Archive for the ‘Trash Culture Wars’ Category

The First Airstraightener

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

 Shock news!

You may recall that last week I talked about how the movie adaptation of popular cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender is whitewashing all the Asian characters. This guy was cast as the lead antagonist:


None more Aryan! The protest letters came flooding in, and then, remarkably, it was discovered that the little blond boy had ’scheduling conflicts’. His busy XBox 360 schedule would not allow him to appear in the film after all. You might think that the producers would look around for another pale fair-haired Anglo to fill the role, but no! As chance would have it, between originally casting the role and having to recast the role, a movie has come out that has won the heart of moviegoers and critics alike and looks dead set to grab a few Oscars, and lo and behold, it has an Asian cast! And one of them is a boy!


Look everyone, it’s Dev Patel, star of Slumdog Millionare and Skins, and person of colour! Thanks to the revelation that people will actually go and see a film with Asians in it, an Asian director making a film full of Asian characters has been coaxed into taking the risk of casting an Asian actor. Alleluia and pass the tarka dhal.

Of course, he’s technically the wrong kind of Asian - the character is East Asian in appearance, and Patel is of Gujurati Indian heritage - and sure, this now means the only character-of-colour in the film is the villain, but, hey, baby steps, Hollywood. Baby steps. Maybe if one of the other actors also has to drop out due to ’scheduling conflicts’ (like, they were supposed to go to the mall with their mom that day), the producers can cast noted  Māori actor Temuera Morrison, master of a thousand ethnicities. He’s managed Mexican, Native American, Vietnamese and even Mandalorian. I’m sure he’d be perfect as Katara, the fourteen-year-old Asian girl with ‘waterbending’ powers.

In other news (well, not news; stuff that has happened), actor Ryan Eggold has bemoaned the lack of originality in television today. ”It’s extremely depressing that there’s no original content to be made,” he told Digital Spy. “Hollywood seems to be out of ideas and just taking old things that have worked and redoing them.”

Eggold currently stars in 90210, the sequel to the 90s TV series Beverly Hills 90210.

They’re Closing Hell

Friday, January 30th, 2009

T-Shirt Hell, that is. Company founder Sunshine Megatron (of the Chesapeake Bay Megatrons, I believe) is throwing a strop, taking his toys and going home. The reason? People just don’t get his sense of humour, man!


Actually, I sympathise. I’ve always quite liked T-Shirt Hell. Not enough to buy the t-shirts, because I’m just not the sort - I find the idea of wearing a joke everywhere I go a bit tiresome. But I do find the shirts pretty funny, and I think I understand where Mr Megatron is coming from. 

Here’s the t-shirt that broke the camel’s back.


I think that’s funny. It’s funny because it’s outrageous. If it weren’t outrageous - if it were an expression of a person’s actual belief - it wouldn’t be a joke. It’s not a statement t-shirt! It’s a joke t-shirt!

I suppose you can’t vouch for the mindset of the person who buys the t-shirt, of course. That person might actually be a guy who has sex with men and then beats them up afterwards. Because if you were a guy who had sex with other men and then beat them up afterwards, wouldn’t you want a t-shirt about it? I know I have t-shirts for all my crimes!

A lot of the humour is potentially offensive in other ways - it’s sophomoric fratboy stuff about boobies and faeces, ha ha ha - but those aren’t the t-shirts that get the hate letters that have caused Mr Megatron to retreat back down the series of tubes. The problem t-shirts are ones like, “What About All The Good Things Hitler Did?”, and, “Arrest Black Babies Before They Become Criminals”.

Now, maybe you don’t think those are good jokes - maybe they lack the Wildean sophistication you look for in a ticklesome bon mot - but they’re not meant to be taken as serious political platforms. They’re t-shirts designed to mock the stupid attitudes they seem to represent. Get angry at the Holocaust deniers and the racial profilers, not at the people wearing the t-shirts mocking the Holocaust deniers and the racial profilers!

All that said, because the humour comes from breaking taboos and saying outrageous things, Mr Megatron should have known what he was getting into. He knew people would get offended. He’s just upset because they’re offended at him. You’d think a man who made his fortune offending people would be a little more thick-skinned. If he couldn’t take it, maybe he should have just ignored the hate mail?

T-Shirt Hell closes on February 10th, and all t-shirts are 10% off in the interim. If you want to buy some offensive clothing, now could be your last chance. That said, there’s always Burberry.


Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Iceland is getting a new prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir. I don’t generally take much interest in Iceland’s leaders, but this new PM is notable because she’s a gay. That makes her one of the first openly gay world leaders of modern times.

So what did it take to get a gay politician into high office? Well, in this instance all it took was a worldwide financial crisis, the collapse of the Icelandic economy and the resignation in disgrace of the sitting prime minister, facilitating the appointment of a gay prime minister without an election. Sigurdardottir is expected to leave office in four months’ time, just as soon as the public gets a chance to vote on their leaders. Truly, the dream of gay acceptance has been made real!

So, I’m not going to get too excited about Prime Minister Sigurdardottir. I already got my hopes raised and dashed by Portland Mayor Sam Adams. I don’t know how well known the Sam Adams scandal is outside the communities of Portland and Gay, but it’s a sorry story.

In November Adams became the first openly gay man to be elected mayor of a major US city. Also, the first cute mayor. Probably.


During the campaign, Adams was asked about his former relationship with a young intern back in 2005. He said that they had just been friends. Then he got elected, and then he admitted that he had lied about their relationship. The reason he lied? The intern had been 17 when they first met, and sex with a 17-year-old is against the law in Oregon.

Now, Adams insists that they did not have sex until after the intern turned 18, and he says the reason he lied was because he did not think people would believe him. Fair enough. I actually still don’t. I mean, I don’t think 17 should be considered ‘underage’, but that’s not the point; the law’s the law.

Saying ‘yes we had sex but not until it was legal’ is a difficult pitch to sell on the campaign trail, so Sam Adams lied. There are no other issues here; Adams was not unfaithful to anyone (he’s in a relationship now, but wasn’t then). There was no abuse of power - the intern worked at the Oregon House of Representatives; Adams worked on the Portland City Council. No criminal charges have been placed against Adams for sex with a minor (though an investigation is underway). A taste for chicken is not a resigning offence.

Sam Adams is not the gay Bill Clinton. Clinton lied, abused his power and cheated on his partner. Adams has ‘only’ lied.

There have been calls for Adams’ resignation - even from Portland’s gay paper - but Adams has said that he intends to stay in office, and I’m not sure how that will play out - I suspect it all now depends on the results of the criminal investigation. A recall election has been suggested, but that seems unlikely to occur.

I sympathise with Adams. Sleeping with a teenager doesn’t look good for any politician, but even in liberal Portland it probably looks worse for a gay politician, so I can understand why he lied. He expected a gay witch hunt, and I’m sure he would have got one. I’m not sure he isn’t getting one now. It was still bloody stupid, both to get involved with someone that young when you harbour those ambitions, and to lie about it when questioned. It would have been better if he had stonewalled the question (no pun intended) and taken his chances.

It has become very clear on the back of this story that if you’re gay and you want to run for public office, you need to be as squeaky clean as Jesus. (Actually, squeakier and cleaner; Jesus would never get elected. He palled around with terrorists.)

On balance, I’m glad Adams did not resign. I think that was the right decision. Even so, it’s devastating that one of America’s most prominent gay politicians will now serve with a tarnish hanging over his entire career.

Incidentally, the intern in question does have a name, and I’ve studiously avoided using it. His name is Beau Breedlove. And that is why I avoided using it.

Speaking of good-looking politicians, I am disgusted - disgusted - that Huffington Post is running a ‘Who’s the Hottest Congressional Freshman‘ poll. Is this what serious leftie political blogging has come to? I’m doubly disgusted that most of the contendors aren’t even remotely hot! In fact, the only one who passes muster is Aaron Schock.


And here’s what makes this especially digusting; Aaron Schock is a Republican! (And a somewhat swishy ‘bachelor’ Republican at that. A ‘friend of Haggard’?) And - and - he’s only 27. That makes him the first congressman born in the 1980s! No wonder he’s in the anti-abortion party - he’s probably still at risk!

While we’re talking about politics, bachelors and suchlike, one final note. Advice columnist Dan Savage recently ran a contest to come up with a definition of the word ‘saddlebacking‘, in reference to Rick Warren’s inauspiciously named Saddleback Church. Here’s the winning entry:


Keep squeaky, chums.

