Every Single Word – Visual Culture speaks.

It’s been a while since I wrote here.  It’s been a little busy lately with changing jobs, life, and other things.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m not paying attention to what’s going on in the world.  Last night, as I was driving home from school, I was listening to the radio and heard an interview with Dylan Marron, an actor and writer.  He has a blog called Every Single Word.  This blog examines the role of people of colour in motion pictures, but from a different perspective than usual.

Inspired by his experiences as an actor (both as a child and adult), Marron has examined how many vocal roles people of colour have in major motion pictures.  He has done this by watching the movies, reviewing the credits and cast lists, and then producing new edits of them to only include the segments that include the vocal segments of people of colour.  The results are startling.  For example, take his edit of the entire Lord of the Rings series.  That series runs how many hours?  Each film is about 3 hours long.  His edit?  46 seconds.  Oh, and that includes his credits and tops and tails.  The entire Harry Potter series.  5 Minutes and 40 seconds out of 1,207 minutes.  That’s 0.47% of time devoted to people of colour.

Equally alarming is what else these edits reveal.  In most cases these roles for people of colour are monsters, crazies, animated/CGI characters, bit parts, incidentals, or minor roles.  Watch some of the edits on his blog here.  You’ll find it quite amazing and more than a little thought-provoking.  It’s also bang up to date as well as he even examines recent movies such as “Into the Woods”  That one runs for 7 seconds.  Make sure you watch that one below!  On the interview I listened to he talks about how many of these movies can’t even hide behind historical accuracy either as they deal in fantasy and magic, as with the examples I have pulled out here.  Race and colour should exist in fantasy and magic, right?

So why am I talking about this in a blog that talks about LGBTQ issues in Visual Culture?  Because the same issues occur there.  I hadn’t really thought about it before but with the arrival of films like Stonewall we are already seeing issues of colour washing and history re-writing taking place.  Dylan mentions this too and it’s an alarming issue.  I’d be fascinated to see something similar done with LGBTQ actors and the roles that they get, especially in relations to perceptions of speaking voices.

Thanks, Dylan.  Amazing work.

Big love,

DavidM

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“Boys Beware”: How to spot a homo – Visual Propaganda in the 1960s

The other day I saw a video called “Boys Beware” in a class.  No, this isn’t some film warning the happy homo about the perils of too much lip gloss, or alerting you to the dangers of one too many nights down the disco, but a rather nasty movie from 1961 about male homosexuals and how evil they are.  I post about it here because it’s an interesting visual piece that still seems uncomfortably topical as well.  Its an interesting foray into the sorts of propaganda movies that were being peddled by governments of the time about all sorts of “social evils”, but it’s of particular relevance to this blog with its bent towards LGBTQ issues.  Also, with all the rhetoric about homosexuality in the news it does seems that these kind of things are always relevant.  Here’s the movie.  Grab a glass of wine and prepared to be horrified.

So what are some of the issues then with a movie like this?  Well, there are clearly many and probably too many to list here but how about we start with the whole issue of presenting homosexuality as some sort of sickness and the fact that the movie states this in a pejorative way.  Ralph, our first offender, suffers from this sickness, we are told.  Yes, I’m aware that homosexuality was declassified (if that’s an appropriate term) as a mental illness in around 1973, but this movie puts it across in a such a specific and dangerous way here.  If you have watched the  film you’ll remember Ralph and know what I mean.  He’s portrayed as the creepy dude with the receding hair and the porn ‘stache, who told off colour jokes and showed the kid porno playing cards.  Get my drift?  This movie sets up the negative stereotypes right from the get go.  Ralph has a sickness of the mind, you see.  A sickness that makes him “demand” intimate relationship with members of their own sex.  Don’t you just love the use of the word demand in this context?

