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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Commentary on Noah Smith's "You and Whose Army?"

This blog post by Noah Smith is a super interesting analysis of our current political situation and the possible paralells with Spain in the 1930s, after the Spanish American War.

I disagree with some of the premise though:

  • I grew up in Arizona, a purple state. Then I lived in Pennsylvania for many years, also a purple state. America is not as clearly divided as your essay suggests.
  • I also disagree that all the guns are owned by conservatives (see Arizona and Pennsylvania experience, noted above).
  • And having spent 12 years in the military and knowing LOTS of liberals in the military, I disagree that the military would side completely with the right.
  • I also disagree that the left would have no super power on its side - the EU is not a single nation, but it has a military and it would most certainly side with the US left.
  • I also question whether all the conservative gun owners could be counted on to rise up and fight. A lot of gun owners talk tough but they would never really stand up, either because they are gutless or even because they are just too decent.

I do not buy the argument that the only way the left can prevail is to "woo" people on the right. The majority of Americans support Democratic positions on issues such as gun control and the social safety net. We have to protect voting rights and make sure that all Americans are truly represented. Then we will have nothing to fear.

I really enjoyed this essay and I will read the suggested book. But I will not despair about the US (yet).

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Brett Kavanaugh - SCOTUS nominee

What a perfect example of a entitled white douchebag. The more I learn about this guy, the more convinced I am that he shouldn't even be considered for the SCOTUS. 

  • The complaints brought by Dr Ford and others is just the icing on a pretty vile cake. Even if Ford and other accusers have mistaken Kavanaugh for someone else, the fact that so many people have come forward with stories about him demonstrates that he is not who he says he is. Why does he insist on presenting himself as a "saint" when it is very clear that he was not. Why not just admit that he was a dog?
  • He was a Republican political operative who was extrememly involved in the impeachment of Bill Clinton. This seems like it should be automatically disqualifying. I don't think anyone who has served a political party should be considered for the High Court.
  • There is quite a bit of evidence that he has committed perjury during all his confirmation hearings - for all judicial appointments that he has received as well as the current one.

I don't understand why the Repugs don't cut their losses on this tool and just get another hardliner for the Court. It's not like they don't have a BUNCH of them lined up.

I heard a Republican talking head on the news a couple days ago complaining that the Dems are always trying to torpedo Republicans with this same sexual misconduct charge. And I thought, "well, so many of your guys are predators!" Dems have their own, of course, but the Republicans seem to have a pretty noticable blind spot when it comes to sexual predators and gender violence (e.g., domestic violence). They preach a good game about moral standards, but they are awfully comfortable with a particular kind of misogynist. Just sayin.


Friday, August 17, 2018

Succession and Yellowstone

Both great shows: great acting, great writing, great directing. And so much overlap. I suppose any drama examining rich dysfunctional families will have some similarities, but these are really noticiable. Cold, driven dad who borders on abusive. Mom out of the picture. 4 kids - 3 boys and one girl. The girl is the smartest and sort of the father's favorite. The girls both have strawberry blonde hair! Except for the hair, maybe some of this is just a result of screenwriting conventions, but watching them at the same time makes the similarities stand out.


Thursday, August 09, 2018


I'm not sure I can say that I enjoyed this book, but it really got under my skin. I found some discussion questions online from the publisher, some of which I expanded on (indicated by **). I added a bunch of my own as well (indicated by *).


**1. What do you think about Janey's claim that there are no Wastelands? What evidence is there to support this? Is there evidence that the Wastelands exist? How do you interpret Vanessa’s view of the Wastelands (mainland) as she approaches them at the end of the book?

*2. How have their upbringings and their relationships to their fathers’ upbringing affected Janey, Caitlin, Mary, Vanessa, and Amanda?

**3. At Mrs. Balthazar's party, Denise asks Amanda, "What happens to the sons, when the fathers leave?" What does this statement signify? Does it change your view of the Island? What do you think happened to the young men who disappeared? Did they commit suicide?

