George Michael, a life, by James Gavin

This was a great biography. Someone asked me at a dinner who my favorite singer was and I almost instantly answered George Michael. He had been dead 3 years at that point. But I’m not exactly sure why. It just seemed that whenever he released a song, whether it was from the days of Wham or his solo career, the songs always felt like me in a way that no other singer — say Elvis or even Elton John — ever did.

I knew he was gay when he sang Careless Whisper which was when he was with Wham, and, as he insisted many years later, he was having sex with women. And I assumed he was gay right up until he was publicly outed having been coerced into having sex in a public bathroom by a cop who had publicly exposed himself. But I’ve always been curious whether George Michael lived in shame. Because he couldn’t avoid talking about it and, in fact, in brought attention to the fact that coercion is illegal: you can’t do something illegal to get someone else to do something illegal. But, as you can see on his interview with David Letterman, he joked about it, laughed at it, and eventually made a song and a video about it. But I just always had the sense that he was somehow ashamed of being gay, and when he died, and there was a pretty big cover up about what was going on, I wondered if the shame had finally gotten to him. It appears that it had.

He was an addict for a good part of his career. He smoked marijuana all day long, and when he was older he started doing a drug that was popular in the gay world — especially the gay club and sex scene — called G. G does the same thing that Crystal Meth does, except you don’t lose your teeth. But it’s a very dangerous drug and when it first appeared in the clubs, a lot of men were overdosing because it stays in your system. Michael was taking it every day. His family refused to release the toxicology report. But G also makes you binge eat, and apparently some photos got out of George looking like a fat old thing, which must have mortified him.

I knew that he was having trouble because even though he completely lost his American audience, and really thought that America had abandoned him, I had kept following him, mostly via Youtube or Vemo. He overdosed about 8 times. And after doing part of a tour, he came down with cryptococcol pneumonia. That is the type pneumonia which primarily affects AIDS patients. He was put into an induced coma and had to have a tracheotomy for a breathing tube. He recovered and according to his last boyfriend, that was when he discovered he was HIV positive. His boyfriend was a somewhat shady character, and became pretty insane after George died, so there’s no actual confirmation that George had HIV, and because the family has kept these secrets from the public, we have no way of knowing. But one of his last songs and probably his last good song was “White Light,” which was about wanting to live. (He didn’t see the white light, which meant he wasn’t ready to go.) But I think that was probably a wished-for projection, because someone who knew him well, and also knew the problems that addicts have, said he could see it in George’s eyes that he was giving up. And I think this book makes it pretty clear that George was deeply ashamed, and the blame for that lies squarely on his father, who was a conservative Greek and humiliated by his son’s homosexuality.

**************

There is a mountain of predictable reviews to Blonde: that the movie doesn’t go into Marilyn’s brilliance, talent, business acumen, but exploits her in exactly the same way that she was exploited in real life. To this I would counter that you can’t make an anti-war movie because war is inherently dramatic, frightening and exciting. We like watching movies about war and violence. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a movie about the wars that we wage which tries to state that war is terrible. The Lord Of The Rings is full of anti-war sentiment, even though it is essentially, one long war. The Killing Fields is about as close an anti-war movie as I’ve ever seen, but it’s still incredibly dramatic.

You can’t make a movie about Marilyn Monroe without dealing with female exploitation and the male stare (the male gaze) behind the camera. If they wanted a movie that shows the entire person, then they should write it, make it or re-watch one of the others, like “My Week With Marilyn,” which was a great movie that dealt with a single week in Marilyn’s life.

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Blonde, by Andrew Dominik, based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates

This is a divisive movie, but only because so many people have invested so much time and energy in thinking, reading, watching, and staring at Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean Mortensen), including, but not limited to, this filmmaker and the writer who said she thought she was going to write a small novella but ended up writing a book that was so long it had to be surgically edited. But MM, the creation, is, arguably, the most famous star that has ever existed. They still sell her images in Times Square, alongside James Dean and maybe Marlon Brando. But those images, of course, are 50 to 60 years old, as is hers. They don’t sell images of Evelyn Nesbit, or even some of Marilyn’s contemporaries, like Jane Russell.

