John Inman died last week at the age of 71. He was at the end of an era that allowed us to find stereotypes funny. He and others like him – Kenneth (I’ve come all over queer!) Williams et al – were not politically correct by today’s standards but damn it they made us laugh! So did Mrs Slocum, Captain Peacock and the rest of the pc-challenged caricatures on Are You Being Served. (And there are some very funny episodes at YouTube.com.)
Days after Mr. Inman’s death self-appointed spokespeople (that is the pc word I believe) for various gay groups were pontificating about the negative image of gay men Inman or rather his Mr Humphries gave the world. In today’s Times of London, Matthew Parris takes on these groups of humourless activists and reminds them that it was men like Inman that help them say “I’m free!”
I’m not into U.S. bashing – that holier than thou attitude we tend to take here in Canada does have a tendency to backfire. You know the one: We don’t have racial discrimination here in Canada – hmm just ask the people of Africville. However a few things I’ve read today make me fear for the Land of the Free.
In Cross River, N. Y. Three high school girls are being suspended for using the word “Vagina” during a public reading from Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. It would appear that using the proper anatomical term was going to damage the psyche of children in the audience. Somehow – though maybe I’m being unfair here – I can’t believe that many parents in Cross River would take their children to see something called The Vagina Monologues.
And this week poor Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter to most of us) has been the subject of outraged comments from American parents on several blogs – including one celebrity gossip site that I will not admit to visiting from time to time. So what has poor Harry… sorry Dan done? Well he is currently appearing in a revival of Peter Shaffers’s Equus in London’s West End. And for 5 minutes of this 180 minute play Dan is nude – with his “weewee” – I don’t want to use the word “penis” in case there are children from Cross River reading this – exposed. Now during the play he also rides on the back of men dressed up as horses and drives spikes into said horses’ eyes. But apparently that isn’t important – it’s that exposed weewee that is going to scar America’s children for life. They will never be able to look at a Wizard’s wee… damn it penis again!
The odd thing is that it isn’t happening in the mass media in the U.S. – the great exposure is happening in a theatre an ocean away. The likelihood of any of these people’s children making the trans-Atlantic hop to witness this dreadful unveiling are extremely slim –actually I can’t imagine its all that dreadful, Dan looks pretty damned buffed in the publicity photos. One upset mother referred to him appearing in a pornographic play. Any bets that Mom hasn’t read, if she reads anything at all, the play or perhaps seen a play for that matter.
Most of the indignation and outrage – indignation at the use of the perfectly valid word Vagina and outrage at a naked man 3000 kilometers away – seems to be the indignation and outrage of the ignorant. And that’s what is frightening me.
Until I read the last chapter of The City of Falling Angels I had not realized that Enrico Carella had fled Italy after he lost his appeal. He was one of the two men charged with setting the La Fenice fire. His cousin is currently serving out his seven year sentence but until yesterday Carella had avoid his eight year term. Now according to an article in the New York Times he has been caught in Mexico.
Being Venice (actually being Italy) there are all sorts of conspiracy theories – Mafia, City Officials, corrupt Companies – some of which sound entirely plausible. But Berendt points out something he was told the first day he arrived in Venice:
Everyone in Venice is acting…. Venetians never tell the truth. We mean precisely the opposite of what we say.