Jargon overdoses.

I’ve long felt that we should listen to people who have traditionally been shut out of the public conversation. But you don’t have to do what they say. I’m thinking some of the discussion over the “Dallas Buyers Club” Oscars falls into the latter category.

Two pieces on the board today. This one compares Jared Leto’s portrayal of a male-to-female transsexual to Hattie McDaniel’s Mammy in “Gone With the Wind.” And this one scolds the “Dallas Buyers Club” makeup artists (!!!) for acknowledging the “victims of AIDS” instead of the preferred nomenclature of “persons with AIDS.” Hmm. Apparently these two brush-wielding wrongthinkers didn’t get the 31-year-old memo, quoted within:

In 1983, 11 gay men with AIDS who were in Denver for the fifth Annual Gay and Lesbian Health Conference, gathered in a hotel room and composed a manifesto. The document, which became known as the Denver Principles, began:

We condemn attempts to label us as “victims,” a term which implies defeat, and we are only occasionally “patients,” a term which implies passivity, helplessness, and dependence upon the care of others. We are “People With AIDS.”

(And capitalize the W, fuckers! The P, too!)

I recall when this discussion was going on, and my fallback position on nearly all these matters of nomenclature: Call people what they ask to be called. It’s good manners. Frankly, in 1983 there wasn’t a lot of difference between an AIDS victim and someone who simply had the disease, as it was terrifyingly fatal. But as time rolled on and the new drugs emerged, it made sense. Not everyone who had HIV/AIDS was a victim, but someone living with a (fingers crossed) chronic medical condition that could be managed and wasn’t necessarily cause to put your affairs in order immediately. This passage overstates the importance of the language shift, I think —

Policing vocabulary is a tricky business—raising a stink about offensive nouns and incorrect pronouns can make outsiders feel defensive and annoyed—but there are times when it’s absolutely essential, and this was one. A 328-word statement penned by a tiny group of guys on the fringes of a second-tier medical conference saved millions of lives around the globe, even though very few people have ever heard of it. That revolution began when the people at the center of the crisis declared that they were not victims.

— but OK, whatever.

The former piece, about Leto, is more obnoxious.

Not long from now — it surely won’t take decades, given the brisk pace of progress on matters of identity and sexuality these days — Leto’s award-winning performance as the sassy, tragic-yet-silly Rayon will belong in the dishonorable pantheon along with McDaniel’s Mammy. That is, it’ll be another moment when liberals in Hollywood, both in the industry and in the media, showed how little they understood or empathized with the lives of a minority they imagine they and Leto are honoring.

Hmm. OK, so make your case, then. The movie takes liberties with the facts, the writer contends, which makes it like about 99 percent of all fact-based filmed dramas; the plane carrying the Americans out of Tehran was not chased down the runway by Iranian soldiers, as it was in “Argo.” Hollywood requires drama; real life isn’t sufficiently dramatic, most times.

Leto’s character, Rayon, was entirely fictional, likely added (speaking as someone who knows just enough about screenwriting to be almost entirely ignorant about it) to give Matthew McConaughey’s character a foil, and to set up his prickly relationship with the gay community Rayon represents. Screenwriting 101: Conflict = drama. The fact Rayon is silly I flat-out disagree with.

What did the writers of “Dallas Buyers Club” and Leto as her portrayer decide to make Rayon? Why, she’s a sad-sack, clothes-obsessed, constantly flirting transgender drug addict prostitute, of course. There are no stereotypes about transgender women that Leto’s concoction does not tap. She’s an exaggerated, trivialized version of how men who pretend to be women — as opposed to those who feel at their core they are women — behave. And in a very bleak film, she’s the only figure played consistently for comic relief, like the part when fake-Woodruff points a gun at Rayon’s crotch and suggests he give her the sex change she’s been wanting. Hilarious.

Again, everyone’s perspective is their own, but I didn’t find Rayon a sad sack at all, and in fact seemed pretty close to my memory of the drag queens and trans women I knew in that era. It was 1981-ish, after all, and just to have the gonads to live your life that way already put you out on the fringe. Another transsexual I knew at the time was still coming to work in a coat and tie. Needless to say, I didn’t know she was transsexual until years later.

