Saturday, March 31, 2018

'Love, Simon' success a sweet sign of the times

Characters in 'Love, Simon'
I'd like to take my mind off the nasty business of politics for a moment, and celebrate the recent success of the feature film Love, Simon

The film, starring the lovely Nick Robinson and joined by a fab cast, is based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, and tells the tale about a closeted teenager who develops a secret email/pen pal relationship with another closeted teen in his high school.

Director Greg Berlanti handles it all delicately and beautifully, giving this story a common touch that is allowing it to find mainstream audiences.  While there is some typical rom-com formulaic writing (and you just know that this has to be headed for a happy ending), the story and diverse characters were still original and well-acted enough to keep it fresh and compelling.  As of March 30, its estimated $30 million at the North American box office already far outstrips the entire run by the recent Oscar-nominated Call Me By Your Name. 

Why?  The producers clearly wanted this gay story to appeal to the masses and it appears to be doing so.  I went to an opening night screening on March 16 in Toronto and it was pretty packed, with a majority young females.  At a key moment of sweet, romantic, boy-on-boy kissing action, those girls squealed with delight and made the movie going experience sublime.  That stands in stark contrast with the howls of hatred and homophobia that would accompany the appearance of any gay characters onscreen in decades past in North America.

Now it seems North American teenage girls (at least those not brainwashed by religion) have finally caught up to their counterparts in Japan, where the idolization/eroticization of male homosexuality went mainstream long ago.  Yes, here it's pretty PG-rated so far, but that's cool by me.  (As we know, North American teenage boys and elsewhere long ago eroticized lesbians.)

There will be those who quibble with the fact this is another in a short list of mainstream feature films where the lead gay character is masculine, cisgendered and white.  The plot finds a way to effectively counter some of those quibbles (I won't give anything away here), including the fact that the lead is always surrounded by characters who are quite diverse in terms of backgrounds.   

Of course, this is just one film and LGBTQ characters still have a ways to go on screen.  The recent Black Panther is one example where a mainstream film erred on the side of too-much caution by refusing to make the lesbian relationship in the original works explicit in the feature film adaptation.  Fans looking for queer representation in the recent Star Wars reboots continue to be disappointed too.

It's one thing to gamble $17 million on Love, Simon (a gamble that has already paid off big time.)  It's another to gamble $400 million on a picture that depends on worldwide box office success to make a profit.  And as we know, homophobia and bigotry still reigns in most parts of this world.   This issue has been with us for decades and continues to be relevant. 

Still, I cherish the fact that we're living in a time when a sweet love story like Love, Simon can become a decent box office success carried by the ticket purchases of young heterosexual ladies (and many LGBT folks as well.) 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Suddenly the moral imperative to re-elect Kathleen Wynne emerges with a vengeance

Which of these men has committed more crimes?  
It must be great to be a mediocre white rich straight male in the Conservative Party, where everyone else is considered unqualified and incapable while you're still considered to be a god. 

The Conservative Party of Ontario (let's just stop the pretense and drop "Progressive" from that name, shall we?), like most conservative parties, is an organization in which misogyny is still considered a family value.  Watching the race unfold these last six weeks, with three women on the stage next to Doug Ford, I knew in my heart this party's pathetic grassroots would again make the wrong choice.  And so they did (barring any court challenges regarding mixed up postal codes.) 

In the latter days of this race, it was Doug Ford and his paranoid, irrational Ford Nation supporters who concocted conspiracy theories without any evidence that the leadership process was rigged against them (just like Donald Trump did in the 2016 U.S. election.)  They continued this irrational bunk even yesterday after the votes were counted.  But in truth as we know, the system was actually stacked in favour of the privileged white male.  Like Trump, Ford won fewer actual votes than his main female competitor but emerged victorious due to the system.  

The similarities between Ford and Trump don't end there.  Regardless, I'm pretty sure Ontarians don't want their own Premier Trump.  Even if the bigots and misogynists who dominate the Ontario conservative grassroots are happy to turn a blind eye to the obvious flaws of Doug Ford, including his criminal past, the rest of Ontarians should know better.

