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Amazon Prime’s series ‘The Boys’ gets fascism

If the series points to what’s happening now in the world feels too blunt, perhaps it’s because it’s the blindingly obvious



Images courtesy of Amazon Prime Videos

FAIRFAX, Va. – Perhaps nothing else in media gets the nature of modern fascism better than Season 4 of the Boys.  For those who haven’t seen it, this Amazon Prime show is a gory, dark drama/comedy series about a world where superheroes are real, managed (fairly poorly) by a mega-corporation, and who are–for the most part–entirely awful human beings whose absolute power has corrupted them absolutely.

When the first season aired in 2019, its best moments were linked to events in the real world. Season 2 built on this, exploring how a world with actual Nietzschean supermen could devolve into fascism and fascist ideology.

Seasons 2 and 3’s primary antagonist superheroes were Homelander (imagine a Superman raised by white supremacists) and Stormfront (an actual German Nazi from WWII who was brought back from cryogenic stasis). The show’s reflection of the evils of the real world became more and more direct as the seasons progressed, but there was still a bit of a distance from reality. It was easy to treat Stormfront as something altogether different from modern Americans. A viewer could still see the evil character as a cartoonish relic from another country in a bygone age.

Season 4 of The Boys, however, has dispensed with even the pretense that it isn’t talking directly to the situation in the U.S. today. It asks the question, “what if Fascism came to America, and half the public really, really liked it?” 

While some critics have panned the new season for its overly blunt analogies, they do reflect real life rather than science fiction. Our country is now seeing serious proposals that would normally be red flags.

We have politicians supporting things like the mass arrests of political opponents; open discussions of seizing power for generations; the institution of a state religion; the eradication of transgender people; the execution the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for treason; and dispensing with the constitution. And yet, just like in the Boys, many people don’t see these ideas as a threat. In fact, some actively welcome them.

While I was watching the new season, I was struck by how many times I found myself ticking off things that I wrote about in my book, American Fascism, and in Jason Stanley’s How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.

The show fundamentally gets that, at its core, fascism is indeed the politics of us and them. Fascism frames everything as a fight between the good, pure herrenvolk against the atheistic, hedonistic profligates destroying the country; as a battle between the real Americans versus those who would destroy them.

At every opportunity, The Boys reminds viewers that corporations, the media, politicians, celebrities, and commentators will all ruthlessly exploit this for their own ends, even if many of them aren’t buying what they’re selling. 

The show acknowledges this directly. Season 4’s new superhero villain is Firecracker, who’s basically a young and pretty female version of Alex Jones. She admits that she doesn’t actually believe the culture war conspiracy-theory baloney she peddles. It is transactional: her viewers get to feel outraged and powerful, and she gets the power.

Almost everyone in this fascist ecosystem is spouting vranyo, a Russian word which loosely translates as “useful lies that most people know are lies”, and the villains are fine with that. The outrage bait, and the rubes who do believe the vranyo, give them that power.

While watching Season 4’s first three episodes, I was often surprised by the writers’ familiarity with, and understanding of, fascism’s less obvious aspects. In one episode the megacorp Vought puts on an Ice Capades-style show whose theme is that saying “happy holidays” is a war on Christmas and Christians…but does so in a smiley-happy upbeat way, complete with music in a major key.

This is a classic example of the phenomenon described in Hacker and Pierson’s book, “Let Them Eat Tweets,” where corporations exploit cultural grievances to build political movements friendly toward their own bottom line. The book draws a direct line between right wing populist movements and the corporations using them as a vehicle to put politicians in place who will ensure the government takes a very hands-off approach to their shenanigans (and profits). 

The show’s writers get the difference between istina (the real truth), pravda (the truth we create), and vranyo.  They fundamentally understand how news outlets can create pravda with the “firehose of falsehood” model.  The news media in The Boys is 100% on board with fascism, with some of the parody hardly being parody at all.

When three pro-superhero dupes are murdered (by superheroes), the corporate-controlled media in the show blames it on “socialists”, while elevating the deceased to martyrdom. It’s not hard to see shades of Horst Wessell in this. 

The Boys also understands that “us versus them” fascism requires an enemy, ideally “enemies [who] are at the same time too strong and too weak,” as Umberto Eco wrote in his essay on Ur-Fascism. He was referring to Jewish people when he wrote it in 1995; but in Season 4 of the The Boys, the writers correctly identified the .5% of the population in the US that meets Eco’s criteria for targeting by fascism: transgender people.

As Eco noted, “Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders.”

When we meet Firecracker at a convention for conspiracy theorists, she tells her gullible and adoring audience that Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey are operating a secret child trafficking ring that will home-deliver “a child forced to have trans surgery.”

Later, when Homelander is whipping up a crowd, he tells them that “They want to replace you with some Godless, non-binary socialist like them. Their depraved leader commands it.” He next tells the crowd that “we are the defenders of real Americans.” 

After the rally, Fircracker tells reporters, “”If she (a protagonist) really cares about women, why does she let these transgenders into girls’ bathrooms?” The Boys is perhaps the only mass market media to have correctly recognized that fascist movements globally have zeroed in on transgender people as their primary target.

The pairing of superheroes and fascism is a natural one, too. Eco noted that, “in [fascism] everybody is educated to become a hero. In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology heroism is the norm.” It’s almost certainly not a coincidence that completely amoral, vain, petty, narcissistic, thin-skinned,  fascist Homelander repeatedly tells his audiences of adoring fans, “You’re the real heroes,” without believing a word of it.

Homelander sees people as “toys” who exist only to boost him to his rightful place as ruler. Umberto Eco perfectly captured Homelander’s attitude towards people: “the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler.” At the same time, the masses who support Homelander and his aspirations believe that they are the best sort of “real Americans.” Or, as Eco put it, “the members or the party are the best among the citizens.”

