Woman’s world

Rodrigo Garcia has made a career telling stories from a female perspective, a style he turns on its head in ‘Albert Nobbs’

Womans-World

THE BUTLER DID IT Rodrigo Garcia, above right, directs Glenn Close, left in the gender-bending drama ‘Albert Nobbs.’

It’s not even 7 a.m. in California, but Rodrigo Garcia has already been awake for hours. He’s been in production on a series he’s shooting for the web about female characters.

It is nothing new for Garcia to be telling stories about women, although the format — webisodes — may seem a bit out of place for someone best know for writing and directing feature films and premium cable series. But it doesn’t bother Garcia — he lets his interests lead his career, not vice versa.

“What’s still driving my interest is the content — issues of identity, family dynamics … those kinds of things,” he says. “The studios are making less of those now, and more tentpole and high concept movies for young people. So why not the Internet? The platforms are still being explored. The draw is where can you tell stories that interest you.”

And the stories that have interested Garcia have often been those related to women, and frequently gay characters, as in his new film Albert Nobbs.

This is not unique in Hollywood, although it does put him in some rarefied company.

“There is a long line of male directors interested in female characters, from Bergman to Truffaut and Antonioni, all of whom had female characters at the center. Also Cukor and Minnelli in Hollywood. It’s not uncommon for guys to just go there.”

Garcia’s career arc has been rangy but compelling. He received an Emmy nomination for directing the pilot of Big Love, the HBO series about modern-day polygamists — another topic rife with women’s issues. He helmed several episodes of Six Feet Under, which famously had several gay characters, and was even invited by his friend Ilene Chaiken to direct The L Word, though he was never able to schedule it. (“I liked that show, obviously I felt comfortable with the subject matter,” he says.) His feature Nine Lives told interconnected stories of women, many about gay life.

But it started for Garcia with his first film, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her, a portmanteau of shorts about women. It wasn’t his initial intent, though, to tell only women’s stories.

“When I was writing that movie, I wrote the women first. They were so complex, I just kept going. Ultimately, I don’t feel the movies are about women or female problems but things that interest me. But the subject matter could be male also, like the ties that bind us.”

Garcia walks the razor’s edge between male and female with his latest film, Albert Nobbs, which begins a staggered release this week (it opens in Dallas in late January). In it, Glenn Close plays Albert, a servant in an Irish hotel who for 30 years has been a gentleman’s gentleman.

Only Albert was born a woman, and has chosen to live her life as a trans man in an era where there simply was no definition of that. When Albert meets another woman living on the down-low, and begins to explore his feelings for a young chambermaid, his life is turned upside-down. The set-up means Garcia addresses issues of male-female identity with rare depth.

“The themes and conflicts were very strong. Albert is beyond from being ‘inside a closet’ — she has erased herself and supplanted it with her butler, now in her 50s.

I’ve started to recognize [the theme in my work] where you can’t live with someone and you can’t live without them. In the movie, the young girl that was Albert — I don’t even know what the young girl was called — and [the adult] Albert is that relationship.”

It was a reunion of sorts with Close, who worked with Garcia on both Things You Can Tell and Nine Lives. Close also produced and co-wrote the screenplay to Albert Nobbs.

As unusual as the plot may seem, Garcia says there are “many, many instances” of women hiding out as men to make their livings, working as butlers, or even as coal miners. Making the audience believe this could happen, though, is another matter.

“It’s happened many times where you’re in a public place and you see someone and you think, ‘Is that a man or a woman?’ But you would never consider asking them, ‘Are you something else?’ As long as you believe those around her couldn’t see it, you believe it. It’s extremely hard to pull off, but it didn’t worry me with Glenn.”

Garcia insists Close wore very little makeup to achieve the effect. “You don’t want the audience to feel like they didn’t even try so the nose is sort of a masculine version of the nose that sits on Glenn’s face and the ears are a little bigger — that’s it,” he says.

“The movie is about closets and what you have to repress to fit in, but it was not about a gay character because she’s not gay or straight — she’s erased that, too. It’s so sad she has to hide who she is.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Study finds only 19 gay characters on network TV this year, down from 23 last year

Fox has the most gay characters, thanks to shows like Glee.

FRAZIER MOORE | Associated Press

NEW YORK — The number of gay and bisexual characters on scripted broadcast network TV has dipped slightly this season to 19 out of nearly 650 roles, according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

The 16th annual “Where We Are on TV” report released Wednesday by GLAAD found that 2.9 percent of actors appearing regularly on prime-time network drama and comedy series in the 2011-12 season will portray gay, lesbian or bisexual characters.

That’s down from 3 percent in the 2009-10 season and 3.9 percent last season, when there were 23 out of a total of nearly 600 roles.

Only five of the 19 gay and lesbian characters this season are nonwhite, GLAAD found.

