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Missing the Beauty

I subscribe to three different news feeds that specialize in media news so I can keep up with the latest media information for my media literacy class.  For weeks and weeks, a single story has dominated the headlines: the "gay moment" in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

By "dominated," I mean the top four or five stories EVERY SINGLE DAY discuss this topic.  If you read media news, there is IS no other story.  They do try to vary the narrative.  How is the lyingly-named One Million Moms reacting?  What about that drive-in movie theater in Alabama that won't show the theater?  How much gay is there?  Is LeFou an appropriate LGBT breakout character?  Gasp--Malaysia won't screen it.  Gasp--Russia is slapping an "adults only" label on it.  Can we squeeze another interview out of a cast member?  How many times can we re-quote the director's original statement?  And on and on.  The news eats a sandwich, vomits it onto a plate, eats it again, and barfs it back up, fork at the ready.

Really, the only question is: will this have an impact on the box office?

Psh.  No.  It won't.  Did you see how much extra publicity this whole thing is getting?  No one is talking about anything but this movie.  Every network and news outlet has done multiple stories on it, and consumers are snarfing the vomit sandwich right down.  Couple that with nothing else opening this weekend (because no studio wants to compete with a major Disney opening), and you have the perfect set-up for a record-breaking blockbuster.  One Dozen Moms has their boobs in a bunch over this, but they only helped it happen, so maybe they need to learn from their mistakes and shut up.  They won't, but they should.

Anyway, we got a close up and personal dose of the phenomenon.  I wanted to go see BEAUTY AND THE BEAST because I use the 1990 movie in media literacy class to talk about abusive relationships--Belle is trapped in a relationship with an abusive beast who isolates her from friends and family, won't let her work or leave the house, expects her to fulfill his every wish (breaking the spell), pushes for a fast commitment, threatens violence, and shows sudden mood swings.  Textbook abuser.  In the end, Belle loves the Beast so much, that she literally changes him into a kind and gentle prince.  Great message to send our girls: when your man abuses you, it's your job to love him enought that he'll reform.  The abuse is YOUR fault.

Did Disney change this around for this new version?  I doubt it, but I want to see the movie so I can comment appropriately during the domestic violence unit.  Darwin and Maksim came along for the ride.

When we arrived at the theater for the 1:45 matinee, however, the ticket seller said, "We only have a few front-row seats left for that showing."

I conferred briefly with Darwin and Maksim, and they said they were okay with that, so I asked for three tickets.

"Oops!" said the seller.  "It just sold out!  And so have the 2:45 and the 3:30 showings.  The 3:45 still has some seats."

We didn't want to wait around two hours, so we decided to wait until next weekend.

If this is any indication, however, One Dozen Moms and the other groups did their job--the show will shatter all kinds of records.

The Pizzeria Problem

This was a dreadful situation all around. http://www.wlwt.com/article/gay-couple-says-otr-pizzeria-bouncer-threatened-to-throw-them-out-for-kissing-holding-hands/9126573

Short version: A gay couple held hands in a Goodfellas Pizzeria, and a bouncer ordered them to leave while another customer shouted, "This is Trump's America!" at them. A friend posted about the incident on Facebook. The pizzeria heard about it, fired at least one person involved, apologized to the couple, and asked them to return. The couple accepted the apology but said they would not come back.

I'm forced to say that the couple in question handled it badly, while the company handled it well. First, the couple should not have backed down and slunk away. They should have immediately demanded to speak to the manager and recorded the conversation on cell phone video. (I realize that not everyone is built for confrontation, but you know what? If we in the LGBT community wait for others to handle the problems for us, the problems will never be solved. So you--yes, YOU--have to handle it. So learn how.)

Second, whether they confronted the homophobic bouncer or not, once the owner contacted them and fell all over himself to apologize and beg them to return, they should have accepted the offer and returned. Otherwise, there's little incentive for the company to continue the good behavior.

Third, the couple should not have allowed the "This is Trump's America" ass to get away with it. A better response would have been either to say snap back, "This is EVERYONE'S America," or to fold a complaint against the Trumpist into a complaint against the bouncer, as in, "And that customer over there told us we don't belong in your establishment. What do you intend to do about it?"

I'm glad that Goodfellas Pizzeria handled it the way they did, and kudos to them! I will eat there, and I will recommend the place to my friends. And I hope that other LGBT people will stand up for themselves, rather than counting on someone else to do it for them.


Still No Kitten!

We still don't have a second cat, if you can believe it.

One person I came across had a cat for adoption.  No, actually her son has it, and he lives in a different town.  Wait--they're going to take her to the vet early next week.  Could we put this off until then?  Wait, I don't have his email address.  Wait--yes, I do.  Can you email him and let him know you're interested?

