So here’s my rant for today. And while it’s not a new one as I am sure there is some other gay writer out there blogging that while gay men are constantly striving for acceptance and tolerance from a generally homophobic world, we often are our own worst enemy.
I got to re-thinking about it from this HuffPo interview (from outgoing Ahmed Shihab-Eldin – who’s reports I’ll miss greatly): You can read it here.
I am not limiting this to just the social circle either. I’ll post my thoughts on that topic in another stream of consciousness later cause I got LOTS to say on that topic alone.
Let me make a case for how it even happens in the media:
I was at Comic Con in San Diego (the only one that counts BTW (Sorry NYC – you’ve got B’way – leave So Cal a crumb, will ya?)) once where there was a discussion panel (the room was packed to the hilt – standing room only) for this particular show that was all the rage a couple of years ago (flash forward – it was cancelled shortly there after).
I won’t necessarily name the show because it would be pointless at this juncture since it has long been relegated to the netflix/pirate download universe, but suffice to say that it was a hot show at the time. Anyway, the panel of production crew for this show was asked about the inclusion of a gay character as a secondary lead if not main character of the show. The screenwriters jumped right into the fray and said that they were just in the midst of planning such an arc and they couldn’t wait to get started on it. It would come with the following season – they were sorry that the show had to go three seasons in before they could get to it but they were really excited about it. The audience (even for a few years ago) seemed rather pleased about this little announcement (okay, I’ll confess that it was an LGBT panel that is held every year at Comic Con). The two screenwriters of the show were, in fact, gay and were really happy that they got the green light with this particular arc. All seemed good, right?
Yeah, well, at the time I remember grousing to myself (I tend to grouse alot with unspoken angst over what comes out of these Hollywood types at these events), that why did we wait 3 seasons to get to the damned arc? Why are we left in the closet and have our stories sidelined by our own people? Yeah, i know, they gotta get work too and they’ve got the twat head producers to please who are only in it for the buck (despite all the flowery words about creative process and their vision and all the other hooey they throw our way – it’s all UTTER BULLSHIT).
The following March (on the eve of when this hot show was to start shooting) the show was cancelled. So guess what? No gay character arc, no gay storylines – once again our story is left on the cutting room floor – only worse, this one never got shot to begin with (HUGE STEP BACKWARD, if you ask me).
But it’s not the only instance of this happening – Greg Berlanti (who is gay) of ‘The Tomorrow People” (TTP) said the same damned thing about TTP. When HuffPo asked him about his not having a gay character in TTP he said that one was coming in season two and it was gonna be great (are ya starting to see a trend here?). SO that show got cancelled this past April. So here we are yet again – another fucking blown opportunity. Though to be fair he gives a much more lengthy explanation here. Yet, I can’t help but feel that he could’ve done better. How about this Mr. Berlanti – let’s not ‘wait for a creative moment to put in a gay character that will stick around –
Next up, The Vampire Diaries –
Now, aside from the fact that Ian Somerhalder’s Damon walks that same homo-erotic line with his other male leads in that Mick Jagger sort of metro-sexual swagger, TVD has had NO GAY CHARACTERS for years now! I was a fan of the show but was growing increasingly bored with the fucking boozing and rampant straight sexual situations that we were being inundated with. Why hasn’t MADD gone after this show? This show has more drinking (even when they were in fucking high school (and DON’T get me started on how 30 something looking actors were just soooo wrong for a HIGH SCHOOL show). I never once bought the vixen trio of Elena, Bonnie and Caroline were EVER actually of a high school age. The casting director shoulda been hauled out and beaten with a wet noodle over that faux pas alone!
Anyway, so in this past season we FINALLY get A GAY CHARACTER (count ’em, ONE – in the whole fucking town of Mystic Falls or where ever they were now going to college – and we have to wait MANY seasons to find ONE?) What the muthafucking ever. And I am just counting the seconds til this new gay guy is bumped off. Cause you know it’s gonna happen. (And no, Glee doesn’t count because the entire premise of that show is gay from word go (and sadly sometimes in the worst way imaginable) – too much sometimes even for me to stomach on a weekly basis – and I have a background in musical theatre).
In fact, I can only think of TWO drama shows where the gay men actually make it to the end and they were secondary or main characters – Torchwood and Spartacus. In the pantheon of TV shows through out the years and we have these two shows to show for it? Okay, then there’s Felix from Orphan Black (BTW, I don’t know if you’re keeping score on this too but it seems that two out of the three shows I’ve named are British imports – only Spartacus is American produced).
