Archive for the ‘Political’ Category

Can We Talk About Drag?

February 5, 2023

Reel Charlie gets Op Ed on you for a post.

Miss Shirley speaks to a young listener at one of her ‘Drag Queen Story Time’ events. Photo by Christopher Cleary/Denver Gazette

Drag queens and drag shows have been under attack throughout the country (and the world). Ron DeSantis, the disgusting governor of Florida filed a second complaint against an establishment for allowing minors into drag shows. Let me say one thing first. This has nothing to do with keeping kids safe. Drag is like any other form of entertainment. There are g-rated drag queens and r-rated drag queens. And there are g-rated drag shows and r-rated drag shows. Think of your favorite comedians. Some are squeaky clean. Others are potty mouthed. When they do family events they clean up their act. When they perform an evening show in an auditorium, they are freer to speak on adult topics. Adult topics might include sex, but also include all sorts of topics either inappropriate or boring to kids (like politics, history, aging, etc.). That said, this witch hunt on drag and the broader “Don’t Say Gay” movement is part of a fascist attempt by the final gasp of some men to hold on to their antiquated patriarchal power. They don’t want to keep sex out of K-3 grades which it obviously should be. They want to keep all things love out. They want to keep anyone not like them out of the school system. They are afraid of same gender love. They are afraid of gender non-conformity. They are afraid they will lose their pathetic power in this culture if they allow others a seat at the table. We’ve been here before. We are not going away. And if they actually want no mention of anything to do with LGBTQ relationships or gender inclusion in schools, then here’s my list of things to get rid of to make this an even swap:

    1. Teachers and staff at all schools must hide wedding rings and pictures of their spouses and/or pictures of their children.
    2. Teachers and staff at all schools must never talk during school time of celebrations such as bridal showers, baby showers, engagement showers, weddings, anniversary celebrations. There must be no mention of anything to do with a person’s family or personal life. All teachers and staff must pretend they are single people with no romantic or family life. Because all of this is sexuality.

No one talks about sexuality more in our culture than heterosexuals. No one. Trust me. I’ve been an observer of this for over five decades.

LGBTQ folk are not “grooming” children. If “grooming” worked, I would be heterosexual. The broader and scarier truths are that these people are trying to destroy the public school system in this country. That’s their real goal. By doing that, they can better control us.

Drag is fun, drag is ridiculous. Drag is celebratory. Drag is love. Even the bitchy drag queens are full of fun and mischief = love. These people full of fear and hate need to take a chill pill and stop using LGBTQ people as scape goats. I am personally done with it.  I lived through this with Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Trump. I’m done.

Listen to drag queens talk about how they view their inventions and performances in reaction to the protests and legislation. GLAAD interviewed RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 queens to get their reaction. Out of the mouths of babes,

Follow GLAAD.
Read more about the fight for public school education from The NEA, and The New Republic.
Discover Reel Charlie reviews of drag.

No Straight Lines

February 1, 2023

Outstanding documentary No Straight Lines from PBS’s Independent Lens profiles the past 40 years of Queer Comics from underground to mainstream. Directed by out lesbian filmmaker Vivian Kleinman and based on the book by producer/writer/professor Justin Hall. From PBS,

When Alison Bechdel received a coveted MacArthur Award for her best-selling graphic memoir Fun Home, it heralded the acceptance of LGBTQ+ comics in American culture. From DIY underground comix scene to mainstream acceptance, meet five smart and funny queer comic book artists whose uncensored commentary left no topic untouched and explored art as a tool for social change. Featuring Alison Bechdel, Jennifer Camper, Howard Cruse, Rupert Kinnard, Mary Wings, and other queer comics artists.

The Filmmakers
Vivian Kleiman
Director/Producer Vivian Kleiman is a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and a Fleishhacker Eureka Fellowship artist. She was the story editor for Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, and her work with landmark filmmaker Marlon Riggs includes Tongues Untied, among others. She taught at Stanford University’s Graduate Program in Documentary Film.

Justin Hall
Producer Justin Hall edited the Lambda Award-winning, Eisner-nominated No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics and created the comics True Travel Tales, Hard to Swallow. Hall is chair of the MFA in Comics Program at California College of the Arts, the first Fulbright Scholar of comics, and has curated international exhibitions of comics art.

Really worth watching. When you worry that we haven’t made progress over the past 50 years, this puts it all into perspective. Yes, we’re facing book bans and all the horror of “Don’t Say Gay” in Florida and other ignorant states, but we will not be shoved back in the closet. These artists remind us all to use the tools at our disposal to fight back and demand a place at the table. Hey DeSantis – Joe McCarthy died over 60 years ago. Your hatred and bigotry are the last gasps of the patriarchy. Watch No Straight Lines and feel the power. 5 out of 5.

