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I Know It’s Pride Month But I Hate Strangelove | GaysiFamily

(I originally wrote this post on 13 June. But a certain prominent feminist website showed interest in publishing it, held it in queue and then decided that it was ‘too harsh’ and unsuitable for Pride Month. I don’t think I should talk down to the LGBTQIA community and letting this problematic film pass because it waved the rainbow flag, feels like just that.)

I reviewed the Netflix Original film ‘Alex Strangelove’ and Gaysi agreed to run the post. I haven’t written for this lovely site in a long time so it’s great to have my piece up there again. It’s also testimony to their inclusivity that they neither chose to question my sexuality nor edit my piece down for ‘harshness’.

This post has been read by two gay people, one bisexual person and one feminist all ratifying that there was nothing problematic with this opinion. If you are an ally, please be very mindful of what thoughts you entertain or support, in the name of the rainbow cause. Movies like ‘Alex Strangelove’ amplify some very problematic ideas, all while gaining the social credibility of doing something for Pride Month. As always, I’m happy to hear your thoughts – here or on the Gaysi site.

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Updated on 29 June 2018: This story was first published on Gaysifamily on 25 June 2018.

Alex Truelove (yes, that’s his real name, haha, look how post-hipster we are) is a sweet, nerdy boy reclaiming those hitherto derogatory labels. June being Pride Month, millennial-catering businesses are awash with ‘look-how-inclusive-we-are’ rainbowness. Let’s call gayvertising, shall we? Highly promoted on Netflix Originals, is a teen flick called Alex Strangelove. You get the gist of the story from its promos and the description text but for the purists who manage to button-mash quicker than Netflix forces promos on them, here’s your spoiler alert.

Alex Truelove (yes, that’s his real name, haha, look how post-hipster we are) is a sweet, nerdy boy reclaiming those hitherto derogatory labels. He’s good-looking enough to be at the top of the American high school hierarchy (or so other teen movies would have us believe) but he isn’t up there. He’s also class president and has a beautiful girlfriend who shares his penchant for obscure animal factoids. He doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to have sex with said girlfriend, regardless of peer pressure. Yay for sensitive men and down with toxic masculinity.

Then the couple decides in true teen style to ‘just do it’ (even if that is a 20-year-old reference) and set a date and venue. Only in the week before, Alex meets a charming gay boy and suddenly we have the plot of the movie.

What didn’t work about this movie?

Literally everything from here onwards. Just what about Alex makes him this attractive to members of all sexes? Let’s assume that teenage minds of every sex are wired to make bad choices. So we have a ‘regular’ teenage boy who is suddenly the object of everyone’s affections. What does he do? First he goes along with gay boy’s obvious flirtation and is a real dick to his needing-support-during-mom’s-cancer girlfriend. Then he weasels his way back into girlfriend’s good graces but also returns to the gay boy to jump his bones, then gay shames/blames him. He then runs back to the girlfriend to cheat on her (yes, it’s called that even if it happened inside your own mind especially when you’re still inside her, jerk-face). He is an utter asshole, literally while they’re both still naked. If this isn’t enough, he also later cheats on both people with a random stranger (female by the way, not that it matters when you’re cheating) at a party and the best friend (remember sage dude?) gets beaten up for it.

And what’s the end result? Shitfaced Alex is rescued in his drunken glory by the long-suffering girlfriend while best friend gets his ego and black eye massaged from the girl he’s been stalking for years. Boy, the makers of this film really hate women, don’t they?

Oh but wait, it ain’t over. Humiliated girlfriend and shamed gay boy get together to try again to give Alex the life he wants. Who does this and why should they? Alex takes every single inch he’s given and more with the kind of entitlement that makes him completely unlikeable. After the girlfriend graciously sets him up with the gay boy, he chickens out ‘because people are watching’. When the gay boy walks away in disgust, he chases him, suddenly sure that he is gay.

Inadequate Sexuality Labels

For a film that supposedly challenges heteronormativity, this one reinforces some highly toxic stereotypes about sexuality. Alex’s reticence towards sex is set up in a don’t-virgin-shame message but ends up reinforcing the notion that if a man isn’t a ravenous for sex, he is gay.

