Saturday, January 4, 2014

Words About Chris Kluwe, or "Pay Attention to Sports for Once, Chumps!"

Recently, former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wrote a nearly 4,000-word open letter on Deadspin, claiming that it's very likely that his outspoken, and often hilarious, advocacy for marriage equality was the reason he was let go from the team this year. Because many of my friends don't follow sports, this has sparked minor Facebook outrage, as it has been shared and spread and commented on, because let's face it, folks, we love a good excuse to be outraged. And outraged we should be, if in fact that is the reason.

Except, it's probably not. At least not 100%. The issue here is that Chris Kluwe was an eight-year veteran, and last year, he was the second-lowest-ranked punter in the NFL. He's 31 years old, and he was at the end of his contract for a team that had been quite clear about moving out older players for younger performers. While I'm sure that Kluwe's appearance in the public eye, in conservative Minnesota, may not have done much to convince the team to keep him, the truth is that the Vikings could get someone younger for cheaper, who would probably do better. I've been a big supporter of Chris Kluwe for a long time, but we have to remember that he also stopped being good at his job.
Also, I feel it should be observed that Chris Kluwe is just like,
ridiculously good-looking.

My fellow lefties, I implore you: Do NOT try to make Chris Kluwe our Phil Robertson. Don't make "I stand with Kluwe" Facebook posts. Don't create a hashtag. Don't pretend you knew who Chris Kluwe was before the past week. Just do not try it. I know how tempting it is for us to want to put a face to the discrimination (besides, y'know, the literally thousands of actually-discriminated faces), but this is too easily disproven, and in fact plays right into the "political correctness gone wild" stereotype that right-wingers love to throw out. In fact, we don't need to have our own Phil Robertson. We're better than this. We have the ability to rationalize and to look at things in context, and to realize the greater issues beyond the superficial face that we can easily point to.

So here we go. This is a decent opportunity to remind people that there are still 29 states where you can get actually fired for being gay -- not just let go at the end of a contract several years after saying you like gay people. But more important and more directly related to the story are Kluwe's allegations that Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer became a bully to him, declaring that he used homophobic language to him -  and worse.

Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence. He had not done so during minicamps or fall camp that year, nor had he done so during the 2011 season. He would ask me if I had written any letters defending "the gays" recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance. I tried to laugh these off while also responding with the notion that perhaps they were human beings who deserved to be treated as human beings. Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible. He said all this in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind, as I felt a yelling match with my coach over human rights would greatly diminish my chances of remaining employed.
...Near the end of November, several teammates and I were walking into a specialist meeting with Coach Priefer. We were laughing over one of the recent articles I had written supporting same-sex marriage rights, and one of my teammates made a joking remark about me leading the Pride parade. As we sat down in our chairs, Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows." The room grew intensely quiet, and none of the players said a word for the rest of the meeting.
As ESPN's Kevin Seifert observes, these allegations are the most important and interesting part of Kluwe's story if they prove true. Because of bullying and harassment allegations coming out of the Miami Dolphins' locker room, the NFL is already reconsidering and analyzing their workplace policies and definitely instilling harsher policies for unacceptable harassment. When this happens, there will be backlash. The NFL, and professional sports in general, are still vestiges of "old boy" attitudes and many will take affront to the notion that men trained to mercilessly brutalize each other physically may not have to do it verbally. I'm not saying off-color jabs and trash-talk should be off-limits, but I do agree with Seifert when he says "Words are the most powerful weapon in advocating -- and blocking -- social change." A change to the NFL's policies would be a signal of an influential and powerful change. There is a real issue here that Chris Kluwe's rantings may unearth still which we should be focusing on and paying attention to. Let's not hide it behind an easily-disproven story for the sake of having a face to rally around.

No matter how luxurious the hair
attached to that face may be.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Words On Writing Rape Scenes, or: "Just Don't."