Once the police get wind of all this and Ralph is (presumably) sent off to the slammer, Jimmy gets probation.  Why Jimmy gets punished isn’t clear in the video.  Maybe as some sort of terror tactic I guess.  But no matter.  Next up is MURDER in our little cautionary tale.  Murder by a homo in a bow tie no less.  The bow tie crops up a couple of times and is clearly some sort of signifier, obviously an easy way to spot your local queer if you are in the know.  We see it in the next scene when a homosexual lures a newspaper boy into his car.  Off he goes, saved only by a quick witted friend and a lady who is watering her garden in an outstanding outfit and glorious heels.

And so it goes on.  We get the warnings about strangers, which I don’t think anyone would disagree with, but it’s quickly followed up with a comment about how you never know when the “homosexual may be about, and that he may appear normal”. This is finally finished up with another quick jab about mental illness.  Because their aren’t any crazy straight people out there, are there?  Yes, there have clearly been awful cases of nut job homosexuals kidnapping and killing kids.  But there have been plenty of straight people doing that too, but the police weren’t making hatchet job propaganda movies like these about Auntie Ethel nabbing kids from the park.

It’s of course easy to poke holes in a movie like this.  Propaganda movies are pieces of their time and one would hope that the world might just be a little more enlightened now.  A quick look at the comments on the YouTube page that this is pulled from though suggests that this may not be that case, and that visual propaganda like this is having the same effect as before.  That’s a little worrying to say the least.  The message of taking care of kids is always a good one of course, but there is a huge difference between sexual predators, pedophilia, and homosexuality a difference that this film intentionally and misleadingly chooses to, at best, blur or, at worst, conceal.  That’s one of the many reasons why movies like this were, and still are, so problematic.  It also goes to show why these movies were so successful in their day.

These so called “educational movies” are designed to deliver short, concise, and to the point messages.  Despite my feelings about content and the icky messaging, one can’t argue with the fact that it does its job well, however unsavoury the concept and execution may be.  It’s certainly effective and no doubt scared the shit out of lots of kids who were made to watch it.  It probably also created a whole new breed of homophobes and, most likely, sadly caused the victimization of many gay men as well.  But clearly the people who made this piece didn’t care about that at all.

So, dear reader, I turn this one over to you.  Have something to say about this?  If so, then feel free to sound off in the comments section below.

Big love,

DMx

Queering the Olympics: Graphic Designers & Illustrators go “Gay for Russia”

Continuing on with my exploration of visual culture and politics is taking me all over the place.  This time it has led me into the world of frank-flothmann-ASLTW-coaster2013sports.  What, I hear you cry?  Is David going to be writing about Gareth the Rugby Player once more?  Alas no, dear readers….sorry to disappoint you!  Instead we are taking a little trip to the Olympics.

The Winter Olympics and Russia to be precise.  You see, in case you have been living under a rock, the Winter Olympics are coming up in a few months time and they are taking place in Russia (in Sochi to be precise, official website here) where there has been a bit of jump-highercontroversy over those gay folk.   The Olympic Games are supposed to be all about peace, love, harmony, and sports (and the Spice Girls reforming of course (video in the link :-)) etc.  But lately the Russians have had this little thing going on about gay people.  In short they have passed a couple of laws that make it illegal to have pride parades, speak out in support of homosexuality, and are also in the process of passing laws against adoption by gay people too.  All of this has come to the attention of the press and media worldwide in a new way because of the Olympic association.  Even Cher has been in on the act with her very public refusal to be involved in the opening ceremony.

So what does all this have to do with visual culture and politics?  Graphic designers and illustrators, dear reader, that’s what.  While looking through the Advocate website I came across an interesting article about how Anna Goodson, head of the Anna Goodson Illustration Agency was so disturbed by the treatment of LGBTQ people in Russia that she asked all the illustrators in her agency if they would be interested in coming up with some artwork that dealt with the issue.  Another great example of how politics and visual culture come together to respond to ancoaster_marilynfaucher issue at hand.  It seems like everyone in her agency jumped at the chance (she’s the boss after all) and the results are quite interesting to see.  I’ve included a couple here and you can visit this link to see the rest of them.

