Monday, April 9, 2007

Blame it on the Gwen

Lately it seems that my entire world constantly cosmically aligns to center on Gwen Stefani. Not in that shrill thirteen year old "WIND IT UP IS THE BEST SONG EVAR!" way, either. It's as if ever since I started thinking about her and her recent interview in Bust magazine, I've been writing this blog over and over in my mind. This actually has been going on for weeks. Every time I think I know exactly how much of an asshole this woman is, she proves to me that she can be an even bigger piece of shit.

Stefani's recent Bust interview had everything from a retaliatory statement against a comment Margaret Cho made about her "Harajuku" entourage (which seems to be a running gag for her, since she defends herself every where else, too) to a disappointing answer to Bust's staple question "Are you a Feminist?" Her reply to that was "nobody has ever been able to define it for me!" I love it.

Well, Gwen, since apparently you don't have a fucking library card, allow me to help define some things for you. We'll start with an easy one. Feminism. It's not just about some man-hater lesbian who scowls at heterosexual ideals and who clings to some shrouded illusions about how "all will one day see the uselessness of males and they will thusly be stripped of their power and privilege." It's not just about the women and (in some cases) men who have fought and died to bring you many of the freedoms you have today. And it's not just about the women who pioneered in the arts to make it possible for you to have a career today. It's all of these things and more. A feminist is someone who is willing to put their life at stake in order to try to rid our culture of social inequality based on not only gender, but religion, race, sexual orientation and any other aspect of someone's personal identity that may put them into the role of an oppressed group.

Now, before you think too hard about answering that "are you a feminist" question, let's have some more really neat-o social studies lessons. Because it seems to me, Gwen, that you really aren't too savvy on what racism truly is. Racism isn't just throwing a fucking rock at some man in a rice hat and calling him some V.C. gook. That goes a little deeper too. To get to a certain point, Gwen, you're white. I know it's a bitch to be white, I am too. With our Caucasian identities, though, comes a built in ticket to an oppressing class of sons of bitches whether we like it or not. As part of the oppressing racial group we will never know the true experiences of those that are victims of racism every day. But we can try, through listening to stories of the experiences of these individuals, to familiarize ourselves with our own identities and we can try to recognize the inherent racism our society has ingrained in us. This racism includes, but is not limited to grabbing onto your mace a little tighter or locking the car doors when you see a sketchy looking black man approaching you or buying four Asian women dressed in your funky line of apparel to misrepresent an underground Japanese culture. As I explained, you're white. For a white woman to pay four minority women to follow her around and only speak a foreign language (but not directly to her or any one else) as figments of some ridiculous dreamworld is much like say...someone buying new poodles that will follow her everywhere and bark in tones she (hopefully) cannot understand. I fail to see how, as a white woman buying these women based on their race and subjugating a very specific part of a very specific Asian culture, you cannot even recognize that this might be considered a tiny bit racist. You are exploiting these women.

In my research for this article I found a number of comments on a multitude of feminist forum sites that discussed how feminism is about a woman's right to choices and that these women whom Gwen Stefani pays made a choice to be placed into these roles. That they even auditioned for these roles. Well, when you're an Asian trying to make something of yourself in any of the performing arts, there's very little in the way of choices. I mean, you have people like Zhang Ziyi or Michelle Yeoh that luck out because they know martial arts. But if you are an Asian actor/singer/dancer or any other career that requires you have a physical presence on a television screen the choices are extremely limited. I mean, aside from William Hung who was a novelty, can anybody even name an Asian singer that would be played on a top 40 station? Honestly, aside from Yoko Ono and Lea Salonga I don't think I know of very many Asian singers (if any). Let's face it, unless they play the cello, when it comes to the arts Asians are greatly underexposed. Which is another reason why these women are so exploited. In order to get a job in the performing arts, they are required to act either as a geisha, ninja, violinist or a fucking "Harajuku" parade. The biggest kicker is they're not even dressed like something out of Harajuku. They're dressed like Gwen's little toy pets.

