Tag: sexuality

Arthur

by on Feb.14, 2011, under Movies

Russell Brand is your new Dudley Moore:

I remembered the first movie vaguely but fondly from my youth; Netflix obliged On Demand and I took another look at it last weekend.

What struck me immediately is how strongly the 1981 film plays against the tagline “don’t you wish you were Arthur?” Watch that trailer; Moore’s bray is as grating in the movie as it is there. Impressively, Moore’s drunk antics are rooted in frustration and imprisonment, and for the first ten minutes of the film (much of which is in the trailer) it’s obvious that he’s the only one laughing at his jokes and everyone pretends to like him because’s he’s rich. When John Gielgud arrives the following morning, we get to meet Arthur in a human relationship for the first time. It’s a complex relationship that forms the heart of the movie, and it’s impressive that we spend as much time with Arthur before we see him through the eyes of someone who cares for him beyond what he’s paid to do.

I can see Russell Brand playing unlikable, but I have a hard time thinking he’ll stay unfunny for that long. Brand on a rising arc of world comedy domination; when Moore made Arthur he was long past his sketch-comedy heyday (his early 60’s group Beyond The Fringe was the acknowledged ur-Monty Python). His Arthur lands somewhere between a dramatic role and a comic showpiece, and it’s stronger when it’s the former. I suspect Brand’s will be funnier but more slight.

I do like that the Brand trailer sets up his betrothed as too sexually forthright for Peter-Pan Arthur, and it’s of a piece that his object of desire would be the comparatively undersexed Greta Gerwig. (Think of her wonderfully awkward turn with Ben Stiller in Greenberg.) Jill Eikenberry’s Susan Johnson is WASPily frigid. It feels contemporary and insightful that Arthur would fear sex, although it may just be played as a cartoon.

Cross-posted at Alyssa Rosenberg‘s joint.

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Cougar Town

by on Jul.21, 2010, under Uncategorized

This interesting Ta-Nehisi Coates article got me thinking about another meaning for the term “leaker”.

I vaguely remembered learning about a 19th-century intentional community with a strong operating tenet of free love. Birth control was done by men holding in their ejaculation, a learnable practice. Men who weren’t as good at this as the others, according to one of my AmStud professors, were known as “leakers.”

A little googling and I refreshed myself that the practice is also known as coitus reservatus, the intentional community was (of course!) Oneida, and that another notable sex practice there was this: “Postmenopausal women were encouraged to introduce teenage males to sex, providing both with legitimate partners that rarely resulted in pregnancies. Furthermore, these women became religious role models for the young men.”

Beware, young bros at Pasadena’s Vertical Wine Bar. You might catch a nasty case of religious instruction.

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Playing Straight

by on May.09, 2010, under television

I wouldn’t have heard of this stupid, question-begging Newsweek article if Kristin Chenoweth’s skewering hadn’t lit up everyone’s Facebook page. Ramin Setoodeh argues that gay actors like Sean Hayes in the musical Promises, Promises and Jonathan Groff on Glee can’t convincingly play straight characters. Chenoweth writes in defense of her co-star Hayes, saying “yes he can” which is about all you can say to someone who, knowing that an actor carries the dreadful gay, can no longer suspend disbelief (what if he’d rather do me than little Kristin Chenoweth? Shudder). But the response still dignifies his argument far too much.

First, Groff on Glee. Speaking as a straight man experienced in the ways of high school musical theater, talented musical theater high school boys are pretty fucking queer. We haven’t quite learned the ways of conventional masculinity, which leaves us freer to express ourselves on stage but also never terribly persuasive as leading men. My h.s. drama apotheosis was playing Henry Higgins, who as an educated British man is queer enough. My other big lead role was as Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, for which I played up my shrimpiness and probably put a little too much Yid inflection on So Sue Me. Frank Sinatra was a subtler Nathan. The romantic lead role, Sky Masterson, was played with much more convincing masculinity in that production by a boy who was out to a few friends even back in 10th grade.

Groff’s high school champion vocal stylist carries an ineluctable whiff of queer? We all did. Chalk a point for verisimilitude.

Missing from the article is any sense that a little queerness might give an actor some performance-inflecting insight into the crude construction of straightness. Missing is any nuance whatsoever into the last-legs binary of gay and straight at this fragile historical moment. America loves Glee, people. “Straight” is in decline. For the killing blow, look to the straightest man on television, How I Met Your Mother‘s Barney Stinson, played by America’s number one gay, Neil Patrick Harris. Harris’s Barney, a priapic epicure, is as much a straight man as the leads of Absolutely Fabulous were straight women.

This will be a hard lesson for the 27 members of Facebook’s Barney Stinson is NOT gay! group to learn. Their cri de coeur after the jump.

(continue reading…)

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