Film

From the Archives: From Russia with Hate

In 2013, Russia enacted a vindictive “gay propaganda law” which demonised and imperilled its queer citizens. Now in an ironic twist, Vladmir Putin faces a potential schism with one of his most ardent supporters, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, over allegations of a campaign of violence against the Russian republic’s gay men.

In April of this year, Novaya Gazeta, a Moscow newspaper, made international headlines with an investigative piece claiming that gay men in Chechnya were being rounded up and send to camps where they were being beaten, tortured and even murdered.

As of the end of May, the total of number of murdered gay men stands at 26, according to latest reports by Novaya Gazeta. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that several of those targeted are still being held in detention.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov dismissed the accusations, saying there were “no gay men in Chechnya,” adding that any gay man in the republic was simply pretending to be Chechen in order to “get to the West”.

Writing on Instagram, press and information minister Jambulat Umarov, said that Novaya Gazeta should “apologise” for the “filthy provocation” of suggesting gay people existed in Chechnya.

Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for the leader later told reporters: “If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”

Later media reports also indicated the involvement of several high ranking Chechen officials in the alleged torture. In Chechnya it seems, the taboo of homosexuality is as pronounced as ever and given its recent history, this is no surprise.

Chechyna’s Chequered History

Chechnya is a conservative, Muslim-dominated semi autonomous republic in the heart of the Caucasus Mountains. Historically, it has been viewed by Russia as a key strategic location, acting as a buffer between Iranian and Turkish influences.

The republic was engulfed in war for much of the 19th century as attempts were made to create a ‘safe space’ between Orthodox Russian and Muslim empires. Since this time, the region has mostly remained under Russian control.

In 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chechnya declared independence from Russia, along with the 15 other member states of the union. However, Russia didn’t accept this, claiming that as a province and not a recognised nation Chechnya had no right to secede.

This resulted in the First Chechen War, which lasted from 1994 to ’96 and claimed 100,000 Chechen lives – almost one tenth of the population. Fourteen thousand Russian soldiers were also killed in the conflict.

In this case, David beat Goliath; the two sides came together in 1996 and came to an agreement that Chechnya would govern itself, free of Russian interference until 2001, when formal negotiations for a longterm solution would commence. Russia’s defeat was a humiliating blow to its reputation as a formidable military power on the world stage.

After this point, Chechnya was infiltrated by al-Qaida linked terrorists preaching Wahhabisim, a puritanical form of Islam which ran counter to the region’s widely held Sufi traditions.

This invasion of religious fundamentalism and the attempted enforcement of Sharia law, led to widespread human rights violations and a split between Chechen nationalists who resisted the religious influence of the foreign “invaders”, and the Wahhabists seeking to create a Chechen Caliphate. Once more, Chechnya was at war, this time with itself.

The top Mufti of Chechnya, Akhmad Kadyrov, initially renounced the Wahhabis as a threat to the separatist movement, before changing alliances and siding with once-sworn enemies, the Russians in 1998.

Putin wearing a blood soaked cape bearing Ramzan Kadyrov's face

Image by Jesse Campbell Brown, GCN 2017

The Only Man Who Can Guarantee Peace In Chechnya

In August 1999 Vladimir Putin became Russia’s Prime Minister. He embarked upon a military offensive against the Chechen Wahhabis and after attacks in Moscow, which were blamed on the rebels, killed more than 300 citizens, the Russian military began the Second Chechen War.

Aided by Kadyrov and other Chechen clans loyal to the Kremlin, the Russian military quickly returned most of Chechnya to Moscow’s control. Putin’s approval ratings skyrocketed and in 2003, Kadyrov was elected Chechen president. When Akhmad Kadyrov was killed in a terrorist bomb attack, his son, then 27 year-old Ramzan, became the region’s de facto leader.

An ursine figure (whom The Guardian describes as a “Kremlin-back strongman”), Kadyrov fought alongside his father against Russia in the First Chechen War before changing sides, and now reportedly enjoys Putin’s confidence as the only man who can guarantee peace in Chechnya.

“For years, Vladimir Putin saw the pacification of Chechnya as his main achievement,” Stanislav Belkovsky, a Moscow-based political analyst told Al Jazeera in 2014. “In that respect, Putin has a colossal psychological dependency on Chechnya and Ramzan Kadyrov, who ensured the pacification.”

Over the past ten years, Kadyrov has built Chechnya into a pious, patriarchal state with strict social rules and a deeply entrenched sense of hyper-masculinity. During that time he has also been implicated in a number of human rights abuses. However, Kremlin gossip abounds that Putin is tired of the luxury-loving Kadyrov running the region as his own private fiefdom and is unhappy with the unfavourable international coverage surrounding the recent anti-gay purge.

“Kadyrov has very long arms. If he wants to find someone, he’ll find them.”

This news is more than a little ironic, given Putin and his government’s well-documented antipathy towards homosexuality. In June 2013, the Duma unanimously passed a law banning the promotion and “propaganda” of “non-traditional” relationships.

“Propaganda” was defined as “the purposeful and uncontrolled distribution of information that can harm the spiritual or physical health of a minor, including forming the erroneous impression of the social equality of traditional and non-traditional marital relations.”

The law, which effectively criminalised Russia’s LGBT citizens (as well as media outlets and foreign organisations favourable towards LGBT equality), was seen my many as an attempt to enshrine conservative “traditional values” – Putin’s favourite platform – into law.

Claiming that the Russian people supported the legislation, Putin also offered some weak borscht about the anti-propaganda law being necessary to combat Russia’s dwindling birth rate. Activists claimed that the law was part of a larger move to stigmatise non-governmental organisations as “foreign agents” of the West, out to destabilise and weaken Mother Russia. In essence the legislation was a solidification of an “us” (Russian, morally upstanding, strong) versus “them” (Western, deviant, morally weak) mentality.

Vladimir Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov

Russia Was Not Always Homophobic

Interestingly, Russia wasn’t always so vociferously homophobic. In 1917, the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (the Bolsheviks) abolished Tsarist anti-gay laws and replaced them with the Soviet Criminal Code of 1922 (updated 1926), which did not include homosexuality as an offence. Sexual ‘deviation’ was viewed as matter of biology, as opposed to an indication of a person’s moral failing.

“Kremlin gossip abounds that Putin is unhappy with the unfavourable international coverage surrounding the recent anti-gay purge.”