Round-Up: Bears, Bourne, Brokeback & Breastaurants

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009


ITEM: The above bears floating down the Thames are a rather splendid little art project designed to raise awareness for a new TV show. Sorry; they’re to raise awareness that the ice-caps are melting. But we already knew that, so it’s really just to pimp a TV show. It is marvellous, though.

ITEM: Matt Damon is still whingeing on about how he doesn’t like James Bond. “They could never make a James Bond movie like any of the Bourne films, because Bond is an imperialist, misogynist sociopath who goes around bedding women and swilling martinis and killing people. He’s repulsive.” Given that James Bond thoroughly spanks Jason Bourne’s buttocks at the box office, I think he’s worried that people aren’t being properly repulsed. Touchy-feely Hollywood hippy.


ITEM: Do homophobic IMDB users vote down gay films that raise their heads too high above the parapet? AwardsDaily seems to think so, pointing out that since Milk got its Oscar nomination for Best Picture it has racked up a surprising number of ‘1 out of 10′ votes. The same thing happened to Brokeback Mountain three years ago; more than 8% of Brokeback votes give it a ‘1′, forcing it out of the Top 250. Milk may go the same way - in the last week it fell 40 places at a time when most Best Picture nominees tend to see a bump.

It’s notable that there aren’t any other gay movies in the Top 250 - unless you count Rope, The Wizard of Oz or Lord of the Rings - but honestly, there aren’t many gay movies that should be. Some people make good films and some people make gay films, but rarely does anyone manage to do both. Milk and Brokeback Mountain are two laudable exceptions to the rule.

ITEM: Speaking of which, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has announced its nominees for its annual Media Awards. As usual, there haven’t really enough positive gay representations in the media in the past year to make the list convincing. It’s not often you see the word ‘Torchwood’ appearing under the header ‘Outstanding Television Drama’.

ITEM: Hooters, the world’s most famous breastaurant, faces fresh challenges in Texas from new rivals such as Twin Peaks and Bone Daddy’s. I don’t really  care, I just like that someone has coined the word ‘breastaurant’. My question is, when are they going to create a man-candy version of Hooters? They can call it Peccadillo. I give that idea freely unto the world.

ITEM: Your Wikipedia link for the day: exploding animals - where the categories ‘Animals’ and ‘Explosions’ meet.

The ‘M’ Stands for ‘Master Race’

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

The twist to the next M Night Shyamalan movie has already been revealed. The movie is an adaptation of the hit cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the twist is… well, see if you can work it out from these pictures. The actors are shown on the left; the characters they are playing are on the right.


Yes, the twist is that everyone in Asia is white! (Also, it was the plants all along! Damn you, the plants!)

I’ve never watched Avatar: The Last Airbender (heh heh heh, ‘airbender’), but I’m sufficiently alert to the realities of the world to see that this casting is, well, offensive. Avatar is set in a fictional world rather than in our world, but the culture and the characters depicted are still recognisably predominantly Asian. 

At best, this casting shows blithe insensitivity on the part of Paramount and Nickelodeon to matters of race. At worst it suggests open contempt for the idea of making a big budget movie with an Asian cast - even though this is a property with an established audience of people who already know and love these characters.

Now it seems a large section of that audience intends to stay away from the movie. A letter-writing campaign has been launched in protest. This can’t be what the film’s makers wanted.


What I find truly perplexing about the all-white casting is that, aside from the blond Frankie Muniz lookalike - washed-up teenybopper Jesse McCartney - none of these people have any box office cachet. If you’re going to cast nobodies, cast Asian nobodies! Some of these actors were cast because they know martial arts, but I’m fairly sure there must be some young unknown Asian actors out there who would also know a bit of kung fu.

It’s not these kids’ fault that they’ve inherited this shitstorm, of course, so I feel a little sorry for them. Except for Jackson Rathbone (first picture), whose response to the controversy around his casting was to tell MTV,  ”I think it’s one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan. … [H]opefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit”.

A tan. He wants to be the Al Jolson of the 21st century.

At this stage I doubt the parts are going to be recast, but even so, I think the letter-writing campaign is a worthwhile initiative that sends an important message. Whitewashing ought not to have a place in modern Hollywood. If you’re part of any minority, you want to see yourself represented in arts, music, movies and TV. When the stories finally get made that ought to include you, and you find that you’ve been cropped out of the picture, that’s worth making one hell of a noise about. That’s the twist that M Night Shyamalan didn’t see coming.