Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pink Ribbons, Inc., and Wish Me Away: new documentaries

I have two documentaries to share - the first I saw several weeks ago and the other more recently.

Pink Ribbons, Inc. can be watched on Logo’s “What!?” series online. You don’t have to agree with every argument made in the film to take seriously the main themes: the depoliticization of the approach to breast cancer, the hijacking of this effort by corporations and their shaping of the research priorities, and the terrible “survivor” mentality that pervades this culture.

The second is Wish Me Away,

a touching film which tells the story of country singer Chely Wright as she prepares to come out as gay. I have a few observations about this film, aside from recommending it….

First, religion is unsurprisingly a major aspect of the story. Wright is a Christian who recognizes the sources of bigotry against gay people in her religion, but at the same time believes that her strength ultimately resides there. I remember someone a while back talking about Christianity as akin to an abusive relationship, in which people are told that they’re fundamentally awful BUT, amazingly, their god loves them (or they're only wonderful insofar as their god loves them). It’s all false, and the manipulation is detestable.

Second is Wright’s relationship to feminism. She’s right that a gay woman and even a gay activist doesn’t have to be a feminist, and of course not any specific vision of a feminist. This makes for tensions in her struggles with her book editor, and I smile at her “I’m a pop tart!” assertion of her identity. At the same time, she needs to examine the complexities of…poptartism and other conservative ideas in the same way she does homophobia.

Finally, it’s striking how much the quality of her music seems to improve in the course of her embracing her identity and resisting. To be sure, the early songs featured in the film are the pop hits, but still the songs about her experience living and coming out as a gay woman are far superior to her previous work. To me, this music (“you’re only shouting over you” is a great lyric) shows the promise of country, whose militancy and heartbreak have been strangled by bigotry and bosses. If country could reclaim real rebellion, it could be a fruitful and wonderful art form.

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