Gays vs. “Gals” – Recognising the Common Enemy

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It is interesting what a weekly gossip and catch-up session can uncover. Amongst the social hubbub of drowned out voices and the clattering of teacups found regularly in one of my favourite haunts; the Costa Café hidden inside Waterstones, a friendly discussion between myself and my close friend Bryony took place. The question, you may ask, was most likely one that very few would even think to consider. As a gay man and a straight woman (please ignore the cliché) we discussed which group had been more oppressed in Britain; the rape of one’s wife was once legal whereas homosexual men have been arrested and even killed for their sexuality and both still find derogatory terms used towards them and are generally treated differently than the dominant heterosexual man.

Of course this discussion was in jest but it remains a curious thing that we both felt the need to compare a form of sexuality against a gender instead of seeing the similarities in our oppression. After coming to a stalemate, we finally came to the agreement that we should not be discussing the oppression of different groups but instead uniting against a common enemy; patriarchal Britain. I must make it clear, I do not mean all heterosexual men form this hegemonic ideology against women and gays but that it is generally societal norms and conservative views continued from generations before which have led to the continued subjugation we argued about.

In fact, it is difficult to pinpoint certain forms of sexism and homophobia as you truly cannot put oneself in another’s shoes exactly unless, of course, you are both. Since I am a male who defines himself as a feminist, I was shocked to discover that there were certain sexist things that I had not picked up on which Bryony had opened my eyes to. One of these revelations was that female tennis players are discussed by the commentators for what they wear as well as their relationships with men (Eugenie Bouchard’s interview at the Australian Open this year about which celebrity she would like to date comes to mind).

Men (and women) are naïve to so many forms of sexism because we have grown up surrounded by it at all times and so can find it problematic to identify it. Similarly, homophobia can sometimes be dismissed easily as well because it can be left unnoticed or unchallenged; the most obvious example seen within schools is the word ‘gay’ being used for describing something as negative, wrong or simply as an insult. But how many people notice how the majority of homosexual men are stereotypically portrayed on television, if at all, or how homosexuality is described in rap music? With lyrics such as ‘You fags think it’s all a game’ and ‘so gay I can barely say it with a ‘straight’ face’ in Eminem’s ‘Rap God’ it is clear that homosexuality remains stigmatized. I don’t mean to accuse Eminem or the majority of rappers of homophobia but rather blame society for allowing the practice of using homosexuality in derogatory terms, which rap exemplifies due to its gritty style.

From a childish argument between two best friends, a rather serious issue of overall oppression from heterosexual patriarchy was revealed. It is too easy to remain self-indulged in how the groups we belong to have been oppressed in both the past and present but we must open our eyes to how others are also being oppressed, after all, we both want the same outcome; a society that treats us all as equals no matter our gender and sexuality. If we accepted the fact that heterosexual patriarchal Britain oppresses all then we can join together to destabilize a repressive, backwards view from infecting another generation. It has been over 200 years; don’t you think it is time for a change?

Arcade Fire’s “We Exist”, but is Transgender being portrayed correctly?

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I first heard Arcade Fire from the Hunger Games Soundtrack with their soldier-like marching track named “Abraham’s Daughter” however; the Canadian band first came to prominence in 2002 with their debut album Funeral. Their latest track “We Exist” has hit the headlines for its music video, featuring Andrew Garfield, which attempts to show someone attempting to come to terms with their self-identified gender as well as the difficulties they face for being a transgender in a society which does not truly understand it and is therefore out of the cultural norm. The video could not have been released at a better time in Europe than when it was due to the celebration of the drag queen Conchita Wurst’s victory in winning the 2014 Denmark Eurovision title.

Andrew Garfield is a British actor with a dual citizenship with the United States and is most known from his role as Peter Parker in the Amazing Spider-Man franchise – it is no surprise for Garfield to accept a role in playing a transgender woman as he has already expressed his support for the legalisation of same-sex marriage and starred in a gay marriage-themed play in 2006 called Beautiful Thing having commented in The Times in 2013 that “There is no argument against equality. How can anyone argue against compassion and understanding?”. Although transgender is sometimes confused with someone’s sexual orientation, it is not the same.  Transgender is the state of one’s gender identity rather than which gender they prefer to be in a relationship with, it is these common misconceptions which suggest why transsexuals and transgenders alike are not fully understood by the people around them. However, is music videos the answer to informing the mass public? Are there portrayals of transgenders as positive as someone who is not transgender believes they are? In order to discuss this I will be calling Garfield’s character by the gender they identify with; female.

Although the music video begins promising with Garfield shaving his hair off looking apprehensive to how they might be perceived for what she is about to do and changing into women’s clothes where she begins to smile yet still changing clothes a number of times due to the worry about how people will react. More so, the scene whereby she is watched by everyone in the bar as she enters adds symbolic imagery to the video about always feeling stared at before she is harassed by a group of drunken men where Garfield is beaten. This all presents a worryingly realistic “story of a young person’s struggle with gender identity” as Arcade Fire has claimed. Afterwards however, the video takes an  unexpected turn in adding some fairly tacky and stereotypical ‘bears’ as back up dancers which adds a form of surrealism that makes the video lose its grasp on presenting a serious social issue.

Although any free market corporation such as the music business can be argued to be in it simply for profit and just wants to hit a niche audiences such as the transgender community, by using a fairly known actor such as Andrew Garfield who does not identify himself as transgender to dress up as a woman and act the part well has added mediated attention to the issue at hand. In fact, it has gotten people such as myself to write about the social anxieties installed upon transgender lives as well as gotten it into everyday conversation. So, whether or not Arcade Fire did it for the niche market revenue does not fully matter as music videos such as “We Exist” can be applauded for helping a large proportion of the public to actually find out what being transgender means and in doing so allow transgender to exist without fear.