Another lady had an ad on Craigslist.  Her cat had just had kittens and she was looking for homes.  She wanted proof of home ownership or a letter from the landlord saying you're a good tenant, a letter of recommendation from your vet (no brand new cat owners allowed), a signed statement saying you wouldn't declaw the cat or that you'd return it to her if you decided to, and . . . and . . . and . . .



Writing Without a Deadline

I don't have a contract or deadline right now.  It's a little nerve-wracking, because it means I don't have any for-sure checks coming up.  On the other hand, it means I can write whatever I want.

This is also a little daunting.

It's easy to let myself slide.  "Hey, nothing's due!  I can let it go today."  Well, no.  The new book won't write itself.  It's harder to make myself write when the story bogs down, though, and the project I'm working on--a mainstream novel--is more challenging than anything else I've done, so it bogs down often.

I'm used to writing under deadline, and I'm feeling the lack of not having one.  It's very strange.



A massive windstorm blew through Michigan yesterday.  Winds gusted at 70 mph.  People lost parts of their roofs.  Power lines came down all over the place.  Detroit Energy reports that two-thirds of its customers lost power at some time or another.  A lot of places still don't have power and don't expect it until the weekend.

Traffic lights are out all over town, and people act like they don't know to treat the intersections like four-way stops.  I've seen two accidents--one fender-bender, and one that totalled a truck.  It makes driving in the area tricky and even dangerous.

One of the big pine trees in our front yard went down, too.  We got lucky.  It didn't hit the house, break any other trees, or block the driveway.  If it had to fall, this was the way for it to happen.  I called a tree place, but they're understandably busy and won't be able to deal with it for a day or three.  It's an unnversing sight, the tree lying in the yard with its roots up in the air.

We did lose power, but only for a few minutes, and that while I was at work.  I only know about it because the digital clocks were blinking when I got home.  We got lucky there.  A fair number of my students and fellow teachers don't have it.

On the other hand, our Internet went down.  Strangely, it happened a day after the windstorm ended.  How on earth a windstorm can take out the Internet in hindsight, I have no idea.  It's annoying in the extreme.  My computer won't talk to my mobile hotspot on my phone, so I don't even have that.  I spent too much time trying to restore my access and finally had to give up.

Meanwhile, I was stuck in the house with two teenaged boys who didn't have wifi.  The awful!

With global warming being what it is, it seems like line worker would be one of the most stable careers out there.



Well, the taxes are done.

By "done," I mean we filled out a questionnaire and sent a pile of papers to the accountant.  This grates Darwin-the-self-accountant's teeth, but our taxes are complicated, and just getting everything together for the accountant takes about three hours, let alone actually doing the taxes.  I want someone who knows what she's doing!

It's still strange, though, seeing a man's name next to mine on the tax return.  And I have to say that tax forms are extremely outmoded.  They list TAXPAYER and SPOUSE, because apparently even today, households only have one person with an income who pays taxes.  They really need to say TAXPAYER 1 and TAXPAYER 2 or SPOUSE 1 and SPOUSE 2.

Now we just wait to see what the damage is . . .

Rally of Writers

I'll be speaking--twice!--at the Rally of Writers conference in Lansing, Michigan on April 8, along with a whole mess of other Michigan writers.  This is a really good conference for the price, and it's been going on for 30 years!

If you want to register, check out their web site: http://www.arallyofwriters.com/

Beauty and the Beast--Oh, the Gay!

So the live-action version of Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has a gay character in it, and the right wing is eating apeshit crackers over it.

I'm not happy, either.

Yes, the apeshit crackers crowd are freaked for all the wrong reasons.  One Million Moms--or, more rightly, One Dozen Moms--screeches that it's not appropriate for the CHIL-dren to see such things on screen.  A drive-in theater in Alabama made news because it's refusing to show the movie.  (So a couple dozen bubbas will have to drive one town over to see the movie in an actual theater instead of watching it in the middle of a hayfield.  Oh noes!  The movie is doomed!)  These people haven't complained about the hetero stuff, though--Belle kissing the Beast, Lumiere kissing the dust mop/maid, Gaston's attempts to basically rape Belle.  And wait--isn't Belle basically being forced to fall in love with an animal?  Good heavens!  But let two men hold hands, and these nutbags act like Disney has gone XXX rated.

What's truly stupid is that this isn't the real reason to be ticked.

The gay character in B&B is LeFou, Gaston's little sidekick villain.  Here he is from the original cartoon:

SPOILERS: According to the press releases and news stories, the live version of LeFou has a crush on Gaston and flirts with him once or twice in the movie, but it goes right over Gaston's head.  At the very end of the movie, we get a brief glimpse of LeFou dancing with another man at Belle and the Beast's ball.

That's it.  That's the whole thing.  Less than ten seconds of LGBT content.

The "yay!" people are praising it.  LeFou is Disney's first openly gay character.  (Other characters have been hinted at, but never confirmed.)  What a step forward!  How fantastic!

I give it a thumbs down.

