Don't dis "The Sopranos," cut the homophobic trash and give Clancy a break -- readers respond to recent A&E stories

By Salon Staff
Published June 18, 2002 7:00PM (EDT)

[Read Laura Miller's "Sex, Death and Other Family Matters"]

I loved Laura Miller's insightful article about "Six Feet Under," but I am perplexed by the reference to "some viewers' persistent suspicion that [Rachel Griffiths' Brenda] is really more gay man than straight woman." Certainly no one would suggest that David is "more straight woman than gay man" for filling the stereotypical "unappreciated wife" role in his relationship with Keith.

It seems odd to praise (very justly) "Six Feet's" refreshingly different portrayal of gay relationships and at the same time to imply that a straight woman whose behavior conforms vaguely to certain gay stereotypes is "really" a gay man. This is the same thing I've heard about fictional women from Tennessee Williams' heroines to the gals of "Sex and the City." I'm not sure if a writer's sexuality or a female character's unconventionality is the key thing that keeps her from "really" being a woman.

We know this: Brenda was "created" by Alan Ball, a gay man. I don't know Mr. Ball, but if he's anything like every writer I've ever known, there's a little bit of himself in every character he writes about. So Brenda may "really" be a gay man in the sense that Mr. Darcy was "really" an English spinster or Count Dracula "really" a mild-mannered civil servant and theater critic. But the Brenda we see on-screen is a woman and a very believable one. (Otherwise, I'm sure Nate would have noticed.)

The days are past, at least on HBO, when gay characters and themes had to be veiled in double-entendre. Let's give these characters credit for acting as individuals first, male, female, gay, straight, black or white later, if at all. Kind of like, you know, all of us.

-- Carrie Pruett

I liked most of Laura Miller's article on the second season of "Six Feet Under," but I don't know why she felt she had to take jabs at HBO's other Sunday night powerhouse drama "The Sopranos." That show, with its phenomenal acting, writing and directing, is so much more than just a soap opera pumped up with violence so, as Miller says, "men will watch." The interpersonal relationships within the Soprano family (both literal and organizational) are every bit as complex and compelling as in the Fisher household. This is especially true of the most recent season, when all of the characters are coming face to face with the consequences of their actions and the way they have chosen to live their lives.

"Six Feet Under's" rise to "The Sopranos'" level of quality and popularity is just indicative of how good both shows are. A little love for Tony and the crew, please!

-- Clarence Ewing

[ Read Ian Rothkerch's "Holding Out for a Hero" ]

This piece is straight-up homophobic. Even more offensively, it's not funny. Bemoaning the ebb of masculine swagger is one thing, but fantasizing about the ascent of gay action heroes as some supposed part of that supposed trend takes it to another level of boneheadedness.

Next time you decide to offend, at least be smart or funny or entertaining or otherwise redeemable.

-- Michael Yarbrough

Ian Rothkerch's article was funny, but sadly the truth of real Hollywood miscasting -- casting Nick Cage as Superman in the first place comes to mind -- is still funnier.

And frankly, as a woman who thinks Connery was the only Bond worth watching, I'd trade Everett -- playing gay or straight -- for Brosnan in a heartbeat.

-- Bridgett Taylor

Please spare us expired Harvard-Lampoon rejects like "Holding Out for a Hero." If I want "The Man Show," I know where to find it.

-- Jay Winer

Ha! You almost had me with Jason Biggs (and his superstiffy) as the star of "Superman Rocks" ... but the Moby-as-Dirty-Harry remake tipped your hand. Thanks for making me laugh out loud at work. My co-workers think I'm nuts already!

-- K. Walton

Gayness = emasculation? Weak action stars are "pussies"?

Ian Rothkerch may be disgruntled with the current state of the action film industry, but surely he can express his dissatisfaction -- even satirically -- without resorting to equating perceived gayness with emasculation. And certainly a writer with his vocabulary and grasp of the English language can do better than calling these new action stars with "twice the leg power and half the charisma" pussies.

Given his dismay at what he perceives to be gay qualities, I have to assume Mr. Rothkerch is straight, which means he has devoted no small amount of time in his life trying to get some pussy himself. That he would expend so much effort to get in one (or many) and yet use "pussy" to dismiss men as inferior says a great deal about Mr. Rothkerch. I can only hope all of us pussies respond by keeping our legs closed.

