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Iconic queer director invites controversy with “The Misandrists”

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Susanne Sachsse (center) stars in Bruce LaBruce’s lesbian feminist satire “The Misandrists.” Photo courtesy M-Appeal.

Angelean fans of noted queer “underground” filmmaker Bruce LaBruce have reason to rejoice this week, with the long-awaited Los Angeles release of his latest work, “The Misandrists.”

A characteristically transgressive piece for the Queercore founder and former pioneer of “New Queer Cinema,” it’s the tale of a cadre of feminist revolutionaries, housed in a school for girls run by “Big Mother” (Susanne Sachsse) – a terrorist who encourages her young charges to be “lovers as well as comrades” as she prepares them to overthrow the patriarchy and create a society without men.  When two of the girls find a male radical wounded in the forest, they secretly bring him home and hide him in the basement to nurse him back to health; their deception leads to mistrust within the group, ultimately bringing down a reckoning under which loyalties must be proven and sacrifices must be made.

Returning to themes explored in “The Raspberry Reich,” a 2004 film which he considers a “companion piece” to this one, LaBruce has created a wicked satire, couched within the format of an exploitative B-movie, which skewers the extremism of radical movements while also challenging binary concepts of gender and sexuality.  The result is often absurd, sometimes hilarious, and occasionally disturbing; the use of pornographic imagery is here somewhat tame (at least in comparison to the director’s earlier work), and more amusing than shocking – but the insertion of real-life scenes of something which – to avoid spoilers – I will only describe as a “surgical procedure” is a moment of visceral cinematic audaciousness that will surely leave some viewers reeling.

It’s meant to do that, of course.  LaBruce and other cinema artists of his ilk are out to challenge their audiences, to push the boundaries of “acceptable” filmmaking and shake viewers out of their comfort zones.  Graphic medical footage notwithstanding, “The Misandrists” does less of that with direct depiction, perhaps, than some of LaBruce’s other efforts – but his choice of subject matter crosses some boundaries that are, within the context of our current cultural climate, a little too far for some.

At a Q&A talkback after the opening night screening of his film at the Nuart Theatre, LaBruce discussed some of the blowback he has received over the film.

“I never expected it to see the light of day in the U.S.A., frankly, because no film festival would play it.  It was turned down by Frameline, in San Francsico – I’ve heard behind the scenes it was because they wouldn’t show a lesbian film that was made by a gay man – and they wouldn’t show it at Outfest, which has normally supported me.  They wouldn’t show it in Toronto, which is where I’m from, at the Inside Out Festival.  So I thought, ‘I’ve gone too far, I’ve hit a nerve.’”

LaBruce has a long history of going against political correctness within the LGBTQ movement, and he doesn’t see a reason to stop now.

“There’s always been a division, for me, between mainstream ‘gay’ and ‘queer.’  When I was part of the Queercore movement, back in the 80s, we were all about intersectionality and inclusion – race, class, solidarity between fags, dykes, and transgender people.  It’s encouraging that [awareness of inclusivity] is happening again now, but the mainstream “gay movement” – the way it’s represented in popular culture – is still very much a white middle-class movement.”

The criticism has not just revolved around the idea of a cis-gendered male assuming ownership of a lesbian narrative.  There have also been concerns about the message LaBruce’s film might be sending about the feminist movement.

“I showed it in Poland, and a woman got up in the Q&A.  Her question was, ‘Do you honestly believe that a film that shows every conceivable cliché about lesbians could be considered a feminist film?’  And I said, ‘Yes!’”

He went on to explain, “It’s a critique of feminism – of certain stripes of second-wave feminism.  I always was very opposed to anti-sex, anti-porn feminism from the eighties.  There are pitfalls in any kind of extreme radical movement, where the oppressed starts to become the oppressor – or the original goals of the revolution start to be compromised to the point where you are actually betraying the ideals that you originally had.  This applies to the radical left as much as to the radical right, and this is what a lot of my work is about.”

