Demons Were Always At Hand (Ep. 185 - Beetlejuice)

This Week's Guest: Anthony Hudson

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Is it possible to be a responsible adult without giving up the imaginary worlds you enjoyed as a child? My guest this week is Anthony Hudson, also known as Portland's premier drag clown Carla Rossi. Growing up, he'd slip into fantasy worlds to escape the reality of the dreary little town where he lived. But his reliance on escapes as a kid meant that he was unprepared for life as a grown up -- until he figured out how to invite real life into his fantasies.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes The Sewers of Paris possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There's rewards for folks who back the show -- just click "Support the Show on Patreon." Or you can support The Sewers of Paris for free by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice -- that really helps people find the show. Thanks to Trey Johnso8 who writes, "Relatable ... Listening helps me remember how much I love the topics discussed and sometimes gives me ideas for new things to try."

BTW, I hope you'll join us for the next Sewers of Paris livestream. It's this Saturday, August 11th, at 2pm pacific, with special guest Isabella Price -- an expert in horror films. We'll be talking about our favorite queer monsters, gay vampires, and everything spooky. There's a link to the livestream at the top of the Sewers of Paris twitter feed.

And we've just announced two more Queens of Adventure live shows, featuring drag queens playing a fantastically funny Dungeons & Dragons adventure for a live audience. The first is on August 30th at Kremwerk in Seattle, where we'll be part of a double-feature alongside the podcast d20 Dames. The second show is on September 1st at PAX West, also in Seattle. Tickets and details are now available at QueensOfAdventure.com -- where you can also subscribe to the Queens of Adventure podcast, join the discord, and follow the show on Twitter.

This Week's Recommendation: Interview with the Vampire

Thanks again to Anthony for joining me. Ever since I started this podcast, I've noted that queer people have a particular fondness for monsters. Maybe we identify with their feelings of frustration at the world, maybe it's their strength we admire, maybe it's their defiance -- whatever the case, scary creatures seem to hold a special place in many of our hearts.

So for my recommendation this week, take a look at one of my favorite horrifying films about a gay couple just trying to make it in the world: Interview with the Vampire. It's a movie that ages surprisingly well -- unlike the unfortunate followup, Queen of the Damned, about which the less said, the better. 

Tom Cruise doesn't so much play Lestat as inhabit him, evoking a pained cynical effortlessness that simultaneously acknowledges his beauty and also his misery at the price that beauty exacts -- a look that will be familiar to anyone who's caught a glimpse of an Instagay in the wild.

Brad Pitt is the despondent human he seduces and persuades to join him, isolating him from the world except to eat it. When the relationship starts to sour, Lestat does what so many desperate spouses before him have: he obtains a child, played by Kirsten Dunst with so much sinister maturity you forget she was only 11 when the film was made.

Vampire films are among the oldest film genre -- we're nearing the 100 year anniversary of the making of Nosferatu -- and at this point it's nearly impossible to tell a vampire story that hasn't been told before. But Interview is stunningly inventive in multiple ways, my favorite of which is the barely-veiled lust between the male leads.

Whether the characters are staring at each other with passion or contempt, it's always with rolling boil of baroque desire. Overwrought, campy, and ridiculous, every moment they're on screen looks like the cover of a romance novel. And thanks to the unreasonably lavish production, it works. You buy them as a couple. A terrible murderous self-destructive tragic couple, sure -- but then again, they don't call them monsters for nothing.

Stuff We Talked About

A Bondage Analysis of Tolkien (Ep. 184 - Lord of the Rings)

This Week's Guest: Nayland Blake

Where do you see yourself 200 years in the future? My guest this week is artist Nayland Blake, for whom sci-fi and fantasy were an opportunity to create the future that he was sure he'd never have. Growing up in New York in the 1960s and 70s, it seemed like imaginary worlds were his only opportunity to inhabit a world where he could be openly gay. But then he moved to San Francisco, and lo and behold, it appeared that the future had finally arrived.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes The Sewers of Paris possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There's rewards for folks who back the show -- click "Support the Show on Patreon" to join the folks who make the show possible and sign up for backer rewards. Or you can support The Sewers of Paris for free by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice -- that really helps people find the show. 

BTW, I hope you'll join us for the next Sewers of Paris live chat. It's on Saturday August 11th at 2pm Pacific. There's a link at the top of the Sewers of Paris twitter feed.