-- Ashley Day

Who the f*** is this homophobic prick Ian Rothkerch, and how many references to manly, erect penises (not those disgustingly soft pussies) can this self-absorbed little asshole cram into one idiotic article?

-- Christine Curtiss

Perhaps Ian Rothkerch has never seen Matt Damon with his shirt off. It's definitely a more virile sight than hairy, barrel-chested Pierce Brosnan with that effeminate British accent.

The death of the misogynist heroes of the past, such as Han Solo, who responded to Princess Leia's professions of love with a smug "I know" is no mistake. Thank god for the end of that era. Mr. Rothkerch may long for a time when women swooned and wore lipstick and heels at home while emotionally crippled, monosyllabic men pounded their chests and put their dirty boots on the coffee table, but I certainly do not. Masculine Schmasculine. It takes a whole lot more than bravado and brute strength to impress us now.

-- Catherine Witzel

Was Ian Rothkerch's extended homophobic rant supposed to be funny? If he doubts the ability of gay men and lesbian women to kick ass, then he should keep writing articles like this for a personal demonstration.

-- Andrew Bettridge

[ Read Robert Winkler's "The Birds of Hollywood: An Unnatural History"]

Thank you for Mr. Winkler's story. As an amateur bird watcher, I've also noticed how often Hollywood uses bird songs inappropriately, especially the overuse of owl calls. Its almost a given that any movie or television program set in a rural or suburban setting will feature owl calls with every night/evening scene. Would Hollywood have us believe that every suburb in America is swarming with Owls, à la "Harry Potter"?

-- Tim De Cerbo, New Haven, Conn.

"The common loon ..." is Robert Winkler, writing in his article. What? Why? This is shamelessly obvious angling for a position as a film "bird-song" technical advisor. Mr. Winkler's article would be mildly amusing and somewhat informative if it were not filled with the strident screech of the "Show-Offs Song."

-- Catherine Oller

I'm aghast that Hollywood is chirping the wrong song. Does that mean cars don't normally explode on impact (with exception to the Ford Pinto)? Simply unbelievable! Has Hollywood been getting it wrong all these years? Please, this has to be one of the most inane articles I've ever read.

Do you know why hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on special effects? It's because it puts butts in seats in foreign markets. Nothing translates as well as unmitigated violence and explosions. Audiences have become accustomed to jaw-dropping special effects. And in Hollywood's backward thinking the bigger the explosions the bigger the box office. Besides it looks really good in a trailer.

The author's assertion that Hollywood spends millions in getting historical details right is uninformed. Is the writer an expert on all things historical? If he isn't, then how does he know these details are 100 percent accurate? The only time Hollywood toots its own horn about historical accuracy is when it's using it as a marketing ploy. "Acme studio will bring you the Revolutionary War like it really was. The horses are actual descendants from the horses used by the British!" If getting the right bird call in the background meant a bigger box office then every movie would vie for the Ornithological Society seal of approval. Getting the correct bird calls is probably pretty far down on a producer's list. It's right after making sure the production assistants are well rested and shown respect.

Phil Alden Robinson, director of "Field of Dreams," had a great comment about the authenticity problems in his movie. Ray Liotta playing the part of Shoeless Joe Jackson threw left-handed and batted right. In reality Jackson was just the opposite, batting left and throwing right. Baseball enthusiasts were up in arms. Robinson's response, did anybody realize that the character magically emerged from a cornfield? It's a movie and no one gives a hoot.

-- Jason Doty

Robert Winkler's "The Birds of Hollywood" takes anal retentiveness to a whole new level. The simple question the entire article brings up is "who cares?" Obviously Winkler does, which is a much worse reflection on him than on Hollywood.

The sounds on a movie soundtrack are meant to be evocative, to create feelings and emotions in the moviegoer. There is no law requiring that they be "accurate." Often that very "accuracy" would only ruin the effect of the film.

What's next? Complaining that, in real life, there isn't a musical soundtrack when people are going about their business? Soundtracks are by definition artificial, so complaining they are "inaccurate" is just plain silly.

Fiction does not need to be sacrificed to satisfy the great god Accuracy.

