On Anahita Ghazvinizadeh’s They (2017)

I do not mean to complain.
They say it is my fault.
Nobody tells me anything.
Tell me how old I am.

The deepest demarcation
can slowly spread and sink
like any blurred tattoo.
I do not know my age.”

- Elizabeth Bishop, “The Mountain” (excerpt)

The first shot in They. A shadowy tree in a thicket of greenery. A cat sits to the right on a broken branch or tree trunk.

Despite being a pretty straightforwardly boring butch on the exterior, I’ve consistently, if privately, throughout my adult life grappled with whether I am in fact a cis male.

At first it was more scholarly, the light clicking on when I took a class about masculinity in American film and realizing academics were working out…

On Tsai Ming-liang’s Vive L’amour (1994)

Tsai Ming-liang’s movies bring to mind the semi-lucid state of waking up in the middle of the night, or the last few moments of consciousness before you fall asleep. There’s a dreaminess to them. Languid, maybe. Plot isn’t important. Dialogue is minimal. Character doesn’t even seem to be that significant — at least in the sense of character arcs and drama, the things in movies that typically define the people who inhabit them.

Humanity is important though, the subtle ticks and behaviors shown through understated acting, and tempered by the very specific (yet, fractal-like, universal) cultural and political climate of…

On Claire Denis’s No Fear, No Die (1990)

It begins with an epigraph from Harlem crime novelist Chester Himes:

“Every human being, whatever his race, nationality, religion, or politics, is capable of anything and everything.”

How do we live, day after day, facing all the quiet indignities of life? Knowing our existence probably won’t measure up to our dreams. That so much of our lives is determined by chance. That we’re already weathered from the start by circumstances set into place well before our birth. That of all who experience oppression, some manage to endure it and some don’t. And who can really say why?

Jocelyn (Alex Descas) holds a rooster in his hands, looking at it thoughtfully.

No Fear, No…

I started a newsletter called “Calm.” a few weeks ago, but recent news highlighting Substack’s support for transphobic newsletters has prompted me to consider switching over to another platform. Despite not using Medium in a while, I already have a modest follower count and I know the discoverability here is pretty good. So I figure I might as well make my Medium the new home for Calm.

I’ll be uploading the first few entries that were already published on Substack over the next few days.

There’s an extremely long experimental documentary called As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw…

(A recent read-a-thon of five queer contemporary YA novels showed me what’s been done to death in the genre and what there should be more of.)

My reading habits go through cycles. There are weeks when I’ll read nothing but feminist science fiction, or history books about the U.S. in the 1970s, or biographies of queer historical figures, or some other subject that my interest in was spurred on by a mention in a podcast or a stray tweet or something.

Roughly speaking the cycles move back and forth between fiction and nonfiction. The nonfiction cycles last longer, if occasionally…

K.M. Szpara’s Docile is a good novel about consent and a bad novel about capitalism.

Docile’s tagline is “There is no consent under capitalism.” This might make one think it’s about the inherently exploitative aspects of modern predatory capitalism, the intermingling of the personal — sexuality — and the political — class.

If you are patient, Docile does eventually do a good job of working out the impossibility of consent in a relationship with uneven power distribution, and distinguishes this with kinky power-play sex. (Though fair warning, it requires sympathy for a potentially irredemmable character and reading a lot of…

I fear this comparison I’m about to make between two gay romance narratives will perpetuate queer people being too overly critical of their own community.

So let’s just make this clear now: I’m about to talk about two lovely stories. My placing one against the other is purely due to the circumstance of my having read one right after the other. What I say here speaks to my feelings regarding the current state of what is and is not represented in queer pop culture in general.

Nothing can represent everything for everyone, but when you haven’t seen enough of one…

About half of Greyson Chance’s album portraits is actually great and the other half is an awkward mess of him trying really hard to sound like someone who didn’t rise to fame from a Lady Gaga cover when he was a tween.

The album cover already puts him at a disadvantage. I’m really curious if he thinks he looks attractive. The image is greasy, a bit sleazy, suggesting a wild departure from the cutesy little kid from 2011, back when he was most in the public eye.

This is fine in principle, of course. Great, actually. Development and maturity and…

American media in the early 1990s was a bit strange. The bizarre small town detective show Twin Peaks garnered mainstream praise throughout the country. Bret Easton Ellis’s transgressive novel about a yuppie cannibal rapist serial killer American Psycho reached widespread controversy and acclaim. Things weren’t following the wholesome, no-nonsense precepts of Ronald Reagan’s 80s. American popular media was expressing itself in ways previously pocketed away in the niche culture of ghost hunters and conspiracy theorists.

If American popular media was weird, its representations of masculinity were weirder. Twin Peaks’ “pinnacle of manliness” comes from a quirky FBI agent by the…

Martin Ritt’s Hombre is a 1974 countercultural western starring Paul Newman as the hombre in question. It’s an amazing example of a phenomenon I’ve written about before: Media doing cartwheels to keep racist tropes alive, but in a more palatable way. It shows how whiteness is centered even in attempts to decenter whiteness.

Let me explain. Hombre is the story of John Russell (Newman), a white man raised by Apache people who is entirely ingrained in Apache culture. He is a quiet character, at odds with the loud and outwardly aggressive white cowboys encountered throughout the movie. …

Bryan Cebulski

Journalist and writer of quiet queer fiction. Point-and-click adventure protagonist. He/Him. Contact @ bryancebulski@gmail.com

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