However, for myriad reasons – famines, war, Stalin, a gradual drift towards bureaucracy, etc. – homosexuality became synonymous with pederasty and paedophilia, and gays were vilified. But, for a brief period from 1917-1933 Russia’s queer comrades enjoyed (legislatively, at least) a level of freedom unrivalled to this day.

But the persecution of gay men in Chechnya has been going on for many years, Rachel Denver, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch told Salon last month. Chechnya is an extremely conservative Muslim society. The stigma of having a gay family member can cause a “stain” on a family’s honour.

Police officers frequently blackmail gay men, forcing them to confess on tape. This strategy is sometimes deployed against heterosexual political opponents too. It is as effective a strategy as it is brutal; taped confessions are sent to a victim’s family and the message is clear: Your son is gay. You know what to do. Send them “where they could never return” by way of an honour killing. Such is the stigma of being LGBT in Chechnya.

Worryingly, according to Denver, even leaving the region doesn’t guarantee someone’s safety. Family members and even the police have been known to follow fleeing gays into neighbouring territories. “Kadyrov has very long arms. If he wants to find someone, he’ll find them.”

Now comes news that Russian officials are actively investigating the claims of a gay purge, following widespread international pressure. Elena Milashina, the Novaya Gazeta reporter who broke the story, told The Guardian in May that Putin had been briefed on the details of the purge by Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia’s human rights ombudsman, and there was “evidence” that the Russian investigators were attempting to get to the bottom of the allegations.

However, activists have expressed concerns that Chechen officials – some of whom were allegedly present during torture – may interfere with the federal investigation.

Either way, Putin met with Kadyrov in Moscow shortly after the story broke and is believed to have warned Kadyrov that threats against journalists (like the one issued by press and information minister Jambulat Umarov who warned Novaya Gazeta on Instagram that people “who are more annoyed by your newspaper than we are” would “take care” of the publication’s journalists) are unacceptable.

For his part, Kadyrov denied the reports, telling Putin that the rumours of a gay purge were a slanderous “provocation” by Western agents eager to undermine Chechnya.

Given Putin’s own antipathy towards homosexuality and his positioning of himself as a “defender of traditional values”, protecting Chechnya’s gay men isn’t likely to be high on his list of priorities. Another important factor to consider is Putin’s dwindling control over Kadyrov, who has no problem flaunting Russian federal laws when they clash with perceived “traditional” Chechen values. The last thing Putin needs is further instability in the region, which would invariably occur if Kadyrov was deposed. Then there is the matter of who to replace him with. Political pundits suggest that Putin is stuck with Kadyrov for the foreseeable future.

“Defender of traditional values” Vladimir Putin

Meanwhile, any investigation into the gay purge is surely doomed to failure. Not holding out hope for a legislative resolution to the issue, LGBT rights groups from around the world have reached out to help victims by protesting, fundraising (and crucially, awareness-raising), lobbying governments and evacuating gay men from Chechnya.

A Moscow-based NGO called Russian LGBT Network has removed and relocated around 40 gay Chechens so far, the group’s communications manager anonymously told NPR last month. However, sometimes even that is not enough to ensure safety. “Well, the first thing for us to do is to evacuate them from Chechnya to other parts of Russia, but we are also working to relocate them out of Russia because for most of them it’s just deadly dangerous to stay because some of them are already hunted by their relatives outside of Chechnya. “Homosexuality in Chechnya is considered to be a stain on the whole family. And it is believed that the only way to kind of wash away this stain is to kill this person.”

Will Vladimir Putin, ever eager to protect the image of himself as a Russia’s iron leader and conscious of the impact Kadyrov’s repeated insubordination, embark on a third Chechen War, ostensibly to protect gay Chechens?

Time will tell.

Report by Ciara McGrattan. Illustration by Jesse Campbell Brown. First appeared in GCN, July 2017  

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Film

Churchill/ Gifted/ Hampstead Heath

Mid month sees the release of Churchill (June 16). There have been some wonderful on-screen representation of Churchy in recent times (Timothy Spall in The King’s Speech and Jon Lithgow in The Crown spring to mind), and this month Brian Cox becomes the latest to pick up the bowler hat and cigar.

Here is a little-known fun fact about Churchill: he was extremely bad with money. Like, Greek-government-circa-2010 bad with money. By 1938, his taste for fine cigars, race horses and “silk undergarments” had all but bankrupted him, but by the time he left office in 1945 he was a wealthy man.

You see, Winston Churchill was as fine a hustler as he was a statesman, and had no qualms about using his personal brand to make it rain. Imagine the ruthless drive of a lavish Kardashian wrapped up in the body of a chain-smoking bulldog: that’s Churchy.

But I digress. Churchill is set in June 1944, just as the Allied Forces are on the verge of the D Day landings. A nervous Churchill fears that the disastrous events of Gallipoli will be repeated if the invasion fails, taking his career and the lives of countless soldiers with it.

But can Churchill put down the Harrods catalogue long enough to keep the Jerrys at bay? The fact that you’re reading this in English, not German, might be a bit of a spoiler but what better way to mark the 73rd anniversary of the D Day landings that watching the original Hannibal Lector (Cox) pretend to be Winston Churchill for a few hours?

In other news: who’s your favourite movie actor called Chris? Pine? Pratt? It’s Hemsworth isn’t it? Mine is Captain America himself, Chris Evans, even though he loses points for having the same name as the UK’s Chris Evans (ew). Anyway, Evans tries on a gentler persona this month in Gifted (June 16), where the only enemies to be battled are the ones that come from raising your prematurely deceased sister’s intellectually gifted child (uncertainty, interference from social services, not knowing how to tie a pony tail, etc.)

The story follows simple, but inconspicuously handsome, boat mechanic Frank (Evans) who’s been raising precocious Mary, a six year-old mathematics prodigy. When Frank realises he is just too darn simple and handsome to home-school the mini Carol Vorderman, he ships he off to the local school to learn how to do more maths and probably, some cyber bullying.

But Mary’s gift draws the attention of school administrators (and her estranged grandmother) who all want to push her to greater heights. Soon, there’s a custody battle and Frank is forced to make some difficult decisions about what the best thing is for his beloved niece. Boo! You should probably bring tissues to this one.

