Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Media: Passing (race and sexuality)

A documentary, a drama and an action-comedy are all offered on streaming services.  Do they have anything else in common?  Actually, a great deal.




Let's start with PASSING.  This is a first rate drama offered by NETFLIX.  Rebecca Hall directs this adaptation of Nella Larsen's 1929 novel.  Ruth Negga stars as Clare who is passing in NYC -- she's African-American and she's passing for White.  In NYC, she stumbles upon her friend from Chicago Reenie (Tessa Thompson) who is doing some passing of her own.  She's assumed White in a store where she picks up a racist doll that two White women have dropped.  She's in a hotel cafe where she is nervous about being found out.  That's where she bumps into Clare.

Reenie goes with Clare to her hotel room and they relax up until Clare's husband John (Alexander Skarsgard) arrives.  He's happy to meet Reenie and he assumes she's White.  He goes on to share that he teases Clare that she's getting darker and may turn into a Black person (the n-word is used).  He further shares that he can't stand people of color, nor can Clare who won't even have them as her maids.  

Reenie is rightly insulted and quickly departs.  

Clare doesn't want to let go that quick and, really, neither does Reenie.  So the two women continue to see one another while Clare is in NYC.

It's a penetrating film that gets under your skin quickly.  It's also shot incredibly well. It's the sort of drama that we probably all hoped for back when the US had an active and thriving independent film scene.  Rebecca Hall really accomplishes something with the film and all the actors mentioned are first rate.  Our only complaint is that there is not any real magnetism coming off of Brian (Andre Holland), not when with his wife Reenie nor when he's with Clare.

PASSING is a first rate film.  Although not nearly as ambitious, RED NOTICE is nothing to dismiss.  This tight action-comedy is also streaming on NETFLIX.  Rawson Marshall Thurber wrote and directed the film.  We're much more impressed with his screenplay which shows real skill in transitions as well as in twists.  (His directing is not bad and on par with his earlier film WE'RE THE MILLERS.)


Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, Ryan Reynolds and Riu Arya make up the main cast and they bring so much life to their roles that the film comes alive in ways you might not expect in this genre. It's a fast and pleasurable ride.


And then there's the documentary:  MAYOR PETE which AMAZON PRIME is streaming.  MAYOR PETE is directed by Jesse Moss and documents Pete Buttigieg's failed run for the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination and, in fact, many more of Pete's failures.

This is a cringe-inducing documentary.  Is Pete a human being?  He may be now but he wasn't then.

Your heart goes out to Chasten Buttigieg throughout.  That's Pete's husband (this fall, the two became parents).  Do you remember the way the media beat up on Dr. Judith Dean in 2004?  She was the spouse of Howard Dean and some in the media felt she wasn't doing enough for Howard's campaign while others felt that her removal from many elements of the race had nothing to do with her being a practicing doctor but instead with her having no real enthusiasm for her husband's run.

Of all the spouses of also-runs in the 21st century, we tend to believe that Judith had it the worst -- or we did until 2020.  That's when we thought Chasten had it the worst.  However, the documentary really makes the argument that the media wasn't the issue, it was Pete.

Chasten's ready to face the media, wanting to, ready to be part of the campaign.  It's Pete that can't come across.  

Which is a real shame because the media really pimped Pete, they wanted him to be a major contender and if he hadn't kept Chasten in the wings, Pete might have been able to have been a real competitor.

Pete apparently had a limited notion of what gay was and of what he would allow We The People to see.  


We're back to that topic.  In PASSING, Reenie turns on Clare.  Is it because Reenie disagreed with Clare for passing as White?  Possibly.  But there's also an undercurrent to the film: Reenie seems to be passing as straight.  She seems to be attracted to Clare, something more than friendship.  Take her reaction when she finds Clare relaxing with Zu, for example.  Take the way she embraces Clare.  Or the way she looks longing at her throughout.  By the way, what we're talking about?  It's long been a part of the historical debate about the novel -- whether Reenie is sexually attracted to Clare (and, yes, we read the novel several years ago which may have impacted our take on the film).  