-- Chuck Rothman

Although many of Robert Winkler's points are well taken, as a birder he should know that robins frequently do sing all night long -- they are usually singing loud and clear when I rise at 2 a.m. for my annual "big day." And at least one movie, "Far North," uses bird songs that are 100 percent accurate. The sound editors of that film consulted with Bill Evans, a bird vocalization expert who was working in the Sound Library of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology when that movie was produced. Interestingly, many weird sounds in George Lucas films are originally inspired by bird vocalizations taken from recordings at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, and digitally distorted to give them an alien quality.

I'm surprised Mr. Winkler didn't interview anyone at Cornell, which is the source of most of the bird sound recordings used in movies. It would have added a layer of depth and information to an otherwise rather superficial piece.

-- Laura Erickson

[ Read Charles Taylor's "Tom Clancy's Bogus Big-Bang Theory"]

Please. Review a movie based on the movie, not by how the advance material promoted the movie. One other thing, it's OK to be cynical, Salon has it down to an enjoyable art form. But no reason to sell your soul to being cynical at the expense of reviewing a movie whose subject matter (Salon: "the idiot government's pathetic management of an attack") you're predisposed to disliking. Was it ever possible for you to give a good review of this movie? Credibility is a virtue.

-- Stuart Sheridan

This review was as off the mark as any I have read and I am not talking about the quality of the film itself or his remarks about it as a movie. But his invective about Clancy based upon seeing him for maybe about five minutes on a news program seems puerile, and the review, in the end, seemed more about the reviewer's personal dislike of Clancy than the movie.

And it is apparent that he has not read the book, for if he had he would have understood that the original book was about Muslim nuclear terrorism, not the warmed-over U.S./Russia plot that he rightly decries.

The real question here is "Why was the plot changed?" A serious reviewer might have asked that.

-- W.J. Hunt

This article is supposedly about the movie, not about Tom Clancy, or his prescience, or lack of, in future events. I can understand attacking the movie as I remember the book did not destroy a town; in fact, it featured a nuclear bomb that failed to do much damage at all.

But in one of Tom Clancy's later books ("Debt of Honor," 1994), he had nuclear terrorists use a 747 as a missile to kill almost everyone in the government in Washington who attended the State of the Union speech. I remember right after the book was released, that some wing nut with a perceived gripe flew his small plane into the White House. Dale Brown also had commercial planes used as "bombs" as well, in his 1994 "Storming Heaven."

You may or may not like Clancy, or others of his ilk such as Dale Brown, but to disparage authors like him when they put into their fiction scenarios that turn out chillingly like real events seems like shooting the messenger, especially when it was Hollywood that the author is really railing against. Both of these authors specifically used commercial aircraft as "bombs" to destroy major buildings both outside of Washington and in Washington.

Whether or not you like Hollywood's treatment of this story, It seems to me both of these authors put holes big enough to drive a Mack truck through in the Bush administration's arguments about nobody possibly being able to call using planes as "bombs" into question on "what did Bush know, and when did he know it? The thinking was around, and I think the administration is ducking. Why is this story going away? Is Bush another "Teflon president" like Reagan, or is the press scared by Ashcroft and Cheney. Maybe the Republicans are "the guilty party"?

-- Bill Davis

[Read "Real Life Rock Top 10]

Here's what Greil Marcus might say about Greil Marcus:

"It's hard to say whether Marcus' sentences unfold or unfurl, for he's like a windshield that's been in the sun all day. And yet, for the many words and subjects and alphabet letters he crams into his reviews, the idea that they should mean something when placed next to one another seems not to give him the least bit of worry.

"Marcus seems to be saying, 'I don't know what I'm saying, but I'm going to keep writing until I reach my word count.' He's like someone who says yes out loud while shaking his head no. What does he mean by this? Casting ambivalence in concrete is like trying to apply paint to running water. His compliments hang around just long enough to turn into complaints. And he's like someone with a never-before-heard-of illness trying to describe how he feels. We want to help him, but he has to help us help him.

"To Marcus, a dense thicket of thoughts is preferable to one idea stated clearly. Sure, we can sort them out, but I can't help but think the time he saves is the time I waste trying to do so."

Or, to put it more in my own words, regarding his review of a recent Elvis Costello concert, what the hell is he talking about?

-- Jeff Hagan

Salon Staff

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