When Mainstream Indian Films Celebrated Queerness

The landscape was monochromatic, heteronormative with nary a defiant image in sight. Then came along the decade of action movies, with a splattering of homoerotica, and colored the screen with a rainbow of possibilities.

The decade in question is the 1970s, a defining period in the history of Hindi cinema that saw the rise of buddy movies. Feature films from the 50s and the 60s explored the leading man’s relationships with women, but the 1970s gave him a chance to indulge in more varied forms of liaisons. The shift held magnificent implications for gays in India; the leading man became the one persona that legitimized homosexual urges of men through his own escapades. Let’s see how.

The highest-grossing movies of the 70s, such as Dostana, Yaarana, and Zanjeer, were from the buddy movie genre and illustrated the powers of male bonding.The films followed, more or less, the same narrative arc: An angry young man in a violent conflict with the powerful antagonists, he needs and finds a trusty friend to take on the bad guys. This friendship becomes the pivot of the protagonist’s experience, secondary only to their combined mission.Together the two solve mysteries, fight crime, and get passionate revenge.

These stories of retribution, afforded the hero little time for women. There is a token female lover, but her presence is perfunctory to the story, while the best friend is imperative to the narrative. The hero was always found to be looking for a way to get away from mushy displays of love. Back where he belonged, in a man’s world with that one special mate.Sex between the two men is never overtly mentioned but their special bond, verging on romantic love, is demonstrated through various song lyrics and gestures.

For example: In Silsila, a love story that spans across generations, the leading man grieves the death of his friend by breaking a TV set. The heroine tells him, “Now you will have to make do with me.”

In Zanjeer (Chains), the friend sings to the hero, “My friend is my better nature, he is my life.”In Qurbani (Sacrifice), the two friends dance and sing, “I will sacrifice my life and my heart for my friend.”

In the 70s blockbuster Sholay (Embers), a remake of The Magnificent Seven, the two men sing “even death can’t tear us apart.”Later in the movie, one of them takes a bullet to save the other.

A review of the 1973 film Namak Haram in the film magazine Filmfare, described it as having “A touch of Homo.” In a song from the movie, the hero films the friend with a camcorder while he sings adoringly, “If one parts with one’s friend, one suffers immeasurable heartache.”

The 60s love triangle movie Sangam finds the hero in a Hamlet-esque angst. The hero is apparently sadder over the loss of the friend than the lover. Leading one to believe, he held the friendship in higher regard than his love.

In Dostana(male friendship), they walk together into the sunset after competing for the same girl, swearing to always put their friendship before any female love interests. In Dosti, a story of two orphaned handicapped boys, they lean on each other to survive in a hostile world.

The leading ladies in these movies received very little screen time or lines. The marginalization of the heroine in the movies also pushed women away from the theatres. In previous decades, women came to watch the soft romantic comedies, but the action-packed revenge sagas of the 70s held little appeal for them. Moreover, because of overwhelming patriarchal attitudes, Indian movie theatres have always been, to a great extent, all-male domains; and now they became even more so.

So, now theatres turned into men-only territories. In the dark environs of the theatres, men watched men singing songs of everlasting friendships, proclaiming undying devotion for their comrades, enveloping each other in fond embraces. And in those intense moments, they felt emancipated from centuries of regressive attitudes and free to look at other men as lovers.

As R. Raj Rao aptly explains in his paper Memories Pierce the Heart, “Coming back to our audience within the context of the movies they are watching, their ‘‘deviant’’ behavior, even if some part of their mind is prompted to call it that, is sort of validated by the actions of the matinee idol. If Amitabh Bachchan can express undying love for other men on the screen, all in the name of yaari (friendship), why can’t they too indulge in a little mischief?”

Notably, these movies remained the highest grossers for many years to come. Moreover, a great number of movies, right until the late 80s, dabbled with the themes of male bonding because their predecessors achieved massive success at the box office.

They say a smart movie maker always gives the people what they want and is aware of the orientation and preferences of his audience. Could it be that movie makers were faintly aware of the orientation of a sizable majority of moviegoers and tried to legitimize homosexuality through hidden references?

So, chance passionate glances exchanged between friends and love ballads masquerading as songs of friendship were peppered into seemingly innocuous heteronormative movies all to prompt that gay audience member to indulge in some experimental love; and perhaps return for more action to the comfort and promise of the movie theatre? One will never know.

Queer readings aim at destabilizing the assumption that relations between the binaries of masculine and feminine genders are a constant and advocating fluidity of identities and sexuality. It’s refreshing to look at these classics through a queer lens. In any event, the 70s remain a golden period of Indian cinema, one that glorified the struggles of the proletariat and pure, unbridled male bonding.


References:
Rao, R.R., 2000. Memories pierce the heart: homoeroticism, Bollywood-style.Journal of homosexuality,39(3-4), pp.299-306.

Gopinath, G., 2000. Queering Bollywood: Alternative sexualities in popular Indian cinema.Journal of Homosexuality,39(3-4), pp.283-297.

Kavi, A.R., 2000. The changing image of the hero in Hindi films.Journal of homosexuality,39(3-4), pp.307-312.

