Doubling Up: Ellen DeGeneres to Host Oscars for 2014 Academy Awards

RT@Dannyboy0713: I totally hope @TheEllenShow gets every celebrity in the ballroom to dance when she hosts The Oscars @TheAcademy

And The Winner Is…

Because Twitter announcements count as official (well…until they don’t…), Twitter scooped most folks on this first: Ellen DeGeneres announced her delight to be returning as the emcee for the Oscars ceremony next year, on behalf of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts Sciences.

DeGeneres (“The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Finding Nemo”), in the customary “Aw shucks wink-wink” way we know and adore, shared this joyful tweet on her Twitter page:

It’s official: I’m hosting the #Oscars! I’d like to thank @TheAcademy, my wife Portia and, oh dear, there goes the orchestra.

The broadcast’s executive producers (Craig Zadan and Neil Meron) cosigned her “squee” on Twitter, tweeting:

Neil Meron @neilmeron welcome back to the Oscar stage, Ellen…we can’t wait to start working with you! @theellenshow @theacademy @craigzadan

And they love Ms. Ellen so much, they went from pitch to decision in a mere 48 hours’ time.

“I agreed with Craig and Neil immediately that Ellen is the ideal host for this year’s show,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy President. “We’re looking forward to an entertaining, engaging and fun show.”

According to the organization’s CEO Dawn Hudson, “Ellen is talented, wonderfully spontaneous, and knows how to entertain a worldwide audience. She’s a big fan of the Oscars; we’re huge fans of hers. It’s a perfect match.”

 

All This Funny Business

According to Variety magazine, “’The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ has won 45 Daytime Emmys during its 10 seasons. Though DeGeneres’ show airs on NBC owned-and-operated stations, she has a history with Oscar broadcaster ABC, with her landmark sitcom ‘Ellen’ having run there from 1994-98. In 1997, DeGeneres won the Peabody Award and a writing Emmy for the episode in which her character came out as a gay woman, with 46 million viewers watching.

“Over the last eight years, the 2007 Oscars hosted by DeGeneres stands as the top rated in both adults 18-49 (14.1 rating/33 share) and women 25-54 (19.2/40).”

Since coming out in 1997, though Ellen shared myriad challenges she faced because of her public declaration, she’s a master at the art of the “Reboot and Rally.” These days, you feel like she’s never missed a beat.

You always get the sense that even while Ellen’s ribbing you, she’s laughing with—not at—you, and you’re never on the arse-end of even her snarkiest inside jokes. Ellen saves more observational or cutting humor for political issues.

Case in point: remember when she riffed on fatphobia? Ellen quipped:

“Now [Abercrombie & Fitch] actually have a double zero. What are we aspiring to? ‘Honey, do these jeans make my butt look invisible in this?‘”

Crafting jokes, skits, comedic sets and punchlines in such a way is living a rarefied air and artistry we don’t see quite enough of. Too, though reading and shade has its place in queer culture, this type of kidding around is based on finding and digging into flaws, and adding salt to wounds (real, perceived or straight-up made up).

In other words, the origin and intent of reading/shade/the dozens, however creative, is more degrading.

And Now, Your Host…

Ellen’s first Oscars hosting gig took place in 2007. In a tongue-in-cheek self-released press statement Ellen added:

“I am so excited to be hosting the Oscars for the second time. You know what they say – the third time’s the charm….”

Laugh on, Ms. E. Laugh on.

Click below to watch 5 of Ellen’s Best Award Show Moments:

http://www.thewrap.com/tv/article/ellen-degeneres-returns-oscars-host-5-amazing-award-show-moments-video-108091

The 86th Annual Academy Awards takes place on March 2, 2014. So is Ellen the right woman for the job, or what?

 

Mainstream Hollywood Needs To Come Out A Little

This year marks the first year GLAAD, an organization that works with media (social, cultural, and entertainment) on the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and issues, has released a report that measures the representation of lgbt people in the mainstream film industry.

