the gapanese invasion is nigh!

"pinakamaganda ka nga sa buong kapuluan, pero latina na naman ang magwawagi ng korona at sash sa miss world! racism ba ito? lupasay!"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

20/20: poems and short stories in english from contemporary philippine publications


the following is the introduction i had written for the poem and fiction anthology i submitted to professor gemino abad for my philippine literature in english class, with a dedication that reads "For the Muse of Laguna Lake, whose fire kindled this scholarly fruition." Read on!:D
***
A century after English was introduced by the Americans to the Filipino nation with the former’s imperial project in mind, Philippine literature in English appears to have failed the Filipinos’ colonial masters in their attempt to produce “Other” Americans out of us. With the type of appropriation that Filipino writers carried out while using that colonial language in imagining our experiences, our conditions and, ultimately, our nation, Philippine literature in English proves to be a manifestation of how the postcolonial people that we are have written and are continuously writing back at the center.
The twenty poems and twenty stories appearing in this anthology are but a survey of the Philippine literature in English published within the last twenty years (1990-to date), a milieu wherein postcolonial criticism across the globe gained vigorous attention owing to the lingering effects and forms of colonialism in former and present colonies’ politics, culture, economy, religion, among others. A good number of them seem to have been produced with the nation in the writers’ consciousness, while the others that do not indicate the slightest of hints of being postcolonial in their subject matter nonetheless display so in their turns of phrases, their employment of idiomatic expressions, their Philippinization of the imperial tongue. I believe that since our colonial history cannot be rewritten anymore, there will always be a kind of alienation in our writers’ handling of English, such as the fact that their fictional characters from far-flung barrios, for instance, could not have been conversing in that language flawlessly. This estrangement notwithstanding, our writers’ continued and flourishing command of English is gaining international recognition (getting our literature closer to being integrated to the larger corpus of world literature), among other, more satisfying rewards like fortifying the position of Philippine literature in English as a legitimate offspring of Philippine Literature.
Various concerns and styles may be gleaned from the anthologized pieces herein, informed by contemporary trends foremost of which is globalization. Due to this phenomenon, social issues affecting the country as a participant in the affairs of the shrunken global village get immortalized in the pages of Philippine publications. Hence, the Filipino Diaspora gets treated in Danton Remoto’s “Green Rose,” Jose Dalisay, Jr.’s “The Woman in the Box” and Mookie Katigbak’s “Postscript,” not to mention that some writers like Miguel Syjuco of “The Faithful Old Lady,” Merlinda Bobis of “Fish Hair Woman,” Eric Gamalinda of “Professor Quemada’s Last Words,” Bino Realuyo of “Glue Children” and R. Zamora Linmark of “The Muse This Time” are migrant Filipinos themselves. Hollywoodization, Coca-Colanization and other breeds of consumerist popular culture also invade some of the works like Ian Casocot’s “Old Movies,” Luis Katigbak’s “Happy Endings,” Alfred Yuson’s “On This Site Will Soon Rise a Shopping Mall” and Isabelita Reyes’ “Too Many Movies.” Finally, cultural hybridity likewise suffuses Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s “Fishbone,” Paolo Manalo’s “Echolalia,” and Vicente Garcia Groyon’s “Tenacity,” while the metafictive style in Arvin Mangohig’s “The Year of the Comet” and Mabi David’s “Letterpress,” the fragmentation, pastiche or bricolage in Tina Cuyugan’s “Corporeality,” Maria Elena Paterno’s “A Song in the Wind,” Conchitina Cruz’ “Geography Lesson” and Lourd Ernest de Veyra’s “hi-density” and the magic realist mode in Dean Francis Alfar’s “Six from Downtown,” Ma. Romina Gonzales’ “Sanded Soles,” and Rosario Cruz Lucero’s “The Death of Fray Salvador Montano, Conquistador of Negros” all show our writers’ imbibing of current literary fashion from the West and the Latin American Boom (made further accessible via worldwide web), thus creating a literary amalgam of native narrative and poetic techniques and foreign influences.
Of course, all of these would fall into a disfavor if the Philippine context, the location where these fictions and poems were mined, does not get the credit it is due. Therefore, turn-of-the-millennium events like the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, abandonment of the United States’ bases in Central Luzon, Ozone Disco Tragedy, the Brain Drain phenomenon among Overseas Filipino Workers; character places like bewitching Siquijor, seedy Manila, chilly Baguio, crowded Quiapo and Ninoy Aquino International Airport, lahar-stricken Pampanga, militarized Bicol, Americanized Olongapo, Hispanic Negros, coastal Visayas, the asphalt jungles of Quezon City and the University of the Philippines; cultural signs like the bakla beauconera (gay parlance for Miss Gay contestant), the mall, the babaylan/shaman, the Nazarene, the NAIA salubong horde, the tuyo/dried fish, the manananggal/viscera-sucking split-woman, National Hero Jose Rizal, the ambulant shoe-shine kids, the videoke; and traditions and historical sites like Catholicism, hospitality, epic-chanting, refugee caves during the Japanese Occupation, the perpetually renamed boulevards—these are Philippine-specific markers that populate the chosen stories and poems.
Speaking of selection, not a few times did I experience option paralysis over the voluminous masterpieces from the interesting post-EDSA era. Reading the landmark Likhaan and other anthologies as well as individual authors’ story collections, soliciting tips from writer professors, friends and classmates, and excavating files from various libraries, I came up with about forty poems and forty short stories which, reluctantly, I still had to trim down to half for each set. In the end and in consideration of the prevailing literary aesthetics of the contemporary period, I managed to collect this harvest, arranged chronologically, from the last twenty years of Philippine publications. May poetic justice and delight be served.

Part I: Contemporary Philippine Short Stories in English
1. “A Song in the Wind.” Paterno, Maria Elena. In Forbidden Fruit: Women Write the Erotic. Cuyugan, Tina, ed. Pasig: Anvil, 1992.
Paterno teaches English in the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Among her Palanca Award-winning children’s stories, “Sampaguita” was published by Cacho Publishing House.
Paterno’s story is a postmodernist re(-)vision of a conventional myth: a mermaid that gets entangled in a star-crossed love for a human male.

2. “Green Rose.” Remoto, Danton. In Ladlad: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing. Garcia, J. Neil and Danton Remoto, eds. Pasig: Anvil, 1994.
Before becoming a Communications Officer for United Nations Development Programme, Remoto taught English at the Ateneo De Manila University. He is the leading spokesperson of the progressive gay movement Ang Ladlad.
Remoto’s fiction tells of the ease with which gay men, like green buds, bloom out of their closets the farther they are from their macho, conservative Philippine homes.

3. “Fixing a Flat.” Ong, Charlson. In Conversion and Other Fictions. Pasig: Anvil, 1996.
Ong is the author of several award-winning titles as well as a teacher of creative writing at the UP-Diliman.
Ong’s story is the bittersweet encounter of estranged husband and wife, the former still harboring marital what-if’s while the latter having moved on with a new partner who splits the conjugal properties.

4. “Fish Dealer’s Tale.” Montes, Timothy. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1996. Dalisay, Jose, Jr. and Ricardo de Ungria, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1997.
Silliman University-bred Montes teaches creative writing in the Mindanao campus of UP.
Montes’ tale is an oral tradition whose narrator is a rural folk who realizes her feminine power while peddling fish to a young unwed mother.

5. “The Faithful Old Lady.” Syjuco, Miguel. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1997. Abad, Gemino and Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1999.
Schooled in ADMU, Canada-based Syjuco is the first Filipino to win the Booker-linked Man Asian Literary Prize for the novel The Ilustrados.
Syjuco’s fairy tale-like fiction is about an old devotee whose death was hounded by poverty and ignorance.

6. “Fish Hair Woman.” Bobis, Merlinda. In White Turtle. Manila: De La Salle University Press, 1999.
An award-winning writer as well as a performer, Bobis teaches in the University of Wollongong in Australia.
Bobis’ story is about the ill-fated love between a Caucasian writer and a red-haired corpse trawler trapped in a hamletted Bicol village.

7. “Sanded Soles.” Gonzales, Ma. Romina. In Dream Noises: A Generation Writes. Go, Miriam Grace, ed. Pasig: Anvil, 1999.
A journalist by profession, Gonzales attended Assumption College before moving on to UP to study Creative Writing.
Gonzales’ fiction tells of a girl whose family lives in the lahar-covered Arayat country frequented by indifferent tourists.

8. “Happy Endings.” Katigbak, Luis Joaquin. In Dream Noises: A Generation Writes. Go, Miriam Grace, ed. Pasig: Anvil, 1999.
Katigbak is an award-winning author who studied Creative Writing in UP-Diliman.
Katigbak’s story centers on an advertising writer’s realization that everyone pursues happy endings, whether or not life is cut out for these.

9. “Portents.” Zafra, Jessica. In The Best Philippine Short Stories of the Twentieth Century. Cruz, Isagani, ed. Manila: Tahanan, 2000.
UP-bred Zafra is the author of the Twisted series and the owner of the blogsite www.jessicarulestheuniverse.com, both of which have a strong cult following.
Zafra’s story presents the dilemma of a Catholic-raised woman whether or not to commit abortion.

10. “Skin Art.” Pasion, Andrea. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1998. Garcia, J. Neil and Charlson Ong, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2000.
Pasion took up Creative Writing and Law from UP and is an editor of Cosmopolitan Philippines.
Pasion’s fiction shows a young lady’s graphic anguish over an unreturned love.