Using information provided by ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and CW, the group reviewed 91 scripted series announced to air this season.

Among broadcast series with gay and bisexual characters, GLAAD cited CBS’ The Good Wife, the CW’s Ringer and NBC’s The Playboy Club. Comedies include ABC’s Modern Family and Fox’s Glee.

Fox leads the networks in gay representation, with eight regular characters out of a total of 117.

The number of gay and bisexual characters on cable networks has also fallen slightly, from 35 last season to 29 in the upcoming season.

As it did last year, HBO has the greatest number of gay and bisexual characters, with 11 regular and recurring characters. Showtime is close behind with 10.

The HBO drama True Blood remains among the most inclusive series on television, featuring six characters, tied with the Showtime series Shameless, the group found.

Some of TV’s most popular shows “weave story lines about gay and lesbian characters into the fabric of the show,” said GLAAD acting President Mike Thompson. “Americans expect to see the diversity of our country represented in their favorite programs, and that includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”

—  John Wright

ABC gets some more gay, loses some

ABC releases its new fall schedule at their “upfronts” this afternoon, revealing which shows have been canceled, renewed or added.

Back again are gay faves Desperate Housewives, Modern Family and Dancing with the Stars, as well as the new sitcom Happy Endings, which has one of my favorite gay characters on TV; gone is that tired soap Brothers & Sisters, which I quit watching more than a season ago.

But there’s some new gay, too. Darren Star, gay creator of Sex and the City, has a new mid-season replacement series, Good Christian Belles, set in, of all places, Dallas. It stars Kristen Chenoweth, and I expect plenty of closeted gay guys somewhere.

CBS, the least gay of the broadcast networks, has its upfront tomorrow.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Of gays, Glee and generations

GLEEFUL | The cast of Glee poses with the show’s Golden Globe Award for “Best Television Series — Comedy or Musical” in January. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

TV has always been a reflection of both society’s current and future climates; and Fox comedy tells of great changes happening

HARDY HABERMAN | Flagging Left

I guess I have just renewed my “Gay Card” since I have become a fan of the hit television show Glee. The show’s weekly musical fantasy reminds me of those 1930s musical movies I grew up watching on my parent’s old black and white Zenith television. Yes I am that old.

Aside from the nostalgia factor, the show is very telling about today’s society and should be encouraging to anyone in the LGBT community. Several of the characters on the show are gay.

Glee is not the first show to have gay characters. That honor goes to the short-lived sitcom The Corner Bar back in 1972. (Vincent Schiavelli was the first actor to play a continuing gay character, Peter Panama, on U.S. television.)

But on Glee, though some plots revolve around the character’s being gay, more and more their sexuality is just an accepted fact.

Though Will and Grace did much the same thing a decade ago, Glee breaks new ground with its high school-aged characters. What I find refreshing about the show is both the treatment of the gay characters on the show, and more importantly, the country’s reaction to it. It is a hit!

The fact that Fox aired a new episode of Glee immediately following the Super Bowl — and the episode included a gay sub-plot and yet still garnered record-breaking ratings — says a lot. Though as a nation, the United States is still riddled with homophobia and all it’s variations, as a whole we are moving toward a level of acceptance I have never seen before.

And remember, I grew up watching black-and-white TV.

Television, for all its flaws, is a pretty good bellwether for American society and opinions. Though TV often helps shape attitudes, it also reflects them, and the medium of comedy has proven to be one of the most potent for both.

Had Archie Bunker in All in the Family not reflected the stubborn resistance of an older generation to change in the 1970s, it would have been far less funny. Had Maude not skewered the strident overly-politically-correct character played by Bea Arthur, it would never have resonated with viewers.

Now comes Glee, with a raft of teenagers and their inherent hormone-driven drama set to music that cuts across generations. Teen pregnancy, bullying, homophobia and the pitfalls of gay dating are all fair game — and the public not only gets it, it embraces it.

That is progress.

Now before you set pen to paper and accuse me of being a Pollyanna, yes, I know it’s still tough for LGBT people out here in the real world. But what I am encouraged by is the number of changes I am beginning to see.

Talk to young people, and ask them their attitudes toward LGBT people. From the ones I have spoken with, (in a very unscientific study) they do not see sexual orientation as the big deal as it once was.

The older generation who that harbors those prejudices against LGBT people are looking more and more like Archie Bunker. Groups who once held sway — like the American Family Association — have now been relegated to the status of a fringe hate group, where they should have been all along.

According to recent surveys, young people have more favorable views of LGBT people than do older folks. That’s encouraging. You see, that means the homophobes are decreasing by attrition as well as by change in attitude. And that means the next generation will be far less likely to hold the prejudices of their elders.

That means Americans can watch a show where the plot revolves around Kurt trying to figure out how to tell Blaine how he really feels and the fact that he is gay is not key to the plot. That is a big step from the days of gays being only the subject of dramas like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Killing of Sister George.

