“It starts with the eyes”: The Homoeroticism of Fast and Furious

April 22, 2009 at 8:30 am (Analysis) (, )

Here’s a confession: I love the Fast and the Furious franchise.

Actually, no, that’s not entirely true. I’ve never seen 2 Fast 2 Furious (text message spelling in titles is a pretty big turnoff for my inner grammarian), and, as it lacks even my most shallow reason for loving the movies (Paul Walker’s pretty, pretty face), I don’t think I’ll ever bother to see Tokyo Drift. But I love the first movie, and, after two viewings, I’ve decided I love the most recent movie, too. Don’t get me wrong — they’re not art. The acting is bad and the scripts are worse. But I love the stupid car chases, I love the insanely attractive cast, I love the big dumb fun of it all, and I love the themes of betrayal and loyalty, two of my favorite fictional tropes, that run throughout.

And most of all, I love that the movies are really, really gay.

At the core of every good joke is a grain of truth, and there’s a reason Saturday Night Live‘s The Fast and the Bi-Curious sketch has received so much internet popularity. There’s just something inherently homoerotic about guys getting sweaty together in garages and racing each other through the streets in giant fuel-injected phallic metaphors.

But that’s the easy interpretation — the SNL interpretation, the joke interpretation. And while I enjoy that aspect of the film as much as the next person, what I really love about the films is the undeniable emotional core. The Fast and the Furious — and, to an even greater extent, the new Fast and Furious — is a love story between Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel).

(Extensive spoilers for the recent film below.)

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Books and Reading Meme

April 20, 2009 at 8:35 am (Meme) ()

I’ve seen this meme floating around (most recently at my good friend Caroline’s new blog), and, in the interest of sharing more about myself with my readers, as well as creating more content for this blog, I figured I’d fill it out myself.

1. What author do you own the most books by?

To get this out of the way, first and foremost: I read a lot of children’s and YA fiction. My favorites from childhood are still some of my favorites to this day. I went to Princeton, I majored in English, I’ve read and enjoyed the grown-up classics. But this list is liable to include literature meant for readers under the age of 15.

So the answer to this first question is K.A. Applegate, author of the Animorphs series. I own every book, and between the regular series and all the specials, that’s over 60.

2. What book do you own the most copies of?

I… don’t buy multiple copies of books? I honestly can’t think of a single book I own multiple copies of, and if I do, it’s not on purpose.

Oh, wait, I own two copies of The Devil in Vienna, because my copy was falling apart and my library was selling its copy. So, that.

3. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?

Secretly? I pretty openly confess to all of my fictional crushes. I mean, I don’t think there’s a straight woman alive who isn’t in love with Mr. Darcy, right?

4. What book have you read more than any other?

Oh, this is tough. I’m not a big re-reader. Probably The Devil in Vienna, a fictionalized Holocaust memoir for young adults, told in the letters and diary entries of two friends (one Jewish, one the daughter of a Nazi official) torn apart by the war.

5. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?

I really can’t remember. Roald Dahl’s The Magic Finger, perhaps? If we go to an even younger age, my favorite book was Mrs. Peloki’s Class Play, a picture book about a 3rd grade class putting on a production of Cinderella.

6. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?

Worst? I don’t think I’ve read any books that were bad. I’ve read books I didn’t enjoyThe Faerie Queene, for instance — but I’m not calling Edmund Spenser’s hugely influential romantic poem bad.

I did find myself seriously underwhelmed by David Lubar’s Dunk, my students’ summer reading assignment that I read over the summer. It was a YA book about a New Jersey kid’s summer on the boardwalk and desire to be the clown in the dunk tank, which should have been right up my alley, but it was full of cheap characterization shortcuts and the ending was far too neat for the conflicts set up. Plus, I seriously disagreed with its overall belief that making fun of people is in any way empowering or appropriate.

7. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

That is HARD. I’ll cheat and say that the combination of Tom Perrotta’s Bad Haircut and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies inspired me to start writing a book of interconnected short stories, because those (very different) books showed me just how well such a thing can be done.

That said, I’m in the middle of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay right now, so my answer could change in a few weeks.

8. If you could tell everyone reading this to read one book, what would it be?

I’m not sure I could universally recommend any one book to everyone — there are some people who are bound to hate whatever I choose, based on probability alone.

However, I will say that The Sun Also Rises is worth a shot for pretty much anyone. If you already like Hemingway, you’ll love this, and if you hate Hemingway (as I did before reading this novel), you’ll be very pleasantly surprised. It’s pretty much my favorite book — in the top 5, at least — and I never would have anticipated that.

9. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

I’m not sure I’m a good judge of that. I’m pretty confident I could read any book put before me, and if I struggled it would be due more to disinterest than difficulty. I suppose I had some difficulty with the language in The Faerie Queene, and it was pretty difficult to follow the bizarre structure of Pale Fire, but that’s the closest I can think of.

10. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

I… honestly don’t think I’ve ever read anything by either. I read Brits and Americans almost exclusively, because I find that translated work almost never works for me. No matter how competent the translator is, I feel like something’s missing.

11. Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?

Shakespeare! I appreciate Milton’s skill, but I can’t honestly say I was engaged by Paradise Lost, and Chaucer is fun in classes but not something I’m going to pick up for pleasure reading. However, I would read the complete works of any of those three before I would ever read another word of Spenser.

