Tag Archives: Colin Firth

Drug of Choice

14 Jul

Pride and Prejudice 1995 (1)I suspect most of us who identify as humans employ a variety of coping mechanisms just to get through the four letter word called life.  Over the course of almost half a century now, I have used different coping methods and have relied heavily on several during exceedingly difficult times in my life. I talk about, and try to live my life through, a lens of social justice. This piece has no judgment but does hope to make space for how we each try to make it through trying times.

In 1996 I had seen the A&E adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Now I must confess, during difficult times I would read and re-read Pride and Prejudice. When I saw this seminal film version of a most beloved novel, I knew I was home. Through the next several years, I would put the VHS tape in and watch this movie ad nauseam to soothe and console me. I so saw myself as Elizabeth Bennett played by the amazing Jennifer Ehle. It truly was my drug of choice. I was grateful to discover that I had a partner in crime, for my dear friend Bethie was equally addicted.

Years later, when I was feeling blue and down out, I found that I would keep re-reading the third Harry Potter novel.  In fact, in 2003 when I was working on an NEH grant, I was reading the fifth Harry Potter novel.  Upon finishing it, I asked my husband to mail me Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as a tonic.

A while ago, I was at work — I do diversity/inclusion and racial equity workshops while also teaching social work. I was confronted by a white man in a workshop who was doing some posturing and asked “so what do you think about the gay agenda and should we also accept the pedophile agenda?”  I have been doing these types of workshops for many many years now and rarely do I feel as though I have had the wind knocked out of me, but wow — I felt the severe punch.  All I could say was: “I’m not sure I understand the question, or if  there is a question?”  I try to meet everyone where they are at on their respective journeys and I have to keep in mind that one cannot force someone to be where they are not. I also have to keep in mind that for those of us doing work around issues of diversity and inclusion there will always be an acceptable amount of trauma. That being said,  when I finally got home, I knew I was going to self-medicate.  I told my husband what happened, made myself a martini, and yes, we watched Pride and Prejudice. 

As I write this, I am keenly aware of my own position of privilege and am also grateful that how we treat people with addictions looks much better than it did just 15 years ago. I’m grateful there are harm reduction models available and I hope we will continue to rely less and less on shame and blame. I also hope we continue to look at addiction and intersectionality. Are targeted groups more likely to rely on substances and if so, how do we change systems to create an equitable society and culture?

As we do this hard, important work and move together through the complicated journey of life, I hope everyone has as safe and reliable a drug of choice as my freedom to escape into the world of Miss Eliza Bennett.

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Oscar’s Gay History: A Mixed Bag

27 Feb

How will LGBT themes fare this year?

As we gear up for the 83rd annual Academy Awards, let’s take a look back at Oscar’s history. Hollywood is reputed to be a progressive beacon and a promoter of gay rights and issues. While there is some merit to that claim, when it comes time for the big awards, the closet door often slams shut.

Certainly a movie or a performance does not deserve an Oscar just because it is gay-themed, nor to actors deserve awards just because they are out. It is interesting, however, to note the number of surprises and upsets over the past eighty years that have resulted in a gay theme or actor being snubbed.

Researching this topic is a bit tricky, since many people are not out during their whole careers or live as “open secrets” within Hollywood society. Several lists of gay and lesbian winners include Jodie Foster, who won both of her awards before her very vague coming out and Kevin Spacey, who has actively denied being gay. George Cukor was known as the principle host of gay Hollywood society but was not known to be gay to most people when he won his directing award.

Sir John Gielgud probably counts as the earliest (mostly) out performer to be nominated (1963 for Beckett) and to win (1981 for Arthur), both Supporting Actor nods. He was involved in a minor gay solicitation scandal in Great Britain in 1953 and, while circumspect about his personal life, never lied about himself nor hid his partners. Another early winner was John Schlesinger, who won as Best Director in 1969 for Midnight Cowboy.

Over the past twenty years, as being out has become somewhat easier, certainly more out contributors to movies have been nominated and have won awards.

  • Sir Elton John and Melissa Etheridge have both won best song or soundtrack awards
  • Dustin Lance Black, Bill Condon, and Alan Ball have all won screenwriting awards
  • Scott Rudin won as the producer of Best Picture No Country for Old Men

Most of the well-known gay-themed awards, however, have gone to straight actors who were played gay. Some are richly deserved, like Hilary Swank’s powerful turn in Boys Don’t Cry or Sean Penn’s brilliant performance as Harvey Milk. Others are interesting and worth watching: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Capote and William Hurt’s performance in Kiss of the Spider Woman spring to mind. Then there are others, like Tom Hanks’ tepid performance in Philadelphia which had a very strong “wasn’t he brave” feel to it.

A number of gay-themed movies and performances have been upset. Certainly we can argue the specific merits of the winner and loser, but these stand out as odd moments of possible voting homophobia in Oscarland.

  • The champ in this category is Brokeback Mountain. Clearly a stronger film than the messy, let’s feel good about diversity Crash, it lost Best Picture in a shocking result. Neither of the starring actors won either (although Heath Ledger lost to Hoffman’s performance as Truman Capote.)
  • Another case of Oscar robbery was Transamerica. Felicity Huffman turned in the performance of a lifetime and lost to the fine but unremarkable Reese Witherspoon. Dolly Parton’s wonderful theme song Travelin’ Thru also lost best song.
  • One of the rare nominations of a gay actor playing a gay role was Ian McKellen’s brilliant turn as James Whale in Gods and Monsters, which lost to Roberto Benigni in Life Is Beautiful. (I seem to be the only person who found Benigni irritating and the movie cloying, so I may be alone in feeling this was an upset.)
  • Colin Firth’s brilliant performance in A Single Man lost to Jeff Bridges. Firth should make up for that loss this year with his equally strong performance in The King’s Speech.
  • One other performance that failed to even earn a nomination was Terence Stamp’s amazing role as Bernadette in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

This year’s best LGBT hopeful is the strong film The Kids Are All Right. Up for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor, the film should bring home at least one award. Annette Bening deservedly won a Golden Globe already for her performance.

The Academy Awards have a very mixed history in terms of LGBT content. Let’s hope that the gradual increase in acceptance and the greater number of out performers will create a steadier stream of nominees and winners in the years to come.

** POST OSCARS UPDATE: That was underwhleming! Other than Tim Gunn on the red carpet and James Franco in Marilyn drag, that was the least gay Adademy Awards I can remember in years. Kids got shut out – very sad.

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