Meet The Queens Picked For ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’

Friday night, RuPaul revealed the cast of the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars well, most of it, at least. A tenth queen is forthcoming when the show premieres next year. But for now, we’ve got an eclectic group of nine that represents a very different kind of All Stars season.

There’s no mass representation from one season here, like season five was in All Stars season two. Six seasons are represented here, a record for the show. Most impressively, there are a couple of queens from the would-be classic era of the show, seasons two and three. (The three All Stars seasons will now have seen half of the season two cast compete though none have won. Yet.)

Who will compete for the crown this time? Let’s meet or re-meet, in this case the nine girls vying to enter the Drag Race Hall of Fame.

Morgan McMichaels

Season: 2
Placement: 8th

In the years since season two, Morgan has become known as an MC and hostess extraordinaire at Showgirls, the Monday drag show at Micky’s West Hollywood where Drag Race girls reign supreme. Through her work there, the lip sync technician has had plenty of opportunities to see what tricks the other girls have up their sleeves. How well will that serve her in All Stars?

Shangela

Seasons: 2 and 3
Placements: 12th and 5th

Halleloo, she’s back, bitches again! Shangela is the first queen to compete on three seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Since she last appeared as a contestant, the Haus of Edwards to which she belongs has become legendary on Drag Race, thanks to matriarch Alyssa Edwards and dancing queen Laganja Estranja. So far, the Haus hasn’t taken home a crown will Shangela finally secure glory?

BenDeLaCreme

Season: 6
Placement: 5th

A fan favorite in season six, BenDeLaCreme had but one weakness in Drag Race: She couldn’t beat Darienne Lake in a lip sync. Her would-be rival beat her twice, though, after the first loss, RuPaul spared her from eviction and kept her for a few additional weeks. The second loss, however, was too far, and Ben went out in fifth. She is the only Miss Congeniality winner to return this season, following in the footsteps of previous returning winners Nina Flowers, Pandora Boxx, Yara Sofia, Latrice Royale, and Katya.

Milk

Season: 6
Placement: 9th

Years working with Marc Jacobs have done Milk’s body good! She’s more gorgeous than ever out of drag, but has become far better known for her boy persona over the years than in drag. What new skills can she bring to the runway and challenges as Milk this time?

Kennedy Davenport

Season: 7
Placement: 4th

The Dancing Diva of Texas returns to slay once again. After losing out to the final three at the last second of season seven, Kennedy has only grown in fans’ estimation. Now, the skills she demonstrated on “Roar,” one of the all-time great lip syncs, will hopefully take her far in a new season with new competitors.

Trixie Mattel

Season: 7
Placement: 6th

Trixie has performed far beyond her placement on Drag Race season seven post-show. Alongside Katya on their web series UNHhhh, she has become one of the most popular Drag Race queens ever, enjoying a massive fanbase that worships her every move. Combine that new audience with her country music career and quick wit, and Trixie’s coming back to the competition a whole new queen.

Chi Chi DeVayne

Season: 8
Placement: 4th

Chi Chi has good right to feel underrated. She missed out on the top three of season eight despite delivering weeks of true excellence on what she admitted at the time was a minuscule budget. With the coin she’s made since, Chi Chi has a real chance of blowing everyone away this season. If she successfully adds fashion polish to the extraordinary entertainment skills in her repertoire, Chi Chi could become one of the all-time Drag Race greats.

Thorgy Thor

Season: 8
Placement: 6th

It’s hard to remember now, but for the first few weeks of season eight, Thorgy was the fan favorite. She was considered robbed of a couple of wins, and made an impression rivaling that of ultimate winner Bob the Drag Queen. Her success was short-lived, though; she went out in sixth with fewer fans, and hasn’t quite kept up the fanbase since. Perhaps All Stars season three will revive interest.

Aja

Season: 9
Placement: 9th

Surprise! Fresh off her ninth-place finish in season nine earlier this year, Aja has already returned for another shot at RuPaul’s Drag Race. Considering what an impression she made in her short time, from the legendary Linda Evangelista monologue to her bold questioning of Valentina’s Miss Congeniality win at the reunion, it’s easy to see why Aja was brought back. The question now: How much further can she go?

Kyrgyzstan’s Sole Gay Club Is Shuttered As Hate Crimes Against LGBTQ People Skyrocket

Kyrgyzstan’s only gay club has closed ahead of the probable passage of a law that would crackdown on LGBTQ life in the Central Asian republic.

London, which was inconspicuously nestled inside of a gas station, was shut down by the property’s owner after he discovered that it was being used as an LGBTQ meeting ground. Operated by a lesbian couple who used to run a cabaret night in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, attendees would have to be recommended by a regular to gain entrance.

There are no other spaces like it in nation of 6 million people.

Kyrgyzstan, where homosexuality was decriminalized in 1998, was once known as progressive alternative to neighboring countries like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, in which being caught engaging in same-sex activity is punishable with up to three years in prison. But the introduction of anti-LGBTQ legislation in the Sunni Muslim state has created a new hostility to queer and trans people.