If Reenie is bi-sexual or a lesbian passing for straight, that would explain why, as we noted earlier, that Brian lacks magnetism.  That would explain why Reenie might end up with him.  They really don't have much in common (he's concerned that their children know what the world is really like for people of color and Reenie never wants to discuss it and actively stops Brian when he attempts to speak the truth).  If she is passing as straight, that offers other dimensions and explains why she may have killed Clare.  Again, she judges Clare for passing but we first meet Reenie when she's passing for White.  She hates Clare doing the same and, if she's sexually attracted to Clare, that would explain why she might have killed her.



Passing for straight?

It's also an issue with RED NOTICE.  Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson are constantly making homoerotic comments to one another.  This isn't that surprising because jokes like that exist among the working class and, within the entertainment industry, are a staple among crew members.  It can just be men trying to be funny.

But these jokes are really what put RED NOTICE over.  And certainly Ryan Reynolds has made a career out of them.  In RED NOTICE, it really does border on queerbaiting.  If someone argued that it crossed the line into full on queerbaiting, we wouldn't argue with them.  

RED NOTICE works around one twist and turn after another.  It's like WILD THINGS in that regard.  The 1998 film had a series of cons taking place.  And near the end, it appeared that we were going to learn that Matt Damon and Kevin Bacon were actually playing lovers (some couldn't handle that at showings and got very uncomfortable when one actor stepped out of the shower).  RED NOTICE wants the same twists and turns and, 23 years later, looks hopelessly out of touch as we find out that Gal and Dwayne are lovers but not Dwayne and Ryan or even a thruple involving the three.

It really is enough for Ryan Reynolds.  The jokes -- on Twitter and social media -- about his longings for a man and the jokes from his characters.  It's getting old.  It's past time for him to either drop it or play a gay man who kisses another man on screen -- not a peck, a real romantic relationship.

For those who don't remember, Ellen DeGeneres came out at the end of the fourth season of her sitcom ELLEN.  The fifth season was all about ABC attacking the show and attacking Ellen herself.  And along comes Ryan in that awful sitcom that ABC replaced Ellen with: TWO GUYS, A GIRL AND A PIZZA PLACE.  To vanish the lesbian character and the lesbian actress, ABC resorted to that hideous sitcom.  Ryan kind of owes the gay community for his role in that.

CRAPAPEDIA defines queerbaiting as follows:

Queerbaiting is a marketing technique for fiction and entertainment[6] in which creators hint at, but then do not actually depict, same-sex romance or other LGBT representation.[7] They do so to attract ("bait") a queer or straight ally audience with the suggestion of relationships or characters that appeal to them,[8] while at the same time attempting to avoid alienating other consumers.[6][9]

Queerbaiting has often been observed in popular fiction such as films and television series, but also has been observed among celebrities who convey an ambiguous sexual identity through their works and statements.[6] It arose in and has been popularized through discussions in Internet fandom[10] since the early 2010s.[11]

Queerbaiting describes too many movies in Ryan Reynolds' filmography.  As FILM DAILY noted:

Deadpool: Deadpool (2016 & 2018)

Portrayed as being undeniably pansexual in the comics, the movie adaptation of the Merc with a Mouth has so far failed to completely deliver upon the same LGBTQI representation of the superhero’s sexuality.

Despite Ryan Reynolds (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) suggesting he wants Wade to have a boyfriend in a Deadpool movie and the suggestion from writer Rhett Reese (Zombieland) that the character’s pansexuality would be honored in Deadpool 2, the only time his sexuality is made apparent is in the occasional loaded one-liner. Still, at least Deadpool 2 has managed to debut the first LGBTQI superheroes in film even if Deadpool isn’t quite one of them yet.

If he'd only made BUYING THE COW (he wakes up drunk convinced he had sex with a man -- ha ha! apparently -- and he decides to come out of the closet -- ha ha even more!), Ryan Reynolds would owe movie goers a real gay romance film.

He's basically become Robin Williams -- who was problematic for the LGBTQ community -- and no one has bothered to notice.

