Turning tides

This has been an interesting week for me. Besides the horrible mess that I was on Sunday, there’ve been some interesting pop culture changes happening that have caused me to reflect.

The first was Sunday night’s American Music Awards. Virtually all the performances were stellar. Of special note was Lady Gaga’s performance which, if it’s possible, topped her MTV VMA’s performance… and I honestly never thought that possible until seeing it. But the performance that caused me to reflect, and has had me raving on Twitter all week, was Adam Lambert’s.

First, I had noticed the camera kept panning to him in the audience all night – I had no idea who this guy was, but thought he was good-looking and almost certainly the Pete Wentz kind of straight guy. When it finally came time for him to perform (at the very end of the show) I confirmed that it was him (a friend on Twitter had suggested it might be). What played out after that was not only a pretty awesome, sexually-charged performance… but something that astounded me. Not because he did anything exceptionally offensive or unusual, but because he did exactly what I would’ve done. And by that I mean, if I ever had the opportunity to be a pop star and be on a stage in front of millions of people, I would have a well-planned performance and then, without telling the producers a thing, throw in as many thing as I could get away with… just for the sake of it.

Some people have criticized his performance as having been at the cost of the singing (which admittedly wasn’t perfect, though I didn’t think it was as terrible as everyone said it was), and I suppose those people have some basis for their arguments. But the other components of the performance – the fashion, the fact that it was about as sexual as you’re allowed to be on TV these days, and the fact that he didn’t once hesitate to do anything he did (kissing an unsuspecting keyboard player, rubbing a dancer’s face in his crotch, giving the finger to the camera, amongst other charges) really spoke to me.

Now that I’ve had some time to process it, I think I realize why it spoke to me. For the first time in my life, here’s a celebrity / pop star I can actually relate to — in prime time, on network television. Okay, I’m not exactly like him – nowhere near, actually – but he’s around my age, queer, and as defiant as I remember being before becoming somewhat jaded (I really need to get that back).

Having grown up with then-closeted Lance Bass as the closest thing to a queer pop star out there, this is as much of a pop paradigm shift as I think I’ll experience. Between Adam Lambert and Chris Colfer (the out actor who plays Kurt from Glee), I finally see in the pop culture world people that are, in this respect at least, like me. I’ve of course always been able to relate to people who aren’t young (and out) queer men, but there’s something comforting about this change.

Speaking of Chris Colfer, I guess it’s a positive sign of the times that when Kurt first appeared on Glee I immediately knew he was queer and was shocked when he actually had to come out of the closet a few episodes in — I had honestly assumed he was just an out gay character. I guess it’s a reminder that stereotypes don’t always mean anything, and that teens may always have to come out of the closet, no matter how normally or okay it is to be queer.

This has become an unmitigated (and unedited) rant, but now that I’ve made my point as to why I’m impressed with this recent turn of pop culture, I’ll make a couple specific points about the Adam Lambert performance:

I’ve heard comments that it set gay rights back years, decades, whatever — all of which have implied that people can be gay and have rights, but only if they’re chaste. Our right to fuck is not only just as important as our right to marry – for most, it’s kind of the point. What he did on stage – simulating bondage, simulating oral sex, and kissing – was hardly new ground for anyone. We only need to go back as far as the 2006 MTV VMA’s with Madonna/Britney/Christina to get the last of those three, as far back as a recent episode of any show that’s used a banana in place of the male anatomy for the second, and as far back as… oh right, Rihanna’s performance on the same show for the bondage thing. Oh wait. Those were all women. Women are allowed to be sexual on TV because it turns straight men on, right? Is that it? I don’t think I even need to go on.

The other, completely unrelated, tide-turning event this week happened earlier this evening. Word came a week or two ago that The Carlton Cinemas are closing on December 4th for good. The Carlton is this awesome little (tiny) movie theatre with 9 screens, it’s ancient (as far as movie theatres go – its latest incarnation was built in the 80s but has had predecessors dating back to the 40s) but has a wonderful ‘anything goes’ charm to it. When I first discovered it, it was the theatre of choice for a lot of independent, small, and often queer films. Many of those have since moved to the nearby AMC which many blame for The Carlton’s demise.

Anyways, I decided to make one last trip there, which I did tonight. I went alone, as I often do, and as usual there were less than a dozen others in the theatre with me. As the previews began, I couldn’t help but notice the scratchy quality of the film — they still use film projectors. Most of the newer theatres in the area now use digital projectors… and those that use film projectors have mostly upgraded so there’s relatively little distortion to the images. It got me reflecting again and I realized that this may have been the last time I’ll ever see a film in a theatre like this – that ‘the future’ if high-tech multiplexes is not only here but has completely wiped out its predecessor. Not really a sad thing, but certainly nostalgia-inducing. I guess I don’t have much to say about it other than this, just to comment that it’s sometimes nice to reflect on the past and to realize how good the future can be.

I came incredibly close to ending this entry along the lines of "kids these days have it so great…" but I’ll spare you, and me, that line for when I’m actually old enough for that to not seem out of place!


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