Okay, and there’s True Blood – but even with Lafayette (on of my absolute favorites and not just because he’s slightly sterotypical but because Nelsan plays him with such pathos and depth that I am utterly fascinated by his portrayal). The same can be said of Jordan’s portrayal of Felix in Orphan Black. There are subtleties and layers that both actors bring to the table that are truly amazing to watch. THOSE are the types of characters our little gay village need.
And Sidebar: What the fuck is up with Lafayette losing Jesus? That was some messed up shit when their arc so wasn’t over – total missed opportunity. But that season’s writing was the almost the worst of the bunch. That is until the season of Billith. Now that season of TB was just plain out tragic.
Okay, I thought of another show that has a gay character prominent enough to warrant it’s own plot line – that one in Scandal (my daughter watches it religiously and keeps telling me I need to do so too). I was going to watch a marathon and catch up when i got wind of them killing off one of the two gay characters (for dramatic purposes). Yeah, you can bite me with your dramatic elements involving gay characters being ‘sacrificed’ for the dramatic cause. That’s SOOOOO 1980’s Dallas/Dynasty era (and I should know cause I was alive when those shows were running in their original time slots (NOT re-runs)).
In Torchwood we FINALLY have a gay character that can’t die (because he can’t die – it’s in the character write up). So yay for #TEAMGAY, yeah, hold up a minute. Turns out he can die – when the show doesn’t get renewed or languishes between seasons. Pasadena…
Y’all need to grow a pair and put our shit out there. Sorry if that sounds a bit forced, but I got a little Larry Kramer angst going on here from watching ‘The Normal Heart’ – a bloody brilliant movie – thanks Ryan Murphy for getting it out there. Try to remember what it was like when you were growing up starved for some recognition and figure out how to get it out there. And don’t shoot me that old line – gay characters don’t sell. Yeah, well maybe we have to shove a few down their throats until we get to a point where they become inured to it all. THEN we’ll have achieved something. If gay people can bore the crap out of straights like they do to themselves – then game over – mission accomplished.
So there was the first show I talked about, then TTP, then Vampire Diaries. That’s three shows, two of which utterly failed in producing a single strong gay character. While the actor playing Luke on VD seems to be a good one, I am constantly waiting for the other shoe to fall and he’ll get bumped off. That’s the modern message we get from these shows: if we finally do get around to putting one out there – yeah, well, it won’t last. It’s fleeting – just like we want the world to think we are in their lives – fleeting, passing through, an oddity to behold and then eschew like yesterdays bright wrapping paper after a successful party.
So over that way of thinking.
So I am constantly polling around – looking for gay men to satiate my thirst for something that reflects my life or at the very least, a form of my reality. But sadly, we’re still all too absent.
And here’s another little nugget of information – the M/M genre of novel writing is actually quite large and thriving and it’s reader base is primarily made up of women. So why aren’t we looking to satisfy the gay market for these ladies? Why aren’t we killing the both birds with the same literary stone? If we’re studying demographics and how to pitch and sell to them, then why aren’t we looking at these numbers then?
I get that it’s show BUSINESS and not show ART. I get it. But if we aren’t taking the necessary steps to have the same opportunity to bore the crap out of the straight audience because we are now just one of the crew, then how the hell are we ever going to make progress on a storytelling and visual level?
As a gay author, I wonder for long periods about that. Not that it pulls focus from my day or anything, but I do ponder it on the back burner. I only wish the screenwriters and producers who are gay and have dealt with the same struggles we all seem to have in common in this world, that they would do more, fight – hell, if we do have a gay mafia out there in Hollywood – then fucking act like some gay muthafuckin’ blinged out homo-thugs and DO SOMETHIN’ ‘BOUT IT!
So given that the final season of True Blood is around the corner. I’ve been reminiscing about the difference between Charlaine Harris’ book series and the episodic version on our TV screens.
At first blush the main cast of characters seem to be front and center (with a few notable exceptions – that being Lafayette and the much more sub-dued Tara – arguably the TV series strongest and most interesting characters). This however is where we hit that proverbial argument (one of which I don’t always think is as valid as Hollyweird seems to make it): Books are different than TV/Film.
Yeah, the more I read, coupled with the fact that I have family that works in the film industry, I am not so sure of that as a creative premise at all. I think in most cases it is producers and directors wanting to make a splash on the shoulders of another author’s works. “Reimagining it for the masses over a different medium…” sort of thing.
It worked for the Harry Potter series, right? Eh, don’t get me started on that one… there were soooo many fucked up production decisions on that film iteration of the beloved books that I could spend an entire blog series just covering it all.
