Transparent (Spoilers)

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So, I finally watched Transparent, mainlining the two existing seasons over the course of a weekend.

And I don’t know what to say.

I liked the show.  I found it very watchable, and I feel it won on all fronts from a creative perspective: great writing, acting, directing, music.  However, The Pfeffermans are horrible people.  Unbridled narcissists, they crash into the lives of much nicer, more caring people and remorselessly shred their psyches and then cast these people aside like outgrown toys, occasionally popping back in to see if they can inflict new pain upon their victims.

Transparent feels very much like a soap opera, where a lot of the drama is driven by the lurid pleasure that comes from watching these people lure one victim after another into their web of lies and then wait for the moment when the poor person realizes that they are just another victim of a very sick family.

What makes Transparent different from Falcon Crest, however, is that many of the characters, not just the father, find themselves exploring their identities, sexual and gender.  The father, Maura, has come out as transgender and expressed her desire to live as a woman.   Sarah leaves her husband to rekindle a lesbian relationship she had in college.  Gaby pursues both a trans man and later a lesbian relationship with an old friend and one of her brother’s former conquests, and Shelly, the mother of the family, explores a lesbian relationship with her former husband.  So, with the exception of the son, so far, they are all what I would call genderfluid, open to exploring their own sexualities if not always very accepting of others.

But they are all assholes! Narcissists. They are a prevalent stereotype of LGBT people as people who love only themselves and do not seem to care at all how their actions impact others.  They are always me, me, me, and they lie and abuse people with impunity. So, isn’t it a problem that this show, being lauded as a ground-breaking step forward for LGBT people, portrays LGBT as horrible, selfish parasites?

No, and for this reason; because it is just like Falcon Crest. Or Dallas.  Or countless other shows where rich, entitled turds go around being selfish and abusive toward others. Transparent is not a documentary or an after-school special. It is a soap opera, and nice people are boring, so naturally these characters need to be flawed and terrible, because that is what viewers find entertaining.  No one is going to tune in to watch a well-adjusted family work out their problems like mature adults.  No one.  No one is going to tune in to watch a happily married couple go on an uneventful vacation.

There needs to be conflict.  Disaster.  Bad thinking.

In addition, among the victims suffering for the misfortune of getting involved with any of the human misery machines known as the Pfeffermans, are straight and LGBT characters alike.   We see that in the world there are good and bad people, and some of them are straight and some of them are not, and it is a good thing that this show can portray a balance.

If I were going to fault anything it would be the classification of this show as a comedy.   It seemed very clearly a drama to me.  There are some funny moments, but they emerge out of dramatic situations and are far less frequent than more dramatic moments.  It seems to me that the only reason that anyone would find this to be a comedy is if they are an immature person who thinks anything with non-traditional gender roles is automatically funny.  There is a scene, for example, where Maura has decided to perform at a LGBT talent show, and as she comes out and begins to sing all of her children begin laughing uncontrollably and then flee the room in the middle of her performance.

When Maura first emerged onto the stage, I was thinking– yes!  Do it!  Live your life!  I didn’t find it hilariously funny that she would have the courage to get up there and do it. Not at all.  Nor did I find it hilarious that her children would burst out laughing and then run out of the room.

But then I am one of those kind-hearted folks that people like the Pfeffermans would prey upon, so maybe that is why I found it sad people would be so hateful toward their own parent.

Transparent is a soap opera, and I would say a good one.  Season Two got more and more into gender identity, and I found it more and more interesting.  I am looking forward to the third season.  To me, I would call is Falcon Crest in transition.

If you are looking for a show about good people who are interested in growing and becoming better people– for real, not just for fashion– this probably isn’t the show for you.  But if you want to see horrible people being horrible, check it out.

Free on Amazon Prime

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transparent (Spoilers)

Five Questions with CBlack

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CBlack’s Page on TGComics

Hey, folks!  Five Questions returns with an interview with the TG author and comics creator cblack, which many of you will know from his prolific production at TGComics!  I am a huge fan myself, and want to thank CBlack for taking the time!  Enjoy, all!