We watched in horror when Doug enabled his late brother Rob Ford as they turned Toronto city hall into a circus where nothing got done except the expulsion of hot air and bravado from the Fords and their idiot allies like George Mammoliti.  It was a gong show we have not forgotten. 

I truly hoped that Christine Elliott would finally achieve her due and win yesterday.  She's worked so hard as an MPP and brought so much to the table.  While I'd never vote Conservative, I do always hope that my conservative opponents are at least reasonable and qualified individuals, capable of providing wise leadership and willing to counter the impulses of the many yahoos in their base.   

But alas, it seems conservatives these days have mostly lost their minds and they continue to hoist the most inappropriate and unqualified dorks among them onto the rest of us. 

In picking Ford, Ontario PCs have said to every woman in Ontario: "It doesn't matter how hard you work or how better qualified you are, we'll still pick a mediocre man over you because he's got a dick.  A safe Caucasian dick, that is."   

The Fords built their political empire in the diverse suburbs around Toronto and understood the best way to win the hearts of many non-white suburban folks was to appeal to their homophobia, which they did every occasion they could.   Boycott a Pride parade?  You bet.  Every single year.  

That homophobia was a key reason why, even after Rob Ford was caught up in his crack-smoking scandal, that support from Ford Nation still endured.   These folks are not reasonable.  As long as you promise to hate the gays, they'll be with you for life.  Had the Fords grown up in rural Ontario, you can bet they would've stuck with their racist instincts and ignored people of colour altogether to win power.  They didn't have that option running in suburban Toronto.   

As we saw in this abbreviated leadership race, Ford continues to follow those nasty instincts of appealing to homophobia and other bigotries.   He sought out and won the support of Christian bigot hero Charles McVety and Paul Melnichuk, a noted anti-Semite.  He shamelessly promised to revisit Ontario's modern sex-ed curriculum and even re-open the abortion debate.  There's a theory I heard recently that Tanya Granic Allen's whole candidacy was forged as merely a front for Doug Ford: whip up grassroots, social conservative resentment and get them to vote, then watch as they move en masse to Ford in subsequent ballots, as they did this week.  

It's scary to think what an amoral man like Doug Ford would do with a majority government in Ontario, since no doubt McVety and other bigots will come calling demanding rewards for literally putting him in the leadership.   

And so here we are.  The trolls will be out in full force on social media and Sun Media online boards pushing their lies over the next few months, promoting all forms of hatred against Kathleen Wynne.  

But we progressives will fight back.  I've learned long ago there is no point in trying to reason with these right-wing idiots.   They aren't interested in facts.  They lecture progressives about living in bubbles, but it's clear they are the ones with their heads in the sand. 

I say we don't have to reason with them.  We just need to beat them.  And do anything we have to do to achieve that.  Let's hit them back just as hard as they groundlessly hit us. 

And we will.

The Liberals have governed Ontario for 15 years.  They've achieved many great things like re-investing in public education, health care, and other public services all the while keeping taxes competitive, despite the myths constantly pushed by Sun Media and conservatives.   Ontario's economy is currently booming, mainly because our governments have decided to invest wisely in our societies rather than follow the foolish conservative impulse towards austerity, which would've ground Canada's economic growth to a halt, as it has done elsewhere.   

No one party can govern for 15 years and not make many mistakes.  The main knock against Kathleen Wynne seems to be she simply inherited too much scandal from Dalton McGuinty.  Since taking office, Wynne has worked hard to set her own path and she's been modestly successful.  Yes, she's as ruthless as any other politician, but she's clearly got wisdom, street smarts and a good heart, as well as a level head.  I haven't liked all of her decisions.  But she doesn't deserve the vitriol constantly thrown at her by conservatives. 

Let's be honest: a huge part of Wynne's unpopularity in those circles stems from the fact that many conservatives hate her because she's a woman and she doesn't bow down in front of the almighty penis.  It would be great to see those annoying conservatives suffer another term under Kathleen Wynne. 

