Autodidact: self-taught

Feb
28
2013

Depression, Misogyny and Albus Dumbledore

by V. L. Craven

Depression, Misogyny and Albus Dumbledore

People like being bummed. It’s the only guess I have for why my really depressing posts get the most traffic. That can’t be right, though…

Anyway, I’ve been reading more of the Cerebus series by Dave Sim. I’ve done Church and State I & II , Melmoth , and Flights . I’ve also given myself something of a coronary in reading he’s diatribe about feminism, homosexuality and race tangents

Well, the first two parts of it. I had to take a break there. If you get through all of it, let me know what you think.

I’m enjoying Cerebus on the whole and I agree with Sim on some of his assertions about certain portions of feminism (I just wish he wouldn’t paint all women with the same brush). And I find that RS Stephen sums up how I feel much better than I do in her essay “Masculinity’s Last Hope, or, Creepily Paranoid Misogynist”. This bit in particular: “Despite the fact that you champion reason, your writing lacks the factual and intellectual rigor required by even an undergrad English essay, and your arguments aren’t all that logical.”

Melmoth is in interlude about Oscar Wilde, of all people, and is incredibly well-rendered.

As the storyline of Cerebus goes along it gets more complex and interesting, which is only to be expected, and even knowing that he and I wouldn’t be able to have an intellectual discussion over dinner doesn’t ruin that, though it does alter my reading of the text somewhat. It’s a train wreck situation. Where you wish you didn’t know it existed, but once you do, you just have to look. I simply had to know how he felt about women. So I read Tangents. And it altered the way I read his work.

This brings me to something else that’s in the literary news lately–J.K. Rowling commenting off-handedly that Dumbledore is gay. (If you don’t know who J.K. Rowling or Dumbledore are, please return to your rock for the rest of this post.)

Since she outed him there’s been several sides to the conversation. The two most predictable are: ‘What a big pedo! That’s why he liked Harry so much!’ and ‘She should have said it explicitly, Dumbledore was in the closet!!!’

Depression, Misogyny and Albus Dumbledore
Does knowing he was always gay change the way a person would read the books now? It shouldn’t, as it has no bearing on the majority of the books. But it will to some people. The people who only see the word ‘gay’, no matter if it’s in front of “the gay man who cured cancer”. In The Celluloid Closet Quentin Crisp said, “When you say heterosexual, people focus on the ‘hetero’ but when you say, ‘homosexual’, people focus on the sex.”

I’m a lesbian and a writer and I fully understand why Rowling handled the character as she did. A writer knows all sorts of things about her characters that she doesn’t tell the audience because it’s not pertinent to the story. It wouldn’t have made one bit of difference if Albus (I can call him that because we ride the same bus) had been explicitly gay or not. Who he loved didn’t matter much in terms of the story. And in a kids’ book, what is he supposed to say? If Rowling wanted to be sure everyone knew, at what point was Albus supposed to say he wanted to make the buttsecks with Grindelwald? You don’t address sex in kids’ books in that way. He said he loved Grindelwald. How much more do you want?

At the same time, she handled it beautifully. She said (when the revelation occurred in Carnagie Hall in New York) that if she’d known it would’ve made everyone so happy she would have told them sooner. The way to de-demonize homosexuality is to let people like the gay person first and then say, “Ta-da! I was a big ol’ queer the whole time!” It’s like Suzanne Westenhoefer, a marginally known but always out, lesbian comedienne and Ellen DeGeneres, a closeted until popular comedienne. Now she’s everywhere with her partner and people are cool with it. Sometimes you have to sneak under the radar before you can throw off the invisibility cloak.

[This post is from a previous blog. Original post date: 24 October 2007]

Feb
21
2013

Puccini for Beginners

by V. L. Craven

Puccini for Beginners

I watched Puccini for Beginners at the weekend and it was a fun enough romp. New York was shot beautifully and the actors did a better job than what I was expecting–I don’t have high hopes for most lesbian-themed films, as they usually don’t have great budgets. Gretchen Mol was nice (this is the first thing I’ve seen her in–is it just me or does she look exactly like Kate Hudson?) as were the other two leads, Elizabeth Reaser and Justin Kirk.