12. Austen or Eliot?

I’ve never read Eliot, and I love Austen to death, and this is therefore the easiest question on this whole meme.

13. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?

I have… some pretty huge gaps for someone with an Ivy League degree in this stuff. Like, poetry, in general, which I’ve never been particularly into. And the aforementioned French and Russians.

14. What is your favorite novel?

I’ve already mentioned both my nostalgic favorite, The Devil in Vienna, and my other favorite, The Sun Also Rises, so I’ll take this opportunity to give love to Great Expectations. I ❤ Dickens.

15. Play?

Oh, that’s tough. Othello is my favorite Shakespeare, probably, though Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing come close. And as far as non-Shakespeare plays go, I recently read and fell in love with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and I absolutely adore The Crucible, so… too tough to call, really.

16. Poem?

I really don’t think I have one, since I’m not very interested in poetry. My favorite poetry tends to be of the witty and rhyming sort — limericks and such, Dorothy Parker, etc.

17. Essay?

I must have one. I know I must. But I’ll be damned if I can think of it right now.

18. Short Story?

Ack! Don’t make me choose. Short stories may be my favorite fictional medium. I could literally choose any of the stories in Bad Haircut or Interpreter of Maladies; I could choose all of Poe and O. Henry’s and Francesca Lia Block’s short form work; I could choose any number of fairy tale adaptations. Honestly, nothing stands out as an absolute best, and it would be a slight against all of my other favorites to choose one.

19. Non Fiction

I really don’t tend to read a lot of non-memoir nonfiction for pleasure, and much of what I read for school I had to skim because of time constraints. That said, the bits of Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters: America During the King Years that I read in a 1950s class were beautifully written and extremely informative about the Civil Rights Movement, and I eventually plan to read the whole thing. I’ve also really liked the bits of Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On that I’ve read.

20. Graphic Novel?

I’m going to take this as “favorite book best known as a graphic novel,” because I read way too many superhero comics to choose between them. So I’ll go with Maus, which was technically my first graphic novel, and is utterly brilliant.

21. Science Fiction?

Can the Animorphs series as a whole count? If it can’t, I’ll say The Andalite Chronicles, by far the best special novel in the series.

22. Who is your favorite writer?

You know, I thought about this for awhile, and though there are authors I love — Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Tom Perrotta — the only author whose books I’ve read in a huge quantity that were not part of a series and that never once displeased me… is Roald Dahl. The man could do no wrong when it came to children’s fiction. (Runner up goes to Francesca Lia Block, whose prose shouldn’t work and yet always, always does.)

23. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

If I don’t like (or don’t think I’ll like) an author, I don’t read them, so I’m not really capable of judging what authors might be overrated.

24. What are you reading right now?

As mentioned before, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I’m amazed I haven’t read it before, as it contains pretty much all of my favorite literary topics: comic books, the Holocaust, and homosexuality. I’m about 100 pages in and adoring it so far, so we’ll see how it goes.

25. Best Memoir?

I’ve read a lot of Holocaust memoirs, and I’m not sure I could choose between them. So I’ll go in a different direction and say Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Wait Till Next Year, a wonderful story about childhood and baseball in the 1950s.

26. Best History?

Let’s just say Parting the Waters again, though if historical fiction counts I could probably come back with a pretty long list, as I spent most of my childhood reading that.

27. Best Mystery or Noir?

Very much not my genre. I… am not sure I could even name, off the top of my head, a mystery or noir story I’ve read, besides Farewell, My Lovely (which I disliked). Sorry!

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The Toilet Business

April 6, 2009 at 9:30 am (real life) (, )

It seems I overestimated the amount I’d have to say on this blog. The job hunt has been stressful, and while I’ve still been chugging away over at Fantastic Fangirls, working up the energy to write posts on other topics has been difficult.

However, I hope that will change soon, because I am finally — at least for 8 weeks — employed, and I’ve just completed the first 9-5 work week of my life.

It isn’t thrilling work. It’s boring temp data entry, the rite of passage of young professionals everywhere. I stare at numbers all day long and plug them into a spreadsheet. But my coworkers are nice, the office is clean and has unlimited free tea and isn’t too far away, and I’m getting paid, which is more than I’ve been able to say since… well, since the summer.

Also, it involves toilets.

Here’s the thing: my whole family is in the toilet business. My father, who’s always dreamed of becoming a plumber (yes, seriously) finally became a pipefitter recently, and he does all kinds of plumbing maintenance for his corporation. My mother, a bookkeeper, works for a company that outfits public bathrooms with stall partitions, toilet paper holders, and other paraphernalia. And my brother works for a company that, while not explicitly toilet-related, is affiliated with the company for which I now work: a national manufacturer of toilets, sinks, and other plumbing equipment.

It’s easy to laugh at. I mean, my family spends every day quite literally dealing with other people’s shit. But at the same time, it fills me with a bit of pride. Because each of us, in our own way, is working on something important — something absolutely necessary for the comfort of human beings (at least in first world countries). My ultimate goal, as most people know, is to work in publishing, or, perhaps, to go to grad school and become an academic in the field of media and cultural studies. In my wildest dreams, I hope to someday publish a book. But I know that, no matter what I accomplish in those fields, it won’t benefit nearly as many people, in nearly as fundamental a way, as my work indexing toilet parts for my current employer.

And that? Is pretty damn cool.

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