Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Why Political Correctness And 'Don't Say' Campaigns Are Just So Gay

I have no time to be politically correct, to watch my mouth or be mindful of my words. In an age of campaigns such as 'Ban Bossy' and 'You Don't Say' it's sometimes safer to be seen and not heard for fear of saying anything that could cause offence.
The term 'politically correct' is used to neutralise our language and I'm far too old to ever be neutered. I grew up at a time when words like 'queer' 'bitch' 'homo' and the dreaded 'N' word were flung around the playground and society in general like the tennis balls at a tennis match.
Sometimes they were flung at me and I very quickly became adept at responding with a sharp-tongued retort or a clenched fist. I was taught to fight my own battles, stand up for myself and learn that words that are used as insults, when overused, become the least insulting of all.
I find it very hard to take offence or be insulted by any use of language nowadays and I'm sure my 'thick skin' didn't just come with age. The author / actor Stephen Fry once said:
"It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so fucking what."

And it's a sentiment I totally agree with. 
I think that my being a gay man in his 40's, who grew up on a council estate during an era of homophobia and still lives in a part of London that is waiting to be 'gentrified' allow me a certain freedom to act, say and behave in any manner that I want. I've paid my dues and I like to pepper my sentences with profanity. So where's the problem? 
I live amongst a cross section of society and have all manner of neighbours, be it from religion, colour, creed or sexuality. I don't hide who I am and I would never allow myself to be victimised because of my choices or lifestyle, so it frustrates me when I see another word or turn of phrase held up to scrutiny and casually turned into the truth that dare not speak it's name.
I constantly tell myself to 'man up'.
I find it a useful and motivating tool. I'm always saying it to myself when things get too difficult, be it with work, health, relationships or just running the extra mile on the treadmill. Apparently the term 'man up' is wrong because it's now associated with hiding or suppressing feelings.
I don't see it like that. I see it as a term to stop me being a little cry baby bitch.
The term 'Bitch' is another favourite of mine.
It's not a negative at all. It's gay law that at sometime we call another man a bitch. In my social circles it's almost a term of endearment. I would never call a woman a bitch because I don't see it as an insult either. If a woman is a 'bitch' then it normally means she's someone we should all be looking up to (can apply to the terms 'bossy' or 'diva' too).
I recently found myself being barred from Facebook for calling someone a 'dirty little fag'. It didn't matter that this person was a friend of mine and if truth be known, he really is a 'dirty little fag' but the PC police were watching and I found myself and my Facebook account suspended. I also wrote an update that referred to the Easter Bunny, Chocolate eggs and Jesus that caused the number of friends on my 'list' to drop by a few digits and I once wrote an article about bisexuals that lead me to receiving death threats and to being called 'a straight breeder pig'.
I don't believe in any section of society being given certain rights or laws that stop others having or voicing an opinion on them. If somebody shouted out 'queer' to me on the street I'd turn around and say 'yes I am, what's your problem?'
It is, after all, the truth. I am different, I am unique and I could be looked upon as being 'queer'. An insult only works if it taps into your deepest insecurities and more often than not, those who use such tired and overused words are the most insecure of all.
There are so many role models and figures from the past that we should look up to and aspire to be like. Getting a group together to oppose peoples rights to say 'that's so gay' or not allowing your daughter to be identified as being bossy do nothing to forward the rights of the gay community or women, no matter how many celebrities you may garner to endorse them.
It's an old adage and one that has probably been replaced with all manner of comebacks but the rhyme that was taught to me as a child was this, 'sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never harm me'.
So next time you feel insulted or offended or defeated by the words of another just think of those few lines, take a deep breath and 'man up bitches', they are only words after all.

Follow Daniel Warner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/picnicdontpanic

Monday, 31 March 2014

Has Gwyneth Paltrow Unconsciously Uncoupled Herself From The Entire World?