What’s different about this project is that it uses illustration and the language of marketing, branding, and advertising to tackle the issue.  Graphic designers and illustrators are a fun bunch of people to be around and, as you can see, they are clever too.  They take aspects of current culture, visual design, and in this case politics and meld them together to put a message across in a way that is (in most cases) very successful and highly accessible.  It’s a form of branding propaganda in a way.  Obviously these are a little different from the kinds of things that they would be using for soap powder adverts, but you get the idea.  It’s also interesting to see how some of them have used examples of Soviet era art to put their point across as well.  Harking back to a previous age to put their point forward about a current regime.

Whether this will have any long-term influence on the politics that are surrounding the whole issue in Russia is debatable.  But what it does do is continue to raise the issues in a visible way.  In a world where often people have very little time to sit and read anymore, images like these can be very useful in getting a message across quickly.  Another example of how the visual world and paulblow_90political world can unexpectedly, but also intentionally collide.

Let’s hope that those two chaps with the moustaches don’t suddenly step apart from each other too quickly though.  That could be nasty….

Big love,

DMx

 

Sex Box: The Visual Culture of Hidden Sex.

This blog is proving to be interesting. The last post didn’t really contain an image to discuss (other than a cute one of me and my husband) but talked more about the issues around making or not making art a certain kind of art.  I was quite surprised as to how many people clicked the “like” button on the post on Facebook and who found it on WordPress.  This post also follows in a similar vein and also draws its inspiration from a news article that I found.

Here’s a link to the news article that was on Pink News, a web site in the UK that follows LGBTQ news issues in the UK. Basically we have here a show that invites people to have sex, in a box, on TV.  The people who have sex then get to talk about with others on the TV show including Mariella Frostrup from the Observer Newspaper, a panel of experts including relationship adviser Tracey Cox, sex columnist Dan Savage and the author Phillip Hodson.  Not for the faint of heart it seems.  It’s part of Channel Four in England’s “Real Sex” series and is all about reclaiming sex from pornography.  Here is a link to the Channel Four website about the show.  So why is this showing up in my visual culture and politics blog?  Well, there are a number of key points here to think about.article-2429812-1832D13100000578-567_634x417

It’s on television to start with so that makes it about images and video.  It’s about something we either do, want to do. think about doing, and is about something that shows up in other aspects of visual culture.  Sex is in adverts, in magazines, in films, books, and in music too,  So sex is very much about the visual culture of today in my mind.  One only has to think of the flap around Miley Cyrus a few weeks ago at the MTV awards to see that sex and the visual portrayal of it is something that gets people all hot and bothered, even if they dress it up as being about someone’s singing ability instead.

Returning to the TV program then. The part of the article that originally caught my eye was the fact that the show, naughtily called “Sex Box”, will feature three couples, one of which is a gay male couple.  This did surprise me,  We’ve only just got to the point where we can show same-sex couples having a kiss on TV, let alone discuss the fact that they might “do it”.  So this is quite a big step.  Not that anyone is going to see anything anyway.  When the couples enter the “Sex Box”, which is an opaque box in the studio, the TV cameras will be turned off for 20 minutes while the couples “have it off” as it were.  Then, when they exit the box, the cameras start-up again and they engage in a period of conversation with the panel and the TV audience.  Who knows what they will talk about.  For that I guess we will have to wait and see the show itself.  But the idea is that they will talk about the ins and outs of their sex lives (pardon the pun).

Now I am a liberal-minded chap and am into all sorts of telly, when I get time to watch it.  But I’m having a hard time understanding the value of having the box in the studio and then people actually having sex in the box during the recording of the show.  If the conversation was to be about the sex they JUST had, that would be one thing.  But it doesn’t seem to be the case.  The mission is about reclaiming sex from pornography, something that this seems to be skating very close toward.  It’s probably the closest any TV show has come to bringing actual real sex to the audience on a mainstream, free to air channel.  You don’t get to SEE it, but you can bet the tension of it will be in the air, either real or imagined, both in the studio and in the viewers homes.  That’s an interesting new twist on sex and visual imagery, don’t you think?  The ultimate in suggestion, perhaps.  Almost hidden sex.

