I miss the Victorian Era. It’s not just that I miss the high-waisted trousers and the frock coats, and the prospect of reading Dickens serialized in the paper every week. I am probably one of the few men in the modern era who can say he had two frock coats hanging in his closet at one point, made for me by my tailor in Delhi to my amateur designer’s specifications, based on yet another Yohji Yamamoto frock coat I brought in for him to copy. It’s not that thinking about the Victorian Era makes me miss when I had hair, either, which I usually wore long and curly on top and shortish on the sides, with my sideburns always down to my jawline. No, the real reason I miss the Victorian Era most is because had I lived then I would have been straight.
As every gay man knows, while inwardly guffawing at those misguided conservative poodles who incessantly yip that ours is a “lifestyle choice,” only an extreme masochist with a major reactionary streak would ever choose to be gay over being straight. Most of us believe we would make great straight men. We’d be wonderful fathers, we would seriously pay attention to our woman’s appearance, we’d never even tire of clothes shopping with her.
The reason a Ghey like me would have been straight back then is I would likely have gotten married, had kids, and nobody would have been the wiser. My wife would have been so repressed and confined by the rigid corset of social mores that she wouldn’t have admitted even to herself that I wasn’t banging her, much less to anyone else. She would have ignored the stable full of handsome young stable hands, who would have walked funny after I’d spent an afternoon “grooming my horse.” In the unlikely event of a complaint from her, I would have just yanked a lace in the back of her dress like a yo-yo string and she would have passed right out on the parlor floor like a rag doll, after being cut off from what little air she was getting to begin with.
The Victorian Era was basically when Western culture turned Japanese for a hundred years. It was graceful, fraught with fascinating social intricacies and niceties, but was, all kidding aside, clearly a real pain in the ass.” />
Cary Joji Fukanaga’s Jane Eyre is the strongest cinematic adaptation of the Brontë classic ever, and that is saying a lot because it is a novel that lends itself extraordinarily well to adaptation, and has many times. The broad strokes of the story, like solid whale bones in a good corset, are enough to sustain a two-hour film without making you feel that the filmmakers were obliged to cut out critical elements of the book, like desperate sea captains throwing any non-essentials overboard for the sake of making the boat stay afloat. The 1996 film version by Franco Zeffirelli starring Charlotte Gainsbourgh as Jane and William Hurt as Rochester was, I thought, Zeffirelli’s best film since Romeo and Juliet. I’m not sure if the same house was used in both films; the location for this film is uncannily similar to my recollection of the Zeffirelli version fifteen years ago. It certainly felt to me as if this were some cinematic version of a battle-of-the-chefs show, in which two directors are given the same surprise central ingredient, in this case the same location. As in one of those rare episodes when the novice chef upsets the master, in this case Fukanaga beats Zeffirelli hands-down.
The firmest whale bone in Fukanaga’s corset is the script by Moira Buffini, an enviable piece of taut writing and structure. Equally strong is the cinematography; not a single shot is uncared for. The entire visual treatment is as painstakingly crafted as an exquisite Old Master oil painting. It is not surprising that Fukanaga is a former cinematographer. Never before have I watched a film that gave me a truer sense of what it was like to live in a candle-lit world. This is important because the threat of fire runs throughout Jane Eyre. Willfully or not, Fukanaga plays with the probability that the viewer is familiar with the story and knows what is going to happen, which makes the profuse candle flames unsettling and seductive all at once. The daylight shots are equally striking: backlit flares of sunlight provide Jane with appropriate halos in the right moments. This is a costume drama in which the costumes take a back seat to the performances, the writing and the cinematography, and that’s a relief.
The rapidly ascending Australian actress Mia Wasikowska does an admirable job of Jane, regardless of the fact there is nothing “plain” about her. Jane’s unbeautifulness is the central point; it pays to remember that the book probably gave rise to the expression “plain Jane.” Luckily, the script doesn’t dwell on it too much because whenever Mia-as-Jane complains about being plain, you feel that either she has been so brutalized as a child that her self-esteem has been irreparably damaged and warped, or that she’s fishing for compliments. Mia is certainly far more “comely,” as the Victorians said, than her rival, Miss Ingram, played by the unfortunately named Imogen Poots. In the scene when Michael Fassbender states that both he and Mia are equally plain you feel a snort of derision coming on. If that’s plain, then I’m plainer and the happier for it, Mr. Rochester.
All things considered, and the fact she is actually as beautiful as any contemporary fashion model, Mia held up admirably under the oppressive scorn of my preset opinion, which I carried into the theater like a macaw on my shoulder that screeched at me throughout the film: Charlotte Gainsbourg from the Zeffirelli version is the definitive Jane Eyre and nobody will ever replace her. Even after the Fukanaga version, I still believe this. Gainsbourg is the result of a fortuitous accident of genetic engineering, which made her the perfect actress for that role. Hers was the D flawless diamond of casting coups, the sort of pre-production event that can cause a film to be made in the first place. No other role will be as suitable for her, and nobody will ever fill that role as suitably.
Michael Fassbender. Dude is amazing, the best of his age group out there right now, lengths ahead of the nearest competition. Fassbender is so smoldering hot in Jane Eyre that had I had a cocktail before watching it, my breath would have exploded in flames. When Mia almost kisses him at one point, the repressed eroticism is so intense those Danish pastries she has coiled on her head start to puff up and strands of her hair go BOING! like overheated copper filaments.
Naturally, I want to do carnally unspeakable things to Fassbender, but most of all I want to be him. He makes me want to have my hair back, even if it means having to buy shampoo again.
