Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Mistress of the Dark Shines Her Light

 Great to hear that the Mistress of the Dark, Elvira, has been sharing her life with a ladyfriend for 19 years. But are we really surprised? The camp innuendo, the raised eyebrow and the enormous beehive have always marked her as in on some old, queer joke. And it reinforces the connection between horror and queerness. Fab. 

Elvira, born Cassandra Peterson, has just released her memoirs, marking 40 years inhabiting the persona of the Mistress of the Dark, and I am trying to remember when I first saw her. Possibly mid-80s on some late-night TV show, which would make me a wide-eyed teen, ready to be inculcated into a cult. 

1981 was also the year that the Oak Ridge Boys released their quite popular cover, "Elvira", celebrating: 

Eyes that look like heaven, lips like sherry wine

That girl can sure enough make my little light shine

Coincidence? I think not. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Boisterous Longing

 I blame SOTUS. There I was shielding at home in spring 2020 and innocently clicked on a suggestion from Netflix. A series about Thai engineering students? Sure, why not? And that, my friends, was my introduction to boys love dramas. BL, for those in the know. Yaoi for those up on their Japanese anime. The adventures of young Kongpob and his push me-pull you with his senior Arthit had me gripped. 

Here I am 18 months later on my sixth or perhaps seventh BL drama, all variations on a theme: young, good-looking scholarly guys wearing crisp white or pink shirts looking up from their books or screens to exchange meaningful glances with others of similar demeanour. Will they or won't they?

Arthit and Kongpob

Some of them are quite badly acted or clumsily shot. The sound in 'Cause You're My Boy was an abomination.  But then there is always some kind of drama to hold the interest. I even know several actors' handles: Singto, Krist, Off, Gun... They have quite the giddy following, especially among straight women which is the target market. So, it's sort of gay but not gay. 

Ironically, women don't get much of a look-in and the female roles are pretty identikit: a bratty sister, a well-meaning mother, a vengeful ex. Occasionally, there is a BFF as in Puppy Honey, but, really, it is all about the dudes. Once I understood the set-up, I accepted this fact and got quite immersed. Currently, I am watching a mastercut of all Pete and Kao's scenes from Kiss Me Again, meaning I can skip all the straight storylines. This will set me up to watch the rest of Our Skyy so I can see how all of these dramas play out. Then I shall have to find other diversions. 

But the best bit of watching BL? The YouTube comments, especially on the GMMTV episodes. Oh, my, they are a riot! Viewers from the Philippines to Europe weigh in on their favourite characters and actors and the writing is better than the shows. Pass the pink milk!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Aliens at 35

 This week saw the 35th anniversary of the release of Aliens, the epic sequel to 1979's Alien and a rare example of a sequel that matches or surpasses the original. I actually saw Aliens before I saw the original, as I was too young to watch such a violent film in 1979. 

But Aliens. Wow. Sigourney Weaver in control, jaw clenched, eyes blazing, guns firing. Carrie Henn bringing wide-eyed youth to Newt. Michael Biehn as the honourable grunt. And of course Jenette Goldstein bringing the butch to Vasquez. I loved this film when I saw it as a teenager. 

So quotable, such a game-changer and still quite scary, Aliens remains an epic film synthesising horror, action and sci-fi and entrenching Weaver as the iconic action heroine, Ellen Ripley. 

Monday, June 21, 2021

Lesbian Period Drama

 As it's Pride month (and has been for 21 days. Oops. Been busy, ya know?) and um, not really very much is allowed to happen IRL I thought I would post this Saturday Night Live sketch from a couple of months ago when Carey Mulligan hosted. I thought it was extremely well produced and many commenters on Twitter said, "I want to see this film!". I would see it, if only because there are so few lesbian films out there, but, yes, it does, eh, touch on a lot of tired tropes which have irritated some film watchers.  

I see that Bristol Pride's Queer Vision film festival is hosting a discussion online on 12 July called Not another Lesbian period drama! which will consider on-screen representation. In the meantime enjoy SNL's pisstake with a guest appearance by actual lezzer Kate McKinnon. Happy Pride!

