I keep hearing that bisexuality in men doesn’t exist. That any man who identifies as bi is just a closet homosexual and doesn’t want to realise or acknowledge it.
What about: Iggy Pop? David Bowie? Mika? Green Day lead singer Billy Joe?
Here’s the thing: I do believe, as a general rule, that men tend to fall on opposite ends of the Kinsey scale more than women do—to “pick a side and stick with it”, as it were. Women’s sexuality does seem more mutable. And less contingent on the genitalia of their partner than with a variety of other factors that influence their attraction, of which biological sex seems the least relevant.
Some have concluded that this is because women are emotionally attracted to individuals, rather than physically attracted to body parts. I disagree. I think it’s funny how they spin that: If it were the other around and women were less inclined to bisexuality than men, they’d say it’s because women are more monogamous and less experimental. But because we’re the polymorphously perverse ones, it clearly has nothing to do with pure physical attraction, since we all know girls don’t experience that. Clearly, it has to be because our feelings are driving us to establish a relationship with someone, anyone, because women are needy and can’t stand being alone.
But does it always have to come down to emotions? If anything, the ability of heterosexual women to be aroused by people of different genders and gender presentations is indicative that straight women are even more horny than their male counterparts, who wouldn’t even entertain the fantasy of screwing another man to see whether it gets them off or not. (by the way, for those of you who are indignantly crying, “So does that mean you think gay people have a latent hetero inside them, hmm?”—uh, nooo. Queer folk have grown up in a culture in which heterosexuality is the norm—they’ve had hetero fantasies broadcast at them since infancy, and concluded that it wasn’t for them. Straight men have never had to battle an image culture that forces them to question their sexuality in the same manner. If they did, then of course there would still be lots of straight men who were, by nature and design, attracted exclusively to women. But there also might be a few more willing to admit that a romp in the hay with another fella turned them on, too.)
I think it’s odd that people talk about the pink unicorn of male bisexuality, when so many of them exist in the entertainment industry. Maybe it’s the whole “luxuries of the privileged class” thing—aristocrats get to engage in sexual behaviour without the stigma that would attach to us normal folks. Billy Joe can talk openly about his attraction to other men in Rolling Stone, and all but the most homophobic of straight dudes will still think he’s a legend because he’s a rockstar. But your average Joe on a building site will probably keep quiet about his same-sex ponderings.
FTR, I find male bisexuality incredibly arousing. But that’s a post for another time.
A tribute to those fierce Disney ladies. It’s a montage of various Disney women doing their thing to pop star Tata Young’s “Sexy, Naughty, Bitchy.” Thought this might be fun, in light of yesterday’s post about sexuality in Disney movies. Amaterasu Tao made it, and I gotta say: girl, your video is AWESOME.
I went and saw Tangled yesterday at Whitfords City with my little cousin. It was her birthday and my aunt and uncle decided (wisely or foolishly depending on your views on child-rearing) to let her decide how she wanted to spend it. Her answer: “Movies with Karina, YAY!” Movies with Karina. Yay.
Actually, I didn’t mind. I’m not typically a fan of small children; I’m child-free and intend on remaining that way for life. But my cous is a cool little chicha and pretty well-behaved (and completely toilet-trained, which is surprising for someone under the age of 12). So I figured, What the heck. There are worse ways to kill an afternoon (mundane domestic tasks spring automatically to mind).