GLAAD reports that it has followed and advocated for lgbt character and issue inclusion in television for almost twenty years, and that this year, because of how quickly television shows have become inclusive, the organization has shifted its focus to the behind-the-times film industry. It started the research because “major film studios appear reluctant to include LGBT characters in significant roles or franchises,” and from its research, that certainly seems to be the case.

The “Studio Responsibility Index” looked at the six largest film studios in Hollywood: 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, Warner Brothers, and The Walt Disney Studios. Only films released during the 2012 calendar year were chosen, amounting to 101 films (and Dalmatians). What was searched for in each film was an lgbt character, they were classified into minor or major characters, and then counted under demographic information, including race/ethnicity and sexual orientation/gender identity.

What the report found is that less than 14% of the films had a character which identified as lgbt. The majority of these (56%) were gay males, followed by lesbians (33%), although male representation almost doubled females. Almost 84% of all queer characters were white, and none were Asian, Pacific Islanders, or multi-racial. The films which were the most inclusive? Comedies, while no family-oriented movies contained a hint of queerness in them.

Of the six studios studied, none got a passing grade. Two—20th Century Fox and The Walt Disney Studios—are considered failing, with one lgbt character between the two studio powerhouses.

The report also establishes its own barometer test for the stereotyping and flatness involved in creating queer characters. The “Vito Russo Test” takes its name from GLAAD co-founder and celebrated film historian, has three points a film has to pass in order to be considered having a queer character that matters. The test takes direction from the famous “Bechdel Test” for women, and reads:

1.     The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.

 2.     That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity. I.E. they are made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another.

 3.     The LGBT character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline. The character should matter.

Of the 14 films identified with lgbt characters, less than half of them pass this test, showing that the “LGBT community may be increasingly well represented on television, but clearly there is a lot of work remaining in Hollywood film.”

Recommendations made by GLAAD for the film industry touch on the importance of queer characters and their positive portrayal, especially in greater frequency and in more important roles, though at the very least in “normalizing” roles of everyday encounters. The report also underscored the importance of diversity which the entire entertainment industry has been struggling with for years. Issues of race, gender, socio-economic background, religion, and age are just as important as lgbt issues and are routinely glazed over. Lastly and perhaps most expectedly, there needs to be far more improvements when it comes to transgender inclusion in film. GLAAD points out that “transgender representations remain at least 20 years behind the curve [in both film and television].” They go on to say that since there has been more publicity about trans issues nationwide, the portrayal of trans issues should keep pace, rather than contribute to the marginalization of the trans community, something that has been becoming far too commonplace.

Cowboys Are Secretly Fond of Each Other:” Singing Gay Cowboys and The Wild, Wild West

This Cowboy Ain’t Found the Right Woman Yet

“John Wayne and Will Rogers, they made real cowboy movies. They portrayed us like we are. There ain’t no queer in cowboy and I don’t care for anyone suggesting there is.”

– (Heterosexual) Rancher Dave Miller, to The Telegraph

When we think of “the cowboy,” we envision Old West or the Wild Wild West. “Rugged America.” Ranch Hand Nobility. Tobacco-Stained Chivalry. Guys who were tough, but fair. We think of heroes. We think of—well—men’s men.

In the States, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers became popular studio-cowpokes, wearing white hats and sweetly singing nostalgic, lonesome songs, wailing to the desert sky in a series of B-movies from the 30s and 40s. “Happy Trails,” anyone? “‘Until we meet again?”

Even Good ol’ John Wayne sang a rare cowboy song, playing the role of Singin’ Sandy Saunders (“Riders of Destiny,” 1933). Somehow, singing cowboys were not seen as effeminate—just dreamy. The trope became popular and took hold worldwide. So much so, inspired Italian/European directors began recruiting American actors to film their own “spaghetti westerns” overseas.

All this is to say that it’s hard to separate the engrained stereotypes from the reality that carries through to this day, and once established, tropes, metaphors and stereotypes therein can leave lasting impressions in others’ minds about how they think things were versus how they truly are. Masculinity, when contextualized in the world of cowboys, incorporates entirely new meanings when you include LGBTQ experience in the mix—this includes modern-day trans* men and women who, living in rural areas and on farmland (or close to it) embrace rodeo/cowboy culture and lifestyle.

