Archive for May, 2012


In Hollywood, especially for women, there aren’t all many roles as actors age.  After being relegated to playing the part of the mother or father, there are few roles for grandmothers and grandfathers, and the role of grandparents is generally relegated to minor characters.  Male actors have more options than their female counterparts, but even so, there aren’t all that many roles available. 

No one seems particularly interested in what older characters can teach us.  It’s emblematic of the way we treat the elderly in our society.  Other cultures revere their elders, but we just shove them into nursing homes, to be forgotten rather than honored.

That’s what makes the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel all that special.  Starring amazing actors like Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and their male counterparts, including Tom Wilkinson, the story proves the point that it’s okay to want more out of your life, even if you’re in your golden years.  Rather than expecting less and less, the characters plunge into a foreign culture in Jaipur, India, enlarging their experience of their lives.  They might very well have said, “My life matters, if only to me!”

I’m reminded of a quote by Emile Zola:  “If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you:  I came to live out loud.”  Like other films such as Short Cuts, Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Eve, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel follows each of its seven main characters in separate vignettes, but shows its protagonists coming together at the airport, intertwining their stories into one cohesive tale.

An interesting subplot follows Maggie Smith’s character Muriel who worked for many years as a housekeeper, but managed to stay isolated in her own, exclusively Caucasian world, and she is more than willing to reveal her extremely prejudiced viewpoints to anyone who will listen.  She has travelled to India for a cheaper hip replacement, and she is forced into interactions with Indians, and this rubs up against her xenophobia.  The story proves that prejudice, even firmly entrenched prejudice, can be overcome.  And life turns out to be about connectedness, not disconnectedness.  Rather than simply passing time until they die, the characters seek to enrich their lives.  It’s a great story, well worth telling, and well worth going to see.  Allow The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to transport you to another culture. 

What a Librarian Can Teach You

It takes a village to form a writer.

Legalize Love

Despite the superfluity of recent conversations, conflicts, and contentions, I had not intended to blog on the topic of gay marriage, but with the president stating his revised opinion, I felt I might as well weigh in with my thoughts.

My father, when I first came out as a gay man, worried about being shamed by my sexual orientation, and told me when I was nineteen, “Just don’t ever embarrass us.”  I think he had seen what he deemed radicals stumping for the cause of gay rights.

Homosexuality itself was included in the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) of abnormalities until 1973.  Being gay used to be considered a mental disorder.  These disorders were traditionally diagnosed when symptoms substantially interfere with daily functioning.  This was eventually shown not to be the case for gay individuals.

After the Stonewall riots in 1969, gay rights activists focused on educating people that being gay is an orientation, not a “alternative lifestyle choice” made by “maladjusted individuals.”  These activists also put civil rights for gay men and women on the fast track to being afforded to all, not just heterosexuals.  I’m reminded of the Virginia Slim’s ad for cigarettes:  “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

My father has come a long way in not only accepting me, but also being proud of who I am.  Still, he supports civil unions, but not gay marriage.   Many heterosexuals balk at allowing the word marriage to refer to a union between a man and a man or a woman and woman.  To me, it is a matter of semantics, and I’m constantly amazed how one little word can inflame the passions of a fair number of heterosexuals.

Several states now allow gay marriage, including,  New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, the District of Columbia, and even Mitt Romney’s home state of Massachusetts.  In May, 2004, Massachusetts became the very first state to issue same-sex marriage licenses.  (Comment on that, Mitt, especially when you are accused of being out-of-touch with the will of the people since you don’t even support the will of your own state’s constituency).

Other states, including Illinois (my home state), now allow civil unions.  (I personally have never really figured out the qualitative difference between civil unions and gay marriage, but that’s only one aspect of the issue).  Romney has commented recently, saying, “My view is that marriage itself is a relationship between a man and a woman, and that’s my own preference.”

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg struck back in saying, “No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people, and I have no doubt that this will be no exception.”

Jesse Jackson also had his say:  “If the states had to vote on slavery, we would have lost the vote.  If we had to vote on the right (for black men and women) to vote, we would have lost that vote.”

Many black people distance themselves from the issue of gay rights and civil legislation to protect the rights of what can sometimes be considered “an invisible minority.”  They don’t seem to want comparisons between the rights of African-Americans and the rights of gay people, which makes it all that much more meaningful that Jesse Jackson stood up to be counted, making sure his voice was heard as a supporter of the inalienable rights of every individual.

Change comes slowly, incrementally.  If you don’t want gay marriage, don’t marry one of us.

In the meantime, let’s legalize love.