Since 2014, lawmakers have been pushing a anti-propaganda law strikingly similar to the one passed by Russia in 2013, which bars the dissemination of material regarding “non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors.

The language of Kyrgyzstan’s bill is nearly identical to the Russian legislation at first glance. If enacted, the legislation would prohibit “public expression and events that contain information about ‘non-traditional sexual relations.’” The international LGBTQ organization Human Rights First has claimed it effectively bans “the existence of LGBT organizations” and “[shutters] gay clubs.”

But advocates say the Kyrgyz version is far more extreme.

What differentiates the two bills is the Kyrgyzstan’s propaganda legislation mandates a one-year jail sentence for anyone in violation of the mandate. It has already passed two readings of the parliament by a near-unanimous vote and awaits a final deliberation before becoming the law of the land.

Even though the bill has yet to pass, LGBTQ groups believe that the bill has already had an extremely adverse impact on the country’s queer and trans population.

The local advocacy organization Labrys claims that hate crimes against LGBTQ people in Bishkek shot up by more than 300 percent after the bill was first proposed three years ago. Eighty-three percent of respondents to a recent survey of queer and trans Kyrgyzs claimed that they had been victims of a bias attack.

An earlier report from Human Rights Watch found that queer women and trans men are frequently targeted with corrective rape. Even the country’s Ministry of the Interior has claimed that he would beat his son if he discovered the boy were gay.

Before London opened in its current venue, the soon-to-be-shuttered establishment was closed twice before. Organizers had to vacate their first location after a violent mob of more than 30 men smashed through the front door and started destroying tables and chairs. Many of London’s staff members were injured in the brutal attack.

The club’s co-founder, who didn’t close her name to media, says that if critics were to visit London for themselves, they wouldn’t be so afraid of it.

“The problem is that people don’t understand what a gay club is,” she told Radio Free Europe in an interview. “They think we are doing something pornographic. But if they came and saw that it is just a normal club, where people dance and drink, then it would be OK.”

‘Nobody Seems to Be Responding’: These Activists Are Rallying to Fight Egypt’s Anti-LGBTQ Crackdown

Two rainbow flags were planted in the ground as a group of LGBTQ activists gathered under the streetlights of the Wilshire Federal Building on Wednesday evening. It wasn’t the kind of place you would expect to see a public demonstration. Situated at one of the busiest intersections in the affluent Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, cars careened by while blaring their thunderous horns.

The protesters, who rallied in support of the dozens of queer people jailed in Egypt’s anti-LGBTQ crackdown, hope that their message is louder.

“This is the cradle for civilization asking for help right now, but nobody seems to be responding,” says Marina Eskander, an organizer with No Hate Egypt and Solidarity with Egypt LGBTQ. “You dress up like us for Halloween. You glamorize our pyramids.”

“You get to fetiishize and exoticize what we look like and sound like, but you have no clue what our country actually goes through,” she continues.

The Los Angeles protest is one of seven rallies planned in response to an unprecedented anti-LGBTQ backlash in the North African country, in which at least 70 people have been arrested. Organizers say that their goal is to bring awareness to the ongoing crisis: Weeks after police began arresting people at a Mashrou’ Leila concert on Sept. 22, activists tell INTO that more than 50 people remain in prison.

“They are being tortured, sexually assaulted, and being forced to undergo anal examinations,” says Dalia Alfaghal, another organizer with the LGBTQ groups. “When you put people in jail in Egypt, it’s completely inhumane. These are young peopleyoung girls and boys. It’s so sad. Many were just 18 or 19 years old.”

The crackdown began after photos of Mashrou’ Leila fans hoisting rainbow flags in support of the LGBTQ community were posted to social media. The lead singer of the Lebanese rock group, Hamed Sinno, is openly gay. Mashrou’ Leila was banned from performing in Jordan in 2016 due to its controversial lyrics, which openly discuss homosexuality in a region where the subject largely remains taboo.

Police responded to the display of solidarity by rounding up anyone identifiable in the photos. Although homosexuality is legal in Egypt, authorities charged detainees with violating an outmoded 1961 law on debauchery, which is often used to target sex workers.

Many of those arrested weren’t actually LGBTQ. A straight allywho attended the concert to support his friendswas one of the first to be apprehended.

“He became the face of it because he was the one who was most clearly holding the flag,” Eskander says. “The government is telling people that even supporting something we don’t agree with gives us the right to arrest you. It’s completely irrational.”

The reaction from local leaders and religious authorities has been both swift and relentless.

Following the Sept. 22 arrests, Cairo’s Al-Azhar mosque urged imams to condemn homosexuality in their Friday addresses to congregants. The Sunni religious authority vowed to “fortify youth against these deviant thoughts.” The Coptic Church in Egypt announced that it would be hosting a conference to combat the erupting “volcano of homosexuality.”

Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation subsequently banned the “appearance of homosexuals or their slogans in the media.” If news outlets were to feature an LGBTQ person, the regulatory body ruled that it would have to be in the context of repentance.

The continued arrests, activists say, have decimated the queer and trans community in Egypt.