Carluccio’s, Gunwharf Quays

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Having set our eyes (and stomachs) on Pizza Express and realising how busy the restaurant was, me and my boyfriend were pleasantly surprised to find the new Carluccio’s tucked away from the other major chain restaurants that reside on Portsmouth’s waterfront. With a rather enticing fixed price menu of £10.95 we decided to give the newly established diner a chance. We were both glad we did.

The customer service was excellent, within minutes we had been greeted and seated and were able to order what we fancied quickly. Additionally, the waitresses were friendly and approachable. What I loved most about the service however was how each one of the servers kept their own personalities as they worked. Most restaurants I have been to keep a rather professional and formal approach to orders whereas this one allowed for the customers to make a closer connection to their server.

Carluccio’s has a selection of red, white, sparkling and rosé wines some of which are exclusive to the restaurant. Perhaps limited in its bottled beer range which appeared to only sell different Peroni products, Carluccio’s made up for it with the sizes of the beer you could order with the largest bottle being 660ml. After a short wait with our drinks already poured and opened, our starters were put in front of us. My ‘Primi’ of Focaccia All’Aglio described in the menu as chargrilled garlic bread was delicious, however, it became evident that the pair of rather large pieces of bread were too much for one customer. My boyfriend on the other hand, enjoyed his marinated olives which were fresh and did not follow the tradition of some restaurants which buy their brine-drowned olives in bulk from a supermarket. The restaurant therefore delivered on their promise that each dish uses the freshest seasonal ingredients and it wasn’t applied simply to the starter either. My main of Penne Alla Luganica; a spicy sausage sauce with penne pasta, was evidently fresh which made the dish a joy to savour and eat. Since the rest of the meal had been so successful, both I and my partner decided to risk pudding and Carluccio’s did not hold out. The desserts we chose were both a delight to eat. Their melt in the mouth tiramisu was one of the best I have tried, second only to authentic restaurants in Italy. Additionally, their Crostata Al Limone; a lemon tart was also tasty; however, similar to the starter, an entire tart was perhaps too rich for one person but a perfect choice to decide on as a sharer while on a date.

Carluccio’s proved itself to be a great surprise location for a date night not only because of its quality of food and filling dishes but because of its atmosphere. Candle lit dinners coupled with the opportunity for quiet, personal discussions allowed for a romantic atmosphere. Additionally, the ferries coming into the harbour and the Spinnaker Tower juxtaposed with pictures of Florentine rooftops gave the restaurant a rather beautiful and serene quality which makes Carluccio’s unique.

Having started as a fall back choice, Carluccio’s will certainly be our first choice for a romantic Italian date in Gunwharf Quays perhaps ahead of certain other chain Italian restaurants which are increasing in price and decreasing in quality.

For a full menu of this establishment please  visit the Gunwharf Quays menu

Movie review: ‘X-Men: Days Of Future Past’

9/10

The newest film in the X-Men franchise has arrived, linking the original trilogy and its prelude, X-Men: First Class, together in an attempt to combine some of the audience’s favourite characters. With stars such as Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman and Ellen Page reprising their super-powered roles, the film features a narrative where mutants are near extinct, in a future reminiscent of Nazi Germany, due to the actions of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).

In order to change the future, the small number of mutants left attempt to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 using Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) newly-discovered and somewhat unexplained ability of merging one’s consciousness into a younger version of themselves in the past. In this sense, X-Men: Days Of Future Past vaguely follows the 1981 comic book of the same name, in which Kitty sends her own mind back in time to prevent an apocalyptic future. It is also refreshing to see an X-Men film which does not entirely focus on Wolverine but on the relationship between Professor X (James McAvoy/Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender/Ian McKellen).

Much to the excitement of comic book fans everywhere, the infamous sentinels are portrayed as the main threat to the X-Men in this film. Those who are unsure of these villains should be aware that they are robots created by Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) to police mutants and detain them. However, they work too effectively and are eventually used to kill anyone who is a mutant and those who attempt to help them.

What makes these villains so significant however is how they allow both Xavier’s X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood Of Mutants to work together in order to determine their own survival, as presented wonderfully in the film through the breathtaking portrayal of the unstoppable sentinels in the future.

X-Men:Days Of Future Past takes a rather more gritty approach than the former films, with a number of onscreen deaths in the post-apocalyptic future. With that in mind, the action scenes are excellently rendered and, despite its tendency to switch between past and future quickly, the story is fairly easy to follow. The colours added in post-production differentiate the contrasting time periods; scenes set during the 1970s are vibrant and colourful, whereas the scenes set in the future are tinted darker, giving the impression that the future had no hope for mutantkind, and giving a nostalgic feeling to the past.

Days Of Future Past makes up for Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen’s last X-Men appearance, The Last Stand, which was seen to ruin the franchise for a number of people. X-Men: Days Of Future Past uses time-travel as a means to whitewash over the events that had occurred in previous films.

It should be mentioned that if you are unaware of any of the previous X-Men films, this movie may not be the best to watch first; it relies heavily on knowledge of the preceding films. With that in mind, X-Men: Days Of Future Past neatly packages the entire franchise together to allow for the announced film X-Men: Apocalypse, as hinted by the appearance of the super mutant in the post-credit scene.

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