House of Cards, Season 2: So Gay.
Spoiler alert: Don't read this post if you haven't seen ALL of Season 2 of "House of Cards" and there's even a remote possibility that you'll ever watch it.
I'm not much of a TV person. We don't even have cable. But when I am addicted to a TV show, I don't mess around. The shows to which I have been Super Into in the past five years are few: "Breaking Bad," "Downton Abbey" (yes, it's a soap opera; I don't care), "Mad Men" (Jon Hamm! Christina Hendricks! John Slattery!), and most recently, "House of Cards."
Before we get down to our Queer Business, let's catalog the two main reasons "House of Cards" is so awesome:
(1) Kevin Spacey. I love KS. Love. In my opinion, the best working actor. I'd pay to watch the man sit on a chair and smoke a cigarette for two hours.
(2) Robin Wright. (Yes, the same RW who was in "The Princess Bride" way back when.) With that fantabulous haircut, icy-hot smile, and killer acting instincts, she's more than equal to the task of playing opposite Spacey.
Together, the new First Couple's chemistry is elegant, dynamic, multi-layered, beautiful, and frightening--often all at the same time. We started Season 1 with Frank Underwood jogging alone; Season 2 opens with Frank and Claire jogging together. This is a not-so-subtle foreshadowing of the season's dynamic, in which Frank and Claire are no longer working at cross-purposes. They subtly undermine the sitting President and First Lady, quietly understand the implications of Frank's murder of Zoe (best season opener ever, BTW), and even seduce the cautious-but-willing Meecham together.
...Which brings us, of course, to one of the two queer subplots. While we don't get a whiff that Claire has an, erm, softball-playing past (let alone bats for both teams), Frank does. In Season 1, we got a hint at Frank's college reunion (when he tells an old friend, "You meant something to me," with unmistakably romantic overtones), but weren't beaten over the head with it. Which I LOVE, because it would be waaay too easy to show Frank lusting after congressional intern boys. We don't get the sense that Frank is hiding some big dark secret; he's simply attracted to both men and women, so in the context of his selectively-open marriage (remember Claire's icy "What does she give us?" re: Frank's liaison with Zoe in Season 1?), it makes sense that he would sleep with both men and women.
What makes this so interesting and weirdly modern (no judgment, just my own prudishness showing) is that Claire is not only cool with Frank's predilections, but helps them along. The morning after the couple seduces Meecham, Claire asks how Frank slept, and when he says he slept great, tells him, "Good. You needed that." OMG, Claire. OMG. Not to mention, how many threesomes have you ever heard of that involve two men and one woman rather than the other way around? I love that this turns the typical straight male fantasy on its head.
And, of course, there's the other Big Queer Subplot, which involves Rachel Posner, the ex-sex worker with whom Frank's chief henchman, Doug, has become obsessed. After meeting through a proselytization attempt on public transit, Lisa Williams moves in with Rachel, and soon converts her... in more ways than one. I saw this one coming a mile away, yet I was still surprised by it--and surprise + inevitability makes for great drama.
Sure, "House of Cards" isn't exactly brimming with homos, but it's a heck of a lot gayer than most of the other good dramas around these days. Plus, I love that a character's being gay isn't the be-all and end-all of the character. Rachel's relationship is a big deal because she's finally found love and Doug is devastated, and Rachel has to break with Lisa because of her (Rachel's) sex-working past--not because Rachel is--gasp--queer. Same deal with Frank. He's bi--maybe--but he doesn't seem to be "struggling" with this fact. Another way "House of Cards" does queer so well is that it doesn't flinch or pull punches or leave the gay stuff to hints and allusions (like, say, "Mad Men" does, and "Downton Abbey" has done since Episode 2). Nope, the gay kisses get screen time. Almost like they're equal relationships or something.
I bet my DGF and I aren't the only "House of Cards" binge-watchers out there. What did you all think? (And what should my next addiction be?)