**4. How culpable are the men for abusing their daughters, when their culture and religion expects it of them? How does this level of responsibility compare to someone who abuses a child in our society? What do you think of Janey’s father’s perspective on his “obligation” to his daughters? What about Vanessa’s father’s approach to this issue?

5. How culpable are the women for allowing their husbands to abuse their daughters, when their culture and religion expects it of them? How can we make sense of their willingness to participate in this? Can you think of examples in other cultures where women allow daughters to be abused, such as Chinese footbinding or African female genital mutilation? How do we account for this?

6. What do you think of the daughters’ acquiescence to the Island’s culture of incest? Do you think it is realistic? Can you think of examples, like religious cults, where this sort of thing happens in real life? Do more girls (in real life) rebel against it?

7. What do you think of the Island’s method of dealing with people as they age? Why do you think the Wanderers chose to eliminate people so (relatively) early in their lives (once they could no longer reproduce)? What did you think about Vanessa’s reaction to Mrs Adam’s tale of her grandmother?

8. Why do you think Janey was the only one to rebel? What did you think about the other daughters’ initial reaction to Janey’s “sermon” – just thinking about alternate islands with year around summer or better food, but not thinking about a different social order or escape from submission to their fathers? Do you think that is realistic? What do you think the author was trying to say by having Janey’s “sermon” play out like this?

9. What did you think of the way that girls are initiated into “fruition” (with a multiple week orgy)? What did you think of the Island’s way of letting young people run wild all summer? What did you think were the functions of those traditions? Can you think of any examples in real life that compare, such as the Amish Rumspringa?

*10. Are there any elements of life on the Island that you could see existing in real life, now or in the future? If so, which ones?

11. What do you think about Vanessa’s access to books? What do you think the author is saying about books and reading? Do you think Vanessa would have been as naturally curious and questioning without having spent time reading?

12. What do you think of Vanessa’s father’s reaction when he realizes that other Wanderers have murdered Island residents? What do you think of Vanessa’s reaction to his reaction?

13. What did you think of the sickness that came to the Island? What do you think happened? Do you think this is realistic? What did you think of the Islanders response to the illness? What did you think of the Wanderers response to the aftermath of the illness?

14. Where do you think Vanessa’s father got the medicine he forced Vanessa to take? Why did Vanessa resist taking it? What do you think the Wanderers should have done about the illness and about the medicine?

15. What did you think of Janey’s death? What do you think was her cause of death? Do you think her death was inevitable? What do you think the author was trying to say about her character? Was her character a savior? Christ-like?

16. What did you think of Caitlyn's suicide? Do you think her death was inevitable? Did you think it was noble or hopeless or cowardly?

17. What did you think about the Wanderers recruitment campaign? How do you think they were finding participants from the mainland? What do you think of the observation “Maybe there are no more men like the Wanderers”? What do you imagine the original Wanderers were like?

18. What did you think of the Island economy (subsistence farming and bartering)? What do you think the Wanderers used for money when they went to the mainland to get glass for windows and other things?

*19. In many works of fiction, we see utopias quickly descending into dystopias. Do you think the Island was originally a utopia, or was it always a dystopia for its inhabitants? How and why do utopias often turn into dystopias?

*19. Which character did you feel the strongest connection to? Did this change over the course of the novel?

*20. Which scenes or developments in the novel affected you the most?

*21. What did you make of the novel’s end? Did you want more closure? 

22. How do you think Vanessa and her family fare on the mainland? Do you think they are able to adapt?

*23. Where do you see the characters in ten years? Do you think the Island continues to exist or is it discovered and disbanded? 

24. Would you like the author to write a sequel? If so, what would you like to see happen in it?

25. Is your reaction to the novel altered at all by hearing that the author is (in real life) a nurse who has worked with children who are victims of abuse and trauma?

