Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gay Asian Oscar viewers outraged at telecast censorship

Towleroad's initial report about anti-gay censorship of recent Oscar re-broadcasts by Asian networks has been confirmed .

It's been reported by mainstream media that STAR, an Asian satellite TV service that says it reaches more than 300 million viewers in 53 countries, cut the sound during Oscar re-broadcasts when winners Dustin Lance Black (pictured) and Sean Penn mentioned "gay" or "lesbian" in their acceptance speeches. Their speeches were shown in full during live broadcasts of the Oscars that were screened across Asia on Monday morning.

The Associated Press story quotes Pang Khee Teik, a prominent Malaysian arts commentator, as saying: "As a gay man, I am truly offended...Stop censoring the words that describe who I am....[The censorship] sent a message...that gays and lesbians are still shameful things to be censored from the public's ears."

Jannie Poon, STAR's Hong Kong-based spokeswoman, stressed that the company had no intention of upsetting any viewers, but said it has "a responsibility to take the sensitivities and guidelines of all our markets into consideration."

What guidelines might those be, I wonder. This is such a shame.

Still, there's no doubt that the queer-positive messages from Black and Penn on Sunday have been heard around the world, as this article attests.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Review: "Crisis: Growing Up Gay In America"

With so much talk this week about Dustin Lance Black's amazing Oscar acceptance speech, in which the openly gay screenwriter briefly detailed his difficult upbringing in a conservative Mormon household in San Antonio, Texas, it's fitting that I share with you some thoughts about a book I recently enjoyed.

"Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing The Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America," edited by Mitchell Gold and released in 2008 by Greenleaf Book Group Press, illuminates the incredible struggles faced by 40 individuals - some well-known and some not so well-known - in accepting their queer identities.

The book contains short essays written by people like Bishop Gene Robinson (the first openly gay Episcopal bishop), Rev. Dr. Mel White, actor Richard Chamberlain, design guru Nate Berkus (of Oprah fame), lesbian activist Rev. Irene Monroe, Candace Gingrich, former New Jersey governor James McGreevey, and many others, with a foreword by tennis star Martina Navratilova.

Writes Navratilova: "As a professional tennis player, when I came out, my focus wasn't on things like losing endorsements or handling the press or even sacrificing personal privacy. The biggest thing on my mind was being true to myself: I realized that I couldn't go on being a champion on the court if I was leaving half of myself off the court. I know some people felt I could have reached my potential without it; but now, looking back, I know I couldn't have."

While some of the essays do tend to cover the same territory, the book itself is an incredible testament to the importance of coming out and learning to love oneself despite the lies constantly pushed by religious fundamentalists and others who claim their God disapproves of homosexuality.

Of particular interest to me was the essay by filmmaker Dan Karslake, who produced last year's documentary For the Bible Tells Me So: "[What] most conservative Christians don't know - or conveniently forget to tell you - is that the Bible says absolutely nothing about homosexuality as we know and understand it today. In fact, the word homosexual didn't even appear in any Bible in any language until 1946! And whether you think Jesus was the Son of God, just another prophet, or even simply a myth, the story of Christ is all about embracing outcasts, not creating them."

Writes Rev. Dr. Mel White: "I believe that the Protestant and Catholic leaders who condemn homosexuality are sincere, but they are sincerely wrong, and their antigay teachings have tragic consequences in the lives of my sisters and brothers. They are responsible for the deaths of many of my sisters and brothers, and they were almost responsible for my own death as well."

Together, the 40 essays convey one underlying message: the damage caused by close-minded, conservative religion in the lives of people must stop! We are lucky to have these 40 essays to read and to share with others. Anyone who is struggling in the closet at this moment would do very well to read this book. Those heterosexual friends and family members who wish to understand better the difficulties faced by those in the closet, Crisis will provide you with much insight, I assure you.

Writes Gene Robinson: "Not a day goes by that I don't think of some teenager fearful and terrified that his secret will lead to his betrayal by those closest to him. Despite all the progress we've made, it still happens today. Young people who do not yet know that God loves them beyond their wildest imaginings are hating themselves, ashamed for who they are. I long to tell them that it will be all right, that they are not an abomination, that they are gloriously made precisely as God wants them to be."