He needs to lay off the jokes and the one-liners unless/until he can play a gay character with an active love life.  (Meaning none of that b.s. where Cam and Mitch have a quick peck but Phil and Claire are forever being shown in bed together about to have sex.)

It's insulting.  It may have passed for progressive 23 years ago.  It doesn't today.  Not in the same year that Macaulay Culkin can turn up in AMERICAN HORROR STORY as a gay male prostitute offering Harry (Finn Wittrock) frottage and then explaining that it's "French for rubbing our dicks together."

The LGBTQ community needs tired people like Ryan Reynolds to get off their ass and start doing things.  That community needs it and the American people need it.  We still need to move towards equality.

And that's what so upsetting about MAYOR PETE.  Pete wants to pass for straight.  That's not fair.  When he was running for the presidential nomination, he wanted to pass for straight.  He was reluctant for Chasten to really be a part of the campaign (Chasten even asks in the film if Pete's really going to let him be the only spouse of a candidate in the primary not to be allowed onstage when a debate concludes).  

Pete came out relatively late.  And he almost immediately hooked up with Chasten.  We'll assume it was love at first sight.  We'll also assume that Pete has traditional ideas about relationship (that's not an insult).  All of that's fine.  In 2020, he could step out onstage being an openly gay man but he struggled with being a gay man in a relationship.

Ryan Reynolds needs to look at his role in that.  He and actors like him need to grasp that things aren't so easy.  Thanks to Ellen and others who followed her (as well as those who preceded her), American can conceptualize a gay person even if they don't know anyone who is openly gay.  If we could move from cute little one-liners about same-sex relationships to actual film portrayals of relationships, people like Pete would feel they could be not just themselves in public but who they are with their partner in public.

MAYOR PETE is a hard film to watch.  It did make us appreciate Pete more (not his politics, he's far to the right of us).  And we really felt for and rooted for Chasten.  Mainly, it made us ponder the damages of passing -- something all three films made us think about.


We didn't know Al Sharpton had gone into labor (Betty, Marcia, Ava and C.I.)

We really didn't.

Truly, we didn't even know he was pregnant. But Thursday we saw the baby photo over at NBC NEWS -- Isaac Bailey's the baby's name -- is that Isaac Sharpton-Bailey?

Before we go further. Al was known as a race hustler. Yes,  MSNBC presents him as a god but he did a lot of real damage and the only one who ever got rich was Al. He did a little shakedown and got companies to pay out to him -- a little like an early Michael Avenatti. Al's not a Civil Rights leader. He's a liar and it goes far beyond Tawana Brawley. In the Black community, there are leaders. We have never seen Al as one of them. Listen to Black radio and grasp how much we laugh at him. He created his poor image and little Issac Bailey is doing the same.


Issac lies and NBC lets him which says a great deal about both. He also uses inferences to smear an 18-year-old kid who has had the weight of the world on his shoulders for over a year now.

Kyle Rittenhouse, in an unusual move for a defendant, took the witness stand Wednesday. He cried. His defense team then made a motion for a mistrial with prejudice, which means Rittenhouse couldn’t be retried. But whatever the court rules, he has already won.

He’s charged with ​​reckless homicide, intentional homicide and attempted intentional homicide for shooting three people (killing two of them) who were protesting the police shooting of yet another Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer. The protest followed many George Floyd-inspired ones that erupted across the world calling for police accountability and justice for Black lives. White allies, like the ones Rittenhouse shot, were among the protesters. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty. 


"He cried." An over 40-year-old man mocking a teenager. What a proud moment for Isaac. Understand his life's been full of proud moments, like when his own brother committed murder. By the way, he teaches at the college he graduated from. Which tells you all you need to know about his lack of qualifications.

The move towards a mistrial? Not because Kyle cried. Because the prosecution was given strict instructions about what could and could not be said and they violated it. The judge, in fact, stopped the testimony to order the jury out of the courtroom and to again warn the prosecution about their misconduct.

You don't learn that from liar Isaac. 


Let's go to a legal expert, Jonathan Turley:


The prosecution stumbled out of the gate in the trial. Gaige Grosskreutz was the third person to be shot by Rittenhouse. Grosskreutz admitted under cross-examination that Rittenhouse did not shoot him when he had his hands up after their confrontation. He admitted that it was only after he pointed his handgun at Rittenhouse and moved toward him that Rittenhouse fired.