Another accusation stems from the fact that one of the movie’s subplots explores the role of gender identity within feminist ideology.  There has been some perception of “The Misandrists” as being transphobic – which surprises LaBruce, who cast newcomer trans actress Kita Updike in a pivotal central role as a girl who keeps her trans status secret from her fellow revolutionaries.  “She’s the heart of the movie.”

He also said that he tried to keep the energy on the set very female-centric.  “It’s a mostly female cast, and I tried to hire as many female crew members as I could.  Everyone bonded like crazy, the women especially.  Viva and Kembra [Ruiz and Pfahler, respectively, both LaBruce cast alumni and legendary figures within “underground” queer culture] were mentoring these young girls – many of them were 18 or 20, and they were kind of seeking guidance from these women – and there was this whole parallel narrative going on during the production that I wasn’t privy to, a whole lot of bonding going on that my straight cinematographer and I didn’t even know was happening until later.”

Even so, within the ongoing atmosphere of #MeToo, a film poking fun at women who are rising up against subjugation and oppression seems like a risky endeavor.  LaBruce, who has never shied away from swimming against the stream, feels the message is important enough to take that risk – even if it rubs some people the wrong way.

“We have to be careful, on the left, of what I call neo-Stalinism, of policing language and desire – of not listening to conservative voices and just trying to shut them down.”

Despite LaBruce’s well-considered explanations, some viewers might still question the timing of “The Misandrists,” given the resurgence of anti-feminist and anti-LGBTQ sentiments within the current political environment.  At least one audience member, as the crowd left the theatre following the screening, was heard to express concern that criticism of feminist concerns, even in satirical form, might be “dangerous” at a time when conservative extremists already feel emboldened.

Sadly, it’s a valid point.

 

Fans who want to decide for themselves which side of these controversies they align themselves with will have that opportunity for the rest of this week, as “The Misandrists” continues its run at the Landmark Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Boulevard.  Showtimes and tickets are available here.

 

 

 

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Celebrity News

British Olympian Tom Daley knits his way to success with a new enterprise

A journey for me that started when I first picked up my knitting needles- fast forward 18 months & I’m so proud to introduce these kits

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Photo courtesy of madewithlovebytomdaley Instagram

LONDON – During the entire course of the Olympic games in Tokyo 2020 this past summer, audiences following the diving competitions were certain to see British Olympian Tom Daley quietly and intently focused in-between matches- on his knitting.

The Gold medalist diving champion only picked up his first set of knitting needles in March of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic first spread across the globe, strangling normal daily routines in its deadly grip.

Now, the 27-year-old British athlete has launched a company to encourage others to take up the hobby.

Photo courtesy of madewithlovebytomdaley Instagram

“It’s been a journey for me that started when I first picked up my knitting needles in March 2020. Fast forward 18 months and I’m so proud to introduce these kits to you all so that you can experience the joy I found learning to knit,” Daley said on his newly launched website.

“I designed these knit kits to help encourage you to pick up those needles, learn the basics, and fall in love with knitting at the same time – all whilst creating something to show off or pass on.

Ready? Pick up your needles, learn the basics and let’s have some fun!”

 

The website offers various kits for beginners, intermediate and experienced knitting and crocheting enthusiasts. One of the kits, a winter warmer hat already sold out but the collection ncludes a vest, scarves, cardigans, jumpers, stockings, and a blanket.

Kits include needles, biodegradable yarn made of Merino wool, and knitting patterns. 

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Online Culture

Critics call gay Santa ad ‘creepy’ accusing it of ‘sexualizing’ Christmas

The ad was posted to Youtube on November 22 to pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of Norway’s decision to decriminalize homosexuality 

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Courtesy of Norway’s postal service, Posten Norge

OSLO – A Norwegian Christmas ad for Norway’s postal service, Posten Norge, that depicts a gay Santa struggling to balance his Christmas day duties and a male love interest has sparked an online debate with critics saying it “sexualizes” the holiday figure. 

The ad, titled “When Harry met Santa,” shows a burgeoning romance between Santa and Harry that starts when the two meet one Christmas Eve. As leaves the house through the chimney that night, fireworks fill the night sky. 