The premise is a commitment-phobic lesbian (Reaser) is dumped by her heterosexual girlfriend (a Molly Parker look-a-like named Julianne Nicholson) and falls into bed with a man (Kirk). They have a relationship of sorts and have a rather ridiculous conversation about the differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals philosophies towards relationships. The friends of the lesbian-dating-a-man are two dimensional, but the actresses (Jennifer Dundas and Ute Lemper’s twin Tina Benko) do their best. And I know it seems like I’m saying everyone in this film looks like someone else, but that’s bound to happen, really. There are only so many ‘attractive’ faces in the world and a good number of them are on the screen–some of them are bound to resemble one another.

The thing about the film that’s stuck with me longest was the pronunciation of “Turandot” by Reaser within the first five minutes of the film. She pronounced it: TUR-in-dot. I thought it was a French name and therefore the ‘t’ would be silent. So I looked it up and the final answer is: Yay, I’m right. According to Puccini scholar Patrick Vincent Casali, Puccini never pronounced the ‘t’. Which totally kills the illusion that the character was supposed to be such an opera buff. Oh well. At least I learned something.

[Repost from now-defunct blog. Original post date: August 7, 2007]

Sep
19
2011

“The Fox” by DH Lawrence

by V. L. Craven

This is my first D.H. Lawrence and while it was interesting and quite well written, I wonder about Lawrence’s feelings about women as people. He admitted loving men romantically, if not sexually, but that doesn’t preclude him thinking women were lost without men.

The story is about two women trying to run a small farm in England after the First World War. They obviously love one another dearly. A young soldier shows up and seemingly gleefully tears their world apart. One of the women seems quite glad to no longer have to be with a woman for reasons that come across as being quite misogynistic, though Lawrence could have simply been sticking to the beliefs of the day. The final few pages didn’t seem to hold with the rest of the book, which made me wonder if it ended differently originally but someone made him change the end.

I do want to read more of Lawrence’s work, but would prefer something that didn’t leave me making a baroo face (that’s the face dogs make when they heard something high pitched or curious–that head tilt).

Sep
30
2010

Inseparable by Emma Donoghue

by V. L. Craven

Inseparable by Emma Donoghue

The title pretty much says it all–Inseparable focuses on relationships (both lesbian and platonic) throughout the history of literature. It’s quite good and exhaustive enough to exhaust the reader–a bit too academic for a general audience but a must have for women’s or lesbian studies.

Some quotes:

[0063] INSEPARABLE by Emma Donoghue 4s English|Non-Fiction|Women’s Studies|Lesbian [22.09.10]
-001- It was perceived by the servants of the House that some secret bond of connection existed between Miss Aldclyffe and her companion. But they were woman and woman, not woman and man, the facts were ethereal and refined, and so they could not be worked into a taking story. –from Desperate Remedies by Thomas Hardy (1871)

-002- Often such critics protest that it would be anachronistic for us to find lesbian themes in a text whose writers and first readers would have seen none.  … Why would playwrights construct so many homoerotic scenarios in dramatic form if they had no expectation that their audience would understand them?

-003- Endings are overrated; they are often the point where the writer bows to convention…I know that my liking for a character is shown bymy giving her a lot of page time and vivid scenes, however I may dispose of her by the end.

-004- they are more interested in the charming scenario of a pair of girls whose bond emerges naturally from their similarity and mutual familiarity. The girls are either known as growing up together or as being “kindred spirits” who fall in love at first meeting. Because of their likeness in age and background, they can act as mirrors to each other, although events will often reveal their characters as contrasting.

-005- _inseparable_ was a common term for female pairs by the late sixteenth century

-006- Mistresses of all a universe we shall be; through our alliance I feel we shall become the superiors of Nature herself. Oh, dear Durand, he crimes we are going to commit! The infamies we are going to achieve!  [EPIGRAPH?| — Marquis de Sade _Juliette_

-007- A secret alliance of two beings who understand one another because they’re alike… –Edourad Boudret _La Prisonniere_

-008- It was _to love_ I yearned more than to _be loved_, and I was entirely free from sexual instincts. — Christopher St John, Hungerheart: The Story of a Soul (1896)

-009- You’re neither unnatural, nor abominable, nor mad; you’re as much a part of what people call nature as anyone else, only you’re unexplained as yet–you’ve not got your niche in creation. But some day that will come and meanwhile don’t shrink from yourself, but just face yourself calmly and bravely.

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