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The Post-Game Show » homophobia

Posts Tagged ‘homophobia’

Hot Blooded: True Blood’s ‘Barrage of Homosexuality’

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I do not particularly care for Anna Paquin’s nipples.

annapaquinWork-safe Anna Paquin (nipples not pictured)

But we’ll get to that later. Recently, a man who plays some kind of sport for some American sports team or other tweeted, “Caught up on True Blood. Not a fan of how they get u hooked with the 1st 2 seasons then bring on a barrage of homosexuality.”

Management must have clamped down on him in a hurry, because he quickly apologised, but the incident was enough to prompt Zap2It to ask if it was possible to be a fan of True Blood and a homophobe. (Though they used the term ‘anti gay’, which is the sensitive way that homophobes would like us to refer to their homophobia, because it’s so prejudiced to call them homophobes.)

One reader replied that he/she was “using the fast-forward button more and more as the shows morphs into nothing but a gay porn fest”. Another objected to the gay storylines “because in some instances they are pointless and obviously just added fluff on this show”. Another said, “Whenever there is any gay sex scenes (which is often) I switch channels for a minute or two”.

Apparently I’m watching the family edition of True Blood, because I’ve missed the gay porn fest. The guy who says there are often gay sex scenes, and who changes the channel whenever he sees one, has been changing the channel a little prematurely, because thus far - in three seasons of the show - there has been only one all-male sex scene. One. I rather doubt this fellow was changing channels at the first glimpse of Sapphism. In bigot maths, one gay sex scene is ‘often’.

For the record, that one sex scene - between vampires Eric and Talbot - was very obviously edited down to as few seconds as possible, and it ended with a literal ‘penetration = death’ metaphor. It was not a positive sex scene. So the number of romantic male-male sex scenes in three years of True Blood? Zero.

The scene certainly was not fluff; one character seduced another so that he could get close enough to kill him, as revenge for the murder of his family. In any other show, the introduction of gay sex as an entrée to death-by-phallus would set off alarm bells about the show’s attitude to homosexuality.

True Blood gets more of the benefit of the doubt than other shows, because it has a gay showrunner in Alan Ball, a positive central gay character in Lafayette, and a generous attitude to the display of male flesh, as epitomised by Ryan Kwanten’s Jason Stackhouse (though that’s probably meant to serve the show’s huge female audience rather than the gays). Even so, the show is not as gay-friendly as most people tend to believe.

It’s true that the show has got a lot gayer this season, but it still approaches the subject with a dainty touch that it doesn’t apply to other sexual relationships. Lafayette has been living like a monk for two seasons. Now that he finally has a boyfriend, the pair of them seem to be the only couple in the show to do their canoodling off-screen. They spend an astonishing amount of time lounging around indoors with their clothes on.

billsam

There was also Sam’s dream about Bill, of course. People who drink vampire blood sometimes have sex dreams about the vampire. We know that Lafayette had these dreams about Eric, but we never saw it. Sam’s dream about Bill was hilariously porny in tone, but the characters didn’t even touch, let alone kiss. Finally, the latest episode showed the gay villain of the season in bed with a rent boy - but there was no sex scene, only another violent penetrative death.

Then there was the relationship between Eric and Godric in season two. This was an intense loving relationship between two men, but it was never presented as sexual, even though similar relationships have been, especially when they involved two women - Maryann and Daphne; Sophie-Anne and Hadley; even Pam and Yvetta. The same season showed an entire town engaging in Bacchanalian orgies, but it was all inexplicably heterosexual.

As the orgies suggest, True Blood is a shameless show. It is not shy about straight sex or nudity, either male or female. Nor does it skirt around the existence of gay characters or gay relationships. It’s just a little coy, and a little evasive, about showing male-male relationships off with the same salacious indulgence. True Blood is a gay-friendly show - one of the most gay-friendly shows I’ve ever seen - and I don’t mean to hold it to a higher standard than lesser shows, but it’s so revealing that even this show applies a double standard. When audiences accuse the show of becoming “gay porn”, it’s easy to understand why.

The reader who couldn’t tell the difference between ‘once’ and ‘often’ also said of the gay sex scenes; “As a straight man it is hard for me to watch a male sex scene. It repulses me.”

Sir; I have seen more of Anna Paquin’s nipples than I have ever wanted to see, and it does not please me in the least. However, I assume that you rather enjoy it, so I’m prepared to put up with it as a kindness to my fellow man. Maybe you could show me the same generosity?