And when David Heyman offered only that as a children’s series they didn’t feel they could ever stretch the films out to encompass the smaller story elements in the books because children were going to struggle to sit still longer than the ‘line in the sand’ at 2 hours and 30+ minutes they’d alloted for each installment in the series. Say nothing of the fact that these were the same children who were happily sitting in the Lord of the Rings movies that toppled at 3.5 hours long with apparent ease. Or given the fact that as the movies wore on (and those little tykes grew up) they should (according to Heyman’s implied theory) be able to handle a longer film. My point being that it was nothing short of a financial cop out. The story and it’s telling suffered because of poor plot line choices. Steve Kloves (the screenplay writer) did his best to keep an even keel scriptwise with input from Rowling herself (often cluing him into elements that were important far before the rest of the world knew what was going on). But alas, it was the story plot lines and the production team involved that sort of ruined the magic of that series for me.
Okay, I’ll cop to the fact that I own every single one of them. They’re my granddaugther’s favorite movies and books. So those films hold a different form of sentimentality for me. She was only one when the first one came out – and she was riveted even at that tender age. If you got in the way of the TV she’d skreech and in her babushka (the reference my family had for her baby talk as she tended to sound like an old Russian woman) way telling you on no uncertain terms to: “get the FUCK outta the way man, I am watching my flick!”
I did like that they never lost sight of the whole blood business. Pure bloods vs. Muggles – yeah, so Third Reich in it’s reach and scope. I really liked that element in Rowling’s series.
Speaking of which – The Hobbit writers felt the NEED to insert a fucked up fake Elvish/Dwarf love thing? WHAT THE BLOODY FUCK? That singular addition to the tale fucking ruined the movies for me! You DON’T INSERT into literature you fucktards! You aren’t that bright to do so… something like that practically soured me on the whole fucking idea of movie options from novels.
Which brings me to the real analysis of this blog entry: True Blood.
In the books the world of Bon Temps and the fearsome but beloved Vamps are quite different. So different in fact, that the faeries play a larger role in the course of the series (and to set the record straight – I HATED the treatment of them by the writing staff of the HBO series – a mishmash of Disneyesque cum Burlesque twat-heads that I was only too happy to see them perish in the TV series. They were complete waste cases). But not in the books, the faeries are BAD ASSED. Even Eric Northman thinks twice about confronting them when Suki is in the hospital and her Faerie grandfather Niall is inbound. What the fuck happened to that element? Why toss your wad on these sappy faerie light versions of their fearsome counterparts in the books? I just didn’t get it.
And I get it, dear reader, that you may wonder why I even care. Well I do because it matters. It matters because I am a writer. Not to say that i have lofty ideals that my stories will ever equate to a property that would get sold to a film/TV company. I can dream but I am a realist as well in that department.
So yeah, if fucking matters big time that they get it right.
There is one element that is fairly spot on between the books and series – Alexander Skarsgard portrayal of Eric Northman. From the moment Alexander makes is appearance in the show I was all “YES! YES! YES!” and I am over the fucking moon that he’s a Nord actor. Go for the blood. It was brilliant bloody casting.
Now, with the exception of Ryan Kwanten, Nelsan Ellis, Rutina Wesley, and Kristen Bauer van Straten , the rest of the cast is questionable. Not that the other actors are bad at their jobs. That’s not it at all. The actors perform admirably to the tasks given to them. It’s the writing that has sucked as the seasons have worn on to the point where it barely resembles the premise it started out with. These are writers who’s good ideas went out with the bath water around the second season. Coincidently, around the same time that the TV series started to really divert from the plotlines that Charlaine had in the books. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it didn’t have to be a bad thing. But unfortunately, it was.
The differences between the two worlds were really starting to show. One element completely dropped from Harris’ books that I really loved in the novels? Bubba – Elvis as a goofy dumbed down lovable vampire with a penchant for kittens. Now THAT I would have loved to have seen. Hell, they could’ve even cast Michael St. Gerard (from the old Elvis bio pic) in the role.
So the takeaway from the TB fiasco, as I’ve come to call it? Whenever someone says they want to put a ‘twist’ on it, ‘shake it up a bit’ on a successful premise, then that really means – hey, we want to substantiate why we’re having to hire screenwriting hacks to reinvent the wheel because, hell, we’re just too imagined out to come up with a truly great premise ourselves so we’d rather bastardize your shit rather than put in the real work ourselves.
I mean it is possible, you know. Need I say ORPHAN BLACK? Now there’s a series that was created from ground up. But of course, it’s Canadian. Damned Canucks (and I happen to love Canucks… brilliant bastards that they are). But if anything, they show how it can be done. Just like we novelists do – with grit, determination, a little mental-elbow grease and guess what IMAGINATION. Something sorely lacking in Hollyweird.
