I’d been scrolling absentmindedly through my Facebook feed one Sunday afternoon, that most magnificent medium in this technological age for the dastardly motives and political psyops of bad actors, both State and alt-reich, alike — as one does, because just like everybody else, or at least most woke folk, it’s one thing to expound on this shit, but to actually close down out of principle is another matter, entirely. I happened upon a photo a friend from L.A. had posted: a Bird scooter left haphazardly in the middle of a liquor store in Santa Monica somewhere, the caption something like,
Some fool left a Bird scooter in the middle of the store! lol.
with a crying laughing emoji at the end to drive home his point. I perused the smattering of innocuous comments before writing,
Whenever I see those things, I toss them in the street.
My statement was not hyperbole.
Well, actually, it was. In truth I walked it over and placed it there. Now, I realize that such an act would likely be considered radical by most folx I know either way. And I get it. But then I’d point out, you know, the chaotic nature of the company’s particular method of “disruption,” to use the parlance of the Silicon Valley tech bro— the dumping of scooters into unsuspecting municipalities, disregard for rider safety, disregard for whichever new problem that’ll rear it’s ugly head today. I’m not the only one to hold this view, either. I never had a chance to point out any of this to him, though, because he called me an asshole. And who wants to point anything out to someone who just called you an asshole? Other than the fact that he just called me an asshole. Not directly, you understand.
You’re an asshole, Pan, if you pull shit like that. Like, you don’t disrupt by disrupting like that.
Apparently, he failed to see the irony of writing this comment under a photo of a Bird scooter left haphazardly in the middle of a liquor store. Some folx are really taking the whole corporations are people thing to heart, I guess.
It wasn’t long before or after that that I suffered yet another corporate assault by Facebook feed, this time involving the quote, unquote McDonald’s Rise and Rave, an early morning marketing stunt that not only happened, but one attended by someone I know from our time spent playing in the L.A. rave scene, back in the day, as they say.
This was the year 2000, it’s scope not anywhere near what it’s grown into today. Or devolved from, depending upon your view. Illegal warehouse parties at the advent of Web 2.0, you still had to call some random local number to hear the recording to get the map point location, which was where you bought your ticket and got directions to the site. The numbers were always changing, to stay one step ahead of the quote unquote law. Needless to say, you really had to be plugged in to get the latest number from whomever it was gotten from and that was never me. I was just lucky to know lots of folx that were.
Nineteen years later, there he was, the old friend who’d dress up in costume when we’d go out, called never by his birth name, always by his rave name, even to this day. Well, there he was posing gleefully at seven o’clock in the morning with a bacon, egg, & cheese in front of neon golden arches, glow sticks dangling from his neck. At seven o’clock ay, back then, we’d just be streaming out of the warehouse, the music having stopped, stacks of glossy handbills upon our cars, most with remixed corporate logos, the scene’s gleeful subversion of those recognizable symbols of capitalism into knowing nods to drug culture, sex culture, our culture. I couldn’t help but consider the possibility my friend had been this corporate shill all along and that I just didn’t or wouldn’t see it. Or maybe it’s just another one of those fucked-up things about growing up, I don’t fucking know.
And before or after THAT, because who can really keep track of actual time these days, having to exist in this neverending American Acid Trip of Terror — Bohemian Rhapsody, the smash hit, award winning Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic film everyone is wetting their pants over. You might have read some of the myriad of stories about it in the news: Sacha Baron Cohen leaving the project, Bryan Singer getting fired three quarters of the way through, the profile of the guy who made Rami Malek’s prosthetic teeth, GLAAD rescinding their media award nomination following Bryan Singer’s pedophilliac sex scandal.
While some of these issues warrant discussion more than others, my beef here is with the narrative, itself — written with input from original band members to craft a legacy palatable enough for the PG-13 rating guaranteeing the widest audience possible, Mercury’s queerness is straightwashed, his straight relationship elevated over his queer, timing his AIDS diagnosis to predate Queen’s iconic Live Aid performance, the framing of his behavior and illness within a moralistic context from the heterosexual’s perspective.
I watched my newsfeed fill with pants wetting and praise, mainly from straight folk, comments ranging from trite,
Rami Malek IS Freddie Mercury.
To the passive aggressive,
To everyone who says this movie isn’t “gay” enough, I say, it IS gay. And it is beautiful.
I kept my thoughts to myself, though, limiting my comment on the matter to posting the occasional article link, a snarky comment here and there, until I came upon a montage, titled “Your Week Presented by Freddie Mercury.” The video cycles through the days of the week, presenting a different clip of Freddie to match each day. Each clip in the montage is decidedly gay, Freddie flagging leather daddy, full out glam rock, high camp, full on DRAG. But the day most particularly striking to me is Saturday with it’s clips from what looks to be a private party hosted by Mercury and his longtime partner, Jim Hutton, featuring shots of well shaped, g-stringed asses, Mercury dancing suggestively with and kissing men, the entire coterie dressed in decadent costumes.
I reposted the montage with this caption,
“any of this make it into the film just curious”
and the hashtag
I wasn’t looking for a fight. It’s just not the style, manner, or custom I’m down to get behind online. I thought maybe, though, someone’d pipe up to me like this:
Hey, Pan! I see you posting these things about Bohemian Rhapsody. So, what’s your beef, kid?
But, alas, it was not meant to be.
This time. Yet another friend from yet another of my lives — this one my Studio life.
“It sure did! I work for the studio that produced it, and am very proud of this film.”
Perhaps this could open into a discussion, between members of the Tribe, between friends.
“what of the critiques i’ve read from our community?”
I’ll refrain from quoting her paragraph at length here, suffice it to say, it was clear between mention of Mercury’s privacy around his orientation, a claim of historical accuracy, while framing it as “a celebration of Freddie and of Queen, not a biography of Freddie and his sexual orientation,” she even threw in an “in fact” and “furthermore” for good measure — well, it was clear that she had no interest in a free and open exchange with me.
I worked for the same Studio once upon a time. Like I said, another life…
It was one of the cutaways the show is famous for, a short clip of a joke totally unrelated to the plot of the episode, seemingly included for a cheap, frat boy laugh and for no other reason, I heard it for the first time at the table read around the Family Guy conference room table. My heart sunk with a wave of nausea as the people around me laughed and guffawed. There weren’t many of us, but there were enough that I couldn’t understand why the writers and show runners would do this. We were out at work and we were all friends with them. Fellow Gen X-ers, I thought that they loved us. I guess they weren’t as touched by Pedro Zamora back then as the rest of us were.
They say the personal is political, and it is. I realize my view is shaped completely by my first coming out in 1992 and the death of my best friend from AIDS five years later. AIDS, though, itself, is always political, now as it was then, and never exists in a vacuum. One can argue the stigma around HIV/AIDS has lessened and point to wider acceptance of LGBTQ folk to explain away cheap jokes made. One can argue, too, that Mercury was never out and never “sought to be” “a gay/queer icon,” and while that may be true, we must recognize, too, the context in which Freddie made his choices — 1970 to 1991, around heterosexual bandmates, and from a complex, rather intolerant cultural background. By all means, celebrate Queen and the music, but then refrain from the Rami Malek IS Freddie Mercury centering of the film and it’s marketing. I realize, though, that to do that ignores yet another truth. Because, let’s be honest — who knows Brian May except as the guy in the band with the Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook hair.