What makes a man a man?

Last weekend I saw Le Faux, a drag impersonation show at Julia’s on Broadway in Seattle. The show was incredible, and was definitely the best show I think I have ever seen. There were so many artists portrayed, the dancing was incredible, and the host of the show, Jinx Monsoon, was amazing.

Here is a slideshow of the event!

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The entire show was outstanding, and I loved every minute of every performance. Pink was definitely a badass, and one of my favorites, and there was very awesome rope dancing as well!

The best moment, in my opinion, came to the was when Isaac Scott, who had also played Pink! performed the moving song, “What Makes a Man a Man?” The number began with full drag, and throughout the song the wig comes off, makeup is removed, and he is down to his boxers.

It was incredibly powerful as an example of the performativity of gender, and the lyrics of the song were so impactful in part because they were directly relevant to the experience of the performers in the show. This song really created a moment of audience awareness to important political issues surrounding gender identity, sexual orientation, and the stage life. It especially highlighted the specific struggles of those in drag impersonation performance who are also gay men. I was crying by the end of the song. It was incredibly moving, and I would be shocked if others were not moved as well.

Here is a Youtube video of the song (not the same as the performer I saw, but similar style):

Here are the lyrics in print as well:

“My mum and I we live alone
A great apartment is our home
In Fairhome Towers
I have to keep me company
Two dogs, a cat, a parakeet
Some plants and flowers
I help my mother with the chores
I wash, she dries, I do the floors
We work together
I shop and cook and sow a bit
Though mum does too I must admit
I do it better
At night I work in a strange bar
Impersonating every star
I’m quite deceiving
The customers come in with doubt
And wonder what I’m all about
But leave believing
I do a very special show
Where I am nude from head to toe
After stripteasing
Each night the men look so surprised
I change my sex before their eyes
Tell me if you can
What makes a man a man
At 3 o’clock or so I meet
With friends to have a bite to eat
And conversation
We love to empty out our hearts
With every subject from the arts
To liberation
We love to pull apart someone
And spread some gossip just for fun
Or start a rumour
We let our hair down, so to speak
And mock ourselves with tongue-in-cheek
And inside humour
So many times we have to pay
For having fun and being gay
It’s not amusing
There’s always those that spoil our games
By finding fault and calling names
Always accusing
They draw attention to themselves
At the expense of someone else
It’s so confusing
Yet they make fun of how I talk
And imitate the way I walk
Tell me if you can
What makes a man a man
My masquerade comes to an end
And I go home to bed again
Alone and friendless
I close my eyes, I think of him
I fantasise what might have been
My dreams are endless
We love each other but it seems
The love is only in my dreams
It’s so one sided
But in this life I must confess
The search for love and happiness
Is unrequited
I ask myself what I have got
Of what I am and what I’m not
What have I given
The answers come from those who make
The rules that some of us must break
Just to keep living
I know my life is not a crime
I’m just a victim of my time
I stand defense-less
Nobody has the right to be
The judge of what is right for me
Tell me if you can
What make a man a man
Tell me if you can
Tell me if you can
Tell me if you can
What makes a man a man”

So, what makes a man a man? A woman a woman? Attraction? Hopefully this sparks some food for thought. Have a great weekend.

Miss E

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Ryan Gosling Rant

***Spoiler Alert***

I just visited Portland this past weekend, and saw the movie Drive with Ryan Gosling. The movie theatre we went to was incredible. It was in an old refurbished building that potentially used to be a brothel according to a friend. There were local brews, yummy nosh foods like cheese plates and Thai roasted nuts, and very cozy chairs. I was pretty excited to see a movie in such an awesome location. I would love to go back and see another movie there.

However, Drive was a major disappointment (and that is putting it nicely).

The throwback to the 80’s could have been fun with the synthesized music and hot pink lettering in the credits, but after a short while I had lost patience with the theme of the film, the treatment of women and ethnic minorities, and the lack of actual driving and plot points surrounding the title of the film.

Ryan Gosling with his 80's Jacket in Drive

My biggest problem with Drive was the underlying “White America” message which (perhaps accidentally, perhaps intentionally), permeated the entire film. In addition, not only was it also anti-Semitic at times, but the female characters were shown to be kind of flat and/or weak. The male and female protagonists are both blond Americans of European descent. Many of the most unsavory characters, on the other hand, are ethnic minorities. Hmmmmm….

For example, Ryan Gosling’s character (by the way he is never named, just called “Kid” or “Driver”) is falling in love with Irene (Carey Mulligan), a who is married to a Latino-American man named Standard, who is also in prison during the opening of the film and the subject of violence throughout the film.

Her husband is shown to not only be incapable of performing his “duties” as husband and father, but is also shown to be weak and cowardly in more than one scene. He eventually needs to ask Ryan Gosling for help. He, not surprisingly, also gets shot in the head during the movie.

I will not go into any symbolism here, but I felt that this whole patriarchal battle for Irene and her son Benicio between the White and Mexican man, even thought supposedly a subplot, was pretty obscene. Gosling also didn’t have to even try to “win” Irene in any way. He is shown by the filmmaker as the  more stable option, who Irene also seems to prefer (or at least the option last standing).

He is usually the one controlling violence, not the subject of that violence, for example. He’s somehow shown to be “better than” or exempt from the violence until it finally catches up with him. And even then, he gets a long, drawn out death, and he gets agency in his death.

I didn’t understand why Ryan Gosling’s White male character was glorified and masculinized. Isn’t that formula kind of tired by now?

He’s a good driver- OK, so what?

Hey look- Ryan Gosling in a car. That doesn't happen much in this movie, considering the title.

He is also shown to be emotionally and socially off, violent towards women at times, potentially racist, and doesn’t seem to know how to shop for clothes. Ok, so we’re supporting That White guy again? Yet another example of White Male Exceptionalism.

I was pretty “on guard” after the comment in the movie made by Gosling’s character about a picture of her husband Standard. He asks, “What is he?” and she responds, “In prison.” At that point I was thinking, Ok, that was a gutsy script choice. I wonder what they will do with that moment.

However, instead of delving into any of the background, racial tension, ignorance, or potential racism on the part of Gosling’s character that elicited the comment, it was glossed over in the film as Gosling begins his slow usurpation of the role of Male Protector/Patriarch in the threesome’s familial structure.

The only way I can see the film attempting to take power away from Gosling’s character is in that he is a bit volatile, has little no emotional expression, and dies in the end (but still in a glorified and ambiguous way). Irene also seems a bit upset with him after seeing him crush someone’s skull in an elevator directly after kissing her.

Also, Irene’s character really pissed me off. She had no agency, and was always dependent on the men in the film. Her son was suffering, but he only seemed to get better once he had a White male father figure to hang out with. WTF.

I felt very glad there was alcohol available, because this movie annoyed me on many levels, and I was bummed to see the supposedly “feminist” man Ryan Gosling who has been the subject of the “Feminist Ryan Gosling” meme star in such a clueless and racialized film which propagates glorified White Americans and male violence.

I would not recommend this movie to my readers, ever.

Quite Annoyed,

Miss E