And the earliest victims — that word again — of AIDS in that era were disproportionately addicts and prostitutes, after all. I mean, I guess Rayon could have been a super-together lawyer who preferred navy suits, but let’s be realistic. I love that “men who pretend to be women” contrasted with “men who feel at their core they are women” part. I’m a woman, and right now I’m wearing jeans and a sweater, an outfit I bet most trans women wouldn’t be caught dead in.

I think what bugged me most about that piece was its anger, the same that followed some of the Dr. V’s putter coverage, slinging around terms like “cis privilege,” “transphobia” and other jargon as though everyone knows exactly what we’re talking about. Even the sympathetic may find themselves mystified by this world, which I remind you requires no fewer than seven letters to cover all its iterations — LGBTQIA. That’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual/ally. If you really want to set your head a-spin, check out this video from Stephen Ira Beatty, born Kathlyn, and try to sort out the language. If that’s not too ableist of me.

Sorry, I liked “Dallas Buyers Club” and see it as a step forward, a very human film. I wish people could cool their jets about it.

That said, Lupita Nyong’o was the star of Sunday’s telecast. What a rare beauty, and what a sparkling speech. As Tom & Lorenzo would say: LUH HER.

How do we feel about the Kim Novak presentation? I am mixed. I read a very sympathetic defense of her by a film blogger whose work I admire, but I came away not 100 percent convinced. Novak is 81. I understand the need to feel beautiful, but at some point, isn’t it infantilizing her to blame cruel, cruel Hollywood for driving her to such lengths? The babe ship sailed decades ago; there’s no reason a natural beauty like Novak can’t look at least presentable in her dotage.

I do think this gets it right, though: If you have two X chromosomes in Hollywood, you just can’t win.

A little warmer today, but only a little. Ugh.

Posted at 12:30 am in Media, Movies |

31 responses to “Jargon overdoses.”

  1. Dexter said on March 4, 2014 at 3:52 am

    And yet if you live long enough you can get away with it. Many years ago when Joan Rivers began her long road to tight skin with her first rounds of plastic surgery, she was ridiculed high and low. Nowadays I listen to a comedy channel on XM radio and amongst her peers she has universal respect and admiration. Other comics adore her as she inspires them and keeps on going. It’s been over 50 years now since she first vacation-hosted “Tonight” for Johnny. If anyone disses and ridicules her, they are ignored as an ignoramus or jeered themselves.
    I heard the interview on the old King Biscuit Flower Hour with Mick Jagger about 34 years ago in which Mick says he couldn’t imagine himself “dancing about on stage at age 40…”and he’s 73 now and his band is still the greatest rock and roll band in the land as well as the world. Somebody had a change of heart I would say. And Keef just keeps rolling along, as do Charlie and Ronnie.
    So let Ellen make her lack-of-dick jokes, let her make fun of gay-icon Liza, let her do her laid-back low-key Oscar show, complete with pizza delivery and Oprah-show-like gimmicks…i n no time at all she will be the one stumbling around on stage like old Kirk Douglas did a few years ago.
    One comic yesterday said he was surprised there weren’t Oprah-esque car keys under everyone’s seats. Why not?

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  2. David C. said on March 4, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Sometimes, those who rail against political correctness have a point. Of course usually they just special credit for being assholes, but nevertheless. I can see how it would get under someone’s skin to be called out for saying something now considered offensive when they had no intention they were being offensive. Sometimes you have to learn to pick your battles and correct someone in a more matter-of-fact manner or just STFU. Like when my grandfather, who was born in 1894, called his favorite baseball player, Chet Lemon, “that little colored boy”. I would cringe, but wouldn’t think of correcting him. He meant no offense, so sometimes you have to let a thing be. Now I’ll go out and use my new found cis privilege and $2 and get a cup of coffee.

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  3. David C. said on March 4, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Just want special credit.