And why did she become an icon? I think maybe that is at the very heart of this adaptation, because I’ve been thinking about it all day. The man next to me felt the need to share his opinion after the nearly 3 hour movie was over, and after he had stayed through all the credits, “Well that was an ordeal.” I don’t know if he thought I’d feel the same — usually people who make unasked for comments like that do think you’ll agree with them — or if he was an idiot. Perhaps he understood how horrific this fictional life story is — the horrors of what we do to each other, told through the story of a woman who was molded in the shape of man’s lust, beaten because of man’s lust, impregnated and aborted because of men’s lust. In any case, he came to see the same movie I did, about a woman whose been dead since 1962 (60 years last August if anyone’s counting.) Since she died at the age of 36, she could actually be still alive if she had the longevity of former Queen Elizabeth.

I think the “Why” of the matter, for me anyway, is in Joyce Carol Oates’s title. Blonde was not her natural hair color. But as most women know, who have to live under the male gaze, especially if they’re looking for a mate, and like one of Marilyn’s titles, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” long flowing blonde hair attracts more men than, say, a brunette pixie cut. The word “blonde” represents everything that she wasn’t. And throughout this movie, and I presume the book, Norma Jean keeps trying to explain to people that she isn’t Marilyn Monroe. That Marilyn Monroe is an invention of the studios and the men that ran them. I can’t remember which studio president said, “Movies are about horses and tits,” but when she first walks into “Z’s” office (a shorthand way of talking about Zanuck), she stares around at all the mounted heads of wild animals and I can’t help thinking that she knows, she knows, she’s going to become one of those mounted stuffed heads. She reads, briefly, a scene she has just been given, and “Z” comes around from behind, pushes her to the floor and fucks her from behind. That’s the moment she becomes Marilyn Monroe. I still don’t know if I’ve answered the “why” question. Why we are so fascinated by this tragic life.

The movie is full of intrusive camera angles, some from inside her vagina, but it makes sense in the scheme of all things, because she was nothing but the same character as the genetically modified woman Somni-451 in Cloud Atlas — she existed to be used. But to get back to the why question of why we are we so interested in this person, I would suggest that we aren’t, actually. We want to see the “real” Marilyn Monroe, who became so famous and iconic that her image will still be sold in Times Square a hundred years from now, long after James Dean, Marlon Brando and whoever comes and goes between now and then. But we can’t, because Marilyn Monroe was a construct, like Jesus on the cross, (now more than 2000 years and still depicted on posters and digital art).

To the actors: They are all brilliant and must be given props: Julianne Nicholson (OMG), Bobby Cannavalle, Adrien Brody, Xavier Samuels, Evan Williams, Toby Huss, and also Lily Fisher who played the little girl Norma Jean at the beginning of the movie.

But one more thing, Ana De Armas gives such an amazing performance that you actually forget, like Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, that she is acting. The criticism that she still had a Cuban accent is invalid. I never once thought about her being Cuban and I didn’t hear it. And also, the fact that MM was a construction and an artifice, like Barbie, should support the notion that if Ana De Armas let any of her Cuban accent through, that would be okay. Because it, MM, was a concoction, like a cake, that we keep consuming.

Five stars.

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Don’t Worry Darling

by Katie Silberman (screenplay) Carey Van Dyke (story) Shane Van Dyke (story)
Directed by Olivia Wilde

I want to add my two cents because this has been getting some bad reviews and a lot of the invented arguments over Harry Styles spitting on Chris Pine, and Florence Pugh fighting with Olivia Wilde are overshadowing what is a really good movie.