Sidebar: You know, I sorta have mixed feelings when I bash Hollywood with the ‘weird’ status. Mostly because for the most part I like their sense of equality when it comes to the gay community (in so far as it doesn’t extend (or rarely extends) to lead characters). But then they go completely off the rails with real imagination and creative bravado. They just seem to be apathetic to trying new things when it’s so much easier to option something in existence and ‘spin’ it, make our mark on it.
Author’s sidebar (to provide some context): So I’ve not been blogging as much as I should the past couple of weeks. Life fully inserted itself and pulled focus as it is wont to do from time to time. I had finals in school (yeah, this gay dad put his daughter through college before he ever got around to finishing his own schooling – guess I’m a good father that way), work was a bitch (isn’t that why it’s called work and not play? And on top of all of that I was busy trying to get my first novel to a publisher. Anywho, long story/short – I was busy. But that didn’t mean for a single second that I didn’t have things roiling around in my head just itchin’ to be hurled onto this here digital paper, right?
…whilst dealing with work, school, life and the book: traditional character re-imaginings. Now, normally, I am split on this topic. There are some icons in literature and movies/TV that I think are completely sacred. This is why I will NEVER watch Elementary (Watson as a woman = ludicrous). That was simply someone who was too lazy to finally play up and pursue the last step in the Sherlock/Watson bromance and actually make them (male) lovers and so, made it mainstream palpable by throwing a female into the mix. Uh uh, nothin’ doin’ there. So Sherlock’s sacred. As is James Bond – I wouldn’t make him gay for the world. He’s far too much of a romantic fuck-up to wish that on my fellow fey brethren. Now, Benedict and Martin’s Sherlock (set in modern day London)? Sign me the fuck up!
I could wax nostalgic over many such literary and media laden icons like these. But my thoughts were running rampant on a different sacred ground that I was just itching to see go GAY! Disney Villains.
I’d like to point out that I was totally smitten with a certain artist over at Deviantart.com by the name of Sakamichan who has some amazing artwork over there. There is a particular vein where the Disney princesses and villains have been reimagined as their Fae Boy counterparts. This got my creative juices flowing.
This could go in so many ways that the original Hans Christian Andersen tale didn’t. I could see Urs actually having the hots for Prince Eric and finding a means to torment Ariel that would take on a whole new meaning. That waifish little fish woulda had a tougher time with a studly and horny gay boy on her finned backside that’s for sure. But if we add a whole other gay boy layer of icing to this lovefest cake? What if Ariel were a merboy instead of that insipid carrot topped girl?
Now we’re getting to the meat of the matter – and I ain’t talking dog meat, neither! This gay fashionista would have added an intense sexual tension if he wasn’t only interested with the puppies but what if he was interested in wrestling a Roger Radcliffe who had dallied with his more prevalent bisexual past while in college. Perhaps Roger is bored with domestic life and Cruel finds the repressed and domestically whipped Roger irresistible? Hell, maybe the dogs are just the trip wire to snag what Cruel is really after? Some man on man action with said repressed husband? That sort of action might’ve made the puppies blush!
Okay, I know. This whole blog entry is rather silly. I get that. That’s where I am mentally after an exhausting round of school finals, work crap and a novel submission. But I have one more musing to propose and it’s a doozy –
Now we’re cooking with gas…!
This whole thing would need a complete re-write. I see it as two brother’s dueling for the heart of one simple gay prince who doesn’t have a hope of finding the kind of love he truly wants. He’s probably a waifish man-child. A geek amongst princes – you know the type? Can’t swing a sword if he hired a knight to do it for him sort of gay boy? A King’s worst nightmare?
Only his father wouldn’t berate him. He’d love his shy but lovable little princeling. Now the real story would be about the battle between Prince Philip and Maleficent. In MY version the boys would’ve been half-brothers with Maleficent being the product of an illicit affair between his father and a comely witch. Maleficent would be that son. So as not to eschew him entirely he introduces Maleficent to his half-brother hoping that the two of them would grow close. And for a while they do. Until in their early teens they fight for the affection of a common but ruggedly handsome stable boy. When it seems the stable boy prefers the romantic overtures of Philip over the wanton sexual come-ons of Maleficent, Maleficent pulls a terrible stunt that costs the young stable boy his life. In grief Maleficent accuses Philip for the boy’s death and vows that one day he will visit a terrible curse upon his one true love.
