Tuesday 15 October 2013

In or out

Two first episodes fronted by two queer people; Grayson Perry in the old fashioned sense, and Stephen Fry in the modern.

Stephen Fry’s reviews are varied. I thought the Sam Wollaston in the Guardian was trying too hard to be amusing, and the Telegraph’s Rupert Hawksley was trying not to be.

Notable moments were the gay wedding, which apparently made Stephen tearful: 
Stephen (Fry) sheds a not totally convincing tear. Come on, you didn't even know them until five minutes ago …” said Sam Wollaston in the Guardian.
His chat with Elton and David was also of interest to that reviewer. It was queer, in all the senses of the word. I mean, they didn’t even mention that at one time Elton had been married to a German woman called Renate Blauel.   In the context it seemed relevant. One can’t help being drawn, out of curiosity, to Elton’s hair, which looked nice and shiny, but he and David are caricature gays in the old fashioned as well as the modern sense. A queen and her lady in waiting. 

Stephen Fry is okay at doing travelogues, and the travelogue aspect of the programme was okay. The drawback was his hectoring, as Rupert Hawksley says in the Telegraph.
“As a homosexual man himself, it was entirely understandable that Fry took the poisonous opinions he encountered in Uganda and Los Angeles as personal attacks. Nonetheless, I was surprised at how quickly he allowed himself to be drawn into a slanging match, his gravitas deserting him minutes into a debate with Ugandan pastor Solomon Male. It was all much too shouty and felt like the opportunity for instructive discussion had been lost. Later, in an invective-filled session with the Ugandan State Minister for Integrity and Ethics, Fry resorted to childish taunts: “Homosexuality is fantastic. You should try it, it’s really good fun.” This, surely, was not the best way to counter deep-rooted prejudice.”

I thought it was worse than that. Fry’s subjectivity sabotaged the impact such an encounter might otherwise have had. His shrill histrionics ruined the effect. Confronting these religiously indoctrinated African men, heavily burdened with all the sexual taboos and superstitions of the dark ages and their misogynistic attitude to women and expecting them to understand and empathise with Fry’s ‘Mills and Boone’ picture of homosexual romance was foolish. Predictably, a tirade on the immorality, complete with a graphic account of the mechanics of gay sex was all that the Pastor and the State Minister for Integrity and ethics could summon up. Too much information ensued.
The camera caught some interesting shots of men in the street just walking along. Only it was in California, and their ever so slightly lady-like strides implied ‘gay’. The doctor who mistakenly thought he could re-direct gay sexuality back to the straight and narrow  was only trying to help, after all, but he had a distinctly gay manner himself. In fact everyone everywhere now seems potentially gay.
Some of my best friends... my own mixed feelings  have nothing to do with morality. It’s only that I find the sloppy, effeminate, pantomime dame stuff hard to take seriously, especially when it’s so unPC to mention it, let alone joke about it. 
Talking of which.  Grayson Perry got pretty good reviews for the first part of his Reith lecture. It was entertaining, and he was a fluent speaker, till his tendency to leave off the final ‘t’ every time he said ‘art’ began to grate.I don’t know that I agree wholly with Ruth Dudley Edwards in the Telegraph 
that he was mocking the art establishment, which would be biting the hand that feeds him. He did outline the current situation but anyone who’s interested knows much of that already. He realises that he is part of a serendipitous  elite, and that but for his dressing-up antics he might not have been noticed at all. It could all have been a cynical ploy, drawing attention to himself in the manner of (a less imaginative) Leigh Bowery.

As Gillian Reynolds says, he’s obviously a clever man. There is a hell of a lot more to the art world than he tackled this morning. I hope he manages to cover some of it in future episodes.  There’s a layer below the metro-centric art world of dealers, collectors and make-or-break curators. For example there are provincial galleries, some commercial, some subsidised by the Arts Council, each with their own set of problems.  There are painters and craftspersons out there making a living, selling their work to customers who actually want to hang it on their wall the old fashioned way, giving hardly a thought to whether or not it’s monetary value will appreciate or turn to junk.  

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