Even the gory, blood-soaked tone of the series captures an important element of fascism. In Robert Paxton’s 2005 book The Anatomy of Fascism, he describes how a key characteristic of fascism is the beauty of violence when dedicated to the group’s success. Fascism glorifies this violence and disdains existing legal restrictions on their exercise.

In Season 4, the baddies deliberately amp up tensions and hostility to spur their supporters to even more violent acts directed against the opponents of superheroes. All the while the mob is dressed in red, white, and blue.

The Boys explores a world where the Nietzschean supermen are free to use unspeakable levels of violence for petty personal reasons and in pursuit of power, without repercussions.  It directly answers the question of what could happen if a leader with the personality of Homelander legally had the right murder anyone they wanted on a whim. Unsurprisingly it’s a dystopian bloodbath, with Homelander keeping those around him in line with violence and extreme levels of intimidation.

The more I watched, the more it became abundantly clear that the writers of The Boys get fascism at a fundamental level. Whether they have read Hacker, Pierson, Stanley, Eco, Paxton, or even me (I apologize if they did), I don’t know. Regardless, they capture so many of the crucial underlying aspects of a fascist movement.

If the show’s analogies to what’s happening now in the real world feel too blunt, perhaps it’s because they’re merely pointing out the blindingly obvious.

Season Four of The Boys is now streaming on Amazon Prime.


Arts & Entertainment

Lesbian comic/activist Robin Tyler gets a long overdue ‘Outstanding’ Netflix spotlight

Pioneering LGBTQ+ Activist and Comedian Reflects on Career, Marriage Equality, and Ongoing Fight for Rights



Pioneering LGBTQ+ Activist and Comedian Reflects on Career, Marriage Equality, and Ongoing Fight for Rights

In the new Netflix documentary “Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution” – now streaming on the Netflix platform – filmmaker Page Hurwitz takes viewers behind the scenes of a landmark 2022 performance featuring an all-star lineup of queer stand-up comedians. She also reveals the powerful queer activism that has been pushing mainstream boundaries over the past five decades and beyond through a collection of out-and-proud comics that reads like a “who’s who” of queer comedy icons.

In doing so, its spotlight inevitably lands on Robin Tyler, who – after becoming the first lesbian comic to come out on national television and co-starring in a network series with her partner, Pat Harrison – incurred the wrath of sponsors (after an on-air remark aimed at notorious anti-LGBTQ mouthpiece Anita Bryant) and wound up unceremoniously dropped by the network.

Robin Tyler (R) with Pat Harrison, an out lesbian comic team that was making waves as far back as 1970. (Photo courtesy Robin Tyler)

Tyler persisted, and her passion led her to activism, where her contributions are likely well known to many Blade readers. She organized and produced the first three national marches on Washington for LGBTQ+ rights, including 1987’s “mock wedding” of hundreds of queer couples; she and her future wife (the late Diane Olsen) were the first couple to sue the state of California for the right to be married – leading to the 7-year legal battle which culminated in Marriage Equality. If you are currently in a same-sex marriage in the United States, you have her to thank.

We spoke to her about the film and her legacy, and, as always, she pulled no punches. Our conversation is below.

‘Outstanding’ highlights your removal from “prime time” as a setback for queer visibility, but do you still think of it as a setback for your career?

“You know what? Everybody says ‘Oh, she gave up this career, she could have been a star,’ but what they mean is I could have gotten mainstream acceptance. It’s like saying to Richard Pryor, ‘If you didn’t tell the truth, maybe white people would have loved you.’ The best thing that happened to us is that we didn’t get picked up, because then we could go and be free. It takes your life away, having to live a lie. We gained our freedom and lost nothing.

“I don’t care about mainstream acceptance, if it means being in the closet. Don’t forget, 75 million Americans are MAGA supporters. To me, that’s the mainstream.”

As an organizer, you spearheaded the fight for Marriage Equality. How did that happen?

“In 1987, two men from L.A. wanted me to do the ‘mock wedding’ as part of the ’87 march on Washington. I took it to the board – there’s always this board of 68 people, it’s different people, but the same attitude, with every march – and they voted it down. They said, ‘no one’s interested in marriage,’ and I said ‘fine’. And I did it anyway, and 5000 people came. Obviously it was an issue we were interested in.

“It was also interesting that a march board would try to decide what people want or not. Well, we did want it, and we got it, now.”

And yet, it seems we’re still fighting for it.

“I agree, and I think with this Supreme Court we’re in trouble – but passion is much better than Prozac, so we need to keep aware and be ready to get into the streets again. We can’t just be ‘armchair activists’ on the internet, you know? Because then we’re just reading to each other.”

It does seem that the internet has made it easier for us to live in our comfortable bubbles.

“Yeah, but I’m an organizer, and it’s wonderful for that. I was the national protest coordinator when we stopped Dr. Laura [Schlesinger, the anti-LGBTQ talk radio ‘psychotherapist’ whose transition to television was successfully blocked by community activism in the early 2000s], and we did all the demonstrations locally. We worked with a guy who knew the internet, and we were able to send out information all over the country for the first time.

“I remember when we just had to go to parades and bars and baseball fields and had to leaflet everyone. This is easier. Less walking.”

Still, social media has become a space where “cancel culture” seems just to divide us further.

“That term was created by the Right. They can go ahead and say anything they want, but we get to not be called names anymore. At least we have a way to fight back. They call it ‘cancel culture’ and we call it ‘defending our rights.’

“And you know what? Even today, people like Dave Chappelle are doing homophobic jokes, and it’s not just that they’re doing it, it’s that these people sitting in the audience are still laughing at it. They still think they can get away with ridiculing us. You can always punch down and get a laugh. And why is it so bad, with people like Chappelle or Bill Maher? Because anytime you dehumanize anybody, when you snicker at them because you don’t understand, you’re giving other people permission to attack them. They’re attacking these people that are being brutally murdered, and they’re using humor as the weapon.