No Straight Lines currently streams on PBS.
Listen to Vivian Kleinman interview on Brad Shreve’s Queer We Are podcast.

Interviews: Zelenskyy, Brunson, and Springsteen

December 19, 2022



Three big interviews aired recently on streaming services. All are worthwhile in their own right.

  1. David Letterman flew to Kiev and interviewed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a subway platform far below the ground where the war with Russia rages on.
  2. Oprah Winfrey interviewed Quinta Brunson the creator of Abbott Elementary.
  3. Howard Stern interviewed Bruce Springsteen.

For various reasons, all three of these are excellent choices. President Zelenskyy’s interview speaks intimately and urgently. Quinta Brunson’s interview showcases a new generation’s voice. And Bruce Springsteen’s interview covers an entire career.

Zelenskyy’s interview currently streams on Netflix.
Brunson’s interview aired on OWN, and currently streams on HBO Max and Discovery+.
Springsteen’s interview currently streams on HBO Max.

Five Days at Memorial

August 31, 2022

Five Days at Memorial is a fictionalized disaster medical drama limited series adaptation of the non-fiction 2013 book by Sheri Fink. When historians look back on the early 21st Century, the aftermath of Katrina will be seen as one of the worst natural disasters. Of course with climate change we are certainly headed for worse natural disasters in our lifetime. What Katrina will be remembered for is the horrific lack of response by the local, state, and federal government. Why? First there’s Bush’s appointees – at the top of the list Michael D. Brown who were hired as cronies, not as experts in their fields. Sure, go ahead and give your friends jobs. Just don’t give them the first Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response (EP&R) in the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Second and this one is the worst sins of Katrina, no one cared about rescuing poor people of color. If you hesitate on that last sentence, image a Katrina-like storm hitting Newport, RI or Santa Barbara, CA. Enough said.

The limited series is incredible. Full of trauma and suspense. Yes, it’s entertainment. But it reminds us in a respectful way of the horror people faced, both patients and hospital staff as everyone tried to continue to care for the sick and dying during the worst disaster the U.S. had ever seen –  over 1,800 fatalities. The cast is outstanding including Cherry Jones, Vera Farmiga, Cornelius Smith, Jr., Robert Pine, Adepero Oduye, Julie Ann Emory, Michael Gaston, and Molly Hager. Each of the five episodes focuses on one day during Katrina and then after the levees broke. I will tell you the intensity builds and builds. By the final episode, I was sobbing during several scenes. I don’t want to forget Katrina. None of us should. 4 out of 5 for the haunting Five Days at Memorial.

Five Days at Memorial currently streams on Apple TV+.

Reel Charlie Speaks – Episode 2: HIV AIDS Films

July 25, 2022

It took two months instead of one, but I am publishing the second Reel Charlie Speaks podcast. In Reel Charlie Speaks, I focus on a classic piece of work and discuss what it meant to me when I first discovered it and how it has stood the test of time. Today I reflect upon six HIV AIDS films from my list of the best HIV AIDS Films I’ve compiled over the years.

Read Reel Charlie film reviews on each of the titles discussed in this episode:
Adventures of Felix (currently not streaming in the U.S.)
Before I Forget (currently not streaming in the U.S.)
Blue (streaming on Kanopy)
How to Survive a Plague (streaming on Amazon Prime and SlingTV)
Parting Glances (streaming on Plex, Amazon Prime, and Philo)
Zero Patience (streaming on The Criterion Channel)

See the full list of Reel Charlie’s HIV AIDS films.

Philip Bahr marching in ACT-UP demo. Kennebunkport, Maine. September 1, 1991. Screen grab from the film How to Survive a Plague

Coming up:
August 2022: Coming Out
September 2022: Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City


