Friday, February 29, 2008

Some disconnected thoughts

1. I spent several hours with Lindsay and Eric cleaning out the seminar room. It made me feel very useful and productive. Usually when I go on these cleaning binges, I do it alone, but both Lindsay and Eric seem to share my bizarre compulsion to overhaul storage spaces. This is a wonderful thing.

2. It occurred to me out of nowhere, a few minutes ago, that I need to revise my long-held definition of nerd-dom. I had believed that nerd-dom relied on obsession with any one thing that wasn't sports or sex (or maybe politics). For example, a band nerd is obsessed with marching band. A scifi nerd is obsessed with Star Trek or Robert Heinlein. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Some would call this geek-dom or dork-dom; for the moment the terminology is not what interests me. What interests me is that I have discovered another exception to this general law: gay men are allowed to be obsessed. In fact, gay men are expected to be obsessed with something. Ketchup knows every episode of Golden Girls by name and season; this doesn't make him a Golden Girls geek, but instead a Golden Girls queen.

This puts me in a strange place. I am a scholar studying musical theater. This makes me a musical theater dork. I am also a gay man who obsessively devours musicals. This makes me a musical theater queen. Which identity is the most relevant one? How do I align myself?

Also, does this similarity indicate something deeper? Is the parallel between gay and nerd stereotypes reflective of some underlying feminization? Normally I'd be happy to uncover another layer of patriarchal oppression, but I don't think this stereotype applies to "women" in general, so I can't see how it's a feminization.

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer may be the greatest achievement of television. I just re-watched "Teacher's Pet" from the first season, and I'd forgotten some of the details. It's brilliant: a perfect blend of comedy, horror, and careful emotional manipulation. Buffy's brief touching moment with her science teacher really punched me in the gut; that's what teachers should do. And then he got eaten by a preying mantis.

To inject a bit of musicology into my Buffy watching: when Miss French first enters, the music is drum heavy, not in a rock way, but in a generically pseudo-African tribal way. Perfect for her image as Exotic Other, the unfamiliar sexy woman with untraceable accent and vaguely non-white features. Sigh. Reminds me unpleasantly of yesterday's Messiaen class, but also really shows how much the whole Buffy creative team knows what they're doing.

Okay, I just looked up the actress who played Miss French. How's this for an irony: she's actually South African. She doesn't just look foreign; she comes from the "Dark Continent." What an amazing personification of all the things that supposedly threaten a young, white, straight, American man: a sexy, older, African (not black, sadly) woman stranger, suddenly in an authority position. The actress is a dancer too; that just adds another layer of physicality to fear. And of course, she eats virgins and bites their heads off. Vagina dentata much?

4. I think it's time to 'go public' with this blag. I need to go back and clean old posts of incriminating names and situations, and then I can add this website to my facebook page. I think I've reached this decision because I feel far more emotionally comfortable than I did when I started. Thanks to Leila, Claudie, Amy, and Xandra for getting me there.

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