Saturday, May 22, 2021

xx Alix

Farewell then to the Head Lesbian, Alix Dobkin, who died on 19 May after an aneurysm. Our paths crossed a few times in the 1990s and she offered me some typically barbed quotes for my Deneuve article "From Womyn to Grrrls" in 1993, suggesting certain lyrics that might work as I sought to illustrate parallels between womyn's music and Riot Grrrl. I remember one I selected was "go stick it in some mud". 

The best line, though, was one that did not appear. I knew that Tribe 8, then considered a rather raucous dyke band, wanted to play the womyn's music festival circuit. I pondered how they would be perceived and wondered aloud whether the audience might see some "moshing on the green fields of Michigan". Sadly, this line was cut for space in editing, but I was obviously a seer, because later I heard that not only had Alix introduced the band personally when they played, donning a leather jacket for the occasion, but Ms. Dobkin had actually stage-dived during their set!! In vain have I searched for photos of this momentous event, but I like to imagine it. 

Alix gave them her blessing, I am given to understand, after doing some research on their feminist credentials, but also because she had first-hand experience of this younger generation of dyke. I arranged for her to meet with Jill Reiter, Selena Whang and Kathleen Hanna and they conducted a riotous, thoughtful and uproarious conversation over brunch at her apartment in NYC. I was not present but was sent the proceedings by cassette, along with a slightly out of focus Polaroid of the four of them, arms around each other, captured on the roof of the building. It remains a treasured possession, evidence of generations speaking together and learning from each other. The conversation appeared in edited form in Hot Wire in 1994. Rock on, Alix. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Saying Something

Kudos to Dua Lipa for calling for frontline workers to get a pay rise. Even playing to the gallery at a Brits ceremony peopled by key workers it was still an excellent way of using her platform for a good cause.

I had heard of the singer for some year but never really listened to her music until last year when I was working out at a gym (pre-pandemic). Several of her tunes popped up on the sound system and in our ballet fit class the instructor had programmed a very catchy number for when we did sideways steps. I only realised later this was Dua Lipa's "Don't Start Now", and I can't hear the song without flashing back to those steps. Once I was in lockdown I listened to Future Nostalgia and decided it was a retro pop classic. Very deserving then of the Brits statuettes handed out this week for best album and female solo artist. Her medley was brilliantly realised. 

Dua Lipa turns up on Song Exploder, the series on Netflix going behind the scenes of notable recordings. The episode that features her centres on the writing and recording of "Love Again", which I found to be one of the less memorable songs on the album. In discussing the formation of the song Lipa gives nods to the co-writers, producers etc. and then someone she describes as her "vocal producer" who apparently told her to smile while singing certain lines. Vocal producer? Is this a thing? Somehow I can't imagine Aretha Franklin or Frank Sinatra having a vocal producer. But, if it works for Lipa, then good for her. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Cross Over

I was interested to see all the fuss made over Lil Nas X's "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", which I think is a pretty ordinary song with a pretty nifty video. Good for him camping it up and upsetting the right wing. But it did make me flash back to 1989 when Madonna dropped "Like a Prayer" and really set the cat among the pigeons. Both have upset some quarters with their juxtaposition of Christian symbols and sexuality. I just watched both back to back to see how they converse. 

What's interesting to me about "Montero" is that Lil Nas X plays all the parts and that CGI plays such a big role in stitching it all together. It's quite hilariously phallic and masturbatory--the tree, the pole, him caressing all of these CGI bodies. Offended Christians seem to miss the fact that he kills the devil and steals his essence. It's thrilling to see a young black gay man claiming his power in this day and age. 

"Like a Prayer" positions Madonna as white saviour in a black church and apparently fixing race relations by going to a police station and freeing a wrongly accused black man. In between she experiences ecstatic visions and sings and dances with a gospel choir. My favourite part of this song has always been toward the end when the (unnamed) gospel singer cuts in and starts improvising on the chorus. This is often where radio fades out the song, which says a lot. The video is still quite powerful in its use of Christian iconography and the burning crosses will hold their power for as long as we associate them with the KKK, as Madonna well knew. It's fascinating to see all the comments on the video now from people who are only discovering it through "Montero". Culture feeds culture.