Hugh, Mike, Sex, Art
...trying to say a certain form of sexual/cultural expression is wrong (ie: pornographic) is to slide, slide, slide down that slippery slope...
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
I was watching HBO's brilliant documentary about Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy Magazine, and I was listening to Mike Birbiglia's new album, Sleepwalk With Me and realized: You've come a long way, Charlebois.
Sound odd? The two things are strangely entwined in my life.
When I was on the national Board of Directors for ACTRA, we had a huge and ugly debate on pornography and censorship. What we were worried about was the rise of the locally-made blue film business and it slowly transforming, as it did in then States, into a massive hard-core porn mega-industry - one that might have a direct effect on an actors/writers organization. Needless to say, issues of feminism, censorship and even Gay rights were all dragged - kicking and screaming - into this messy and ultimately pointless debate. Pointless in that nothing was resolved. However the discussion - usually hideous - did shake people out of an intellectual torpor that is always threatening an artistic community that is busier merely trying to survive.
It was the 80s and porn - straight porn - was seen as a feminist issue (ie: it was bad).
My side, the anti-porn side, had its heart in the right place. It was the 80s and porn - straight porn - was seen as a feminist issue (ie: it was bad). The other side, represented by two titans - June Caldwell and Pierre Berton - were worried about the slippery slope of censorship. Twenty-five years have passed and so many, including many soi-disant feminists (including myself) have moved to the other side.
I think of it as evolution. Coming out of the closet, for one thing, has helped me see that sexual boxes created by dogma are dangerous things. We cannot expect all women, men, gays, lesbians...humans, in short, to be one way sexually and trying to say a certain form of sexual/cultural expression is wrong (ie: pornographic) is to slide, slide, slide down that slope. A lot of the sexual things we don't like is none of our fucking business. If we don't like the plays/movies/sculptures/paintings/music which treat them, then we should just move along...
Stephen Harper is a politically dangerous man who has been, for the most part, controlled by his minority government status.
Years after the ACTRA debate, I was reviewing Caldwell's book about a real murder committed by a man who was sleep-walking when the deed was done. I got a chance to talk to Caldwell. We knew we had been on different sides in the ACTRA debate but I told her I had changed my mind. She laughed and said, "This is the happiest day of my life!"
When I was listening to Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk With Me (reviewed later this week) the fact he had the same dangerous sleep disorder as the man in Caldwell's book recalled the great lady, ACTRA and that debate back to me.
We are in an election. Stephen Harper is a politically dangerous man who has been, for the most part, controlled by his minority government status. If he is elected with a majority watch out. He is a Conservative (big-c) who will go small-c on all our asses if he gets the power he is asking for. The debate that was only a debate in ACTRA will not even get to debate status: our art will be stifled, repression will take over and the religious zealotry that Harper keeps hidden will be revealed and overtake this country.
We can bitch and whine about how timid and bland Canada can be, but we have artistic freedom that our colleagues in other countries dream about.
Let's protect it.