I am not known for having thick skin. In fact, I don't think I'm known for anything. I'm just another disembodied spectre of opinions and “Which Death Note Character Am I” quiz results ceaselessly encircling the blogosphere. I consider myself first and foremost a pop culture commentator/humorist, a butt-fuckingly ironic choice of occupations for a trans woman. Queers, especially trans people, are the free condom bowl of the humor community. You can take as much as you want and nobody ever questions your need or intent. This is nauseatingly common in the “adult animation” racket, where the veneer of illusion and animation allows the creators to (literally) dress up their targets as irritatingly over the top and one dimensional as their punchline demands. And we, as a marginalized community othered by even the most progressive and “well-meaning” of our political allies, will almost always fit the bill.

The secret word of the day is “Why Do They Have To Pick On (Insert People)?” Saying this will inevitably throw everyone around you in a frenzy, screaming “BUT THEY RAG ON EVERYONE!” If you haven't heard this tagline before, you will in the next couple of days. It's like the song “Christmas Shoes”. Once you've been made aware of its existence, it feels the need to make friends with you. This modus operandi, that is, shitting on every bare chest you can find (metaphorically speaking, of course, I wish not to speculate on what it takes to get the minds behind Team America: World Police off) has been nothing short of magic for the creators of South Park. Now, before I continue this journey of adventurous naysaying and exposing self revelation (yes, sometimes even I get to the end of these posts and wonder who the hell this idiot thinks she is), I wish to make two points Crystal Pepsi clear: 1) I love South Park and 2) I realize that, as a hipster liberal who attends protest rallies and actively tries to limit her consumption of beef and high fructose corn syrup, I bear a striking resemblance to the portrait they bear in mind at brainstorming sessions when they ask “how can we piss those people off the most?” Parker and Stone's distaste for liberals is well documented. But so is my Dad's. I try to do my best to find what we have in common and move from there.

Still, no amount of salt (and/or Colt 45) makes any of the frequent jabs at LGBT people made on the show any more pallatable. I'll give them this much, though: despite our political and social differences, Stone and Parker go out of their way to make griping about their show convenient for liberals, especially queer liberals. Rather than pour through years worth of episodes trying to find random one-shot characters or punchlines that could be interpreted as problematic, all I have to do is bring up one main character that manages to embody every negative stereotype of LGBT people. I'm talking, of course, about Mr/Ms. Garrison. For those of you whose superior “bigotry sense” tingled years before this show became mainstream and have thus avoided it, Garrison starts out the series as a belligerent closeted homosexual, comes out, takes on a slave (leather, not Roots), comes out as trans, undergoes SRS (saying “I'd rather be a woman than a fag”), comes out as a lesbian (and proceeds to proposition every woman s/he encounters for sex), reverses his SRS (claiming “if you can't have babies, you can't really be a woman”), and last I checked, went back into the closet. There is so much wrong with this that to dissect and critique it with any sort of justice I would need to go back to school and get a Master's in Queer Studies.

Some have mentioned that Garrison's constant shifts in identity and frequent naysaying parting shots with each transition are indicative of his personality and his alone, and don't necessarily reflect the views of the creators. This brings me to, perhaps the true target of my editorial wrath; The Issue Drift, destroyer of comedy and decimator of fandoms. Issue Drift, as we in the pop culture peddler biz call it, is when a fiction (often animated) starts out as inane comedy and over time is modified to serve as a soap box for the creator's views. South Park would be the picture for this entry in the dictionary, if we weren't already in the process of evolving beyond books. Other examples of this trope are Family Guy (I see your hand raised, I'm getting to you...), The Boondocks, and Penn & Teller: Bullshit! The problem with issue drift is that once your fiction has a political or social message, every character becomes a tool for that message, which becomes problematic when you can't figure out what the fuck they're trying to say. Am I supposed to assume that Garrison's irrational hatred and absolutism is meant to be funny, and that when he says that only real women can get pregnant, a comment that has been said to my face by teachers, friends, and even other queers, that's my cue to say “haha, that Garrison, he doesn't understand how the world works”, even if you haven't gone the extra two feet it would take to present a slightly more realistic representation of gender variance? Or am I supposed to take this at face value, assume that that's what you really think of trans people? I mean, why not just say that? Why leave the episode with some random character trying to refute Garrison's claim by mentioning his wife has Ovarian cancer? That doesn't give us a clear enough idea of how indifferent you really are to people who are not like you, that is, smug, white, well to do Libertarians? You know that the lack of solid, impartial portrayals of LGBT people in mainstream fiction allows you to feed us as big a shit sandwich as you can fit in your toaster oven of privilege because nobody can reasonably complain about it when there are no other options. You throw your rotten little vegetables at everyone, saving the biggest for those who can't throw back.