While I doubt this book will reach as wide an audience as did Lance Black on Sunday, Crisis does its part in giving voice to the struggle of coming out in an unenlightened world and how we are all better off being true to ourselves.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Is India censoring 'Milk' from Oscar re-broadcasts?

If this is true, it's outrageous!

Dustin Lance Black's moving Oscar Acceptance Speech last night

Okay it's official: I have a little crush on the very talented and attractive Lance Black, who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar last night in Los Angeles for his script Milk.

Not only did this fellow screenwriter undertake years of research to write his spec script, without funding or any guarantee of payment, he managed to get the thing sold and produced into the major success that Milk has become. We have a new gay classic on our hands.

But Black's emotional words in his speech last night definitely struck a chord. Anytime words like these get broadcast to millions across the U.S. and the world, we take a collective step forward.

Bravo, Lance! We love you!

The Academy was rather kind to the queer community this year...

Well done. Awarding Penn's performance was the icing on the cake. This is nice contrition for Brokeback's snub, I must say. Congrats to the filmmakers who made Milk (including Oscar winners tonight Sean Penn, pictured, and writer Dustin Lance Black.)

Heath Ledger's win proves there is a God. This was a rivetting Oscars ceremony this year! I especially loved the new way of handing out the acting awards! Bravo!

I love Slumdog Millionaire! See it as soon as you can!

Click here for all the winners.

Good night.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oscars this Sunday: Will the Academy be nice to queers this year?

It's Oscar weekend! Here are my predictions for wins in the major categories:

Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Actor: Sean Penn, Milk
(possible spoiler: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler)
Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
(possible spoiler: Viola Davis, Doubt)
Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Animated Film: Wall-E

I tend to rely on Entertainment Weekly's predictions when filling out my Oscar pool ballot. They tend to get at least half of the minor categories right.

I also tend to guess with my heart, despite evidence to the contrary. I have a nagging feeling the Academy is set to reject Sean Penn's portrayal of Harvey Milk in yet another slap against the gay community. Penn has more respect in Hollywood than his main competition, plus he played both a real person who dies, and someone who changes for the better, all of which should guarantee him a win, based on Oscar's voting history. Rarely do actors who play fictitious characters beat out actors who played real ones.

But there's one big obstacle standing in front of a Penn win: Harvey Milk was gay. For the majority of this very conservative group of filmmakers, that's a big turn-off. Hence why a guy who played a Hulk Hogan-type character who doesn't change and doesn't grow and doesn't die is still considered a strong contender to win. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Mickey Rourke does win. I'm certainly not attacking Rourke's talent or performance in The Wrestler; he was incredible. And worse films have won Academy awards in the past.

If Penn loses, that leaves Dustin Lance Black as the only remaining Milk nominee with a decent shot of winning. That would be a nice consolation prize, but I still don't put it past the Academy to snub us altogether.

I'll be watching on Sunday.

The LGBT community is "probably the greatest threat to America...I know of," says Utah politician...

Canadians swooned yesterday over U.S. President Barack Obama's quick visit to Ottawa. Most Canadians believe that the new president represents the best of American life and share the immense hope for the future he symbolizes, despite these troubled economic times.

Such good sentiment can make it easy to forget the ugly side of America, as embodied clearly by Utah State Senator Chris Buttars who recently called the LGBT community "probably the greatest threat to America...I know of."

Hmmm, what do you think reasonable Americans should do to the LGBT community if it constitutes the greatest threat to America? Ban gay rights? Smash their heads with baseball bats? Burn their houses down? Maybe.

The Human Rights Campaign, God bless them, has taken up the cause and urged action.

Speaking of promoting hatred, once again the 'Right to Defame' movement in Canada continues to rear its ugly head. The National Post is hopeful that ongoing deliberations over changes to Alberta's human rights code could make it easier for hate mongers to get away with their crimes.