Likewise, a prosecution witness, Ryan Balch, testified that one of the other people shot, Joseph Rosenbaum, said that he intended to kill Kyle Rittenhouse. Other witnesses described Rosenbaum as “belligerent” or “hyperaggressive.” 

Later, the prosecution called Richard McGinniss, a journalist with The Daily Caller who was reporting from Kenosha that night. He was near Rittenhouse when Joseph Rosenbaum was shot. The prosecutor told McGinniss, “I mean you have no idea what Mr. Rosenbaum was ever thinking at any point of his life. You have never been inside his head, you never met him before.”

McGinnis said, “I never exchanged words with him, if that’s what your question is.”

The prosecutor then pressed McGinnis on how he had no idea what Rosenbaum was thinking because it “is complete guesswork, isn’t it?”

That is when McGinnis delivered a haymaker, noting, “Well he said (expletive) you, and then he reached for the weapon.”

The prosecution’s own medical expert, Dr. Doug Kelly, appeared to confirm that the forensic evidence of soot injuries on Rosenbaum’s hand could be consistent with Rosenbaum trying to grab the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle when the gun was fired.

It got worse from there, including a glaring constitutional violation by the prosecution when Binger began his cross examination of Rittenhouse by commenting on his decision to remain silent.

The judge correctly tore into the prosecutor. Any first-year law student knows that you cannot comment on the silence of a Mirandized defendant after an arrest under the Fifth Amendment – let alone ignore a court order.

Biased media viewers

Even without the unforced errors by the prosecution, this was always a difficult case. Wisconsin has a strong self-defense standard. After a defendant claims to have acted to repel a threat, the burden is on the prosecution to rebut that claim beyond a reasonable doubt.

Instead, the prosecution prompted its own witnesses to create layers of doubt in the case. In doing so, it seems to have reduced the range of possibilities to somewhere between a hung jury and outright acquittal on the major charges.

The problem is that many people may be unaware that the case is collapsing due to such evidentiary or tactical failures. Any hung jury or acquittal will come as a shock, and the level of outrage is likely to be greater. This case began with violent rioting in Kenosha, and the news coverage is fueling the danger of renewed violence.

Those are realities and you won't find them in what the dishonest offer.  Here's Issac:


To his supporters, and even many of his detractors, Rittenhouse isn’t a monster. Not really. He was a young, dumb kid hyped up on the Foxification or Fox News effect of American discourse on the Black Lives Matter movement in a country that fetishes guns — for show, for sport and for killing — not a white supremacist, like, say Dylann Roof. Not really. He wore no hoods and didn’t wrap himself in the Confederate flag. He’s a patriot who tried to bring calm to chaos because, as Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson told us at the time of the shooting, the adults around him wouldn’t “maintain order.” He was so nonviolent that police officers greeted him and those like him like fellow guardians of the community before he killed anyone. 


Brother man, stop the okey-doke. That's outrageous and it goes to how awful the media has become that NBC NEWS is posting that garbage. You don't know what -- if anything -- the kid was hyped up on.

These were rioters, not protesters, so let's start telling that truth. The media was drooling over the prospect of the streets being in riots while Trump was president. They refused to call riots "riots." It was a riot.

So Kyle is wrong, Isaac, for having a gun? But the liar who got shot isn't wrong for having a gun? The one who lost his gun license because he was part of a burglary?

Quit your lying.

We're sick of this nonsense.

Kyle shot three people.  Little Gaige Grosskreutz was one of them. All those Kyle shot were White, by the way. Little GG admitted on the stand that Kyle only fired on him after GG pointed his gun at him. Prior to taking the stand, GG lied to the police and should be behind bars. GG is not a kid. He's an adult.