For the long weekend, my DGF (that's "dear girlfriend") and I decided to visit the Gold Country area of California. Gold Country (so named because it was a Big Deal Place during the gold rush) is rural and gorgeous, with rolling hills, rivers, lakes, and oak trees sporadically dotting the landscape.
Now, I know that, like the other two westernmost states in the continental U.S., the eastern part of California is more conservative than the western part. More politically conservative, yes, but also more religious, more gun-owning, and less gay-friendly. (I don't mean to suggest that these things always go hand in hand. I consider myself religious, for example. And I know plenty of gay-friendly political conservatives. But there is a strong correlation between religiosity, political conservatism, social conservatism, and anti-gay attitudes. Sorry, Mom. There just is.)
Anyhow, in most ways, I am not a particularly exciting person. My ideal evening involves coffee and/or friends and/or books and/or red wine. And for this reason, I am always shocked when I am reminded in not-so-gentle ways that to a fair chunk of my country's populace, I am Really Strange and Different.
My DGF and I got stared at a lot. And many of these stares were glares. Some people--usually men with their families--would narrow their eyes and the corners of their mouths would turn down, and make prolonged eye contact as if to say, "Your very existence threatens my children's well-being." There were also a fair number of regular ol' stares, but I mind stares a lot less, maybe since I'm so used to them, plus I understand the impulse to spend a longer time looking at someone who doesn't look like everyone else.
I also hate it when I can't figure out whether someone is anti-gay, or just awkward. Early on in our trip, we went to a specialty store for a nerdy hobby I'm obsessed with. I called ahead and talked to the owner, who was super nice on the phone. But when I showed up in person and introduced my DGF (because the place was otherwise abandoned and it would have been weird not to) as my partner, this woman ignored my DGF's outstretched hand. Despite her friendliness on the phone, she kind of stayed away from us in person. I tried to engage her in conversation partly to figure out whether she was awkward or just anti-gay. She mentioned God twice (e.g., "My husband has a broken ankle, but God will heal him soon"), but not in an aggressive way, and I didn't want to assume that she was trying to give me a message. (In fact, I Godded her right back, to show her that straight people don't have a monopoly on religion.) In the end, I didn't quite figure her out, and didn't spend much money there. When we left, she told us to "come back soon," which she wouldn't have if she was a gay-hater, right? Right? Sigh.
Which is all to say that as glad as I am to be me, I often wish I could just navigate the world without thinking about people's reactions to me. But the reactions themselves sometimes make this difficult.
More on this trip soon. I hope you all had a great weekend, dear readers!
The Olympics and Principle 6
I love sports (almost) as much as the next dyke, but I have awfully mixed feelings about the Olympics this year. Russia's LGBT community is under constant, hateful, and often violent siege from its government. Gay "propaganda"--defined as anything depicting LGBTQ relationships in a positive or neutral light in a form accessible to minors--is illegal. This includes, as you can imagine, such "propaganda" as holding hands with your partner, wearing a T-shirt with a pink triangle on it, or even just being queer parents. Just a few weeks ago, the Russian government fined the editor of a newspaper who published an interview with a gay teacher. An interview, people. In a newspaper.
Gay people in Russia are regularly bullied, chased, beaten up, and subjected to all kinds of hateful acts. In a way, maybe it's good that the Olympics are being held in Russia this year, since it will draw attention to the human rights violations that go on in Russia every day. Principle 6 is the Olympic principle that forbids discrimination on the basis of politics, race, religion, gender, or otherwise--a principle decidedly not embraced in Russia.
The Principle 6 campaign is designed to raise awareness of the way LGBTQ people are treated in Russia and "and underscore that Russia's anti-LGBT discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic movement." I urge you to take the Principle 6 logo and make it your Facebook or Twitter image. I guarantee that people will ask you about it, which will give you more chances to spread the word.
And if you're a schwag-lover like me, you'll be happy to know that American Apparel has designed a very cool "Principle 6" clothing line, and it's money well-spent, since proceeds will support LGBTQ groups in Russia.
I hope you'll spread the word, and help LGBTQ folks in Russia imagine a better world.