For the 'Right to Defame' movement, the rights of minorities to live without fear of persecution or sudden, unprovoked attack is less important than the right for anyone to broadcast the message, "Kill all gays!" Such statements are merely "subjective", writer Colby Cosh seems to believe. He also writes today about how Alberta might be close to pulling off a sophisticated statutory two-step that contains something for both the left and right.

Writes Cosh: "In 1998 the Supreme Court (in Vriend vs. Alberta) demanded that sexual orientation be “read in” to Alberta’s human rights act, and it became a forbidden grounds for discrimination despite not appearing in the text. Liberals, including the Chumir Foundation, would like the words “sexual orientation” actually inserted into the HRCMA as a gesture of acceptance, and [the Alberta Tory government minister in charge] has spoken in favour of doing so. Since the Vriend battle was lost by the Alberta government, acknowledging the defeat might be a small price to pay for Alberta’s conservatives to secure the most fundamental freedom of all — the freedom to think, teach, preach and opine without fear."

For the record, the freedom to think, teach, preach or opine without fear is already well-protected and not threatened by existing legislation. It's the right to incite violence against identifiable groups that Cosh and others are trying to restore.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Yet another reason why queers don't owe "gay conservatives" much of anything...

This is yet another reason why most queers (and others who support human rights, equality and social progress) don't owe so-called "gay conservatives" much of anything. There's a reason many say the term "gay conservative" is an oxymoron. If we waited for these guys (and gals) to lead in the cause of justice, we'd be waiting 'til hell freezes over.

On a completely unrelated note, this is one of the most-balanced articles I've read on the subject of gay parenting. Very much worth reading.

Oh yeah, and welcome to Obama! Yay Obama!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Beau Breedlove

This hot little scandal just got a whole lot juicier! reported today that the former intern, whose sexual relationship at age 18 with then-42-year-old Portland commissioner and current mayor Sam Adams caused a major scandal last month, has done a nude photo shoot for Unzipped Magazine. The spread and interview featuring the now-21-year-old are to run in the magazine's May 2009 edition (on the streets in April.)

According to the magazine: "Beau Breedlove [pictured above in the speedo] was extremely professional at his first erotic photo shoot in Los Angeles this past weekend. He came to L.A. to prove that the Portland scandal does not define his sexuality. The photos portray the real Beau–a confident and extremely handsome young man who is openly sensual, openly sexual, and has nothing to hide."

Well I'm going to have to pick up that Breedlove has brilliantly taken advantage of his mystique and sex appeal to make himself some probably decent coin, all the power to him. This scandal could easily drag on, taking America's first openly gay mayor down with it. It's interesting that Adams has been able to survive at all. It says a lot about how progressive Portlanders really are. But perhaps it's also a tacit admission that the mayor is only human, and looking at Breedlove, it's easy to understand why Adams couldn't help

The whole scandal gets me thinking about other lustful tales like Jeff Chevalier, for example. He sold his story taking down old Lord Browne to a London newspaper, but didn't pose nude like Breedlove. I guess Beau's just more of an exhibitionist?

Regardless, this new scandal will take its toll, the right will be sure of that.

Harper to punish Canadian reporters who ask questions during Obama photo-op...

This is embarrassing. If Harper shuts down a photo op like this with Obama next to him, I'll be hanging my head in shame as a Canadian...Not to mention all the other bullshit rules he's instituting for this visit. This is becoming more true by the day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why is the Toronto Star so obsessed with saving 'Winner-Take-All'?

Cross-posted with 'Liberals for Electoral Reform'...

Yet again today, the Toronto Star editorial board saw fit to use this week's Israeli election as an excuse to rail against any form of proportional representation.

Readers will recall how, in the heat of the 2007 Ontario referendum campaign, the Toronto Star frequently printed misinformation about the proposed electoral reform called Mixed Member Proportional. The Star's Kerry Gillespie wrote in a news article printed on the front page that some Ontario MPPs under that system would be "appointed" to the legislature, when in fact they would be elected from province-wide party lists. No corrections were made, falsehoods were allowed to fester in the public's mind, all the while the mainstream, private media, like the Star, continued to rail against the threat of religious minorities "seizing" control of our legislature using the "3% threshold".