* Questions from the publisher, Little, Brown and Company

** Questions from the publisher, supplemented by questions from Danielle

All other questions (those unmarked) are created by Danielle


Monday, May 21, 2018

Essay for Laura's Pride Guide, 2016 (their 25th anniversary):

Television Then and Now

Who remembers what they were doing 25 years ago? For some of you reading this, you were toddling around in diapers. But for many, like me, we vividly recall those halcyon days, when we were spreading our wings in a blustery world, testing them to see if they could hold our weight.

Television was a wasteland in 1991, if you were looking for gay role models. Soap, with Billy Crystal’s Jodie, had ended a decade earlier. Ellen was 3 years down the road, and Will and Grace was still 7 years away.

What we had was Roseanne. In 1991, Sandra Bernhard joined the cast as one of the first openly lesbian characters to have a recurring role on a network television sitcom. The show’s popularity did not suffer from the introduction of Nancy Bartlett, and the acceptance of her character emboldened Roseanne. The show remained among the top 5 shows in the nation, according to the Nielsen ratings, through the middle of the decade, giving Roseanne the ability to include more gay themes and events in her show. The famous kiss with Mariel Hemingway didn’t happen until 1994, but it was followed closely by Martin Mull’s wedding to Fred Willis the following year.  The network had balked at the kiss, but Roseanne threatened to move to another network when NBC said they wouldn’t air the episode.  

The presence of Sandra Bernhard’s Nancy and Martin Mull’s Leon were a refreshing change from gay, lesbian, and transgender characters, who more generally appeared on television as prostitutes, murder victims, or murderers, or, as the 1980s wound down, as noble/tragic victims of AIDS. (It would be another couple of decades before the existence of bisexual people was acknowledged in any way on TV shows.)

The Golden Girls, a perennial ratings winner, ended in 1992. It occasionally featured a gay character, including Blanche’s brother, Clayton, portrayed by Monte Markham, who eventually got married in an episode airing in 1991. The show was generally gay friendly, probably because openly gay Marc Cherry, who went on to create Desperate Housewives, was a producer and writer of the show.

Similarly, Designing Women, another popular sitcom which hit its ratings peak in 1991, featured a gay character, Anthony Bouvier, portrayed by Menasch Taylor. Antony’s character occasionally wore women’s clothing, through various tortured plot twists, but otherwise his orientation was only expressed through the character’s stereotypical portrayal, rather than having a romantic or sexual life of his own. Tangentially, the show won a GLAAD Media Award in 1991 for the episode “Suzanne Goes Looking for a Friend,” in which Suzanne discovers that her former pageant friend, Eugenia, portrayed by Karen Kopins, is a lesbian.

Drama series did not do as well as Roseanne, in terms of presenting fully formed gay characters. The popular baby boomer drama, thirtysomething, which had featured an HIV positive character, ended in 1991, as did the night time soap opera Dallas. (Dallas didn’t have any gay characters, I just included it so you’d realize it’s been gone for 25 years.)

Melrose Place, created by Darren Starr (who later would develop Sex and the City from Candace Bushnell’s popular NY Observer columns), included a gay character, Matt Fielding, portrayed by Doug Savant, and began in 1992. Critics continually complained about the lack of romantic, and especially sexual, life of Matt, in a show that emphasized both for its straight characters. The show admitted that it wanted to avoid backlash from conservative activist groups who notoriously organized product boycotts whenever a TV show challenged their moral standards.

LA Law had a lesbian lawyer (C.J. Lamb, portrayed by Amanda Donohoe) on staff in the middle of the show’s 8 season run (which happened to straddle 1991), but she disappeared after a lesbian kiss generally acknowledged as a publicity stunt during ratings sweeps week. Sadly, the show initiated somewhat of a trend of featuring a kiss between a straight woman and a lesbian character, done for publicity value only.

Fast forward 25 years. We no longer have to scour the TV schedule for the occasional gay character or gay issue reference. Now we regularly have entire programs devoted to us (HBO’s Looking just finished a successful 2 season run, a 2-hour series finale will be aired in July). Indeed, we have an entire network (Here).