I was also a little excited myself: Tangled is Disney’s 50th animated feature, so I kind of had high hopes for it. I’m not one of those people who are leery of animation as a medium or who find animated films unwatchable; I think animated movies are just as capable as their live-action counterparts of delivering emotionally-complex characters, intricately-crafted narratives and moral ambiguity (and this goes for animations targeted at a child audience, too). They don’t have to be full of doe-eyed critters or trite “believe in yourself!” clichés (I’ve noticed that the biggest proponents of this type of dumbed-down content in kids’ movies are actually the same ones who dismiss animation as a medium…for being too dumb, ironically. Case in point: Margaret Pomeranz. When she and David reviewed 2007’s latest Pixar offering—I forget which one and I’m too lazy to check, possibly Ratatouille—David opined that the whole ‘believe in yourself!’ crap was getting old and that to have it re-iterated in every animated feature at the multiplex insulted children’s intelligence. “But children need to have that message re-iterated!” an anti-animation Margaret cried. “I don’t see why,” David replied coolly. “Every once in awhile is fine, but not in every movie. It just becomes patronising nonsense, and even the children think so.” Damn straight, Dave. Margaret seems to favour a clear division between entertainment aimed at kids and entertainment aimed at adults, with the latter getting all the chin-stroking complexity and the former making do with all the glaze-eyed, drooly-chin clichés. More conservative types who think this way have contributed much to the discourse of “adults in a perpetual state of adolescence” or (equally annoying) “children growing up too fast!!!” But don’t let the wowsers fool you—boundary-blurring is good. As Steven Johnson provocatively argued in his book Everything Bad Is Good For You, “[D]emographic blur has a commendable side we don’t acknowledge enough. The kids are forced to think like grown-ups: analysing complex social networks, managing resources, tracking subtle narrative intertwinings, recognising long-term patterns. The grown-ups, in turn, get to learn from the kids: decoding each new technological wave, parsing the interfaces, and discovering the intellectual rewards of play. Parents should see this as an opportunity, not a crisis.” I can’t put it much better than that.)
Alright. That may have just been my biggest parenthetical digression ever. So, back to the movie.
As I said, I had high hopes for Tangled. I expected some kind of hip postmodern fairytale like Shrek, packed with an A-list vocal cast, sly winks at the adults in the audience and pop cultural references galore.
Instead, Tangled goes the traditional route of sing-a-longs and wacky sidekick duos. Which is fine. We can’t all be Shrek or The Incredibles, and anyway, the formula has been a successful one. Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King—some of Disney’s best have been musical adaptations of old fairytales. So when it became clear that Tangled was going to be old-school, I was a little disappointed but not too worried. Hey, I’m a huge Glee fan. And who doesn’t love a couple of zany sidekicks?
Spoilers to follow.
Tangled is a modern imagining of the Rapunzel story, with Mandy Moore as the title character and newcomer Zachary Levi as her love interest, Flynn Ryder. Flynn is a thief who’s on the run from the palace guards—and one very canine-like stallion—because he and a couple of not-too-bright bandit mates have just robbed the place. There’s a chase sequence at the beginning of the film in which Flynn basically leaves his mates for dead and absconds with the loot up a tower (by the way, this is pretty much it in terms of character development. We know that a Flynn is a thief, and based on a few conceited comments he makes about his appearance in Wanted posters, probably also a metrosexual. That’s it.)
Anyway. In a shocking twist that no-one raised on these kinds of stories from kindergarten could possibly anticipate, the tower Flynn escapes into is the same one in which Rapunzel is being held captive. She’s being held there by her evil “mother” (who is the brunette devil to Rapunzel’s blonde angel; another total shock) with whom she has bonded, Stockholm-style, in the same manner as Belle did with her hirsute beau in Beauty And The Beast (in a familial way rather than a romantic one, I hasten to add.) Unbeknown to Rapunzel, her “mother” is actually just some demented old lady who kidnapped her from the palace as an infant to heal herself and give her the power of eternal youth (Rapunzel’s hair has magical healing properties and glows when she sings. And you thought your new ’do was rad.) And oh yeah, she’s also a princess.
The rest of the movie is standard: Flynn and Rapunzel go on an adventure together, Rapunzel realises it’s much more fun out in the real world than at home with Mummy, controlling Mummy resorts to lying and manipulation to get her back, hijinks with wacky sidekicks and eventually, a marriage and happily-ever-after ending follow. The musical numbers are nothing to write home about. Despite Mandy Moore’s considerable vocal talent, the songs here are catchy but ultimately forgettable. There’s nothing here that will take the mantle of “Be Our Guest” or “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.” Or even “Hakuna Matata.” It was a bit of letdown.
But the biggest letdown for me was the lack of chemistry between the two leads.