Finally this month, Hampstead Heath (June 23), in which an American (Diane Keaton) falls in love with a quirky and dishevelled park-dweller (Brendan Gleeson).

Keaton plays a widow who must have been married to a Russian oligarch, since she can afford property in Hampstead. Anyway, one day she espies beardy Brendan exiting the pond next to the shack he lives in like an Aldi Mr Darcy, and is instantly smitten. (Interesting aside: Gleeson also played Churchill, in 2009’s Into The Storm.)

So, when wicked property developers try buy the land so they can knock up some luxury apartments, Keaton’s character enlists the help of all her endearingly rich mates who pool their money, buy out the property developers and drown Gleeson in the pond as soon as possible before knocking up their own prestige living spaces.

Just kidding! Or maybe I’m not. There’s only one way to find out!

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Film, History, TV

Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines

Let’s play a game. It’s called ‘Name a Superhero’. Anyone will do, just think of one.

Okay… Go. Got one?

Chances are it’s got a ‘man’ suffix, right? Spiderman, Superman, Batman – in the arena of superheroes there’s no doubt that it’s a (Super)man’s world.

But what about the women, asks filmmaker Kristy Guevara Flanagan in Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines (2012). Specifically, what about Wonder Woman, feminist icon and one of the longest-running comic characters of all time?

With the long-promised Wonder Woman movie almost upon us, what better time to dive into the original Nazi-puncher’s origin story…

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Flanagan’s film charts the evolution and impact of Wonder Woman, while exploring the empowerment of women over the past eight decades.

Wonder Woman was created by psychologist and inventor William Moulton Marston (inventor of the systolic blood pressure test, a central component of today’s lie detector), a man with no writing credentials who fast-talked his way into a comic writing position after pitching the idea of a female superhero, describing his creation as “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world”.

When Wonder Woman (Diana, an Amazonian warrior princess) burst onto the pages of DC comics in 1941, it was right in the middle of WW2. All over America, women had left their kitchens and stepped into the workforce in order to keep the wheels of industry turning while all the able-bodied men were off giving Hitler and the Axis what for. By 1945 more than 2.2 million women were working in the war industries, along with countless non-war-based industries.

From flying planes to playing baseball, in the early 1940s much of the essential and non-essential work was carried out by US women and the wheels of industry continued to turn, without the world spinning off its axis (pun intended). It was in this new world of female dynamism that the Wonder Woman comics at first flourished.

When the war ended the men returned home and resumed their former careers, while the women who had been driving the engine of industry returned to the kitchen sink. Gradually a collective sense of amnesia set in, until the important role of played by woman in wartime was all but forgotten.

This was reflected in the pages of Wonder Woman, and from the late 1940s until the ’60s, Princess Diana’s stories became increasingly lacklustre. (This was not helped by the advent of the Comics Code Authority (CCA), a self-regulatory body formed in the 1950s as a response to public concern over the link between “objectionable” comic book content and juvenile delinquency.) A post-war sexism had set in, and by the ‘60s the once proud female scourge of countless villains and Nazis could be found power-less (having surrendered her powers in order to remain in ‘Man’s World’) and running a clothing boutique.

At this point in time, the Woman’s liberation movement was gaining momentum. Feminists like Gloria Steinham, angry at the lack of female heroes and incensed at Wonder Woman’s enfeebled state, insisted that the character be returned to her former glory as “a symbol of female power”. Terrified at the prospect of further attacks by Steinham and co, DC comics capitulated and even threw in a black female sidekick called Nubia. Score two for equality!

Next in the evolution of Wonder Woman was her incarnation on the ‘new media’ of the 1970s – television. The live action Wonder Woman (played by the beautiful Lynda Carter) was genuinely groundbreaking – to have a female lead on a TV show in the ’70s was unheard of (and sadly remains a difficult sell for network execs to this day), and it opened the door for a host of female-led shows like The Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels.

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The most compelling message of Wonder Woman, the television series was clear and impactful: woman can be, and often are, heroic too. This live-action portrayal of a powerful, intelligent and fearsome female warrior provided inspiration to a generation of girls growing up in the 1970s. In Flanagan’s film, the testimonial given by Linda Carter about grown up Wonder Woman fans telling her how much the show inspired them to succeed as woman in male-dominated professions – as astronauts, NASA scientists etc – is heartwarming.

Still, amid all the empowering talk one depressing fact surfaces. Buffy and Wonder Woman, Ripley, Captain Janeway and Agent Dana Scully are all female heroines created by men.

Why are there so few female-created superheroines? One answer could lie in good old-fashioned gender imbalance; since the vast majority (97%, according to the recent statistics from Women’s Media Centre in America) of decision-making media positions are held by men, the roles and input of woman are limited.

Women still live in a world bombarded with over-sexualised versions of femininity, a world where they still earn less than their male counterparts and have less decision-making power over how they are portrayed in the media. And in this depressing context, Flanagan’s film is essential viewing.

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Film

Mindhorn/ King Arthur: Legend of the Sword/

First up this month is Mindhorn (May 5), absurd British comedy from The Mighty Boosh‘s Julian Barratt. Barratt plays Richard Thorncroft, washed-up former star of cheesy ’80s detective series Mindhorn, in which he played the titular character, a detective with a bionic eyepatch that can literally “see the truth”.

But Mindhorn has not aged well and neither has its star who has become a flabby, impoverished has-been whose former co-stars (including Steve ‘I am more than Alan Partridge’ Coogan) have all gone on to enjoy greater success than he has.

But fate, it seems, has a third act planned for Mindhorn when a deranged killer on the run contacts police and insists that he will only negotiate with the former TV detective. The killer, Melly, (played by Russell Tovey) clearly has a tenous grasp on reality, but so does Mindhorn, so the police deem him the most appropriate person to negotiate with the unhinged Melly. But will he succeed? Well, either buy a bionic eye-patch or get down to your local multi-plex this week to find out.

Which leads us to our next cinematic offering, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (May 12) starring Queer As Folk’s Charlie Hunnam. It was really only a matter of time before some movie executives trundled out the old Excaliber legend for a spot of cinematic reanimation. This is just as well really, seeing as audiences don’t seem want new stories: they just want remakes of old ones with increasingly hotter casts. And on that at least, King Arthur: LotS seems to deliver.