And anyone who says South Park is “progressive” because Satan is a homosexual needs to be strapped to a chair and read “How To Please Your Man” articles from Cosmo every fifteen minutes for three days. There is nothing progressive about sodomy in hell. Men being forcibly raped as penance for their crimes is so old it could vote (see also: Hitler's Pineapple butt plug in Little Nicky). I won't even mention Saddam Hussein being his boyfriend and the rat's nest of problems that mentions, because if I do, I'll never get out of the house today and spend all my food stamps on organic Trader Joe's food.

Wipe that smile off your face, MacFarlane. At least the smug Libertarians had the sense to make the sensible main characters their mouthpieces. Your rational, reasonable liberal messages come from an alcoholic dog that fucks people. And your only main black character, the one that you gave a spinoff to, is voiced by a fucking honky.

I don't mean to front here. I'm a radical leftist. I believe in free speech and information, especially when it can cause riots and bickering and fighting in the streets. But when you make your little cartoon into a multimedia op/ed piece, you have the potential to inspire bigotry, because the stone cold truth is that nobody spreads a message unless they want people to believe or agree. You do it to tell people what you see, and why they should see it to. So Garrison invalidating all queer people through their marathon of identity shifts is really you saying to your smug libertarian audience to do and feel the same. While it's the controversy that puts you in the paper and keeps you on the airwaves, it's your followers and believers that buy your merchandise. You can buy a plushie of Cartman, perhaps the most racist, anti-Semitic child in all of animation, and cuddle with it. I know this, because I own one. For all my finger pointing and crybabying, I in some way have contributed to the marginalization of my community. And I really wish, more than anything, that this was an experience unique to me. But it's not. In the end, we all framed Roger Rabbit.

I have come to the point that geeks of all spectrums and fandoms encounter: the event horizon where our fandom no longer our moral or intellectual needs. This is not to suggest that I have morals. I believe in human rights, but not in achieving them legally or even civilly. If I could find the facebook groups where people as Danzig as I am frequented, I would host megaphone karaoke on the lawns of religious leaders in the middle of the night and blackmail politicians until they gave in to our demands. I didn't protest the war because I believe in peace, but because in the hiddenmost reaches of my reptilian brain I sense that there is nothing more than this, and no amount of human lives lost can justify the pursuit of oil or the expansion of a nation's political influence. Nonetheless, I can no longer in good conscience trust what is left of the frail and brittle twig that is my sanity to cartoons that talk like adults but still haven't graduated into their big boy pants.
What is that pedantic moose shit line our friends feed us when our brief surges of irrationality compel us to lament our single status and long for a nice cozy ampersand? “When you stop looking, that's when you'll find it” or some nonsense. Well, it happened to me. No, I didn't find a girl who paints my toes and beatboxes while I lay my phat rhymes. But I did manage to find two cartoons so vulgar and so overt in its technicolor sadism that in the ensuing carnage I feel some twisted eleven-toed cousin of acceptance and inclusion. Don't let my poetry betray the truth, as it so often does: I didn't “discover” these shoes. I've been watching them for years, and that is perhaps what's so singular and special about them: my queer awakening has not left me feeling othered or alienated by the creators and characters of these shows. When you just shut the fuck up with your ideas of how the world should work, you would be amazed at how much time for fun and laughter opens up for you.