So, Gwen, to help you answer the question of "are you a feminist?" Since you do tend to exploit minority women and subvert their cultures I'd call that a big fucking "No." And that's fine. You're not a feminist. Just a waste of space. But don't make yourself into a bigger asshole on top of it all with claims of not being racist. Ignorance is no excuse from the law. Just because you didn't know you were an asshole does not give you the right to chide other people when they try to educate you on the fact that you are a piece of racist trash.

But what bothers me the most about this situation is not Gwen Stefani. It's the part of our society that loves her. Gwen Stefani is a role model. Not just to little girls, but to women. I know women in their 20s and 30s who love Gwen and can identify with her on more than just one level (motherhood, girlhood, weird style whatever). This is severely disheartening. These girls and women not only look up to her in these areas, but also they too have no idea what it means to be either racist or feminist. This is disgusting to me. These people that are so inside their own selves that they refuse to open their eyes to the world around them and to help someone else in need. This is what Gwen Stefani embodies in our culture. But the worst part is that she is lauded by most for her ability to complete her heterosexual duties and her career at the same time. She is seen as "girl power" which is just a bull-shit way of pulling the rug out from under real feminism. It's a way to disguise these Hollywood Housewives as real feminists so that young girls will make the right decisions when it comes to fulfilling their own hetero-normative family duties.

So, Gwen Stefani, I know you didn't cause these social problems...but when I look at you they are all I see.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

i genuinely don't understand this

America's Next Top (Dead) Model

what is the motivation here? to be funny? cute? Derelicte?

i know art is supposed to be provocative, to challenge you, make people feel uneasy and blah blah blah, but this just gives me an icky feeling all around. plus - it's chintzy reality television, so from personal experience i question the producers' motives immediately. especially when the judges say things like, "death becomes you" and "you look beautiful in death." the photos are pretty disturbing...kind of the stuff of my nightmares, and the context just makes them downright chilling. just last week, i looked through court evidence photos for a federal rape and murder case. actual death is NOT beautiful and it is certainly NOT sexy.

this theme seems to have come up a lot recently, like here and here. dead, dehumanized and humiliated women sell.

it's sexy and flashy and pretty looking. but i see no positive or useful purpose for this.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

"the women are strong, the men are screaming queens, and all the children are sure to be traumatized"

this child has a mommy and a daddy

Now, um...Garrison Keillor (?) joins the fray with his latest piece in Salon.

I never really cared about Garrison Keillor, nor followed his works. I still don't really. I know he's a droll fellow, and i know i didn't really like the film "A Prairie Home Companion" when i rented it on a whim. But i think the overall tone of this piece is a bit rich coming from a thrice-married adulterer. Plus, it's a pretty disappointing representation since Minnesotans tend to be more of an enlightened breed.

When i read this, my first thought was, "Ohhh snap, Dan Savageisgonnabesomad!"

...Aaaaaaand he is.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Welcome to the Freakshow

my first entry here is obnoxiously link heavy, so sorry.

these screen captures have been making the rounds.

hilarious, right? Fox News has been a punching bag for quite some time now, and the network never seems to fail in sparking some fresh outrage amongst the liberal blogosphere. i must say that it doesn't bother me anymore. i think of it as performance art now. a sideshow of freaks.

There's Amazon Ann - watch her adam's apple rise and her rhetoric plunge! Let The Amazing Falafel titillate you with his vivid sexy talk and child captivity fantasies!. Behold the pasty giant baby Jesus John Gibson: come adore him as he celebrates his religion as one of nonviolence and one of humility! peer into the tent of Big Pharma, who posesses the magical power of psychological projection!

Fox News is pretty much at the point where they are one of those shitty low-rent traveling circuses that pass through your town - broken seatbelts hanging off the rides, paint peeling off the machinery, the staff lazily pulling the levers and pressing the buttons and collecting your tickets. they aren't even trying anymore.

i see the freakshow for what it is. but that doesn't mean i will ignore them.