“There have been gay cowboys for as long as there have been gay people…. It’s always been a part of the Western frontier lifestyle that wasn’t talked about. It was just there.”

– Brian Helander, for the International Gay Rodeo Association

As for cowboys, the most often looked-to idea in the Old West, the lyrical romanticism of Ang Lee’s brilliantly crafted film “Brokeback Mountain,” begin to build a bridge to speak to LGBTQ desert/rural/migratory experiences, but that too veered toward the tragic, therefore dropping one stereotype to pick up another (gay romance and agreed-upon rules in relationships don’t always have to end in tears).

Interestingly enough, world-famous country musician Willie Nelson’s soundtrack work on Lee’s film (“He Was a Friend of Mine”) and his cover of “Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other” (the first LGBT-focused mainstream country song by a major label artist) brought the idea back into our consciousness beyond the Gay Rodeo circuit.

Gay Rodeo culture represents our (still) unsung heroes: the underground men and women athletes and community made up of the unofficial historians who’ve always cherished this way of life, and who’ve shared it for generations.

Cowboys Never Kiss And Tell

“I’m…a heterosexual guy without any apparent sexual hang-ups. I say that so you know where I stand. Gay people don’t scare me. They don’t repulse me. And they sure as hell don’t offend me. I know that there are gay athletes. There were gay cowboys…. Greeks took homosexuality to whole new levels, as do some Middle Eastern cultures…. Homosexuality is not new, it is not strange. It is also not going away. So why the fear and backlash over a movie? Easy. Men are cowards. They are also more confused and uptight than they should be.”

– Doug Brunell, for “Film Threat”

“There is a fair amount of sexual contact among the older males in western rural areas.”

-Alfred Kinsey, from a 1948 sexuality study

Picture gay cowboys—or even lesbian nuns—having more than a platonic relationship. Do the words “know duh” come to mind? Not when it comes to cultural constructs, facades and fears. In a world so tethered to binary/compartmentalized thinking, it can be challenging to look back retroactively and tease out more accurate versions of the truth.

Of course not all man-man and woman-woman situations are queer-only. Neither are they heteronormative only. Such is the case many historians make, and oftentimes we need pictures and additional documented evidence to firmly believe in the truth of it, even for ourselves. And we need to see and experience not only one image or piece of evidence, but several. It still seems somewhat otherworldly. Unbelievable. As we begin to hear the stories and to bear witness, then the truth begins to unfold itself to us so that we can accept to be true in our souls.

In These Here Cowboying Circles:” No More Secrets

Geographically, the Old West is image and ideation most often dreamed of and seen. But of course, cowboys and gals rode the open range and worked on ranches from California to Montana and beyond.

More and more urban cowboys and cowgirls as well as out gay country stars help to modernize our imagery and understanding. They continue to sing, share, reveal our stories, letting those of us who are in-community write and experience our own narratives.

Just as we (LGBTQIA persons) are everywhere, so are cowboys and cowgirls who are “especially fond of one another.” Euphemisms are still used for literal survival (to avoid violence or shame-based thinking or incidents). Small-town gay and lesbian bars, any cow-town dance-halls in remote or rural areas, community centers near sprawling green pastures and wide open spaces, that’s where folks folks reside. So, that’s where love, lust and all good things in between will reside. So of course, that’s where queer cowboys work and play, and reside.

Coming full circle: just a handful of years ago, the Autry Cowboy Museum took an in-depth look at gay and trans* cowboy culture via their Out West exhibit. They continue to study queer culture and to blog about it. (See: http://blog.theautry.org/tag/brokeback-mountain)

To check out a gay cowboy movie in a post-Brokeback world, click on over to watch the Rom-Com “Adam and Steve” (featuring Parker Posey, no less!) and have a laugh on us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=970IMbt9JkE

And to you queer theory and gay film elitists out there, sheep herders (Jack and Ennis from “Brokeback”) can also be called cowboys. Did you follow them around all day and night? Did you pay their well-earned wages? We thought not.