The story follows Arthur on his journey from street urchin to sexy sword-wield monarch by way of some enthusiastic fight scenes and pensieve beard stroking. When Arthur’s father (Eric Bana) is murdered, and his crown seized by his evil uncle Vortigern (Jude Law), little Artie is forced into hiding.

Robbed of his birthright and, over time the knowledge of his true lineage, Arthur lives the life of a petty street hoodlum (with a heart as golden as his beard, of course). But when Arthur manages the impossible and pulls Excaliber from its stone, he is suddenly forced to confront the truth of his identity while kicking a lot of bad guy ass.

Lastly this month, a wee nip of warming Scottish humour in the form of Whisky Galore (May 19) a remake of the 1949 Ealing classic of the same name. The movie recounts a real-life event, namely the scuttling of the SS Politician, a 8000-ton cargo ship sailing for Kingston, Jamaica and New Orleans with a cargo including 28,000 cases of malt whisky, which aground off the coast of Eriskay Island in the Outer Hebrides in 1941.

The story is thus: the inhabitants of a Scottish island whose supply of whisky has been curtailed due to war-time rationing think their prayers to St Johnny Walker have been answered when a cargo ship carring 50,000 cases of whisky runs aground on their coast.

Naturally, they sail out and shanghai as many bottles as they can carry before the ship capsizes. But punctilious Home Guard officer Captain Wagget (Eddie Izzard) is determined to confiscate every stolen bottle and enters into a cat-and-mouse game with the locals, who have even less time for jumped-up Englishmen than they have for sobriety. Gentle, light-hearted comedy fare.

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Film

Raw/ The Handmaiden/ Handsome Devil

This month sees the release of French horror Raw (April 7). Be warned: paramedics were called after some Toronto film goers fainted during a screening of the movie. Cinemas in LA even provided audiences members with sick bags on the way in film. So, you know, maybe don’t fill up on steak tartare and foie gras before you go.

Raw follows the life of Justine, a precocious vegetarian veterinarian student who turns from plant-eater to ravenous cannibal after being forced to eat a raw rabbit liver during a vet school initiation.

After going full-Hannibal on the bunny liver, Justine’s appetite for organs and offal escalates point where only the rarest (pun definitely intended) meat of all will do: human. As director Julia Ducournau has been quick to clarify, Raw is no generic gore-fest; though it maybe gruesome it is also a nuanced coming-of-age story which deserves more than to be classed as garden-variety ‘body horror’.

Mid month sees the release of the The Handmaiden (April 14), based on Sarah Water’s 2005 lesbian classic novel Fingersmith. However, director Park Chan-wook (Lady Vengeance, Oldboy) has transplanted the action from Victorian-era Britain to 1930s Korea, during the Japanese occupation.

Anyway, the action centres on Tamako, a poor villager hired by well-to-do Japanese heiress Lady Hideko to be her handmaiden. So, Tamako packs her bags and heads off for a life off domestic servitude in a Lady Hideko’s plush country pile. But – dun, dun, dun! – there is a twist! Tamako is actually a con-woman named Sook-hee working a partner, Count Fujiwara, to cheat Lady H out of her riches. This is easier said then done, however, especially when Sook-hee begins to develop feelings for Lady H.

Also this month, another coming-of-age movie (sans entrails this time, thankfully), Irish-made Handsome Devil (April 21). Set in a rugby-mad boys boarding school it follows two opposites, nerdy, musical Ned and rugger alpha male Conor, who become unlikely allies after being forced to bunk together.

Ned (Fionn O’Shea) is sent to boarding school by his disinterested father (Ardal O’Hanlon) and wicked stepmother (Amy Huberman), despite hating rugby, and the regular bullying that inevitably comes with hating rugby in a sports-obsessed school. When handsome rugby legend Conor (Nicholas Galitzine) is assigned to his room Ned immediately assumes the worst and erects a ‘Berlin Wall’ to keep himself safe.

But Conor isn’t simply one-dimensional meat-head worthy of only Ned’s contempt – he is a man of hidden depths, as Ned eventually discovers. Written and directed by novelist John Butler and featuring an amazing cast (which includes Sherlock’s Andrew Scott AND Game of Thrones‘ villainous Michael McElhatton), Handsome Devil is a solid Irish movie, and a worthy addition to the pantheon of excellent recent Irish movie releases (A Date for Mad Mary, Young Offenders, Sing Street).

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Film

Certain Women/ Beauty and the Beast/ The Lost City of Z

The top of the month sees the return of the admittedly attractive, but utterly expressionless, charms of Kristen Stewart in Certain Women (March 3).

Directed by Night Moves’ Kelly Reichardt, Certain Women follows three separate, but tangentially related, women’s lives in a sleepy Montana town.

The first is lawyer Laura (Laura Dern) and her dealings with increasingly deranged client who overlooks her legal advice because she is a women; the second story follows a couple (Michelle Williams and James Le Gros) building their own home and enjoying regular arguments about their daughter and with their curmudgeonly, not to mention sexist, neighbour whose sandstone they hope to purchase; and the final story follows lonely ranch-hand Jamie who finds herself attending anight school law class, taught by a cardigan-sporting K-Stew.

Laden with low key indie charm and preponderance on the endless unspoken burdens of being a woman in a man’s universe, Certain Women is a quiet feminist gem.

Was ever there a casting as perfect as Harry Potter hottie Hermione, aka Emma Watson, as Belle in the live-action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (March 17)? Unless Donald Trump secretly been cast in Cheetos: The Movie, I think not.

In the unlikely event that some people are unfamiliar with the story, here it is: Belle who likes books and singing dish-ware, is taken prisoner by the brooding Beast in exchange for the freedom of her rose-stealing father (is there Sharia law or something in this part of the Disney-verse?)

She soon becomes enamoured of the Beast’s enchanted staff (comprised of talking baroque furniture and cutlery) and eventually, Beast. It’s not really a spoiler since the original story was published in 1740 – it is a tale as old as time. Can Watson actually sing? And is Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) able to convey beastly emotion through all the CGI and prosthetics? There’s only one way to find out!

And now for something completely different, in the form of rip-roaring, testosterone-y, The Lost City of Z (March 24), starring Queer as Folk‘s Charlie Hunnam (and former beard of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson). Pattinson, usually the most handsome guy in any given movie, literally looks like boiled crap next to the swoonsome charms of the beefy (but terrible-at-accents) Hunnam.