none of the above believe one iota in the things they say, which is probably the thing i find the most offensive of all. but its all preaching to a choir: a knuckle dragging, tiny temporal lobed choir. people who think the ugliest of things within the confines of their minds and homes and desperately seek public validation. and they've been finding it for several years now. their words, while cloaked in the disclaimer of "i was only kidding" or "come on, it's just for ratings" and even "I don't think there's anything offensive about any variation of faggy, faggotry, faggot, fag. It's a schoolyard taunt" slowly but surely drift away from the punditocracy and into our discourse, right until it becomes fashionable again to hear things like this:

"Well, you know, I hate gay people. I let it be known I don’t like gay people. I don’t like to be around gay people. I’m homophobic. It shouldn’t be in the world, in the United States, I don’t like it." - Indiana Pacers player Tim Hardaway in a radio interview

or this gem of a discussion topic off a popular "prestigious" law school blog which i do not care to link to directly:

Arabs, Coons, Spics, Chinks or Fags? Who should we kill first??

and even this:

"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts...I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way." -Top Pentagon General Peter Pace in an interview yesterday with Chicago Tribune

yeah...the Pentagon. classy. so yes, laugh at the freakshow. gawk, point, 'tsk tsk' at will. but remember that it all starts somewhere. pay attention, tell your friends, and always try to hit them where it hurts whenever possible.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Soccer-Mom Activist & the Avon Ennui

Over the past few years I've found that many societal problems are upheld by the very people who think they help. There are two specific types of middle to upper class heterosexual white women that maintain the social boundaries in our culture without conscious intent or knowledge that they are doing so. While the two groups intersect in cases, they do have specific qualifiers. These two groups are:

The Soccer-Mom Activist

The soccer-mom activist is a sweet, caring lady. She means no harm to others in the least. On any given day of the week she has to drop the kids of at school, pick up the dry cleaning, donate $20 to HIV in Africa, organize PTA meetings about vending machines' contents, pick up the kids, take them to soccer, get teachers suspended for showing fabulous French cinema, make a "Semi-Homemade" meal by Sandra Lee and be sure to clean up in time for Grey's Anatomy. The thing about the soccer-mom activist is that she isn't really an activist, but so desperately wants to be. She yearns to make a difference in our cold, cruel world. She just needs Bono, Sting or Angelina to tell her where to send her money. She's basically Donna Reed with a bleeding heart and a checkbook.

The Avon Ennui

The Avon Ennui is typically a upper-middle class woman with a lot of spare time. Many of them are single, vapid women that have the potential to turn into Soccer-Mom Activists. They either have jobs that don't demand much, or are bleeding heart students that have become so bored hosting Pampered Chef and Avon parties that they now march a few miles in their wedding gowns in a misguided stand against obesity. There are a few major differences between the Avon Ennui and the Soccer-Mom Activists. While the Soccer-Mom has already propagated her brood, the Avon Ennui has no offspring. She may dream of motherhood, but until the Mommy kisses the Daddy and the angel tells the stork and the stork flies down from heaven and puts the diamond in the cabbage patch and the diamond turns into a baby, she will remain an Avon Ennui. Because of her lack of children, the Avon Ennui cannot commit to PTA causes or other various maternally instinctual fights. The Avon Ennui often makes comments such as "how can I be racist with so many black friends!?" and usually her political agenda is ill-conceived, but her "demonstrations" are flawlessly planned. She's basically Paris Hilton with a purpose and a real, beating heart.


The major similarity between the two types of women is that neither of them realizes how their own issues fit into the bigger picture of our society. They sit in the window seats of their cute suburban ranch homes staring wistfully out into the yard wondering how they can help their fellow man. They plan these walks and bake sales and strive to end hunger and homelessness and obesity. But they don't look past their picket fences to see that many of the issues they seek to abolish are not just problems, but symptoms of the larger socioeconomic caste system in American culture. The very means these women use to make strides towards equality and peace perpetuate and darken the line between classes.

Their fights are noble, I suppose, from a simple point of view. At least these women actually do something instead of sneezing out snowstorms like the rest of the Lindsay Lohan generation. I don't want to tell anyone not to do these things. By all means, if someone is able to participate in a walk-a-thon go for it. And if they're too lazy or have a trick knee and can only write a check, that's great too. However, they should be made aware that this is not activism. This is the erasure of white guilt with money earned from a privileged throne in our culture. But if they really want to make a true difference, they should educate themselves about all aspects of the issue at hand and then educate their friends and urge those friends to spread the word. They should find people of other social standings and band together with them to fight these problems at the root, not at the top. Instead of purchasing black babies because Madonna did, they should learn more about why said black babies need to adopted. Knowledge and awareness are the strongest weapon in any fight.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

We Need a War

Buh-Bye Queer Eye!