A “Brokeback Mountain” opera will premiere in 2014. Even if you’re not into opera, aren’t you curious?

 

 

Don’t Call It A Comeback: Lady Gaga + TLC = “Posh Life”

                                                “The world says we’re not brave until we bleed.”

– From “Posh Life”

 

It’s official: Lady (Godiva) Gaga is back on her horse, naked as the day she was born, and raring to go. So much so, she’s let her “Posh” go leaking all over the Internet.

Sounds naughty, doesn’t it? It’s not—it’s just posh.

‘Shoutout to My Homos:’ New Divas Demo Collab Mentions “Family”

Post-hip surgery and past-hiatus (if lawsuit drama, full-on nude V. magazine spreads, “Machete Kills” and podcasting piercings counts), The Divine Ms. Lady Gaga’s back and collaborating with TLC to celebrate dual album debuts.

“Posh Life,” co-written by Gaga and Dallas Austin with Austin producing, is a demo that’s already a done deal.

Damn, it’s good to be Gaga! Lest we forget, Lady Gaga began as a successful songwriter. Her “Posh Life” demo leaked mere hours after TLC’s Chilli and T-Boz announced Gaga and Dallas Austin among collaborators on an upcoming TLC greatest hits release. Ne-Yo and J. Cole are additional features.

The highly-anticipated return of TLC is already being met with much acclaim and buzz as they hit the festival circuit, promoting their upcoming VH1 biopic “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” to drop alongside the album in October. Meanwhile, Gaga’s prepping for her new single release at this year’s  VMAs, with album-app combo ARTPOP scheduled for a November release.

TLC: First In Queer-Influenced Girl Power, Fashion & Fierceness

This divas’ collaboration makes sense. TLC had swag before Bieber and 90s Girl Power before Christina. Both acts earned multiple Grammys and other awards, clocking best-selling album records and highest-grossing tours.

TLC’s “No Scrubs,” “Waterfalls, “What About Your Friends” and” Red Light Special” empowered women to take charge from the bedroom to the boardroom. And Gaga? Scroll on back to

“Born This Way” in 2011 and her countless LGBTQ-empowerment speeches or publicity stunts for a  dose of self-love.

Too, they’re all hella fashion-forward women making sex-positive art.  TLC rocks a combination of R&B-influenced and queer-centric fashion (bespoke condom eye-wear promoting safe sex, butch-dyke hair tropes), pleather and light bondage fear, bold pattern combinations and tight, body-conscious glitter and glam). As for Gaga, we’ve got two more words for you: Jo Calderone.

 ‘Bout That Posh Life: Gaga Got Game

 Back to art-pop, R&B style: “Posh Life” takes the listener to church with soulful swagger. Gaga’s customary postmodern hat tip remains, as she plants shoutouts for queers and POC in the first verse:

“He just wanted something to eat /A place to love, a place to pray/In God we trust /And it’s okay/He said, “I’m black, Latin and gay/I went to them, they turned away.”

As Gaga growls and grinds through “Posh…,” she’s serving old school TLC as best as she can. Better than the real thing? That’s the beauty of a demo…it’s just a guide track.

What’s the song about, exactly: diversity, equality somehow embodied as posh? Who knows? Herein ies the charm of Lady Gaga. Self-admittedly, she’s so fascinated with the art and science of fame, fashionably posh living and perfect pop songs, when queers hear themselves reflected in her lyrics (Gasp! On the radio!), our response is primal and her tracks go viral. The messages are mixed, but this woman thanked “God and the gays” at an awards ceremony—so just dance!

Gaga’s version of the track’s got a light, sensual groove. Still, it would be ultra-pleasurable to hear a newly-reunited TLC bust these outwardly queer lyrics with their own twist.

TLC’s official Facebook page mourns the tragic death of former band mate Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, who passed in 2002, while looking forward to brighter days. The group wrote: “Comin’ back with Lisa in our hearts…. We’re hard at work on new tracks and they’re gonna be some of our best ever.”

The “Crazy, Sexy Cool” movie trailer’s gorgeous and hypnotic. Have you seen it?