Alfaghal, who moved to the United States last year, says that gay cafes are a fixture of LGBTQ life in Cairoa place to meet with friends and share a coffee. These critical safe havens have all but been shut down by the government following the raids. Even though they remain technically open, it’s no longer safe to go.

She adds that LGBTQ people are “becoming a trophy for police.”

“Police say: If you find a gay person, report them to us and we’ll take them down,” Alfaghal claims. “This is the situation now. This is how people think.”

Advocates claim that organizing is becoming difficult under increased government surveillance of social media. Eskander says that she was in a group chat on Facebook with Egyptian activists a few weeks ago when suddenly their profiles were removed from the platform. She assumed she had said something wrong until one of them called her to explain that they’re blocked on social media all the time.

Although the recent crackdown is the largest in the country’s history, the targeting of LGBTQ people isn’t unusual.

More than 200 people have been arrested for violating the debauchery law since 2014, Eskander claims. It’s common for police to strip detainees in public and force them to parade around. Other times authorities will arrest someone accused of homosexuality and call a female relative to come pick them up, as if their mother were coming to get them from school. The goal, she says, is “humiliation.”

“If you try to get a job or do anything after that, it’s in your record,” Eskander continues. “It follows you for life. You have to leave the country in order to survive.”

As many LGBTQ people flee Egypt in fear for their lives, Alfaghal says that it no longer resembles the country that she once knew. After the 2012 Arab Spring led to the removal of President Mohamed Morsi the following year, Cairo burst with rainbow displays: everything from Pride flags to graffiti beautifying the city.

But she claims that the rainbows have “always been here.”

Organizers with No Hate Egypt and Solidarity with Egypt LGBTQ will be rallying in six countries this week, including Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. The final protest will be held on Saturday at the Egyptian Embassy in Ottawa, which is one of two events planned in Canada. They will also be fundraising to help those who were arrested afford legal representation.

Who Will Win ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ Season 3?

Now that we know most of the cast of the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars with a tenth queen forthcoming when the show premieres next year it’s time to size up the crop. What, you thought we’d wait for the show to premiere to place our bets? What is All Stars if not a chance to make pre-judgments based on what we already know?

Off our impressions from the show, plus what they’ve managed to do since, we’ve broken down each queen’s odds at winning it all. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts on Twitter @Into perhaps you’ll guess exactly right!

Milk

Season: 6
Placement: 9th

For her: Milk made the very good point during the special that RuPaul’s Drag Race took a lot of inspiration from her work on season six. She came out in a beard, only to be followed by season seven’s bearded runway. She appeared in male Ru drag for one runway, and Kennedy Davenport won the next season’s Snatch Game in male Little Richard drag. Milk has every right to call herself a Drag Race trailblazer.

Against her: Unfortunately, trailblazers are usually recognized for their contributions after the fact, not in the moment. Add to that that most of Milk’s most memorable work since the show has been out of drag namely, his ad campaign with Marc Jacobs and her chances seem a bit spoiled.

Odds: 100-1

Aja

Season: 9
Placement: 9th

For her: Aja only has to beat rock-bottom expectations. As both she and Ru said during the ruveal special, Aja did not perform very well on season nine. But anyone who knows her work off the show (including and especially Sasha Velour, season nine champ) knows Aja is a force. She’ll benefit from being able to overcome her poor initial performance.

Against her: People love an underdog, but Aja is the underest of dogs. She’ll benefit from lowered expectations for a while, but it’d take a small miracle for her to go all the way against this group.

Odds: 60-1

Morgan McMichaels

Season: 2
Placement: 8th

For her: Morgan has an advantage no other girl on this list has: She’s a hostess at one of the biggest Drag Race shows in the country. Girls from all seasons come through her and Raven’s domain at Micky’s in West Hollywood, and she’s gotten to see most of their tricks and treats. Assuming All Stars season three keeps a similar format to season two in which the queens must eliminate each other she may have the edge on understanding who she needs to chop.

Against her: In the queen ruveal special, Morgan herself put it best: Back in season two, the queens didn’t need to have the most defined personas. They basically just performed as themselves. This lack of definition can be seen as a blank slate Tatianna certainly took it as one as she made a lasting impression in All Stars season two. But it can also be seen as a handicap: Fewer people have seen that season, and are less aware of who she is. If Morgan can’t immediately define herself, she may not last long in this crop.

Odds: 50-1

Thorgy Thor

Season: 8
Placement: 6th

For her: Thorgy is really damn good at Drag Race. That’s a different skill than being a great drag queen, mind you, though we’d argue she’s both. But it’s the former skill that will serve her well here: Until she got too far into her own head, she routinely dominated challenges, though she always fell short of the win. If she can manage to edit herself, she’ll do well.

Against her: I’m not quite sure she has learned to edit. I’ve seen some of Thorgy’s work post-show, and it definitely still has a lot going on. Plus, the season eight queens were a weaker crop overall than these All Stars are. Thorgy can’t just do what she did last time and win; it’s going to take a reinvention.