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  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 4, 2014 at 7:50 am

    “Real life isn’t sufficiently dramatic” — or often is, but on a different time scale than works in a movie, let alone a TV show. The trick is making sure people are staying grounded in the fact that reality unspools at a different rate than your entertainment diet leads you to believe . . . so people want recovery programs that work in a week (or less), diets that work like a montage sequence, and forget that some dark nights of the soul simply creep by at a pace you have to work with, and can’t distract yourself away from with a jump cut or dissolve.

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  5. alex said on March 4, 2014 at 8:12 am

    I’m a woman, and right now I’m wearing jeans and a sweater, an outfit I bet most trans women wouldn’t be caught dead in.

    I knew a woman married to a trans woman (who was a man when they wed) and she tried to make the marriage work, tried to be accepting, difficult as it was. The thing she could never get past, though, was that her partner refused to wear anything ordinary. My friend didn’t want to draw attention. Her partner lived and breathed for nothing else. No matter the occasion, her partner was always dressed to the nines — as a tart. A middle-aged one. A short stature and naturally high voice made her passable as a female, but she might as well have been Liza Minnelli or Kim Novak on the red carpet.

    They divorced and my friend left town. Her partner seemed to enjoy herself much more once unencumbered, going out on the town and flying her freak flag and making new friends wherever she went. In full regalia, she was a jaw-dropping, show-stopping comedienne. She drank herself to death at age 60.

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  6. brian stouder said on March 4, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Alex, probably a slice-of-life book in there (thinking Steinbeck, more or less), somewhere.

    I am now a few weeks older than my dad was when he passed away (3 packs a day will shorten one’s life); can’t really imagine the road he was on, other than that it was very different (for better or worse) from the one I’m on.

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  7. beb said on March 4, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Third times the charm they say. Not having anything useful to say about gender politics, or movies I never heard of I’ll just drop[ this link


    Apparently the Federal government not wants Sprint to enable it’s spying on Americans but wants it to do it on the cheap. Perhaps all the phone companies ought to double or triple their charges to the government as a form of passive resistance to all this spying.

    Then there’s this:

    The device acts like a cellphone tower. Mobile devices pick up its signal and transmit back their ID, which is how mobile devices are able to receive calls anywhere in the coverage area. The device in question allows the police to track a mobile device (stolen in this lawsuit) which lead to the arrest of the thief. This one police department has used the device over 200 times, all without getting a warrant from a judge. The question is whether this device requires a warrant since its using publicly available information. But the police’s defense that they could not tell the judge about the device because they signed a “No disclosure” agreement seems pretty weak.

    And “Hear! Hear!” to Jeff @4

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  8. coozledad said on March 4, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Researchers in collaboration with Fox news and the northwestern synod of the Snake Handlers of America have unearthed an ancient pathogenic virus from the Alaskan permafrost.

    “It’s really large, as viruses go”, says Bishop Raiphe Quod, of the Ross Allen Primitive Baptist Reptile Institute (Bering Straits). We were really excited when we first brought it up with a core. I thought it was a snake because it had them dead, dead eyes, but it was just a crude package of genetic material in a protein coat. I don’t think the Lord is ready for me to test my faith on this one, so we’re keeping it isolated in a motor home out back of my brother’s taxidermy shop. It bit one of my parishioners, and now they can’t seem to shut up.”


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  9. Peter said on March 4, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Here we go:

    1. The make-up artists: Amen Sister. You’ve got all of these state legislatures that are trying to legislate gays out of existence and you complain about this? Geez, rearrange your priorities, buddies.

    2. Kim Novak: I’m a hypocrite on this one. Her 15 minutes ended 40 years ago. However, the same people dissing Kim also unloaded on Shirley Bassey last year, and I’m sorry, but I thought she rocked it. And while we’re at it, Darlene Love can still bring it every year on Letterman,

    3. David C: Chet Lemon? That brings back memories. Jimmy Piersall would unload on Chet so much I’m still surprised that he never leapt out of the broadcast booth, run out to center field, and start wailing on him. Perhaps Harry Carey had Jimmy strapped down in his chair so that wouldn’t happen. 35 years later, and when I see Alfonso Soriano hop to catch a ball I instinctively yell “TWO HANDS! GET YOUR HAND OUT OF YOUR BUTT AND USE IT!!!”