Perhaps even more impressive is that popular programs directed at every conceivable audience now include fully developed LGBTQ characters without fear of backlash. 

Programs on network television (Modern Family on ABC), on cable (American Horror Story on FX), and on alternate services like Netflix (Orange is the New Black) and Amazon (Transparent) feature LGBTQ characters and address LGBTQ concerns unabashedly, comprehensively, and with compassion.

Shows aimed at youth audiences, such as Glee (which just completed 6 seasons on Fox), The Fosters (whose 4th season on ABC Family starts this month), and Faking It (which just finished 3 successful seasons on MTV) increasingly have honest, positive, and complex presentations of LGBTQ lives.

Even historical dramas manage to showcase LGBTQ concerns, such as Downton Abbey showing a gay man in the early 20th century attempting a damaging “cure” for his homosexuality. The massively popular Game of Thrones includes LGBTQ characters among its cast of thousands, without concern about the sensitivities of its straight viewers.

Perhaps most encouraging, and, most surprising, is the runaway hit, Empire, a drama on Fox about a family-run music business, based loosely on King Lear, and, as producer Lee Daniels admits, borrowing from the 1980s primetime soap, Dynasty. The show features a Who’s Who of today’s African American acting royalty, including Oscar nominated Terrance Howard as the patriarch, Lucious, and the indelible (and Oscar and Emmy nominated) Taraji P. Nelson as the matriarch, Cookie, along with a string of famous guest stars. The African American community has been much slower to accept their LGBTQ brethren, so having one of the three sons on the show be openly gay was a bold, unexpected, and welcome situation. The show begins its 3rd season this fall.

Comparing the scant offering of the bygone era of the 1990s with the cornucopia of characters in today’s entertainment landscape almost boggles the mind. Feminists like to say “we haven’t come a long way and we’re not babies” in response to the famous Virginia Slims cigarette advertising campaign. But looking back at the progress that has occurred in our societal acceptance of LBGTQ people as measured by their portrayal in in popular television culture, I can’t help feeling that we were only half right.

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Essay for Laura's Pride Guide, 2017 (she asked me to write about Will and Grace):

It’s been 11 years since the ground-breaking comedy, Will & Grace, went off the air, and much has changed in the intervening years, and much has stayed the same. Many of us soared on the audacity of an African American president, on the Supreme Court decision requiring all states to recognize same sex marriage, and on the new visibility and acceptance of transgendered Americans. Last year, many of us reached new heights regarding the possibility of the first female president. And then we crashed to earth with the election of a retrograde candidate who had risen to prominence by embracing some of the most backward and uninformed ideas still simmering in the American culture wars.

If there is good news after this apocalypse, it is the vigorous resistance that has emerged from the ashes of November’s election, ready and willing to fight to hold on the progress that has been made.

The reemergence of Will & Grace is inextricably tied to the 2016 election. In September 2016, in complete secrecy, the cast got together with some of the crew to film a 10-minute mini-episode to encourage voting (preferably for Clinton). In the episode, Jack admits that he does not know who to vote for in the upcoming presidential election, so Hillary supporters Will and Grace and Trump-supporting Karen make their (very funny) respective cases. The video was a smash hit, receiving 7 million views online.

After this somewhat unexpected success, the show’s creators were open to the suggestion that they consider a reboot of the show, which is currently filming. The show will follow NBC’s runaway hit, This Is Us, which is moving to Thursday night - NBC hopes to resurrect the “Must See TV” buzz that Thursday nights held for many years through the 1980s and 1990s.

The reboot originally called for 10 episodes, but after the positive reception that the announcement received, an hour-long holiday episode was added. You can watch the very “meta” promo for the show on YouTube or NBC.com

The show’s cultural impact is undisputed. When it launched in 1998, it was the first primetime show to feature an openly gay male character in a lead role. The consistent humor and (you could argue, cliche) odd couple pairing introduced millions of Americans to a warm gay-straight friendship. Many more shows today feature lesbian, gay, and (finally) even bisexual and transgender characters.