 

1. What are your top three TG experiences in terms of books, films, videos, songs?

#1— Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. I saw this on late night TV when I was a teenager and was hooked. I’d never seen anything like it before and the images of Ralph Bates turning into Martine Bestwick and then feeling herself up still gets a rise out of me.
#2—I Will Fear No Evil, by Robert Heinlein. I read this in college, and re-read it, and re-read it, and re-read it… You get the idea.
#3 — Frankenstein Created Woman. Somebody at Hammer Studios must really like me! 😉

2. Why does the theme of TG interest you as an artist?

Good question, because I’m not so sure of the answer myself. I’m not TG myself or even gay (of course I can immediately hear readers going, “Yeah, sure you’re not! Denial!!”), but human metamorphosis has always intrigued me. Originally, it was movies and comics where a plain girl transformed into a stunning, sexual beauty. (The classic Cinderella-syndrome.) But that eventually evolved into a deep fascination with men morphing into stunning, sexual beauties. Artistically, creating the changing men and then presenting the final woman in various sexual and social situation is where I get the bulk of my fulfillment.

3. As a follow-up to the second question, I feel you as much as any artist have explored a wide range of different kinds of TG themes. Can you talk about why you feel you have looked at so many different aspects of the TG world and if any particular themes interest you more than others?

I mostly try and explore different TG themes to keep my comics fresh and different. I don’t want them all to rehash the same thing over and over but just with different characters in different settings. I don’t know if I have a favorite theme, but most readers would recognize that a lot of my comics take place in a college setting. That’s probably because I spent a LOT of time in college (I refuse to say exactly how many years) and my experiences there still influence me today.
But, as I’ve written more and more situations regarding the TG community, I always do research and try to incorporate as much factual information as possible (as factual as you can be when a truck accident causes a jock to turn into a hot coed). This research has allowed me to learn a great deal about the community and develop a deep respect for those in it and what they have to deal with.

4. Can you talk about your journey as an artist? Who were your influences? What was the process like for you in terms of reaching the point where you felt ready to put your work out there for the world to see?

I think my first foray’s into TG art were in High School when I was copying (tracing) images of sexy women from comics. (I had to trace because my hand-drawn artistic skills are abysmal!) I then started to “reverse engineer” the drawings to make them more masculine so I could reverse it and eventually see the F —> M progression I wanted.
My computer-based interest started with basic programs that morphed images into one another. (I can’t remember the name of the one I used, but I still see others using it today.) When I discovered Poser (I think it was Poser 4 at the time), I was like, “Oh My God! This is the coolest thing ever!!” I’m now using Poser Pro 2014 (and sometimes Carrara) to do my work. If you could see the comparisons of my early works to current ones, you can really tell the difference in the programs evolution, as well as mine.
My biggest influence in the TG community online was obviously Mako. I don’t remember exactly how we connected, but she had established the Siren Song website and allowed me to put my work up there along with hers. We then started collaborating on a few things. Mako also introduced me to Second Life where she had a whole island dedicated to the Siren Song world. Being able to live in SL as a woman was a very eye-opening experience, to say the least!

5. What has been the most positive aspect of publishing your work?

It’s got to be the number of people who are reading my works and their feedback. When Femur first asked me if we could start publishing my comics, I had no idea there would be so much response. I guess I just never realized how widespread the TG community (or those who just like reading about it) was.
I guess I also can’t ignore the fact that my income from the sale of the comics has also been beneficial… in paying off my student loans from all that damn college! 😉

6. What’s coming up next? Let’s hear about your next projects!

I’ve been working on my next project since right after “College Life” came out. Since I started doing this, I can’t seem to stop. As soon as I finish one project, I start fiddling around with images until I get an idea for a new project. This project is tentatively titled, “SuperEgo” and takes place in a (Surprise!!) college setting. As the title implies, it’s a little more psychological in nature than some of my other works. It’s currently at about 1200 images and I still have at least one more chapter to go. I hope to have it out by spring (my real-life and Femur’s schedule pending).

CBlack!  You are the best! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience.  Can’t wait to read your next one!

Five Questions with CBlack

Weird Scenes in NY Basements

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Hedwig.  This pictures is not from a stand-up show.  I just like it!

I’ve been hitting up the open mic comedy scene in NYC the last couple of weeks.   In New York, there are dozens of places all over the city where people can come and in exchange for 5 dollars they get a 5 minutes of time at the microphone. These typically take place in bar basements, comedy clubs before the pro shows, occasionally coffee shops or restaurants.