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  10. Deborah said on March 4, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I watched Dallas Buyers Club last night on On Demand, thought it was good. McCaughnhey was very good, but looked terrible, which was the point. I kept thinking about how unhealthy it is to go through the kind of weight loss and gain actors go through for their jobs. I missed the Kim Novak part of the show.

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  11. Dorothy said on March 4, 2014 at 11:02 am

    I wanted to watch Dallas Buyers Club two weekends ago when my son and his wife visited, but they wanted to see the Melissa McCarthy/Sandra Bullock cop movie instead, the name of which escapes me at the moment. I hated virtually every minute of it. Maybe this Saturday when I get home from my performance (show is at 5 on Saturday night) we can rent DBC on Demand.

    I liked the Oscars show – at least Ellen’s participation in it. I think she’s among the best at being spontaneously funny. Billy Crystal is, too. I DVR’d Ellen yesterday and got to see the glowing Lupita Nyong’o yet again and like my daughter, have a girl crush on her. LUV HUH is right!

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  12. brian stouder said on March 4, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Dorothy – couldn’t agree more about the Melissa McCarthy/Sandra Bullock cop movie.

    I endured chunks of it when we were with extended family at Christmas(!), and I bet the F-bomb flew in that one more frequently than whatever movie they say has it (Wolf of Wall Street?*) so heavily present.

    Plus, just as with the Eddie Murphy/cop movies years ago, the mixture of what is supposed to be comedy with remorseless and brutal violence always turns me off.

    *and btw, wasn’t “Wolf of Walstreet” the nickname preferred by Thurston Howell III?

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  13. Scout said on March 4, 2014 at 11:44 am

    The Heat. That’s the name of the movie with MM and SB.

    Putting Dallas Buyers Club in my Netflix queue immediately.

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  14. Deborah said on March 4, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    If you go to the Cabin Porn site they’re putting out a book and guess what’s on the cover? From my experience at Beaver Brook, that’s me in the yellow shirt.

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  15. Charlotte said on March 4, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I got yelled at when Place Last Seen came out because the nomenclature around Downs Syndrome had shifted in the 10 years between being Liza’s nanny and writing the novel. Got a few irate emails, including one from an old college friend, which resulted in some useful exchanges, but did leave one feeling a little …. eye-rolly (not a word but…). I mean, I wrote a whole novel about a loved, unique, special child … which seemed more on the side of right than not …

    Still recovering from the encounter with 12,000 writers, teachers, students and publishing types (to say nothing of the poets!) in Seattle. Well, that and I picked up a little food poisoning as well.

    Warm weather is coming! It’s 40 here today. Sunny and soggy and I might have to drive down valley and see what’s happening with the big Mallard’s Rest ice jam. The Yellowstone is moving, but there’s a lot of ice at that bend that is not (it’s come ashore and taken out most of the campground picnic tables — and maybe the outhouses?).

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  16. Julie Robinson said on March 4, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Woo-hoo, Deborah–that’s some great bragging rights!

    Melissa McCarthy is just so crude and I guess that’s progress, but it ruined Bridesmaids. Of course, I don’t like it when men act that way either (types with Dana Carvey church lady face).

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  17. Deborah said on March 4, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Yeah Julie, I’m a porn star at a place called Beaver Brook no less.

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  18. Dexter said on March 4, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Peter: a fact> Jimmy Piersall was hired to be the color man for Harry Caray on old WMAQ-AM in the mid-seventies before Harry moved six miles north to Wrigley Field. In the years Jimmy was in the booth, he never missed seeing even one pitch. He saw them all. Amazing, never a bathroom break or a few minutes to schmooze with a celebrity in the press box, nothing. He watched every pitch. Now that’s a professional.
    (He loved working with Harry, and he blamed his heart trouble on his adversarial relationship with former boss Charley Finley out in Oakland.)

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  19. Julie Robinson said on March 4, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Deborah, 🙂

    So I learned a new term today, thanks to the newspaper and uncle google. It’s Lunch Box Republican, as referenced in a letter to the editor endorsing a candidate. If you think it’s a reaction to the Tea Party, you’d be right.

