Yes Sir, That’s My Diva

On Sunday we were visited by many fabulous contributors to the My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them anthology, as well as their invoked muses. It was a great reading–R. J. Gibson shared his thoughts on Annie Lennox, John Dimes wrote about what’s compelling about Bj√∂rk, Allen Smith reminisced about Jessica Lange, Bill Fogle riffed on Julia Child, and editor Michael Montlack explained his fascination with Stevie Nicks.

I was reminded of the story told to me by a guy I’d dated in college. In high school, he snuck into the stacks of his library where he wouldn’t be disturbed and then, one by one, tore out every picture of Madonna in every magazine in the rack.

Afterward, Beau and I went grocery shopping (the mundane reality of my life: literature! followed by groceries/laundry) but stopped off for a diet-busting juicy cheeseburger at Five Guys. We tried to figure out who our divas would be.

“Well, now, mine would be Gwen,” he said. Naturally, he means Stefani, she of the L.A.M.B. label and genre-blurring dance cuts. We both love No Doubt. I nodded. One of our earliest dates was going to see Gwen on her Sweet Escape tour. My favorite part: in the car, jiggling through the pot-holed parking lot, listening to Gwen, I said something off-handedly (and probably unintentionally) funny. He laughed generously and then burst, “Oh my God, I love you.” He meant it like, “I love you like you’re my cousin,” but he was horrified at having let the l-word slip, covered his mouth, and turned red.

I thought back. “Mine would be Sharon Stone,” I said, remembering my obsession with Basic Instinct in the 90s. And then I remembered what had papered my locker in high school:

Brenda Walsh, aka Shannen Doherty

I was so known for my obsession with Shannen Doherty, in fact, that one day a girl in my school who had flipped through a recent copy of YM and torn out a full-bleed portrait of her and given it to me. “For your collection,” she said, peering at me through her inch-thick glasses. She pressed it onto my chest and then turned and walked away. I added it to the growing collage of Brendas.

I don’t remember particularly enjoying Beverly Hills, 90210, so I’m not even sure where it came from. But I remember rooting for Brenda when I watched. She was whiny and a little frumpy, frequently irrational and often full of gunpowder looking for a fuse.

That she was also a trainwreck in real life only fueled my love for her. She was impulsive! She married a Hamilton! She behaved poorly at work! I longed and longed to be bad like Brenda. One day I skipped choir and went to Burger King in the next town over. It felt good to be bad, I thought. Back at school, the Vice Principal confusedly called me to her office. “You were unexcused from choir today,” she said. “Yeah, I skipped,” I said, almost proudly. She reluctantly handed me a detention notice. “Mr. Fraaza will see you after school.”

I took the notice home and pinned it on my bulletin board. Wow! I was bad. I’d broken a rule. I wasn’t where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there! Brenda would have understood. Then my mom grounded me for getting a detention. She held the slip in face. “This is not a trophy!” she said, her voice shrill. I shifted my weight awkwardly from one foot to another. Brenda never got grounded.

Shannen probably permanently secured my love when she told the producers of Charmed, “Why don’t we lose the tit shots of Alyssa Milano, or else I’ll walk?” And they were like, “No thanks,” and then her character died a sudden death that really ruined the entire arc of the series, and plus created a casting circumstance that resulted in a secret fourth sister (???) in the guise of Rose McGowan. A poor substitute!

Dear Diary, Today I Met the Greatest Guy…and then He Ate Me

So, I know that all of you out there have been waiting with bated breath for my take on the CW’s new series Vampire Diaries because:

a) I am basically a 14-year-old girl
b) I am virtually a PhD-level scholar of the current vampire Zeitgeist
c) You knew there was no way I wasn’t tuning into something set in a high school.

It’s all true.

And let me tell you: Vampire Diaries did not disappoint. In fact, I almost wished it wasn’t about vampires. The moody lighting and great cinematography set the show apart on their own; the fact that the soundtrack rivaled most Noxema commercials didn’t hurt either.

And: it was creepy. It was a little scary because people actually died in the episode, which sets it way far off from (barf) Twilight and most episodes of Buffy and True Blood. And the kids in the show are a little messed up. And it takes place in this creepy little New England town. So a lot of factors are coming together and making it work.

It does read a little on the Dawson’s Creek side, though, thanks to writer Kevin Williamson. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just means the kids talk a lot like grown-ups, which teenagers have the capacity to do (they just often choose not to).

The two vamps on the show are, of course, very Louis and Lestat in terms of their viciousness. One is your typically assimilationist loner who wants to be human while the other, the vicious killer, would rather eat his neighbors than have them over for coffee. And like oil and water, they really don’t mix. Ah! Conflict. Plus, they kind of have eyes for the same girl, who looks strangely like a girl they once knew a couple centuries ago…

While the tropes are getting tired, the delivery isn’t, and that’s what ultimately sets this show apart from absolutely horrifyingly bad drivel like Twilight (don’t even give me that crap that “it’s a good story even though the writing’s bad.” Folks, have you even read a book before?).

Plus, you know, like high school. It’s all, like, evil and stuff.

Glee is Joy

Last night’s “preview” episode of the fall TV series Glee was awesome.

It was fun, was well-written, had some compelling characters, and was–yes–a little moving.

It’s created by Ryan Murphy, who also brought us Nip/Tuck and Popular. Glee builds on a lot of the genius that was Popular, is savvy about high school power dynamics, both faculty and student.

If you never saw Popular, it was the show that developed Sara Rue, Tammy Lynn Michaels, Christopher Gorham, Leslie Bibb, and Wentworth Miller. It took place in a smallish high school where the rift between the haves and have-nots seemed irreperable until…the most popular girl’s dad marries the most “non-conformist” girl’s mom and the two mortal enemies are forced to share a house, a life, and worst of all–a bathroom.

Who didn’t love Tammy Lynn Michaels’s dastardly evil Glamazon cheerleader Nicole Julian, whose persecution of the less fortunate was as inspired as it was horrifying? Or Texan pageant queen Mary Cherry, whose slow murder of the English idiom was rivaled only by her enormous bee-stung lips and hypnotic eyes? And Lily Esposito (recently appeared in a “your butt called me” Blackberry commercial), whose impassioned activism for liberal causes encouraged her to briefly flirt with the liberal cause of lesbianism?

Popular was brilliant for its fearlessness and its willingness to upset the entire reality of its universe again and again. It was sincere and campy above all else. The mighty fell over and over, the meek inherited the earth (and had it taken from them a few episodes later). Bridges were burned and tentatively reconstructed, then burned again. It never failed to be enjoyable.

I have these same high hopes for Glee when it returns full-time in the fall.