Danger, Danger; Gay Marriage

Monday, November 9th, 2009

In an opinion piece for the Star Tribune this past weekend, columnist Katherine Kersten posed the question, “How will same-sex marriage harm the institution of marriage — and in the long run, all of us?”

As Ms Kersten rightly points out in her piece, gay marriage won’t make your marriage any weaker, John and Mary. Some opponents of marriage equality have seriously posited that, if we let men marry other men, they’ll all leave their wives, but that speaks to issues that those folks are just going to have to work out in their own lives. Like Ms Kersten, most conservatives concede that gay marriage will not cancel, weaken or destroy any specific straight marriages. (Mrs Haggard, your husband is gay whether he can marry his masseur or not.)

No, the danger is not to individual marriages, but to the whole institution of marriage. As Ms Kersten tells us, “Marriage is a universal human institution. Across the world and throughout history, it’s been exclusively male-female.”

masswedding

Well, actually, that’s not true. Just as they used to say that there are no gay animals because no-one had bothered to check, so they say there’s no historical record of gay marriage because no-one’s doing their homework. The first recorded incidence of gay marriage goes back to the early days of the Roman Empire, but it almost certainly occurred throughout the ancient world, from China to America. It’s only our modern post-Christian bias that makes us think otherwise.

Just as we now find gay animals everywhere we look for them, so we find evidence of gay marriage wherever the historical record allows us to look, except where it has been outlawed by zealots. The Christian laws of the Theodosian Code of the fourth and fifth centuries AD give us perhaps the earliest known record of someone banning same-sex marriage, which had until that time been legal in the Roman Empire. It was the DOMA of Roma.

Then there’s the small matter of gay marriage having existed in the Netherlands since 2001, Belgium since 2003, Spain and Canada since 2005, South Africa since 2006, and Sweden and Norway since earlier this year. Those are all places in the world, and those are all years in history, so on that basis alone, even discounting more ancient records, I think we can say that marriage has not in fact been “exclusively male-female” across the world and throughout history, unless we’re also discounting recent history, in which case there has never been an internet.

But, Katherine, do please carry on.

“The primary purpose of marriage is to ensure the best environment for rearing the children born of male-female sexual acts,” she claims. “Marriage channels men’s and women’s sexual attraction into productive ends, and harnesses the male sex drive by binding men to the mothers of their children. The evidence is overwhelming: Boys and girls flourish best with a married mother and father, who perform different and complementary roles in preparing them to deal with the world and the opposite sex.”

50sfamily

And here’s the rub. Actually, there’s quite a lot of rubbing going on here (and she rubs rather furiously), but in this one paragraph, Ms Kersten neatly encapsulates most of the myths of the ‘protect marriage’ argument into a bitesize nugget of bile. Let’s look at them one by one.

“The primary purpose of marriage is to ensure the best environment for rearing the children born of male-female sexual acts”. I suppose this isn’t a lie so much as an evasion. You’ll note she says, ‘primary purpose’, so she’s cognizant of there being other purposes to marriage. She is perhaps aware that some people get married with no intention of rearing children, and that some people rear children without any intention of getting married. There can be no absolute presumption that all unmarried parents are creating a worse environment for their children than all married parents. (In fact, looked at statistically, the divorce rate for unmarried parents is nil!)

Marriage and childrearing are demonstrably separate concepts, so there is no need for a law to ‘protect’ the false presumption of an indivisible link between them. You might as plausibly argue for a law that says girls should not eat bread crusts because eating crusts puts hairs on your chest.

The advantage of marriage in childrearing comes not from the fact of marriage, but from the rights and benefits that the contract of marriage allows. If our concern is for the children, then those rights and benefits should of course be extended to children being raised by gay couples, so that they are not disadvantaged. Ms Kersten, won’t you please think of the children?

(Incidentally, the children of gay parents are also frequently born of male-female sexual acts, though I see no reason to treat children conceived artificially as second-class citizens.)

Next. “Marriage channels men’s and women’s sexual attraction into productive ends, and harnesses the male sex drive by binding men to the mothers of their children.” I’m not sure, but I think the argument here is that, without marriage, all men are rapists. How does gay marriage undermine the need to shackle straight men to their wives? It doesn’t. If gays can get married, Ms Kersten, it will not make anyone’s husband more rapey.

king-kong

Sidenote: If marriage is a binding harness, an awful lot of marriages end in escapology.

