By Ben Pensant.
Remember when acting was acting? When audiences expected actors to pretend to be other people? When ‘casting’ just meant finding someone who looked and sounded a bit like the character on the page and had the ability to do a silly voice if the part was disabled or foreignish?
No? Good for you. Because it was hell. Which is why Dr Who? creator Russell T. Hobbs’ recent explosive interview was so timely, with the entertainment industry in dire need of a progressive facelift after four years of churning out pro-Brexit, Trumpian propaganda, such as every single Marvel film apart from that one about the African prince who thinks he’s a cat.
Sadly, despite Russell’s brave, controversial, and entirely predictable assertion that only gay actors should play gay characters, it was another case of ‘right message, wrong man’. Because Russell was 100% incorrect. Yes, gay characters shouldn’t be played by straight actors. But they shouldn’t be played by gay ones either. They should be played by transwomen.
Why? Jesus, you might as well ask ‘Why is the sky blue?’ or ‘What makes Jeremy Corbyn so fricking awesome?’. The fact is, no-one understands the gay mindset better than a man in a dress. Despite the fact that most gay men don’t wear dresses. But that’s because most gay men aren’t true gay men: a genuine gayer doesn’t simply have sex with strangers in parks after spending all day watching Julie Garland films. No, such milk-toast behaviour is for those self-hating homos who wouldn’t know a real ‘queer’ if she flashed her hairy knackers at him.
Proper queers abhor these half-measures, because they know that sticking two fingers up at straight society requires a little more than just wearing tight shorts or becoming an interior decorator. The committed gay knows you can only fully submit to the LGBTQED lifestyle by caking your face in make-up, squeezing your pimply arse into fishnets, and booking an appointment to have your dick removed.
Because no-one gets men who love the cock like men who’ve had theirs cut off. And they should be at the front of the queue for lesbian roles too. After all, transwomen are basically dykes with better clothes, hotter bodies, and an extra layer of victimhood. And for every cis actress who’s daft for twat there are millions of transwomen who are also fully-fledged lezzas waaay more attuned to the oppression faced by gay women than actual gay women. How could they not be? Self-hating feminists whine about living in a man’s world but what about living in a man’s body? Try being subjugated by your own nut-sack before telling me how marginalised you are, sister.
As for transmen, they forfeited the right to special treatment the second they swapped their fannies for phalluses. See, transwomen have zero difficulty portraying men because they remember how evil they were when they were blokes. In fact, beneath their stockings and gym-slips, most of them still are blokes (minus all the toxic masculinity, obvs).
Transmen, meanwhile, have selfishly traded their victimhood for cold hard privilege. Fine, if it decreases the likelihood of getting raped, murdered, or goosed in the mailroom then good for you. But remember: you’ve made your bed. If you ever get bored of earning more than your female colleagues or taking up two seats on the Metro with your synthetic scrotum then by all means become a transwoman – you’re a man, you can do what you like. But quit moaning about the patriarchy after willingly mutilating your minge to become part of it. You don’t get to do that. And you don’t get to whinge about the abuse men receive on Twitter either. Try taking your hand off your man-dick and reading the rules some time, sweetcheeks.
But it’s hardly surprising normal people don’t know the rules when the entertainment industry doesn’t either – and they’re supposed to be the Good Guys! Indeed, Hollywood has treated minorities with disrespect for years. Just look at its tin-eared depictions of the disabled, from Rainmen’s problematic casting of Justin Hoffman as an autistic gambler to able-bodied Brian Cranston’s turn as a wheelchair-bound lawyer in The Downside, both of which were hugely offensive to flids and spackas. It’s no shock that they got bored of mocking people who can’t walk or talk properly and moved onto bashing women with penises.
Which brings us back to Russell T. Hobbs and his latest drama It’s a Sin! a series so determined to promote anti-trans propaganda it might as well feature a gang of four-eyed wizards and a fascist detective with a hair lip. Indeed, considering how the show stubbornly pretends trans lives don’t exist it’s grimly apt that it’s named after a shite Erasure song. In fact, Russ only acknowledges the trans world by putting two characters in skirts for a laugh. Because as we know, transwomen are just a punchline for the amusement of white actors. (Or in this case, a black white one). I’ve seem more trans-friendliness in a Two Roonies sketch.