11. “Reconnaissance.” Sering, Tara FT. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1999. de Ungria, Ricardo and Jose Dalisay, Jr., eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2001.
Sering received a Literature degree from De La Salle University and works for Cosmopolitan, producing chick novelettes for the magazine.
Sering’s story is an initiation into the adult world after a girl discovers the intimate lives of a socially-respected couple.

12. “Corporeality.” Cuyugan, Tina. In Fast Food Fiction: Short Stories to Go. de Jesus, Noelle, ed. Pasig: Anvil, 2003.
Cuyugan earned a master’s degree in Publishing Studies in a Scottish university and is a Hubert Humphrey Fellow in Washington, D.C.
Cuyugan’s fiction presents the affair between a man and his diseased lover whose breaking body parts signified their conjugal loss.

13. “The Death of Fray Salvador Montano, Conquistador of Negros.” Lucero, Rosario Cruz. In Feast and Famine: Stories of Negros. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2003.
Lucero is an accomplished writer who teaches in UP-Diliman.
Lucero’s story is a gothic tale of a Spanish priest out to conquer a savage island, only to realize that it was he who got colonized.

14. “Old Movies.” Casocot, Ian. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 2002. Lanot, Marra and Carla Pacis, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
Casocot teaches in Silliman University where he was educated.
Casocot’s fiction is about a gay man whose life was shaped by campy Hollywood films from the past.

15. “Weight.” Sitoy, Lakambini. In Fourteen Love Stories. Dalisay, Jose, Jr. and Angelo Lacuesta, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
Silliman-trained Sitoy is an award-winning writer enjoying the T.K. Wong scholarship that gives her the privilege to crisscross Europe.
Sitoy’s story is about a feminist nongovernmental office worker who takes the romantic chance of escaping the city with a male colleague.

16. “Tenacity.” Groyon, Vicente Garcia. In On Cursed Ground and Other Stories. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
DLSU-schooled Groyon won the Palanca Grand Prize for his novel Sky over Dimas. He currently teaches in his alma mater.
Groyon’s fiction is about a young hustler who gets betrayed by a G.I. who promised to take him abroad and out of poverty.

17. “Failure to Punctuate.” Eliserio, U. Z. In 24/7 Walang Panahon: The 2004-2005 Philippine Collegian Anthology. Fajarda, Jayson, Gen. ed. Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 2005.
Eliserio teaches popular culture in UP-Diliman.
Eliserio’s story traces the day in the life of a begrudging UP student who strikes a horrific deal with a desperate shoe-shine kid.

18. “The Woman in the Box.” Dalisay, Jose, Jr. In Soledad’s Sister. Pasig: Anvil, 2008.
A columnist for Philippine Star, Dalisay teaches creative writing in UP and has a new novel that got shortlisted in the inaugural Man Asia Literary Prize.
Dalisay’s fiction plots the arrival of a dead OFW in the airport where a bunch of salubong crowd awaits the casket of a beheaded relative.

19. “Six from Downtown.” Alfar, Dean Francis. In Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler. Retrieved March 13, 2010 from http://philippinespeculativefiction.com/alfar.html.
Alfar is the author of the Palanca-winning novel Salamanca. He specializes in fantasy, magic realism and other types of speculative fiction.
His story presents six different plots—about a mermaid connoisseur, a murderous call center agent, a macho dancer, a disappearing music teacher, a word-eater, a manananggal’s husband—woven together by magic realism.

20. “Professor Quemada’s Last Words.” Gamalinda, Eric. In The Antouylia Bookshelf. Retrieved March 13, 2010 from http://www.bookcrossing.com/mybookshelf/Antouylia.
Gamalinda’s latest novel was shortlisted in last year’s Man Asia Prize. Originally from Bicol country, he now makes New York his new home.
Gamalinda’s self-reflexive fiction is a re-telling of Faust’s story, with the protagonist churning out words that lose their meanings as used.

Part II: Contemporary Philippine Poems in English
1. “Elemental.” Evasco, Marjorie. In Forbidden Fruit: Women Write the Erotic. Cuyugan, Tina, ed. Pasig: Anvil, 1992.
Evasco teaches at DLSU where she directs the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center.
Evasco’s lyric poem mimics the sensuality of Pablo Neruda’s poetry.

2. “Queen.” Baytan, Ronald. In Ladlad 2: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing. Garcia, J. Neil and Danton Remoto, eds. Pasig: Anvil, 1996.
Baytan teaches literature in DLSU where he also studied.
Baytan’s poem reveals the fantasy of many bakla that’s to win an identity-affirming beauty title.

3. “Glue Children.” Realuyo, Bino. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1996. Dalisay, Jose, Jr. and Ricardo de Ungria, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1997.
Born and raised in Manila, Realuyo now lives in the US where his gay novel The Umbrella Country was published.
Realuyo’s poem examines the lamentable condition of rugby kids littering the city.

4. “Sturm and Drang.” Macansantos, Francis. In The Words and Other Poems. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1997.
Macansantos studied in Ateneo de Zamboanga and Silliman University and taught in several universities in Baguio City.
Macansantos’ poem is a satire on religious rituals.

5. “Ghost Pain.” Dimalanta, Ophelia. In Love Woman. Manila: University of Santo Tomas Press, 1998.
Dimalanta teaches in University of Santo Tomas, where she heads the Center for Creative Writing Studies.
Dimalanta’s poem records the tragic event of a disco fire wherein scores of young revelers lost their lives.

6. “The Year of the Comet.” Arvin Mangohig. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1997. Abad, Gemino and Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1999.
Mangohig has a poetry book called The Gaze published by UP, which conferred on him a master’s degree in Creative Writing.
Mangohig’s poem celebrates romance with a celestial phenomenon as backdrop.

7. “On This Site Will Soon Rise a Shopping Mall.” Yuson, Alfred. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1997. Abad, Gemino and Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1999.
Yuson’s latest novel was shortlisted in the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize. He teaches in ADMU while maintaining a column in Philippine Star.
Yuson’s poem is a dirge on the notoriety of constructing temples of capitalism where natural space used to thrive.

8. “Postscript.” Katigbak, Mookie. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 2000. Garcia, J. Neil and Charlson Ong, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2002.
Ateneo-bred Katigbak taught in UP-Diliman after a stint abroad.
Katigbak’s poem shows that distance is relative, especially with longing as measure.

9. “Echolalia.” Manalo, Paolo. In Jolography. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2003.
Manalo, who teaches in UP-Diliman, won a Palanca for his collection Jolography.
Manalo’s postmodern-postcolonial poem is a witty take on everyday Pinoy expressions.

10. “Fishbone.” Nezhukumatathil, Aimee. In Miracle Fruit. Dorset, Vermont: Tupelo Press, 2003.
Nezhukumatathil is a Filipino-South Indian university professor whose collection Miracle Fruit won the Tupelo Prize for Poetry.
Nezhukumatathil’s poem displays the tenacity for traditions while living in a land notorious for shattering them.

11. “The Muse This Time.” Linmark, R. Zamora. In One Hundred Love Poems: Philippine Love Poetry Since 1905. Abad, Gemino and Alfred Yuson, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
Linmark shuttles between the Philippines and the U.S., where his campy novel Rolling the R’s was published.
Linmark’s poem is a realization of the true meaning of love after a disastrous series of gay relationships.

12. “hi-density.” de Veyra, Lourd Ernest. In One Hundred Love Poems: Philippine Love Poetry Since 1905. Abad, Gemino and Alfred Yuson, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
de Veyra is an associate in the UST-CCWS and performs for Radioactive Sago project.
de Veyra’s prose poem shows the sensual intensity of one’s yearning for the absent beloved.

13. “Double Takes.” Valdellon, Naya. In One Hundred Love Poems: Philippine Love Poetry Since 1905. Abad, Gemino and Alfred Yuson, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
Valdellon studied in ADMU where she also teaches. She was the recipient of the first Maningning Miclat Award for Poetry.
Valdellon makes a romantic take at the classic W. H. Auden poem “Musee de Beaux Arts.”

14. “Flood.” Suarez, Angelo. In One Hundred Love Poems: Philippine Love Poetry Since 1905. Abad, Gemino and Alfred Yuson, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
UST-bred Suarez won the Bridges of Struga Prize from UNESCO/Macedonia for his poem collection The Nymph of MTV.
Suarez’ poem likens the beloved to the ubiquity of city floodwater.

15. “Too Many Movies.” Reyes, Isabelita. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 2002. Lanot, Marra and Carla Pacis, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
Reyes teaches creative writing in the State University where she edits The UP Newsletter.
Reyes’ poem criticizes the urban decay that escapist modernity engendered.

16. “Apology.” Garcia, J. Neil. In Father Poems. Abad, Gemino and Alfred Yuson, eds. Pasig: Anvil, 2004.
Together with Remoto, Garcia edited the landmark anthologies of gay writings called Ladlad. He teaches in UP-Diliman.
Garcia’s poem explores the complex relationship tying a macho father and his gay son.

17. “Geography Lesson.” Cruz, Conchitina. In Dark Hours. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
A Fulbright grantee and a Palanca awardee, Cruz teaches creative writing in UP-Diliman.
Cruz’ poem, composed of blank spaces and footnotes only, bewails the curse of collective amnesia among Filipinos.

18. “Letterpress.” David, Mabi. In Unto Thee. Quezon City: High Chair, 2005.
David earned a Creative Writing degree from UP, for whose Press she is working.
David’s poem shows the plight of being torn between domesticity and career.