Joseph Rosenbaum is one of the two people Kyle shot dead. Again, all three that Kyle shot were White. Joseph? Just released from the mental ward. Before that? Long stint in prison for child molestation. Sorry that we're not members of Joseph Rosenbaum's fan club.  He threatened a child (Kyle was 17) yet again only this time the child was armed.   He was verbally threatening Kyle. Some say, some witnesses, that he was no threat. That's your judgment call and the crazy wasn't yelling at you or throwing stuff at you. The evidence shows that either he was lunging at Kyle when he was shot or he was falling towards Kyle.

Anthony Huber looks like smart mouth trash in every photo we see of him. Doesn't mean he deserved to be shot. He was shot by Kyle while he had a skateboard in one hand and was reaching for Kyle's gun with the other. His girlfriend wants the world to know that he was intelligent. Nope. He was a f**king idiot. What a sense of White entitlement to think you could grab a gun out of someone's hands. You didn't catch any African-Americans playing the fool. 


Playing the fool is how this has played out.   Grown ups, news outlets and loony bins like WSWS have repeatedly lied and distorted to turn a 17-year-old into whatever they needed so they could scream 'racist!'  This was especially true if the one yelling 'racist!' was a White person.  They really need someone else to point to so that they can pretend that they're pure and good -- most likely they are not.  If they were, they wouldn't work so hard to lie about a young person, to try to destroy someone's life with lies over and over.

The trial is over.  The jury is deliberating.  We fear that regardless of the verdict, it will be very difficult for people to face the truth of what happened and why.  The American people deserve a better media -- at the very least, they deserve a functioning one.

[Ava and C.I. note -- please check out Betty and Marcia's sites and we're mentioning that to include links to our co-authors of this piece.]


NPR, stop the racism (before you break our hearts) (Ava and C.I.)

NPR likes to pretend it is a fair news outlet.  Reading some of the coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, we'd beg to disagree.  And that's before you factor in their lies and attacks on THE NEW YORK POST for the POST breaking the Hunter Biden laptop story and before you factor in the whole Iraq War that they helped push.


Why are we accusing NPR of racism?

Well, we're not the first to do so, after all.  The statistics -- on guests, on on-airs, on topics -- have long indicated the racism.

But we were reminded of that when we came across a report on NPR:

You know, also, I felt like when I was listening to this album, a lot of the songs almost sound like pep talks for yourself or for a friend.

Oh, great! NPR's finally covering Diana Ross.  Her new album, THANK YOU, is about learning to live and love in the pandemic, learning to find our blessings and . . . 

Oh, wait, NPR was speaking with an Australian singer.

Anything to avoid Diana Ross, right?


Oh, NPR, Think it over, before you break our hearts, think it over.



That's Diana Ross "All Is Well" from her new album THANK YOU.

Barbra Streisand releases an album of tired and old recordings (RELEASE ME 2) and NPR rushes to speak with her.

When has NPR ever bothered to speak to Diana Ross?

She's a legend releasing a new album and they just aren't interested.  FRESH AIR has never seen fit to sit down with Diana.  NPR just doesn't care.  Diana charted in the Hot 100 more than any other artist last century.  She continues to chart on the dance chart.  She is a legend and a trail blazer around the world -- except in the offices of NPR where, apparently, an African-American woman has to accomplish even more than Diana has.

Grammy winner, she's sang on 73 songs that made the Hot 100, over 80 songs that charted on the R&B charts, 22 hits on the dance charts (including four number ones in 2020), 30 songs on the AC charts, 1 Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, 7 American Music Awards, 1 Tony Award, 1 Golden Globe Award, 1 Grammy (and 13 more nominations) . . . 

How many honors are required for Terry Gross and company to be interested in interviewing you?

Diana Ross' video for "I Still Believe" below.

Please check out Kat's "Kat's Korner: No, Diana Ross, Thank You" -- her review of Diana Ross' new album. Yes Kat covered the album.  Yet NPR, in their musical roundtable (NEW MUSIC FRIDAY) last week managed to cover six albums released that day but didn't manage to include Diana's THANK YOU.  They're rushing off to interview Robert Plant this week, by the way.  Pretend not to notice the racism that keeps Diana from being interviewed and her album from being noted.  Or maybe smarten up and let NPR know you're not donating a penny until they rectify both their racist past and their racist present.



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