Homoworld in review and the end…for now.

Greetings all.  Well, 2012 is at an end and a new year is here.  Homoworld the blog started one year ago today.  Back on January 1st 2012 I decided that I would set myself the challenge of taking a self-portrait each day, some of which would be used in a body of work I was planning on creating, and some of which would be just a series of self-portraits possibly representative of an ordinary gay man – through high points, low points, sickness, health, happy, sad, etc. (and the picture for today is after a New Year’s Eve party so I look particularly rough…..lol).  Along with the self-portraits I decided that I would visit an LGBTQ news website each day and pull out a news article and draw attention to it with a little bit of writing._MG_3290

Here I am one year later having completed my task.  I have 365 self-portraits completed and 345 blog entries.  The gaps in the blog were when my summer consulting job took over my life, but the daily pictures continued.  But what did the whole project teach me and what did it produce other than those tangible things?  First it taught me a lot about LGBTQ politics and current affairs.  I thought that I was fairly politically savvy and well read.  I realized that I did know a lot but there was also a lot that I didn’t know too.  I learnt that a lot of people speak a lot of bollocks as well.  I found out that I had misunderstood things about LGBTQ history.  I learnt new terms.  I learnt that some parts of the world have it harder than I knew and some parts of the world have it easier than I thought.  I learnt that there are a lot of really fucked up people in this world.  There are also a lot of people who love people and do a lot of good.

There are also some people who don’t understand things no matter how many times you try and explain something to them.  But you keep on trying because it just might go in some day.  I am proud and happy to say that I have had numerous emails from people around the world who have told me they have learnt things from my writings and my posts.  That makes me really happy and has made this project worthwhile.  I have also lost a few friends on Facebook too.  But that is good and I am glad that they are gone.  This blog helped weed them out and I clearly don’t need them in my life.

The biggest thing I have learnt over the course of this year is that change happens.  I have seen amazing things happen in the LGBTQ world in just one little year.  Just one little year!  I can’t wait to see what happens in 2013.  A number of people have asked me if I will continue Homoworld in 2013 as they look forward to it and read it every day.  It won’t continue on a daily basis for now but it will be back so watch this space.  Homoworld won’t be going away for good as there is a place for it, or so it seems.

So for now, so long.  Happy New Year.  Treat each other with love, respect, and equality.  2013 will be a banner year.

Big love to you all.

DMx

Charlie Sheen and the maggots.

Today’s Link

It wouldn’t be the end of the year if Charlie Sheen didn’t pop up once more in some sort of random drunken rambling.  This time gay people seem to be the target.  He appeared on stage in Mexico and called us all faggots.  But he has now apologized and blamed it all on the fact that he has a lisp and really meant to say maggots._MG_3280

Why do I mention this?  Because for better or worse he is someone who a lot of people look up to for some reason.  As soon as people like him learn the error of their ways (if possible) then maybe things will get better for everyone.  Hopefully things will change some in 2013.

Speaking of, have a happy new year tonight.  Be safe and I’ll be back tomorrow!

Big love,

DMx

 

Illinois next?

Today’s Link

Now that President Obama has broken the seal on supporting marriage equality it seems that there is no going back for him. First there was his big support for it as a presidential candidate, then there were various calls at the state level too. Now he has come out in favor of it in his former senate state of Illinois as well._MG_2781

This is obviously going to continue to ruffle feathers. It also will continue to show others that it is okay to show support for equality which can only be a good thing moving forward. We are already seeing the odd Republican piping up with support for things and hopefully this may encourage a little more.

Big love,

DMx

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