Borgen: Power & Glory

June 18, 2022

I first met Denmark’s outstanding political drama, Borgen in 2010. Borgen fed my soul. Borgen reminded me what humans can achieve when we elect officials who want more than just power and wealth. Politicians who are 100% human, capable of greatness, yet flawed as we all are. After three incredible seasons, we said goodbye to Birgitte, Katrine, Kaspar and the rest of the remarkable cast. I remembered them fondly over the years, highly recommending the series to people who wanted an honest, human portrait of Denmark’s fictitious first female Prime Minister. I never once expected the show to come back 12 years later for another season. But here we are in 2022, and what a treat Borgen: Power & Glory has been. This time Birgitte’s no longer Prime Minister, Sidse Babett Knudsen is back as Foreign Minister to a new, younger female PM. Birgitte Hjort  Sørensen’s Katrine Fønsmark is now head of news at a fictional media station (think Denmark’s CNN), with Søren Malling as Torben Friis who stepped down from that role in the dozen years since we last saw Borgen. New cast additions include Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen as Birgitte’s son Magnus Nyborg Christensen, Mikkel Følsgaard as acting Arctic Ambassador Asger Holm Kirkegaard, Simon Bennebjerg as Birgitte’s assistant Oliver Hjorth, Özlem Saglanmark as news anchor Narciza Aydin, Svend Hardenberg as Hans Eliassen, Greenland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Raw Materials, and Nivi Pedersen as Emmy Rasmussen, an official of the Greenlandic government. This season Greenland discovers oil. A lot of it. Queue the drama and political intrigue. Knudson’s Birgitte is an incredibly complex character full of intelligence, hard work, and a deeply flawed human being. She openly expresses how grateful she is to be divorced and an empty nester. This time she can focus 100% on her job and not feel guilty about letting her family down. Her ex-husband is remarried. He and his new wife are expecting a child. Birgitte doesn’t hesitate an instant to express her happiness for them. But the real complicated, messy drama takes place in the halls of government, in meetings on Greenland, and in the news studio. Birgette’s character gets put to the test as she grapples with a Greenland who wants independence and oil production in the age of climate change. Borgen‘s a delicious look at contemporary politics – the people who run Denmark and the people who report on it. It’s layered, nuanced, the best kind of television possible. 5 out of 5 for the return of Borgen.

Borgen: Power & Glory streams separately on Netflix.
Borgen (Seasons 1-3) stream separately on Netflix.
Must search for both separately.

Anatomy of a Scandal

April 27, 2022

Another mini-series with a generic name which simply makes me mix this show up with other closely named shows, like A Very British Scandal. Ugh. Anatomy of a Scandal‘s based on Sarah Vaughn’s book. I watched it because Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) stars in it. It also stars Sienna Miller and Rupert Friend. I was hoping for decent to great. I got mediocre. Think a not so great remake of The Good Wife. The one thing it had going for it – the wife is shown in flashbacks being just as much of a privileged dick as her husband. They deserve each other. Although truth be told, she did follow the rules and he didn’t. And he’s spent his life making a series of sexual assaults. It’s creepy. The limited series didn’t work like I hoped it would. Michelle was great out of early 20th Century drag, but even her character spun out of control and not in a good way. 2 out of 5. Next.

Anatomy of a Scandal currently streams on Netflix.

State of America’s Libraries Report 2022 (American Library Association)

April 10, 2022

Very proud of my profession, librarianship. The American Library Association recently posted their 2022 State of America’s Libraries Report. You can view the entire document here. I will also post a few infographics below to give you a taste of what they’ve focused on.

50% of the most challenged books in 2021 were LGBTQ. 

Visible: Out on Television

March 26, 2022

Finally able to watch the outstanding and important 5-part docu-series, Visible: Out on Television about LGBTQ representation in television. Not to sound all smarty pants, but even I learned a number of new facts. From the 50’s to 2020 (when it was released), Visible: Out on Television packs a powerful punch with episodes devoted to:

Episode 1: The Dark Ages – 50’s and 60’s
Episode 2: Television as a Tool – 70’s and 80’s
Episode 3: The Epidemic: 80’s and 90’s
Episode 4: Breakthroughs: late 90’s forward
Episode 5: The New Guard

Love, love, love this outstanding and necessary look at the journey television has taken depicting LGBTQ people and our communities. Bravo to Executive Producers Wilson Cruz, Wanda Sykes, Jessica Hargrave, and Ryan White for making this happen. 5 out of 5. Must-see and a fascinating look at the history of television and the queer community. Stands tall on the shoulders of Vito Russo’s work.

Visible: Out on Television currently streams on Apple TV+.

Pieces of Her

March 19, 2022

Toni Collette’s series, Pieces of Her is an American suspense thriller created by Charlotte Stoudt, directed by Minkie Spiro, and based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Karin Slaughter. The limited series opens with Collette’s character and her daughter caught in an extreme public situation. Collette’s Laura reacts and ends up going viral, threatening to expose a past her adult daughter has no prior knowledge of. The show packed a good punch from the start. However once Laura’s past is revealed, the story mired in too many details of why she is who she is and how she got to this point in her life. Also too many unanswered questions about how she was able to hide out all these years. I watched the entire series, but didn’t feel particularly satisfied in the end. Pieces of Her is decent TV, not outstanding. Some of the elements seemed a bit farfetched. I’ll leave it at a 3 out of 5.

Pieces of Her currently streams on Netflix.

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