Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tyrone Garner RIP + The Aristocrats

Tyron(e) Garner RIP
GarnerOnly through surfing Keith Boykin's blog did I come across news I'd completely missed: Tyrone Garner, one of the two plaintiffs (the other was John Lawrence) whose lawsuit led to the historic 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision, recently passed away. Garner and Lawrence, who were represented by the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, brought their case after being charged with a Class C misdemeanor following a bizarre police arrest. The 6-3 Supreme Court ruling, which reversed the execrable 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision that permitted state sodomy laws, was and continues a social and political landmark decision. Featuring far-reaching language by majority opinion writer Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy that furthered privacy rights, it struck down the remaining state-wide sodomy laws (effecting on a national basis the decriminalization of oral and anal sex acts in 13 states) across the US, and thus helped to further erode the legal bases for many of the civil discrimination laws (or absence of civil protections) that are still on the books. (Keith's important 2003 meditation on Black LGBT life after Lawrence v. Texas is available here.) Terrance of Republic of T, Pam of Pam's House Blend, and Coffee House Studio are some of the other bloggers who were on it right away. Garner was only 39 at his death. Given how important this decision was and what Garner, a working-class Black gay man, laid on the line to litigate it, I would hope that LGBT organizations in particular, as well as all organizations that value equality under US laws and personal freedom, would be celebrating Garner's important role and his courage. The very least we all can say to honor Tyron(e) Garner's memory is: Thank You.

The Aristocrats
After months of juggling it in and out of my Netflix queue, I finally saw The Aristocrats, which explores an extremely scatalogical joke that is legendary among a certain group of American comedians. While it was fascinating to see the array of permutations in which the joke could be performed, the film ultimately struck me as, well, a joke that went on too long and fell flat. I found that after hearing it the first time, I wasn't really laughing, and the intercutting of talking heads, some of them quite annoying, didn't help things, nor did the botched and uninteresting versions. (Mario Cantone, Steven Wright, Emo Phillips, Paul Reiser, and George Carlin were among the especially awful.) Only Wendy Liebman's and Martin Mull's revisions of the joke, problematic as his was, actually made me laugh out loud after the first five minutes, while the other versions that touched upon race were unfunny, while the wallowing by some of the comedians in extremity, which felt forced in more than a few cases, started to grate on me. Especially telling was the paucity of comedians of color; Whoopi Goldberg seemed pressed to recount her version, while Chris Rock looked baffled about his presence in the documentary. I don't think I'd recommend it--Google a clip of Gilbert Godfried's 2001 (or 2002) Friar's Club Roast of Hugh Hefner, and you've pretty much got the entire film in a fingernail.

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