Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Academy Awards®

I watched the Academy Awards® on Sunday, breaking my usual habit of finding almost anything else to do to avoid watching an awards telecast. I made an exception for the Oscars® this year because of the abundance of queer and transgender-themed films — Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Transamerica — plus George Clooney's unprecedented nominations for directing and acting in two different films, plus, of course, Jon Stewart.

There isn't much to say about the awards show itself that hasn't already been said a thousand times by a thousand monkeys blogging at a thousand laptops, but I did want to say a few things about some of my favorites of the films that were up for this year's Oscars®.

Transamerica is the story of a male-to-female (MTF) transsexual, played by Felicity Huffman, who fathered a child long ago when she was trying to be a good hetero-normative man. Her son, played by Kevin Zegers, is trying to get out of a bit of trouble with the law, and needs his father to come get him. I know quite a few transsexuals — post-operative, pre-op, partial-op, and non-op; on full hormones, low-dose hormones, or no hormones; heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, omnisexual, pansexual, and fluidly sexual — and, at the risk of making broad generalizations (which are always wrong!), I can tell you that being "trans" does not (necessarily) mean that someone is crazy, confused, weird, sick, or immoral. Sure, I've met a few fucked-up psycho-trannies (well, really, it would be more accurate to say tranny psychos) but I've also met many trannies who are just great people who happen to have been born with bodies that don't match their self-identity. Even though Felicity Huffman did not win the "Best Actress" award, I am immensely glad that the hubbub around this film has raised the national consciousness around transgender issues. From my conversations with my friends who are trannies, I would say that what they most want from society is simply the freedom to be who they already know they are. If it's acceptable to get cosmetic surgery purely for reasons of superficial personal vanity, why is it somehow wrong to get surgery to make your body look like the person you know you were born to be? Isn't this supposed to be a nation that values individual liberty?

Brokeback Mountain is a movie whose "controversial" status I find somewhat mystifying. It's not like the sex scene was anything remotely close to "graphic." It's not like the characters went and got syphilis from sheep — the species from which that particular disease found its way into the human population. It shouldn't be news to anyone that homosexuals exist in all walks of life, in all professions, and yes, even in Wyoming. It shouldn't be news that, as Willie Nelson puts it, "Cowboys are frequently secretly fond of each other." It's no great secret to anyone, especially in Matthew Shepard's home state, that homosexuals are often the targets of violence and murder just because they're different. So just enjoy the beautiful scenery (whether by that you mean the mountains or Jake Gyllenhaal's dimples) and share the love and the sadness at the denial of love.

I didn't actually see Capote, because I've never much cared for its subject. Never mind the flamboyant mannerisms, Truman Capote always just came across as creepy. It's worth noting that — just as not all homosexuals are horrible creatures — not all homosexuals are wonderful people, either.

Good Night and Good Luck is one of my favorite films of all time, about one of my great childhood heroes, Edward R. Murrow. Murrow rose to fame with his radio reports from London during the Nazi bombing campaign in World War II, but in the 1950's he went on to bring down one of the most evil people ever to walk the halls of the United States government, a man whose parallels to the Bush Administration are potent and frightening: Wisconsin's Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy. [Don't confuse this Senator McCarthy with Minnesota's Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy, who died late in 2005!] Joseph McCarthy sought to drive out anyone he viewed as "disloyal" to America — in essence, anyone who in any way challenged the status quo — by intimidation and harrassment. Murrow stood up to McCarthy to say, No, Senator, it is you who are undermining America. In like manner, I try to stand up to President Bush and others like him today to say, "You, Mr. President, are making America less safe, less free, and less prosperous." Even as it took years to undo the damage wrought by a single rogue Senator, it will take generations to undo the damage wrought by a rogue President.

Technorati tags: Oscars®, Brokeback, Transamerica, Transgender, Transsexual, Good Night and Good Luck, Murrow, McCarthy