But I digress. The Lost City of Z is the true story of British explorer Col. Percy Fawcett (Hunnam) who in the early 1900s discovered evidence of previously unknown advanced civilisation during an Amazonian exploration. Fawcett’s findings were widely ridiculed by the scientific establishment who refused to believe indigenous peoples were anything other than ignorant ‘savages’.

New Spiderman Tom Holland puts in an appearance as Fawcett’s son, as does Sienna Miller as Fawcett’s devoted wife Nina. And of course, Pattinson as Fawcett’s trusty aide-de-camp, Henry, the one man in the entire world who actually looks worse with a beard. Seriously.

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Uncategorized

Going Queer: Scientology and the Gays

After ex-Scientologist Pete Griffiths gave a speech about cults to the students of St. David’s CBS in Dublin, the school received a letter claiming that he had posted links to “gay pornographic movies of young boys in their late teens”.

It was all part of the Church of Scientology’s ‘fair game’ policy, which seeks to destroy its enemies, he says.

In 2013, Mayo-based Pete Griffiths was invited to St David’s CBS Artane to give a speech to a religion class on the subject of cults. Griffiths had spent a number of years as a member of the Church of Scientology before defecting and becoming one of its most outspoken critics.

After giving a talk at the school on Wednesday, May 1 – which Griffiths uploaded to Youtube – he returned to the school for a further talk on Friday, May 3. After Friday’s lecture, Griffiths was approached by several panicked teachers and a deputy head, who informed him about an email they’d received containing some serious allegations against him.

Griffiths paraphrases the email’s content: He was a bigoted, unqualified “hate-monger” under investigation by the Gardai due to his aggressive campaigning against the Church of Scientology; he was a member of ‘hacktivist’ collective Anonymous; he used bad language (two “fuck offs”, one “bullshit” and one “crap”) in front of the class, an “abominable” offence for “a Christian doctrine school”.

Zabrina Collins

scientology,1On three occasions email – sent by a “concerned parent” who later admits her children don’t attend the school in question
– questions Griffiths’ “suitability” to work with minors. The email’s author, Scientologist Zabrina Collins, also alleges that Griffiths’ posted links to “gay pornographic
movies of young boys in their late teens – much like the young boys of St Davis [sic] CBS” on his social media accounts.

The truth, father-of-six Griffiths tells me over coffee, is much less sordid. He is not a member of Anonymous; a picture of a naked Griffiths, covering his genitals with a Guy Fawkes mask (right), which Collins cited as proof of his involvement with the group, was actually taken as part of an online campaign by members of the armed services to show support for Prince Harry after pictures of him naked in a Las Vegas hotel surfaced in 2012.

The “pornographic movies” to which Collins referred were in fact generic coming-of-age movies, the likes of which wouldn’t be out of place at any LGBT lm festival: a fan-made music video using footage from French indie movie A Little Comfort (2004) and German movie Sommersturm (Summerstorm, 2004).

According to Griffiths, Collins’ questioning of his“suitability” was a subtly underhanded insult designed to play on his sexuality (he doesn’t self- identify as ‘gay’ but is in a longterm same-sex relationship) by conflating homosexuality and paedophilia. And though the email stopped short of alleging outright impropriety, Griffiths says the implication was clear: He is not safe to be around young boys.

 

It’s Complicated

The Church of Scientology has a long and complicated relationship with homosexuality. For years rumours have abounded that part of the church’s appeal rests on its claims that it can ‘clear’ a person’s same-sex attraction, while other rumours are rife that the church exploits the homosexuality of its high-profile members for its own ends.

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Hubbard after the release of Dianetics (from HBO’s Going Clear)

Founded in 1953 by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard (who interestingly is the Guinness World Record holder for most published works by one author – 1,084), Scientology was formed from teachings contained in Hubbard’s 1950 book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, and renamed and re-characterised as a religion: The Church of Scientology.

Since its inception the church has been embroiled in many controversies: over its ‘fair game’ policy, which legitimises the persecution of critics of Scientology; its battle with the US’ Inland Revenue Service demanding tax-free status; allegations of human rights abuses and forced ‘disconnections’, and of course, controversy over the church’s endless lawsuits to keep the secret origin story involving a galactic overlord, Xenu out of the public domain.

Closeted Scientologists

Among the salacious rumours circulating about Scientology, none is more persistent than the one that suggests that some of the Church’s most high-profile members are closet homosexuals blackmailed into continued involvement.

Though the Church’s current leadership dispute claims that it harbours hostile attitudes towards gays and lesbians, Hubbard’s writings – which are the foundations of the Church’s beliefs – are clear: homosexuality is an illness which can be cured with the intervention of Scientology.

Dianetics, the book which launched the Scientology movement, states: “The sexual pervert… is actually quite ill physically… he is very far from culpable for his condition, but he is also far from normal and extremely dangerous to society…”

‘Clearing’ Homosexuality

Hubbard expanded on this in 1951’s Science of Survival, introducing a concept called a ‘tone scale’, a numerical value for assessing a person’s emotional state. The scale runs from 40.0 at the top (‘Serenity of Beingness’, the most desirable state), to Body Death at 0.0 and then all the way down to minus 40.0, ‘Total Failure’.

Homosexuals are considered a 1.1 on the scale: “covert hostility”, which Hubbard calls “the level of the pervert, the hypocrite, the turncoat… the subversive.” Such people are “skulking coward[s] who yet contain enough perfidious energy to strike back, but not enough courage ever to give warning.”

The 1.1 is only capable of negativity and subversion and needs the intervention of Scientology, by way of expensive and time-consuming ‘auditing’ (a process of semi-counselling where adherents are hooked up to a device called an E-meter), to clear themselves of such dysfunction.

Hubbard’s message seems clear: homosexuality is a symptom of inner inadequacy and with sufficient help from Scientology, one can be cured.

 

Was Quentin Hubbard Gay?

It is unclear why Hubbard reserved such specific animus for homosexuality, though it is not unusual for religions to be homophobic – especially ones with a such a 1950s flavour as Scientology. One popular rumour suggests that Hubbard’s own son, Quentin, whom he groomed to succeed him before his death, was actually gay.

Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, claims that Quentin made up this rumour himself to discourage women who were only interested in him because of his father.