Speaking of bald, it was while reading up on the latest Mama Gaddafi news that I stumbled on someone I haven’t given much thought to in a while, my evil twin Andrew Sullivan. Normally, I wouldn’t allow Sullivan that honor; I would be his evil twin. But he is both a conservative Ghey and a practicing Catholic, and my wannabe Satan is just no match for that.
With regard to conservative Gheys, I draw your attention to a comment left on yesterday’s blog post by my virtual buddy Old Ancestor:
“I’m not so sure I can trust a log cabin republican. If you have to suppress your identity to the point that you have to be politically affiliated with people who want to kill you because Jesus said so, you must be a real self-loathing individual.”
To the denizens of Homolandia — OA is straight — this isn’t a new observation. It’s one of those distasteful paradoxes we live with. As I pointed out in my reply to OA, Log Cabin Repubes should really call themselves the Benedict Arnold Repubes, even though they seem to be the best organized of gay groups and have led the charge on the repeal of DODT.
The reason Sullivan and I are evil twins is not just because we are outspoken gay writers, but it appears we may have been separated at birth:
I am three weeks older than Sullivan. He is a passionate Irish Catholic, whereas I come from a long line of the dourest Protestant Scots-Irish, you know, the land-grabbing kind who lie low for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s amazing that these seemingly innocuous cultural distinctions carry over into the New World, but they do.
As ideologically disparate as we are, just because Sullivan is conservative and I am not doesn’t mean I’m liberal. As I like to say, there is a two-party system in this country: good and evil. And I back good, right the way down the line.
Our most glaring difference is most likely sexual position. Given that what defines you as a Ghey is your sexuality, how you practice that sex is of paramount importance. I ordinarily wouldn’t go this far down the road in slamming someone, but Sullivan himself is so anti-PC, so virulently outspoken on the dumbest issues — Trig isn’t Sarah Palin’s child, but her daughter’s? Oh, come on, Andrew: a vast majority of Down’s Syndrome babies are born to older mothers — and all that blithering conservative crap, that I think I’ll take the gloves off, smack the bitch up a bit by telling it like it is.
As an HIV-positive practicing Catholic, Sullivan is most likely a kinky bottom bitch. I, on the other hand, am that rarity in Homolandia: the absolute, uncompromising, militant, don’t-even-think-about-my-butt total top. How do I deduce this about Sullivan having not even met him, much less done the dirty with him? As every homo knows, you are far more likely to get HIV as a bottom than as a top. Basically, Sullivan took not one but probably several loads up the ass bareback in the mid-90s, of all times. And how do I know he’s kinky? He’s a practicing Catholic, and the more religious they are, the wilder in bed, in my fulsome experience.
Forget his HIV status, just the fact that Sullivan calls his blog “The Daily Dish” isn’t just screamin’-at-ya bottom bitch fagelah. It’s dowager musty-lacey, Garden of Good and Evil, antique-hoarding, balancing-a-Limoges-teacup-on-your-kneecap, screamin’-at-ya bottom bitch fagelah.
Lest anyone accuse me of sexism here, let me remind you that if it weren’t for the bottom bitches, I would have no sex life. It’s just that I am as puzzled by them as a pimply, hormonal teenager is by bouncing, irrational cheerleaders.
What brought me to Andrew Sullivan today? His ridiculous, lame-assed whining about intervention in Libya, made all the sillier because Sullivan isn’t some sheltered American conservative who doesn’t understand the European dynamic with Libya; he’s British. He said:
“There are, it appears, only two reasons the US is going to war, without any Congressional vote, or any real public debate. The first is that the US cannot stand idly by while atrocities take place. Yet we have done nothing in Burma or the Congo …. Obama made no attempt to reconcile these inconsistencies because, one suspects, there is no rational reconciliation to be made.”
Sullivan is turning to the same argument liberals made when we wrongly invaded Iraq and is flipping it back on Obama. Why did we go after Saddam and not other dictators and evil-doers? The invasion of Iraq was just plain wrong across the board, we know that, no further comment on it is necessary. Let’s just mop up the spilled oil and move on. But Mama Gaddafi and the rebellion is another matter. Why Libya and not Congo or Burma? Andrew, dude, come on. Congo? Burma? Congo is the setting for Heart of Darkness; why even consider wandering into that morass? Let the Belgians take care of it, anyway, it’s a descendant of their mess. And Burma is a totalitarian regime, not a dictatorship led by a single maniac. If you argue intervention in Burma, then we should talk doing something about China as well.
Yes, it’s all about oil, Andrew, as it should be. It’s at over $101 a barrel today. No, we shouldn’t be so dependent on oil in the first place, but we are, Blanche, we are. So why should it not be about oil? We are a mercantile nation. As Ayn Rand pointed out, the dollar sign is the monogram of US; i.e., Dollars R Us, baby. While I personally loathe the idea of supporting that vast war machine of ours, as long as we are paying for it, we should use it to protect our economic interests, especially in this fragile climate. If these were better times, I might be inclined to get on my ideological high horse and decry any military intervention, anywhere. But in terms of the direct impact of the Arab Revolution on our lives in the West, what is happening in the oil-producing countries is more perilous to us than the nuclear meltdown in Japan. We need to do the right thing: support the revolution sweeping the Islamic crescent because it is the only thing that will drag them out of their own private Middle Ages and into the present with us. It is imperative we keep the region as stable as possible during a volatile time.
The analogy between the Arab Revolution and cooling several wayward nuclear reactors in meltdown is, I believe, apt. It’s certainly not easy. So settle down, Andrew, girl. Pour yourself a cup of tea, throw the pooches a biscuit and stop fanning the flames just because it’s Obama taking a stand and not some noodle-brained conservative who tickles your sphincter.