Who are these sage best friends who shame him for not rushing into sex (a la The Big Bang Theory) but are also wonderfully conversant with the gender-fluid, pansexual, polyamorous attitudes of their generation? Speaking of polyamory and pansexuality, the writers of the movie don’t know that these are two different things, as has been pointed out by several irate people. And in this sexually self-aware world, how come no one so much as hints at bisexuality, bicuriosity or good old sexual ambivalence?

Alex is a teenager, a time in his life for sexual experimentation. ‘Man crush’ is given lip service with no depth or dimension added. The fact that Alex has been in a straight relationship for over a year suggests that he has been attracted to women too. The flimsy plot suggests that the gay liaison may just have been a one-off reaction to a fear of sex. Alex’s actions also seem to suggest that bisexual people are just entitled enough to want everything, even at the cost of other people’s feelings.

There’s nothing to indicate that Alex lives in a homophobic world. Even his toxic male best friend (who stalks women, virgin-shames and sends unsolicited nudes) knows about sexual liberatedness. Homophobia is assigned one terrible scene towards the end of the film. Even this latter is more about school bullying and at best, a flimsy excuse for Alex’s need to please. It does grave disservice to the harassment and harm meted out to queer people all over the world. And it definitely does not address the fact that Alex hasn’t been attracted to men before this or that he clearly has felt attraction for women too.

Alex Problematic

Not once is Alex’s terrible treatment of everyone else called out. Instead the film turns queerness and sexual ambiguity into an excuse for bad behaviour, no responsibility and zero consequences for hurting other people. I’d say this is typical old, white Hollywood at its worst, turning out a weak, self-absorbed white male protagonist with everyone else around serving as props in his entitled journey.

Instead of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, they have (also) a Manic Pixie Dream Gay. It doesn’t seem like the makers of Alex Strangelove actually like gay people very much or they’d be more sensitive to how the gay boy as well as a prime ally of queer people (straight women) are treated within the story. If you take pride in sexual freedom and in allying with the rainbow cause, give this one a skip.

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XXFactored Feb&Mar2011: Sex Charts, Mad Men & Causes Gone Wrong

I didn’t post an XXFactored update in February because the month was so busy that I barely had the time to scout for links. Other people however, did share links and I really wanted to showcase them. While on this, allow me a brief crib about the new Facebook page format. It shows the page admin’s links on the main page but other members links in a tiny box. Not cool, I say. It totally kills the spirit of community that link-sharing used to do.

Now on to the links.

  • Someone’s idea of what happens to people of either gender when they fail their exams. It sparked off a heated debate. (via Lakshmi Jagad)
  • HOWL-a-rious! ‘- 14 Realities of Romantic Relationships in chart form‘ (via Cracked)
  • In memory of a remarkable woman and a talented musician laid to waste – ‘I’m Every Woman
  • I’m sure a whole lot of us will be silently thanking the makers for this handy tool! – ‘5 Signs You’ve Been Stalking Your Ex Online Too Much‘ (via How About We)
  • Harsh, hard-hitting….dare I say…true? The undeniably justified cause of gay rights, seems to have become no more than a free ride of attention and entertainment for those so privileged.  ‘The Queer Movement is dead; Long Live the Queer Movement!‘ (via DNA Newspaper, link courtesy Dhamini Ratnam)
  • A hilarious set of charts – check out the ones mapping people who use Twitter daily versus others. – ‘10 Charts about Sex‘ (via OkCupid)
  • Why Indian Men are still boys‘ (via Tehelka, link courtesy Gautam Ghosh)
  • No, Catcalling is not a compliment and here’s why’ (via Hello Giggles, link courtesy Ashwini Mishra)
  • If this 60s show has sparked off your fancy, here’s a look at some of the female stereotypes of the time by how Don Draper sees them. ‘4 Types Of Women Don Draper has Dated.‘ (via YourTango)

  • What Your Favorite Mad Men Lady Says About You‘ (via TheGloss)
  • This is totally off the edge – ‘Marketing Xenosexuality: Women & the Sex Robot taboo?‘ (via Future of Sex, link courtesy Gautam Ghosh)
  • “Lighten up” can be the most passive-aggressive chauvinistic phrase ever! ‘The Million Little Barbs of Lighten Up!‘ (via BuzzFeed)
  • Where Have All The Young Men Gone?‘ (via HR Blogs, links courtesy Gautam Ghosh)
  • This is true of any movement – rabidity only works against you in the long run. ‘How Pro-Lifers made me a Pro-Choice Activist.‘ (via TheGloss)
  • 5 Warnings to go with 5 Types of Men who make great husbands‘ (via From Outside The Mall, link courtesy Gautam Ghosh)

You can catch the links as they come in and even post your own to The XX Factor Facebook Page.

