Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rapace as Ripley precursor

Nikki Finke's website Deadline is reporting that director Ridley Scott is planning a prequel to the Alien franchise and is favoring casting Noomi Rapace—yes, Lisbeth Salander!—in the role of the Ellen Ripley-esque heroine. It is almost too good to be true. But, alas, it's not final because there is some concern about Rapace's ability to speak English. But I saw her on Charlie Rose recently (I know, I know, good grief), and she was perfectly fluent. So I hope they just finalize the deal. Wrap it up, people! I want to see Noomi Rapace as Ripley's predecessor. I mean, we know Noomi can handle a gun as well as Sigourney Weaver. We know she looks great lounging with bare arms and midriff. We know she can project the intense Ripley-style facial expression that says, WTF is going on in this crazy effing Nostromo spacecraft? (She's talking to you, Ash, you creepy droid.) Carey Mulligan and Abbie Cornish are also apparently being considered. But they, however adorable and talented, simply will not be convincing against the acid-for-blood badassness that is the alien.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Elisabeth Moss in iconic lesbian role

One of the great pleasures of the new millennium has been watching Elisabeth Moss play the role of Peggy Olson on Mad Men. Now we learn she will play the iconic lesbian role of Martha Dobie in Lillian Hellman's groundbreaking 1934 play, The Children's Hour, to be staged in London. Moss's co-star—and forbidden love interest—will be the toothsome and toothy Keira Knightley, playing the universally adored straight girl, Karen Wright. I would love to see what Elisabeth Moss does with the role of Martha. And I enjoy imagining the chemistry between Moss and Knightley, who play headmistresses at a girls boarding school. One of the girls accuses the pair of having a lesbian relationship. Naturally, much revulsion ensues, gossip spreads, scandal erupts, and devastation results. Even though the play is more than 75 years old, the demise of Martha Dobie is timely in today's climate of anti-gay bullying. When the play was first produced in the 1930s, the lesbian content—such as it is—was so controversial that the play was initially banned in Boston and London. The film, too, which was made in 1961, was controversial. Shirley MacLaine, who played Martha opposite Audrey Hepburn, said scenes were cut that explored Martha's true feelings for Karen.

The news of Elisabeth Moss in The Children's Hour presents many lesbian connections that we could record on The Chart, if Alice Pieszecki were available. Aside from the lesbian theme of the play, we have the following:

- Lillian Hellman, who herself was reputedly bisexual,
- Keira Knightley, who played the tomboy and similarly suspect friend in Bend It Like Beckham, to say nothing of her butch Domino role,
- Fred Armisen, Moss's ex-husband, who is currently in the comedy duo Thunderant with Carrie Brownstein, who we know from iconic queer grrrl punk band Sleater Kinney. By the way, Fred and Carrie's video The Perfect Song really makes me laugh,
- Peggy Olson is friends on Mad Men with the one lesbian character, Joyce Ramsay, and Peggy is so queer friendly that she even lets Joyce lick her face.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Melissa Ferrick, the brave one

This is for all you hard core Melissa Ferrick fans out there. (You know who you are.) And if you are not yet a fan, you should be. Our girl Melissa Ferrick has been tearing things up for more than twenty years, and she was an out performer long before most everyone else. She is also mesmerizing on stage—even if in recent years she is listing toward playing the elder eccentric. She's still charming and cute and vaguely dissolute. You should make an effort to see Melissa Ferrick perform live whenever you can. The girl is intense, and she is a first class, Berklee-trained musician.

I admit, she's my homegirl. I've been keeping track, losing track, and keeping track again of Melissa Ferrick for a couple decades, so, yes, I am biased. (But, ironically, when I met her many, many years ago, I was not familiar with her music.) Lately, I love her more than even. Just the other day I came across Melissa in my hometown newspaper, The Boston Globe, being interviewed with other Bostonians about their experiences as gay youth. In the article Melissa describes being harassed in the Harvard Square T station when she was a teenager. (This photo, at right, is of her at that age.) Someone hit her, shouting, "[expletive] gay freak.’’ She said: "I was terrified. I felt completely powerless and lonelier than I have ever felt. No one did or said anything. No one asked me if I was OK. No one stood up for me. It became very clear to me that I was alone in this." From there, she came out, stayed out, performs out. We should all be so brave.

Melissa Ferrick is currently touring on the East Coast with Ani Difranco. She'll be in Massachusetts and New York next month. You can check show dates here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thank you, Sarah Silverman. Please listen, President Obama.

We were all pretty shaken up by the suicide of Tyler Clementi last month. Many of us out in the world, away from the uncivilized behavior of dorm rooms and teenage callousness, forget the kind of hell that our gay younglings go through. I was reminded of it when I spoke to my campus Gay/Straight Alliance about two weeks after Clementi took his life. I was on a panel for Coming Out Week. The room was filled with young people who did not seem all that surprised by Clementi's despair. They seemed familiar with vicious treatment. This is why I was so impressed and grateful to hear "Sarah Silverman's "Message to America on Gay Suicide." With just a few words, Ms. Silverman made it all too clear why America's gay youth are harassed:
"Dear America,
When you tell gay Americans that they can't serve their country openly or marry the person that they love, you're telling that to kids, too. So don't be fucking shocked and wondering where all these bullies are coming from that are torturing young kids and driving them to kill themselves because they're different. They learned it from watching you."