Recently, comic writer Mark Millar said something ignorant and disgusting  regarding the rationale for writing a female character being raped. He justifies it as "the same as, like, a decapitation. It’s just a horrible act to show that somebody’s a bad guy." This line of thinking is wrong and disturbing for a number of reasons that people smarter than me have already addressed. (Mainly that women don't live in fear of decapitation, 1 in 3 women won't be decapitated in their life, and that no one has ever blamed a decapitation victim for their own headlessness.) However, there's a massive angle to this which I don't think  is receiving enough consideration, an angle which should be considered whenever anyone thinks about writing a rape scene in fiction. When you write this, you are taking power away from your fictional victim, and giving it TO your fictional aggressor. I realize that this is obviously the idea, but by portraying this in media, most (male) authors aren't considering what this is saying about their characters, or their attitudes.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Words on the Last Words I Wrote, or: Pretending I Have Readers

I just theorized that every person has their own Rory Gilmore, a fictional character that ruined your life by setting  ridiculously high standards. Every person I've spoken to has been able to name their character, the character that ruined our lives. My favorite so far has been a girl who said "Hyde from That '70s Show." (To which I answered: "Give me 10 minutes in a 7/11 parking lot, I will find you Hyde.)

But now, I must ask, who is your Rory Gilmore, dear fake readers?

Words on Fictional Perfection, or: How Alexis Bledel Ruined My Life.

Lately I've been house-sitting for two of my closest friends, and I've discovered that watching a house is not nearly as fun today as it was when I was a teenager. For example, I'm convinced my friends had a conversation recently that contained the sentence "Marty's going to be here, hide all the good food." However, while perusing through their DVD collection, as I am wont to do in any home I enter, I came across a beautiful treasure trove: Five seasons of Gilmore Girls, a fantastic show you should feel ashamed for having never watched. For years, this show has been a guilty pleasure for which I feel no actual guilt, and this discovery felt like reuniting with a long-lost friend. And yet as I tear through episode after episode of my old friend, a sudden realization washes over me. Rory Gilmore has ruined my life.

Words on Facebook, or: The Shayne Lancaster Effect.

I'm feeling surprisingly First-World-Problem irritated over Facebook's new "Lists" feature, so rather than write something original, I dragged out this piece I wrote about Facebook a year ago:

Words on the State of Criticism, or: Why We're All Screwed When Ebert Dies.

Watching the remake of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs this week, I made a note regarding one of the film’s underlying themes that I simply didn’t have time to address in my review.  In addition to the original films observations about violence, sexuality, religion and blaming the victim, this version added a subtext that seemed oddly out of place, a commentary on the average man’s version of Hollywood. Beyond the setting, the second biggest change between this Straw Dogs and the original is the changing of the main character’s occupation from a college mathematician, as played by Dustin Hoffman, to the Hollywood screenwriter that James Marsden plays. At first this change seems minor, just an attempt to portray David as sort of a yuppie, but this fact keeps getting brought up over and over again.  As David does research to write a historical drama about the battle of Stalingrad, one of his hillbilly tormenters asks him “You writin’ or something?” He goes on to inquire if David’s written any action movies, and finally says “What you done that I would’ve seen?” to which David disdainfully replies, “Probably nothing.”  Later, as Kate Bosworth’s character discusses acting in a failed TV show, a slutty cheerleader says “I don’t know how come it’s not on, everyone I know watched it.” Eventually, as our villain asks David “Why would you want to write a movie about a bunch of Russkis?” I decided that this theme exploring Hollywood’s disconnect from American audience had to be so prevalent for a reason.  I did my research and discovered that writer/director Rod Lurie is himself a former film critic. As such, he is fully aware that the lines he put into these character’s mouths are actual feelings expressed by audiences every single day. He is fully aware that there is an anti-intellectual “us vs. them” mentality regarding American audiences’ feeling towards critics, and he is lashing out against it by having these thoughts come from characters we’re meant to look down upon. (Ironically, he’s doing it in a film which seems to be intentionally mismarketed to appeal to the types of audience members he is making fun of.)