Just a click to the left and the queer classic unravels

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Photo by Justin Campbell on Unsplash

I first saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) in high school as a closeted queer. I did so at the dead of night on the family computer. It was one of those films I would secretly watch over and over again. I loved it all — the outfits, the songs, the red lipstick. I was enamored with the villain Dr. Frank-N-Furter (played by Tim Curry) as they terrorized a suburban straight, white couple out of their heterosexuality. It was a powerful experience for me, one of many on my gradual road towards recognizing my own gender dysphoria.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not so much a movie as it is a phenomenon. The campy science fiction musical has been a facet of queer culture since the late 1970s. The movie and the play, the latter of which is referred to as The Rocky Horror Show, have had a deep impact on pop culture. The movie has enjoyed repeated midnight showing for over forty years, and unlike a lot of cult classics, it is one surrounded by audience participation and ritual. …


The art of loving problematic things.

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Photo by Rhii Photography on Unsplash

For years, I have watched the 2007 film Stardust about a man named Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) and his fantastical journey to retrieve a fallen star and give it to a woman in his village named Victoria (Sienna Miller). The movie was something I repeatedly watched during some of the darkest moments of my life. In high school or college, whenever I would have a particularly bad day, I would put on Stardust and get whisked away to the kingdom of Stormhold.

Stardust is a work I nostalgically love, but it has also aged terribly. The film doesn’t treat the women in it particularly well. Victoria is portrayed negatively as a woman who is simply “using” Tristan for his possessions. The shooting star, which in the land of Stormhold turns into a woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes), is chained up by Tristan. He still intends to bring her to his love Victoria as an object even though Yvaine clearly has sentience. Stardust also has a cross-dressing character named Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro), who I have begun to perceive less humorously as I have acknowledged my own gender dysphoria. …


How to make the future slightly more bearable.

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(Photo by Jonathan Sebastiao on Unsplash)

I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had died. I was sitting inside the AMC movie theater in Georgetown. I had just finished watching the 2016 meta superhero comedy Deadpool, and everyone in the audience was turning on their phones.

From behind me, several students gleefully announced that “Scalia was dead.” I remember walking slightly behind them as we exited the theater. They were speculating how much this was going to change society. Obama would pick this seat now, and then when Hillary Clinton became president, she would replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg with someone forty years younger. …


The powerful have always been afraid of your ballot

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Every election cycle, men and women reemerge to tell us that our vote has no value. They insist that the public is generally misinformed about the issues and that we should instead let ourselves be led by smarter, more objective rulers who understand how the world really works.

Every time this advice is offered to me, I cannot help but think of the character Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) from Game of Thrones (2011–2019). When the medieval fantasy show ended in the summer of 2019, the answer to who would sit on the Iron Throne and rule over the fictional continent of Westeros was finally answered: Bran Stark was appointed King because he was a dispassioned ruler who would not succumb to the petty impulses of the late King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) or the genocidal ones of the Mad King. …


Our belief that voting is hopeless, as seen on tv

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I remember casting my ballot for the first time as a newly-minted 18-year-old growing up in Northern New Jersey. I was a senior in High School who was filled with so much enthusiasm for the process of voting. I had binged several episodes of the show The West Wing the night before, and I incessantly couldn’t stop quoting lines from the sequel to Legally BlondeLegally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde.

As Elle Woods would say, “I was there to speak up!” I had researched all the positions beforehand, and I knew exactly who and what I would vote for on the ballot. I marched into the cubicle, filled in my ballot with a blue pen I had brought with me, and dropped it into the ballot box, confident I had made the right decision. …


Peeling back the nostalgia surrounding the hit Nickelodeon TV show

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Source: The Verge

I loved The Legend of Korra when it first aired (2012–2014). The show is the sequel to the hit animated series Avatar The Last Airbender (2005–2008). The series takes place in a world where people can master a form of martial arts that allows them to manipulate one of the four elements (i.e., Earth, Fire, Air, and Water). Only one person, the Avatar, can master all four elements. …


The disliked space opera has always been about the dangers of capitalism

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The movie Jupiter Ascending (2015) is known for being awful. It’s a story that’s brought up as an example of how creative endeavors can just so utterly fail. The Wachowski sister’s project cost anywhere between $179 and $200 million, and that doesn’t include the cost of the film’s robust marketing campaign. However, it only made $183 million, which means that financiers did not get a return on investment.

It was also critically panned for being campy, overly saccharine, and ridiculous. …


The definitive guide of questions cisgendered and trans people have about nonbinary people.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I have “come out of the closet” as queer a lot. It’s a common meme within the LGBTQIA+ community that you come out over-and-over again throughout your life. Every interaction becomes an opportunity to live your truth or to bury it, and there are many times valid reasons to do both.

My first outing was as a gay man in middle school to my mother, and then several weeks later to my sister, followed hesitantly by my fifth grade English teacher. Coming out became such a common occurrence in my life that, several years ago, I did it to the person manning the register at the local supermarket. …


This Childhood Game Has Intense Racist and Classist Origins

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

If you are like me, then you might have fond memories of the childhood game Hangman. This game starts with a teacher, counselor, or guardian drawing the abstraction of an empty gallows on a chalkboard. This sketch is followed by a crossbeam with a narrow line hanging down from it, representing a noose.

Dashes are placed beneath the gallows representing the letters of a word or words, and children go around the room guessing letters. If they guess accurately, then the adult fills in the dashes with the correct letter. If they guess incorrectly, then a stick figure is filled in one body part at a time, beginning with the head down. …


Deconstructing a Sexist Tale as Old as Time in Netflix’s Retelling of the Arthurian Legend

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Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

In Cursed, the Netflix retelling of the Arthurian Legend, characters are not what they first appear. This Britain is a land where the magical Fey, not humans, are the ones persecuted, especially at the Catholic Red Paladins’ hands. The nobility is not honorable but vain and selfish. The “evil” sorceress Morgana is first presented to us as an idealistic nun named Sister Igraine (Shalom Brune-Franklin). The protagonist is not the iconic Arthur of the roundtable (Devon Terrell), but the Lady in the Lake, Nimue (Katherine Langford).

The wizard Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård) is another one of these subversions. He is not the wise old sage we recall from legend, but a reckless fool who galavants across the land dispensing advise that no one asks for. His is a Wise Old Man reinterpreted through a feminist lens, and that doesn’t just make his characterization exciting but stands against centuries of patriarchal myth-setting. …

About

Alex Mell-Taylor

I write about pop culture, politics, and every in between.

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