The first of my belated valentines goes to Comedy Central black horse Drawn Together. A brief 101 for the noobs (a term that I explained to my therapist this week, much to her amusement): DT is an animated faux reality show (like Total Drama Island, also on Cartoon Network...actually, that's even more obscure than my original example...shit...) in the Big Brother style that follows the adventures of a cadre of cartoon archetype caricatures, like Princess Clara, the racist, anti-Semitic knock off Disney Princess and Ling-Ling, the psychotic dime store pokemon. It is a veritable checklist of shit you should not find funny. Suicide. Incest. Drug addiction. Self-mutilation. The muppet babies being torn apart by feral pitbulls. It was everything that South Park came just shy of in their “gross out sex and fart jokes” phase before they went topical. I fear expanding any further, lest you make the rational, reasonable decision to avoid this show and save yourself the brain bleach and white liberal guilt you will experience laughing at such intensive racial humor.

But on my topic I will further pontificate. Queerness is a frequent subject of the show. While one character is openly gay, the entire cast have at one point (save the pokemon, I think, but I may have blanked that out) engaged in homoerotic or bisexual sexual activity, and this is not done to demean, belittle, or other them, though it does provide chauvinist sweatshop superman Captain Hero a significant amount of character development as he tries to explore his bisexuality while maintaining his veneer of masculine stoicism. One scene in particular that I've made a point to remember in the haze is one where Captain Hero, Wooldoor (mickey mouse Spongebob), and Spanky Hamm (downloadable internet cartoon) are playing spin the bottle. Wooldoor cheers on his turn and his chided by CH for “being gay about it”. The three then enjoy an enthusiastic “triple kiss”. There's a sincere cleverness in that vulgarity. None of the characters have been brainwashed to be gay or are trying to make themselves gay (plots for a Family Guy and American Dad episode, respectively). It's just three guys making out. For no reason. There are many illegal activities I would give up to be able to say “I dress/act this way because I like to. No real reason.”
Drawn Together is about jokes, most of which require a certain fluency in ignorant racial and sexual humor. You might have to be a bigot to find all the jokes in Drawn Together, but watching it won't make you into one. We as queers are forced to justify so much of our identity. We don't get that privilege of just shrugging our shoulders because we're so hesitant to accept media that does the same (as you might have predicted, this show has had abyssmal reception, despite three seasons and an upcoming direct to DVD movie).

It succeeds in the field of “satirizing everyone” where South Park and Family Guy and that pedantic Michael Moore parody made by the asshole who did Airplane by not having a message or point in its episodes. It does not have to justify people's very very insane actions by fitting it into a moral. And by not stooping to this level, they manage to include everyone in on the laugh. A black joke and a gay joke in an episode about black jokes and gay jokes is far less toxic and problematic than a black joke and a gay joke in an episode about illegal immigration or the futility of strikes. Yes. I just compared trying to make a point to a low blow. You read that right. I wish you hadn't, either.

My second paramore in this abandonment of my intellect is Adult Swim's Superjail! Alright, real quick, I don't want to spoil too much because if you definitely pick one of these shows it's gotta be this one. Superjail is about a fantastical (possibly pan-dimensional) prison run by The Warden, a top hat donning sociopath whose schemes and shenanigans more often than not end in the murders of hundreds, if not thousands of his prisoners. Rinse and repeat. The supporting cast includes Jared, the accountant and recovering alcoholic, Jailbot, the trigger happy android, The Twins (sort of self-explanatory), and Alice, the guard (yes, one guard for possibly millions of prisoners), who just happens to be a transsexual woman. Unlike the dodginess of The Venture Brothers' creators about Dr. Girlfriend's history, the creators of Superjail openly admit that Alice is trans (even including a sad and oddly touching Word of God backstory about her losing her job and reputation after transitioning and being brought on to Superjail by The Warden because he recognized her talents...and wants to bone her...we'll get to that in a bit). The show is famous for its violence (every episode culminates in an elaborate fight scene where people are brutally murdered in the most comical ways possible) and surreal art direction (vegetables arguing, gingerbread men whipping forced laborers, everything you could want in an acid trip without actually having to make a friend). Despite the many spiritual/metaphysical themes potentially explored (the idea that Superjail is actually Hell and the reality-defying Warden is Satan is a popular fan theory), there is no message other than “holy shit wouldn't this be awesome if I cut you in half with the broken nose of a swordfish?”