“But Karina,” you say, “How can a couple of computer-generated animated characters have chemistry? And it’s a children’s movie for goodness sakes!”
Well, true. But so was The Lion King. That didn’t stop Simba and Nala from enjoying a good roll in the hay (watch the look Nala gives to Simba after he pins her down. It’s pure sex). It didn’t stop Jafar from dressing Princess Jasmine up in slave clothes, leering at her body and enjoying the helplessness of the cuckolded Aladdin. It didn’t stop Hades in Hercules from throwing Herc a “curveball” in the form of love interest Meg, whom he commanded to use her wiles to seduce the hero and lead him straight to hell. It didn’t stop The Little Mermaid’s Ariel from deciding that the unknown and a tall, dark, and handsome man were preferable to a dreary life with Daddy, even worth giving up her voice for (I didn’t say it was a feminist choice). It didn’t stop John Smith from perving on Pocahontas as she swam naked. It certainly didn’t stop Beauty and the Beast from having some violent and erotically charged arguments, after which they reconciled with passionate kisses (not to mention the tryst between the feather-duster and the rather randy candelabra).
Flynn and Rapuznel barely interact with each other. They don’t seem like lovers. They don’t even seem like friends most of the time, merely acquaintances whose attraction to one another isn’t even hinted at until they inexplicably kiss while sharing a midnight boat ride. There was no witty banter or playful razzing leading up to the romance in the manner of Aladdin, nor was it a case of repulsion slowly becoming attraction, as in the case of Shrek and Fiona. The best way I can describe their tepid interactions is to say imagine a scenario whereby two co-workers suddenly have their office overturned by a gang a marauders, and the marauders chase them down the street: “Oh shit, this pretty weird, isn’t it?” “Yeah, crap, I think they’re gaining!” “Fuck, I just tripped!” “Here, let me help you!” “No, they’ll get you!” “It’s okay, I got ya!” “Thank you.” “Quick, into this hiding spot!” “Okay.” (PAUSE). “I think they’re gone.” “Thank you so much for saving my arse back there.” “Don’t mention it. Say, are you still up for drinks Friday? By the way…how does my hair look?”
Well, there’s no swearing obviously, but you get the idea. And then imagine the co-workers taking a moonlit boat ride and kissing. It makes about as much sense.
If all of those other Disney princess stories can show the more, well, adult side of adult relationships, why can’t Tangled?
I’m wondering if it’s less to do with the content, and more to do with the medium. All of the films I mentioned above—Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty And The Beast, etc.—were traditional 2D animations. The 3D Disney/Pixar creations—Cars, Up, Toy Story, etc.—seem more conducive to humorous eye-popping visuals than torrid romances. Still, that doesn’t explain Shrek’s success at merging the two. And there’s no reason why a 3D child’s animation can’t have a more honest look at adult relationships.
For me, that’s what it comes down to. I always disagreed with the idea that Disney gives young girls unrealistically high expectations about men (and with the Facebook group of the same name)—if anything, it sets the bar pretty damn low for acceptable male behaviour (which can include holding a woman captive against her will until she learns to love you, putting her in chains and forcing her to call you “master” as she serves you, pimping her in order to trick your enemy into your trap, and telling her that you know what’s best for her and she will be punished physically for any insubordination). And yet, in spite of all my feminist objections to the sexism: At least it’s honest. It doesn’t sanitise what adult relationships are sometimes like. It doesn’t tell kids married life is all rosy hand-holding as you smile fondly at one another from side-by-side easy chairs. It doesn’t pretend there are no conflicts, no power struggles, no moments when you want to beat the ever-living shit out of each other. And, in not featuring the some of the more difficult stuff, it negates all the good parts, too: there’s no warmth, or depth, or intensity, or passion. Just treacly sentimentality.
The movie did look stunning, however. Beautiful visuals with great attention to detail, as always.
Final verdict: Tangled was full-bodied but had absolutely no heat. If you want to see a truly great animated movie this summer, see Megamind. Smart, funny and doesn’t pander.