    And accordingly to this article, they are partially supported by some unions: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/01/lunch-pail-republicans-labor_n_1929825.html. It’s from October of 2012, so I’m not sure if they haven’t picked up much traction, or I’ve been in a bubble.

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  20. Jolene said on March 4, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    I saw Dallas Buyers Club twice and thought it was terrific, but still wanted Chewitel Ejiofor to win the Best Actor award. I thought he was riveting in 12 Years a Slave.

    Lupita Nyong’o is not only beautiful and talented, she is also marvelously thoughtful and expressive. At the link below, she is speaking at a lunch event called Black Women in Hollywood sponsored by Essence magazine. Very powerful and touching account of her childhood hope, as a dark-skinned girl, to wake up one morning with lighter skin.


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  21. Bitter Scribe said on March 4, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Dexter: Joan Rivers’ rehabilitation would go down easier if she didn’t mock other women for having had plastic surgery.

    As for Jimmy Piersall, pfui. I lost my last vestige of respect for him when some scorer made a ruling he didn’t like during a game and he railed against the guy, on the air, as “an amateur writer from a small, little suburb paper.” What a shithead.

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  22. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Lunch pail Republicans and Reagan Democrats are still out there, but they just need some branding help.

    Charlotte, it always seems like the critical letters and emails are more interesting, even when they’re infuriating, than the “I love your writing” correspondence. Here in the Land of Legend, we only just changed from a county Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disability (or MRDD board) to just DD, which came after our operation kept getting unhappy mail and calls for a decade, but our superintendent always said “If I had an extra $100,000 to change everything with MRDD on it, we would.” Finally we just had to bite the signage and do it. But I still wonder if the harm is actually worth 100K.

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  23. coozledad said on March 4, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    There needs to be some branding, alright. We could start with this guy. A great big A on his forehead for asshole.


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  24. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 4, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Cooze, you need a paczi. Maybe two. I don’t think the NC guy would be welcome amongst Reagan Democrats or Lunch pail Republicans. Not even if he was buying.

    Well . . .

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  25. coozledad said on March 4, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    The envelope the letter comes in points out in large friendly letters that Pittenger is the “Chairman of the Congressional Taskforce on Terrorism & Unconventional Warfare”

    Someone’s melting butter in his ass. His Republican colleagues could have kept him out of the chairmanship.


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  26. alex said on March 4, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Lunch pail Republicans and Reagan Democrats are still out there, but they just need some branding help.

    So would you burn RINO onto their foreheads or their hindquarters?

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  27. Deborah said on March 4, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    So this morning my shitty coffe grinder finally bit the dust, not my great one that I have in Chicago, a Braun that I’ve had for at least 30 years. No, this was the crappy one from Starbucks that I keep in Santa Fe. So I bought a cheap one at Target to replace it. I’ve become such a penny pincher.

    Today was weird, we found one of the patio chairs up against the fence. Someone obviously used it to scale the fence into the yard beyond, which we found had a pile of bowling balls in it (?). We live on a dead end and we hope whoever ran around our building last night was being chased by one of our resident skunks, would serve them right.

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  28. LAMary said on March 4, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    Deborah, I always have some ground coffee around in case the coffee grinder dies or we have a power outage, something that happens in LA more often than most would believe. The ground coffees of choice are Trader Joes New Mexico Pinon coffee or Cafe Bustelo. The Pinon coffee tastes slightly chocolatey.

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  29. Deborah said on March 4, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    I’ve been drinking the Trader Joe’s French roast which is pretty good. My favorite is Allegro (Allegra?) brand, Sumatra beans from Whole Foods but Lordy is it expensive.

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  30. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 4, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    RINO’s a media creation (radio, cable TV, etc.). Not a big discussion point out in Realworldlandia. Move to the state level politically, and they start to go there, but on the county level, it’s just not the issue. It’s more “are you supporting the county sales tax increase” or “how do you feel about firefighter vacation rollover?”

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  31. Scout said on March 5, 2014 at 12:26 am

    I LOVE the TJ New Mexico Piñon coffee. It’s very smoothe.

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