Down With Women’s Day!

It has been awhile since my last post. I have let myself get caught up in things I must do and not paid enough heed to things I love to do. So here’s me saying, I’m going to make sure to post at least once a week here at XX Factor! It feels wonderfully appropriate to come back with my spewing self at this time. The barrage of communication, that popular media is bombarding at us about March 8th, can’t have escaped anyone’s notice.

Women’s Day is the new Valentine’s Day. I don’t think this day was ever meant to be more than a manufactured marketing opportunity, much like the 14th of February. By 2012, the blatant commercialization of it is hitting me hard enough to swear off the event.

For starters, the premise of a ‘day that celebrates women’ seems ridiculously parodist. The suggestion is that making a big brouhaha about women on one day, cancels out mistreating them the remaining 364. “Obviously not!” I hear the defenders of Women’s Day retort, “It symbolizes the movement and honours the struggles of women”. Fair enough. But the fact that it stops there is what bothers me.

There is a certain kind of woman who celebrates and is celebrated by ‘Women’s Day’. This is the kind that is well-educated, has access to modern media & other creature comforts and receives gifts of jewelery, clothes or a fancy dinner date. But, well, there are other kinds of women, aren’t there? Let’s not get into rural India, even in the cities, women comprise nearly half the population. The maids, the women constables, the bank clerks, the fisherwomen, the conservative housewives, the daughters & wives of sweepers, taxi drivers and watchmen – they’re all women too. Women’s Day (not belying its all-encompassing name) doesn’t include them.

I think Women’s Day in 2012 is an ugly combination of Valentine’s Day and the Gay Pride movement. Let me explain. The former was created to sell more chocolates, greeting cards & jewelery. The latter has been hijacked by a small but very visible group whose joint agenda appears to be self-promotion rather than actual upliftment of those denied basic human rights. (read this thought-provoking diatribe against the ‘Queer Movement‘).

I had a conversation with a cab-driver the other day. We were stuck at a crowded Bandra signal, rush hour made worse by mismanagement by the traffic police. He pointed to one uniform-clad figure and opened his mouth. I settled back for a minute of co-ranting about the inefficiency of the department & the neglect by BMC. Instead, he said,

“Why are they making that woman direct the traffic? Give her some comfortable job in an air-conditioned office. What would she know about a hard job like this, standing in the middle of dust and fumes & noise?”

I had barely registered the fact that the traffic constable was a woman. I was astonished by the fact that the taxi driver truly believed that he was being supportive of women. Perhaps sensing my discomfiture, he assured me that he was putting his daughter through school and that women were usually more hard-working and honest than men. Further astonishment.

You know, I don’t like being thought of as more hard-working on account of my gender. For one, the pressure that lays on you is unimaginable. And further, it turns a complete blind eye to an obvious fact – women can be just as lazy, incompetent and talentless as men. No more, no less. Setting us up on a pedestal is just as bad as grinding us down under boots – it’s still differential treatment. Why do some people equate deification to empowerment?

Which brings me to yet another thought. I think I’m going to cry if I hear or read another thing about Shakti and a woman being able to take the forms of Lakshmi or Durga as she pleases. Personally, I believe that these archetypes represent values, not gender-based prototypes. But that’s a discussion on religion that I don’t want to get into. Suffice to say, if the only powerful women one can think of are religious icons, how powerful a message is this to the common woman? Really, there’s nothing else that this country can think of, to say to empower women?

I know that I am exactly the target audience of the Women’s Day brouhaha. And I reject it for reasons other than altruism or boredom. I feel it actually demeans me. I don’t want to be treated differently (badly for 364 days, splendidly for 1). Celebration suggests a different form of discrimination. I need no special treatment. Behaving differently on one day of the year is hypocrisy, not empowerment.

It also hasn’t escaped my notice that this year Women’s Day falls on the same day as Holi, another occasion that has been debauched into a cover for unbridled sexual harassment. Now, isn’t that ironic?

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