The rest can sort of play out along those lines – with perhaps a replay of the same sort of love triangle between Maleficent and Philip over this new boy. Will the brother’s ever learn or are they doomed to repeat the mistakes of their past? Kitchy, I grant you – but isn’t that the very nature of fairy tales. Faery Tales like you’ve never imagined.
And here’s a twisted take on this whole re-imagining – what if Philip and Maleficent were trying to correct the mistakes of their past? Maybe behind closed doors Maleficent is into painting toe-nails and soft-pillows and chatting about fashion and romance literature. And what if Prince Philip was a total leather daddy now and wanted nothing more than to bend waifish Anatoli (which means East or Sunrise (Dawn) in Russian)? But, I dunno… I think I like Maleficent being the dominatrix-esque leather daddy, don’t you? Either way, you have to admit it would be a far cry from either the Grimm Brother’s take or even the Disney remake.
…or perhaps, like me, they’ve been the musings of your gay boy dreams?
So it’s been a while. I’ve been busy writing. I found a publisher that really seems to get what I am about as a writer. I don’t know if I’ll rate. But it’s something I’ll definitely work toward.
There was just a small problem. My book was too big. I get it. It’s a business. At my age I don’t wander around in a daze of euphoric writers bliss thinking that anything I put down onto digital paper is golden. That I’ll be adored by the masses. I mean, I write MALE on MALE Gay Lit Fic wtih a heavy slant on the erotic element of the story. I mean, I am a gay man. I need to write what I know. It is my world. Been my world since the first guy I boned back when I was a teenager back before the heady days of HIV and AIDS. So I got an eye opener of a entrance into all things gay when being that way wasn’t talked about openly nor was it even evident on TV. Okay, we had Billy Crystal’s Jody Campbell on Soap. He played it brilliantly if a bit over the top fey. But that character was a product of its time. Gay men were supposed to be the laughed at. It was the only way we were palatable back then.
Yet, that never was an answer for me. It wasn’t who I was. Whatever that was at the time (hey, I was barely out of my teens, how the fuck did I know what I was – other than being into men). Being into men was about all I knew about myself back then. This was the era of Jeff Stryker and his huge porn cock from hell – even though there ere plenty of other men who had bigger cocks and could fuck a helluva lot better than he could. Chad Douglas, much? That man was my wet dream of a fuck back then. As a gay boy I wanted to bed that porn star more than any other. It never happened, except in my head and in my hand. From what I’d heard he isn’t around any more (I don’t know if that’s true or not) but if it is, then maybe it was for the best that I never did get my wish.
So why the ramble about fucking? Well, it sort of colors the men in my works. Sex is important to humans – whether or not they choose to admit it. Being a gay author I have a playground to probe, prod and work through the vagaries of being a gay man in this world. Even going so far that in my first work I am seeking to get published is harking back to my youth and the mental ramblings that went through my brain while I was caught up in the euphoria that some other boy was just as interested in an intimate and physical relationship with me as I was with him. That was pretty heady stuff back then. I am sure that gay boys float on air as they discover their first loves and how incredible the simple act of fucking can make your heart soar. Fucking is great. In fact, it’s fucking great.
So with the MC’s of my story – Angels of Mercy, I am having to recall those heady days. The work begins as a contemplative piece. And therein lies the rub, I suppose. Not that any publisher has had a real chance to look at it. It is a book about GAY men written BY a gay man. I know it’s a hard fact to face but I am surrounded by female authors who are writing characters of which most of the work seem to have little in common with the world I grew up in. The world I surround myself with others like me. Not to disparage those author’s works, but inwardly I liken it to writing about a black Jewish three legged lesbian. I have absolutely no reference for me to even begin to hope to have an honest work. Yes, I get the counter argument that human frailties are human and that we have that element in common, despite the variances in our worldly experiences. But you see, that is the one element that I find in the whole m/m romance segment of the business. It has VERY little to do with me as a gay man. Other than it’s men poking and fucking other men. And even in that, it’s polite. The men are not messy. They are not really piggy. There is no cum play, watersports, and even the S/M elements simply don’t even scratch the surface of what men feel or more importantly don’t feel as they experience those elements of gay culture.
So when I heard about a publisher that wasn’t caught in the trap of the same old formula being reworked and reworked – with little hope of a singular voice to break out and really transform the genre, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. So I began to write. There might not be a publisher that will come within miles of it. Though I’ve had beta readers with positive, constructive commentary to assist in tightening it. But in that I have exclusively stuck to other gay men. It is this intrinsic truthiness (apologies to Mr. Colbert) that I am seeking. I am not writing for the audience that wants the formulaic shape shifter work. Nor am I writing for that singular vampire story that has been so overwrought that there is nothing really separating it from other work out there.