And if you're looking for more queer podcasts, check out the show I host with some fantastically funny drag queens Queens of Adventure. We play an ongoing and very queer Dungeons & Dragons adventure full of action and suspense and shady banter. We've got some announcements about live shows coming up soon -- subscribe to the podcast and get on the mailing list at QueensOfAdventure.com.

This Week's Recommendation: Rejoined

Thanks again to Nayland for joining me. You can find links to the stuff we talked about and video clips at SewersOfParis.com. For this week's recommendation, let's stay with the sci-fi/fantasy theme and take a look at the show Deep Space Nine -- specifically the episode Rejoined.

I made an entire video about this episode as part of my Culture Cruise series on YouTube -- you can find that at SewersOfParis.com as well. But to sum it up: there was a rise in exploitative lesbian kiss episodes in the mid-90s, with various sitcoms and hourlong dramas throwing women at each other to make out for a few seconds for the sake of ratings. Invariably, the characters involved in the lesbian kiss would "get over" their feelings and move on and never do anything gay again. But at the time, even a few brief moments of queerness felt absolutely glorious.

The episode Rejoined focuses on a character who, for complicated sci-fi reasons, experiences a sort of re-incarnation every time they die. Every time they're brought back to life, they're forbidden from resuming past relationships -- again, for complicated sci-fi reasons. But that requirement is put to the test when the character Dax meets another of her species, a former lover from several lifetimes ago. They thought they were over each other. Turns out, they're not.

The episode does everything it can to be an allegory about the social stigma around homosexuality without ACTUALLY saying anything about homosexuality. The characters are shunned when they resume their relationship, they face death, they are told they'll lose everything if they follow their hearts. But in the context of the episode, those consequences are all tied to their society's rules about interacting with former lovers. Nobody ever mentions the fact that they're two women.

At the time that episode of DS9 aired, there had never been a same-sex relationship on Trek, or a main character who even hinted at being queer. For all we know, those could have been the only two lesbians in the entire universe.

These days of course we've been given a same-sex couple on Star Trek Discovery, which is nice -- but a bit late, considering Star Trek is a franchise founded by a captain whose ship was basically powered by his heterosexual libido. I'm glad that the show's finally admitting that there are queer people in space, and that they're boldly catching up to where everyone has already been.

Stuff We Talked About

Dhalgren
By Samuel R. Delany

Examining Your Desire (Ep. 183 - Ragtime)

Bonus Episode Guest: Zack Ford

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Zack Ford never planned to become the LGBTQ Editor at ThinkProgress.org. He was going to be a music teacher, and writing about current events was just a hobby. But after he came out in college and began living a more authentic life, he realized that he was holding himself to some expectations that he simply didn't want to meet. And that his happiness depended on a radical shift in his assumptions about work, pleasure, social justice, and sex.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes The Sewers of Paris possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There's rewards for folks who back the show -- click "Support the Show on Patreon" to check them out. Or you can support The Sewers of Paris for free by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice -- that really helps people find the show. 

BTW, I hope you'll join us for the next Sewers of Paris live chat. It's on Saturday August 11th at 2pm pacific.

Also! If you're looking for more queer podcasts, check out the show I host with some fantastically funny drag queens Queens of Adventure. We play an ongoing and very queer Dungeons & Dragons adventure full of action and suspense and shady banter. Subscribe and get on the mailing list at QueensOfAdventure.com.

This Week's Recommendation: Urinetown

Thanks again to Zack for joining me. Do check out Ragtime, it's a fantastic and too-often overlooked show. And if you like musicals with something to say, you might also enjoy one of my favorites -- the title is Urinetown, and that does not even begin to prepare you for just how unsettling an experience it can be.

The show is set in a sort of fabled speculative future, where water is so scarce you need to pay in order to use the bathroom. From this bleak dystopia emerges a folk hero named Bobby Strong, whose father was seized by authorities for his refusal to pay for urinating. Bobby, determined to usher in a more just world, falls in love with Hope Cladwell, the daughter of the wealthy madman who controls the town's water.

Together, they believe that there's a better way, a more just system by which all people can live together.

They are wrong, and everything goes very badly.

While the show is a goofy comedy full of in-jokes about overdone musical theater tropes, it's also a very dark comedy about how the best of intentions don't always lead to the best of results. A few weeks ago I recommended Assassins as a musical that leaves you feeling a sort of cold weary dread about humanity. Urinetown is, for its part, often just as alarming... but at least in this show, we're laughing about it. 

Stuff We Talked About