Having endured all five episodes I’m sad to report the transphobia never lets up. Which is particularly disgraceful in a show about AIDS, which everyone knows disproportionately affects transwomen, along with Covid, cancer, cooties, and car-crashes. Yet Russell ignores this inconvenient fact, opting instead to pen a tone-deaf tale about how the virus affected him and his friends, as if a writer is perfectly entitled to tell their story without tokenistically inserting everyone else’s experiences in order to pacify social media psychopaths.
And as if the terfy messaging wasn’t sinister enough, Russell breaks his own rules within minutes of episode one by introducing Hollywood c-lister Neil Patrick Howser as an upper-crust queer caricature. Dunno if you got the memo, Russ, but Howser made his name playing a straight misogynist in How I Murdered Your Mother. Which obviously means he is a straight misogynist. And last I heard Howser’s Canadian too, though as he only stole the job from a white Brit we’ll let you off. This time.
But you can get bent if you think we’re gonna forgive you for casting Keeley Horse as a middle-aged mother in the early ’80s when she was only about seven at the time. No doubt Keeley never considered how offensive this is to women who were middle-aged mothers in 1982, just like it never dawned on her how inappropriate it was for her to play the lead in Tripping the Velvet. Keely as a carpet muncher? As if. She’s licked even less pussy than me.
But it gets worse. In a jaw-dropping act of self-loathing, Russell insults his own community by suggesting that some homosexuals may not be the most fragrant. Yes, he went there. Not content with promoting crude stereotypes and pretending that trans rights weren’t the most important thing on the minds of horny gay boys in ’80s London, he then inserts an eye-poppingly offensive scene in which protagonist Ollie has his first experience of rimming cut short after his brutish lover objects to our hero’s unwashed ringpiece. Awful No, not the claggy back passage: the vile suggestion that gay men are normal human beings as capable of poor hygiene as the rest of us and aren’t all fresh-faced cherubs whose bottoms smell of angel-cake. Unforgiveable.
But this is just one of several scandalous sex scenes that lay bare Russell’s rabid right-wing bigotry. An early montage showing Olly’s journey from shy fumbler to time-served sex-god sees Ollie sleeping with pretty much every character in the show apart the black one, Boscoe. Who also happens to be the only man who wears a dress. Well played, Russ. Racism and transphobia. Slow handclap.
No doubt Russ’s cheerleaders would defend this by noting that Ollie pops his cherry with an Indian – the same Indian who refuses to sleep with him until he deep cleans his dirtbox. But much like Ollie, this doesn’t wash. In fact, it’s clear that Russ chose to make Ollie’s first fuck an ethnic to spread not diversity but imperialism. Is there a more obvious way to celebrate the Empire than rubbing a brown man’s nose into a shitty British arsehole?
One only need look at Russell’s recent quotes about the sex montage to see where his grubby priorities lie: “It starts with wanking, which goes to blow-jobs, which goes to fucking actively, which goes to fucking passively, which goes to threesomes, which goes to…joy” It doesn’t take a genius to spot the omissions here: no nappy-changing, no tampon-sharing, and not one mention of transwomen giving each other tit-wanks. Is this that ‘inclusivity’ you were banging on about Russ?
Needless to say, the remaining four episodes pile on the hatred, the only attempt to curry favour with the trans community the non-binary dress sense of the aforementioned Boscoe, a fully-fledged Bounty bar so consumed by self-loathing he thinks nothing of bumming a Tory MP played by free speech fascist Steven Fry. You thought Russ’s only alt-right opinion was his belief that trans people should be exterminated? Think again.
Because as well as Fry, we also get the horrific sight of evil Zionist Tracy Ann Doberman, a kick in the teeth to Corbynites and a blatant attempt to spread anti-Palestine propaganda. Then during episode two Russ lets out his inner lockdown sceptic, as Ollie mouths off about how AIDS doesn’t exist and it’s all a scam to frighten people. Sound familiar? Russ should be arrested for sneaking such dangerous rhetoric into a family show. Because as any idiot knows, when a fictional character says something it’s always what the writer really thinks. You reckon it’s mere coincidence that Chris Tarantino is a violent racist who loves lady-feet and cheeseburgers in real life too? You’ll be telling me Steven Spielberg isn’t a Nazi alien next.