19. “Baguio, the Return.” Galan, Ralph Semino. In Baguio Calligraphy. Macansantos, Francis and Luchie Maranan, eds. Pasig: Anvil, 2010.
Galan co-edited Bongga ka ‘day: Pinoy gay quotes to live by with Baytan and Garcia. He teaches in UST.
Galan’s poem displays an ambivalent longing, heightened by the Baguio cold, for the missing beloved.

20. “The Cave.” Toledo, Joel. In panitikan.com.ph. Retrieved March 13, 2010 from http://panitikan.com.ph/poetry/thecave.htm.
Toledo, a Palanca awardee, graduated from UP-Diliman and is now teaching in Miriam College.
Toledo’s poem is an examination of a war refuge site that, despite its present existence, seems already pushed away from memory.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

the frenchification of shangri-la cinema


au revoir!:)

Friday, May 28, 2010

planet xanadu's grand 3rd anniversary


In fitting tribute to the closing summer season and as an opening salvo to the approaching rainy season, Xanadu alternately fires you up and gets you drenched with its searing, slippery 3rd Anniversary grand celebration. Savor the warm and wet feeling as male hotstuffs drive you feverish with their display of sweltering bodies and cool moves that are guaranteed to make you experience the maddening clash of scorching sun and chilly rain. From its young years in peripheral Malabon to its recent invasion of the mainstream Metro Manila, particularly in glittery Quezon City, Xanadu has lived up to its reputation as the pink community’s potboiler which it must prove again as atmospheric changes interplay via Xanadu’s resident male sizzlers. Let the pride of Xanadu keep you wet just enough to keep you from bursting into flames on May 31, 2010, scout borromeo, quezon city!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

krystala soon to sweep ucla


below is the text of my paper's (and nine other papers') acceptance to the Queer Studies Conference 2010 to be staged in Royce Hall, University of California – Los Angeles on October 8-9, 2010. sumaakin nawa ang suerte.:)
***
Hello all!
I wanted to let each of you know that your papers have been accepted in the Queer Studies Area for the MPCA/MACA conference this Fall. You will find the queer area panels attached in PDF. The dates and times for presentations are not decided yet, but you will be able to find that on the conference website after all of the panels are organized.
I ask that you please review ALL of the information for yourself and let me know (no later than May 30) if there are changes that need to be made for your program listing.
If you have been marked as the "panel chair," this only means that you will need to keep time. Please plan for a 15-minute presentation, or possibly less in the roundtable. Also, I did not request a DVD player if a request was not included with your submission.

I hope this finds each of you well, and have a wonderful summer!
Best,

Kris Cannon
Moving Image Studies Program, Department of Communication
Georgia State University
kris.cannon@mac.com
***
2010 MPCA/ACA Queer Studies Area Panels.
Queer Popular Culture: From Stages to Television Screens.
Area: Queer Studies
“Queer Performativity and Camp in the Pop Art of Lady Gaga,” Katrin Horn, Department of American Studies, University of Erlangen-­‐Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany 91054,
“Homosexuality in Reality TV,” Tamara Moyer, Communication Studies Department, California State University, Sacramento, CA 95819,
“Examining Queer Times, Places, and Perceptions in HBO’s True Blood,” Sarah Wheeler, Department of Women’s Studies, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182,
“Sentenced to Neverland: J.M. Barrie, Michael Jackson and the Future of Queer Theory,” Amy C. Billone, Department of English, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996,
Panel Chair: Amy C. Billone.
Scheduling request: none
DVD request: YES
Queerness in Film.
Area: Queer Studies
“Male Homosocial Utopias in American Westerns and ‘Bromances’,” Jeff Casey, Department of Theatre & Drama, University of Wisconsin-­‐Madison, Madison, WI 53706,
“Sad Spartans, Sexy Persians: Homoeroticism, Freedom and Western Melancholia in Zack Snyder’s 300,” Amanda LeBlanc, Cultural Studies and Critical Theory, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L8,
“Transnational Trans People in New Trans Cinema,” Nicole Richter, Motion Pictures Program, Wright State University, Dayton, OH 45435,
Panel Chair: Nicole Richter.
Scheduling request: none
DVD request: YES
Queer Narratives and Novels
Area: Queer Studies
“‘A Queer Mixture’: Unheterosexual Masculinity in A Princess of Mars,” Andrea Crow, Department of English, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43201,
“Swept Away, Twice Over:Postcolonial-­‐Queer Displacements in Noel Alumit’s Novels,” Cesario M. Minor, Jr., English Studies, University of the Philippines‐Dilliman, Los Baños. Laguna, Philippines,
“(Queer)ying the Homonormative in Children’s Picture Books: A Quest forAlternative Images and Critical Dialogue,” Michelle B. Spiegel, Women’s Studies, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43209,
Panel Chair: Michelle B. Spiegel.
Scheduling request: none
DVD request: NO

Thursday, May 20, 2010

xanadude: galing ng pinoy


The Filipino talent is very much renowned far and wide, so in recognition of this global acclaim, Xanadu presents its own acknowledgement that Pinoys’s got talent. It takes your dedicated eyes and applauding hands for Xanadudes to be prized for their inventiveness and originality, so watch them as they undress their inner geniuses and astound you with their masculine pride. Crafty, clever, and cunning, Xanadudes have what it takes to show that the world-class Galing ng Pinoy is extraordinarily ordinary for a race that has experienced the world at its best. The talent showcase unfolds on May 22, Planet Xanadu's Scout Borromeo base, Quezon City.

Monday, May 17, 2010

ano'ng oras na ba?

scenes from the recent sexiest men in the city bikini competition in metro bar, west avenue, quezon city, sponsored by planet xanadu.



Here’s a take from the event’s script:
Sexiest Men in the City
A Grand Bikini Challenge
May 16, 2010, 8 PM
Metro Bar West Avenue, Quezon City
Mission
This project conceptualized for young, fresh-looking Filipino men aged 18 to 26 years old is a competition-oriented event geared toward promoting and encouraging others to maintain a good and balanced physical and mental attitude in life.
Vision
This is one-of-a-kind modeling search for fresh faces that possess the perfect cut, sexy curves and the x-factor character. It is unique among local modeling competitions because it is a competition intending to display both variety of productions and showmanship.
Introduction
One’s passion should prove so powerful as to turn vision into reality. With lots of accomplishments tucked under her belt, Bebeth Santa Ana could well be the embodiment of such a passion. A businesswoman by profession, our lady of the hour is an artist by temperament. Her taste for the art is conspicuous, what with her sponsorship of events such as this and many successful others in the past. Her love for conducting events has swept her onto the very stage she has helped erected for art to bloom in full glory. Such a stage stood witness to her romance with the arts along with top-caliber celebrities like Claire dela Fuente, Mark Herras, Aljur Abrenica, Dulce, among other renowned performers. Who could doubt then the many-splendored passions flowing from within the person of Miss Bebeth Santa Ana? From her sponsorship of envisioned spectacles to her own participation in a number of them, indeed passion materializes to make history happen.
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to this much-awaited event of the year touted to change the way you view male modeling competitions before. “Sexiest Men in the City” is subtitled “A Grand Bikini Challenge” because it is just that: a competition bursting in grandeur, what with its intention of displaying spectacular productions and exceptional showmanship among its partakers. Thus, this is more than just a celebration of the male beauty long immortalized in the pages of history, mythology, art, and other disciplines across cultures and time. It is about how this artform assumes an extended aesthetic function in order to drive the point home that such figures are worth emulating and the good news is, it is going to happen right here, right now. For starters, here are the contestants in their rave wear. The second segment of the competition is a surefire hit, what with the contestants donning the skimpiest bikini attire to show what best forms the male body can transform into, with the right discipline and proper attitude. Let us see our contestants giving the mythical Greek Gods a run for their, well, bodies. Brace yourself then, dear audience, as this grand event unveils before our very eyes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

body heat wave



As the national election reaches fever pitch, another high-temperature phenomenon hits this side of town, and we’re not talking of the current El Niño. It’s about boys, yes, but more appropriately, boys with burning bodies whose heat can compete with both the hotly-contested Philippine polls and the blistering global atmosphere. Let their infernal flesh pump your blood to a boiling point in fulfillment of your most passionate desires. Ride this body heat wave towards the crest of your fiercest sensual longings and that can only be realized here in Planet Xanadu, Scout Borromeo, Quezon City, on May 15, 2010.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

the eighth wonder of the world


again, here's another ad from my good friend genesis, whose managed bar planet xanadu celebrates a month-long anniversary in its scout borromeo, quezon city homebase, highlighted by a weekly spectacle including the following:

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Pharos at Alexandria. All but one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World have forever vanished from the face of the earth, yet the eighth wonder in our midst remains officially unnamed despite the awe it inspires among us. Let Xanadu help you discover this wonder that can rival the beauty of the Statue of Venus, or that is as magnificently erect as the Alexandrian lighthouse. This wonder can make you reconsider the huge quality of the Colossus of Rhodes or the massive characteristic of the pyramids of Egypt. Rigid, enormous, and splendid, the eighth wonder that’s the male wunderkind is all yours to appreciate on May 8, 2010.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

planet xanadu's 3rd anniversary launch


my good friend genesis is managing the popular gay bar planet xanadu which will soon celebrate its month-long anniversary. i'm posting this ad for the love of this wonderful friend as well as for the interest of the bar-going pink community. see you there!