One of the things the story does really well is constantly leave you feeling like you don’t know what’s going on, but you have a slight sense that it’s nefarious. It seems like it takes place in the 1950s, and there are some overhead sonic booms that make you think all the men in this town work for a defense company. There’s a huge amount of secrecy, even between the men, but it’s a patriarchal heaven, sort of. The women all stay at home to clean the house and then cook massive hearty meals and be there ready with a drink for when their husbands return home from a long day at work to pleasure them. (Incidentally, only Florence Pugh is seen to be pleasured, because the focus of this movie is not on the men, but on the women.) The fact that it’s set in the 50s more or less hides some of the stranger aspects. The town is a circle, with a line bisecting it, in the middle of a California dessert that looks larger and more barren than anything I’ve seen in California. The women have unlimited credit and can buy anything they want from a department store that is at the center of this town. But they can only use the trolley to get around. They are not allowed to drive. They are not allowed to go into the desert. When they talk about what the men do at their work, it’s said they make “progressive materials,” which is meaningless. Led by John (Chris Pine) who seems to be somewhat of a cult leader, he offers them lines like, “We are changing the world,” or “We are not going back.” So you get a sense of a militia at times, and then a sense of a white supremacy kind of culture, except that there are a few minorities mixed in (one of whom is a Cassandra of sorts and says, “What are we doing here? We don’t belong here?” which gets Florence Pugh’s character thinking, and wondering what are some of these hallucinations she’s having. Later she sees her friend slit her own throat and fall backwards off the roof of her house, and that’s more or less when the problems start to set in.)

Anyway, despite all the negative reviews and people gossiping about Olivia Wilde, at the theatre in which I saw it, there wasn’t a cough, not a single person looked at their phone, and it was so quiet at times, I actually noticed it. I don’t even remember a single person getting up to go to the bathroom. And I noticed that I, myself, was having so many different responses trying to understand the strangeness of this place and these people, I too, was uncharacteristically not fidgeting. (I usually cross and recross my legs constantly, and often I can’t stop biting my nails, when I watch a movie.) This had me rapt. And when the reveal finally came, it was shocking and very satisfying. And the story behind this artificial planned community is as relevant today as it might have been back then: the subjugation of women. In Iran, right now, women and men are both revolting at the theocracy that took over when I was in college, which was basically aimed at subjecting women to brutality and turning them back into second class citizens. In the U.S. the Republicans are doing the opposite, in trying to criminalize women’s health care and eventually attacking non-heterosexual sexuality. Gore Vidal once said that we, as a society, had not stopped moved beyond the two methods of creating a civilization: the subjugation of women and the control of sexuality. In this town of Victory, led by a strange cultist, women are property and are not even allowed to drive (hints of Saudi Arabia). And just as fittingly, there are no homosexuals in Victory.

I think men really just need to shut the fuck up.

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Memoria by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

I had previously seen at the New York Film Festival one of this filmmaker’s earlier films called Tropical Malady which was a mysterious but absolutely beautiful film about a couple of guys who fall in love. They are completely different: one is a military man, the other works in a restaurant, I think. And the first half of the film charts their romance. But the second half, the film becomes the embodiment of a Thai myth, as one of the men finds himself lost in the jungle and being stalked but an unseen entity, which I think turns out to be a jungle tiger. (That is from a 2004 movie so my summary could be entirely wrong.)

This movie is set in Bogota, Medelllin and then a remote part of the Colombian jungle. Like the earlier movie, it seems to be comprised of two major sections: a relatively normal first section that takes place in the cities and then a second section which takes place in the jungle. Tilda Swinton’s character Jessica is an ex-pat from Scotland who wants to grow and export to her former country various orchids that are found in Colombia. We learn later that she’s an insomniac, and the movie opens in that sort of strange moment when the sun hasn’t quite risen but light is starting to fill the morning sky. We hear a huge boom-kind of sound — something like an explosion but also maybe an earthquake. She rises slowly, and not yet fully awake, but not having restfully slept, Jessica starts her day. When she’s speaking a bit later to her landlord, she asks how long the construction next door is going to take place, but her landlord says there is no construction. That’s the first moment when she is starting to become aware that only she can hear this noise.

She goes to a sound engineer and together they try to recreate the sound as she remembers it. This engineer’s name is Hernan and in the credits he is given the name “Young Hernan Bedoya,” because after she returns to seek him out again, she learns from the people there that no one by that name works there. So now she’s really starting to doubt her sanity, but the interesting thing about this is that she doesn’t really feel too frightened about the possibility that she’s losing her mind. Or that reality is starting to slip from her. She continues to hear this boom — three times in a row while she’s having lunch with her sister and brother in law.