But it’s when people start dying that Russ shows his true colours by – shock, horror! – killing the jock first. There’s no way Russ is going to write five hours of telly without shoving in a ‘fuck you’ you to the SNP, is there? Why not go the whole hog and kill the Welshman too? Oh wait, you just have. Yep, three episodes was far too long to give a platform to a non-English accent so Taffy had to go too, despite only ever getting bummed once. Which is clearly Russ’s unsubtle way of telling us the poor Valley boy caught AIDS off a sheep. Nice.
But things get even grubbier in the penultimate episode when it’s revealed that the character Russ has spent the whole series portraying as a chirpy fun-boy is not only a Covidiot but a filthy Tory. And he still expects us to feel sad when the obnoxious little Thatcherite catches AIDS. Still, at least he has the decency to give us a tiny respite from the orgy of bigotry by killing off the right-wing shirt-lifter. Though not before an unrepentant Ollie confesses to sleeping with dozens of men after testing positive. Way to go Russ, as well as being a tinfoil hat-wearing Maggie-lover your hero is also a mass murderer.
I guess we should be grateful Ollie snuffed it when he did though: the last thing 2021 needs is another gay actor with questionable politics terrorising Twitter by politely expressing perfectly normal opinions and crying when he gets the odd death threat.
Mercifully, come the end the three surviving characters are all POCs, though knowing racist Russ he’s already excitedly writing a sequel in which they pay the price for outliving boss-man whitey by contracting Ultra-Covid and choking on their own vomit in an understaffed ICU. Seems Russ does believe in Coronovirus after all, but only when he can use it to punish fictional characters in a hypothetical scenario invented by me. I’m sure Boris is fast-tracking his nighthood as we speak.
But what makes Russ’s behaviour so disappointing is that he’s supposed to be an ally. Indeed, we all remember the good work he did with woker-than-woke mini-series Years and Years and Years, which respectfully represented the non-binary community by crowbarring a trans character into the narrative then neglecting to give her a solitary line of dialogue or anything whatsoever to do other than float around in the background looking all transy, divine, and mute.
Sadly, the warning signs were there all along. Russell’s breakthrough series Queer as Puffs not only cast heterosexual men as crass gay cliches but also gave a part to Charley Hunman, denying representation to someone who can actually act. Reactionary weepie Fred and Rose saw straight Dawson’s Creek heartthrob Alan Davies play a self-hating gay man sucking up to the establishment by pretending to fall in love with a woman. And as for A Very English Scandal, let’s jut say if you’re going to strive for authenticity in a story about a closeted gay man-turned-murderous criminal it takes a little more than casting a bloke whose sole qualification for the job is that he once got caught sucking off a trans hooker.
Stark reminders that Russell may be gay but he’s still white and male. And a Tory. Which makes him practically cis. Still, at least he’s trying to stop future generations of filmmakers making the same mistakes he did. Whether it’s chrome-domed comic Matt Dawes, or The Assassination of Johnny Versace star Darren Chris, there’s nothing more admirable than rich celebrities pulling up the drawbridge after achieving huge success doing the very thing they’re now telling other people not to do. At least his heart’s in the right pace even if his genitals aren’t.
But it’ll take a lot to forgive this latest monstrosity, with its never-ending parade of gay stereotypes straight out of a Bernie Hill sketch. The defining image is the climactic scene in which cross-dressing Boscoe sells out and reunites with his homophobic father, fragrantly denying his true self by stubbornly refusing to grow some balls then cut them off to become a woman. Like Russ, he wants to have his cock and eat it.
But this is what we’d expect from a man so up himself he thinks gays had it tough in the ’80s, as if living your life in fear and watching your friends die is somehow worse than not being able to use a girl’s changing room. Because it’s not enough to simply make a brilliantly executed drama about a deeply personal issue. No, you have to damn well make sure it represents and panders to every other group in the Big Book of Oppressed Minorites, even if they have bugger all to do with the story. And not for the first time, Russ failed miserably.
Still, at least we finally know what the T stands for*.
*But mainly ‘TERF’.