As the midsummer rages, Labor Day serves as a witness to the month-long celebration of Xanadu’s 3rd Anniversary. Workers from all walks of life shall be treated to an initial albeit spectacular presentation in which pumped-up men straight from our dream fantasies will endeavor their way to our realities. Glistening with manly sweat, exuding masculine scent or preppy in their crisp uniform, these men of the industry are hard, big, and bold, so why not strive and get one, two or all of them? Refuse to be collared by the blues—your belabored selves deserve some pampering from rippling muscles and worked-out bodies. Toil no more as Xanadu employs all its manual means to bring an entire sought-after workforce to you on May 1, 2010, Scout Borromeo, Quezon City, behind Crossings Quezon Avenue.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

postcolonial-queer productions in noel alumit’s letters to montgomery clift


A growing number of Filipino gay migrants are being published in the Philippines’ former colonial master, the United States of America, a testament to the postcolonial truism that the power dynamics binding the colonizer and the colonized long after the latter achieved independence continues to operate. Among these global Pinoys are Rinehart Zamora Linmark who authored Rolling the R’s (Kaya Press, 1995), Bino Realuyo who wrote The Umbrella Country (Ballantine Books, 1999), Han Ong who produced Fixer Chao (Picador, 2001), and Noel Alumit who generated Letters to Montgomery Clift (Alyson, 2002) and Talking to the Moon (Carroll and Graf, 2006). While the publication of these expatriate writers’ novels—or any novel by an author of color for that matter—signals their entrance into the American literary mainstream and, possibly, into the larger corpus of world literature, the politics overriding the novels’ publication process (i.e. submission to American editors to suit the exoticizing/objectifying taste of the literary mass consumers) is, interpretively, one of containment. This paper seeks to explore how the double bind of postcoloniality and queerness affected the engendering of the Filipino-American novel Letters to Montgomery Clift.
Author Alumit, who originally hails from Pangasinan province in the northern portion of Luzon island in the Philippines, migrated as a child in the late 60’s to the U.S. which has wielded its imperial influence on the country’s politics, economy, culture and society since the turn of the 20th century. While it is usual for citizens of former colonies like Alumit to continue their contact with their father colonizer under a postcolonial setting, the large-scale migration of Filipinos to countries apart from the U.S. captures the concept of the Diaspora, wherein “peoples [were] uprooted from their homelands and transported from one region of the globe to another…for economic, political, cultural and familial or personal reasons….” As an aftermath of this national displacement, an alienation within the host country pervades among these rendered second-class citizens and a concurrent longing for the home that’s left behind is heightened. The complication becomes more convoluted when gender is factored in, as members of sexual minorities find themselves still being discriminated professionally, socially and culturally in their adoptive countries. It is within this framework of things that Alumit’s novel figures as a postcolonial-queer imagination.
Letters to Montgomery Clift traces the life of Bong Bong Luwad who, in the turbulent period of the 1970’s, was smuggled to Los Angeles in order to escape the wrath of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law. In the home of his activist-wedded mother’s sister, he experienced the first of a series of alienations in a land falsely believed by many immigrants to be one of refuge and salvation. Under the custody of his mother’s “evil sister Yuna,” he was battered largely because she “never wanted to be stuck with a child.” While child abuse is not an alien concept in the Philippines, it was an exemption rather than the rule. Yuna’s sense of family-orientedness is among the Filipino values that got diluted once she was smothered by American individualism as a result of her stay in the US which, to begin with, was orchestrated by her sister as an act of filial love. This very individualism finds citizens of that country being brought by career-oriented, independent-minded relatives to nursing homes or foster homes, which Bong Bong becomes a regular part of during interludes of his alienating transfer from one foster family to another.
As a means of coping with the foreign environment he was transplanted in, Bong Bong went to school where he studied English, which the Americans taught to the Filipinos during the former’s Occupation with the imperializing project in mind: a Westernizing indoctrination. However, Bong Bong is not among those Filipinos who “benefited” from such a project. In his confession at the time he was made to introduce himself in the American school:
“I didn’t like to speak because my English wasn’t very good. In the Philippines only rich kids learned English well. I was a child of the provinces, Benguet province specifically, far away from the fast-paced capital of Manila…I learned English well enough, but not as well as I could have. After all, once school ended, the kids would stop speaking in English and revert to speaking their native Illocano or Tagalog. We knew that English would serve us little; we had an idea that the rest of our lives would be spent in some low-paying capacity where English wouldn’t be needed. The bosses or employers we’d work under would know English, but not us.”
It may be gleaned from the aforementioned that far from being able to appropriate English to suit the native’s purposes, Bong Bong and others of his similar class and distance from the national center (where influxes from the American Empire are directed) remained estranged from the colonial language. He does not belong to the “rich kids,” whose parents make them learn English to get by in the academic, corporate and like aspects of the English-speaking world. The working class, meanwhile, would indeed have not the same need as the class above them, a condition that contributes to the elitism spawned by the upper-class’ use of English. This association of English with elitism is further explored in the episodes wherein Mrs. Billaruz, Bong Bong’s father’s fellow Martial law prisoner, “spoke English good…[because the] guards were afraid of English. They were intimated by it,” and wherein Bong Bong’s own detained mother had been told by a high-class jailbird “to speak it better. Whenever you speak to the guards, speak to them in English. They’ll think you’re educated. They’ll respect you more.” Also, the farther they are from the center, the lesser are their access to and employment of the language owing to impracticality, i.e. the regional languages are more prevalent.
Hence, the dialect-adept Bong Bong “spoke English slowly, almost like a guessing game, trying to think of what the next word will be” and was taunted as retarded-sounding as a result. He was transferred posthaste to a class of mostly immigrant children from Korea, Mexico, Cuba, and China “to speak and write better” although it seemed to him “everything that I had ever known didn’t much matter. And whatever I learned wasn’t good enough.” This, of course, is but a comment on the perpetually inferior Other’s mastery, which can never be consummated notwithstanding its repetitive attempts to mimic the colonizer. It surprised the Basic English teacher, Mr. Lopez, that a Filipino kid should have a problem with that Philippine colonial language, to which Bong Bong reasoned that he “did not practice English in the Philippines. English is what you say to Americans living here [in the U.S.]” In the long run, Bong Bong’s English improved, to the detriment of his Tagalog —yet another form of conquest.
However, a different case altogether is being experienced by the author. His profession reeks of a bourgeois adornment, and while he may be said to be also writing for the masses based on the Marxist comment above, his use of English as a writer makes him twice removed from the (most likely) non-English-speaking working class. If he would so much as turn to the Filipino languages he may be acquainted with, he would lose the reach of the broad American audience he mainly writes for. His editors from the imperial center would therefore demand a linguistic condition from him so he can sell his book to the Anglophonic reading market, which is composed chiefly of the bourgeois class up. Nevertheless, it is to Alumit’s advantage that he did not have to struggle to practice English (it being a colonial language in his country of origin) and that his considerably wide reach not only presents (for the purpose of inciting action) the plights of the various minorities (racial, sexual, etc.) peopling the novel but also helps put the Philippines in the world literary map.
Having mentioned the Philippines, it becomes somewhat inevitable for writers of color like Alumit to make the country of origin the subject and/or the setting of their novels. On the one hand, it displays the objectification of the mother country to correspond to the Westerners’ penchant for the exotic. On the other hand, it manifests the exiled Filipino’s nostalgia for the old country, no matter if the home revisited is never any more the home left behind. Either way, the Philippines was fondly imagined by Alumit in Letters to Montgomery Clift. Despite the distance, the novel’s characters remain connected to the homeland at the other end of the vast Pacific through the rituals of praying to the saints and dead ancestors as well as through the preparation of Filipino food like adobo and hopia mongo and lumpia, pansit and rice. More than these consumptions as metaphorical engulfing of a lost part of one’s being, these links serve to counter the estrangement that expatriate citizens experience in their adoptive countries. Hence, it is with trepidation that Bong Bong would partake of the Chinese food his first foster family kept preparing for him so he “could feel more at home.” How could he, when he did not hail from China? When Bong Bong lamented that “to the Webers if you were oriental you were Chinese” despite the fact that Filipinos and Chinese may be taken apart, it calls to mind the orientalizing motive of the West in conflating the non-West territories into one world that necessitates a worlding into the Empire. It is furthermore exemplified when he hooked up with a man who, having gotten it on with an Asian guy for the first time, mistook him for a Chinese or Vietnamese.
The abovementioned racial stereotyping gets treated more intricately when the professions of Bong Bong and his Filipino foster sister Amada are considered. They are film and television extras, yet another metaphor for the outsiders in America that they are. As “professional extra,” Bong Bong became a part of a Vietnam war crowd, while Amada “played a woman who had just been bombed in Hiroshima” and other racial typecasting wherein “some Asian woman is willing to die for [white guys].” In effect, their portrayal as aliens likewise separates them from other possibilities like bagging major roles or showing other universally human facets that go beyond oriental stereotyping.
An accurate stereotype among these exiles is the yearning to return to the homeland, which Bong Bong felt first in the novel’s eighth chapter but will find fulfillment only in the novel’s last quarter. His search for his mother also serves as an allegorical search for the motherland, one that disappeared because of one strongman’s scheme to change the course of his ruled country’s history. Since Alumit was already in America when Marcos declared Martial Law in the early 70’s, the Philippines he knows of includes commodities like Philippine articles and travel books and memories of elder Filipinos who had enough of these before moving to the U.S. for greener pastures. The novel charts these commodities in the American libraries and memories of Aunt Yuna and the Arangans as well. His research on the Marcos regime to incorporate into the novel’s plot is most likely propelled by the fact that a large portion of what the international community knows about the Philippines is about the excesses of the Marcoses. Early on in the novel, some of Marcos’ cohorts abducted Bong Bong’s father to make him pay for being a staunch critic of the dictator. This civil violence among suspected subversives would recur in the episodes wherein Mrs. Billaruz details her rape by her abductors and Bong Bong’s own mother’s ordeal and countless others’ in various detention centers. By stark contrast, the autocrat’s wife Imelda escaped being satirized for her thousands of pairs of shoes in the novel but was skewered all the same for her ownership of the elegant Crown Building in New York and her erection of the “dark monstrosity” of the Cultural Center “to make her mark in the city [of Manila].” This lost country would materialize soon after Bong Bong’s painstaking collection of travel money afforded him a trip to the Philippines, momentarily divorcing him from his faithful letter-writing to the dead actor Montgomery Clift, an escapist albeit therapeutic activity that preoccupied him while pining away for his mother trapped in the homeland.
While grappling with this geographical loss, Bong Bong also struggled in another territory that’s his gender identity. His sexual awakening would be by way of a “real good-looking” Filipino-American writer named J, whose indiscreet sex with his girlfriend Baby Bounce Belinda caused the boy to fancy the late Monty Clift, a perversion that will land Bong Bong in a mental hospital years later. Of course, this abnormal fantasizing over a dead moviestar should not be conflated with gayness, whose disparaging label as a psychological illness was scrapped only a few years after Clift succumbed to heart attack in 1966. Therefore, as a 50’s celebrity adored by the heteronormative fandom as a straight actor, Clift lived in a sexually-repressive context. The novel, though, alluded to two biographical accounts on Clift, claiming that he “was attracted to men,” a fact that relieved Bong Bong, who was increasingly knowing he is a gay himself. In an epiphany at a time another discreetly gay contemporary of Clift, Rock Hudson, died of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, Bong Bong
“thought of boys in my school and how I wanted to know them better…I thought about boys mostly in the mornings when I touched myself…I ached for some of the guys at school, guys in magazines, guys on TV….From a distance, I admired boys at my school, indulged thoughts of loving them. I wanted to hold them the way they held their girlfriends at the entrance of the school, close and endearing. I wanted to whisper romantic words into their ears like, I’ll never leave you, honey.”
Despite having been able to escape the social stigma of coming out in his country of origin characterized by a macho, conservative Catholic culture, Bong Bong did not find it easy to do so in the relatively more liberal atmosphere of his adoptive country. Like his movie idol and Hudson, he has to perform a gender role that is more acceptable in and to a heteronormative society, or reap coming-out consequences that include but are not limited to ostracism, losing the people from his social sphere, being bullied or being targeted in hate crimes, being relegated to limited professional engagements, among others. Hence, it was understandable for Bong Bong to take “comfort in the life of Montgomery Clift. I knew he hid his sexuality, too. I think that is one of the reasons why I like seeing Monty in his movies: he was hiding. He was visible to millions of people, but he hid. He made part of himself disappear. I understood the importance of hiding.” However, this double-life that Clift had led did not sit well on the actor’s personal life, such that this disapproval of homosexuality caused him to figure in a car accident, and to self-mutilate as well as to go insane, which Bong Bong disturbingly followed suit. Such an alienation proved hard for the novel’s protagonist to come out even to his closest ally Amada, whose attempts to introduce Bong Bong to different interesting women did not achieve fruition. She almost succeeded when she got him to meet a gay man this time, Oliver Yen, except that Bong Bong had engaged himself to an imaginary boyfriend in the embodiment of Clift. Nevertheless, what can be recognized here is Amada’s foster brother’s gayness, a finality that did not occur until later, when Bong Bong can already support himself financially, a crucial condition among sexual minorities to enable to survive independently in a heterosexual world. Bong Bong’s and his kind’s sexual survival depended on discreetness, as his trysts with the fraternity boy, the White bar guy and his eventual live-in partner Logan attest; otherwise, queer people like him are highly likely to be objects of homophobia by straight people, as the incident with the nurse proved. Thus, the sexual liberation movement has continuously left out the queer variety because the latter cannot come out in the open not even as romantic couples, let alone as same-sex desiring individuals. This, despite their active role in molding social, cultural and economic geographies in the more liberal US, the conservative Philippines as well as across the highly sexualized global milieu. Hence, it remains a struggle for Alumit and his fellow Filipino gay writers to assert their ethno-sexual identity, without having to yield thoroughly to the exploitative maneuverings of the (mostly) White heterosexual male editors in fetishizing the old country as well as their queerness, as these authors continue to wrestle for their tiny piece of share in the American literary pie.
The postcolonial-queer double bind circumscribing the production of the Noel Alumit’s Letters to Montgomery Clift proves how power dynamics governing certain ideological dichotomies continues to function in order to position various elements of society. In the case of the author, the subject position he has to assume is one of an expatriate gay writer whose work must be submitted to the editorial scrutiny of White heterosexual male-run publishing houses to secure the work’s Western marketability that’s often spelled by the exoticism of the country of origin as well as of fetishism of the minoritized sexuality. What is subversive in this neocolonial containment includes the very articulation of the author’s imagination of his country and people in a mastered colonial language, a colonized subject’s way of writing back at the Empire, and the ineffaceability rendered by a sexual minority’s proven capability to narrate his kind’s queer experience. These challenges to the norm are significant attempts to reclaim the space denied to displaced colonial and sexual subjects; by recording their rich, colorful experiences and by putting forth their dissident projects in the process, these subjects are telling the world that they cannot be ignored and rendered invisible anymore. In the case of the exiled gay protagonist, he and his kind always experience a deep sense of metaphorical double homelessness, a state of permanent diaspora not only in terms of geographic belonging but also in terms of sexual belonging. They become outcasts in issues like language barriers, immigration status, professional visibility, cultural attitudes toward sexuality, exoticism by their fellow queers, among others. This dual dynamic of being neither-here-nor-there and neither-this-nor-that floats the postcolonial-queer concept of hybridity which emerges out of the clash between the colonizer and the colonized, nationally or sexually. This encounter breeds a “third space” of resistance wherein a new reality is engendered and wherein both parties are irreversibly altered, as when Homi Bhabha metaphorized such an encounter within the liminal and interstitial space of a stairwell found in between two floors which “prevents identities as either end of it from settling into primordial polarities.” As such, Bong Bong and his fellow gay subalterns can be empowered by their double hybridity against the dual hegemonic colonization they are facing since they can bridge the gap between the old and the new home, and between the queer and straight genders. By virtue of their intersecting postcolonial histories and alternative sexualities, these many-splendored hybrid identities pose a challenge to the world that stubbornly maintains a monolithic (read: heteronormative, globalized) perspective of identity.