Odds: 30-1

BenDeLaCreme

Season: 6
Placement: 5th

For her: Before Katya was Katya, BenDeLaCreme was basically Katya. She was an enormous fan favorite with a dynamic personality that won over both RuPaul and the audience at home. Her elimination at fifth in season six was seen as a shock boot at the time. Her goal now will be to show with this second chance that she should’ve won in the first place.

Against her: To put it bluntly, of all the queens featured in the queen ruveal special, Ben’s drag looks like it’s come along the least since her season. A lot of her competitors have upped their games considerably since being on. If Ben wants to avoid being the next Ginger Minj a strongly performing queen from her original season who couldn’t maintain that standard of excellence in All Stars she’ll need to pull some impressive tricks out.

Odds: 25-1

Kennedy Davenport

Season: 7
Placement: 4th

For her: Kennedy, more than most on this list, has benefitted from a reconsideration of her Drag Race run. When season seven aired, she seemed aggressive, even villainous, in her manner. She and Ginger Minj, along with other queens, branded themselves “the Bitter Old Lady Brigade,” and spoke often with great disrespect toward the younger queens, including and especially eventual winner Violet Chachki. Since then, however, qualms about her personality have taken a backseat to immense respect for her talent as a pageant queen and dancer. If she had been on All Stars season two, Kennedy might’ve inspired eye-rolls. Now, she’ll inspire cheers.

Against her: It delighted me, because I live for drama, but hearing Kennedy say she doesn’t know why she didn’t make top three instead of Pearl in season seven is a red flag. She’s competing with the best of the best this time; she needs to respect her fellow competitors, else be once again branded a bad sport by fans and judges alike.

Odds: 15-1

Chi Chi DeVayne

Season: 8
Placement: 4th

For her: Me! I’m for her! I love I love Chi Chi DeVayne. I think Chi Chi probably should have won season eight. Unfortunately, she competed on the show at a time when expensive fashion was a paramount concern, and her underdog narrative was beaten out by stunning model queen Naomi Smalls’ own arc. Plus, Bob the Drag Queen was a force to be reckoned with on that season all the way until the end. But as a performer and a creative mind, Chi Chi’s the whole package and the real deal. Personally, she’s my pick for the win.

Against her: *removes my stan hat* Okay, so Chi Chi suffers from the same “skosh short of legendary” problem Trixie does, and she suffers from not excelling in one particular thing. (You could argue it’s her dancing, but Kennedy has her beat in that regard.) She’ll bring more polish this time around, but she’s going to need to do a bit more to make a compelling argument that she belongs in the Drag Race Hall of Fame.

Odds: 10-1

Shangela

Seasons: 2 and 3
Placements: 12th and 5th

For her: The prodigal daughter of the Haus of Edwards returns. This will be the Haus’ sixth shot at the crown, and none has placed better than fifth (as Shangela did in season three and Alyssa Edwards did in All Stars season two). With the polish she’s developed since she last competed, Shangela has a real chance of taking home glory. If great looks, killer dance moves and side-splitting comedy can’t take the crown, what can?

Against her: As the only queen to compete in three seasons, critics could argue Shangela carries a bit of “been there, done that” with her. She’ll need to consistently surprise and raise the bar to get to the end.

Odds: 5-1

Trixie Mattel

Season: 7
Placement: 6th

For her: Trixie is a superstar. She’s perhaps the poorest-performing queen from a season of Drag Race to rise so astronomically far post-show. Her work with fan favorite Katya has elevated her, certainly, but her wicked sense of humor and soulful country music has also given her an identity of her own. She’s reminiscent of All Stars season two winner Alaska in exactly how far she’s grown.

Against her: The first two winners of All Stars were legends: Chad Michaels and Alaska. Trixie, to put it bluntly, still feels a bit short of that echelon. A lot of her viability as a winner will depend on how much she dominates All Stars season three. Still, based on her work post-show, she’s the one to beat.

Odds: 2-1

But How Gay is Wonderstruck?

In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.

What is Wonderstruck?
Gay auteur director Todd Haynes the visionary behind movies like Far From Heaven and Carol is back with a story about communication. Well, two stories, actually. Wonderstruck weaves two separate storylines together, one that follows a deaf girl named Rose (Millicent Simmonds) in the 1920s, and another that follows a hearing boy named Ben (Oakes Fegley) in the 1970s. Both are curators of culture in their own way, with Ben collecting everything he can find and Rose taking in movies, especially those starring silent film star Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore).

The film, based on Brian Selznick’s book of the same name, takes a turn when an accident takes Ben’s hearing, too. The two stories find the characters exploring New York in their individual times Rose seeking connection with her mother, and Ben trying to find the father his recently deceased mother would never tell him about. It all comes to a head when the stories intersect, in a sequence so moving, it’s worth the price of admission for it alone.

Who’s in it?
Moore, Haynes’ Far From Heaven star, plays both Lillian and the elder version of Rose. She’s the big draw, although Michelle Williams does appear in a couple of scenes as Ben’s mom, Elaine. (Honestly, between this and Manchester by the Sea, we’re worried about this Williams screentime shortage in Amazon Studios movies.)

