Nerdland Diary: Three Days in the Tropics of MegaCon

Sci-fi and fantasy conventions are typically a sensory overload of cosplay, celebrities, merchandise, “geek-themed” entertainment, and overwhelming crowds. This Memorial Day Weekend, I attended MegaCon 2017 in balmy Orlando, Florida for three days. During my first forty eight hours, I spent enough money to impress a stock-photo model, befriended Rogue of the X-Men, and watched the original Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show storm offstage. On the third day, I had a photo op with geek goddess Felicia Day. It was quite a time. The following is an account of those three days. All of the photographs are my own. No names have been changed to protect anyone. But in all truth, I didn't try … [Read more...]

The Exquisite Exquisiteness of Carol

We got this piece seven months ago and shelved it because, at the time, it didn't seem like it could be of any great relevance; the author just really, really likes a movie. And then we saw this piece in Wired on the rapid efflorescence of extreme Carol fandom online.  And we reconsidered. Go figure. Seldom has a movie so moved me as Todd Haynes's Carol. Haynes is an auteur's auteur, a throwback to the heyday of Great Directors in the 1970s.  His 1995 film Safe nearly inspired me to write a book, and his 2007 I'm Not There--a riff on the identity and iconicity of Bob Dylan--almost made me stop hating biopics. Indeed, the director's versatility and willingness to play with issues of gender … [Read more...]

Reckoning Trump through a Joan Didion Lens

“We’re in a new world in terms of the way information flows to the nation,” Chicago Tribune deputy managing editor James Shea noted nearly two decades ago amid accusations that President Bill Clinton had engaged in “sexual relations” with a twentysomething intern. [1] The Columbia Journalism Review bemoaned the rising influence of “journalistic amateurs” and “pretenders” like then-neophytes Arianna Huffington and Matt Drudge. Today, of course, Huffington Post dominates a segment of the punditry market and the Drudge Report pretty much encapsulates the Trump worldview.[2] While Donald Trump’s attempt at misdirection in using Bill Clinton’s sexual controversies remains a smokescreen for his … [Read more...]

The Whole World a Prison: Forced Feminization Narratives and the Politics of Sexual Identity

[Editor's note: Though undoubtedly analytical, the post below contains references to mature themes, sexuality, and sexual assault. Please proceed accordingly.] The idea that gender and sexual identities are malleable has become increasingly familiar to many Americans in recent years. The feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s challenged ideas of what femininity meant—the submissive, dependent housewife and nurturing caretaker was not all womanhood could mean—while the rise of LGBT activism since the late 1960s put forth new models of acting, being, and loving in the world, which did not necessarily comport with older notions of heteronormative male and female identity. Most recently, the … [Read more...]

Born For Love: Juan Gabriel’s Ballads of Solitude, and the Pain of Immigration

It’s difficult to overstate the ubiquity of Juan Gabriel’s voice in the everyday lives of Mexicans, both here in the US and in Mexico, where the megastar’s dozens of hits, some of them decades old, still blare from roadside fondas, urban nightclubs, and the blown out stereo speakers in my uncle’s home in Zamora, Michoacan. From disco, to rancheras, to ballads, and everything in between, Juan Gabriel’s signature melancholic exuberance was at once relatable and alien: relatable in the heartbreak and poverty to which it often spoke; and alien in the unabashedly flamboyant style that came to define him. Perhaps especially because of his flamboyance and the often unspoken subtext of his desires, … [Read more...]

The Paperclip and the Chain

Few cartoon characters are more hated than Clippy, the pesky “assistant” who prowled the mean streets of Microsoft Word in the 1990s.  (“You look like you’re writing a letter.” NO I’M NOT FUCK YOU DUDE.)  Clippy is like the Comic Sans of cartoons.  He’s like the primitive ancestor of Siri cross-bred with the Noid. (By the way, I apologize for gender-stereotyping, but I always assumed Clippy was a guy.  Why this is the case—and why iconic portrayals of later digital assistants like Siri or the operating system in the film Her were presented as female—is a subject for rich speculation.) Anyway, even if Clippy no longer haunts our lives, the paperclip remains part of the iconography of … [Read more...]

Sexual Equality: Los Angeles, the Military Industrial Complex, and the Gay Liberation Movement

When we talk about advances in civil and gay rights, we often talk in terms of famous firsts: Los Angeles' first Black Mayor Tom Bradley or the state's first openly gay elected official, San Francisco's Harvey Milk. Yet, the struggles of average folk lay the groundwork for these larger victories and it is their stories that rarely get told. In 1975, one obscure Southern California gay man fought the good fight and in doing so achieved a triumph that would bring new rights and job opportunities for homosexual men and women across the U.S. Forty years ago, Rancho Palos Verdes resident and computer defense systems analyst Otis Francis Tabler challenged both the federal government's security … [Read more...]

Queer Florida: Reflecting on Reaction and History in the LGBTQ South

Sunday morning was just like most mornings. I woke up beside my fiancé and then stumbled downstairs to start the coffee. As I always do, I opened the Facebook app on my phone since social media provides just enough engagement to keep me awake until the coffee is finished. I saw changed profile pictures and “pray for Orlando” hashtags. In my groggy state I was very confused until I scrolled farther and found the news stories that reported the homophobic terrorist attack at Pulse Nightclub that ultimately took the lives of 49 people (as of this writing). Throughout the day Sunday I kept up with the developing story, trying to process the emotions surrounding events that should be … [Read more...]

Sex and the Purple Guy

For a generation of youth--queer and non-queer alike--Prince cleared the path to a different way of embodying gender and sexuality. I recited the intro to “Let’s Go Crazy” at my wedding reception in 2006, to a room of largely puzzled fifty- and sixty-somethings.  When the news of Prince’s passing dropped this afternoon, a wave of horror ripped through my Media Studies class, and almost by instinct I stood before the students and spoke the Purple One’s classic words once again: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to get through this thing called life. Electric word ‘life,’ it means forever and that’s a mighty long time but I’m here to tell you there’s something else… the afterworld… It … [Read more...]

New Adventures in Lo-Fi: Bootleg Histories in Lucas Hilderbrand’s “Inherent Vice”

Scholars in recent years have studied a variety of different media to challenge the ever-present notion of technological determinism, identifying ways that listeners, readers, and viewers shape both the technologies of communication and the creative expression conveyed by them.  Much attention has focused on the possibilities of digital media, such as personal computers and the Internet, to open up new arenas for individual participation through blogs, file-sharing, and online video.  Some studies, such as Lisa Gitelman’s work on the early phonograph, have searched for the origins of a participatory media culture beyond the very recent past; however, much remains to be said about the ways … [Read more...]