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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

2012 just missed out on being the wettest on record, but the British press are keen to make up for it by ensuring that 2013 contains a record amount of transphobia. They're off to a flying start. If I've been largely absent from LJ just recently, it's partly because of work but partly because I've been trying to keep up with the papers' apparent decision to adopt "Let's Kick a Tranny" as its collective motto. Most of my thoughts on the issue have been anticipated in one place or another, so I'm tempted to give a few links to people who said what I would have liked to. There are many, but here's a selection:

C N Lester. (And if you like their writing, try their music.)

Paris Lees' Open Letter to Suzanne Moore.

Christine Burns on mending fences.

Sarah Brown, earlier today.

Some of these are out of date, because the situation has moved rapidly. In the last day, the Gobserver (Julie Burchill's article was an Observer piece but appeared on the Guardian website: the portmanteau seems appropriate for her publishers) thought better of publishing hate speech, and deleted it along with the 2000+ comments (mostly by people shocked at Burchill's bigotry). Her article, though not of course the comments, which are lost for ever, was reprinted within hours by Toby Young at the Telegraph, in the name of "free speech". In Fleet Street this phrase is apparently synonymous with "the inalienable right to have your words published in a national newspaper". So, if you happen to have written an article called "Why Uppity Coons should Learn their Place if they Know What's Good for Them", and the Observer inexplicably refuse to publish it, don't worry - Toby will see you right.

But, as long as I've got your attention, here are two more links. The first is to the real trans-related news story of the week, i.e. the one with some actual news content, but also (since it doesn't paint trans people as a) freaks whose genitals are up for public dissection, b) a sinister and powerful 'cabal', c) pathetic victims, d) a po-mo intelligentsia living on inherited wealth or e) sex workers) the one that the national press studiously ignored. This is the story of routine neglect, obstruction and humiliation of trans people by health workers, collected in #TransDocFail, and selected for your reading pleasure here.

In a different part of the forest, I'll finish by linking to this piece by Dean Burnett. It's only tangentially related to the Burchill row, but I think it does something quite necessary, which is to turn the focus away from trans people, away even from Burchill or the Gobserver, to the general public.

Imagine, if you will, someone poking a dog with a stick. Most of the time the dog whimpers and cowers, but occasionally it will growl. Sometimes it may even bite, but then several other people will pile on with sticks until it's chastened, with cries of "Vicious brute!" A crowd gathers. Some are tutting, some are laughing and applauding, but all slip money into the Dog Poker's hat when it comes around. They come back the next day, and the next. The Dog Poker makes quite a good living at it.

Whose behaviour needs explanation? Not that of the dog. Not that of the Dog Poker.

It's the crowd that needs analysis.

The Feminine Monarchie
I've just watched the 2006 Nicholas Cage remake of The Wicker Man, having had it on my tbw pile for some time.

It wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be - this is no The Seeker - but it did strike me as a strangely pointless piece, in the sense that it added nothing of substance to the original, while inevitably taking much away. The only reason I can see for remaking it - and it's a pretty patronizing one - is to increase the story's appeal by giving it an American protagonist and an American setting. It was also trimmed and padded to make it better fit the standard silhouette of a Hollywood horror film. It did this in a fairly half-hearted way, mind - some "horror" moments were introduced, but they mostly turned out to be hallucinations brought on by Cage's overwrought state of mind, and thus didn't need to be actually integrated into the plot. Oh, and the musical numbers were omitted - which I consider a stroke of genius in the original film, but would obviously be high on the hit list of anyone wanting to turn it into a more conventional, mono-generic picture.

The biggest addition was to make Summerisle - sorry, here it's Summersisle for some reason - a matriarchy, and change its produce specialism from fruit to honey. The men of the island are silent and acquiescent labourers, and Christopher Lee's replacement, Sister Summersisle, is clearly queen bee. I'm not sure why the director went down this route: using "women in charge" as a shorthand way of indicating something nightmarishly disordered about society is just a wee bit misogynist, don't you think? But in any case, it's a superfluous addition to the film Robin Hardy directed in 1973, which had plenty of plot without it. The only attempt to bring the two together was right at the end. Where Hardy burned his policeman to a rousing chorus of "Sumer is Icumen In", Neil LaBute went with chants of "The drone must die!" Mary Renault, eat your heart out.

Oh, and this policeman is not even religious, which makes the final quip about dying a martyr's death (which is retained) kind of meaningless. The whole discourse of the original film about paganism and Christianity as comparative religions was omitted, in fact. Was this so as not to offend American Christian sensibilities? Or just more "horror film" cookie cutting? Both, perhaps.

One last thing - a very big plot hole, to my mind. In the original film, Summerisle had been converted to paganism by Lord Summerisle's grandfather, a Victorian rationalist who thought that his agricultural workers might be more productive if they followed a nature religion. Hence, there was an abandoned church on the island, left over from the time before that. In the 2006 version, the islanders' "Celtic ancestors" - location wisely omitted - have always followed their matriarchal pagan ways, coming to America in the seventeenth century to escape persecution and in due course arriving at Summersisle (off the Pacific coast) in 1850 and making it their own. Yet this island too has an abandoned church, with old gravestones! Despite the fact that there's never been a Christian settlement there! Is that not strange? Needless to say, there's no indication that there were ever any Native Americans living there either.