Why should I see it?
That scene I mentioned earlier, where the stories intersect? That is the reason to see Wonderstruck. Unfortunately, despite some truly beautiful music and shots, this is a bit of a step down for Haynes post-Carol. Asking a director to follow a masterpiece with another masterpiece is a hell of a demand, but it’s hard not to feel disappointed. Still, it’s not bad by any measure just a little shallow, as the ‘20s story ultimately leads nowhere and the ‘70s story drags its feet until getting good.

But how gay is it?
Haynes in the director’s chair is basically where this movie’s gayness begins and ends. Though Ben does develop a cute friendship with another boy, Jamie (Jaden Michael), it’s pretty simple, and definitely secondary to the overarching story. The mere presence of living legend Julianne Moore can’t even gay up the place; she gets a couple of nice moments, but it’s hardly a showcase deserving of her talent.

Does Rooney Mara show up as an older version of Therese from Carol, revealed to be in a relationship with the elder Rose, thus putting this movie firmly in the Carolverse?
That’s a very specific question. But no. She does not.

Does Carol herself show up, in a Cate Blanchett cameo?
You know Todd Haynes made other movies before Carol, right? Anyway, no she doesn’t.

Isn’t Cory Michael Smith, the cute guy from Gotham, in this? That’s pretty gay, right? Indeed, Edward Nygma himself is in this film, but gets relatively little to do as Rose’s brother Walter. Tom Noonan plays the elder version of his character, and gets the bulk of Walter’s story (slim already).

So Carol’s not in it?
No.

Wonderstruck is in theaters now.

Jeff Sessions Doesn’t Know If His ‘Religious Liberty’ Order Discriminates Against LGBTQ People

Attorney General Jeff Sessions doesn’t know if a “religious liberty” memo his office issued earlier this month could be used to target LGBTQ people.

The Department of Justice head was asked about an Oct. 6 order which offered broad protections on the basis of “sincerely held religious beliefs” by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) during a Wednesday Senate meeting. Durbin, a Democrat, inquired as to whether the 25-page document could be used to target LGBTQ government employees.

“Could a Social Security Administration employee refuse to accept or process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse?” he asked.

The former Alabama Senator said he hasn’t thought about it.

“That’s something I have never thought would arise, but I would have to give you a written answer to that, if you don’t mind,” Sessions replied after a noticeable pause.

Durbin subsequently asked whether the memo means that a federal contractorwould be permitted to refuse services to people on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, even in life-threatening situations, without retribution from the government. Sessions claimed he “wasn’t sure” if such behavior would be protected under the order’s purview.

After claiming he would “look into it,” the Attorney General continued to tiptoe around the question.

“I would say that wherever possible, a person should be allowed to freely exercise their religion and not to carry out activities that further something they think is contrary to their faith,” Sessions said.

“But at the same time, if you participate in commercial exchanges, you have limits on what you can do under those lawspublic accommodation-type laws,” he continued. “And so the balance needs to be properly struck, and I think we have. Those issues were discussed as we wrestled with this policy.”

What the Attorney General’s response leaves out, though, is that the memo was issued concurrently with an order explicitly attacking LGBTQ people.

The Justice Department moved to roll back workplace protections for transgender federal employees in an Oct. 4 memo. Although the previous administration interpreted protections under the category of “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as inclusive of gender identity, Sessions nixed that understanding.

That decision allows federal contractors to discriminate against trans workers.

Although the religious liberty memo is more vague in what behavior it protects, critics believe that ambiguity could allow sweeping bigotry against LGBTQ people. “To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity,” the DOJ order reads.

Prior to becoming the Attorney General, Sessions attempted to block an LGBTQ conference from being held at a public university. He has spent most of his career opposing equality for queer and trans people.

Meet the LA Designer Empowering Music’s Fiercest Females

“Anything I can do to help raise a pedestal that empowers women, I’m there laying bricks.”

LA based artist and costume designer Seth Pratt is all about helping music’s most outspoken artists live their truths, one custom-made outfit at a time.

Over the past decade Pratt has designed garments for the likes of Lady Gaga, Azealia Banks, and Charli XCX, but his ride-or-die muse remains Brooke Candy, the rapper-turned-pop princess who made her name with viral club hits like “Das Me” and “Opulence.”

He’s also recently started dressing rising singer/rapper Lizzo, another artist who, like Candy, has built a fiercely loyal fanbase by embracing herself for exactly who she isnot who the music industry wants her to be.

We caught up with Pratt for a conversation about his religious Arkansas upbringing, the fearless women he designs for, his commitment to dismantling social norms, and more. Check it out below and give him a follow @sethpratt.

Hi Seth, can you tell us a bit more about who you are and where you come from?
I’m a shy southern boy from Arkansas. Or I was. I grew up in a dry town of 22,000 people, mostly Christian. I went to a little private Christian academy, something like 350 kids spread K-12. I was such an introvert that my mother was ordering for me at restaurants till I was 14 because I wouldn’t speak to a stranger. Dad is an Arkansas native, soccer coach/ref, road worker, and WW2 reenactor, and my mother was an RN from San Diego, so I got to spend a lot of time in California with my mother’s side of the family growing up.

