Warning – wee bit muddled, with all the good intentions and very little articulation.
The first time I was introduced to the idea of being gay – I don’t remember that. I do know that I thought it was a bit “wrong” somehow because that was the way I was told about it. I never really thought about it much. Whoever told me definitely did not make much of an impression, even about the concept. The next time I came into contact with the idea was Bend it Like Beckham, a 2002 movie with Keira Knightley, and an Indian girl who likes to play football the way Billy Elliot liked to dance. Anyway, for those who remember the film, Keira Knightley’s mother starts believing that her daughter is a lesbian (the blame is placed primarily on the indiscriminate playing of football, which is understandable. Let’s not pretend that football doesn’t make you a little homosexual, right?) and finally confronts her about it. Keira’s like “no woman, you fucking cuckoo?” (that was the basic gist)
And then she said the words that changed everything for me. She said “And so what if I were a lesbian? What’s wrong with that?” (or something like that. You must know by now, no actual research goes into these posts)
I couldn’t think of a reply to Keira Knightley’s angry, frustrated question. I already knew about sex and at the time it was simultaneously appealing, tempting, scary and disgusting. Lesbian or gay sex was about the same combination in the same proportions. Suddenly, gays and lesbians were… well, a novelty. Something that wasn’t bad, but I had personally never encountered. By the time I familiarized myself with Will and Grace, gay people had become a rare gift that I had yet to encounter. Not a very progressive viewpoint, certainly, but I was learning.
That phase was lost by the time I was seventeen, which was the first time someone came out to me. Well, sort of. A new friend told me he had slept with guys as well as girls.
“Is that a joke?”
And maybe I’ve imagined it like this ever since, but I think he was waiting, proper waiting, actually waiting, for my response. Because admit it or not, I think knowing that a potential friend can deal with unexpected news, would actually accept you, is important.
“So, what exactly are you?”
He said that he was mostly just straight. Which is how I would love to describe myself if I ever dabbled in the lesbotic arts, which I currently haven’t done.
The next intervention that television and film made on my sexuality came a bit later. When I was nineteen (or twenty) I had an unhealthy obsession with James Spader. It started, naturally, with Boston Legal and manifested itself in familiarizing myself with all of his filmography, everything he had been in, procuring the ones that seemed enjoyable, taking snapshots of his beautiful young face from the movies, fantasizing about meeting Alan Shore in an abandoned corporate building’s conference room… it was a lark.
In the process I saw stuff like Sex, Lies and Videotape, Mannequin, Pretty in Pink, Bad Influence…. I was in the throes of a wasted quarter life in Law School and nothing was going to stop my unhealthy obsession with the man who at the time was in his early fifties (I think).
Recently however, I became familiar with another show that Spader is doing which sent me on a minor Spader relapse (exacerbated by the fact that I’m too sick to do anything but TV and internet). It’s called The Blacklist, and its quite an ok show. Its only ten episodes in so I cant really say much, except that I will watch it as long as its on simply to watch James Spader make being a witty criminal look SO good. And sound SO good. Take a listen. If you don’t like the way he looks, just shut your eyes and listen.
Anyway, this compelled me to look into James Spader again. Apparently he’s going to be in the next Avengers movie so that’s something to look forward to. Then I watched White Palace again. It’s a 1990 movie with Susan Sarandon. There’s sex, there’s swearing, there’s jews…. every pleasure you want out of life.
As I watched the film just a few days ago, I started getting a little déjà vu. Not because I had seen it three years ago, but because …. well. I realized Susan Sarandon’s sexual nature was a bit familiar to me. It wasn’t too long before I realized that my sexual personality was probably subconsciously based on hers in the movie. I already had a natural affinity, no doubt, but at the time I first watched it, I wasn’t sexually active. Now that that has changed – I laugh at the same stuff, I … well, lets not get into details. But yes, things are a bit familiar.
I had always assumed that movies have a lot of influence on the people watching it. In my case, I had rather presumptuously assumed the influence was largely intellectual. You know, I’d get interested in scientific, social, philosophical, technical… other random aspects of the movie concerned. It was all very British and pince-nez and nearly hipster. But that’s not it at all. My very behavior, my likes and dislikes, what I have experienced, what I have been brave enough to try. All of it has depended so much on the movies and shows I watch – I’m open to sexual experiences, I have no problems or questions with homosexuality, I occasionally like to get a little rough and more than occasionally like to be gotten rough on, I have a very progressive and often problematic attitude towards free speech, I find powerful douchebags hot, and so on an so forth.