And I got it honestly. The three books that changed my life would prove prophetic in how I am writing today:
Gordon Merrick’s Charley and Peter series beginning with The Lord Won’t Mind (my views on M/M romance began here). John Rechy’s two masterworks – City of Night and The Sexual Outlaw. Three books that shaped my young gay boy world before I even put a toe out into that world.
These books color everything I do now. That isn’t to say that the works of Gore Vidal, EM Forester and Thomas Wolfe didn’t inspire. They most definitely did – and still do. Hell, TJ Klune is my go to right now. In fact, pretty much I am influenced by male authors because I find their voice speaks to my own. So along with TJ, Eric Arvin, Josh Lanyon, Jay Bell (a very personal fave) Ethan Day, Brent Hartinger, and Brad Vance, there are many others who’s works inspire. But those men I named give me something a bit more. I am deeply indebted to their creativity as it gives life to my own. That may make me sound gay militant. Maybe. But I don’t think so. As I said before, I am tired of translating other’s works into my own experiences. I can appreciate the work for itself, but it fails to completely inspire. Now give me a male protag struggling with his own gay maleness – and I’m all in.
With my work, Angels of Mercy, I wanted to do something really different. Different in that it has quite a bit of influence from my own experiences. My own sense of sexuality as A MAN who desires and has sex with MEN. A point where my protag rails against his own mother knowing about his life as an out gay youth but he is adamant that she doesn’t understand fully what that means. She can translate it to a degree, but she’ll never know what that means for him. Elliot, my main character, is deeply in love with his boyfriend. The hottest jock on the varsity football team – Marco. I wanted to pose the question, what if the geeky artsy gay kid got the hot jock – what then? For a geeky gay kid who was used to the shadows, what would happen if he was dating (on the DL, that is) the highest profile boy on campus? How would it work? How would it fail? And what would be going through his head throughout it all. And I wanted, for once, for the Jock to be the solid one, the unquestioning one in the relationship.
But there again lies the rub. It’s contemplative. It’s introspective. Elliot’s a bit of a mess. Being a out gay kid in a small town (even in Northern California) can do a number even on the strongest psyche. Elliot can’t believe his good fortune when during a completely uneventful summer Marco, the hottest guy in town, not only comes in to his family run DQ, but he tells Elliot he’s been in love with him for the past two years and he can’t hold out any longer. It turns Elliot’s whole world upside down. They have the summer to discover all things about themselves as a couple head over heels in love before the oppressive monster that is high school descends and nearly drowns them in the process. Do they go back to their separate worlds? Do they seek out a way to be openly together? Very tough calls for two gay boys deeply in love. And they are. Deeply. Profoundly. At eighteen they’ve found their soul mate. But what if the world around you didn’t see it that way – what would they do to be together?
So the screws on my characters tighten. The story goes dark – very, very dark. Matthew Shepard with a little Hannibal Lecter dark before the boys will see any light. So the work is deceptive. It begins introspectively in Elliot’s head and heart. It’s messy. It’s erotic, it’s raunchy as only two gay boys could be. Then it all implodes pushing hard to separate my lovers until they’re able to find a way out and back into each others arms again.
I had a discussion with a published author of some renown in the m/m romance field. When I explained the work, she said that my boys could come off as being a bit pervy. My immediate reaction (though I withheld it from her) was ‘gee, do you know any gay boys and what they get into?’ I get that it’s romance, but honey, if it is men on men – you better believe it will be HELLA PERVY by those terms. Men thrive on messy, pervy fun when we’re together. Even our straight boy counterparts bear that out. Ever watch them on an ATC out in the dessert? Thrashing around in the mud? Men love their messes. It’s what makes us happy. I’ve ranted about this before but I truly think I need to defend my boys in Angels. If they are anything, they are honest. Honest in that they are as close to my own experiences in growing up gay. Honest in that they are equal parts raunch as they are euphoric in their love for one another. But most of all they are definitely male. No chicks with dicks in my books.
I’d like to think we live in a growing enlightened age. I’d like to think that. I can’t.
And for an author in M/M erotica, it’s a serious question to ponder.
The reason I think we are still somewhat bassackwards when it cums to sex is that we still can’t put down the whole ludicrous morality issue over it. This is where I think gay men have the slight advantage in coping with society’s overall view with regards to sex. As gay men (of which I am a solid card carrying member – got the toaster oven and everything), I think we are fully cognizant that we’re outside the mainstream box. In a way, that’s completely liberating. We’re sort of expected to be out of the norm. In a real way it can be absolutely terrifying for those not ready to deal with the whole maverick “go your own way” label that gets slapped on you.
