trying to find inner strength on one’s own, or trying to express sexual confidence. This identification with lyrical content was the case in the early gay movement with Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and Dionne Warwick, and the same is true now with Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Robyn. “Dancing On My Own” is about unrequited love in a crowd, and in the video’s case on an energetic dance floor. In the irony of loneliness while being surrounded by people, I could clearly see why someone would call this “the gayest song of the year.”



Who can resist Judy?

 I’m pleased at the critical reception of Robyn’s Body Talk and hope it will work to shatter the notion that electropop is something superficial and trivial. What’s deemed “gay music” has been dismissed as such. It’s feminine, so it’s lesser. This idea speaks to the larger way of how our culture seeks to gender everything, even music, so only females or gay men are allowed to listen to certain artists, and if someone outside of these categories does, they are immediately questioned. Yet, my identity as gay male is never questioned because I like Yonder Mountain String Band, Sufjan Stevens, Minus the Bear, Nirvana, Lucero, and the list could go on. The gendering of music is no different to how gendered our society is, and is a microcosm of it. Despite that I know multiple “masculine” men who enjoy Lady Gaga, heteronormative and restrictive comments like Lady Gaga is “the complete opposite masculinity” still pervade. And male artists are expected to project a certain air also. One of my favorite male singers is Jared Gorbel from The Honorary Title, because his voice is so unique and passionate, yet the reaction he’s gotten from a few of my friends is that his voice is too “emo.” I feel like this is a reaction to a male singer whose voice radiates strong emotion, and stereotypically men aren’t supposed to display outward emotional responses. When a singer like Christina Aguilera sings with passion and breaks it down, she’s praised for her voice, because this is how women are supposed to sing. When a singer like Jared Gorbel breaks a song down with emotion, he’s being whiny. These double standards are why with Robyn, it’s a delight to see an album classified as “gay” getting such positive welcome from people who wouldn’t ordinarily. It’s an album that breaks down barriers. Although, reading the comments of different reactions to Britney’s new “Hold It Against Me,” in a sea of slut-shaming and misogyny, it’s evident not much will change any time soon, at least until our culture gets over its oppressive gender complex. And, we all know how well that’s going. Still, I like to think the latest offering from Body Talk is one small step forward. Thanks for this, Robyn.