Bibliography:
Alumit, Noel. Letters to Montgomery Clift. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2002.
“An Instant Cure,” in Time Magazine, April 1, 1974.
Bell, David and Gill Valentine. Mapping Desire: Geographies of Sexualities. New York: Routledge, 1995.
Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.
Cao, Lan and Himilce Novas. Everything You Need to Know About Asian American History. New York: Plume, 1996.
Chatterjee, Partha. The Nation and its Fragments. New York: Princeton, 1993.
Garcia, J. Neil. Performing the Self: Occasional Prose. Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press, 2003.
King, Bruce. New National and Postcolonial Literatures. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000.
Patajo-Legasto, Priscelina and Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo. Philippine Post Colonial Studies. Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press, 1993.
Robertson, George et al. Travellers’ Tales: Narratives of Home and Displacement. New York: Routledge, 1994.
Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1979.
Selden, Raman et al. A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory, Fourth Edition. Hertfordshire: Prentice Hall, 1997.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “The Rani of Sirmur,” in Europe and Its Others. Ed. Francis Barker, et al. Colchester: University of Essex, 1985.
Tabios, Eileen. “Noel Alumit’s Novel: Letters to Montgomery Clift.” Retrieved March 14, 2010 from http://meritagepress.com/bspeaks_april02.htm.

Monday, April 05, 2010

america the borderland


Gloria Anzaldúa, the Hispanic-American feminist critic, propounded the concept of “borderland”, which she defines as “a place where two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory.” If, instead of talking about America as homeland, we speak of it instead as borderland, how would you apply this to certain Contemporary American texts? Write an essay in which you cite specific strategies put forward by these works to illustrate this borderland concept.

Anzaldua’s concept of borderland may very well apply to America owing to the multicultural society that it is. This borderland resembles a modern Janus which faces a primordial, ideal past subject—in this case, the old country—while simultaneously gazing at a modern future—the new homeland that’s America. Being neither here nor there renders this multicultural society perpetually excluded, prescribed as an Other, but its experience of the encounter between the old and the new creates a third space, the borderland, which makes possible the crystallization and eventual celebration of this hybrid society’s identity that serves to connect the chasm between the home left behind and the adoptive home. This is evident in Tato Laviera’s “Latero Story,” which speaks of the Chicano experience of having to cross the Mexico-United States border in an effort to escape a Third World poverty, but gleaning from the can picking job that some of these immigrants land, there was not much a change of home, only this time there is a welfare to receive. Cathy Song’s “The Youngest Daughter” also exemplifies this as the persona, her family’s youngest daughter, clings on to the old country’s tradition of having to be the tacitly agreed caretaker of her invalid aging mother but nurtures the new country’s penchant for being modern via the feeling of liberating herself from an entrapping self-denial. Meanwhile, Lucille Clifton’s “In White America” shows how a black person goes on a reading tour for a mostly white audience, a testament that in America, one cannot put boundaries on black people catering to blacks only or white people, to whites only. Racial borders can be crossed, so to speak. In August Wilson’s Fences, the borderland created is the explosion of opportunities for black people during the 1950’s, something that the pre-Civil rights blacks and those born during the first half of the century helped materialize but were not able to experience, making them feel separated from the free blacks in their common land. In Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, the conflict between white and black society was examined, with the blacks asserting their dream of sharing in and assimilating into this borderland against the racial oppression of the unjust white community. Finally, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony recognizes the borderland through the reality of cultural miscegenation that both challenges the survival of and helps preserve Native American tradition, languages and natural sources.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

power dynamics and the american experience


Loren Baritz, in Backfire: American Culture and the Vietnam War, concluded by saying: “Our power, complacency, rigidity, and ignorance have kept us from incorporating our Vietnam experience into the way we think about ourselves and the world.” While on the surface, such a sweeping pronouncement could be deemed correct, explain in what ways Contemporary American literary texts, while underscoring this statement, also specifically parlay “power, complacency, rigidity, ignorance” into signifying markers that proscribe American experience. Discuss, too, drawing specific points from the texts, how these qualities are really more complex than they really are.