During its 8 season run, Will & Grace garnered 83 Emmy nominations and won 16. The show was often in the top 10 in the Nielsen ratings (including the 1 hour series finale in 2006) and at its peak had over 17 million weekly viewers.

In 2012, then-Vice President Joe Biden went on Meet the Press to discuss a North Carolina ballot initiative to approve a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (it won, but the 2015 Supreme Court ruling makes it void). During that interview with David Gregory, he said, "I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done."

Since the show ended, the actors have been busy with their individual projects, and all have taken public stands on various progressive issues.

Sean Hayes did not officially come out until after the show ended and he was criticized for that. He addressed the controversy in a 2010 interview in the Advocate:

“I was so young . . . I was so overwhelmed at 26 or 27. I didn’t want the responsibility, I didn’t know how to handle the responsibility of speaking for the gay community. I always felt like I owed them a huge apology for coming out too late. . . I feel like I’ve contributed monumentally to the success of the gay movement in America, and if anyone wants to argue that, I’m open to it.” In 2014, Hayes announced that he had married his partner of 8 years, Scott Icenogle.

Shortly before Will & Grace ended, Hayes created the production company, Hazy Mills Productions, which has done quite well, with TV hits such as Hot in Cleveland and Grimm. Hayes has also appeared in movies and voiced animated characters. He appeared in several Broadways shows, and was nominated for a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for Promises, Promises.

Eric McCormack also started a production company, called Big Cattle Productions. He has worked on TV, in movies, and on Broadway in the intervening years. He has always supported a number of charitable causes, including Project Angel Food, breast cancer awareness (his mother successfully battled the disease in 2004), and serves on the Board of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. He advocated for same sex marriage in California when Prop 8 was on the ballot. He was born in Canada, but has held dual citizenship since 1999.

In general, the ladies are more politically outspoken than the men.

Debra Messing has been busy since Will & Grace ended, mostly doing television work, most recently in the critically acclaimed series, The Mysteries of Laura (2014-2016). She has also appeared in films, and voiced several animated characters. In 2014, she appeared in the Broadway play Outside Mullingar, which was nominated for a Tony. This year, she appeared as Marjorie Houseman in the ABC remake of Dirty Dancing on television (broadcast on May 24, 2017).

Messing became somewhat of a darling of the Resist set after a rousing acceptance speech for the Excellence in Media Award at the 28th Annual GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) award show in May, in which she scolded Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump for enabling the president, and encouraged everyone to keep fighting.

Megan Mullaly and her husband, Nick Offerman, has always been proud Democrats.

Last December, on The Late Show, she told Stephen Colbert that she ugly cried (“wrenching sobs” is how she put it) after meeting President Obama at the White House Christmas Party, one of his last official WH events.

Colbert then showed her a photo of her and Donald Trump dressed up like the main characters in Green Acres. Mullaly explained that she and Trump has been on “Emmy Idol” during the 2005 Emmy awards show. They had performed the Green Acres theme song while the opening sequence of the original show played in the background (she sang in character, as Karen from Will & Grace). They won the contest. The next day he called her to thank her for her role in the win. She says if he felt that fiercely about winning Emmy Idol, she could only imagine how he felt about running for President. (She also pantomimed vomiting several times during the Colbert segment while discussing Trump. You can watch the full interview on YouTube or CBS.com. You can also watch the Emmy Idol segment on YouTube.)

Mullaly has appeared in TV shows (frequently as a guest star), movies, and on stage, and even had her own (short-lived) talk show. She recorded and performed for several years in the band, Supreme Music Program, and in 2012, formed the band Nancy and Beth with Stephanie Hunt - they have been touring recently to promote their self-titled album.

When asked in another interview if the Trump presidency will figure into the Will & Grace reboot, Mullaly says the show will first and foremost focus on being funny, but of course the current political situation will be included.