“We didn’t accept it in the seventies, so why are we accepting it now? And why aren’t we calling out Netflix for giving it a platform? It’s not enough to put out ‘Outstanding’ and showcase pro-gay humor. If a comic says something racist, their career is over, yet it’s okay for Chappelle to do homophobic stuff? What if I stood up and changed what he’s saying to make it about race instead of transgender people?

“And it’s not just about ‘right’ vs. ‘left’ anyway. Even with the Democrats in, they never deliver. Since 1970, they promised us a ‘gay civil rights bill’, and we still don’t have one. Why not? Democrats have held power in congress, the senate, the presidency, and they never pushed it through. We still can’t rent in 30 states, we can get fired; the United States is not a free country for queer people, and we must hold the government accountable. We have to fight for marriage separately, we have to fight for this and that, separately – and all it would take is one bill!
It’s been 54 years. Isn’t it time?

“We have to look at who our friends are – but don’t get me wrong, I’m still voting for Biden.”

So, how do we fix it?

“Here’s what I believe in: a woman walks into a dentist office, and he’s about to drill her teeth when she grabs him by the balls and says, ‘We’re not going to hurt each other, are we?’ I believe in that approach. Whatever they do to us, they need to know that there will be consequences.

“And also, at Cedars-Sinai they have just one channel in the hospital, and it’s comedy, because laughter is healing.

“Maybe we should we end on that?”

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‘Making Gay History’: Podcast remembers Stonewall 55 years later 

One New Yorker is making sure that the events leading up to one of the most pivotal points of gay and American history are remembered



Screenshot/'Making Gay History' website

By Gus Rosendale | NEW YORK, N.Y. (NBC 4 New York) – This month is the 55th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and one New Yorker is making sure that the events leading up to one of the most pivotal points of gay and American history are remembered through a podcast called “Making Gay History”. 


Editor’s Note: Making Gay History is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that addresses the absence of substantive, in-depth LGBTQ+-inclusive American history from the public discourse and the classroom. To learn more go here: (Link)

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Groundbreaking Japanese romance reality series ‘The Boyfriend’ 

What relationships will develop after a summer together? The new Netflix series ‘The Boyfriend’ streams on July 9



The Boyfriend streams on July 9, only on Netflix. (Courtesy of Netflix Japan)

TOKYO, Japan – Blazing a fresh trail in the reality dating genre, The Boyfriend, Japan’s first same-sex romance reality series, celebrates love in all its forms. Starting July 9, Netflix viewers can tune in every Tuesday to enjoy a total of 10 episodes in four weekly installments.

Located by the sea, the “Green Room” beach house sets the stage for nine men to find love. For a month, they live together and take turns working shifts at a peppermint green coffee truck, forging deep friendships and learning about themselves along the way. Hosted by an eclectic mix of personalities including MEGUMI, Chiaki Horan, Thelma Aoyama, drag queen Durian Lollobrigida and Yoshimi Tokui, the show promises to deliver a rollercoaster of emotions.

Executive producer Dai Ota, manager of live-action originals at Netflix Japan, shares the vision for the series, explaining, “We started out wanting to highlight the young men’s friendships and personalities. Our focus wasn’t just on romance but also on spending time together and experiencing personal growth.” 

Kyodo Television’s Keisuke Hishida (Ainori Love Wagon: Asian JourneyLove Deadline), who serves as the chief producer and director, adds, “I discussed with the cast how growth and valuable experiences stem from shared friendships, youth and struggles, not just romance. This led to many unexpected miracles on set.”

Graphic Courtesy of Netflix Japan

Model, DJ and YouTube vlogger Taiki takes on the roles of producer and casting director. On bringing the charismatic group together, he says, “I’m so happy with how this series took shape. I listened to each participant with a goal to produce a show that left everyone feeling valued and loved.”

The series debuts a heartwarming teaser trailer featuring the song “Dazed & Confused” by Korean indie rock band Glen Check. Three teaser posters, including one illustrated piece by Korean artist Son Eunkyoung, are also released.

What relationships will develop after a summer together? The Boyfriend streams on July 9, only on Netflix.

Watch the teaser trailer:

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Deliciously queer ‘Dead Boy Detectives’ a case worth taking on

A light-hearted, smart, and complex sensibility behind the fantasy



The cast of ‘Dead Boy Detectives.’ (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Believe it or not, there was once a time when the Hollywood entertainment industry didn’t take comic books very seriously — but then, neither did anyone else.

In the early days, comics were dismissed by most adults as childish fantasy; indeed, those with a penchant for clutching pearls saw them as a threat to their children’s intellectual development and therefore to the future of America itself. Their popularity could not be denied, however, and Hollywood, ever eager to capitalize on a trend, was certainly hungry to get a piece of the action.

The problem was that the studio lackeys assigned to adapt the comics for the screen during those “golden years” were never actually fans of the comics themselves. The result was a parade of kitschy – if occasionally stylish – low-budget serials, kiddie matinees, and “B movies” which operated, for the most part, at the level of cartoons, and mindless ones at that. Even in the 1960s, when comics like “X-Men” had begun exploring mature themes and turning the comic book into a counterculture phenomenon, the best that Hollywood – now deploying the then-relatively new medium of television – was a “Batman” series that felt even campier than the corny serials of three decades before.

Yet despite being treated as a throwaway genre with no cultural significance or intellectual value, the popularity never went away – and with the generation that grew up with comics now old enough to be working in Hollywood themselves, a new burst of creativity began to infuse the screen’s version of the genre with the kind of nuance and sophistication that fans had always known was there. Fast forward to 2024, when comics-based content dominates not just our movie screens – nobody needs to be told about the way it has shaped (some would say crippled) the mainstream film industry for the last decade or so – but all our other screens, as well. And while much of the material that has resulted from this obsessive fascination with comics (and comics-adjacent material like “Star Wars” and other similar fantasy franchises) often suffers from the same safe “appeal to the LCD” mentality that robbed the vintage stuff of its potential, the artistry of creators who are fans themselves has also resulted in a lot of genuinely good storytelling.