In light of the recent news that Queer Eye will enter it's final season this summer, I can finally do a jig of relief.

I understand many other gay men and women thought this show was the beginning of a revolution. I felt like it was the beginning of a new kind of oppression. This show takes what are quite possibly the five most obnoxious and insulting stereotypes about gay men and brings them to life on the small screen in the form of five of the most non-sexual homosexuals I've ever seen in my life.

The men in this show portray the role of the housewife in the 1950's whose duties included cleaning, cooking and caring for her man and children. Her responsibilities were limited to familial care, and freedoms were limited to even less. She was a commodity.

With the advent of more and more gay programming in the last decade, gay men have been commodified without any objection. They've been categorized into this hybrid subspecies of the women of the 1950s and the women of today that love to shop, do make-overs, cook and redecorate apartments while having sexual encounters that everybody hears about in just enough detail to make them seem just above a common whore without exuding the sexuality of the town slut. After all, how threatened can society be by a mixture of June Cleaver with a pinch of Paris Hilton?

While these programs do give gay men exposure to people who would otherwise never encounter homosexual peoples by putting them on TV screens across America, it also puts them into a position where they must trade their sexual identity to be treated with decency.

These shows greatly desexualize homosexual men in such a way that they become harmless eunuchs. Much in the way that Donna Reed and Harriet Nelson were stripped of any sexual qualities that might give them more power than they rightly deserved, gay men are being transformed into neutered dogs trained to satisfy the culinary, stylistic and hygienic needs of the heterosexual male.

Case in point is Robert Laughlin from the short lived (thank the Goddess) spin off "Queer Eye for the Straight Girl." Seen here is the photo spread from his interview in Instinct Magazine's September 2002 issue:

Three years later, his sexuality was subjugated when he was cast as one of the new "Queer Eye's" "Gal Pals" which is more obvious in the the actual context of the show, but is slightly evident in this picture:

He was changed into yet another prissy, sweater-vested puppet to portray the harmless version of the contemporary gay man. The new gay man with so little dignity that he will trade his sexuality and the right to be sexual for a five episode stint in the limelight.

To television's credit, I will admit that Queer as Folk is adept at characterizing gay men in a more varied light. It shows that gay men are not just the bee hived librarians that Queer Eye and Will & Grace make them out to be. They love, hate, have sex and develop relationships on friendly and romantic levels. The fact that (I feel) the acting is slightly sub-par can easily be overlooked for how daring and true to life this show can actually be at times.

We're in a war right now. I'm not entirely certain that people that fight for gay rights understand this war, or even realize its presence. We have people that bow to the current norm and take it as face value as acceptance from society. A good example of this is the subculture I call "the 12 year old girls trapped in middle aged men's bodies" that read Tiger Beat and listen intently to Lindsey Lohan’s newest single. Then there are people like Dan Savage who actively engage in the fight for homosexual equality (I do not claim to be one or the other either, I just comment on the facts as I see them).

Granted that state by state, country by country gay men have begun to receive more rights on a global level than were ever provided to them before. But here in America, when you're given the option of a civil union, or domestic partnership that provides you with none of the 1,138 federal rights of an actual legal marriage, doesn't it seem like gay and lesbian people are just given the booby prize to shut them up? Personally, I would rather have a legally binding contract that is upheld in all 50 of the United States. Not a cheap consolation that would be null and void when I take a vacation in Florida and can't get into the hospital room because I'm not "family" while my loved one lies prone and paralyzed, nearer to death with every breath because a venomous jellyfish stung him.