There are two sets of guidelines that make a movie star and you either follow one of them or the other.
You're an enigma or you're an open book. You're aloof or you're down to earth. You're iconic or you're approachable. You're certifiably insane or you never speak out loud in public.
Stray from these boundaries or try and coast along in the middle of the road and you're heading for a career disaster, and it's going to be huge. Even bigger than the iceberg that sank the Titanic and launched Kate Winslet's career.
Poor Gwyneth Paltrow.
Once the beacon of all that was glossy, shiny and beautiful about Hollywood but now the flickering candle of all that is wrong and wretched with those that live within its glare.
It's not been easy for her of late. She's suffering from the curse of too much money, too much fame, too much smugness and too much macrobiotic diet.
Not content with alienating her (Apple) core fan base by stating it would be easier if she was a working mother working a 9-5 job, she also evoked and encouraged rumours of diva like behaviour by trying (and succeeding) to stop the publishing of a supposedly scandalous profile of her in Vanity Fair.
In Gwyneth's case it seems that not all publicity is good publicity.
Her website 'Goop' states that 'for many, Goop has become their most trusted girlfriend on the web', but in reality Gwyneth speaks down to and looks upon those many 'girlfriends' like she's Marie Antoinette at a Pilate's class and her public are the peasants at the Palace gates.
Although instead of letting them eat cake, she believes this bunch of plebs are only hungry for a dish of slow-cooked Kale, Pancetta and Breadcrumbs.
And that's fine, if she just kept to that image.
She herself said:
"I am who I am. I can't pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year"
and that's exactly how we like to think of our movie stars. Living a fantasy life of excess and glamour, popping pills and dripping diamonds, knocking back shots of tequila and knocking out paparazzi with a spike heel and a fist full of dollars.
But she then ruins the whole thing by saying:
"when I pass a flowering zucchini plant in a garden, my heart skips a beat".

I mean seriously Gwyneth? A Zucchini makes your heart skip a beat? Imagine what a vial full of propofol or a pipe full of crack would do? That's the stuff that real stars are made of. Zucchini's and butternut squash are for the featherweights and the boring. Although to be fair, she did once say out loud to a bemused interviewer:
"I'd rather smoke crack than eat cheese from a tin."

Does cheese even come in a tin?
It must be hard for Ms Paltrow to function in a normal way. Even a marriage to Chris Martin and a friendship with Beyonce and Jay Z couldn't elevate her to the realms of aspirational edginess or crank up her coolness. You'll never fit in at a Hollywood orgy if the only thing on your mind is:
"It's what makes life interesting, finding the balance between cigarettes and tofu"
and you'll never endear yourself to the general public or the Hollywood elite by declaring:
"Even actresses that you really admire, like Reese Witherspoon, you think, 'Another romantic comedy?' You see her in something like Walk the Line and think, 'God, you're so great!' And then you think, 'Why is she doing these stupid romantic comedies?' But of course, it's for money and status."

Gwyneth Paltrow is a conundrum, caught up in a riddle, wrapped in some organic rice paper and then lightly toasted over a crystal meth pipe in a $25 million home in the Hollywood Hills. Is there anyone that understands her, empathises with her or with all those ridiculously self-righteous quotes ever wants to hear another word from her again?
For someone who once held an Oscar in her hands and made an (hilariously embarrassing) emotional speech in a Ralph Lauren ball gown we'd expect histrionics, drama and self absorbed craziness and that's exactly what we've got. Except she's morphed into some kind of schizophrenic earth mother who can't decide if she wants to have Botox or bake homemade bread.
The final (false) nail in the (biodegradable) coffin of her public persona came with her announcement of her conscious uncoupling from Chris Martin.
I initially thought she was talking about falling unconscious after undergoing some cupping (another one of her ways to live a better life) but no, she's consciously uncoupling from Chris who fronts Coldplay, and that's more than I can get my tongue twisted around. It would have been so much easier to understand if she'd said 'we're splitting up but staying friends'.
I can't remember the last movie I ever saw her in but I do wonder if playing and winning the Oscar for the role of Viola de Lesseps in 'Shakespeare in Love' may have caused her to speak in some kind of dialect that only she can understand?
And on that Shakespearean note I shall leave you with probably the last time she spoke anything of any sense:
"Nurse, as I love you and you love me, you will bind my breast and buy me a boy's wig".

Follow Daniel Warner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/picnicdontpanic