This whole inner debate I am having about this was furthered this morning when I happened upon a huffpo gay voices article regarding a gay porn sex worker (Levi Michaels) who had decided to put some of his un-porn life on the web via a YouTube channel.
It was a short, if refreshing, read. I find I am often more fascinated with what these guys do with their non-business life – and not because I am working on my stalker cred, either. Porn is so fleeting for the workers in the business. I have, like many, heard several horror stories of men who couldn’t cope with being in the industry and succumbed to it’s pressures and social stigma’s often associated with it. Sometimes I worry about these men (Arpad Miklos, much? Who I really, really liked as a performer) who may not be planning for their future beyond porn. So it’s sorta refreshing and a sigh of relief that a segment of them do think beyond tomorrow (you go, Levi).
But there is a disparity in how some men approach the business and how it can back fire on them if they aren’t truly forward thinking in their careers. After all, the cock or the ass or a rockin’ bod aren’t the real sexual elements in this equation. We’d like to think it stops there – but it’s the mind that is the truly powerful sexual “organ” we possess. What makes Michaels so off the rails sexy, I think, is his brain. Ditto for Colby Keller (who’s blog I follow religiously) – I fucking love that guy’s mind.
So here’s the reverse side of that:
I mean, take one such individual who for all intents and purposes is gay for pay (but seemed to be doing fairly well at first): Cody Cummings. He presented himself as a fantasy for gay men. Yeah the guy is hot, but ultimately it was very clear that he wasn’t into having sex with men. His ‘gay’ site had a fair amount of straight sex on it. How many gay men love to watch that – I am guessing the numbers aren’t that high. (It’s the same reason why I gripe on Pingay when we get guys posting straight porn pics of guys with mammoth cocks next to some pussy – um, where’s the gay in that?) It was during that whole miserable phase in the industry “Straight Guys for Gay Eyes” bullshit where a number of cross-over guys who were straight in their own lives thought they could fake it well. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few who do it quite well (I could wax eternal about G4P Bo Dean over this very point).
What is so sad about this scenario is that for a couple of years was that gay men were following him – were subscribing because the guy is hella hot (gay, straight, or whatever) but soon discovered just how un-gay he was.
However I think Cody found himself in the crosshairs of his own audience who really weren’t interested in his having sex with women (we are gay after all, big guy) – in that he had for the most part only let guys suck him off and barely touched another man’s cock (using his toes to do so). There’s a built in homophobia in this sort of phoned in performance. I’m reminded of my high school drama teacher who advised we doe eyed future stars and starlets – “give yourself to the performance 110% – if you phone it in, the audience can tell.” (Truer words were never spoken, Mr. Ray) This is what I believe happened to Cody and it apparently did a number on his numbers (read: subscriptions) and a backlash started to take place (in blogs and in the reviews of his site). In short, he went into damage control mode. But here again is how the whole mainstream morality regarding sex hounds we gay outsiders (sex workers are in with this bunch – gay or g4p). We fall for this sorta shit because we want to believe the fairy tale of it. Even if these fae boys/men wouldn’t dream of actually carrying on a real relationship with a man in their daily lives.
Gay for pay isn’t new. That much is evident. But when you stack someone up like Cody with someone who is also straight (but thankfully gets the whole 110% in the game mentality) like Bo Dean, then the tissue paper facade of Cummings offerings begin to really become apparent.
And before detractors and haters comment on my calling out Cummings on his meager offerings – let me be clear: I don’t wish him any real harm or ill times in his future. I truly want all performers to succeed. Having a theatre background, I get the whole putting your shit out there for ridicule or reward mentality. Sex performers get aces in my book because the go where most actors don’t publicly. Cody (or whatever his real name is) is probably a very decent guy just trying to survive and pay the bills (of which I guess also have to deal with a rather hefty alimony to his ex). He knew he had the looks and could play well to the camera (which isn’t always a given in the industry – you may have looks but fall flat because you don’t have that spark that lights up and takes notice when the cameras are turned on). Bo on the other hand gets it. It’s clear from his early work over at Cock Sure Men that he was a straight guy trying to break into the gay porn business. He has a rockin’ look and seems pleasant enough to be around (this from the behind the scenes vids I’ve observed). So Bo Dean gets the gig. He understands and works towards what Cody simply misses the point on. I’ve seen some of Cody’s latest offerings and while he has ‘pushed his limits’ a bit, it is a little bit too late in cumming (sorry, I couldn’t resist – I’ll try and restrain myself).
