Latest Entries »

A month or so ago, my dad and I watched The Matrix. I hadn’t seen it since since I was in college and lived in the dorms. That was 2010. I remembered not caring for the film anymore the last time I sat through it. The Matrix (and, to a lesser extent, its sequels) had defined action filmmaking in my early teens and preteen years. Then, I watched it with some friends my sophomore year of college and found it unwatchable. It turned out my childhood instincts were right… sort of.

The Matrix is a deeply problematic allegory about being white and realizing that you’re both trans and that your politics sit somewhere on the spectrum of revolutionary socialism. Mr. Anderson is Neo’s dead name. It’s the one he has to adopt to survive in the corporate blue collar cishet world he inhabits by day. At night, he escapes to a world of genderqueer ravers and hackers seeking valuable corporate data. But, by day, Neo wears the mask of a person who is forced to exist past their death. Keanu Reeves plays Neo with a soft, feminine sincerity and warmth. It’s what he brings to many of his best roles. He falls in love with the masc Trinity, embodied by Carrie Ann Moss’ lean vulnerability and strength. The sapphic undertones of The Matrix are only slightly less apparent than the Wachowski sisters’ crime drama, Bound.

View full article »

Advertisements

I’m at my dad’s for the evening.

Back in June, I realized I was in a suicidal depressive state. I was in the “oh, transitioning is harder than just saying you’re trans” phase of coming out as nonbinary. I was living in literally toxic health conditions with another severe depressive. The most intimate friendship I’d had in the last decade ended suddenly and forcefully, and it took away two other friendships that were vital in me accepting I was genderqueer. 2017 in all of its misery and greed and cruelty was happening in national and local politics. Nazis were emboldened each day. They killed publicly. Rape culture was on full display through our President (and the litany of post-Weinstein revelations more recently). I was finally confronting the trauma of being a sexual assault victim as well as reckoning with how rape and sexual violence plagued so many of the closest women in my family and my dearest friends.  There weren’t days that I didn’t want to kill myself. There were occasional hours where I could be more protective than “lying in my bed, almost catatonic” but that was only if I was high. I had just dragged myself across the finish line of my final semester of college, and I was only able to batter my corpse across that achievement because I had started going to class high. It was the only way I could force myself to be around people.

View full article »

In an early episode of Hannibal, FBI profiler Will Graham describes Stockholm Syndrome as an evolutionary defense mechanism. His point was that if you can learn to empathize with and gain the affection of your captor, then you’re more likely to survive. If you antagonize someone who has total, lethal control over you, you’re more likely to be killed. There are few things more hardwired into people than their survival instinct, and so the drive to do what your oppressor asks of you is natural because the alternative is death.

Will is portrayed as a prodigy at psychological profiling. Will has high-functioning autism, and unlike the majority of folks portrayed as being on the autism/Asperger’s spectrum in popular culture, Will isn’t a mathematical or scientific savant. Will is a vessel for overpowering, disorienting empathy. Will can figure out how the show’s serial killers think because Will has a singular ability to place himself in another person’s mind. To feel how they feel. To see the world the way they do. To interpret their motivations and fears and desires.

View full article »

At the end of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus‘s second act, B.J. “Terror Billy” Blaskowicz infiltrates the smoldering remains of the New Orleans ghetto. After the Nazis dropped an atom bomb on New York City to end World War II, the Reich turned New Orleans into a walled-off prison to house all of America’s undesirables — Jews, people of color, LGBT folks, Communists, etc. B.J. Blaskowicz, an American G.I. and Nazi killer extraordinaire, is searching for the last remnants of resistance and finds it in Horton Boone and his band of hedonistic, Communist revolutionaries just trying to survive and kill every last Nazi they can before their time finally comes.

B.J. and Horton ultimately become comrades, but their initial meeting is a tense, drunken screaming match where the pair trade shots of Horton’s homemade shine and B.J. throws the entire kitchen sink of liberal critiques of Bolshevism at this person who has spent years staying alive and fighting against the Nazis in America. He implies that Horton is a coward because, before the war, Horton and his crew protested the imperialist American war machine. He thinks that Horton’s entire viewpoint about American politics and capitalism nearly amounts to collaboration with fascism because, maybe if he had worked with America instead of against it, the Nazis would have never won the war.