This is a war, and instead of being called to arms, most gay men would rather cash in their dicks for thirty seconds of airtime. The next time you have a chance to be the feature of a gay themed television show about free makeovers for overweight, bald republicans, or the next time you're asked to play the promiscuous yet horribly desexualized "Jack" type character on the next "Will & Grace" think about how the price of your 15 minutes of fame is more than just your own personal dignity. To sell your sexual identity for a coveted role comes at the expense of your fellow gay men. To be illustrated as subservient commodities instead of actual people who are entirely willing to fight for something that they deserve is to take a giant leap backwards in a fight for equality.

The day that we finally have gay comic book heroes, gay video game characters, gay television shows on regular programming TV that actually show the sexual aspect of gay life is far from today. But that doesn't mean that we can't do anything today to make it happen for tomorrow. We can no longer lie like dogs while our bones are being taken away. This is a war on a different kind of terrorism. If you have ever been afraid to hold your man's hand in public, or kiss at the movies, or share a fork in the food court, then the time has come for guerilla warfare. The time has come to rise up and take position in the gay militia and fight.

But first let me go make myself over.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Parenting, Hyrule Style

I've always had a penchant for video games. Ever since I was a youngster and first played He-Man for the original Atari 3600 I was hooked. Eventually my brother, ten years my senior, brought home the Nintendo Entertainment System. After many hours huddled in his basement bedroom continuously reading that "our princess is in another castle," I knew my life would never be the same. In no time, I was the expert and gave him tips on how to conquer Ganon and how to get Pit out of the Underworld.

Throughout all of my career as a young gamer, my mother set one crucial rule. No games where the main objective is to kill other people. I was allowed to destroy over sized red tortoises to save a princess or best the Mother Brain to liberate Zebes, as long as no other human was harmed in the process. That meant Contra was a big no-no, which didn't bother me so much. Fighting games were also out, which was mildly upset me since the gore of Mortal Kombat was so hyped.

I grew up in a very strict household when it came to all media and the portrayal of violence and/or sexuality. I wasn't allowed to watch MTV until I was 16, I wasn't allowed to watch R rated movies until I was 17. I wasn't allowed to watch "the Simpsons" until high school.

There were rules in my home. Without ESRB to tell her which games were appropriate based on their violence and sexuality, my mother knew enough about common sense parenting to familiarize herself with the things in my life that made me the most content.

I don't claim to have never participated in the above activities. I saw Blame It on Rio and European Vacation before I was old enough to realize what boobs were, and I knew how to execute Scorpion's decapitation finishing move better than any other kid on my block.

The point is, though, that even though certain things were available to me outside of my home, my mother actively participated in my life and kept me from certain things until she was sure I was emotionally mature enough to understand the themes of these movies and games and also that I was mature enough to make the decision for myself whether or not they were worth my time.

It seems to me that a good portion of parents now don't want to do this kind of active parenting. They expect ESRB or MPAA to parent for them. I fully understand that video games are a much more popular media now, with many more games available than when I was a kid (Hey, I haven't traded my GameCube for a cubicle, yet). I know that the ratings are there to guide the parents that actually care about what is going into their child's head. But what good are the ratings if parents don't use them? These ratings were set up as a guideline for parents who are unfamiliar with games, so why do these people refuse to look at the rating before they buy a game for their child? Why are parents so intent on and content with other people's decisions on how to rear their children?

Mine is probably the first generation of true hardcore video gamers. And I'm sure it won't be the last. We are a generation that started as children with Mario and have grown into adults with (hopefully) enough intelligence to understand that the violence depicted in Gears of War is the video game equivalent of Apocalypse Now. These games are most definitely not for children.

But people demonize video games and refuse to familiarize themselves with the medium and games
all wind up lumped into the same category. I find it hard to believe that Brain Age or Mario Kart can even be considered part of the same oeuvre as Grand Theft Auto.

As the next generation of parents, (I believe we're 'grups' now?) it's our responsibility to rear our children with the values that we ourselves hold to the highest importance. It's our responsibility to not depend on people like Dr. Phil or (the way more extreme) Jack Thompson to tell us how to raise our brood.

Would I ever let my child play Resident Evil? No way. Just like I wouldn't let them see the Deer Hunter or read the Tropic of Capricorn until they were old enough. I think that's common sense, but maybe that's just me.