LeFou is a bumbling, sycophantic idiot.  He's clumsy, stupid, easily cowed, and comes on the receiving end of a great deal of the cartoon violence in the movie.  Gaston punches, kicks, slaps, drops, and crushes LeFou, and he begs for more.  LeFou attempts to murder Lumiere during the seige of the Beast's castle.  He's an evil, brutish, buffoonish clown.  His name is French for "fool."

This is what Disney hands us and says, "Hey, LGBT people!  This is how we're going to represent you! Isn't this great?"

Fuck you, Disney.

On top of it, the movie only gives teensy flashes of the character being gay.  A subtle flirt.  A half-second, "blink and you miss it" dance.

Fuck you, Disney.

How about creating some characters of note?  Some good guys we can root for?  Someone who isn't stupid, foolish, idiotic, or clumsy?  A strong person?  A likeable person?  A person kids can look at and say, "I want to be like him"?  I mean, when kids play "Let's Pretend", no one wants to play LeFou.

After hundreds of years of being denigrated and portrayed as the villain, we need good guys.

I can see the reponses already: "LeFou is going to redeem himself.  If he's dancing at Belle and the Beast's ball, it must mean he's changed sides, and he gets a boyfriend in the end, so he's happy.  What's wrong with that?"  Sorry, no.  For hundreds of years, LGBT people have been the villains, the bad guys, the tragic ones.  We still haven't been the protagonists, the strong ones, the powerful ones in these movies.  Not once.  Disney is handing us a rotten little crumb instead of a full meal.

This is why the apeshit crackers people are angry for the wrong reason.  Disney is timidly giving us partial LGBT characters instead of fully-developed, strong, likeable characters we require and deserve.


Aborted Kitten Run

Dinah the Cat needs a friend.  Once Bernard "Mr. Bitey" the Cat was re-homed, she turned into Needy Kitty/Greedy Kitty, a black hole of attention mongering.  You can pet her or take a nap with her on your lap for literal hours, and she still demands attention.  (As an example, Darwin, who has a cold, spend five hours in bed yesterday with her curled up next to him yesterday, and when he got up, she demanded attention from =me.=)

She clearly needs a companion cat, one more like Alec, who she dominated.  They shared sleeping space and groomed each other.  Mr. Bitey Bernard was a thorn in Dinah's side, and she didn't like him much.  Even when they got along, it was on Mr. Bitey's terms, and Dinah became quiet and introverted.  Once Mr. Bitey left, Dinah became loud, introverted, and demanding.  Unreasonably and unhappily so.

But Darwin didn't want another cat.  Alec died.  Bernard almost did.  He didn't want to deal with that.  But I was getting more and more tired of Dinah's unhappiness and her Needy Kitty/Greedy Kitty alter ego.  I embarked on a long campaign to persuade Darwin to get another cat, and finally--FINALLY--he agreed.  Said new cat needs to be a female--no urinary tract problems that plagued Bernard--and a kitten or young cat that Dinah can rule in her benign dicatatorship.

I searched animal shelters in the area.  Except there ARE no animal shelters in our area.  ("Please. Such things are for peasants!  We only allow the finest selection of the best-bred, most delicious small animals in our county.")  The closest one is 35 minutes away.

Friday afternoon, Maksim and I drove way, way down to the shelter in Westland. When we arrived, we learned they had only one cat, and she was HUGE.  Way bigger than Dinah.  She could have crushed Dinah with one saucer-sized paw.

"It's coming up on cat season," the shelter lady said.  "We'll be swimming in them soon."

I'd never seen a shelter that wasn't ALWAYS swimming in cats, but okay.  We left--and drove straight into the worst traffic jam I'd seen in my life.  We learned the highway we were on was totally closed due to an accident.  It took us 45 minutes to get to the next exit, and another 30 minutes to get home.  I was seriously unhappy.  Yeah, someone else was having a way worse day than I, but you know?  I had spent more than two hours in the flippin' car after working all day in an attempt to rescue at cat, only to learn there were no cats to rescue and then be further delayed on the way home.  Just what I wanted!


One Day at a Time

Netflix has remade the 80s sitcome ONE DAY AT A TIME.  The difference?  The working-class single mom now heads up a Cuban family.  Grandma lives with them, and she's played by (surprise!) Rita Moreno.  Schneider isn't so much the building super as a slightly batty trust-fund baby who has nothing better to do than to hang out with the family.

It's a fun show, and I'm enjoying it.  It takes a number of issues facing the Hispanic (Cuban) community head-on: preparing for a quinceneras; families split up by deportation; veterans and the VA; veterans and PTSD; discovering a teen child is gay; figuring out how to balance being Cuban with being American.  Lydia, the grandmother, has a particularly poignant story about her role in the Pedro Pan flights from Cuba in 1962.  Like all families, they fight, make up, worry about money, deal with divorce, and hide and reveal secrets.  The main point?  This Cuban-American family is just like yours.

The show is well worth watching.


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