According to my mother, I started drawing and painting quite well when I was five and was sewing and making clothes by the time I was eight. I excelled in art, and because my school was so small they catered to what they saw I was good at. I would be sitting drawing in English class while my teacher was giving a lecture and instead of scolding me my teacher would hold up my drawing and show it to everyone. By the time I graduated I think they had created 3 new art classes for me, so I had one every semester.

My senior year we did a production of Into the Woods, which was the first time our school had done a production of that caliber. I played the role of Jack, costumed the entire thing and built all the sets with the help of my art teacher, including two thirty-foot trees that consumed the stage and three giant story books that rolled out and opened up into interior sets for the different characters.

It took me half a year to complete everything working in the auditorium during the day and at night at home. During that time my teachers excused me from my classes, I don’t remember turning in a single assignment but my teachers gave me all A’s and B’s. That’s when I got my first taste of what I would do with the rest of my life.

After curtain call on opening night my mother came to hug me and I broke into tears and collapsed on the stage because the process of creating was over and I had enjoyed it so much more than anything I had ever experienced. For me it’s more about the process than the end result. I love to work. I live to create.

How would you describe what you do and how did you come to do it?
If there is an opportunity to create, I’m on top of it. Especially if it’s a medium I’ve never tried before. I work as a costume designer, tailor, pattern maker, graphic designer, retoucher, photographer, video editor, illustrator, and painter, all self-taught. As an artist and in my personal life I try to push limits and break down social expectations.

I generally live my life by one concept: that society isn’t real and everything that makes us have doubts and basically all of the problems or evils in the world come from social programming or they way we are taught that things should be, how we should act, how we should dress, what is considered beautiful or successful. All of these things keep us from fearlessly living our truth and being individuals, but even worse they divide us as human beings by race, gender, sexual preference and class. I think it’s so important as an artist to keep an eye on the past while pushing forward to the extreme future. If you want to make a difference and open people’s eyes you have to go far over the line in order to push it forward just a little bit.

I won’t go into super detail about how I came to think this way, but I was raised Christian. I did everything I was expected to do, followed all the rules, oppressed my homosexuality, got engaged to a woman at 19, and then one day in my Old Testament class at my Christian University the professor said, “So we know dinosaurs existed but there is no mention of them in the Bible,” and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Nothing I had been led to believe was true.

This, coupled with the fact that the first fashion course I took in university just ended up with the professor sending all my classmates to me with their sewing questions, led me to decide school was not for me–there’s nothing they can teach me that I can’t teach myself. I dropped out, broke off my engagement, and moved to LA for an internship I got on MySpace with a fashion designer, and I’ve been here ever since questioning the rules of society and breaking them whenever I get a chance.

As an artist who works in several different mediums, talk me through your creative process?
I like to draw from the past and push towards the future. Visually I look to the past for inspiration and then put my future spin on it to make it unique but always with a bit of humor. Then I use techniques I have had success with in the past but try to take them to the next level so that I’m always growing. I find that the shorter the deadline the better. When you have to make decisions based off your gut instincts you produce better art. It’s sort of flows out of you organically rather than being too affected by doubt or overly curated. The more skills you build the more well rounded you are, and this gives you the ability to see things from many different angles. Which comes in very handy when collaborating with other artists in being able to communicate techniques and aesthetics and work better as a team.

How do you manage your time between the different formats–are there periods where you are more into creating garments, and other times when you want to draw more?
Yes it absolutely comes in waves, but I try to stay on top of it and keep switching it up so that I stay inspired. Most of the time, though, I am drawing on more than one format for any given project. Each skill is a different tool but they are all part of the same tool set, they all come into play at some point or another, if not simultaneously.

What would you describe as your signature style or your aesthetic?
Rainbow retro future

Who were your influences as you were developing your style?
As far as fashion designers, I have to say Vivienne Westwood has been a big influence, along with Nicolas Ghesquiere and Raf Simons. I also very much admire Bob Mackie’s career and his ability to collaborate with and empower confident talented women. Hajime Sorayama’s illustration work has been a huge inspiration as well. But like any artist I draw from the popular culture of my childhood that shaped my eye for aesthetics in the first place.

You work a lot with Brooke Candy, tell us about that relationship. Would you describe her as a muse?
Brooke is an artist’s artist. She has a way of bringing out the best creatively in everyone she works with. In a way you could describe her as a muse but I think that would be an injustice to her as an artist. When I met Brooke eight years ago she no joke had a golden aura. I could see it plain as day and I just felt connected to her. I’ve been with her since the beginning of her career, and the work I’ve done with her I’m most proud of. She has been my biggest champion and supporter and a huge influence on my style and aesthetic. Because we developed as artists together, she understands me and my process on such a deep level. She has become an invaluable resource for me, it’s like having two brains. She is my twin flame, and I will always love her with all of my heart. Fucking ride or die.