Given the modern liberalism that characterizes materially-abundant America, it is easy for the rest of the world to accuse it of power-tripping, bullying and arrogance especially in the context of its war engagements, most classic of which is the Vietnam experience. However, its pullout of troops from the Southeast Asian nation in 1973 proves that this American defeat renders the qualities of power, complacency, rigidity and ignorance more complicated than they seem. In Carolyn Forché’s “Because One is Always Forgotten,” the injustice committed against taxpaying and assassinated citizens of America by some corrupt Third World elite offers the possibility of America’s justification of the choices it enacts. Meanwhile, John Ashbery’s “They Dream Only of America,” written in exile due to what Ashbery perceives as repressive political atmosphere in the United States, liberation does not appear to be a stuff of the famous American Dream, but a horrific reality that Americans must wait for signs of, with the necessary price to pay. Michael Harper’s “American History” shows the painful, unforgotten episode of American history wherein black slaves were rendered invisible, a condition that recurs in an altogether different but ghastly version to their eventual descendants in their new homeland. Meanwhile, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is a reminder that not all Americans are in favor of their country’s commitment to war, recognizing the terror it creates and the worldwide disrepute that America falls under for engaging in an atrocious foreign policy. Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night echoes this antiwar stance, antagonizing the Americans for their lethargy toward their country’s Vietnam interference. Ultimately, John Hersey’s Hiroshima comments on the American moral complacency over the unconscientious war act that victimized ordinary humans leading ordinary lives.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

