Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hollywood’s New Generation? No Thank You.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t get political in my blog. I didn’t want to be controversial. I just thought I’d stick to topics like fashion and fun. I mean, there’s enough drama (and comedy) in most feminization stories to cover blogs for the next 40 years. At least, there sure seems to be enough of both in my life. So why get political.
But something is starting to bug me. Something in the entertainment world. A few weeks ago there was a skit on Saturday Night Live that featured crossdressing men. The skit was one of those spoofs of television commercials that the crew at SNL seem to do so well. Over the years, SNL has had its good and bad seasons, its good and bad casts, but through it all, it’s been pretty consistent in two areas – their news segment, “Weekend Update,” and their television commercials.

They took some heat for this commercial though. The product in question was a feminine hormone product designed to work faster. GLAAD – the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation – took offense at the skit and demanded an apology. As far as I know SNL never apologized, and, at the time, I had to agree with them. SNL takes shots at everyone. They are famous for having no sacred cows. And, for me, as I said above, I think there’s enough comedy and drama in the transgender world to provide for years of comic material. Within our community, we laugh at ourselves all the time. So we can’t take too much offense when others do so as well.

We can always hope that the humor will be kind and the satire not as cutting… but that’s just not the comedy world of today. Comedy today is often cruel or mean spirited – so it would be unrealistic to expect comedians to treat tg/tv girls any differently.

So I didn’t really have a problem with the concept of the Saturday Night Live skit. My problem was that it wasn’t particularly funny. And it wasn’t particularly clever. It was almost as if the writers at SNL figured that showing a few guys in dresses would be funny enough on its own. After all, men in drag have been an entertainment staple for years. Put a guy in a drag and you don’t need jokes. The guy in drag is the joke.

Or, at least, it used to be. I think we’re getting to the point where showing a man in an ugly dress with silly fake boobs just isn’t funny any more. Let’s face it, our community (crossdressers, tv’s, tgirls) has gotten more sophisticated. Shouldn’t the entertainment industry do the same? Shouldn’t they at least try to keep up?

This all came back to me this evening as I watched this year’s Academy Awards. Co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway (omg, I loved her blue shiny dress!) kept referring to these awards as the Oscars for a new generation. A more youthful demographic. And they did seem to inject a more youthful energy into the proceedings.

Until about half-way through. At that point, Anne sang a song in a tuxedo, and when she was done, she was joined on-stage by James – in a bad wig and an ill-fitting gown that was apparently supposed to recall Marilyn Monroe’s iconic gown from the “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” number in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

Now, as I said, I dismissed the SNL skit. It seemed pretty harmless, and more silly than offensive. But this was different. This was the Academy Awards – and I was pissed!

First of all, as with the SNL skit, Franco was given nothing at all funny or clever to say. He was simply trotted out in his gown and that – apparently – was supposed to be funny in and of itself. It wasn’t. It was sad. And desperate. And, although I hate to admit it, I was offended.

I was doubly offended because I’ve seen Mr. Franco in drag before. A few months ago, James appeared in drag on the cover of Candy Magazine. His look on that cover was much more sophisticated and attractive. For the magazine cover, he and his wardrobe/makeup people at least seemed to be trying. At the Academy Awards, he looked like a mess. And he looked all the worse in contrast to Ms. Hathaway – who looked smart and stylish in her men’s tuxedo.

I don’t like being a victim. I don’t like playing a victim. And I don’t like crying “foul” every time someone says something mean or insulting about crossdressers. I can’t recall a time in history when playing the victim ever benefited anyone. Some may argue with me, but from my perspective, minorities in our society have risen because of their strength. They’ve gained power in our society by exerting their power. Not by playing the victim.

And I suspect the same will be true for the transgendered crowd. Because I know how this works. I know where we are in terms of our evolution in American society. I know that we have a long way to go, but I know from watching the evolutions of other minorities, from African Americans to women to gays and lesbians, that the process is full of setbacks and insults.

Like it or not, this is part of the process. When you put yourself out there in larger and larger numbers – as our community is doing now – there is bound to be a backlash. We’re still a fringe demographic and there are still many (perhaps even the majority) who don’t understand us, don’t accept us, and don’t even want to think about us. I understand all that.

But somehow, for me, tonight was the last straw. This was supposed to be the new Hollywood! A new generation! Is this the reaction our emerging community can expect from the new generation? The same ignorant, uninformed, biased, bigoted, offensive treatment? What’s next, minstrel performers in black face? Limp wristed fag jokes? Women who are barefoot and pregnant?

I’ve always enjoyed watching the Academy Awards. I love the glamour of Hollywood. I love the celebrity culture that, admittedly, dominates far too much of our news coverage and our national conversation. It’s one of my (many) guilty pleasures. But that said, I’ve never been very happy with the level of humor at the Oscars (or at any awards show for that matter). Celebrities are paraded on stage to present awards, they read unrehearsed jokes off of cue cards, and the audience seems to laugh more out of politeness than amusement. So when it comes to humor, awards shows already set the bar pretty low.

But tonight they sunk to new depths. In a ceremony where they were happy to honor the past with dignity (“Gone with the Wind,” Bob Hope, Lena Horne, and “The Wizard of Oz”), they still managed to insult me and a lot of my dearest, sweetest friends with an outdated image from the past that has no place in Hollywood’s new generation. Or America’s.


Anonymous said...

I agree with all you said - you'd think by now we would have moved away from Milton Berle's humor where he opened nearly all his shows in drag to great hilarity among his audience. (For those of you who don't know who Milton Berle was, he was called "Uncle Miltie" and "Mr. Television" and he owned Tuesday night somewhere around the late 40's and early 50's when I was growing up.)

Debbi said...

anonymous was "Debbi" - I hit a wrong key.

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