With Doug Ford's victory, suddenly the moral imperative to re-elect Kathleen Wynne this year has emerged with a vengeance.  (I do discount Andrea Horwath and the NDP at this point because Horwath has never shown any ability to expand her party's vote beyond traditional levels of support.  So I remain convinced Kathleen Wynne will lead the charge against Ford.)  

Wynne will come out swinging with everything she's got against the threat that Ford represents.   We should expect quite a fight this spring as we approach the June 7 vote.


Saturday wasn't completely bleak  when it comes to Conservative news: troglodyte MP Brad Trost lost his local nomination to run for the Conservative Party in 2019.    Hallelujah! 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The destructive influence of social conservatives seeping into Ontario PC leadership race

Former drug dealer and crack-filled circus enabler Doug Ford, 
according to Globe 2013 story
Despite his creepiness, former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown did at least understand how the worst instincts of conservatives need to be tamed.

If he achieved nothing else during his leadership, Brown did manage to drag his party of neanderthals into the 21st century by scorning bigoted social conservatives and their prejudices, walking in Pride parades, and adopting meaningful policy to combat the biggest threat facing humanity, climate change.   This was ironic because Brown got elected in the first place by flirting with the troglodytes who catapulted him to victory over the more qualified Christine Elliott in 2015. 

But now that Brown is gone, those horrible folks are looking for revenge.  And it seems they have found their champions in two of the candidates running to replace him: former drug dealer and crack-filled circus enabler Doug Ford and grassroots bigot Tanya Granic Allen, both of whom seem to want to import Donald Trump-style politics to Ontario. 

Ever since the unknown Granic Allen signed up for the campaign (apparently raising about $100,000 to become a candidate is not a problem for the alleged outsider), she's been aggressively spouting her bunk demanding parents have the unfettered right to abuse their children and denying the science of climate change.   If she is the new champion of Ontario's social conservatives, this simply reinforces for me my firm belief that these dangerous people need to be ignored for our own good.

During the first leadership debate, Granic Allen even took opponent Christine Elliott to task for supporting a ban on the dangerous, disgusting, and discredited practice of forcing LGBT kids into therapy to "cure" them of their sexual orientation.  Granic Allen grossly claimed this ban took away parental choice!  In essence, Granic Allen was arguing in favour of child abuse.  She would do more harm to Ontario's LGBT children than anything alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur could ever dream up.

Make no mistake: Granic Allen represents a huge portion of the Ontario conservative base.  While she'll likely place dead last in the race, the power these folks yield in this party far outweighs their influence in greater society.

More dangerous though is the thoughtless populism of Doug Ford, whose family proves that white trash that inherits a million-dollar company will still be white trash, just more powerful and influential than most of the elites they constantly complain about.  After the disaster of his late brother's single term as Toronto's mayor, where all progress ground to a halt while council contemplated Doug's idea to build a giant ferris wheel and mega-mall on Toronto's waterfront, it's shocking that Ford's support persists in conservative circles.

One question I wish someone would finally ask Ford: why did he not sue the Globe & Mail after it published this article about his previous drug dealing? 

While Caroline Mulroney's got some promise, it was clear to me in last night's debate she remains too inexperienced to leap into this job now.  Furthermore, her "to the manor born" pedigree as the daughter of Brian "Airbus" Mulroney makes her quite unrelateable as a leader, at least to me.  When she talks about Ontarians struggling to pay hydro bills, I can't help but think this is a person who's never struggled to pay any bills in her life. 

So once again, the only person standing in the way of these scary social conservatives is Christine Elliott.  While some of her pronouncements in this race - such as placating social conservatives by promising to "revisit" Ontario's sex-ed curriculum, or opposing a carbon tax - are disheartening, they also seem calculated.  She appears to have learned a thing or two from her previous failed leadership bids and indeed may finally pull this one off.  Elliott is the professional adult this party desperately needs even if much of its base is too stupid to know it.

So the question remains: will the conservative base vote for the qualified adult who's ready to lead, or stick with a numbskull like them?  I'm not very optimistic.