What does this have to do with genderfluidity?

A lot.  The thing is, a lot of people show up at these mics because they want a chance to express their rage.  They may think they are comedians, but they are really just angry people, usually white males, who feel entitled to vomit their hate and anger into a room full of strangers under the guise that, hey, it’s a comedy show, so I can say anything I want.

What they want to say a lot of the times is that they hate gay people, and anyone who isn’t hetero-normative.  Recently I was at a mic where a comedian identified herself a bi-sexual and did her set about the trials and tribulations of being bi in a mono world.  Some of the material was funny, but I was the only one that laughed.  The room was cold, unwelcoming. She and her friends left after her performance, and I felt bad for her, but also proud that she had the courage to get up on stage and do her material knowing full well how the room might react.

Shortly after she left, another “comedian” came on stag, grabbed the mic and began screaming, “I am sick of people who feel they have to get here and tell me their sexuality.  Choose a side, bitch!  That’s what I’m saying and choose a side or just start eating ass!”

The crowd cheered, laughed and applauded.

Earlier in the show, a gay comedian had gotten up and talked about how frustrating it was for him that white males would get up at these mics and gay bash, and people would laugh. He was still there, and was among those who wasn’t clapping for the blatant gay bashing.

Not surprisingly, the list of people subjected to open hate speech included African Americans, Jews, gays, bi-racial people and, of course, liberals–  ie, whites who are not hate mongers.  “I’m sick of these liberal pussies and their political correctness!”  Cheers and applause.

The book on millennials is that they are supposedly more open to genderfluidity and racial tolerance than previous generations.  Folks, I was sitting in a room full of millennials, and I can tell you the notion this generation is tolerant is bullshit.  They just know what to say when they take a survey, but give them a stage and a spotlight, and the hate just pours out of them. Not all of them, but just as many as in my generation.

How to respond?  I don’t believe in answering hate with hate.

I am tempted to answer hate with hate, but I don’t.  I think that just fuels the cycle.

Instead, I do bits about male insecurity, and how much of the behavior that guys do to seem “macho” comes from fear.  I talk about how in a group of most men, I can’t praise woman for anything other than her sexual desirability without being mocked and ridiculed, and I suggest that any man who reacts with fear and annoyance to hearing a phrase like, “I am in awe of Tina Fey’s intelligence” should accept and embrace the fact that he is still afraid of girls.  “Accept it.  Embrace it.  And then work on it.”

I get mixed reactions.  Some rooms freeze me out.  Sometimes people thank me.   All reactions are fine.  I do not own other people’s reactions.  I can only do what I do, and let them feel the way they feel about it.

I do feel like I need to keep going to these mics, and hopefully eventually clubs, and I need to bring my message to people because it is important to me that we keep moving forward, keep connecting.  There has been progress, but the forces of intolerance and hate are still out there, and they are always looking for targets, and from what I have seen, there are a whole lot of young people out there just dying for a chance to cheer and laugh at some plain old fashioned gay bashing.

 

 

Weird Scenes in NY Basements

Zeus. Goddess. The Metanoia

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I felt like Zeus needed a sex-change.  That was my first thought when I started playing with the idea of a genderfluid book set among the world of the Olympian Gods.   As selfish an a-hole as any mortal man has ever been, Zeus had all the worst traits of masculinity, having done such wonderful things as rape his sister and then force her to marry him.

Sunday school must have been truly disturbing back in the days of ancient Greece, and probably caused more than a little uneasiness among siblings.

So, I figured, let me put this rapacious and repulsive embodiment of the worst of masculinity into a female body and explore what happens to him. I sat down to write what I thought was going to be a forced femme/vengeance story, but then I just couldn’t seem to write it.Nothing was coming out that felt good to me.

I started and stopped more than a few times.  Put it away and wrote some other material.  Figured it was just one of those ideas that wouldn’t work, but it wouldn’t go away.  Every time I finished a story, the idea of doing a TG story featuring Zeus would come back to me and linger.

One day I stumbled upon a New Zealand television series called The Almighty Johnsons, in which the Norse Gods were reborn in modern times as a bunch a beer swilling kiwis,  so I thought to do something similar with the Greek Gods;  Zeus and company would be reborn as fashion models working for Olympian Fashions.

