Impersonating Dinosaurs (Ep. 115: Jurassic Park, Queer as Folk, and Weekend)

This Week's Guest: Adam Smith

How do you make up for lost time after spending years in the closet? My guest this week is journalist Adam Smith, who avoiding coming out for years because he felt that he needed to maintain a sort of sexual neutrality for the sake of his family. Now that he's finally experiencing the world as an out gay man, there's lots to explore -- which has meant shedding his inhibitions, and occasionally, all of his clothes.

This Week's Recommendation: The Outcast

Thanks again to Adam for joining me. He mentioned Star Trek as being a particularly meaningful laboratory for testing ethical positions, and so for my recommendation this week I'm pleased to have an excuse to recommend the Next Generation season 5 episode "The Outcast," in which the crew encounters a race that has no gender -- or at least, isn't supposed to have a gender. Those that do express an unsanctioned tendency towards male or female traits are subjected to therapy intended to "normalize" them.

Even though The Next Generation never had an explicitly queer character, this episode is as on the nose as the prosthetics on most aliens' faces. Through the metaphor of aliens, it explores the nature of gender, the fear of being subjected to conversion therapy, and issues of consent. There's even a sci-fi metaphor for the closet in the form of a phenomenon known as "null space" where objects can undetectably exist.

Star Trek is at its best when it's a venue for us to explore contemporary ethical questions, which is why the show of the 60s is so different from the show of the 90s. It makes sense, given that the episode aired in 1992, that they would attempt to grapple with sexuality. But the episode is also notable for how timidly it explores the topic. It ends on a fairly neutral opinion of conversion therapy, and of attacks on queer existence. And though the characters are gender-neutral, the casting confines the romances to opposite-sex actors. It's disappointing that to this day, the Star Trek canon remains relatively silent on the topic of sexual orientation, despite its founding captain being a essentially a walking sex gland.

But there's a new series in the franchise set to debut in a few months, this time helmed by an openly gay man. So hopefully now, over fifty years after the series first aired, it'll finally be ready to make up for decades of lost time in its own sort of null space.

Clips of Stuff We Talked About

Music

Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Failed Mystics (Ep. 114: Buffy, X-Men, He-Man, and Lwaxana Troi)

This Week's Guest: Anthony Oliveira

Have you ever been lucky enough to enjoy the sensation of villainy? My guest this week is Anthony Oliveira, who you might also know for his incisive tweeting as Meakoopa. Anthony's always felt a sympathy for monsters and villains -- or at least, the figures assumed to be monsters and villains -- even before he was old enough to realize that he might be considered one himself.
 

This Week's Recommendation: Bowser

Thanks again to Anthony for joining me and for his neverending stream of excellent tweets, which you can find at meakoopa. And that brings me to this week's recommendation -- not a book or movie or song or any kind of text, but a character. Specifically Bowser, the king of the Koopas, and an unlikely gay icon.

Let me explain.

Bowser's been around since 1985, and for those early first few years, he was depicted as your standard pixelated 8-bit monster. But as games moved into 3D and we started seeing him rendered in more detail, Bowser seems to have caught the eye of a certain fandom. He's big and burly, with leather spiked cuffs on his forearm and a perpetually wide stance. So of course, as Bowser entered his thirties, along with his earliest fans, he's become something of a heart throb.

This reached a sort of a peak in 2014, with a commercial where he was depicted in a cute polka-dot jacket with hipster glasses, and then again earlier this year when he was depicted as a responsible dad. 

As a result, it's now easy to find loving fan art, ranging from the chaste to the filthy, lovingly portraying Bowser as a sort of perfect boyfriend. My favorite is when he's styled as a "nerd dad," wearing dorky square glasses and a blazer, a tough-looking hunk with a secretly tender heart. But if you want something more explicit, I'm sure you won't have any trouble finding that, too. 

I'll always love when a character gets queered, but I'm particularly delighted by the queering of Bowser -- not just because big nerd dads are my type, but also because making him a dreamboat is about as queer as it gets. In his original incarnation, he was a literal monster, a mindless avatar for evil and fear. Turning him into various admirable gay tropes, from leather daddy to porn star to cool gay uncle, subverts every rule about what a bad guy's supposed to be -- namely, bad.

And if there's a sexy queer future awaiting the fire-breathing lizard as he matures, well, there's hope for any of us.

Clips of Stuff We Talked About

 

Music

Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

I Was About to Lose my Mind - (Ep. 113 - Dave Holmes)

This Week's Guest: Dave Holmes

My guest this week is Dave Holmes, who you might know from the podcast International Waters, or his articles in Esquire, or his book Party of One. I first saw Dave on MTV, in a proto-reality show competition to become a VJ back in the late 90s. On screen, it was clear that Dave was the most qualified, most knowledgable, and most engaging contestant, with an encyclopedia knowledge of music and an infectious passion for talking about it. But what nobody who was watching could know was that for Dave, entering that competition was an urgent bid to change the course of his life before he went absolutely crazy.

This Week's Recommendation: Mame

Thanks again to Dave for joining me. Check out his podcast International Waters, and his book, Party of One, now out in Paperback. The book's a memoir, structured around 21 songs that were pivotal in his adventuresome life. And as he mentioned, those adventures nearly didn't happen, since he grew up believing that his passion for art and culture and expression was something that had to be put away as an adult.

For my recommendation this week, take a look at the movie Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell, later remade with Lucille Ball. I think the original non-musical version is more fun, but the important thing is the message of both -- that famous line, "life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death."

Mame is a flamboyant New York socialite, the kind of woman who knows where every good party is happening because she's it's not a good party unless she's there. Her nephew Patrick is tragically conventional, and the story unfolds we see Mame's indomitable spirit gradually overtake Patrick's cringing conventionality, singlehandedly stoking the family's optimism and excitement for adventures that might lay ahead.

Like Peter Pan or Puff the Magic Dragon, Mame's a guardian to a world of imagination and curiosity. But unlike them, she doesn't shut the door to that world when you reach a certain age. Life doesn't have to stop being a banquet when you become an adult. And even through growing up does require some measure of responsibility, growing up doesn't have to mean giving up.

Clips of Stuff we Talked About


 

Music

Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/