View full article »

There’s a moment in A Room With A View where the novel/film’s Edwardian romance is interrupted by horrific, fatal violence. Lucy Honeychurch, the story’s temperate heroine, is wandering the Piazza della Signoria — the square outside Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio that now houses the reproduction of Michelangelo’s David and a host of other, priceless Renaissance sculptures — when two Italian men get into an argument. One of the men is stabbed in the ensuing brawl and dies.

Lucy has spent her days in Florence wandering churches, evading lectures from the prudish Reverend Eager,  and barely listening to equally magnanimous sermons from her aunt and chaperone, Charlotte. Lucy has also caught the eye of a strange suitor, George Emerson. George is the son of an equally puzzling journalist, atheist, and political radical, and the Emersons have brushed against the coarse strictures of turn of the century English mores in ways that Lucy finds both offsetting and exciting.

View full article »

TheyLive1

Around the release of Zootopia, a friend on Twitter posted a short thread about the futility of cinematic/literary metaphors for race. His argument was that, at best, these metaphors over-simplify and reduce complex real world matters without materially contributing to combating racial injustice. At worst, these metaphors unintentionally confuse and obscure real world suffering. And so if someone wants to make a literary argument about race, perhaps it would just be better to strip the metaphors away and have a frank conversation about the topic.

I adore District 9. It’s one of the essential science fiction films of the last ten years. It’s also a metaphor for apartheid in South Africa. Aliens forced to live in poverty and as non-citizens while they’re poked and prodded by paternalistic Afrikaans. It is also obviously problematic to recast black South Africans as alien space shrimp in the story of their own struggle for liberation (and to also make one of those white Afrikaans — who is the film’s POV and lead — so integral to that struggle).

View full article »

(Author’s Note: Lyrics credit to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” for the headline of this piece. All photography by the author and taken inside of the video game No Man’s Sky by Hello Games.)

My roommate isn’t home.

Joe Manchin is in Morgantown, and my roommate is at the townhall. I wish I was there. I want to let West Virginia’s nominally Democratic Senator know how I feel about him selling my home state out to Big Coal. How angry I am that he’s the latest in a long line of West Virginia politicians exploiting the bigotry and hatred that still infest Appalachia to line carpetbaggers’ pockets. But I’m not like my roommate. I’m not downtown giving Joe hell.

I’m at home.

View full article »

ManchesterByTheSea1

[Author’s Note: This post contains significant spoilers for Kenneth Lonergan’s 2016 film, Manchester by the Sea. If you don’t want some of the film’s major reveals spoiled, you might want to avoid reading this until you’ve seen the film.]

I don’t  believe in God, but I do believe in Hell. Hell doesn’t have to be Satan inflicting infinite pain for eternity. Hell can be something as simple as you and everyone you love suffering… suffering and not having any answers for why you hurt or any solutions to make the misery go away. Manchester by the Sea‘s Lee Chandler isn’t just trapped in his own private Hell. His self-immolation is burning everyone around him.

View full article »

Persona1

Throughout the 1960s, Ingmar Bergman would tackle the question “How are we able to live?”

That’s not a question you ask when you’re happy with the state of the world. It’s a question you ask when you have thought seriously about the history and perpetuation of suffering and oppression. It’s that inescapable, nagging thought that humanity’s power structures, humanity’s base drives, and humanity’s future is fundamentally evil and you’re terrified that these cycles of destruction, violence, and wanton cruelty will never disappear.

View full article »

A Free Train Ride

adolfeichmann1

Yesterday, I woke up to find that my Twitter feed had been inundated with anti-Semitic threats. People using anonymous handles referencing 20th century as well as contemporary neo-Nazi culture flooded my mentions. They let me know that I was being explicitly targeted because I was a Jew. They let me know that I was being explicitly targeted because I spoke out against white supremacist hate speech. Which is all to say, they let me know I was being targeted because I was willing to defend myself and and to mobilize others that were willing to do the same.

I’m going to include the most upsetting of the comments as an image below this sentence. I am warning you ahead of time about anti-semitic hate speech being included in this post.

View full article »