You have to ask yourself – who would you be if popular culture hadn’t snuck in its lessons through your skull? Who would you be without Game of Thrones introducing you to the idea of complicated, amazing, power hungry women who have and use their sexuality whenever they want or need to? Who would you be if Bend it Like Beckham had never had that one line? Who would you be if Indian networks decided to not show Will and Grace on television? Who would you be if you had never seen Boston Legal?
I remember watching Secretary for the first time (another James Spader movie. I think that man has been a huge part of my sexual awakening without either of us ever knowing. I’m sure he’ll be pleased to know it when he finds out). Suddenly, BDSM made so much sense… Before that I had assumed BDSM involved people who just had no self respect. The beautiful thing about that movie was that it never directly addresses feminism or the arguments for and against BDSM… but you know it has, sneakily, carefully, and very beautifully. There is one moment, when Lee is sitting on the chair and refuses to move because her boss/ impending lover told her not to. People try to dissuade her, bring her food, support her… Her father, a recovering alcoholic reads a passage from the Bible – “You are the child of god’s holy gift of life. You come from me, but you are not me. Your soul and your body are your own, and yours to do with as you wish.” And your mind slowly gets blown.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of India did something pretty awful – it overturned the Delhi High Court’s judgment (from 2009) that decriminalized homosexuality, “unnatural sex”. I can’t imagine what this means for the thousands upon thousands of people who struggle with themselves on a daily basis. What it means for me is that a lot of my friends, people whom I love and care about, even have to think for a minute about whether their country’s law allows them to love whomever and however they want to. In fact, considering the fact that the Supreme Court seems to have an utterly Victorian, unbelievably prudish definition of “unnatural sex” (anything that is not “penis into vagina”) I myself am a criminal on several counts.
I have never been more saddened by anything the Supreme Court did in my lifetime. Because its one thing when they kowtow to power every day, when they show blatant disregard for the kind of desperation that has brought everyday individuals to the highest court in the land, when they are unceasingly misogynistic. Its disheartening when they actively decide they want to continue the unfair and frankly, unsavory system that exists currently.
People, especially adults who never went to law school often ask me if I don’t want to make a difference. If I did, why did I leave the legal profession? The truth is I realized I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, and I don’t have the stomach for it. I am slightly sociopathic, very rude, and quite disarmingly morbid at times, but that doesn’t make it easy for me to deal with the courts, and its multitudes of terribleness.
On the other hand, there was films, and TV, and the natural high of making people laugh, and winning points by making jokes – this, I understand. This I can deal with. And this, I know, from my own personal experience, changes things in the most effective way possible – underhandedly and subtly. Watching Secretary was a revelation because I realized the truth of pop culture being a normalizing agent – suddenly, I didn’t care why people chose (if they did choose at all) to be dominants or submissives in bed as long as they were safe and emotionally and mentally satisfied.
This whole normalizing this is certainly used by largely male dominated film industries to normalize all kinds of crap, from rape culture to stalking, to unabashed machismo based, purposeless violence. On the other hand, there’s nothing better than a good old fashioned love story – a simple one, with no AIDS or excessive amounts of political and/or social discussions about homosexuality – to suddenly make you not care, as long as people have the temerity to fall in love, to want people and the courage to do something about it (the way I, cold and heartless as I am, would never have).
I hate adults sometimes, and many times, I want them to not be in control. I want a world where their opinions about what is “proper” doesn’t stop me from doing what I want – whether it is kissing girls, or choking on a penis. I have hopes for the entertainment world, and I know how to navigate it. I have hopes because if aspiring writers and directors and actors I meet are anything to go by, sooner or later people my age, with positive and compassionate attitudes about feminism, about rape culture, about homosexuality are going to be flooding the entertainment industry. And soon enough, people are going to watch. And maybe in a decade’s time, we wont be “criminals” for things we do in bed with a consenting partner.
God, I can’t think of a good ending for this post. Just… fuck it.