Between the lines

Up yours, PrideVision

Richard Burnett
MuchMusic and MusiquePlus have their "veejays" and PrideVision has their "Pride Visionaries". But let me tell ya - there's nothing visionary about the folks over at PrideVision. I've been ragging on them now for weeks because this past autumn they laid off most of their staff and slashed just about all of their original Canadian programming. That's because the fledgling network has racked up multi-million-dollar losses over the last year. (Full disclosure: this columnist was also one of the many writers canned by PrideVision.)
Now, as Pridevision's plans for expansion into the United States have hit a roadblock (read: Viacom's Showtime and MTV networks are co-launching their all-gay Outlet TV network in the second quarter of 2003), the network is desperately trying to raise its subscriber base from 20,000 to 70,000.

But should PrideVision subscribers continue to fork over their hard-earned cash to a network that no longer seems to care - if it ever did - about the community it was mandated by the CRTC to serve here in Canada?
"I truly believe this to be their plan: We should pay PrideVision for a lousy bunch of reruns, and they then will use our money to finance the launch of their American channel, which will include (and they've said this themselves) at least 10 original U.S. shows," journalist Eleanor Brown opined in her November column.

Then Brown goes in for the kill.
"PrideVision is now faced with reality: The Canadian version must survive on its own because there really is nowhere else to go," she writes. "Of course, they have never had a decent business plan that focused on Canada and on giving a great gay channel to its Canadian customers. So they may go under.
"This leads to Plan Two. The latest push for subscribers - they've given themselves a month ending in mid-December to pull in 50,000 new watchers - is based on a combination of guilt and pushing the idea that the community owes them. A healthy community cannot be built on guilt. And it also cannot be built on the belief that noblesse oblige."

So there. Up yours, PrideVision.
And if you're one of the few who still think a gay network is the only place you'll find original queer programming, note that even ABC will begin airing a murder-mystery detective series called Mr and Mr Nash featuring gay partners in the lead roles. I liken it to a gay Hart to Hart (remember Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers?), one of my fave TV shows from the 1980s.

Meanwhile, gay actor Alan Cumming is slated to star in Mr and Mr Nash. ABC is still searching for Cumming's TV partner and they will shoot the pilot this Spring.

Meanwhile, another of my favourite columnists is cantankerous playwright Sky Gilbert who writes his bi-weekly Pink Panther column for Eye Weekly in Toronto.

In his Nov 7 column entitled "The End of Straight", Gilbert writes, "In case you haven't caught Jackass [the movie], here's an idea of what goes down. These guys are, almost every one of them, buff, tough and tattooed. And they spend most of this movie int heir birthday suits. There's nothing these wisecrackers seem to like beter than getting buck naked with each other. And what do they do after they take it all off? Well, they lick the honey out of each other's ass cracks (not actually filmed in this movie, but alluded to), they stick firecrackers in each others' butts or take endless glee in having a couple of male pals over to watch them shove a dinky car toy up their rectums."

Later, Gilbert astutely points out, "Now, I guess I'm supposed to believe one of two things: that straight men don't find all this butt-and-penis-play sexual (it's just what they do when they're bored and can't find girls to fuck), or that the way straight guys deal with the threat of homosexuality is by making fun of homoerotic activities."
"Well, I just don't buy it. I think these guys are getting off. I think towel-flicking, butt-slapping, sex talk, body competition, gossip and "Hey, did you fuck here?" kind of stuff turns straight men on. Part of what makes them horny heterosexuals is not just women but their own hot dicks and butts too."

In other other words, there is no such thing as straight men. Lord knows I know - I've slept with enough of them.
Which brings me to one of my favourite essays of the year by one of my favourite cultural critics, Richard Goldstein of NYC's Village Voice.

In a June 26 piece entitled "The Myth of Gay Macho" (which can also still be read online at, Goldstein writes, "The playground is a boot camp for every boy, but for a gay boy the regimen of training in the art of masculinity can be especially charges. He arrives with an inner fear that something about him isn't right, and that anxiety is bound to affect his performance, if it shows. The greater his need to bury his insecurity in belonging, the more likely that he will police his difference with the utmost severity. He will hide it if he can, and if he can't he will begin the arduous task of creating a self-image without the buttresses of male solidarity. The bravest or most desperate boys flaunt their difference with a willfulness that ripens into pride. They are the ones who flame. But most of us cave under the relentless pressure to fit in. We man up because we must. This tension at the core of one's being as a boy is where the myth of gay macho begins."
Goldstein sure knows how to turn a phrase.

"Healing the playground trauma," he goes on, "has always been a major mission of gay liberation, right up there with sexual freedom and civil rights. The current push for laws protecting gay students from harassment is the latest attempt to prevent the spread of a social disease that might be called gender image deficiency syndrome. But what about those who were infected long ago? So many gay men are living with GIDS, so common is our sense of alienation from other men, that it's fair to say we've never seen a natural gay identity - one that isn't shaped by persecution. What we have seen are various strategies to defy or compensate for this primal wound.

"Consider the disco-era clone, with his costume shrieking blue-collar butch. He was a creature of reaction to the playground trauma, wearing his masculinity on his sweat-shirted sleeve. But this attempt to claim the trappings of masculinity had an unintended (if predictable) consequence. Straight men fled from the attire gay men had borrowed from them in order to look manly. If gays liked their jeans tight, straights liked them baggy; if fags wore white briefs, real men switched to boxers. So the clone look perpetuated the problem it was meant to cure."
Of course, the cure I really want is the cure for AIDS.

This year officially marked the 20th year of the global scourge and the AIDS anniversary made for incisive commentary and international headlines about what is shaping to be the worst pandemic in human history. If you think things are bad now - just wait.

But unlike Dan Savage, who announced the "End of AIDS" in a notoriously bad essay a couple of years ago, I think we're only at the end of the beginning. People in Canada and around the world are still dieing of AIDS and tens of millions more will too.

So buckle up. It's going to be a bumpy ride. And enjoy plenty of (safer) sex this holiday season.
Happy New Year.

Richard Burnett's national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill can be read locally in Hour magazine as well as on the web at and (click on the "issues" link and scroll down to Three Dollar Bill).