If the Star is so frightened by the prospect of 3% or 5% of voters getting the same percentage of seats in legislatures and wielding what little power they have, why is the Star not also equally frightened by a voting system that hands one single party with as little as 35% of the vote a majority of the seats?

The Star argues that we should tremble should a small party get one of its policy planks implemented in a coalition government agenda. But give one party full and unchecked power to implement its entire agenda on the public with only 35% of the vote, and that is perfectly alright, the Star argues. That's how 'Winner-Take-All' works and it's certainly not democratic.

We should think clearly and carefully about what is really motivating the Star to go out of its way so often to rail against any type of voting reform. Whose interests are they really trying to defend? Certainly not average Canadians, who frequently see their votes unreflected in the make-up of the House of Commons, or their provincial legislatures (only unless they voted for the one winner in their riding.)

The Star uses the Israeli example to argue that all forms of proportional representation should be shunned. In truth, the majority of democracies around the world use some form of PR. Israel is one of the few that uses the pure list system and with its very diverse society we see the kinds of results we saw this week. In truth, if 'First-Past-The-Post'/'Winner-Take-All' were in place in Israel instead, it's entirely possible that the second place Likud party would have won the election as First Past The Post has a tendency to skew voters' wishes badly and sometimes even hands power to the second-place party.

Why doesn't the Star mention that most European countries use PR and, for the most part, are models of stability? Meanwhile countries like Canada, the U.S. and Britain mostly use First-Past-The-Post and our countries seem no better off in this economic downturn.

Coalitions under PR are not the same as coalitions under our current system (Winner-Take-All). Coalitions or minority governments under our current system normally last two years or so as the temptation to pull the plug and force an election can be so great (see what Stephen Harper pulled last fall for a classic example). When a party sees its support go up in the polls from 35% to 38% under our system, backroom political hacks are inclined to go to the polls because suddenly it looks like they might be in what the mainstream media calls "majority territory."

Ask your average high school or even elementary school student if 38% or 40% is "majority territory" and you'll be laughed at and receive an 'F'.

Under PR, winning an extra 3% of the vote does not translate into an extra 10% to 15% more seats. As a result, politicians are forced to work rather than play partisan games and coalitions form stable majority governments which generally last their full term of office.

Under PR, all votes are counted and reflected in the make-up of the legislature. Under 'Winner-Take-All', less than half of votes cast have any impact on the make-up of the legislature. Under PR, no party with less than 50% of the votes can force its agenda onto the people. Under our current system, this is a regular occurrence.

Shouldn't the Toronto Star be equally frightened by this reality? And if not, why not?

Monday, February 9, 2009

That sinking feeling: Tories "reviewing" Human Rights Act again...

Why do I always feel so uneasy whenever I read about new Tory plans to review the Canadian Human Rights Act?

"Brian Storseth, a Conservative MP, has asked the Commons justice committee to review Section 13 of the act, which contains provisions that deal with hate messages. Mr. Storseth also wants the committee to review the mandate of the commission itself."

That last line is key. Therein lies my reason for unease: stripping the public of the right to complain about hate propaganda in the CHRA is just an excuse to launch a broader assault on the human rights protections in general. The folks pushing for this have a much darker agenda and it's not about protecting freedom of expression or due process...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dustin Lance Black wins WGA Award for 'Milk'...

Okay I have a new screenwriting hero: Dustin Lance Black took home the Writers' Guild of America award for Best Original Screenplay for Milk last night (alongside fellow winner Simon Beaufoy who won the Best Adapted Screenplay for Oscar frontrunner Slumdog Millionaire.)

With his WGA win, the hunky Black (pictured taken from a photo spread shot by Gus Van Sant for Vogue Hommes International) can no doubt be considered the frontrunner in the Best Original Screenplay Oscar category later this month, an amazing accomplishment for a writer still in his early 30s (who looks like he's still in his early 20s.)