In the latter category, we offer up “Dead Boy Detectives” – a new series derived from a supplemental thread in renowned comics creator-turned-bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s groundbreaking “Sandman”, which debuted last week on Netflix  – as a counter to the increasingly popular notion that comic books have hamstrung the industry’s creativity.

Based on characters and storylines that emerged during the original run of Gaiman’s iconic book (published by DC Comics via its Vertigo imprint), it’s a fresh, funny-yet-emotionally engaging supernatural saga in which two ghosts who died in their youth – the titular “Dead Boys” – operate a detective agency in London, solving mysteries for other spirits who need closure before moving on to the afterlife.

The boys – Edwin (George Rexstrew) and Charles (Jayden Revri) – are not themselves quite ready to depart the earthly plane, however; on the contrary, they operate on the lam, making sure to keep one step ahead of Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste, reprising her role from Netflix’s acclaimed “Sandman” adaptation) so that she can’t drag them out of it before they’re ready. Something of a mismatched pair (both died at the same English boarding school, but 60 years apart), they nevertheless have established a fondness for each other and a dynamic together that makes them an excellent team in solving the supernatural crimes they encounter in their work. Their biggest handicap is the difficulty of dealing with the living – who, for the most part, cannot see or hear them – when it becomes necessary in an investigation. Fortunately for them (and for the story, of course), they find a solution to that issue during episode one.

Enlisted by the ghost of a Victorian child to rescue the human medium – Crystal Palace (Kassius Nelson), possessed by a former boyfriend who was actually a demon (David Iacono) – that has been trying to help her “cross over”, the detectives find themselves with a living ally who can not only interact with them, but also with the “real” world in which they do their work. With Crystal  on the team, they are soon called to an American seaport town to investigate the disappearance of a child – who, it turns out, has been abducted by a witch (Jenn Lyon) intent on draining her youthful essence in pursuit of her own immortal beauty. We don’t want to give anything away, but during the course of the case they not only incur her wrath, they set off alarm bells on the “other side”, calling attention to the fact that two AWOL souls are still lingering in the human world.

Things get worse for them in the second episode, when Edwin attracts the interest of the local “Cat King” (Lukas Gage, “White Lotus,” “Down Low”) and subsequently finds himself cursed to remain until he has “counted all the cats” in town – a daunting and maybe impossible task. 

Though jumping into the second installment might feel like getting ahead of ourselves, it’s important to look ahead for the sake of exploring the show’s deliciously pervasive queerness, so forgive the spoiler-ish leap; because it is Edwin, who died in an era long before being openly attracted to other boys could even be discussed, let alone accepted, that serves to root the story’s tension into a real-life context that helps all the supernatural nonsense connect with relatable real-world experience and emotion. Uncomfortable more than a century after his death with the secrets of his own sexuality, he finds himself hampered by his jealousy of the obvious growing attraction between his literal BFF and the new girl psychic who has joined their team – as well as vulnerable to manipulation from both the witch who has it in for him and the Cat King who… well, let’s just say that Edwin’s cat-counting curse could be easily lifted if he would only accept another way to appease the libidinous (and far from unappealing) feline monarch.

It’s best we stop there, before we reveal too much; the series – developed by Steve Yockey and produced by (among others) original author Gaiman and out queer TV impresario Greg Berlanti – sets up its story arc very plainly from the beginning, so savvy viewers will read the subtext long before any definitive events take place, but much of what makes it fun is watching how it all unfolds.

Suffice to say that, with engaging performances from all its players, a light-hearted, smart, and complex sensibility behind all of its fantasy elements, and a palpably queer vibe that leaves plenty of room for allies to jump on board, too, it’s one of the more worthwhile (and meaningful) “comic book” stories to hit our screens in a long while.

Maybe more importantly, it’s also entertaining, which makes it easy for us to recommend “Dead Boy Detectives” as a case you’ll definitely want to accept.

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Delivering a 25-year-old gay lost love letter across time & distance

Los Angeles Blade contributor and gay YouTube vlogger ‘StanChris’ delivers a 25-year-old love letter across the Atlantic



A special moment during a unique adventure that started with a discovery of a letter in a dusty bureau inside a Boston antique market. (Screenshot/YouTube StanChris)

By Chris Stanley | BOSTON, Mass. – Celebrating one of my younger brother’s birthdays I took him thrifting a few months ago and while we were in an antique marketplace exploring, he found an interesting item in a bureau that ended up being a modern day adventure- in the name of gay love.

Please watch my videoblog below oh and at the end, especially for you folks living on the West coast, I have a special request for your assistance.


Chris Stanley, a contributor to the Los Angeles Blade, is a Boston-based YouTube vlogger and social media influencer with 400K plus followers. He is also on TikTok and Instagram as ‘StanChris’ and along with his best mate, fellow vlogger and influencer Artem Bezrukavenko @itsartbezrukavenko, document their lives, capturing stories and their interactions in the LGBTQ+ community.

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The trans man, journalist, & filmmaker embedded with the Taliban

New documentary TRANSITION presents an astounding scenario with depth and sensitivity by documentary filmmaker Jordan Bryon



Australian trans man, journalist, and filmmaker Jordan Bryon with members of the Taliban. (Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

HOLLYWOOD – Imagine taking this plot into the creative meeting at a major studio:  “It is right before the Taliban take control of Afghanistan. A transgender journalist has been living in transition. He becomes embedded with a group of Taliban warriors – and gets to know them. Here’s the kicker—he even goes and gets his gender-affirming surgery WHILE being embedded.”

