Quick Hit: Matthew Perry on Letterman

April 18, 2009

Or: Let’s see how many people we can Other with “humor” in under five minutes.

A lovely instance of White Librul Dood values — at least, what they’re willing to participate in on national television. For those of you who want to save your stomachs and not watch*, in the first four and a half minutes of the interview, Perry makes jokes** with a trifecta of punchlines: misogyny! racism! and homophobia! (Oh, my side, it hurts from laughing. Har, har.)

He starts out with this gem. It’s nearly the first thing he says.

Perry: She [Kudrow] doesn’t return my calls anymore, but there’s a certain section of road right by her house that if you park your car at the right time, you can see right into her window.

[audience laughs]

Letterman: Can you give the coordinates on that a little later?

Perry: Absolutely—during the break!

[uproarious laughter from audience]

Followed by this, a bit later in the interview:

Perry: I started to think, okay, [M. Night Shyamalan] really likes me… no no no not…

[laughter from audience]

Perry: … I actually didn’t mean it that way.

and

Perry: I realize, the whole time—it’s not M. Night Shyamalan. It’s just an Indian guy.

[uproarious laughter]

Letterman: [laughing a bit uncomfortably] Wow. I don’t know what to say about that.

I simply ADORE the fact that Letterman plays into the stalking schtick with good humor, chuckles at the homophobic comment, but looks “uncomfortable” at the racism. Oh my, we can’t be seen being politically incorrect, can we? Getting caught at racism, or being complicit with racism***, that’s a no-no. But don’t forget, it’s not a good Librul White Dood setup without some misogyny thrown in, because stalking is always good fun, and we have to assure folks that we are Not Teh Gay!!!1eleventy!

But what do I know about funny? I’m just a humorless feminist.

h/t (and a couple transcript sections stolen from) Shakesville


* Or, you know, when the video goes away from YouTube.
** They must be jokes. People were laughing. One must assume they were funny.
*** This is not the Oppression Olympics. I think it’s telling that, of all the bad things to do, racism is the only thing that Letterman looks (or sounds, when he’s off-camera) uncertain about. It’s more the reaction of a kid who doesn’t mind doing something naughty; he just doesn’t want to get caught.


Amazon FAIL: hating on LGBT books

April 12, 2009

Amazon is apparently stripping the sales ranks from GLBT books, thus preventing them from showing up in some bestseller lists and searches (and potentially directly damaging their sales), on the grounds that they are “adult” material.

I got that excellent summary from ryda_wrong here, who found the story from one of the authors affected, Mark Probst, who blogged it here. Mark’s story:

On Amazon.com two days ago, mysteriously, the sales rankings disappeared from two newly-released high profile gay romance books: “Transgressions” by Erastes and “False Colors” by Alex Beecroft. Everybody was perplexed. Was it a glitch of some sort? The very next day HUNDREDS of gay and lesbian books simultaneously lost their sales rankings, including my book “The Filly.” There was buzz, What’s going on? Does Amazon have some sort of campaign to suppress the visibility of gay books? Is it just a major glitch in the system? Many of us decided to write to Amazon questioning why our rankings had disappeared. Most received evasive replies from customer service reps not versed in what was happening. As I am a publisher and have an Amazon Advantage account through which I supply Amazon with my books, I had a special way to contact them. 24 hours later I had a response:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D

Member Services

Amazon.com Advantage

Yes, it is true. Amazon admits they are indeed stripping the sales ranking indicators for what they deem to be “adult” material. Of course they are being hypocritical because there is a multitude of “adult” literature out there that is still being ranked – Harold Robbins, Jackie Collins, come on! They are using categories THEY set up (gay and lesbian) to now target these books as somehow offensive.

Now in fairness I should point out that Amazon has also stopped ranking many books in the “erotica” categories as well which includes straight erotica. But that’s a whole other battle that I’ll leave to the erotica writers to take on.

There’s a full link compilation here as well, detailing the unfolding of the story, if you want more details. It’s also exploding on twitter, via the hashtag #AmazonFAIL, so you can see up-to-the-second discussion here.

Despite the fact that some straight erotica is being stripped of ranking information, I have trouble buying that it’s not mostly a gay thing– for example, Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds (Hardcover!) still has ranking information! (You can tell by scrolling down to the “Product Details” section and looking for the “Amazon.com Sales Rank. The Playboy book is currently ranked #48,390 in Books. Probst’s The Filly, a young adult book (and therefore, by definition, not really an “adult” book!) simply lacks that information.)

What does all this mean? Well, as ryda_wrong said at the beginning, stripping a book of its ranking information prevents it from showing up in bestseller lists and in certain searches, making people much less likely to find the book unless they’re specifically looking for it. It may directly hurt these books’ sales. More than that, though, it reinforces the idea that anything gay is inherently “adult,” and more adult than anything that is similar but straight.

What books are being affected? Meta Writer is compiling a list here. There’s some stuff with Ghey Sexxx. There are some young adult books that feature gay relationships, although it looks like the lesbian ones are less affected than the gay male one. Autobiographies by people who are trans are getting the axe, as well. And a lot of the classics are being cut off. E. M. Forster’s Maurice, for example, has been stripped of its ranking! It was revelatory to me when I read it a few years ago, the first time I had seen myself reflected in an “old” book, and while it features several occasions of gay male sex, it’s from a time period where it was unspeakably crude to refer to a lady’s stomach. They’re really not that raunchy. Even more absurdly, Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness has been stripped of its rankings as well, and the gay sex in that book consists entirely of the line “And that night, they were not divided.”