What have been some highlights of things you have worked on so far?
Well I guess the most notable thing I’ve done is the robo exoskeleton I made for Brooke that she wore in the Grimes “Genesis” video.

One of the first jobs I did as a freelance costumer, and still one of my favorites, was with Geneva Jacuzzi for a 9-page spread in Vice. I made nine looks in four Days based off of these nine characters she had created, and it was all mostly out of paper because there was no budget. I managed to pull off a massive amount of pieces in an incredibly short amount of time. That’s the type of shit I live for.

My favorite thing to date is the last video I did with Brooke for “Volcano” because I got to play a much larger role and develop new skills. I costumed as usual, but also art directed, scouted locations, and edited it alongside Brooke, which I had never done before. I taught myself how to use Adobe Premiere and After Effects. And I think it turned out beautiful.

How has Instagram impacted or influenced your work?
I think it’s a great platform for displaying and organizing work, finding inspiration, supporting others’ work and sharing love. But most importantly connecting with similar minds and finding collaborators. It helps me create deadlines for content to post and therefore create more work. For me it’s not about the amount of likes I get, but if a few artists I respect like it that gives me life and the confidence to move forward.

What are you working on now?
I have a couple upcoming projects with Brooke but what I’m most excited about currently is that Brooke has started styling for other artists, which brought Lizzo into my life. Lizzo is unique because she defies the current standards of beauty by exuding sex and confidence as a plus-sized woman in a society that would have her believe she is anything but those things. Her message is one that I think is exactly what women need right now, and I am very proud to be a part of her journey. Anything I can do to help raise a pedestal that empowers women, I’m there laying bricks.

Where can people see more of your work?
Obviously my instagram @sethpratt. While I am working on pieces I chronicle the process in my stories, so look out for that too.

This Lady Gaga Wax Figure Is The Dictionary Definition of Homophobia

Someone call Madame Tussaud to clean up this mess.

A wax figure of Lady Gaga has been making the rounds on social media today after first appearing on a comment thread on uber-fan site Gaga Daily. The wax figure reportedly stands in a wax museum in Lima, Peru.

This, dear readers is the face of homophobia.

Twitter caught on and the reviews are brutal.

Peru’s museum isn’t the only wax figure of Gaga to fall short, as one Twitter user reminded everyone. It’s been hard to find a good lookalike of the iconic singer.

Now, that’s great and Imma let you finish, but let’s not forget that Beyonce had one of the worst wax figures of all time. An extremely white wax figure of Beyonce at the Madame Tussauds in Manhattan caused such a social media uproar that the museum had to adjust the skin tone and lighting on the figure.

Wax sculptors (artists? molders?) we have a request:

via GIPHY

British Prime Minister Says Transgender People Are Not Mentally Ill

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to make it easier for transgender people to apply for a legal name and gender change in a Wednesday speech.

Speaking at London’s Pink News Awards, the head of government broke with some members of the conservative right by proclaiming that being transgender is “not an illness.” May, who took over for David Cameron last year, pledged to update the country’s Gender Recognition Act to “streamline and de-medicalise” the process of updating identity documents.

“Trans people still face indignities and prejudicewhen they deserve understanding and respect,” May told the crowd. “And when we look around the world, we see countries where the human rights of LGBTQ people are denied and terrible suffering is the result.”

The head of state also pledged to provide more inclusive educational opportunities for LGBTQ students, which includes making schools safer for queer and trans youth.

“We are pressing ahead with inclusive relationships and sex education in English schools, making sure that LGBT issues are taught well,” May said, adding: “We’re determined to eradicate homophobic and transphobic bullying.”

The current Prime Minister, whose attendance proved controversial on social media, appeared at the awards alongside former PM Tony Blair and current Labour Party head Jeremy Corbyn. Justine Greening, the education secretary who came out on Twitter following the Brexit vote, received an award for Politician Of The Year.

Greening, the first openly lesbian woman to hold a U.K. cabinet position, discussed her 2016 coming-out post in her acceptance speech.

“When I sent that tweet last year, I did it because I realised that I needed to be part of the solution and part of helping things move on,” she said. “But I got a huge amount of support from so many people in this room and outside and it really inspired me and encouraged me to do what I can in my own powers, not only as a minister for equalities but as Secretary for Educationwhich is the best job in Government.”

“The best thing is, there are now so many politicians in our Parliament which are part of this cause and part of changing things for the better,” Greening added.

May’s comments on transgender recognition are in stark contrast to earlier remarks by Tory activist Mary Douglas, who made headlines in April after claiming that barriers to changing one’s name and gender exist to protect people from themselves.

“What’s interesting is that many people who have gender dysphoria also have other mental health conditions like depression or drug addiction,” Douglas said in an interview with the Today program on Radio 4. “They are deeply troubled and it has been proven that when they change their gender, that doesn’t solve those issues.”

Current guidelines in the U.K. state that a trans person must live as their true self two years before a doctor can grant them permission to update their legal documents. Current guidelines also bar those under 18 from applying for a name or gender change.

A plan proposed earlier this year would also allow nonbinary people to be recognized neither as male nor female, designated instead by a neutral “X.”