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Michael Musto

When Does a Bitchy Queen Become Too Much?

The Devil Wears Prada/20th Century Fox Film

Also: Helen Mirren, Patti LuPone, and Sophia Petrillo Mix It Up

Conspiratorially, with friends, we've often taken the bait to be bitchy queens, gleefully cutting down people with wisecracks and cynicism. Lord knows I've done so with a world full of such friends. Being able to do so might well be part and parcel of the gay experience, and as I've noted, gays' outsider status contributes to the fact that we sometimes use humor to navigate our way more into acceptance--with each other and with THE other. As someone who relishes incorrect humor, from "Springtime for Hitler" to Joan Rivers on down, I never want to give up the chance to be able to toss off outrageous quips and bon mots, especially since there's so much to criticize in the culture, and I don't just mean the hairstyles. Besides that, an overabundance of political correctness can be suffocating, taking the life out of humor and observation in a way that challenges thought when it's actually trying to encourage it.

That being said, when does a bitchy queen become too much? Calling someone old and fat isn't exactly productive, especially if you're old and fat. Going automatically for the jugular is too easy a response, when there are other, more reasoned salvos you can consider. A putdown can be a step down, unless it's a matter of embracing dumb comments in order to simultaneously deflate them--a trick that requires an especially deft comic touch that various female comics are adept at, but not necessarily the gang at the office.


Lord knows I scream with laughter when Lady Bunny says that "slut shaming" is exactly what's needed--after all, what's the point of being a slut without being called names and told to do dirty things? But using bitchy wit to deflate individuals by name is less gratifying (unless they're Republicans, of course). Just being bitchy for bitchy's sake is a self-defeating act that puts the stereotype on in stereo. So perhaps we bitchy queens need to think twice before being so blithe. Or maybe we should just keep dishing it out, as long as it's done with the proper perspective and wit. I don't know. I'll just do what Bette Davis says.

In the process, it's also important to learn more sensitivity towards other members of the community, something we need to keep reminding ourselves as we get too comfortable with the dishing process. Trans people demand to be understood as those for whom their gender is not a choice. Bisexuals should be respected as those who genuinely aren't restricted by gender when it comes to love and sex. And lesbians shouldn't be subjected to demeaning jokes about looks and biology. (Lord knows I've offended when it comes to all three of those things. House parties are an evil thing.)

Oh, don't worry, I'm not going to suddenly run around being Mother Theresa, as I spout greeting card wisdoms about our brothers and sisters (and naughty uncles). That would be incredibly not fun--and non-productive too. But maybe at the very least it's time to be more open minded about celebrities' foibles. As bedazzled as their lives may seem, stars are human, with feelings, vulnerabilities, and often a willingness for improvement. On the smallest level, it might be wise to encourage them when they try something new. Broadway stars known for flamboyant performances should be commended for attempting to scale things down in roles that would normally lend themselves to over-the-top-ness (unless the scale-down just plain doesn't work by any stretch). And the Madonna types who keep rocking deserves props for increasing the choices for artists as they mature, as well as for her powerful recent Billboard "Women in Music" speech in which she talked about the demeaning things a woman has to go through in show biz, especially in relation to the glorified males doing the same thing.

And that's it. End of niceness. Meet me by the water cooler and we'll dis that Voice contestant's cowboy hat.


In a perfectly earnest, well meaning, and non bitchy fashion, let me run down some recent happenings in film and theater. A fancy Le Bernardin lunch for the well-made Eye in the Sky was capped by Helen Mirren, Gavin Hood, and host Tina Brown eloquently dissecting topics involving drones, national secutiy, and international politics. Compared to the usual fall movie event, it was a real winner.

Kudos to Ben Rimalower for his funny and insightful show Patti Issues, which only partially deals with his longtime fixation on Broadway diva Patti LuPone and her war paint. On a lighter note, I also enjoyed That Golden Girls Show--A Puppet Parody!, in which actresses playing Dorothy, Sophia, Blanche, and Rose hold puppets (which stop at the waist) of the beloved characters and snap bon mots at each other with a glee that resonates times two. You get the actress plus the puppet. What could be more doubly delightful? And this way, you let them be the bitchy queens. Damn, they're good.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Michael Musto