For those who loved the show in its original incarnation, or who want to support powerful committed performers, or just enjoy great comedy, be sure to set your DVRs for Thursday nights on NBC when the fall TV season rolls around.

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My latest essay for Laura's Pride Guide:


To begin, since I have a captive audience, I must discuss the most high profile LGBTQ film of the past year, Call Me by Your Name. This was the second year in a row where an unapologetic depiction of gay desire was feted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: in 2016, Moonlight won Best Picture, and many other awards as well. CMBYN was the winner of the Best Adapted Screenplay (by James Ivory, from the novel of the same name by Andre Aciman) and nominated for three additional Oscars (Best Picture, Lead Actor, and Original Song). The film was also the recipient of many other nominations and awards, including winning a BAFTA (often called the British Oscars) for Best Screenplay, and Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for its stars, Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer. The film was also honored by the Independent Spirit Awards, as well as receiving a GLAAD media award, and awards from GALECA (the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association).

Despite all these accolades (and perhaps partly because of them), I was sorely disappointed in this film. Don’t get me wrong, I like a gay coming of age romance as much as the next pansexual woman, probably more so. I know I am at risk of angering many (maybe most of) my readers, but here it is: I’ll admit that I thought CMBYN was long (over 2 hrs), slow, and not very romantic. (And I don't think a director should get any credit for making Italy look beautiful!)

Although the casting was much admired, in the book, Armie Hammer's character, Oliver, is 24, but Armie Hammer is 31, and he looks it, and those extra years make the relationship somewhat less appealing, IMHO. In this era, we are much more aware of the exploitative implications of romance when there is a large age difference between the people involved. I was not the only viewer who was uncomfortable with this aspect of the film.

I was also not the only viewer who found Elio (played poignantly by Timothee Chalamet) unapologetically privileged and rather spoiled (he spends most of his screen time pouting and glowering at everyone); as an audience member, I wasn't very invested in his getting his supposed heart's desire. In addition, (SPOILER ALERT) he’s having sex with a local girl who he dumps quite unceremoniously once his prospects with Oliver improve. Even worse, she forgives him completely, because, well, he did it for True Love (the female characters in general are underdeveloped and serve mostly as props). As a fan of the romance genre, I can say that I have seen many films that I think portray that first love experience much more authentically and in a more compelling way for the audience. From its rapturous reception, I expected something much more lovely and moving. If this is your genre of choice, I would recommend you watch the 1996 British film, Beautiful Thing, or another recent movie: Love, Simon (based on the popular YA novel, Simon vs the Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli).

Love, Simon is also a flawed story, IMO, but it’s also the first film featuring a gay teen lead character ever released by a major studio (20th Century Fox). Simon is a high school senior, and gay, but afraid to come out (despite being surrounded by the most supportive and loving friends and family ever assembled in movieland). Simon is ably portrayed by heartthrob Nick Robinson (who also appeared in the interracial teen romance released last year, Everything, Everything, co-starring rising star Amandla Stenberg, and also based on a beloved YA novel). The theater where I saw Love, Simon was filled with teenage girls who were audibly delighted by the movie’s long-awaited (and fairly chaste) kiss at the end. The film is effective romance and a rather charming coming out story. The filmmakers were motivated to portray those experiences in an admittedly idealized way because, as we all know, representation matters.

Which brings me to the point of my essay, and why I titled it as I did.

My teenage daughter is a major fan of the DC universe (also called the Arrowverse) as portrayed on the CW television network in such programs as Arrow, Supergirl, and The Flash. The other day she was watching another favorite CW show, The 100. (I would watch more of these shows if I had the time, but I dip a toe in from time to time, just to keep track of what she’s being exposed to.) The 100 is really dark and gritty and sci fi, so I said, “If you like this show, you should watch the Battlestar Galactica reboot” (currently available to watch on Hulu, but not Netflix). And she said, “Does it have any gay characters?”