You can hear imaginary murmurs from the theoretical executives. “Nah, who would DO that?”  “Implausible. They would get found out.” And a third, “No. No one would believe that could happen.” 

They might determine that it tries to create a truth that no one will believe.

As it turns out, they, and you, CAN believe it, because it happened. It has already been turned into a film, but not a dramatized fictional one – it is now a documentary. The documentary not only gives you the experience of a transgender activist embedded, and in action, but equally astounding, it was made by a woman. If you know anything about the Taliban, you will know that a woman wielding a camera around them is hard to fathom.

The film is ACG Unwritten’s “Transition,” released through Gravitas Ventures. In the film, Australian trans man, journalist, and filmmaker Jordan Bryon gains incredible access to a Taliban unit during the fall of Afghanistan. While he is in his own personal transition, so is the country around him. As he and his local videographer, Teddy, embed with the Taliban, Jordan conceals his physiology and is accepted as a man. If the Taliban had found out, he and Teddy would have been stripped and killed. In the film, Jordan struggles with the moral and ethical dilemmas that come with his unique situation. “Reality is far more complex that ‘this is the way things are.’ We wanted to find humanity in dark places, we wanted to explore the gray areas.”

I sat down with Jordan and his filmmaker partner, Monica Villamizar, on the podcast Rated LGBT Radio and the episode The Trans Man Who Embedded with the Taliban: The Hot New Doc TRANSITION. The film is a mind-blowing chronicle of personal transition played out against the backdrop of a cultural one. It still begged the question, why would a nice trans man like Jordan, raised and supported by a gem of a mom back in Australia (we meet her in the film), subject himself to the danger and potential vitriol he would have encountered had he been discovered, or even suspected of being trans?

Monica Villamizar in an Afghan school for girls. (Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“It’s wild. I experienced a lot of discrimination and even violence in Australia because I always had these labels that followed me around. When I went to Afghanistan, because they have such a limited understanding of LGBTQ people, I was anonymous. They didn’t really know if I was a man or a woman, so I became just ‘Jordan” and that anonymity really gave me a blank slate to reimagine myself as to who I wanted to be in the next chapter of my life. Obviously, I am talking as a privileged Australian. For Afghan LGBTQ people, it can be a fatal experience,” he answers. Jordan had been in Afghanistan for five years before it fell to the Taliban. He was not willing to let that “small” fact deter him, when he still had so much more he wanted to give back by revealing the true Afghanistan to the world.

“I am a documentary filmmaker,” he tells me. “Like all of us documentary filmmakers, I am on the hunt for stories that are going to give the audience insight into something they may not know that much about. My mom, you met her in the film, is a bloody legend. She raised me to always speak out for the underdog. Having always been an underdog myself, growing up queer in a small rural town in Australia, I’ve always had an underdog affiliation. I’ve lived in Jordan, Palestine, and Afghanistan, all underdog countries. Making films in these countries, especially Afghanistan, is an absolute gift. Afghanistan is largely undiscovered in many ways and the headlines we see in the media are only one dimension of the country. It is a complex, multi-dimensional country that blows your mind the more you get to know it. Being a filmmaker in Afghanistan is the best chapter of my life I have ever had.”

As to his own identity, Jordan says, “I love being trans. I do not see myself as being a man or a woman. I see myself as being a cluster-fuck of both and everything in between. “ While Joran has gender-affirming surgery in the film, he still celebrates the decades that he lived as a nongender individual within a female presenting body. 

For her part, Monica felt a responsibility as a journalist to capture this piece of history, even though she did not have the same privilege that Jordan experienced. A paradox of the film shows is how Jordan gains more freedom in this toxic masculine world as he transitions, than Monica. The film deftly chronicles the increasing oppression of women as the Taliban transitions to power. Monica experiences this firsthand as her freedoms become more limited operating behind the camera. “I was with Jordan, Kiana, and Teddy for some of the filming where I could have freedom of movement as a woman, but when Jordan was traveling with the Taliban unit, but when they went remote, I had to stay back in a hotel. They had to go through various Taliban checkpoints where I could not be in the car, I could not be seen because I am a woman. I was locked up in a hotel, communicating with the crew via telephone messages.” Even with those restrictions, through the team, Monica was able to capture film that showed Afghanistan in way no one around the world had seen before.

(Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

Monica points out the most unique aspect of the film: getting a reporter’s viewpoint through a nonbinary lens. She calls out the journalism establishment that has female reporters covering one kind of story, and male reporters who are very “gung ho” covering others. Here you have a nonbinary reporter’s vision being captured. “How Jordan approached people was so interesting. More rich. We wanted to explore these complexities and nuances. How Jordan disarms the Taliban members with his personality, it is very interesting. We would not have gotten that kind of footage and intimacy through another reporter’s eyes.”

Transition is a film about a country being regressed to its prior oppression. It is a film about one man’s transition into his more finely honed authenticity. 

Mostly though, it is a film that will impose a transition on you, the audience member. It will take you from pre-conceived notions about both situations to a deeper more multi-dimensional understanding.

Therefore, Transition is ultimately about truth. Afghanistan’s truth. Jordan’s truth.

And the truth each one of us chooses to see and believe in the world.

Transition had its world premiere at the Tribeca Festival to audience and critical acclaim and has captivated audiences around the world as an Official Selection at Sheffield DocFest, Sydney Film Festival, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Watch Docs Festival and the Human Rights Film Festival where it won the Audience Award.

You can view it on all on-demand platforms.


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] 

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Pornhub blocks Texans accessing site over age verification law

The Fifth Circuit Court of appeals partially vacated the original injunction ruling that the age verification requirements are constitutional



Los Angeles Blade graphic

MONTREAL, Canada – Aylo (formerly MindGeek) the largest global adult online entertainment conglomerate, owned by Canadian private equity firm Ethical Capital Partners, has restricted access to its platforms including its flagship Pornhub in Texas after a court battle forces the state’s age verification law to take effect.

Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton had appealed a U.S. District Court decision that enjoined him from enforcing HB 1181. Paxton and others argued that purveyors of obscene materials online needed to institute reasonable age-verification measures to safeguard children from pornography. 

A week ago the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit partially vacated the original injunction, ruling that the age verification requirements are constitutional. 

“Applying rational-basis review, the age-verification requirement is rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in preventing minors’ access to pornography,” the 3 judge-panel of the Fifth Circuit Court explained. “Therefore, the age-verification requirement does not violate the First Amendment.”

While the court vacated the injunction against the age-verification requirement of the statute, it upheld the lower court’s injunction against a separate section of the law that would require pornography websites to display a health warning on their landing page and all advertisements. 

Texas users are greeted with this notice.

The Houston Chronicle reported people who go to the site are now greeted with a long message from the company railing against the legal change as “ineffective, haphazard, and dangerous.” The company calls for age verification by the makers of devices that let people on the internet, instead of individual websites.

Age verification legislation was enacted in several states in 2023 in addition to Texas, including North Carolina, Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Utah, and Virginia.

The new laws require users to provide digital confirmation via a certified approved third party vendor like London-based digital identity company Yoti. The other possibility would be a state approved digital ID such as the California DMV’s Wallet app, which contains a mobile driver’s license.

Users accessing Pornhub from within Louisiana are presented with a different webpage that directs them to verify their age with the state’s digital ID system, known as LA Wallet. The law passed in 2022 subjects adult websites to damage lawsuits and state civil penalties as high as $5,000 a day if they fail to verify that users are at least 18 years old by requiring the use of digitized, state-issued driver’s licenses or other methods.

The Associated Press reported this past October that an adult entertainment group’s lawsuit against a Louisiana law requiring sexually explicit websites to verify the ages of their viewers was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan in New Orleans.

Texas users are greeted with this notice.

Potential or existing Pornhub users in North Carolina and Montana are directed to a video that features adult film star Cherie DeVille, who recites a message also written under the video.

“As you may know, your elected officials in your state are requiring us to verify your age before allowing you access to our website. While safety and compliance are at the forefront of our mission, giving your ID card every time you want to visit an adult platform is not the most effective solution for protecting our users and in fact, will put children and your privacy at risk.”

“Mandating age verification without proper enforcement gives platforms the opportunity to choose whether or not to comply,” the statement continues. “As we’ve seen in other states, this just drives traffic to sites with far fewer safety measures in place.”

“Until a real solution is offered, we have made the difficult decision to completely disable access to our website in [the aforementioned locales]” the message ends with.

The company previously blocked Utah on May 7, 2023. CNN reported at the time:

Affected users are shown a message expressing opposition to SB287, the Utah law signed by Gov. Spencer Cox in March that creates liability for porn sites that make their content available to people below the age of 18.

“As you may know, your elected officials in Utah are requiring us to verify your age before allowing you access to our website,” the message said. “While safety and compliance are at the forefront of our mission, giving your ID card every time you want to visit an adult platform is not the most effective solution for protecting our users, and in fact, will put children and your privacy at risk.”

Courthouse News reported that after Virginia’s bill was passed in June, Virginia Senator L. Louise Lucas, a Democrat, criticized the state for not creating a system for age verification, and instead leaving it up to websites to manage the process, citing security risks.  

“We passed a bill during this session to protect children from online porn. However the executive branch had an obligation to create a system for age verification,” Lucas said on X, formerly Twitter. “We will continue our work to keep pornography out of the hands of minors…but we will also work to ensure that this Governor’s error does not put the privacy of Virginians at further risk.”

Beyond the U.S. in the European Union, Pornhub and two more of the world’s biggest porn websites face new requirements in the European Union that include verifying the ages of users, under the EU’s Digital Services Act.

According to a December 20 report from the Associated Press, Pornhub, XVideos and Stripchat have now been classed as “very large online platforms” subject to more stringent controls under the Digital Services Act because they each have 45 million average monthly users, according to the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch.

They are the first porn sites to be targeted by the sweeping Digital Services Act, which imposes tough obligations to keep users safe from illegal content and dodgy products, the Associated Press reported last month.

In addition to the adult entertainment websites, any violations are punishable by fines of up to 6% of global revenue or even a ban on operating in the EU. Some 19 online platforms and search engines have already been identified for stricter scrutiny under the DSA, including TikTok, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Google and more.

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Netflix drops the trailer for the final season of Young Royals 

The five first episodes of Young Royals season 3 will premiere globally on Netflix on March 11, closing off with the final episode on March 18



Omar Rudberg as Simon & Edvin Ryding as Wilhelm. (Photo by Johan Paulin/Netflix)

HOLLYWOOD – The five first episodes of Young Royals season 3 will premiere globally on Netflix on March 11, closing off with the final episode on March 18. 

In Season Three, the final, Wilhelm’s speech has consequences not only in the court but also throughout the school, as Hillerska confronts the worst crisis in the school’s history. The prince and Simon are determined to be together, but what are they willing to sacrifice when realizing that their freedom and love might be at odds with the Royal ideals, traditions, and responsibilities?

Creators: Lisa Ambjörn, Lars Beckung and Camilla Holter

Directors: Julia Lindström, Jerry Carlsson, and Linnéa Roxeheim

Writers: Lisa Ambjörn (head writer), along with Tove Forsman, Sofie Forsman, Pia Gradvall, Ebba Stymne, and Theo Boguslaw

Producers: Lisa Berggren Eyre and Martin Söder for Nexiko

Executive producer: Lisa Ambjörn and Lars Beckung 

Key cast: Edvin Ryding, Omar Rudberg, Malte Gårdinger, Frida Argento, Nikita Uggla, Pernilla August among others.