And then: “Boys and girls flourish best with a married mother and father, who perform different and complementary roles in preparing them to deal with the world and the opposite sex.”

Children must have a mother and a father! If a boy is raised by two women, how will he learn to wire a plug? We all know lesbians can’t handle home maintenance! And if a girl is raised by two men, where will she learn to cook? It is established fact that you can’t trust a gay man with a soufflé!

No, I’ve got this backwards. If a boy is raised by two men, how will he learn to wire a plug? True fact: In gay households, all light is provided by candles, because when a fuse goes, gay men run around flapping their arms and squealing until finally fatigue overcomes them and they collapse into a heap of warm male sodomite flesh. In the morning, there is sunlight, and that’s when they go out and buy candles. The fuse is never replaced. Their children will never learn how to change a tyre, whittle a stick, or shoot a caribou, but they will know all the words to Don’t Rain On My Parade, and you will just die when you see what they’ve done to the guest bedroom.

Or, Ms Kersten got it wrong again, because she can hardly think with all those stereotypes swishing around in her head. Boys and girls flourish best when they are loved and supported by their parents, regardless of how many parents they have or what their sexual proclivities are. Fathers and mothers do not slot into pre-set roles, any more than their sons and daughters do. Anyone who tries to impose quota-based parenting models is concerned about tradition to the detriment of the children’s welfare and development.

As for the children’s ability to deal with the opposite sex (or with the same sex - we gays are mostly created from out of straight people’s bodies, you know), I think that can best be supported by parents who don’t impose outmoded sexual hang-ups on their kids.

Straight parenting ain’t all that anyway. Look how many messed up children it’s managed to produce so far! By the ‘one man, one woman’ standard, serial killers Fred and Rose West are exemplary parents. And it’s pure supposition on my part, but I really do think that Adolf Hitler would have turned out better if he’d been raised by Alois and Klaus instead of Alois and Klara.

child-pageantStraight parenting.

Our friend KK isn’t done yet. “Same-sex marriage would not — as advocates claim — merely extend the benefits of marriage to more people,” she says. That’s an interesting bit of perspective. From where she’s sitting, that’s a “merely”. When you don’t have those benefits, that’s not really a “merely”. That merely is sought rather dearly by those feeling queerly. The fact that same-sex marriage would extend additional benefits is kind of a big deal. It’s kind of the whole deal. You’d think so too, if you didn’t have those rights.

But, go on.

“It would gut marriage of its fundamental meaning and transform it from an institution centered on children and the mother/father nuclear family to one centered on adults. Marriage would become an artificial institution, bestowing state approval on any adult relationship based on affection and interdependence.”

I hate to have to go here, but; Ms Kersten, I do not think that word means what you think it means. Marriage is an artificial institution bestowing state approval on adult relationships based on affection and interdependence. That’s why marriages need to be validated by state officials.

Ms Kersten’s ‘fundamental’ definition of marriage is not the legal definition of marriage, and as such it should not be used to dictate the law on marriage. We do not decide property laws by reading the inside of a Monopoly box.

Ms Kersten continues; “Once marriage is stripped of its organic purpose, why restrict it to two people? Two lesbians and the sperm donor for their child, polygamists, bisexuals: All will want society to recognize and respect their relationships.”

Quite apart from the fact that she hasn’t grasped how bisexuality works (have the traditional marriage side really not worked out that their gay-proofed holy institution has already been infiltrated by the bisexuals?), and that she seems a little shaky on lesbianism as well (I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but I think most lesbians would rather not have to see a sperm donor at breakfast every morning), this panicky paragraph shows Ms Kersten’s misapprehension in a nutshell. “Once marriage is stripped of its organic purpose”? If reproduction was ever fundamental to the institution of marriage, it isn’t now. She’s locking the stable door after the groom has bolted.

“And why should marriage be open only to people with a sexual relationship?” she adds. “That discriminates against two female friends who want to share the burdens of rearing their kids, or a disabled brother and sister who live together.”

Yes. Why should it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could allow those people in those situations to choose to enjoy certain legal benefits with each other? That Ms Kersten thinks we should respond to this suggestion with spluttering outrage shows us the sickly pallor of her soul. These ultra-liberal marriage laws she posits would allow people to help each other in difficult situations. We must nip this in the bud at once!

On she goes.

