Saturday, February 16, 2008

Kisses, Erosion, and Other Natural Phenomena

When I reviewed I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry on Pop Culture America (the Internet Sensation!) back in the Summer, I pointed out that even though the movie was kinda sorta awful and treated its subject matter in a ham-fisted, immature manner, it was still an important film. Whether groups on one side of the political spectrum or the other like it or not, cultural barriers like homophobia erode away slowly. On the conservative side are the people who would prefer these barriers never go away at all. On the liberal side are those who want to knock them over yesterday. But neither will get what they want, because it just doesn't work that way.

Liberals won't get their way because you can't bring about change in deeply rooted prejudice by hitting people over the head. And you can't defeat irrational fears with rational arguments. Conservatives won't get their way because .... Honestly because they will die off. Eventually. And the generation that takes their place simply will not be as freaked out about this stuff as their elders were.

The barrier will fall, but it won't fall quickly. And that's where Adam Sandler comes in.

An Adam Sandler comedy -- even a pretty awful one -- will reach more people and end up in more DVD libraries than, say, Brokeback Mountain will. Wring your hands over that fact if you must. Declare the end of all that's good and worthwhile about culture if that's what you need to do. None of that will alter the reality.

The fact is that Brokeback Mountain, as good a movie as it is, preaches to the choir. People already sympathetic to it will respond to it, while those who don't want to hear what it has to say will steadfastly ignore and/or avoid it.

But Chuck and Larry has a good chance of getting run in front of some individuals who need to hear the news that Yes! Homosexuals are people too! And maybe, just maybe when they hear these immortal words from the lips of Dan Aykroyd as Captain Phineas J. Tucker, maybe a few attitudes will improve:

"No matter whom we choose to love, be they heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, bisexual, trisexual, quadrisexual, pansexual, transexual, omnisexual or that thing where the chick ties the belt around your neck and tinkles on a ballon, it has absolutely nothing to do with who we are as people."

Amen.

On today's edition of Pop Culture America with our wonderful guest, Amy TVGal from zap2it.com, something similar came up. Dave and I talked with Amy about some of her recent blog entries, including one about memorable TV kisses (which you can read by clicking here). I mentioned one that she had failed to list: Callista Flockhart planting one on Lucy Liu in "Ally MacBeal." Amy took me and that sequence a bit to task. She pointed out (correctly) that the kiss in question was clearly designed to appeal to the prurient interests of some slobbering Neanderthal guys -- or as I call them, "My People!" And she mentioned that in a time when there were actual gay characters on television who had yet to be permitted to lock lips -- the guys on "Will and Grace," for instance -- it was more than a little hypocritical to show two straight women "experimenting." All excellent points.

But this is the way barriers fall. Baby steps. In Ally MacBeal's case, dancing baby steps. It might have been less than totally honorable, it might have been there to titillate chuckleheads like me, but that kiss saw the erosion of a tiny bit more of the homophobia barrier.

Think of one of the most famous, groundbreaking kisses in TV history: Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura share TV's first interracial kiss on "Star Trek." You could say that it isn't everything that it might be. Both the Captain and the Communications Officer are mind-controlled at the time. It doesn't lead to a complicated romance or relationship or what have you. But the image of a white man kissing a black woman appeared on TV screens, and a little bit of a barrier eroded that day. Just like it did in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Just like it did on "Ally MacBeal."

And I don't care what anybody says; Callista Flockhart kissing Lucy Liu is crazy sexy.

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