Thursday, 20 March 2014

So What If Your Child May Be Gay? Get Over It

If I was to go and try and get my 'gayness' reversed it would probably open up a plethora of Pandora's boxes. There would be demons, there would be horror, there would be sin, lustfulness and an absolute shed load of glitter, feathers, fun and debauchery.
My childhood would be looked upon as being the perfect text book homosexual 'breeding ground'.
Every religious zealot and every bigot would point to my hate of football, my emotional distance from my father and my absolute adoration of my mother as the reason I never wanted my hair cut shorter than my shoulders and why I had a habit of wandering around the house in my mothers dressing gown and (occasionally) lipstick.
It wouldn't take long to understand why I wanted a pushchair and a doll for my fifth birthday rather than a gun and a hand grenade and I'm sure my insistence on singing 'Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)' at the tender age of eight would not be taken as my having a good ear for a perfect pop song, but rather an insatiable and unnatural deviance that would soon turn me into a raving and unapologetic homosexual.
I am sure any aversion therapist would consider me a classically trained gay, a queer cliche and a suitable candidate to put on the breaks, slam into reverse and then speed away from the horror of homosexuality.
I was never told to temper my behaviour or be anything other than what I was as a child. I only ever remember once being told to curtail the endless 'wiggling and giggling' by my mother because I think my doing a Marilyn Monroe impression in a Dr's surgery was even a bit too much for her to comprehend. I have no recollection of this but at the age of six I had to be observed (for a week) by a child psychiatrist at my school because I had a tendency to swap shoes with the girls, my favourite colour was pink and my teacher could never 'drag' me away from the dressing up box. My mother and I have never really talked about this episode in my 'growing up gay' but suffice to say the psychiatrist advised the school and my mother that this was 'just a phase' and that I would grow out of it.
Thankfully my mother didn't much care if I grew out of it or not, she was happy if I was happy.
My obvious 'femininity' had all but disappeared by the time I went to secondary school. I still hated football but with puberty came a hair cut, facial hair and an absolute love for fashion (you can't keep a good gay down). I didn't like the colour pink anymore and the swapping of the shoes had died a very sudden death (I'd been chosen to attend an all boys school). Outwardly I didn't show any signs of being 'typically gay'. I'd butched it up, learned to fight and instead of being the class queen I now took on the role of class clown. My sexuality wasn't discussed. I wasn't even aware of who or what I should find attractive and my teenage years settled into a kind of casual normality, except with good shoes and a nice haircut.
But not all children who outwardly show signs of not fitting into the standardised regiments of 'normal' behaviour are lucky enough to have a mother or father as understanding or as tolerant as mine were. I was always allowed to be myself, so I never thought asking for the Bionic Woman doll rather than the Bionic Man at Christmas was odd. Instead, I woke up to find Santa Claus had delivered both and I could decide which one I wanted to play with. I find it more incomprehensible that we teach children to believe in a fat man in a red suit rather than allowing them to choose whether Barbie or Action Man is their toy of choice.
Fast forward 35 years and I'm gleefully gay, a happy homosexual and I look back at my childhood as being perfect. I didn't have an overbearing mother or an absent father. So what if I played with dolls and wandered around in my mother's shoes? I still listen to Abba every now and again and I can still remember cutting off all of the Bionic Woman's hair and turning her into Action Man. I'd be interested to know what an aversion therapist thought of that?
What I'm trying to say is that my 'gayness' wasn't nurtured. I wasn't taught how to be gay. It came naturally to me. I was the little boy who for around three years behaved like a little girl but I did grow out of it.
The only thing I didn't grow out of was being gay. I grew up, grew a beard, got some muscles and learned to just get on with it.
So to anyone who feels ashamed of themselves, their childhood, their gayness or even their gay children?
It's not something you can change, suppress or run away from.
The only way you can deal with it is to grow up, get on with it and get over it.

Follow Daniel Warner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/picnicdontpanic

Friday, 24 January 2014

Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone?

I grew up at a time when MTV was in its infancy, a magazine called 'Smash Hits' printed the lyrics to every song in the top 40 and you either spent your money on a 7inch single, a 12inch remix, a picture disc or you spent Sunday afternoon with your ear against the radio and your finger on the record button of your tape recorder.
It was the 1980's and nothing felt as good as a song you'd 'stolen' from the top 40, even if it meant you lost the last few seconds because the DJ started speaking over the top of your chosen hit. No pop stars needed a second name.

Michael, Madonna and Whitney transcended colour barriers and every white boy at my school wanted a perm with a kiss curl and a pair of penny loafers worn with trousers that barely reached his ankles. I even got my mum to pluck my eyebrows into a fine arch to try and get the Jackson look. For a 12 year year old white boy from a council estate with little contact with cosmetic surgeons it was the most I could do to look like my idol.
It was also quite a brave move to go downstairs to breakfast the next morning and have my dad say 'what the f*ck have you done to your eyebrows?'
Only for me to answer 'mum done it, she was trying to make me look like Michael Jackson'.
(I still have no idea if my makeover contributed to their divorce)
I even tried to be a vegetarian like Michael until my older brother force fed me a cheeseburger at the bus stop one day after school.
It was the 1980's and there was always a bus stop outside a McDonald's (especially a bus stop near a school) and at that time Michael Jackson hadn't really started to resemble Ronald McDonald in a black wig, so I can only blame my brothers influence on breaking my strict vegetarianism.