Eventually she ends up in the jungle and by changing her position, like lowering her head to the ground, she can hear this sound whenever she wants. And then someone sees her and asks her if she’s alright. This is the “Older Hernan Bedoya,” and he reveals that he remembers everything and can’t sleep. That’s all I’ll say about the plot because the plot is almost incidental. She does, incidentally, or at least we, learn what the sound is.

The movie really seems to be about detritus or what we leave behind. There is a scene where some scholars are carefully reconstructing bones that have been discovered in a giant tunnel they are boring for traffic. (This I understand is based on some controversial and environmentally harmful tunnel that was actually built.) But it’s also about sounds — the sounds of the noisy city — the sounds of the jungle — and of course the sound that only Jessica can hear. One of the skulls is significant because it has a hole drilled out of it and the professor explains that it was probably done to let the demons out of the young girl’s head 6,000 years ago. This practice is called trepanation, but it suggests that Jessica also has something in her head that is causing her to hear things. (There are people who still practice this skull drilling behavior.) And like so many things, it mirrors the drilling of the tunnel itself.

But she never panics about her descent into madness but as viewers, we aren’t really sure that she actually is, in fact, losing her mind. By the end I think we come to view it as a real thing, just as the ancient people who drilled a hole in that skull believed whatever they were letting out was real. Someone told me there is a Buddhist thought that all phenomena (which I think is basically what we see every day) begin as vibrations and then manifest in our “real” world as images and sounds and touch — everything that our brain is capable of processing. This seems to have that feel, for even after the credits start rolling, sounds keep coming our way.

He’s an interesting director. He’s never going to allow this film to be streamed (or as far as I know digitized), and he’s only allowing it to play in one movie theatre at a time.

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The Forgiven

I haven’t attempted a review in a while, so I thought I’d try reviewing this one.

I think it was The Times that quoted The Great Gatsby in trying to describe the characters in this movie, but someone who was leaving the theatre described it much more simply. “Oh they wanted to make a movie where you hate all the characters.” That isn’t far from the truth. There is, however, one likeable character: a Moroccan boy who ends up dead at the start of the movie. That’s in the trailer so I don’t consider a spoiler. But the fact that they are all fairly reprehensible people doesn’t mean the movie isn’t interesting. It is.

A gay British guy (Matt Smith) and his boyfriend (Caleb Landry Jones) are giving a party for their wealthy friends deep in the desert, far from Casablanca. They don’t seem to have any gay friends, which is kind of weird and makes it even weirder that they’re gay themselves. Maybe he’s meant to represent someone like Peter Thiel, an equally vile piece of scum. Anyway, Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain are late for some reason, so they are driving at an exceedingly fast pace in the middle of the pitch black desert when a boy shows up in the middle of the road and they hit and kill him. The two boys had planned to steal from them and the mean one (the one with the gun) made the nice boy, the one with the ancient fossil, go out into the road and pretend he was trying to sell the fossil. They take the boys identity (his wallet) and anything else he had on his person and bury it beside the road. Then they put the boy in the trunk and continue on to their party.

Understandably, they aren’t in much of a mood to party, but they must eat, so they go to the large dining table where only a few people are left drinking and when they are asked why they are late, she bluntly says, “We were speeding and hit a boy and killed him.” That sort of more or less starts the downfall of their marriage.

The father of the son shows up to claim his son’s body (news travels quickly and the servants got word to him). The translator (also another fairly nice character) explains that he must go with him to bury the child. At first he doesn’t want to, knowing that they will probably try to take revenge on him because… that’s what all Arabs supposedly do. But then he abruptly agrees to go. This was the one unmotivated and badly acted moment, but it passes quickly and the gist of the story is on.

While he’s gone, his wife decides it’s time to have an affair and has one with Christopher Abbott, who’s very nice to look at. I didn’t understand why she had the affair, but along with many other characters, they’re all just horrible people and the bulk of the story follows David as he makes his way deeper and deeper into “hostile” territory. Of course he learns more about the nature of Morocco and that it is either working for tourists in Casablanca, or selling rare fossils to white people. That is it. There is nothing else. There’s a very tense scene where you think it actually might be possible that they will kill him, but because he’s unlikeable, you wouldn’t be upset if he did get killed. But after a rage and vent, the father of the boy sends him back to “the faggots” as the British couple are repeatedly called. Still the moral question remains, and he asks this of the translator, “Am I forgiven?” There is more to the movie, as the long weekend party breaks up and Jo’s weekend lover goes off with some other girls, and as David returns from his ordeal. (Does their marriage still exist, etc.)

The biggest problem I had with the movie was the conceit itself: that there would be two gay guys in a country that’s hostile to gays, living out in the desert with servants, etc. There’s some lines that try to explain it. But it’s like a one couple colonialism. Morocco used to be a place where gay men went to have sex with young boys — they even mention this. But I don’t think that’s the case now. Maybe it is — I don’t know. I’m not into that.

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Top 25

I forgot, for some reason, to brag. Glimmertrain was a marvelous outlet for short stories and short shorts and they stopped publishing some time ago. I submitted for one of the very last short story awards and made it to the finalists. I didn’t win. But it’s a credit. They had 1st, 2nd, 3rd place. The finalists and then honorable mentions on a separate page. I was going to try to embed the page here but it’s too complicated. Writers have to take every small thing they can get, including a runner up mention.

http://www.glimmertrain.com/pages/finalists/2018_05_06_may_jun_ssa_25.php

Here’s a screenshot.

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SATC

Almost everyone in New York has experienced a group of young women, who sometimes call each other bitches, trying to live the life that the Sex and The City gang of four lived fictionally. I once accidentally went to one of the restaurants that was a location in that series and my friend and I had to leave. It was so full of women trying to be those women: Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda, with most of them trying, probably, to be Samantha in particular.

But I didn’t dislike the first two episodes of the sequel “And Just Like That…” as much as others have. To be sure, there were some idiotic scenes and costumes: Miranda’s outfits in particular were atrocious. And the scene where she enters a classroom, somewhat late because she’s been drinking (very heavy handed foreshadowing, btw), and sits in the professor’s chair which is one in a circle of chairs, and then proceeds to make all sorts of modern micro-aggressive mistakes after the professor arrives, was absolutely embarrassing. If she’s really getting her masters to be a social justice warrior, she would already know that you have to ask someone what their pronouns are, and she wouldn’t have stumbled around making all sorts of mistakes about “black” hair. It was a dreadful scene and there was nothing natural about it. And the others in her classroom, young people, were rude and shocked, just downright shocked, that Miranda assumed someone was a “she.” How dare she make such an assumption.

Likewise between Big and Carrie, there was just an unnaturalness about their relationship that kind of told you that Big was doomed already. Would have been much more interesting if they’d been having problems — or had gone into a bed death phase. They basically made the worst choices.

They talked too much about Samantha just packing up and leaving in anger, but I suspect that’s some shade they’re throwing at Kim Catrell. But what I did like about it is the simple fact that they are older. Simple as that. I like seeing people confronting some of the problems I’ve had to confront as I’ve aged — even if it’s as stupid as grey hair. So we’ll see. Big has died and Miranda is going to be hitting the Chablis ever more frequently until she’s confronted by someone. I just hope the writing gets better.

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Afterparties

Anthony Veasna So, acclaimed fiction writer, dead at age ...

Afterparties: Stories by Anthony Veasna So

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wish I had liked these stories better. Some are compelling — especially the ones toward the end, but for the most part they’re forgettable. It’s especially sad to me as I wanted to like it. I feel terrible that he never got a chance to write, really, and that he died of crystal meth, which is a real scourge among gays that is equal, I think, to the opioid crisis. And in his acknowledgments he writes that someone looked past what “most readers saw in his work, and found its pulse, its soulful longing, the urgent questions it was trying to answer.” But I have to wonder what did most readers see in his work, if it had to be looked past? I don’t know that the Cambodian refugee (survivor) experience is any different than, say, the Jewish one, but there are peculiarities that are very interesting, such as the belief that those who were killed in the genocide can be reincarnated in their grandchildren or great grandchildren, and at great expense to those grandchildren or great grandchildren.

One of the most harrowing movies I ever saw was The Killing Fields, a 1984 film which won 3 Oscars including best supporting actor for Haing S. Ngor. He was a refugee himself and was shot to death in California. Some speculate it was because of his work to bring the Khmer Rouge to justice.

So wasn’t even born then, and a lot of these stories deal with an inheritance that he didn’t ask for. But I just didn’t feel any of the things people have said: that the stories were witty, laugh out loud funny, satirical, etc. I was mostly bored reading them. But to his credit, 8 of the stories were published in The New Yorker, n+1, Granta, The Paris Review, American Short Fiction, BOMB and ZYZZYVA. He was a graduate of Stanford University and he taught at Colgate University and other places, and that’s no small feat for someone who overdosed at 28.

View all my reviews

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Coming Out Colton

[Movie] Coming Out Colton season 1 review - a bit cringe ...

Colton Underwood is basically a gay media whore who, according to him, went on The Bachelor (a show of nearly unbelievable banality) because he thought it would make him straight. Given his basic blindness to himself and all those around him, I can probably believe this.

I could only watch this six episode series in short segments (no more than 10 minutes each), because of how embarrassed I felt just watching it. I cringed constantly, primarily because as an older person, I can’t stand to hear young people talk about anything. I always want to jump through the tv and say, “Yes, I know. I’ve lived for a lot longer than you have.”

But besides having to listen to him and others (the completely obnoxious Olympic medalist, Gus Kensworthy) pontificate on what it means to be gay, or what it means to come out — there’s an artificiality about the entire project that reeks of Valerie Cherish and “The Comeback:” Lisa Kudrow’s brilliant, multi-layered, reality project that isn’t a reality project. The problem with these shows is that they don’t acknowledge that they are behaving for the cameras. They are standing in a certain way. The scenes are staged. Lisa Kudrow (in the second season) used one of the “real housewives” of Beverly Hills to say, “I know what they’re doing,” and the “real” housewife said, “Who’s they?” as if she had forgotten there were producers and camera people scripting this pseudo reality.

What really bugged me was the “Friends” episode, where Colton interacts with exactly 0 friends but rather, a group of guys brought in to play his friends. They all stand around drinking at a “party” and they play ping pong and then whack each other in the back with ping pong balls. They go “oooohhhh” in that artificial way that’s so common. I’ve never seen that happen, ever, at a gay party. One of the guys says, “This is the gayest shit we’ve ever done,” and Kensworthy says, “You just got fisted earlier and you’re like this is the gayest thing.” The guy he’s talking to (the one who thinks this is the gayest shit) is an older, heavily tattooed guy, who they’ve brought in so that Colton can hook up with him, which I think means, fuck. Presumably 29 year old Colton is a virgin, but that is just conjecture based on his nickname on The Bachelor. He declined to fuck the guy, as I would have done.

What was compelling, but completely misinterpreted by Underwood, is that his actual friends from church (although I couldn’t tell if these men were actual friends or just recruits for the reality show) and his former pastor at the church, all said he was evil but that they loved him and would continue to pray for him so that he would find the right path and turn away from the most evil of sins, homosexuality. Colton, instead of rejecting these people, returns in another episode and says something like, “Well now that I’ve come out to my mom and dad, and I have the support of my friends, I’m ready to go on Good Morning America.” What support? Anyway, the behavior of the evangelicals was illuminating and clear. They are all about evil and stress an almost medieval interpretation of the bible: not that the flesh should be punished for existing but that there is evil in all men, and Jesus was sacrificed to redeem that evil, making it possible to get into heaven after death. The problem with that, as many great thinkers and scholars have noted, is that it simply does away with individual morality and responsibility. If you murder my friend or relative, you need to ask for forgiveness from me, not from Jesus. Jesus has nothing to do with it. And Jesus, basically a bystander, has no right to step in and say “I forgive you.” Who cares if Jesus forgives you, murderer? I am the one you must ask for forgiveness. And Colton’s experience with these “Loving” but unforgiving evangelicals is a perfect example of how they simply don’t understand that shading themselves under the Jesus umbrella has allowed them to insert themselves where they don’t belong: either in a woman’s womb or at the mouth of a gay man who’s about to suck a dick or at the anus of a gay man who’s about to take another man’s fist.

After the utter nonsense questions from Roberts (Why does viability matter?) and Barrett (but what about adoption?) I had this image of the courts winding their way up a woman’s reproductive system: first from the vagina to the uterus, up the Fallopian tubes and into the ovaries — that soon a woman who has a hysterectomy will be a criminal.

