Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sherlock Holmes as Iron Man?

I'll admit it--my Special Lady and I walked out of Iron Man. I love superhero movies, and I have a special place in my heart for Robert Downey, Jr., as I do for pretty much all celebrities who struggle with addiction (even Lindsay and Britney get a level of immunity), but I just couldn't take Iron Man. We went to see it at a big theater, and the crowd was so jingoistic and creepy, I had this moment when I found myself suddenly unable to approach the film as a Big Dumb Action Movie--and if I had to sit there while people cheered as another Afghan village exploded, I would start to cry. And don't even get me started on Gwyneth frakkin' Paltrow.

So I met this news that Guy Ritchie is making an "updated" Sherlock Holmes movie with trepadation, to say the least. Like Iron Man, most Guy Ritchie movies seem to try for irony around their masculine posturing, but ultimately find themselves way too invested in that posture for the irony to really take. The fast editing and ass-kicking are over the top, but the characters never reach the self-aware (or even accidental) self-parody of a Nathan Fillion or Shatner or Mark Wahlberg.

The figure of Sherlock Holmes offers a chance to present a different vision of masculinity--he's always struck me as sad and vulnerable, with his obsessions (the OCD stuff, obviously, but also his obsession with Watson) blocking him from the world of male privilege where he would otherwise be able to succeed. This strikes me as a particularly feminine conundrum--where your skills prevent you from getting what you want, rather than bringing you toward it. I think of it as the Lisa Simpson Syndrome: intelligence and skills mark you as weirdo instead of a Success.

And part of this feeling must come with the historic physical characterization of Holmes, which it's impossible not to think of (the coat, the hat, the big pipe, etc). He just doesn't look like an action hero, which is why I think he works as a hero for braniacs, misfits, and nebbishes. Guy Ritchie just seems like another guy who'd beat you up for your lunch money--or at least idolize the guy who could.

So here's hoping this turns into gay camp, à la my favorite gay male love story ever. I doubt it, but anything's possible.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Felix "Gay-dis" Gaeta

I was bonding recently with a professor in my department over the awesomeness that is Battlestar Galactica. We agreed (as anyone does who's seen the show) that it's awesome, but she complained that its homophobia drove her crazy. Ever eager to defend my baby, I replied that I had heard they were outing Gaeta in the new set of webisodes, “Face of the Enemy” --to which she mumbled something and changed the subject. I felt a little dumb after this, like I'd boiled a complex issue down to a question of representation--if they have queer characters (finally!), then the show must be queer-friendly, right?

Obviously, there's more to it than that, but I don't want to downplay how shocking it still is to see two guys kiss as part of a mainstream TV narrative (even if they only get to be gay on the internet, like closeted rural teenagers). The show goes out of its way to demonstrate how okay everyone is with Gaeta's gay-i-tude, from Racetrack gently ribbing Hoshi (that's the BF) for how long it took them to get together, to Tigh's accepting their relationship as a reason to give Hoshi a raptor to go find Gaeta's lost ship. Furthermore, I really appreciated how Gaeta's sexuality was presented as more nuanced than the straight/gay binary--his romantic/sexual connection with the Eight seems real enough, but isn't used as a way to delegitimize his desire for Hoshi or his queerness in general. At the end of the day, though, I had much the same feeling that I did after watching “Razor”--the moments when the show explicitly addresses questions of sexual diversity just highlight the narrative's structural homophobia.

“Razor's” retrograde politics are pretty obvious--Cain's lesbianism is a sign of her over-the-top masculinity, and thus her failure to be a successful “parent” for the Pegasus. This fear of a queer familial structure is particularly striking when you consider the insistent comparisons made between Pegasus as the failed family (that has to sacrifice itself if the future is to survive) and the stabilizing force of Galactica's heterosexual parental dyad of Adama and Roslin. But even more than that, I think there's something really important in how the thing that the Cylons most desire in/from the humans is the ability to heterosexually reproduce. What makes the Cylons monstrous is their attraction across sameness and their ability to regenerate by means other than reproduction. “Love” is what makes Hera's and (maybe...) Nicky's conceptions possible, and it seems the show implies the same origin with the fetus conceived by Six and Tigh. If love = reproduction, what does that mean for queer characters? Especially when reproduction is the activity that marks you not just as straight, but as human?

I don't know--maybe I'm oversimplifying things. The way the Final Five are obviously in between human and Cylon shows a breakdown of boundaries between categories of identity that serves as a counterpoint to all this obsession with reproduction and family structure. And Baltar's effeminacy certainly isn't linked to any lack of virility on his part. And even if his desires are marked as perverse (which I think they pretty definitely are), I don't think the show pathologizes his investment in sexual pleasure for its own sake. We'll see--but I'm excited for Friday, and to see where all this goes in the next season, particularly w/r/t the relationship between Tigh and the Six.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Feeling dissed...

So I'm deep in the zone right now, working on my dissertation, and frozen by terror in a way that surpasses all my school-related freakouts in recent memory. For those of you among my five readers who have done this before, any tips for pushing through the terror that comes with the first piece of writing you give your advisor?

On top of my general malaise, I've somehow misplaced the central theoretical text I'm using. I can only take comfort in the fact that the same thing happened to my blushing bride, and she managed to finish her prospectus. Thank god we don't have a baby, we'd probably just leave it on the T.

So here's my hope, put out into the wide, wide worldwide web:
I will be motivated by my love of serial reading, not my fear of failure;
I will commit myself wholeheartedly to the play of language;
I will refrain from making Grand Pronouncements;
I will treat my fellow writers and readers with respect;
I will remember always that the object of all interpretation is the process.

Wish me luck, friends.