women in love: lesbian and feminist intersections in the bostonians


Historically, Boston had been among America’s cities which were long identified as gay. Cultural critic Joel Cohen observed that “the gay subculture of Boston seems to already have been flourishing in the eighteenth century.” One manifestation of this was the emergence in late 19th century America of the setup that has been called “Boston marriage,” wherein two unmarried, financially independent women engage in a cohabitation and/or relationship that may probably be sexual, although not automatically. It is interesting to note that the phrase came to prominence right after Henry James’ novel The Bostonians saw print in 1886.
Set in 1876, The Bostonians features the relationship of Olive Chancellor, a Boston feminist, and Verena Tennant, the young woman suffragist she gets attracted to. Upon the advice of the older woman, Verena cohabitates with Olive, promising never to marry as the two become more mutually intimate and more involved in the women’s suffrage movement. Tender to each other, the women anticipate their realization of the Victorian institution that’s the Boston Marriage. However, Olive’s distant cousin Basil Ransom arrives from Mississippi, and as the anti-suffragist Southern lawyer becomes enamored with Verena, his cousin Olive becomes disappointed not only because she is training Verena as her mouthpiece for the feminist movement, but also because she directly competes with her very cousin for her protégé’s affection.
Unlike other masterpieces by James, The Bostonians explores overt political themes like feminism and women’s overall role in society, and, inertly albeit controversially owing to the social temperament of the period that produced the novel, the ambiguously-examined theme of lesbianism. The subject of romantic attachments between women was an unconventional one in 19th-century American literature, so even as James’ novel was among the earliest works to deal with that sensitive theme, it was in a muffled manner. While the subsequent fictions of James did not altogether shy away from political subjects, it is The Bostonians wherein his political views were displayed most prominently, depicting a broader backdrop of feminism and other reform movements during the mid-1880’s as well as a silent rivalry between the cousins over Verena. James’ examination of the movement for female emancipation in that side of the West during that time may be summed up in “the situation of women, the decline of the sentiment of sex, and the agitation in their behalf.”
The 19th century in the United States came to be known “as a dynamic period in which the process of industrialization transformed women’s work and family roles.” Women began to realize that opportunities teemed outside the home, and that they could participate in the world like men do. As feministic view was seeing the light of day, the traditional attitude towards women was dramatically changing. To begin with, women would take a role in working to help slaves obtain emancipation through the anti-slavery movement, having identified with the manner slaves were being treated. As middle-class women became conscious of their similarities with men, they wanted to be treated as well, and participate in the activities men engage in, from accessing education to voting to working in order to support themselves without the assistance of men. This improvement in women’s conventional social role also affected their family role; they refused to be chained at home to rear children, cook, and clean when they could very well get out into the public sphere. During the Civil War, some of the women’s demands were shelved, but after it, more demands for equality with men sparked controversies. This entire historical scholarship revealed that 19th century American women, owing to the social progress brought about by industrialization, wore the theme of the “New Woman” with the necessary homosocial and feminist cultural underpinnings.
By the late 1890’s, the social label “New Woman” took on a problematic connotation, as it posed a modernist challenge to the Victorianism widespread during that period. Despite modernity being conventionally ascribed to the masculine culture, the New Woman penetrated that space and enabled herself as a key player as the 19th century drew to a close. This was not a walk in the park for the New Woman, as the experience of modernity is related to the public sphere of work, to politics and to city life, all of which prohibit 19th century women or render them invisible unless they are or will be mistaken for prostitutes loitering in the city streets. Also, the city existence’ transformation in the guise of accelerated urbanization, and progresses in work, housing and social relations widened the gap between the public and private arenas, with women promptly designated to the domestic sphere in the suburbs, the city’s opposites. Women of Olive’s socially and financially independent stature constitute the minuscule number of “New Women” who enjoy access to public life.
In James’ historical location mentioned in the previous paragraph, real-life suffragist feminists (from whose mold the novel’s female protagonists were cast) along with purity campaigners, rational dress lobbyists, sexual degenerates and the like were neatly categorized—despite their contradictory links—under the label “New Woman.” A phrase invented by writers Sarah Grand and Ouida two years before the publication of The Bostonians, “New Woman” was frequently strung along with feminism at large in order to define lesbian identity.
What emerged as feminism—the value system that invests women with the same rights as men and with equality among women—in the milieu in which The Bostonians was born may be traced to the organized force that denounced abolitionism in the early part of the 19th century. As every person was a self-owner, each human being has jurisdictions over his or her own body. Hence, there is a truism to the previously mentioned statement that the women related to the parallel plight of the negro slaves. More importantly, the abolitionist movement was the first radical force that women actively participated in. Within the pre-Civil War movement, women’s rights caused intense debate due to the caution with which their rights were not to be discussed in the same breath as the slaves’. This changed when the Civil War took place, as individualism was struck by war measures that included but not limited to censorship, suspension of habeas corpus and political imprisonment. While feminists were pro-war because it was an instrument to end slavery, it meant waiting until the post-Civil War for the tackling of their issues to proceed, not to mention that the war caused them to lose some of their legal rights. As the lack of reference to gender into the US Constitution became apparent as the pursuit for black men to vote was put forth, women claimed equal rights to suffrage but to no immediate avail. It was this feminist promotion of suffrage that propelled the central same-sex relationship within the novel.
Meanwhile, the rise of a lesbian identity has the effort of the late-Victorian sexologists like Havelock Ellis, Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Edward Carpenter to give credit to. Even in its infancy stage, this identity was already readable in The Bostonians in the embodiment of New Women namely Olive and, by extension, Verena. The former persuades the latter, a talented orator, to advance the women’s cause. Simultaneously, she seeks to maintain a partnership with the younger woman, one that excludes men.
Olive has the capability to engage in feminist politics and intellectual argument since she is financially independent as well as without a husband, two conditions that free her from the traditional domestic assignment for women and that enables her to participate in the public space. Her inability to speak in public, though, merits her choice of Verena as her spokesperson on behalf of the feminist movement:
“‘I want you to address audiences that are worth addressing,’ Olive tells Verena, ‘to convince people who are serious and sincere ... Your mission is not to exhibit yourself as a pastime for individuals, but to touch the heart of communities and nations.’”
The orator begins her career in Miss Birdseye’s tiny Boston townhouse, before an audience that is already won over to the side of the women’s movement. Her entrance into public life is deferred by Olive not only because the latter wants to improve Verena’s knowledge of feminist politics before addressing the public in general, but also because she seeks to maintain a domestic intimacy with Verena, an alternative to the conventional heterosexual domesticity expected in a heteronormative world.
Soon, Verena’s audience grows, increasing from the small Boston townhouse to Mrs. Burrage’s posh residence in New York. Her ultimate public oration is set in Boston’s Music Hall, where she will speak before her first mass constituency. Her entry into the public arena caught the eyes of the mass media, which promoted her as the “New Woman.” Meanwhile, Olive’s silence regarding this promotion of Verena via the mass media is much more than just a lover’s possessiveness. She is careful not to be exploited by the media for commercial benefits but desires to exploit the same media apparatus to advance the women’s cause.
When Basil comes into the picture, he is saddened by “the exhibition of enterprise and puffery” that comes with the media-covered speech for the feminist cause at the music hall. He laments Olive’s multiple struggles as she trades Verena’s oratorical giftedness to a sizeable audience if only to promote the women’s cause, rightly identifying that his cousin has “conform[ed] herself to a great popular system.” His own desire is to prevent women in general and Verena in particular from going beyond the confines of domesticity. It must be noted that his failure to be published implies the threat he feels towards women who get to penetrate the public sphere ahead of him. By keeping Verena from speaking publicly, he signifies his intent to reserve the public arena for himself, an attempt that is overwhelmed by the eventuality that Olive manages to take to the stage and speak on behalf of the women’s movement. In one of his attacks against the feminist movement, Basil gets Verena to listen to the point that
“The whole generation is womanised; the masculine tone is passing out of the world; it's a feminine, a nervous, hysterical, chattering, canting age, an age of hollow phrases, and false delicacy and exaggerated solicitudes and coddled sensibilities, which, if we don't soon look out, will usher in the reign of mediocrity, of the feeblest and flattest and the most pretentious that has ever been.”
Hence, in one of his walks with Verena, Basil tries to dissuade her from the women’s cause (in which she, addressing the public, gets objectified by the male gaze) and asks her to marry him instead. Basil advises his and his cousin’s common romantic object that “it’s not natural to give yourself to a movement or some morbid old maid.” Whereas Verena is being groomed by Olive for a public speaking career, Basil wishes her out of it by becoming his wife. Explaining how things will be after her retirement, he says,
“Your gift is the gift of expression, and there is nothing I can do for you that will make you less expressive. It won’t gush out a fixed hour and on a fixed day, but it will irrigate, it will fertilize, it will brilliantly adorn your conversation. Think how delightful it will be when your influence becomes really social. Your facility, as you call it, will simply make you, in conversation, the most charming woman in America.”
To the detriment of her political belief and public speaking stance, Verena decides in favor of marriage to a man whose political views oppose hers. In the long run, Olive loses her beloved Verena to her very cousin but musters more strength and self-confidence.
As initially stated, James’ novel was engendered by a time when Olive’s lesbian tendencies could hardly be suggested, much less discussed. James himself repressed his homosexuality, which case qualifies Olive as a fictional counterpart. Also, a good part of the novel is devoted to his disagreement with Olive’s feminist politics, mocking its principles through Basil especially in the first few chapters. At best, he was ambivalent over the women’s movement, an ambiguity that enhances the novel since it opens a similar ambiguity about the motives of Olive. While not a few features of the fictional universe of The Bostonians are displayed in a negative light, it does not follow that their opposites are necessarily positive, thus the ambiguity. It is a universe wherein nothing can be trusted. In the novel’s opening, Olive gets satirized when her sister Mrs. Luna mocks her: “A radical? She’s a female Jacobin – she’s a nihilist. Whatever is, is wrong, and all that sort of thing…” However, Olive’s view mimics the narrative view of James: Whatever is, always has something wrong with it. The novel presents no character possessing “the good values.” No absolutes to serve as standards are present.
This is why as the sisters’ characters get introduced in the beginning, one rejects the construction of herself as an object of male gaze and as an upper class while the other desperately desires to construct herself as both. Olive shows a smile that resembles “a thin ray of moonlight resting upon the wall of a prison,” and wears a dress “as if she were got up from a sea-voyage.” Meanwhile, Mrs. Luna wears curls that may be likened to “bunches of grapes,” an ill-fitting bodice and a pair of gloves that call to mind a pair of stockings. Their political perspectives—one a staunch feminist, the other a pandering male supremacist—and the manner in which they are expressed liken their appearances. Unlike her pandering sister, Olive refuses to put on a mask of sociability when she believes she must defend her feminist ideals. She suspects Basil’s friendliness the moment she gets acquainted with him, anxious that being congenial to him might force her to pander too, even in the most mundane way. When the cousins meet at Mrs. Burrage’s house before Verena’s speaking engagement, she launches into absurd accusations in reply to the trivial things mentioned by Basil. While it is manifest that Basil was unfairly censured by a feminist being out of context, James’ exposition of Basil’s inner thoughts reveals that Olive’s accusations are correct. Though Basil will pay homage to women’s femininity, he harbors tremendous fear and contempt for it, as may be gleaned from the following passage:
“…I am so far from thinking, as you set forth the night, that there is is not enough woman in our general life, that it has long been pressed home to me that there is a great deal too much. The whole generation is womanized; the masculine tone is passing out of the world; it’s a feminine, a nervous, hysterical, chattering, canting age, an age of hollow phrases and false delicacy and exaggerated solicitudes and coddled sensibilities, which, if we don’t soon look out, will usher in the reign of the feeblest and flattest and the most pretentious that has ever been. The masculine character, the ability to dare and endure, to know and yet not fear reality, to look the world in the face and take it for what it is – a very queer and partly very base mixture – that is what I want to preserve, or rather, as I may say, to recover; and I don’t in the least care what becomes of you ladies while I make the attempt!”
Many ironies may be drawn from this speech, testaments to the clashing worlds of feminism and patriarchy. One, the lawyer is satirizing the kind of femininity that Verena possesses, something that he would like to customize according to his very own private thrills. Two, the allusion to daring, enduring and meeting the ugly facts of reality could fit Olive to a T, even as Olive is likewise self-deluding in certain ways. Three and most significantly, the speech divulges the absence of absoluteness of femininity-associated values. This is important since those values are the standards utilized by men to measure women. If a woman does not deem it a positive gauge for herself any longer, then she need not be judged by it any longer. To disparage femininity is to add to the fragmentation of gender-linked myths in the novel.
These are but a few of the ambiguities painted by James in the novel’s universe: something can be something and be another thing altogether simultaneously. There is no positive absolute to measure things in this fictional universe. Therefore, the female protagonists in the novels find themselves in evil binaries, as when Verena was confronted by the dilemma of selecting between her ideology and personal affairs.
As Basil comes nearer to scooping Verena, James’ sympathy for him slowly diminishes while that for Olive magnifies as she starts to lose Verena in the closing chapters. In the following passage, Basil harbors the notion that Verena naturally exists but for a man’s love, notwithstanding Olive’s indoctrination of feminist ideology in her:
“The deepest feeling in Ransom’s bosom in relation to her was the conviction that she was made for love, as he had said to himself while he listened to her at Mrs. Burrage’s. She was profoundly unconscious of it, and another ideal, crude and thin and artificial, had interposed itself; but in the presence of a man she should really care for, this false, flimsy structure would rattle to her feet, and the emancipation of Olive Chancellor’s sex (what sex was it, great heaven? He used profanely to ask himself), would be relegated to the land of vapors, of dead phrases.”
This loss of sympathy gets an ultimate reinforcement towards the end of The Bostonians. The last two lines of the novel read: “But though [Verena] was glad, [Basil] presently discovered that, beneath her hood, she was in tears. It is to be feared that with the union, so far from brilliant, into which she was about to enter, these were not the last she was destined to shed.” To interpret these as an allegory of the battle of the sexes wherein the red-blooded American manhood beats lesbian feminism to a pulp is to miss the irony with which Basil is regarded. On an ideological point, the ambiguity James constructs involves two systems from which Verena must select: the modern sexual emancipator in the embodiment of Olive, and the radical conservative in the guise of Basil. Nonetheless, on a structural level, the radical conservative system is associated to the male heterosexual, while the modern sexual emancipator with the female lesbian. The tension, then, mounts as regards the side which one must favor. This also offers the challenge posed before lesbianism, feminism and lesbian feminism by the prevailing patriarchal hegemony.
The Bostonians has usually been interpreted as a depiction of a lesbian relationship, with Olive as the unnatural woman who ensnares Verena, who is in turn finally rescued from her lesbian entrapment by Basil. Interestingly, this current notion within 20th century interpretations of James’ work is that the relationship between Olive and Verena is not explicitly lesbian, and only a post-Freudian regime could vilify The Bostonians as a lesbian trouble. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, intimate and passionate friendships between women were deemed normal even as lifelong devotion and declarations of love along with nights spent together kissing in communal homes were committed. In the novel, the friendship between Olive and Verena and, to a smaller magnitude, that between Dr. Prance and Miss Birdseye could be categorized as such. Boston marriages during the period were not condemned inasmuch as the dominant assumption was that women-women love was asexual, women being believed to be devoid of sexual drive so the idea of a sexual activity between two women did not exist.
It may be recalled that throughout the century that spawned James’ novel, gender dynamics affected the way same-sex love and relationships were molded and promoted. The harsh gender roles and expectations in the early part of the period awakened the need for change during the mid-19th century. Such earnestness for change motivated the women’s movement to help alter the dynamic of female bonding, encouraging them to live independent lives with one another. As a result, the late 19th century stood witness to the female romantic friendships that sexologists concluded to have emerged from the correlations of sexual inversion and the feminist movement. Therefore, instead of being publicly condemned for their cohabitation, Olive and Verena were even possibly encouraged to carry on their romantic friendship, as it symbolizes the deeply-seated good moral values of society.
The feminist movement during the mid- and late 19th century introduced change in the form of female sex-sex love and relationships like the one between the female protagonists. Owing to the absence of support women discovered within the male sphere, they sought support among each other. Romantic friendships permitted strong bonds to shape between women that would help them construct the feminist movement. The women’s cause, in turn, would permit women to seek independent lives and relationships with other women. Before the movement, two women could fall in love with each other and desire one another. Their lack of independence, however, treated them like lesser human beings and rendered them incapable to support themselves financially, to the detriment of their pursuit of a shared dream life with another woman. During the Civil War when significant loss of American males intensified the movement’s demands for women to be able to support themselves, the “New Woman” was born in response to women’s longtime oppressive roles and expectations. It was the 19th century feature of homosociality that women got to coordinate with one another to effect social change, a leeway to the alternative lifestyle to heterosexual marriages that many of them sought, as is evident in the cohabitation represented in The Bostonians.
The writings of the late-Victorian sexologists mentioned at the onset provided the late 19th century discourse of lesbianism as a category of sexual behavior. During the period, sexologists published their findings on same-sex desire and behavior, in the process identifying lesbians in Western culture as a distinct construct, a recent designation that belied the visibility of homosexuality across culture and time. Men have historically entertained notions about what is acceptable for women in love, sex and family and owing to the invisibility of males in a lesbian relationship, usually protested the probability of lesbianism or dismissed it as a valid manifestation of sexuality. These sexologists came up with their characterization of lesbians on their principles that women who interrogated their strictly prescribed gender roles were mentally sick. In effect, women who became conscious of their new medical status created underground subcultures in both sides of the Atlantic, being unified by the discrimination and potential ostracism they confront from families, friends and other people. This shaping of a subculture according to gender role subversions was a reaction by many lesbians whose designation as immoral outcasts are regarded as threats to the challenge lesbians pose against traditional feminine gender dynamics. The link between the “New Woman” and lesbianism is fascinating in that the terms Havelock Ellis, for instance, employed to depict lesbian women were similar to those used to revile the spinster feminists of the late 19th century, the “New Women” like Olive. In 1897, Ellis described the typical homosexual woman in the same anti-feminist way that New Women were depicted:
“…[lesbian women] usually show some traits of masculine simplicity, and there is nearly always a disdain for the petty feminine artifices of the toilet...The brusque energetic movements, the attitude of the arms, the direct speech, the inflexions of the voice, the masculine straightforwardness...will often suggest the underlying psychic abnormality to a keen observer...There is also a dislike and sometimes incapacity for needlework and other domestic occupations, while there is some capacity for athletics.”
The conflation of lesbian identity with feminist identity was exploited by anti-feminists of the late 19th century to challenge women’s struggle for emancipation. Based on these claims, Olive’s feminism in the novel was the point of tirades by not a few 20th century critics. If she is not rightly portrayed as a “New Woman,” then her relationship with Verena is presented to be affirmative and favorable to the two of them. Verena is extremely pleased and fruitful in Olive’s company, and with her Verena “expanded, developed, on the most liberal scale.” It may be read from the novel that The Bostonians, in its sympathetic description of the friendship between Olive and Verena, appears to appeal for a more sensitive interpretation of same-sex love between women.
While The Bostonians does not qualify as a lesbian novel owing to its non-lesbian author (but a gay one, it must be emphasized), it has had a tremendous impact on the lesbian and feminist communities with its own portrayal of the central character as lesbian feminist. It helped define and continues to redefine the position of lesbians and feminists in society and offered a significant record of the cultural attitude toward lesbianism and feminism during James’ time. By describing a version of the lesbian and feminist experiences at the end of the 19th century, by interrogating gender norms and prevailing values and by arguing how a woman should define herself in society, The Bostonians has contributed to the constitution, enrichment and development of lesbian and feminist cultures.
***
Works Cited:
Auchinloss, Louis. Reading Henry James. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1975.
Buck-Morss, Susan. “The Flaneur, the Sandwichman and the Whore: the Politics of Loitering.” New German Critique 39, 1986.
Cohen, Joel. Boston Camerata’s Liberty Tree: American Music 1776 1861.
Ellis, Havelock. Sexual Inversion. Philadelphia: F. A. Davis, 1925.
Faderman, Lilian. Surpassing the Love of Men. London: Junction Books, 1981.
Felski, Rita. “The Gender of Modernity.” Political Gender: Texts and Contexts. S. Ledger et al, eds. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994.
James, Henry. The Bostonians. 1886 (e-text).
Rupp, Leila. “Reflections on Twentieth-Century American Women’s History.” Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1981.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