More importantly, LGBT people are no longer the punchline in comedy. Today it is the homophobe who is considered funny and out of step. Once again it’s the Archie Bunkers of this world who have become the punchline and that’s well worth smiling at.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

The Nooner: Chick-fil-A goes anti-gay; Frisco man imprisoned for spreading HIV loses appeal

Your midday news roundup from Instant Tea:

• Frisco man convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for spreading HIV loses appeal.

• Chick-fil-A partners with rabidly anti-gay group in Pennsylvania.

• Poll results suggest LGBT community never lost faith in Obama.

More gay characters on TV shows geared toward teens.

• Justice Scalia says Constitution doesn’t protect women, gays from discrimination.

—  John Wright

Starvoice • 12.24.10

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYCruz1

Wilson Cruz turns 37 on Monday. He gained fame as the fey high school pal to Claire Daines in My So-Called Life, but the actor seems to thrive on more independent fare. His next three movies are all low-budget flicks with him in supporting roles. But we love that he always seems to find gay characters to play that don’t end up with tragic finales.

……………….

THIS WEEK

Mars and Eros in a square provoke war and strife, but Mercury turning direct in Sagittarius opens new ways to negotiate through troubles. Mars is in Capricorn, better placed than Mercury and Eris, so hard work and long-range
strategies are the key.

……………….

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Nagging worries are actually clues to solutions. Straightforward, logical approaches to those problems could make things worse. Check out those odd instincts even if they seem a bit loopy.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Inside your head is a dangerous place. Don’t let yourself be caught there alone. Have laughs with friends to avoid nerves and dithering. Their perspective and some fresh air will help.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
You’ll get ahead step by step, not fussing over the next decade. Focus on the job in front of you. Well-intended advice is probably ill-considered but could be a springboard to a better idea.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Stay focused on your goals. A straight-ahead attack is likely to trip you up. Consider different approaches. Get your ego out of the way and try new ways of working with others.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Sex relieves tension and ends arguments. It doesn’t solve the problems. Even if the problem isn’t with your partner, a good romp can put you in a more constructive frame of mind.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
The craziness of the times is working everybody’s nerves, so share whatever problems you’re feeling. Talking with your partner or a close friend, even if it’s just to let off steam, is a huge relief.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Integrating partnership and career is a common challenge. Too bad there’s no common solution. Discussing it with colleagues helps you get new perspectives. Partnership is a full-time job.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Master your art, brush up on your sport and hone your skill at your hobbies. New ideas may seem too contradictory, but consider them at least. Play with crazy notions.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Healing rifts in your family takes creative efforts, but you can do it. Your efforts to persuade people to work together are over-emphatic. A nudge is more effective than a shove.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Your efforts at domestic peacemaking go awry. Drawing out the arguments from either side helps you understand the situation better and it gets others to hear each other more clearly.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Impatience and rushing gets you into awful accidents. Look ahead, think strategically and only act once you have a good plan in place and a plan B for anything simple.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
Finally you clear up misunderstandings and screw-ups. Financial obstacles are circumvented with creativity, but think ahead to make sure those strategies are sound. Do not go out on a limb.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Broadcast TV getting gayer, GLAAD says

Every fall season, GLAAD issues a report about LGBT characters on the main networks’ scripted series, and whether that indicates an improvement from years past.  This year’s report notes a “significant increase” in gay characters, according to the study — the most, in fact, ever.

ABC leads the pack with 11 of 152 lead or supporting characters (7.2 percent), helped by shows like Modern Family and Brothers & Sisters. Fox has  5 of 100 (5 percent), including Kurt from Glee, pictured, animated character like Smithers on The Simpsons. NBC marked a decline from last year (only three of 143) and CBS was again in last place with one of 125 (Emmy winner Archie Panjabi from The Good Wife).

The study has its flaws. For instance, the report claims zero gay characters on Fox in 2007, yet one listed now includes Smithers, who has been on the show since 1989 but is considered “recurring” (the study doesn’t including recurring characters in the main figures). And it doesn’t account for, frankly, qualityBrothers & Sisters has never been good, but this season has swan-dived into especially odious melodrama with gay stereotypes.

A separate report counts basic cable series, where gay characters (often with more interesting and frank storylines than on broadcast) are more common and realistically portrayed. I mean, True Blood: Who doesn’t watch that for the hot bodies? The study also doesn’t include reality shows, which really dominate the TV landscape. With Dancing with the Stars judge Bruno Tonioli swishing up the most popular show on TV right now, as bisexual comedian Margaret Cho dances, you’d think that would warrant a mention, as would Jeff Lewis, Jackie Warner and half the contestants on Bravo’s competition series. That would paint a fairer picture. But it’s still nice to see progress.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones