Vamp Stamp: What Is True Blood Saying About Women And Sex?

First published on on July 14, 2009. Read the original with comments here.

To talk about True Blood is to talk about sex: barely a scene goes by without something between innuendo and a full-on orgy. This isn’t new to vampire fiction, as Latoya Peterson pointed out in a piece for Double X. That the sexuality of the female leads is under heavy scrutiny is no surprise, given how much horror fiction has centered on feminine helplessness. To Peterson, the current crop of pointy-toothed dramas continues the genre’s fascination with sexual violence and the idealization of the chaste woman. I can’t fault her for taking issue with eroticized depictions of abuse, often against women. But she’s wrong to equate the sexual politics of True Blood with those of the abstinent, repressed Twilight. Continue reading

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Improve Your Taste With John C. Reilly

First published on on June 15, 2010. Read the original with comments here.

If you know John C. Reilly from films like The Hours, you may think of him as a great tragedian. If you know him from films like Step Brothers, you may think of him as a great comedian. Reilly is the rare actor who can move from one to the other (sometimes in one film, as in Magnolia) and never seem out of place. In the upcoming Cyrus, he shows off his comedy chops again as a middle-aged divorcee trying to date. We sat down with Reilly to talk about his favorite music club, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, and the allure of extreme survival situations.

Lynne Ramsay
For some reason, a lot of people don’t know about Lynne Ramsay, and I think she’s one of the greatest directors in the world. She did two great films — one called Morvern Callar with Samantha Morton and another one called Rat Catcher, where she worked with these wild kids from the streets of Scotland who had never done any acting before. I just finished a movie with her called We Need To Talk About Kevin, with me and Tilda Swinton. It’s based on a really intense book about this family having trouble with their boy, and he ends up committing this really tragic crime. I just finished filming that, and I’m a one-man Lynne Ramsay publicity machine; she’s amazing. She really has the eye of an artist. Continue reading

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Pop Torture: The Sandra Lee Dinner Party

First published on on March 23, 2010. Read the original with comments here.

Welcome to Pop Torture, a biweekly column in which I embrace my pop-culture masochism and search out the most painful ways to experience the movies, TV, and music that fill our lives with such ecstasy and agony. (Needless to say, I’ll mostly be focusing on the latter.) Each week I’ll take on a new challenge, and each week I’ll share my adventures with you, provided I survive them.

The Challenge: To prepare, eat, and survive a meal made exclusively of recipes from Semi-Homemade With Sandra Lee.

Sandra Lee is the host of not one but two shows on the Food Network, famous for making meals that, by design, cut as many corners as possible. Anything that can be purchased pre-made is tops in her book, which has led to a less-than-stellar reputation among other cooks, foodies, and anyone with eyes/taste buds. (She’s also known for coming off as an unrepentant lush — half of her airtime seems to be spent throwing back cocktails.)

But Lee does have qualifications, as her unintentionally hilarious Wikipedia page points out: “Lee’s official Food Network bio states that, ‘Lee then attended the world’s leading culinary art institute, Le Cordon Bleu.’ Lee enrolled in a recreational two-week course at the school’s Ottawa outpost, which she acknowledges that she did not complete.” I’ve spent a decent amount of time laughing at Sandra, but I’ll admit I’d never tried any of her recipes. If I actually put her food where my mouth is, would I have to stop laughing? Continue reading

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Ahead of the Class: Why Glee Makes Gossip Girl Obsolete

First published on on September 6, 2009. Read the original with comments here.

Martinis, blackmail, five-thousand-dollar outfits: ah, high school. Why, it seems like it was only yesterday that I was walking to Monkey Bar during lunch with my friends — all wearing impossibly tall stilettos — while trying to decide: do I go to my mother’s reception at the Met, or do I try and seduce the drama teacher to get that lead role in the spring production of Cabaret? Because I’m Sally Bowles or I’m nothing. Then we would all down a bottle of Patron and go to Bergdorf’s. I think I had some classes, too, or whatever. Math? Maybe I had math once.

If that all sounds unrealistic, then clearly you didn’t go to high school on the CW. The most egregious example of the high-school-as-Dynasty genre is Gossip Girl, but there are plenty of others — the updated 90210, The O.C., Laguna Beach, NYC Prep. I don’t know when someone decided that the most universal high-school experience was a fashion show (actually, it was circa 2003), but the idea certainly caught on. And while this particular vision of high school can be good fun — and I will admit to watching many of these shows with great delight — I started to wonder if there were any realistic portrayals of teenage life on major networks anymore. Continue reading

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Cheesecake Factory: Author David Henry Sterry Recalls His Stint As the Roller-Skating MC of Chippendales

First published on on August 19, 2008. Read the original with comments here.

When David Henry Sterry writes about sexuality, it’s like a chef writing about food. Other people may have their trove of memorable moments — a tryst here, a wild fling there — but when it comes to sex, Sterry is a careerist. His first memoir, Chicken — a “studiously wild souvenier,” according to the New York Times — chronicled his youth spent as a teenage hustler in ’70s Hollywood. His second effort, Master of Ceremonies, continues along this vein as Sterry recounts moving to the East Coast in the 1980s to become the roller-skating MC at Chippendales, that infamous New York City temple of over-broiled beefcake.

A twentysomething struggling actor, Sterry finds himself surrounded by cokehead party girls, steroidal strippers and a constant throb of ’80s nightclub noise pollution. At the center of the scene is Nick DeNoia, the megalomaniacal visionary who made Chippendales legendary, and who was ultimately murdered by his business partner in 1987. With anecdotes slathered in Me Decade slang, Sterry reincarnates this mix of glamour and horror from a scene that relied on beauty but, underneath, was often grotesque.

As a show, Chippendales has lost most of its sheen. It’s now a sprawling corporate venture focused on brand licensing, and its main revue — since moved to Las Vegas — is a camp-value tourist stop. This rise and spectacular fall only makes Sterry’s story that much more compelling. Over twenty years after he left the show, he spoke with Nerve about what it was like. — James Brady Ryan

Do you think Chippendales was doomed to end with the ’80s?

It sure seems like that. By the time Nick was killed it was like the lunatics were running the asylum. And the lunatics were in g-strings, you know? So there was this feeling that Rome was burning around you and you’re just grabbing as much loot as you possibly could before the whole thing imploded. Continue reading

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