Queers figure prominently in the cast, even for an Adult Swim show. Among the recurring prisoner characters who somehow manage to avoid being eaten by merfolk or punched to death by robotic fists are a gay couple who share a cell. With the exception of predictable prison violence (“here's your promise shank back!”), they appear to have a loving albiet argumentative relationship. It is never implied that their (possibly situational) homosexuality contributed to their winding up in prison nor are we led to believe that it is an example of power play or status. Compare that to the “grown up” Oz, with its sexual extortion and caste system. Not everyone who performs fellatio in a prison cell is doing so involuntarily, and it makes me a little sadder than I care to admit to see that more apparently in a cartoon about prison than a grown up live action show about prison.

Now, on to Alice. I heart Alice. So much so that I have considered going as her to a costume party. Admittedly, she's a bit comically masculine in the Joanie Laurer vein (lots of muscles, body hair, gender-inappropriate voice), but I let it slide because 1) she has a reason for that, having once been a hardened prison warden herself, and 2) as a 6' ex-linebacker and wrestler, I am more readily equipped to relate to a woman who asserts her identity in spite of a traditionally male body form than the limber, mincing, boy-crazy trans women so readily available in the current media. Also of note is that nobody, save for one female prisoner who subsequently gets her arm broken (the episode “Ladies Night” details the cast's interactions with alternate universe, gender-swapped versions of themselves and their prisoners), challenges her female identity, and she is somewhat of a figure of desire, especially for The Warden. This of course could be read as t**** chasing (I'm meeting you halfway, PC police), except that The Warden's only other sexual encounter was with the gender-opposite version of himelf. Oh, and the same episode featured an FTM version of Alice. I defy any non-reality show that features both sides of the trans spectrum in an unparodical manner (Rick and Steve doesn't count, she's a drag queen, not a transsexual). Damn, MacFarlane. The show about mass murdering prison inmates is already five to ten steaps ahead of you.

I admit to having some mixed feelings about the setting of Superjail! I don't believe in conventional prisons, and my biggest fear in life is incarceration. Merely visiting my father in a psych ward was enough to unravel my nerve, and I threw up and cried in that order, and then reversed. I didn't visit him in prison. It might have done me good to do so, both for our relationship and to further deter me from any bullshit I may be planning in the future, but attending a prison even in the capacity of a visitor might have been enough to trigger me. But when you think about it, life is full of prisons. If you're a lower class American, this country can be a prison, if you can't afford a passport, or your recent gender transition has made any identification you may carry on yourself an awkward conversation starter. Our body's can be a prison, especially for the disabled and invalid. Our jobs. Our relationships. Human existence and society revolves around placing ourselves and each other in confinement. Maybe all the world is just one big Superjail, and all of the differences that we separate ourselves and each other based on (color, creed, sexual orientation, etc) are tools for keeping us down and quelling any cosmic uprising.
Or maybe I need to go back to school, get my Master's, get a real job, and learn to appreciate Heroes.

All this and more can be true.

Alright. We've exceeded the 3300 word mark. I'm going to try and wrap up everything I've said in a concise paragraph, bake a lasagna and drown my inability to decide whether to accept my family's indifference to me or simply cut them from my life in a bottle of perrier with a twist of lime.

When a show strives to make a point, it only serves to other and marginalize minorities, particularly queers, because more often than not we end up being the one liners and throw away characters that make the message “funny” and “biting”. Shows that seek not to make a point, like the ones I've just mentioned, can and will provide queers with less problematic and still humorous portrayals and representations of themselves because there's no self-important moral to justify the stereotype. We have been known to scour all of media to find shows and movies and comics that adequately and positively feature us and our identities, but like the content single who meets their future partner in the coffee shop, perhaps we will find our validation when we stop looking for it. So do yourself a favor, and pick up some random, meaningless television show or movie without message or reason. You might like what you find.

Or, you might not.

That's what you get for listening to me, fools.

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