the memory-laden american self


Among the ways Contemporary American Literature course discussed late 20th century American literature is by way of looking at texts as “memory” texts, the self deemed not as an “empty self”, but as a “constituted self”, making sense of community, one that has a “collective history” and “a constitutive narrative” (Bellah, et.al.). How do these texts engage the American self and this “community of memory”, and how, and why, specifically does each do so?




The American self, like any other national self, may be identified by the history it has undergone. The past may be visited and from this visitation, the American self may figure its identity. This community of memory provides a clue to the way America emerged as a distinct entity as well as to the way it will direct itself in the future in its continued narration of itself as a nation. Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof captured the traditional American family during the context in which the play was produced. In such a family, lies, deceptions and hypocrisy are inherent owing to the milieu’s taste for consumerist materialism, rendering the family dysfunctional. Meanwhile, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? also explored the previously mentioned dysfunctional family’s phony exterior that characterized 1950’s America, wherein success and happiness were measured shallowly by the possession of material things. Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” plays up the messianic complex of America, one in which it is ready to sacrifice itself for others, having turned into the world’s sole superpower such that it feels accountable to save others from sufferings and troubles. Robert Lowell’s “Skunk Hour” analogizes America with an animal that is considered extreme even within the animal kingdom, alluding to the nation’s defiance against a global cloak of conservatism. Despite its isolation from other animals, the skunk that is America is a determined rebel from which trait springs its self-reliance. Rita Dove’s “Roast Possum” speaks of the Other America whose voice is presented through the shapeless and reticent histories of individuals disarticulated by the dominant America known to humankind. Meanwhile, Richard Wilbur’s “Love Calls Us to the Things of this World” displays again the American messianic complex and materialism wherein the United States paradoxically gets to fulfill its spiritual mission by participating in the actual world for the purpose of putting things in order as well as by relishing the material world that can be ravaged anytime by war or any other form of disorder.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

striking down gay stereotypes as media square pegs in parisukat

It is not uncommon for tabloids and, lamentably, even major broadsheets, to carry news stories whose titles alone are either misogynist or homophobic by temperament. Headlines that read “Lesbian Rapes Grade 5 Pupil!” “Sabik sa Balot, Tisay Pinilahan ng Anim,” “Gay Pimp Caught Peddling Minors,” “Atsay Nag-amok, BF at Dyowang Bading Ginilitan” and their ilk cast serious doubts on media’s credibility as an institution and on journalism’s supposed ethical practice. The patriarchal slants of such titles and their accompanying news stories evoke knowledge, veracity and ethics at the expense of the historically, culturally and politically oppressed females and gays.
At its surface value, Jonison Fontanos’ Parisukat seems to reinforce the aforementioned notion of the gay as victim with its teaser “Baklang Negosyante…Pinatay!” However, there is an attempt to subvert such an anti-gay stance with the unfurling of the crime’s least explored version (there are four, hence the titular allusion).
German (Toffee Calma) is a gay entrepreneur whose murder, according to police reports acquired by his former lover Jaime (Jobben Bello), was perpetrated by a “boylet” (loosely, a younger lover). Flashbacks reveal that not long after the two cruised each other in a café, Jaime discovered that his “Honey” was in contact with the boylet Hubert (Christopher Cañizares). In what appears as a trick of destiny, German’s lovers meet in the decrepit boarding house that Jaime rents out to the transsexual Xander (Darwin Taylo), who still obsesses over high school crush Hubert, and the newly-arrived nursing student Marcus (Jeff Tatsuro), whom Hubert introduced to his flesh trade.
German’s slaughter being entirely unsolved, the callboys accuse each other of having killed their common client, invoking two more versions of the crime. Running off anew from a misdeed he did not commit, Marcus slips away just before his landlord butchers the boylet that drove him to kill his businessman lover in a fit of jealousy, and the witnessing transsexual.
Of course, when the media scrambles over mayhem like this, the crime of passion fueled by such human emotions as jealousy and betrayal gets reduced to gendered documentations that treat the sexual orientations of the people involved as if these provoked the violation. Hence, irresponsible media portrayals of females as willing rape victims, and homosexuals as abusers, as exploiters and, in the cases of Parisukat’s German and Xander, as easy targets of mutilation, get perpetuated. Despite the overwhelming majority of crimes against humanity being executed by heterosexuals, banner news like “Straight Priest Fondles Devotees’ Breasts,” “Heterosexuals Collared for Human Trafficking” and the like remain invisible as opposed to macho-driven headlines mentioned at the onset.
More interesting than the possible depiction of the gay as crime perpetrator (yet again), Jaime’s character may qualify as a challenge to the gay typecasting as weak and cowardly because inflamed by grave circumstances, the gay—like any desperado—can kill. The initial indeterminacy of the accurate version of the carnage blurs the faces of the numerous suspects that the slain might have let into his room, a condition that eliminates the seemingly incapable gay from the picture. Therefore, what Jaime has massacred in the process are the stubborn, claustrophobic squares of stereotypes in which homosexuals are pegged by the gay-bashing media in particular and the male-dominated world in general.
Parisukat, which also stars Rosemarie Ibarrita, Hugot’s Alvin Espinoza and up-and-coming model Charlon Suerte, is still showing in Isetann Recto in Downtown Manila and in Cinema Eden in Cebu.