So how does this go back to that article from Levi Michaels in HuffPo? Well one thing I got from Levi’s interview was that even he sees the change in society’s perception about sex industry workers. Wonder of all wonders: sex workers are people too! Holy shit! Stop the presses (do we even say that anymore?)! Whoda fucking thought, right?
This is some serious good gay man sex going on here!
But what I find so refreshing is that, though it isn’t the prevalent opinion yet, that Levi sees some of the stigma of being a sex worker is being lifted the more accessible the performer becomes to his audience. It is this interactivity that humanizes the performer with his fans. Personally, I think this serves the actor as much as it does the audience member. I find that there is a very gratifying feeling with that veil being lifted just a bit. I mean, I am not one of those porn stalker types who can’t separate the fact from the fiction (I work in fiction for Chrissake). But that Levi would ponder doing this himself and finding that others are open to it is really remarkable. Perhaps a small faction within the larger community will sexually liberate themselves from the oppressive social mores and find their own path to sexual awareness and freedom. This is why I like what Levi is doing. Why he is putting a bit more of himself out there. Plus I love his playfulness while doing it. I know it’s not the whole enchilada. I wouldn’t be so bold to ask that of him. I want his privacy for him as much as he does. Maybe that’s because of my many years in semi/pro theatre. I get it. The public vs. private persona. Yet, Mr. Michaels is finding a way to make media work for him personally. I think that’s great. I wish him nothing short of success in that (even if it only is a personal one) I’ll be cheering from the sidelines.
This is something that I think some of the earlier performers never had a chance to connect with their audience and use it to not only further their careers but also to ground them a bit in ours. That’s bloody brilliant, I say. I wish some of the other actors had this much insight or fortitude to do something like that. I think it would completely humanize the industry – and in turn, I would hope, de-stigmatize it.
Okay, I fully get that I may be asking too much.
But like my takeaway from Michaels HuffPo interview, I think what he has set out to do is a win-win for not only him but for the industry at large. Not that everyone in the biz should run out and do it. Like coming out, each will have to find their own way, find their own thread to tug upon and put their spin on their public persona. For some it stops at Twitter, others it maybe to tweet and instagram. Who knows where this will all lead? I’d like to think gradually to an enlightenment and acceptance that sex is not dirty – it is integral to who we are as humans. That it is no longer the thing that titillates us because of the ‘dirty’ status that the mainstream conservatives want us to hold onto. But that trip is all about control. I don’t know about you, but I’d welcome a little true freedom – a little sexual liberation. It’s been a number of decades since the last big hoorah for sexual liquidity and acceptance.
Here’s a thought that I’ve always held about porn – when its REALLY good, then its fucking art. And you can tell the difference. It fucking smacks you in the face like the porn actor just spewed his love juice all over you. A fucking shower of erotic sensations. THAT’S ART! Why? Because of the work that goes into it. These guys really do work at their craft (and believe me – most guys probably couldn’t take the hours or the upkeep to stay vital and desirable in the industry). So yeah, in my book, guys like Antonio Biaggi (my personal go-to), Colby Keller, Anthony Romero, Bo Dean and Levi Michaels are all guys who get their craft and apply their talents and work at making it all work for us. It may be titillating art, it may be provocative art, but it is ART nonetheless. But ONLY when it’s good (sadly, a large chunk of it is purely out for the commercial buck schlock).
So as I contemplate my characters in my books, I am thinking about this. Indeed two of my characters decide to document their love by recording it digitally. For one of the guys, it is because no porn around will equate to watching him making love to the one person he cherishes above all others. He thinks that capturing that is the greatest expression of his love. It’s defiant against the norms, it is forging their own path – and in their case, it won’t devolve into a nasty get back at you if we ever break up moment. My guys get their Ever After, Happily. So for them, it is a way of keeping memories alive. For my football quarterback so enraptured with the geeky gayboy on campus, he can think of no other deeply moving thing than to wrap himself around the love of his life, to know he has him in every way possible. It’s freeing and totally terrifying. The not knowing what new heights they’ll reach together – that’s the adventure he’s signed up for.
So thank you Mr. Michaels. You’ve given this author something to chew on – I mean, I’d already had my boys toying with the whole new media thing in their lives at any rate. You’ve given me something else to ponder. A new trail in the forest that I didn’t realize that was there. By letting my boys in my story explore what it means to be in this technologically enlightened age (even if we’re still striving toward that enlightenment), your musings will give me some of my own. And for that I am grateful – you’ve liberated me.