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Can watching Lil Nas X documentary on HBO make you queer?

No, but it might help you find the innocence in allowing you to be your authentic self



Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero, a new @HBO Original Documentary following the genre-breaking artist as he navigates the pressures of his meteoric rise to stardom, premiered January 27 on @StreamOnMax. (Screenshot/HBO Max)

HOLLYWOOD – In promoting its documentary Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero,  HBO Max calls out Lil Nas X as a “creative dynamo” with “mesmerizing star power.”  Their hope is to help establish his “place in the pantheon of Black queer icons.” The film takes us on the journey, from day one to completion, of Lil Nas X’s Long Live Montero concert tour.

While that “pantheon” has plenty of room for deserving talent that has been largely ignored by American cultural power brokers, Lil Nas X certainly has busted his way in. In the documentary, he acknowledges how invisible, in the current cultural landscape, such a “pantheon” really is. “So many queer people, they are doing amazing things, huge strides, and they kind of get painted over by history. As if they’d never happened. Black people in general, but black queer people more so,” he says.

Lil, Nas X is a disrupter. Just ask the Country and Hip Hop music industries. He undeniably left an indelible mark on both. His first single, “Old Town Road,” shattered records by spending an unprecedented 19 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, a feat never before accomplished. This cultural phenomenon masterfully fused elements of country and rap, creating a genre-bending soundscape that captivated audiences worldwide. The song was only toppled from the number one spot by, somewhat ironically in LGBTQ+ perspectives, by Billie “I’m Out But Don’t Talk About My Sexuality” Eilish.

Lil Nas X was born Montero Lamar Hill. He is Montero, as in “Long Live” and as in “Montero (Call Me By Your Name). His openly queer identity, coupled with his innovative music and unabashedly expressive style, has disrupted norms in traditionally homophobic music businesses. His fearless authenticity, as demonstrated in his hit songs like “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and “Industry Baby,” has reshaped pop culture conversations around sexuality, expression, and the very definition of a pop star.

In Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero, Lil Nas X cites “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” as the artistic moment when he broke free of other’s perception of him. He had considered trying to be more “acceptable” and being the one “who doesn’t shove it down our throats. The one who keeps it to himself.”

Clearly, with Call Me By Your Name, and everything that came after its release, he chose to go another direction. Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero demonstrates the impact. It showcases numerous queer fans, all declaring the freedom they have experienced by pushing their own boundaries and allowing themselves to be … themselves. They credit Lil Nas X as inspiration, and are bold in their messages to young queer people, including making pleas to resist self-destruction. In many ways, the documentary is the ultimate “It Gets Better” video. 

The concert Long Live, which the film chronicles, opens with a similar theme. Dramatically, and on an ornate backdrop, a beautiful sun goddess declares, “One of the greatest things a human can do is create. Create themselves. To be themselves no matter how hard that may be.”

For Lil Nas X, he is fixated on the innocence of his inner child and that child’s full expression, the young Montero within. He observes, “This kid who enters a new world, adjusts to the new world, and then becomes sure of himself.”

Later in the film he remarks, “People feel a lot of things about me, but me? I love this kid.”

The film does not just show fans, though it shows hundreds of those. It also shows his detractors, the protesters outside his show. For them, Lil Nas X displays incredible compassion. He has his people bring them pizza. He observes them via video conferencing and sees them as human beings, one of which he even describes as “hot.”

“They feel like they are part of something. They think they are going to change the world. That’s really nice for them.” After hearing their derogatory chants he adds, “But what they are saying is really fucked up.”

He also does not want to get the reputation of being a total saint. He quips, “I’m killing them with kindness, but a little evil. It was pineapple pizza.”

The documentary paints a picture of a very centered, down to earth celebrated non-celebrity. He chuckles over his chance meeting of Viola Davis where he fan boy-ed all over her. She politely thanked him and ran off quickly. “She had no idea who I was,” he laughs.

The film spends time on Lil Nas X’s relationships with his family, who have grown from acceptance to celebration of him. “That’s my baby boy!” proudly shouts his dad, whom Lil Nas X feared rejection from the most, to a waiting crowd. We see where Lil Nas X gets his humor from when Dad adds, “If I had used a condom, you all wouldn’t be here!”

Madonna shows up in the film, eerily reminiscent of her Truth or Dare film where various celebrities intruded on her backstage when she was on tour. Seeing her, Lil Nas X casually greets her, “Oh hey Friend!” before she grabs him for publicity photographers.

Madonna is a fitting addition to the film. Each generation has a superstar that not only rises to the top of the industry but changes it. She was such a superstar of her era. Lil Nas X is one of his.

Sean Bankhead, the show director of the concert put it this way, “He is breaking down barriers and creating his own lane for himself and no one will be able to touch him.”

Bankhead’s comments are not unfounded. Lil Nas X’s impact on the Hip Hop and Rap industry has been transformative, especially in terms of fostering inclusivity and openness. His frank discussions about his sexuality and the consequent representation has been groundbreaking. His work continues to affect the status quo and he promises more of that. He declares “I want to challenge the way the world looks at things.”

The documentary plays this theme over and over, as we see all the backstage adventures. We see how the camaraderie with his black gay dancers helps Lil Nas X to stay both grounded and inspired. We see production numbers coming together, and all the blood, sweat and tears needed to make it seamless, and ultimately shows the concert tour to be a whopping success.

The American music stage thirsts for constant evolvement and looks for the new gamechanger icon to make an appearance, take it by storm, and alter it forever.

Elvis was the gamechanger of his time. The Beatles came next. Madonna was the gamechanger, and the first magnanimous unabashed LGBTQ lover.

Now a new “Elvis” has entered the building. He’s black. He is queer. He is Lil Nas X, both as a record breaking mega diva, and the cute little boy who just wants to have fun.

Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero | Official Trailer | HBO


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] 

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The long-awaited Boy Culture refreshes sexiness- streaming now

In the new film, the couple again has a young companion, 000a quick witted, trash talking twenty-something named Chayce



Photo by Matthew Rettenmund

HOLLYWOOD – In 2006 when it arrived on the scene, the movie Boy Culture was billed as a film about a cynical anti-hero sex worker who adopts an unconventional chosen family with two roommates.

Over time, the film has been embraced instead as a “beloved LGBTQ romantic comedy.” Rotten Tomatoes has named it one of the top 200 LGBTQ movies of all time. Maybe that makes it our version of Pretty Woman?

Unlike many gay films of the time, Boy Culture resisted, for the most part, relying on two-dimensional cliché depictions of gay men. It also sought to tell a story beyond coming out, and the associated emotional injustices.

Director and co-writer Brocka states that the film resonated because it showed LGBTQ+ relationships “in a positive way that embraced our sexuality and sexual experiences. There were not a lot of films doing this unless they focused on our trauma.”

Derek Magyar starred as X (this was years before Elon Musk stole the name for Twitter), the street hustler with the heart of…well, more lead than gold, but by the end, some glint manages to peek through. He had the eyes of Zach Ephron and the snarl of Kathy Griffin. While he ran an ongoing commentary about his clientele and their natures, he was actually in love with roommate Andrew, played by Daryl Stephens. They both lived with 18 year old Joey, played by Jonathon Trent. “Joey” is a fitting name for the character who is essentially their bouncing playful child (a joey is a baby kangaroo).

So- spoiler alert for those who have not seen the original Boy Culture – X and Andrew get together as a couple in the end.

That was then, and this is now, and the creative team behind the film, director and co-writer Q. Allan Brocka, producers Stephen Israel and Philip Pierce and co-writer Matthew Rettenmund, has launched a sequel called Boy Culture: Generation X. (Again, Elon Musk’s thunder stealing was unforeseen).  

Brocka explains the new journey of the sequel, “the original focused on taking a risk to find love. Now, X has had love, and something’s not quite working, so he’s got to refocus on himself — who is he outside of love?”

The journey of making the film was an arc in itself, “We started pitching it during the Bush administration, wrote it in the Obama administration, shot it in the Trump administration, and now are releasing it during the Biden administration.”

Derek Magyar and Daryl Stephens are back as X and Andrew. It is now about a dozen years later, the pair has moved from Seattle (bye bye Joey) and now live in Los Angeles. Even though they are both nearing 40 years old, they each have retained most of their original Boy Culture looks.

Their relationship has apparently been an on again, off again romance over the years, and as BC:Generation X opens, they are broken up, but still living together for economic reasons. X, who had long given up his hustle, revives it in an effort to find and re-assert himself, and his money-making abilities.

Derek Magyar says of returning as X, “I love the character, the writing, the director.  I think X has grown a lot, and still has a lot to learn. I think he is well-intentioned, but I don’t think he is the best communicator and often gets himself in trouble. He goes back to hustling because it’s something he knows he is good at, and he wants to show Andrew he can handle taking care of his part of the life that they share — or shared.”

Photo by Matthew Rettenmund

In the new film, the couple again has a young companion, 000a quick witted, trash talking twenty-something named Chayce (“With a Y”) inspirationally played by Jason Caceres. This time the young is not the protégé, but rather the trail blazer. The sex-working world X left did not wait for him to return. Clients were no longer fearful closet cases, but sex-positive enthusiasts with imagination. They are less worried about being outed, and more concerned that their fantasies are enacted correctly.

Recently Brocka and Caceres sat down with me on the Rated LGBT Radio podcast to talk about the film. Brocka’s first gay film, the classic Eating Out, started out as a joke in film school. He was supposed to write a script for a class and wanted to shock them with a depiction of being gay and filled with sex. They loved it, and it not only became a movie, it became a film series of four movies.

Caceres essentially steals Generation X . As Chayce, he mentors the X character through the new business. At one point X looks at Chayce and has a revelation, realizing that Chayce is not his advisor but “my God… he’s my Pimp!”

Caceres sparkles in each scene he is in and takes charge. The script is well written, but Caceres succeeds in elevating beyond it with spot on expressions, reactions, and non-verbal cues. As X struggles, Chayce rolls his eyes, takes him figuratively by the scruff of the neck and guides him through the new exploding road ahead. Caceres credits the free-to-play environment Brocka established on set.

Caceres was a teenager when the original Boy Culture came out, sneaking to watch it as he was sorting out his own sexuality and feelings, “I was in high school and watched it at a highly inappropriate hour to avoid having any difficult conversations with the people in my life. I remember starving for any content that would help me understand what I was feeling,” he shares.

In watching the film, and after meeting Caceres, it is hard to believe that the fully realized Chayce was not based on him and his bubbling personality. It was not the case. He in fact, was one of the last cast, and Brocka was getting desperate to find the right person. Caceres had gotten wind of the production, and as a life-long fan of the original campaigned hard to get an audition. Brocha relates, “We had gone through well over one hundred people being considered for that part. Jason came in and inhabited the role immediately and knocked it out of the park.”

Boy Culture: Generation X is releasing via Dekkoo Films, a subsidiary of the Dekkoo streaming platform. It is available for TVOD rental across numerous platforms including Apple, Amazon, Google, and many others.  It will release on the Dekkoo platform in 2024. For more information, visit

Generation X takes the audience into unpacking relationships and the pressures of money, sex. iove and self-actualization. No spoiler this time, will X and Andrew come together once again, like they did at the end of the original film? Or is Boy Culture: Generation X the end? You will have to see it for yourself to find out.

For those who watch the film, and get an inevitable crush on Caceres as Chayce, dreaming to help him “research” his next role, there is a word of caution.

Dropping the sweetie boy image, he hopes his next acting gig is as a deranged serial killer.


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] 

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