L Ron Hubbard and family. From the left: Suzette (4), wife Mary Sue, Quentin (5), Arthur (1) and Diana (7)

L Ron Hubbard and family. From the left: Suzette (4), wife Mary Sue, Quentin (5), Arthur (1) and Diana (7)

Whatever the truth, in 1976, after a brief disappearance, Quentin was found comatose, and naked, in a parked car near a Las Vegas airport. He died in hospital two weeks later.

An initial autopsy reported the cause of death as asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning and also noted that semen was found in Quentin’s rectum. Mary Sue, Quentin’s mother arranged for a further three autopsies to be carried out, eventually telling fellow Scientologists that her son died of encephalitis.

Scientology Sanctioned Anti-Gay Discrimination

Despite the Church’s attempts to pitch itself as an organisation dedicated to championing human rights, the story is markedly different according to gay members of the Church.

In 2012, former Scientologist Keith Relkin told the Village Voice that before he was permitted to attend auditing (a form of Scientology counselling) in the 1980s, he was made to sign a notarised form stating that

he would not engage in any “homosexual acts” during his time in the Church. Relkin also said that he was told numerous times that his “abberated” sexuality would make it impossible to attain OT (or ‘Operating Thetan’, a spiritual state which purportedly gives devotees “knowing and willing cause over life, thought, matter, energy, space and time.”)

 

Paul Haggis Speaks Out

One of Scientology’s most damaging high-profile defectors in recent years, Million Dollar Baby director Paul Haggis, said that the final straw for him was the Church’s refusal to speak out against Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage legislation .

In an explosive open letter to then Church spokesman, Tommy Davis in 2009, Haggis (who has two gay daughters) recalls how he was “stunned” to discovered that the San Diego Church of Scientology had publicly sponsored Prop 8. He demanded that Davis speak out publicly against the support of Prop 8. After inaction by Davis, Haggis wrote an open letter saying that the Church’s silent refusal to denounce the actions of San Diego was “cowardly” and that he could no longer be a part of it. His defection – and his open letter – made headlines around the world.

Adding to the notion that there is an undercurrent of homophobia in the Church are the statements of another defector, Jason Beghe who said in an interview that he “never heard the word ‘faggot’ more than when I hung around people at Gold [Base, the church’s international headquarters].”

Travolta Threatened

Author Lawrence Wright states that when allegedly gay A-list actor John Travolta expressed a desire to leave the Church, a fellow Scientologist was assigned the task of compiling a “black PR package” filled with all the secret confessions the star had revealed during ‘auditing’ sessions.

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A fresh-faced John Travolta using an E metre in an undated Scientology publicity still

Wright claims that Travolta was threatened with the release of the package, which allegedly contained all the potentially damaging information gleaned during his auditing sessions, if he left Scientology.

This was allegedly used to solicit the star’s continued public involvement in the Church. In the documentary adapted from Wright’s book, former Inspector General of Scientology’s Religious Technology Center Marty Rathbun claimed that this sort of relationship is mutually beneficial. “As far as Travolta’s concerned you could say ‘well, there’s all things we know about, that have been rumoured in the tabloids’, but in fact it’s more of a two-way street,” Rathbun said.

“He’s provided with an auditor whose shoulder he can cry on but also provided with the muscle of the church in the form of myself and Mike Rinder [former Executive Director of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs].

“On many occasions we were sent out to get with his publicist, to get with his lawyer and and to help squash or intimidate these people who were making accusations against him.” After this, Wright says, Travolta was the church’s “captive”. The actor continues to be an active member in the Church of Scientology.

 

‘Fair Game’ Or Blackmail?

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Pete Griffiths, pictured in Dublin’s Temple Bar

According to the documentary, the church does not consider such acts blackmail, since no money is being demanded and anything done in service of Scientology is ‘fair game’.

By speaking out against the Church of Scientology at Irish schools, Pete Griffiths believes he became a target of this ‘fair game’ policy, which states that any “enemy” of Scientology can be punished and harassed using any and all means possible. When dealing with critics, the church’s stance is: “don’t ever defend, always attack.”

Writing in 1967, church founder L Ron Hubbard stated that opponents who are “fair game” may be “tricked, lied to, sued or destroyed.”

Court Cases

Griffiths brought a defamation case against Zabrina Collins seeking damages in the amount of €50,000. Collins counter-sued Griffiths and another former Scientologist John McGhee for assault and battery. Collins alleged that McGhee had attacked her as she and fellow Scientologist Michael McDonnell were handing out fliers on behalf of the Church, while Griffiths filmed.

Both cases were heard consecutively. Judge James O’Donohoe told Dublin’s Circuit Civil Court that Collins’ allegations were “largely untrue and grossly defamatory”. He noted that although Collins’ repeated queries about Griffiths’ suitability to work with school boys were “distasteful” she had stopped short of calling him a paedophile.

Griffiths was awarded €5,000 by the court for the defamation, but was also ordered to pay damages of €2,000 against Collins and McDonnell for the assault.

Church Surveillance

Griffiths believes that he is under online surveillance by the Church (“there was, or is, a Scientologist in the UK whose job it is to spy on me”), and this is how the talk at St David’s – which he uploaded to YouTube – came to the Church’s, and Collins’ attention.

Of the fair game policy, where opponents of the church allegedly may be tricked, lied to, sued or destroyed, Griffiths says: “They did three of these things to me. I was not destroyed, though.”

The Church of Scientology Ireland did not respond to our request for an interview.

This article originally appeared in the September issue of GCN (321), which is available to read online here.

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TV

8 Greatest LGBT TV Characters

There was a time, gentle reader, when LGBT representation on TV was restricted to offensive stereotypes: the campy sex-pest, the angry lesbian, the greedy bisexual etc.

 

Thankfully things have move on a bit and now there’s a wealth of well-rounded queer characters out there in TV land to love (and loathe).

So, I’ve selected some of the best ones appearing on TV screens over the past 2 decades.

Omar Little, The Wire

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“It’s all in the game, yo..”

Without a doubt one of the stand-out characters in a stand-out show. Fierce and fearsome Omar (played by Michael K Williams) is a Robin Hood-esque stick-up man who relieves Baltimore’s drug dealers of their wares.

But Omar has morals; he may steal dealers’ money, but he doesn’t sell drugs, instead using them to bribe the city’s many crack addicts into providing him with safe-houses.