But the story just turned campy, and I felt like I wasn’t really getting at what I wanted to get at.   Freud had based a lot of his ideas regarding all the stuff percolating in our subconscious minds from his readings of the Greek myths, and I wanted the book to be something of a Freudian dream.

Finally, I started to just play around with images, taking classic representations of Zeus and other figures from Greek mythology and giving them a TG twist.

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And then I had an image; Zeus, Lord of the Heavens and King of the Gods, would wake up with breasts.  How would he react?  What would he do?  How would having his body slightly feminized change or threaten or alter his personality?

Once I get started, I often will begin to dream my stories, to wake up with scenes playing out in my mind, or I will see them when I am on the train.   I also plunge into research, in this case learning a great deal about lesser known Greek Gods, such as Kybele, who was born both male and female, and whom makes an appearance in my novel.

The novel became about the relationship of the characters to themselves and others, and how those relationships would be altered as the gods changed not only in their bodies, but in their minds.  How would Zeus relate to the world as he became the goddess of marriage and wife to Hera?  What would happen to Ares as he transitioned from a God of War to a lesser goddess in service to Athena?  How would the goddesses react as their bodies and roles changed?

All in all, I have to say that writing Zeus.  Goddess. was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as an author.  I was inspired and excited about the discoveries I made as the story unfolded, and I loved expanding my knowledge of Olympian mythology.  Now that one is done, and it is on to the next one, and in order to stave off my usual post publication depression, I am already working on the next one.

This time, I hope to do something I have never done.  I want to write a genderfluid comedy.  I don’t know what else it will be just yet, but I can’t wait to find out!

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Zeus. Goddess. The Metanoia

The Danish Girl (Spoilers)

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Am I insane? 

 

Einar Wegener.  The protagonist of The Danish Girl.  Is haunted by this question throughout most of his life.  Am I insane?

He has always felt that he was a female.  But he has a male body, so he has learned to repress who he is, to consider his female identity something to be hidden, a source of shame. Something wrong.

But he is not Einar Wegener.  He is not a man.  She is only pretending to be Einer.  She is Lili Elbe.

I try to avoid reviews and plot summaries, so I am going to focus on one aspect only of the film, and that is the role that Lili’s wife played in helping her to emerge.   Gerda, a true artist, saw the truth even before she knew what she saw.  She sketched and painted the biological male she had married as a beautiful woman, often placing her in scenes of lesbian erotica.  At the time, Lili was still pretending to be a man named Einer, but as her wife painted her, and those painting and sketches ended up bringing Gerda international fame and success, Lili was able to emerge, facing the fears and resistances of the world.

Lili, while still living in man’s body, had become an international success as a female model.

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It must have been so exciting for her to see the truth of her identity validated by her wife, and by the public’s celebration of her, and I have to believe it not only brought her great joy but also the courage to fully reveal herself to the world and ultimately pursue what was at the time dangerous and life threatening surgery.  She had seen her true self painted, represented, loving presented to the world by the woman she loved, and she could and must take the risks and face whatever challenges she had to face.  Among those fears and risks was the possible loss of her relationship with Gerda, whom she did love very much.

In the movie, Lili’s end is joyful and sad.  After going in for her second surgery, she loses a great deal of blood she is near death.  Gerda is with her, and Lili tells Gerda she had a dream in which she was a baby in her mother’ arms, and her mother looked down at her and called her Lili.

She is radiant with joy recounting the dream.  She, Lili, has fuly accepted who she is, and she believes her mother has accepted her, too, and so she dies joyful, at last having become physically the woman she always knew herself to be, and having been accepted and loved as that woman.  She dies happy and at peace, with the woman who loved her and supported her and let her live her life freely and openly at her side.

The ending of the movie is not true. Lili died after her fourth, not second surgery.  She had gone in for a fourth surgery in order to have a uterus implant in the hopes she could have a baby.  She wanted to be a woman fully, and to have the child of a man she had fallen in love with.

Gerda was not there at Lili’s side when she died.  The two had separated after a Danish court invalidated their marriage in 1930.  Gerda had moved to Morocco, and when she heard of Lili’s death she is said to have replied, “My poor little Lili.”

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The Danish Girl (Spoilers)