Truly, someone must protect the children from these horrors. Never mind that some of these books are, in fact, for young adults. Never mind that finding oneself reflected in the classics can be a wonder– as I found with Maurice, when I read it years ago. Never mind that LGBT people are people, too, who deserve to tell their stories and have their stories heard. Apparently, we just can’t handle The Gay, and we have to hide it away where people can’t find it by accident.

What can you do? There’s a petition going here, and you can complain to Amazon directly. Their exec customer service email is ecr@amazon.com  and their customer service phone number is 1-800-201-7575. Folks are trying to google bomb the term Amazon Rank (more info here). And, of course, you can boycott Amazon, which is what I am going to do. I’m going to be awfully friendly with my library in the next couple weeks, until Amazon proves to me that it wants my money again.

Because, right now, what they are saying is that GLBT folks are not important, and that we should be hidden from view. And I won’t hold with that at all.


On sympathizing with homophobes

October 24, 2008

It’s a pretty common joke, in my experience, to insinuate that anyone violently anti-gay is just deeply, deeply closeted. But the thing is, I think it’s probably the truth.

This old post of Portly Dyke‘s does a good job of summing up my Supporting Evidence One (emphasis mine):

It just so obvious. One of the ways that I personally determine where people score on the “gay aptitude test” is their level of knowledge about/interest in anything gay (regardless of whether this expresses as a positive or negative attitude).

Example: A friend (I call her “Sherry”) was quizzing me about being a lesbian. I had always thought of her as one of the most heterosexual people I had ever met, but until this day, I wasn’t exactly sure why I thought that. She asked me, “So, when you make love with your girlfriend, don’t you miss the closeness?”

I was completely baffled. “What do you mean?”

“Well, you know . . . . the closeness.”

“I really don’t know what you mean, Sherry. Do you think we have sex, like, from separate rooms, or something?”

I then realized that she simply could not imagine having sex without having a penis in a vagina. She literally could not imagine it. That’s why I think of her as unremittingly straight.

See, people who don’t want to have a certain kind of sex don’t seem to spend a lot of time imagining what it might be like. They also, in my experience, don’t spend a lot of time insisting that other people not have that kind of sex — it just doesn’t occupy much (or frequently any) space in their minds.

So, to me, arguing vehemently about the dirtiness of gay sex means admitting that you spend a lot of time thinking about gay sex, often in very explicit terms. Which, you know, I don’t think straight people do. I mean, I know that I, as a gay person, never think about het sex. Well, sometimes I do, but only when my heteronormative culture forces it on me, and even then my brain censors everything below the waist. I tend to be pretty oblivious to phallic symbols for this reason, I guess; I just don’t think about penises.

But how, one might ask, can a man spend all his time thinking about gay sex in explicit detail and not consider that maybe he’s gay? And for this I bring you Supporting Evidence Two: I had no idea I was gay until I was fifteen, despite the fact that I knew I was attracted to women. Bear with me here.

So, here’s the thing. I’ve got a best (female) friend, and a boyfriend. I love having sleepovers with the best friend, and cuddling and talking and if we go swimming maybe we’ll shower together and oh my god that’ll be so exciting. The boyfriend’s a cool fellow, we talk on the phone a lot, every now and then we see a movie and he buys me candy, and I really love hanging out with him.

But of course, I was straight.

That feeling of getting all hot and bothered, and really wanting to look good for the other person, and wanting to know everything about them and never stop touching them? That was admiring a close friend. That feeling of respect and affection, and a vague interest in the other person’s opinion? That was love.

This probably sounds ridiculous, but I honestly had no idea that for actual straight people, it was reversed. I just applied the name “friendship” to the bonds I formed with women, and the name “love” to the bonds I formed with men, and assumed that’s what friendship and love felt like for everyone. Since obviously I was straight, this must be what “straight” is like.

It’s because I’m a product of a heteronormative society. As soon as I met a gay person, and someone actually explained to me what gay was, I knew that was me and I came out. (The moment in question was really sweet, actually: my to-be girlfriend explained how she knew she was gay. I said, “Well, I know I’m straight because…” and then couldn’t think of a single thing. I spent a few days processing the information, then let the good times roll.) But I made it to 15 before I ever discovered that straight people don’t masturbate to members of the same sex.

I was raised with total ignorance of “gay.” But what if I grew up knowing, knowing that homosexuality was wrong and sinful and evil, just like adultery and murder? Well, then there’d be an incentive to resist the idea that “maybe I’m gay.” A strong incentive.

So now you’re in a pickle. Here’s your train of thought: People of the same sex make you hot and bothered. People of the opposite sex are kind of uninteresting. This might be how gay people feel. But gay people are evil, and you are not evil. So obviously, you must be straight. Except that you, as a straight person, have a really hard time resisting gay acts! This must be because the evil of the gay is so seductive; all straight people have to fight homosexual desires. Oh no! What about straight people who aren’t strong enough to resist the delicious gay? We’d better keep down all those unrepentant gays, lest they seduce more straight people into their sexy, sexy evil!

And I can see how easy it would be to fall into that thinking, because I was so close. I lucked out; all I knew about gay people was that this super-cute girl was gay. If things had been different? I probably wouldn’t even have noticed that I was deluding myself.

Which is why I always have a tiny bit of sympathy for the vicious homophobes, because even though their views are abhorrent…I can see where they’re coming from, and it’s not a pretty place.