When the corner thugs hear Omar approaching, whistling his trademark tune ‘Bringing in the Sheaves’, they either hand over their drugs or sprint for cover. It’s clear to the audience before he appears on screen that Omar is not to be trifled with.

He is also openly, unapologetically gay. This irks his enemies no end (foremost amongst them gang honcho Avon Barksdale, who solely refers to him as “The Faggot”).

The torture and murder of his boyfriend Brandon at the hands of Avon is what motives him to exclusively target the Barksdale gang, and provides much of the drama during the show’s first series. Omar takes on the most powerful drug gang in West Baltimore, and effectively wins – all as revenge for his murdered lover.

The reason for Omar’s brilliance lies in the fact that he seems entirely comfortable with himself, despite constant abuse and widespread disdain because of his sexuality. But at no point does he seem conflicted or burdened by others’ opinions of him.

The contrast between Omar’s macho, masculine ‘career’ and his moralistic nature (he never swears, is kind to animals and never attacks those who aren’t in “the game” ) add layers to this multifaceted character.

Omar is the tender and the terrible in one scarred package, and possibly one of the best queer characters of all time. Even President Obama loves him, citing Omar as his favourite character on the show.

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Film

A Date For Mad Mary/ Young Offenders/ Sausage Party

Kicking off the month in fine style is Irish movie A Date for Mad Mary (September 2), winner of the Audience Award at this year’s GAZE festival.

The story follows the eponymous Mary upon her completion of a six-month prison stretch for a vicious assault. Returning to her home town of sunny Drogheda, Mary sets about rekindling her friendship with soon-to-be married ex-bessie Charlene. However, Charlene has outgrown Mary, as evidenced by her increasingly distant demeanor and her refusal give Mary a plus one to the wedding.

Unable to face her friend’s rejection, and desperate to prove her worth, Mad Mary sets about find a date for the wedding. After a parade of laughable losers she encounters lovely chanteuse Jess and a ray of hope penetrates her wounded warrior ways. Prepare for the feels, viewers.

And there’s another Irish film on offer this month (yay!), Young Offenders (September 16), this one inspired by Ireland’s largest cocaine seizure off the Cork coast in 2007.

The action centres on inner-city ne’er do wells Jock and Connor, typical Garda-baiting, bum fluff-sporting rascally teens.

When a boat carrying 61 bales of cocaine capsizes off the coast, the lads, hearing that one bale – worth €7 million– is missing, head to West Cork to find the missing coke.

But things are very seldom straight-forward when there’s a massive brick of cocaine involved and soon the lads and their supporting cast (featuring Naked Camera’s PJ Gallagher and Republic of Telly’s Hilary Rose) find themselves in some deep water. The gowls! Go see it and support Irish film.

Ostensibly a parody of emotionally-manipulative Disney Pixar flicks, Seth Rogan’s Sausage Party (September 20) gets a long-awaited release this month.

Rude, crude and full of epicurean entendres, Sausage Party centres on the anthropomorphic foodstuffs (voiced by Seth Rogan, Kristen Wiig and a host of others) in a supermarket as they alternate between longing to be picked up by a shopper and carried off to the Great Beyond, and longing to have sex with each other. This is a sexually charged supermarket – sort of like the Spar on Parliament Street after pub closing time.

Anyway, after learning the truth about what really happens to them once they’re carted off (geddit) by the shoppers – peeled, sliced, roasted and consumed – outraged Frankfurter Frank (Rogan) sets off on a quest for answers. Definitely one for fans of silly stoner fare.

This piece first appeared in GCN, September 2016

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Film, TV

Celebrity Big Brother Launch Highlights

It seems as if every season of Celebrity Big Brother kicks off with the audience saying ‘Wasn’t this just on?’

 

Well, ‘yes, sort of’ is the answer to that: the last Celeb season wrapped up in January with toothsome geordie Scotty T crowned winner, and the normal people (I use this phrase loosely) Big Bro wrapped just 2 days ago, which seems like hardly enough time to de-scumify the house after a dozen party-loving, chore-hating reprobates living there for 8 weeks.

Anyway, on to the show, in which eternally elegant Emma Willis wheels out a collection of semi-recognisable rejects from Geordie Shore, Ex on the Beach, porn, youtube, the ’80s and er, Storage Hunters.

First in was eternally upbeat panto Dame and bona fide reality TV veteran, Christopher Biggens. Biggens has done it all: Panto, Porridge, more Panto, and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

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“A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man”

Most Likely To Say: Some obscure Bette Davis quote
Least Likely To Say: “The level of intellectual discourse in this house is stimulating” followed immediately by “OH, NO IT ISN’T!”

Next in was the obligatory Loose Woman, Saira Khan, who is a bit of an Annie McNoFace to be honest.

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Sair-a later, snoozezilla

These Loose ladies always make the mistake of trying to interview everyone constantly, but most CBB contestants have the emotional range of a basketball and so do not make good interview fodder. Anyway, she was in The Apprentice, describes herself as “gobby” and immediately got Arianna Grande’s name wrong so I sort of like her a bit.

Most Likely To Say: “Let’s have an in-depth chat about Brexit ?”
Least Likely To Say: “I just want to sit in a state of silent contemplation now”

Next in, Frankie Grande ‘Youtuber’ (yes, this is a valid career now apparently) and brother of infamous donut-licker, Arianna Grande, who EXPLODED on to the stage in a cloud of glitter and fierce posing.

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Literally, he moves around too much to get a good screen shot

I want to be snarky, but his entrance was so ebullient that it was fabulous. High energy housemates are annoying to live with and this makes them TV gold. PLUS as an American (who has already appeared in the US BB) he is more aware of the game-playing needed to win.

Most Likely To Say: “Sissy that walk! Purse first!” before cartwheeling around the house
Least Likely to Say: “No thanks, I have enough glitter on already.”

Next in was Ricky Norwood, aka Fat Boy from EastEnders, who was booted from the show after being caught doing something sexy while smoking a spliff on Skype (I don’t want to Google the exact details, thanks).

Big Brother’s Bit on the Side aficionados will recognise frequent panelist Ricky, as he is a legit BB super fan who’s been angling for a spot on the show FOREVER. This could work against him though: the more familiar a contestant is with the show, the more likely they are to be undone by hubris. Yeah, I said it. Remember John Partridge?

