This Week's Guest: Evan J. Peterson
What's the difference between confidence and arrogance? My guest this week is Evan J. Peterson, author of the memoir The PrEP Diaries. For years, he trained himself to be aggressive, aloof, above it all, as a way to pre-empt criticism. That meant erecting masks and disguises, from gothic costumes to club-kid confusion. But what was missing behind his ostentatious displays for others was confidence in himself -- something Evan's still reaching for as he journeys through recovery, faiths, and sexual exploration.
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This Week's Recommendation: Velvet Goldmine
My recommendation this week spans three different eras: made in the sexually adventurous late 90s, it's set in a bruised version of the 1980s, with flashbacks to a libidinous 70s. It's the Todd Haynes film Velvet Goldmine, which tells the story of a journalist seeking the truth about a vanished glam rock star.
The references to Citizen Kane are explicit and intentional, and there's a touch of Rashomon, Almost Famous, and Merrily We Roll Along but with an soundtrack that is absolutely thrilling. The reporter, played by a boyish Christian Bale, is on a mission to re-construct the life of a fictional but clearly Bowie-analogous idol played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers. That mission brings him into contact with Ewan McGregor as a sort of 70s Kurt Cobain, Eddie Izzard as a swaggering manager, and a miasma of his own personal nostalgia for long-lost teenage rebellion.
There's also some pretty tasty gay sex.
It's not much of a spoiler to say that the more your learn about your idols, the greater the chance that you'll find they're not who you thought they were. But in his excavation of another man's life, the reporter of Velvet Goldmine finds something else he was looking for -- keys to his own life, and love, and attraction. The Charles Foster Kane of Velvet Goldmine -- or the Moby Dick, if you want to think of him that way -- isn't as important as the meaning he gave his fans.
Velvet Goldmine was initially meant to be much more directly about David Bowie, but Bowie objected and the resulting changes gave the film a freedom to fabricate and collage a story with biographical snippets of Jobriath and Iggy Pop and Jean Genet and Oscar Wilde. But the resulting work is only a distant relative of those creators. As much as the characters of the film find their own meaning outside of the artist, the film finds its own meaning outside of its influences.