“It’s ironic that in other realms of life, Americans are very aware of the risks of tampering excessively with nature.”

dogwedding

Here we learn that Ms Kersten thinks that marriage grows on trees. Marriage is the vegetable lamb of Tartary, and it blossom with little three-tier cakes that imbue the eater with fidelity, parenting skills, and the ability to change a fuse. The problem, it seems, is that Ms Kersten genuinely believes that marriage and reproduction are interchangeable concepts. She must think all rabbits are Mormons.

Ms Kersten ends with a flourish. “We understand little about how marriage has undergirded the order and prosperity we take for granted. We tamper with marriage at our peril.”

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, except that I think it was lifted from a 1953 issue of Tales From The Crypt, and she’s put in the word ‘marriage’ where it used to say ‘the jewelled death mask of Chandragupta’.

Still, if marriage is so important in preventing the coming apocalypse, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have more of them? Even if the gay ones only count for, say, half a normal marriage, that’s still a net gain, isn’t it?

Here’s my counter-argument in favour of gay marriage. Marriage is a legal institution that confers special benefits that everyone is entitled to, and couples should be free to share those benefits as they see fit. Whether or not they intend to raise children is no-one’s business. Their religious beliefs are no-one’s business. Their sexual attitudes are no-one’s business. None of these things are a qualifying bar to marriage; they should not be treated as such, especially not for an isolated minority.

Ms Kersten; Ms Gallagher; Bishop Malone; President Obama;  There is no single model for marriage. If you insist that there is, and if you allow the people to vote out anyone who does not fit that model, then you are not protecting the institution of marriage; you are destroying it.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Give: If you are a supporter of America’s Democratic party, please consider supporting this call to suspend all donations to the DNC until they enact the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.

How To Apologise

Friday, May 15th, 2009

On a recent edition of his radio show, beloved dandy Jonathan Ross said , “If your son asks for a Hannah Montana MP3 player, you might want to already think about putting him down for adoption before he brings his… erm… partner home”.

jonathanross

It’s just a joke. I understand that. Jonathan Ross is a funny man and a great  TV and radio host, and occasionally his humour is a little risqué. But he’s not Jim Davidson. He’s not one of these repugnant old-guard comedians who like to make jokes about ‘pakis’ and beating women. A joke suggesting that parents should put gay children up for adoption belongs firmly on that side of the line. It’s not a joke at the expense of bigotry; it’s a joke for bigots. The joke is not, ‘people say dumb things about effeminate boys’. The joke is, ‘effeminate boys are bad children’.

Ross responded to the outcry about the joke on Twitter, saying, “Am mortified to hear some people thought I was being homophobic on Radio show. Nothing could be further from truth, as I am sure most know.”

I fully accept that Jonathan Ross is not homophobic. He has demonstrated this time and again. But what he said was homophobic. It was a lazy joke leaning on old prejudices, which perpetuated a message that isolates and alienates children struggling with their sexual identity. No kid wants to be told that his parents should give him away. What Ross seems to have missed is that you can be gay friendly in spirit, and still say obscenely homophobic things.

Ross’s twittered response to complaints was the classic, “I’m sorry people were offended”, but without the “I’m sorry”. His follow-up said; “Have gay/bi family members so never been an issue. But I guess soemtimes you need to be sensitive to avoid upsetting folk.”

Some of his best relatives are gay! And he’s not just sorry you were offended; he’s sorry that you’re so easy to offend! It’s wretched, craven, snivelling stuff.  Bernard Manning could not have put it better himself. The twittered defence actually offends me more than the initial joke.

Over on EW.com, Michael Slezak has called on Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell to stop exchanging homophobic barbs on American Idol. I actually think they have muted their homophobia this season, possibly because Adam Lambert is on that stage, but their enthusiasm for catty ‘U R gay’ exchanges has been very notable in the past, and it’s disturbing for a top-rated family show to revel in perpetuating the idea that gay=bad.

Slezak mentions the recent suicide of a boy bullied at school because classmates assumed he was gay. That’s the collateral damage here. Carl Walker was eleven years old, and he took his own life because we live in a world where TV and radio hosts think it’s fine to rely on lazy gay jokes just so long as they themselves can insist that they are not homophobic. It’s fine to make gay kids hate themselves, just so long as they know a gay person!

Ross has been crucified in the tabloids for saying stupid things before, and it was tedious and it was overblown. I’m not interested in repeating that misadventure. I’d just like an apology, and I’d like him and others like him to make the effort not to do it again. I’m not saying that all gay jokes are off limits. I’m saying, don’t go telling gay kids that they are worth less because they’re gay.