The Defamer jokes that Black's photo spread by Van Sant signals the writer's deploying his final trump card in the Oscar battle: beefcake shots (perhaps Black's fellow nominees will cry foul because they don't have the body to pull off the same tactic?) If I were an Oscar voter, I'd approve. The full spread and article can be found here.

Nevertheless, in recent years the Academy has had a tendency to deny openly gay nominees or gay flicks in general with the big win on Oscar night (remember Ian McKellen's loss in 2001 for his brilliant turn as Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring to the never-seen performance by Jim Broadbent in Iris, or Brokeback Mountain's embarrassing loss to the TV-movie-ish Crash in 2005.) Still, some openly gay nominees do slip through with a win in categories like Best Screenplay (such as Bill Condon in 1998 for Gods and Monsters.)

So I'll be watching with great curiosity to see if Black gets over the top on Feb 22nd in Best Original Screenplay. It also seems the Academy might award Black's lead actor Sean Penn with his second Best Actor Oscar for his electrifying performance as Harvey Milk. Could Milk's eight nominations and possible wins be the Academy's subtle attempt to make amends for its monumental snub of Brokeback three years ago? For some voters, I'm sure the answer is yes. Of course, Milk is unlikely to win the big prize over Slumdog, let's not go crazy after all! Gay flicks will continue to be Oscar's bridesmaid for the next few years for sure, with minor wins here and there.

For more on Lance Black, particularly what motivated him to write Milk, check out this interview.


It appears that Black's shirtless photo spread linked above has caused some consternation at Milk's distributor Focus Features, where execs are possibly worried about a homophobic Oscar backlash. Check out this AfterElton post for more info. It appears that Diablo Cody, who won Best Original Screenplay last year for Juno, can strip and be sexy and still win an Oscar (because she's a she) - but get one gay man (Van Sant) to photograph another younger gay man (Black) shirtless in the middle of Oscar season and suddenly we've got a problem? It appears so.

************UPDATE # 2**************

Maybe such shirtless fears aren't warranted. Man, how I'd love to see a speech like this from Black on Oscar night...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Duffy, anyone would get the "shaft" in bed with

Perhaps newly-appointed Tory senator Mike "What's this unverified info on my blackberry, let's broadcast it to the nation!" Duffy has a point attacking a possible political alliance between PEI Premier Robert Ghiz and Newfoundland firebrand Danny Williams. But of course, Duffy, being an old straight guy, can't resist conjuring up images of "grotesque" homoeroticism to make his point.

Duffy's not the only straight guy who's been using homosexuality for punch lines lately. Homoeroticism as humour has become a staple of recent works by Judd Apatow and his lovely gang of young comedian/actors like Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd. Just check out the latter's upcoming flick, 'I Love You, Man' for the latest example of straight guys exploring their sweeter sides. But when those guys in Hollywood do it, I don't feel insulted in the least (sometimes I'm actually turned on by it, which seems to be the point), especially since most of the comedy seems to be quite self-deprecating too.

Said Duffy in the Senate recently: “I was disappointed to see that our dynamic young premier in Prince Edward Island, Robert Ghiz, has climbed into bed with the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and honourable senators know what a grotesque scene that is...Do honourable senators know what happens when two politicians climb into bed together? One of them comes out on top and I am afraid that when one is in bed with Danny Williams he will come out on top and I would hate to see where that will leave P.E.I. in the end.’’

The imagery couldn't be more clear. But during the Conservatives' annual meeting, Duffy used stronger language suggesting that when “two men’’ get in bed, “one is going to get the shaft...and I can assure you it won’t be Danny Williams.’’ Reportedly, some in the crowd reacted with a mix of mild laughter and muted applause, while others did not laugh or applaud at all.

Duffy's use of homoerotic imagery just makes me feel icky. It's funny coming from a guy who would give anyone, man or woman, the "shaft" in bed. Am I offended by Duffy's words? Not at all. I don't really find them funny either. I guess I'm just outside of Duffy's demographic.


Duffy withdraws his metaphor. Thanks to Montreal Simon for the link.