Over the years, the two continue to see each other on Christmas Eve and fall in love. Frustrated with only getting to see his lover once a year, Harry pens a letter to Santa that says, “Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas is you.”

At the end of the nearly 4-minute ad, Santa and his lover engage in a seconds-long kiss. During their embrace, the camera pans out and a message that reads, “In 2022, Norway marks 50 years of being able to love who we want,” appears. 

The ad, posted to Youtube on November 22 to pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of Norway’s decision to decriminalize homosexuality, has garnered over 1 million views. 

“In addition to showing the flexibility of our services, we want to put it in a socially relevant setting,” Posten Norge said in a statement, according to Reuters

“Everyone should feel welcome, seen, heard, and included. This year’s Christmas ad embraces this,” it said.

Many have responded positively to the ad. 

Canadian Member of Parliament Randall Garrison called it “strong and moving,” saying the ad caused him to break his “no Xmas before December rule.”

Former U.S. ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford tweeted: “Oh man I love Scandinavia. Imagine if the US Post Office put out an ad like this.”

Others have voiced issues with the ad, calling it “creepy” and arguing that it “sexualizes” Santa.

English journalist Dawn Neesom, a columnist for the Daily Star, said as much on TalkRadio with James Max. 

“This is an advert for the Norwegian postal service celebrating 50 years of being able to love who you want. However, they have sexualized Santa,” Neesom said.

Max interrupted her, saying, “No they haven’t sexualized Santa, this is a nonsense and you are jumping on a tabloid bandwagon. If Santa came in and kissed Mrs. Claus, you wouldn’t say a word.”

Neesom pushed back and maintained her point, adding that it was different because Santa married Mrs. Claus. She also argued that Harry was cheating on his spouse, but there is no indication in the ad that he has one. 

Commentator Melanie Blake made a similar argument, tweeting: “If #Santa is gay these days then good for him but should we be seeing him getting off with anyone in Christmas adverts?! Seems a bit of an odd concept to me – if he was snogging a woman, it’s still sexualising a figure that’s mainly around for children which looks creepy to me.”

In response to such comments, the Independent published an article that said, “Really? I mean … really?! Now, I know that woke-bashing has become de rigueur, and that, after the backlashes against the #MeToo and BLM campaigns, we’re supposed to protect our precious and delicate cultural icons from the clutches of the baying woke mob – but are we really saying that the heartwarming romance between Harry and Santa is a woke step too far? Has Posten sexualised Santa? Oh, go and stuff your face with a selection box and give it a rest!”

It continued: “The truth is that Christmas and Santa have been sexualised for years already, and few people have batted an eye.”

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Theater

Broadway gathers to honor Sondheim in Times Square

They were gathered to pay homage to legendary Tony, Academy Award, and Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim

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Broadway gathers to honor Stephen Sondheim (Screenshot via YouTube)

NEW YORK – Light snow flurries swirled around the stars of theatre and stage of New York City’s ‘Great White Way’ as they gathered Sunday in Times Square- members of every Broadway company assembled singing in a powerful chorus “Sunday,” the powerfully emotional act one finale to “Sunday in the Park with George.”

They were gathered to pay homage to legendary Tony, Academy Award, and Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. That piece being performed had garnered Sondheim a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985.

Broadway’s best were joined by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sara Bareilles, Josh Groban, Kathryn Gallagher and Lauren Patton at ‘Sunday’ Performance in Times Square.

The man who was heralded as Broadway and theater’s most revered and influential composer-lyricist of the last half of the 20th century died at 91 Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut.

“This felt like church,” Bareilles told Variety after the performance on Sunday. “In his remembrance, we did what theater does best. We sang and raised our voices and came together in community.” 

Variety also noted that during the celebration, Miranda offered a sermon of sorts. Foregoing a speech, he opened Sondheim’s “Look I Made A Hat,” an annotated anthology of the composer’s lyrics, and read from a few passages before the crowd.

“Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George memorial for Stephen Sondheim

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