Fast forward ten years and Michael had turned white, Whitney had turned to drugs, my eyebrows had grown back and Madonna turned into the ultimate horror story and the nightmare that just wouldn't go away.
No matter how many times she got knocked down, she just kept getting back up, in different guises. Like the Terminator with a head mic and a bra top.
Not so much 'Like a Virgin', more like Michael Myers with a blonde wig and bad attitude, always present and always making her presence felt. The material girl with the Minnie Mouse voice and the Marilyn Monroe lips kept reinventing herself until all she could do in the end was rehash what she'd already done before.

Who'd have ever thought that over 30 years later the most controversial and rebellious one of those three huge stars would be the only one left?
And who'd have ever thought she'd have been the most 'clean living' and ultimately boring of the three?

So what are we faced with today? The Bieber's and the Britney's (already a veteran herself), the Jessie J's and the One Directioners, who's only direction within a year will hopefully be to rehab and the bargain bin. The manufactured rather than the multi-talented, the talentless rather than the multifaceted.

Where has the joy, the innocence and ultimately the debauchery gone from pop music? Even though we were naive to Michael Jackson's addictions or Whitney's preoccupation with crack cocaine we believed what they sang. I really did wonder 'Where Do Broken Hearts Go' and I really did start to question if Michael was 'Black or White?'
Madonna and her white lace gloves and 'Boy Toy' belt helped teenage girls believe they really were about to be 'touched for the very first time' even if it was for the very first time that day, and many hoped against hope that they would lose their virginity on a gondola in Venice.
As it turned out most probably lost it coming down a slide on a pedalo in Magaluf, but the fantasy remained that one day they may get chased around Venice by a man in a lion mask. I can't see Lady Ga Ga emerging from an egg, wearing a Dorito on her head or referencing Dali, Matisse or wearing a skirt made of steaks inspiring that same kind of whimsical, naive sexual fantasy in anyone old enough to be wearing a training bra or know where to rub a bottle of Veet.

The 1980's were the epitome of all things that go 'pop'. The stars we had then knew they had to self destruct to reemerge. They were like comets in the night sky rather than the pathetic pop tarts we are left with today. Katy Perry sings about being a Firework but she's hardly going to set the curtains on fire is she? Kylie remains but then she's like Tinkerbell, ever young, ever so small and ever so slightly annoying. Even if Michael Jackson was the 'Peter Pan of Pop' at least he knew when it was time to check out and fly off to Never Never land. Kylie will remain, all cutesy and coy, even when she's flashing her arse in a pair of gold hot pants at the age of 60.

I still look to the pop stars of the 80's for the right mix of talent and self destruction. George Michael is always good for a near death story and a near perfect pop song. Even though the only notable hits he's had of late are when he's been bouncing down the fast lane of the M1 he's still a huge presence in pop culture. Boy George has recently fell out of his bucket of chicken Mcnuggets and emerged revitalised, remade (up) and back to riding the bucking bronco of pop. Even Bananarama have made it from the bar and all the way back to Butlins holiday camps and Duran Duran are at this very moment new romanticising a whole new group of fans, but I want the 1980's back and most of all I want pop music back.

Back when it was about 3 minutes of pure unadulterated bliss, not pretentious, not plastic and not pimped up like a player with a bunch of naked hoes.

Back when I could illegally record songs from the radio without getting caught, rather than spending lots of money on iTunes and regretting it three minutes later.

And back when our pop stars where home-grown, organic and ultimately flawed, rather than the genetically modified pop stars we have to put up with today.

I want Michael with his kiss curl and his moon walk, Whitney with her god fearing presence and her white girl weave and I want Madonna back when she had a beer belly and a sense of humour. Come back Michael and come back Whitney, it's so boring without you and Madonna, seeing as you're the only one left, please go back to basics. Put on some weight, stop shaving your armpits, put on a wedding dress and start writhing around on dirty nightclub floors in a wedding dress like you used to.

Give me the drug addled, the tortured, the pill poppers and cocaine sniffers for those are the only ones that really put the personality into 'Pop' and take your manufactured, manicured, airbrushed and autotuned and save them for another day.

Tell Bieber to 'Beat It', someone let Beyonce know 'It's not right but it's ok' and let Miley Cyrus know the only way she'll ever get close to doing something  'Like A Virgin" is if she gives birth to a baby in a barn.

By an unknown father.