Thursday, September 06, 2007

Michael Medved Should Stick To Movie Reviews, Too.

I have vague memories, as a kid, of reading The Golden Turkey Awards and the Hollywood Hall of Shame. Making fun of bad movies is entertaining stuff, and reading people make fun of bad movies is almost as good, especially if you are, as I was, a smartass 14-year-old. Those two worthy tomes were the work of Harry and Michael Medved, the latter of whom was at the time a pretty well-known film critic. Sometimes I'd catch him on "At The Movies," which if I remember right had as co-host Rex Reed. Which must have been pretty weird on the set, given the kind of homophobic projection Medved displays here:

The ignominious fall of Senator Larry Craig casts new light on the importance of the nation’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning open homosexuals from military service.

It ... does?

If preventing public sex in airport men’s rooms is important enough to
justify the deployment of undercover cops, isn’t it similarly significant to
avoid, at all costs, sexual encounters in military latrines?

Not sure about this "at all costs" business. Using undercover cops seems like a pretty low-cost solution to the airport-men's-room problem, really, although you could certainly argue that there are more important things for the airport police to be doing. Likewise, I hear the military has "Military Police" - perhaps they could look into this problem at little additional cost.
Imagine the impact on morale and unit cohesion if two guys from the same barracks engaged in toe-tapping hanky-panky (and perhaps much more) while occupying adjacent bathroom stalls in the military facilities?
Yeah, good thing that's never happened. Also, what if two guys from entirely different barracks did it? It'd be like the Sharks and the Jets, only with M16s and hand grenades.
Of course, advocates for gays in the military will insist that any such indulgence would involve a violation of the rules, with offenders facing stiff, severe consequences. But the impact of gay GI’s on bathroom atmospherics doesn’t just stem from the real chance of actual sex acts in the latrine, it involves whole sexualization of one of the most frequented and important conveniences on any base.
"Stiff" consequences? "Whole sexualization"? What are you trying to say, Mike?

Also, "bathroom atomspherics"? Your objection is aesthetic? I would have gone with "Sex in public is bad, mmmkay?" but ... let's see where you're taking this.
If openly gay males do nothing to compromise restroom integrity and security, why not invite female soldiers into men’s bathrooms, or open the door of women’s facilities to males? Surely, the same rules that would, theoretically, prevent gay men from hassling other men in the head would prevent hetero males from harassing women (or vice verse). Just as a gay male in the military would receive punishment for bathroom misbehavior, so to a straight guy could be busted for making improper overtures to women in the ladies room – but that wouldn’t make him any more welcome in a female facility.
There are a lot of responses to this, but the first one that springs to mind is that there are already gay soldiers using the same latrine as their straight brothers-in-arms. Thus far, I've not heard of any cases where gay soldiers hanging out in the barracks toilet raped someone. There are, however, lots of reports of female soldiers being raped when they use the latrine at night. Which suggests that being gay isn't the same thing as being a woman, which Medved apparently needs to have pointed out. He also needs to have it pointed out that Craig and men like him don't identify as gay; letting openly gay guys serve in the military has no bearing on whether repressed closet cases serve, now or tomorrow.

I've said this before, and I'll probably have to say it again, but fear of punishment is not the only or most important factor in keeping people in line. It's socialization. The social structure of the military isn't going to be conducive to gay cruising anytime soon, and if it were - well, again. They're called "Military Police."
The problem isn’t just the chance of molestation, it’s the radical change of mood and sensibility if you know you may be checked out as a sex object at a very private moment (of urination or defecation) when most normal people prefer to avoid any and all thoughts of physical intimacy. A bathroom becomes a vastly more uncomfortable and even menacing place if it’s used for sexual encounters, whether those connections involve gay or straight sexuality.
I'll defer to his apparently greater experience in this area, but I think it's appropriate to note that women get "checked out as a sex object" all the time. He doesn't seem to understand how, if the bathroom is uncomfortable and menacing if it's used for either gay or straight sex, his point about how "teh gayz r destroye amerika!" is invalidated. It's the "sex in public," not the "gay," that's the problem.
In a column in Sunday’s New York Times, Laura MacDonald insists that toilet sex never involves one-sided, unwanted attentions. According to the research she cites (based on “a groundbreaking dissertation” of a doctoral candidate at Washington University nearly 30 years ago) “a straight man would be left alone after that first tap or cough or look went unanswered. The initiator does not want to be beaten up or arrested or chased by teenagers, so he engages in safeguards to ensure that any physical advance will be reciprocated.”
Certainly in the case of Larry Craig, the arresting officer did nothing to discourage the Senator’s attentions until the very moment of the arrest and almost certainly invited his advances. The near unanimous revulsion regarding the incident (from Republican and Democrat, gay and straight alike) therefore has nothing to do with sexual assault or attempted rape, or any notion of the mild-mannered, bespectacled 62-year-old legislator somehow forcing himself on the burly, buff and much younger cop.
Since the cop was there undercover as part of a sting, discouraging Craig would have been pretty counterproductive. Also, the cop just sat on the toilet until Craig slipped his hand under the stall; at what earlier point does Medved think he should have said "Whoa, there. I'm not like that!" I submit (again) that at least the liberal disgust with the behavior has nothing to do with the sex per se, but with the "in public" part of the program.

Also, that last sentence is kind of hot. Maybe Medved can rework it into a film treatment.

The disgust for the three term Senate toe-tapper arises instead from the very association of men’s rooms and amorous meet-ups, of toilet stalls and sex acts. We have a common and compelling interest in keeping such places free of erotic tension and that’s why we dispatch police officers to patrol public rest stations—even though they’re hardly needed to prevent outright assaults.

I'm not sure we have a "compelling interest" in keeping anywhere "free of erotic tension." Free of public sex, maybe.

And if regular users of airport or public park facilities have a right to escape suggestive glances or inviting gestures that can poison an already fetid atmosphere, how much more so do young recruits (many of them eighteen or nineteen years old) the same right to avoid similar attentions (or even suspicions) from their fellow soldiers in the intimate quarters necessitated by military service? It’s no wonder that despite some fifteen years of relentless propaganda, most high ranking members of the armed services remain unconvinced that we should alter regulations to allow participation of open homosexuals.
I submit that no "right to escape suggestive glances" exists, and if it did you could probably arrest half the country every Friday night. It's not clear why the age of the soldiers is relevant - presumably all the hot gay sex Medved is worried about would be just as rampant among the older soldiers. Maybe the younger guys are also "burly and buff," like the cop. And although it's true that "most high ranking members of the armed services" are opposed to openly gay servicemen, it's mostly a generational thing. Those guys are in their 40s, 50s and 60s. They grew up in a much more homophobic society, and they were socialized to that standard. Younger soldiers, surveys show, don't much care. Most younger Americans don't much care; they've been socialized in a culture that's been partially shaped by that "fifteen years of relentless propaganda" Medved refers to.
The national shudder of discomfort and queasiness associated with any introduction of homosexual eroticism into public men’s rooms should make us more determined than ever to resist the injection of those lurid attitudes into the even more explosive situation of the U.S. military.

Again, Mike, it's not the homosexuality. It's the "public" part of "public men's room."

Medved was a sometimes funny and insightful movie reviewer. It's a shame he doesn't demonstrate the same gifts as a political and cultural commentator. Perhaps he should go back to the gig he's good at.