Sarah Silverman's compelling message about discrimination was made all the more chilling just a few weeks later when President Obama chose to fight the court ruling that threw out Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Even though President Obama has claimed to oppose the anti-gay military policy, he is choosing to fight for it to remain in place. He says the better place to dispose of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is in the courts—even though the Pentagon seems happy to suspend its enforcement and even though more than half the country opposes the policy (according to the latest Pew Research poll). One of my in-laws is a decorated Army officer who has served in Iraq. He is straight and says he does not care if gays serve openly. "A soldier's a soldier," he says.

Perhaps an even better argument against President Obama's resistance to overturning DADT can be found in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" Dr. King criticizes those who cry "wait" to Americans seeking swift action against unjust laws. Dr. King's greatest disappointment is in those who should know better. "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Butch Mystique

I am fascinated that my description of Mary Carillo as "butch" sparked such an interesting conversation.  Here I am, living my entire adult life in lesbian culture, thinking I know everything about who we are. And thinking that Mary Carillo is the tall gallant epitome of butch. But a few of my darling readers have said, whoa, no, not the case. They say she's more accurately described as "androgynous" or "just Mary" because she occasionally wears pastels and because we have no way of knowing if she is butch-identified (or even lesbian.)  These are very good points. But I do not concede the argument.

First, I want to talk about this comment: "Butchness requires a degree of self-identification, meaning I don't think that you can assume a woman is butch based on superficial characteristics." This is interesting and, to me, a little troubling. Maybe because I came out during the Reagan administration my views on such things are outdated. (Example: I still say "transgendered person" rather than what I've noticed everyone else says, "transgender." When did the shift occur? Beats me. But keep in mind the speed-of-light changes occuring in this realm: My 1993 copy of Stone Butch Blues (purchased at Shakespeare & Co. in NYC in 1994!) uses the term "transgendered" on the back cover blurb. Judith Butler's seminal work Gender Trouble, published in 1990, includes neither "transgendered" nor "transgender.") In any case, here is what I understand about the term "butch" in lesbian culture:

It's an unfortunate and uninformed mistake to view "butch/femme" as simply limited to bedroom roles and—good grief—the heterosexual construct. If we say you can't assume a woman is butch based on superficial characteristics, we are suggesting that butch is something we can't see. Or that it's strictly a sexual behavior rather than an aesthetic. A noun rather than an adjective. It also seems to belie that old chestnut: "Butch on the streets, femme in the sheets," which suggests butch presentation is often just bravado concealing an emotional trainwreck.

In contrast, I think butch is something you can express when you want to. For some of us, it's diurnal. For others, it's as infrequent as chopping wood. To me, it simply describes traditionally masculine characteristics — bold, brave, macho, robust, strong, strapping, virile — displayed by a woman. Yes, there are the anachronistic "butch/femme" pairings described in Leslie Feinberg's groundbreaking novel Stone Butch Blues, but Feinberg is describing a pre-Stonewall era. Lillian Faderman documents this bygone period thoroughly in Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, and she even establishes that butch/femme roles in the 1950s and 1960s were exclusive to working class lesbians who had no other way of identifying their community. Faderman also points out that wealthy and middle class lesbians "generally rejected" the butch/femme roles and dress codes, which they found "aesthetically repulsive."

I have zero interest in igniting class warfare in the lesbian community. It is also my understanding that lesbian culture has evolved since the '50s and '60s. Yes, we still have our special "stone butches," but I don't think anyone would argue that the terms "butch" and "stone butch" are interchangeable. And these days, wouldn't a woman who seeks to pass as a man or who identifies as a man be described as trans rather than butch? Butch in my mind is inherently lesbian; it is implicit that the person is female. Judith Butler herself has spent her career asserting that sexuality is not linked to gender. And I assume that would include sexual roles assigned to the genderqueer, no? Being butch does not come with a required list of sexual behaviors.

Friday, October 1, 2010


While maneuvering a giant plastic carriage through the vast rows of a big box store, I stumbled upon an aisle of queer women. The Covergirl makeup section displays larger-than-life photos of Ellen Degeneres, Queen Latifah, and Drew Barrymore. I'm wondering, is this an intentional marketing strategy to turn lesbians into Covergirl consumers? Or did Proctor & Gamble not realize the obvious? I mean, there's Ellen. No explanation necessary. There's Queen Latifah, who most of us figured was not straight long before she was recently outed by the paparazzi. Then there's Drew Barrymore, who is quite open about her bisexuality. So, ladies, in support of the Covergirl queers, we might consider expanding our cosmetics purchases beyond mint lip balm.