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Fat Boy: a potential winner

Most Likely To Say: “I’m just here for the experience”
Least Likely To Say: “Add me on Skype”

Next, another total blank: Renee Graziano, who apparently appears in a show called Mob Wives.

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Look at this ass!

If I remember my Sopranos correctly, the mob operate under a similar system to Fight Club, with rule number one (apart from ‘snitches get stitches sleep with fishes’) being never, ever admit to the existence of the mafia.

So why hasn’t anyone put a hit out on her and her gravity-defying derriere?

Most Likely To Say: “Pass the gabagool”
Least Likely To Say: ‘No’, to more ass implants.

Next in was generic Geordie Shorer Marnie Simpson. Blah.

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Oh, a finger in the mouth! How sexy.

She’s a bisexual, she “speaks her mind” (like, haven’t they realised yet that the people who keep their mouth shut last the longest?) and has the “best looking vagina in Britain”. She was surprisingly modest outside of the VT though, so maybe she won’t be so terrible?

Most Likely To Say: “Does my vagina look big in this?”
Least Likely To Say: “No, thanks – I’ve had enough to drink.”

Next in was this season’s obligatory troll, DJ James Whale (sample quote: “men and woman can never be equal.”)

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Literally, a dick-head

Is only in the house because first-choice Nigel Farage (Whale’s bestie) wanted a whopping £750,000 to appear. That’s five times more than Biggens, this year’s highest-paid star (£150,000).

Most Likely To Say: “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic BUT…”
Least Likely To Say: “Three cheers for intersectionality!”

Next in was Aubrey O’Day, who you might remember from such things as 2004’s Making the Band (she ended up in P Diddy-managed girl band Dannity Kane).

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This is where a degree in Political Science gets you. Don’t stay in school, kids

She has a degree in political science (!), she’s 32 (“so I get Botox”) and hates Donald Trump, so I guess she’s not all bad? American housemates are always the best, and they usually stick together so let’s hope for a Grande-O’Day-Mafia wife alliance!

Most Likely To Say: “One more procedure and I qualify for a free nose job!”
Least Likely To Say: “I recognise almost everyone in this house.”

Next in was visibly coked-up energetic Ex On the Beach bum, Steve Bear.

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*ape-like snort*

In his VT he was confident and flirty, but when he came out on stage he was so PUMPED UP that he looked like he might throw Emma over his shoulder and climb to the top of the house while fighting off by-planes. And he said he thinks the earth is flat (seriously), all while wearing sunglasses at night. Terrible.

Most likely To Say: “Seriously, the earth is flat. Seriously.”
Least Likely To Say: “Sunglass at night make me look like a twat, right?”

Next in was ex-X Factorer Katie Waissal. Remember? She was the one who was always forgetting her words and breaking down on stage? Her granny was a prostitute who accused her of ruining her career by drawing too much attention to the family? Anyway, she came across as nervous which is always a bit endearing.

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She doesn’t want to talk about nana’s knocking shop, thanks

Most Likely To Say: “I don’t want to talk about the X Factor…”
Least Likely To Say: “Check out my nana’s sexy PoF pics”

Next in was Lewis Bloor, another chiselled but rather generic TOWIE-r. Yes, he’s handsome and he likes the ladies, but so does literally everyone else on these shows.

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Ain’t I ‘andsome, though?

What else is there to say? Apart from the fact that he went into the house in Patrick Bateman cosplay, which I guess is sort of unique?

Most Likely To Say: “Hand me my filofax”
Least Likely To Say: “No thanks, I’ve seen enough boobs for one night”

Next was Grant Bovey, formerly Mr Anthea Turner. I recognised him because I’m over 30, but I’m betting at least 98% of the other viewers didn’t.

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*caption not found*

The best thing about Grant’s entrance was that, like Darren Day, he went in saying he just wanted to correct “public perception” about him being a love rat, etc, but unlike Darren Day, no-one had a clue who he was, so it was totally pointless. And hilarious.

Most Likely To Say: “I was Anthea Turner’s husband? Remember?”
Least Likely To Say: “I’m the poor-man’s Darren Day.”

This next housemate in was Farrah Abraham-alike Chloe Mafia, who you might remember from her brief stint on X Factor. She was the one who, post-X Factor, made the transition from £160 prostitute to founder of a million-pound webcam business. Good for her.

Next was a guy called Heavy D, who apparently is from Storage Wars. Or Storage Hunters. Something storage-y.

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B(l)oooooom(ing annoying)

Heavy makes his own clothes (and needs to go back to tailoring school since the crotch on his bespoke Ice cream suit was sagging). He’s a “geezer”, the “king of banter” and loves to roar his catchphrase “BOOOOM”.

He sounds like a Tom Hardy character, looks like Jack Black and is very, very loud.

Most Likely To Say: “BOOOOOOOOOOOOM!”
Least Likely To Say: “Give me a pie before I glass you in the boat-race, geezer”

Finally, after what seemed like an unending parade of semi-recognisable faces came a final recognisable face: ’80s siren Samantha Fox, who was no doubt eager to give TV clip-shows a new clip to replace the one of her as a belligerent pissed Dracula on ITV’s short-lived The Club. She seemed nervous, which is always sensible.

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What does the Fox say?

Most Likely To Say: “Touch me! Touch me! I wanna feel your body!”
Least Likely To Say: “Pass me the proscecco and fake Dracula fangs.”

Phew! So many housemates! It’s not a great bunch (and where the hell was Mrs Dog the Bounty Hunter?) but who cares, as long as they fight!

On a semi-serious note: there’s been a real shift in the Celebrity BB vibe since Channel 5 has taken over the franchise.

Whereas once all the contestants were washed-up has-beens desperate for another bite of the fame cherry, enduring the humiliation of BB was a sort of penance necessary for winning back public favour. Appearing in it meant that you had reach your career nadir and knew it.

Now there’s an air of legitimacy to the proceedings: it’s seen as just another reality TV show with no more or less stigma attached to it than to Geordie Shore, Ex on the Beach, TOWIE or the I’m a Celebrity (Just Kidding I Slept With A Footballer) – Get Me Out of Here.

I must admit, this unironic verve does reduce the schaudenfreude somewhat. But it also means that the contestants are seasoned reality TV stars: they know that the public like sexy shenanigans, beaucoup bitching and fights that get so intense viewers start wondering if they should call the cops.

Viva la Big Brother!

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