And they are not far from carving out religious exemptions to the equal accommodation rules so that evangelical Christians, the vilest of all religions I think, don’t have to sell us cookies.

Colton kept talking about his new LGBTQ Plus community, as in, “Now that I’m part of the community.” There is no community. There is some shared experience and some history that might be relevant to any young person coming out, but “community” is a loaded word and I don’t think it’s appropriate here — especially because what you’re left with, if you can stand to watch the entire program, is his deep disconnection and loneliness. His friend is Twitter.

I’ve heard that he has a boyfriend now — older, which he said he wanted, but not particularly attractive. So maybe that’s a good thing. But I found this whole series pathetic and sad and not representative of the gay “community,” if there is one.

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Succession

'Succession' Season 2 Trailer Revisits HBO's 'Happy Family'


Generally when you’re trying to decide who the main character is in any given story — if it’s not immediately obvious that is — you would ask a bunch of questions: “Who changes the most?” “Whose want drives the story?” “Who has the hardest journey?” “Who is the enemy trying to kill?”

But those are questions you can only ask when you’ve reached the end. If you ask, “Who is the main character of Star Wars,” it would probably come down to Luke Skywalker or Han Solo. But Han doesn’t change, his journey is the least arduous, and what he wants is mainly to not get caught. Luke wants to be a fighter pilot; he has to face things he doesn’t even yet know (that Darth Vader is his father, e.g.); and he has the harder journey in that he must be trained by Yoda.

In Succession, I don’t think I’ve ever met a group of characters who I find more repulsive than this family. But I was thinking about the fact that everyone wants something (money); no one changes at all; and none of the characters have any kind of journey to make. They might go through some sadness in their lives, but as Shiv said to Ken when he thanked her for coming to his birthday party, “It was just a few blocks.” That, of course, is part of the problem. His thanks was probably insincere or could be insincere. Everyone lies. The Roman character has a fondness for saying things out loud, but he’s still a liar and a manipulator. So then I think about the enemy, or the fact that they are all enemies of each other, and zero in on the main enemy: the father. The one that the title is all about. He is the main enemy, and his main enemy, in turn, is his son Kendall.

Kendall is mentally ill (no other characters seems to understand this, though they call him crazy), and watching his birthday party episode, at one point, I wanted to scream because he was literally not saying anything at all. Just babbling noises. “We good? Are we good? What? It’s a thing? Yes? No? Yes?” He is surrounded by sycophants who despise him and do not give him truthful advice but merely acquiesce to his every idea, including singing “Honesty,” by Billy Joel while chained to a cross that’s suspended in the middle of the room. (Fortunately, he sees the error of doing that, and doesn’t, but this realization leads to him finally understanding how pathetic his 40th birthday party is, and perhaps that he doesn’t have a single actual friend.)

And then I was thinking about how the show can be resolved. It can’t, without Kendall either being committed, or inheriting the company, or killing his father (figuratively or literally). He has already tried once and this third season picked up from that moment when he decided to kill his father rather than let his father send him to jail. But he seems to be losing the fight and also his mind.

Everything else is unnecessary. The older brother is an ass of extraordinary uselessness — a gelding. The sister and younger brother have journeys but both have already shown the same sycophantic and masochistic tendencies toward their father that their own underlings have towards them.

It’s a good example of how plot — and perhaps too much of it — can get in the way of understanding the essential question of the novel (or in this case, a tv series). Every week we get another investor or deal that has to be done to save the company. This time it was something to do with a failing app service company, or something. I don’t know. It didn’t matter.

And one thing I really dislike about the show is that it does not take on the fact that Rupert Murdoch has done everything he can to sow division and hatred in this country through The NY Post, Fox “News” channel, The Wall Street Journal, etc. The show is based on Murdoch and his family and their media company is an alt right bastion of lies and misinformation. But they don’t address this — although I think Kendall might have obliquely at some point — can’t remember. Anyway, I’ll be glad when it ends. Someone I know said that the characters were blind but didn’t know it. I think that’s true and I don’t care about any of them.

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