This got me thinking. She genuinely expects her entertainment to include LGBTQ characters. And not just token characters, she expects couples - fully formed LGBTQ characters with relationships portrayed with depth. She expects it. And if you look at the shows aimed at teens, they have them.

While I was turning my attention to teen offerings, I noticed something else. The teen entertainment landscape is littered with what I think of as “remakes,” but they are really reimaginings of characters and worlds from previous eras, sometimes going pretty far back, but giving these reboots moderns twists and sensibilities. And LGBTQ inclusion is part and parcel of those sensibilities.

When I was young, there wasn’t anything that represented the idealized and asexual teen experience more than the Archie comics and animated TV show. Even those born much later than I will hum (or sing) along with Sugar, Sugar, the smash hit song (in both the US and the UK) produced for the TV show in 1969 (and often pointed to as the epitome of the Bugglegum Pop phenomenon). The song has been utilized relentlessly since, in commercials, TV shows, and movies, as both a punchline and background music (see, for example, The Bee Movie and Orphan Black).

The Archie universe has been recently reimagined as a TV show constructed around a murder mystery (!) and other dark doings in the fictional town of Riverdale, starring none other than Disney channel perennial, Dylan Sprouse, as Jughead Jones. Archie (KJ Apa), Veronica (Camila Mendes), and Betty (Lili Reinhart) are present as well. Riverdale, as with most current teen entertainment, features a deliberately mixed race cast, and, as has also become standard, prominent LGBTQ storylines. The new show is also far from the chaste presentation of teen life highlighted in its 1960s counterpart, with frank portrayals of all types of sexuality.

Is it fair to call the latest incarnation of the long-running Canadian series DeGrassi a reboot? It’s been in production almost continuously since 1979 (except for a break in the 1990s), dealing with teen issues from abortion to online bullying. Its early incarnation was broadcast on PBS and the longest-running, Degrassi: The Next Generation, aired for 10 years on TeenNick. In 2016, it was reimagined, recast, and renamed for Netflix, as DeGrassi: Next Class. Perhaps because it came from Canada, all the versions of Degrassi have included lesbian and gay characters and storylines, and in recent seasons have also featured trans and genderfluid characters as well.

Though it landed with a thud, it’s still notable that the Paramount network attempted a recent reboot of the 1988 teen “black comedy” (referring to the style of humor, not a reference to race) Heathers. The original film was radical at the time, presenting a darkly skewed vision of teenagers, which pulled back the curtain on high school life thus far portrayed in teen films, and conveyed teens’ darker desires, including revenge on the popular (read: tyrannical) clique. It also introduced to the American lexicon such useful phrases as “What’s your damage?” and “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.” A musical version of Heathers ran briefly Off Broadway in 2014. (Meanwhile, Heathers’ darling Veronica, Winona Ryder, is appearing in this generation’s off beat obsession, Stranger Things. But I digress.) The new version of Heathers, which is no longer available to view online (or anywhere as far as I can tell) still tried to say something radical about teen life: the 3 Heathers in this version are a gay guy, a genderfluid woman, and a black girl. They terrorized the students and teachers in their school with their unapologetic lifestyles and their witty one liners. Teens stayed away from this show in droves and much ink was spilled by critics pointing out how very, very much the writers had missed the point.

However, my point is that entertainment has come so far in a relatively short time that a show in which the heretofore bullied are portrayed as the bullies was created, cast, produced, and broadcast. No, that’s not my point at all. My point, and I do have one, is that my daughter’s generation expects to see characters of all races, all genders, and all sexual proclivities portrayed in their entertainment, and that gives me hope for the future.

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

We need to stop hating Trump

More and more, I agree with what, for example, Matt Taibbi, is saying - I think we are missing the opportunity to craft a positive vision rather than just being appalled all the time. That's so easy, to just push the outrage button. I have tons of friends who are just rabid about Trump, but how does that help? On the other hand, I'm less and less convinced that the really red state voters would vote for Democrats if we would just "listen" to their concerns. Hillary spoke to many issues that affected them, including the opioid crisis, which Donald Trump's policies is making worse. Many of those voters are not ever ever EVER going to vote for a Democrat. And they fricking love "the way Trump talks," which they pretend has to do with his being off the cuff and "real," but has a LOT more to do with his being racist as fuck. They are not ever ever EVER going to vote for a candidate they think cares about black and brown people. Dems and progressives need to inspire our natural constituencies to come out and vote. That's why Roy Moore lost. Not because Dems successfully appealed to "white working class" voters.

Here's excerpts from Matt:

. . . Despising Trump and his followers is easy. What's hard is imagining how we put Humpty Dumpty together again. This country is broken. It is devastated by hate and distrust. What is needed is a massive effort at national reconciliation. It will have to be inspired, delicate and ingenious to work. Someone needs to come up with a positive vision for the entire country, one that is more about love and community than blame.

. . . Division isn't an accident. It's not even just a by-product of a commercial scheme, though the pioneering work of Roger Ailes and Fox News played a crucial role in our current mess, by showing media companies they could make easy money through the politics of bifurcation and demonization.

Division does make money, but beyond that, it's highly political. It's an ancient technique of elites, dividing populations into frightened and furious camps so as to more easily control them. When people are scared enough and full enough of hate, they will surrender their rights more quickly.

It's not an accident that as the right-left divide has grown in this country, we've gradually given up on almost every principle that used to define us, collectively, as Americans. We surrendered our rights to privacy, failed to protest vast expansions of federal power (including to classify the inner workings of our own government – our government), stopped requiring due process to jail people and closed our eyes to torture and assassination and all sorts of other atrocities.

. . .If we were serious thinkers, and not obvious or malleable ones, we'd have spent this last year coming up with ways to improve this country, or make it more just, or more beautiful, or less violent, instead of obsessing constantly about Trump.

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Republican authoritarianism

Still, as the conservative movement has completed its conquest of the Republican Party, it has never resolved the dilemma that haunted it from the beginning. Conservative opposition to policies like business regulation, social insurance, and progressive taxation has never taken hold among anything resembling a majority of the public. The party has grown increasingly reliant upon white identity politics to supply its votes, which has left an indelible imprint on not only the Republican Party’s function but also its form.

. . . 

Here is a sitting governor in the United States, not some post-Soviet kleptocrat, actually calling for “authoritarian power.” To be sure, LePage lies along the edge of his party rather than at its center. But the nature of party coalitions is that they cluster around common principles, and the mainstream of Republican thought is closer to LePage than anybody could have imagined possible a few decades ago. In a September National Review cover story, co-authors Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru, two of the right’s most erudite intellectuals, acknowledged that Trump has made some questionable statements that “certainly do not sound like the views of a person with a deep esteem for the constitutionally limited role of the president or for the delicate balance of our system of government.” But, they quickly insisted, Hillary Clinton’s support for executive actions, laws that create more bureaucracy, and liberal judges poses “a more concrete and specific threat than Trump.” Indeed, “mainstream liberalism now subverts and threatens our democracy,” and so they concluded that the safer choice, from the standpoint of the republic’s stability, would be to hand control of the Executive branch to Trump. This is how a party consensus forms. The more strident wing openly endorses authoritarianism, and the “moderate” wing refrains while agreeing that authoritarianism is still preferable to liberalism.


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Friday, November 24, 2017

What has happened to you America?

Every time Trump says some moronic thing and people who actually know something about the economy or the government or international relations say it doesn't work like that. And his supporters say, we love him, he speaks for us. But what he says is stupid. And then his supporters cry and say "Don't call us stupid!" and I just think then stop applauding that stupidity. They aren't alternative facts. Most "illegal" immigrants are not actually Mexican rapists and it never actually trickles-down Insisting that it's not an apple doesn't make you misunderstood it makes you misinformed.