CULTURE

He-Man Sings "What's Up" as New Queer Cinema

The classic He-Man meme video stands the test of time as an iconic example of queer-coded art.

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In December of 2005, Brokeback Mountain shifted queer-coded cinema into the mainstream.

Prior to 2005, "New Queer Cinema"––a term coined by film scholar B. Ruby Rich in Sight & Sound to define the queer-themed independent film movement, which focused on rejecting heteronormativity and concentrated on LGBTQ protagonists––existed on the fringe of the film world. It's worth noting that while the movement primarily refers to the boom in independent LGBTQ films from 1992 onwards, queer cinema existed for many years prior, albeit without a proper name. But regardless of nomenclature, New Queer Cinema was typically designated for niche audiences, relegated to arthouse showings at best.

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FILM

Is The Bronx Safe for Tourists Flocking to the "Joker Stairs"?

Like the "Rocky steps" in Philadelphia and the horrible "Friends" apartment building in the West Village, the "Joker stairs" are becoming a tourist attraction.

On Google Maps, the Bronx staircase at 167th Street is now labeled "Joker Stairs."

The staircase is the location of a crucial scene in Todd Phillips' Joker, in which Joaquin Phoenix embodies Arthur Fleck's transformation from alienated comedian to violent misanthrope. While the film's themes have resulted in its treatment as both a cult classic and dangerous incel propaganda, fans are visiting the site to recreate the Joker's dance down the steps for Instagram. Or, if you take Fox News' word, "Instagrammers risk getting 'robbed' recreating 'Joker' scene: 'The Bronx is not a friendly place.'"

Like the "Rocky steps" in Philadelphia and the horrible "Friends" apartment building in the West Village, the stairs are becoming a tourist attraction. And like all iconic film destinations, locals hate the place and each and every tourist who flocks to it. Bronx locals have taken to Twitter to say, "Please, if you're reading this and you're not from around here (or ever been to the Bronx, Yankee stadium does not count) PLEASE DO NOT COME HERE. Thanks, Bronx Resident."

Another Bronx native drew the attention of Fox News with the comment: "Those awful stairs on 167 are now renamed 'the joker stairs' so I [sic] just want to remind everyone that the Bronx [sic] is not a friendly place for tourist attractions you will get robbed beloved."

Located in the South Bronx, the staircase is as unsightly and unkempt as most of the oldest New York neighborhoods are, hence its selection for Joker's dark and gritty Gotham aesthetic. But as for its safety, it's also on par with other old New York neighborhoods that have been touched by gentrification's renovations but not its sanitizing effects on public safety. Namely, the crime rates in the South Bronx are very similar to those of East Brooklyn, which are actually lower than those of Greenwich Village, and they're only slightly higher than those in Jackson Heights.

But more importantly, as much as the media and Fox News likes to depict the Bronx (and also Brooklyn, before the hipsters took it over) as a center of crime, the fact is that the 10 murder capitals of New York State are all upstate. So while the Bronx has been named New York's "unhealthiest county" in terms of "quality of life, poor physical health, mental health, smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity" for the last seven years, it's clearly the perfect setting for Joaquin Phoenix's mental breakdown while still being safer than upstate, NY.

I didn't listen… I was warned of how dangerous this movie was, of what it could do to me.

I went anyway. All the murmurings of the chaos and havoc the movie would unleash upon our society only drew me toward it.

By Friday morning, opening day, I found myself driven along in a fugue, no longer in control of my actions as I searched for showtimes and dug through a pile of laundry for my faded Punisher T-shirt—the only shirt I wear to comic book movies. Before leaving for the theater, not knowing who I might be when I returned, I took one last look at the life I was leaving behind. I waved goodbye to my posters of Fight Club and V for Vendetta and blew one last kiss to my Death Note Waifu pillow. The docile boy who had assembled this innocent collection was about to become a violent madman. It was time to face my fate.

Joaquin Phoenix Joker

I had already heard of theaters instituting a policy against unaccompanied individuals buying tickets, but I was prepared. I went up to the electronic kiosk and selected two tickets for the 1:30 showing. I crumpled one of the tickets and threw it over my shoulder with a sly smirk. My only fear was that my bank might flag this as a fraudulent purchase (since I'd never bought more than one ticket before) and would figure it out in time to get me in a straight jacket before I could fully transform. I didn't care. Already I was becoming unhinged.

The woman who tore my ticket looked me up and down, and I dared her with my eyes to ask me where my date was. She knew better. She waved me through to the last doorway on the left. The name of my unraveling was spelled out in glowing lights above that gaping maw of darkness: Joker. I allowed the darkness to swallow me…

I pulled a bag of skittles from the pocket of my cargo shorts as I found a seat and settled in for my metamorphosis. Before the trailers, a PSA from NAMI played, decrying the harmful stigmas that are attached to mental illness, and I smiled—already thankful that someone was looking out for the murderous psychopath I was about to become. I tried to brace myself for the change to overtake me, but nothing could have prepared me for the two hours that followed.

It was as if I'd awoken from the dream of my former life to see my true self projected 30 feet high. As many people have already noted, this masterwork from director Todd Phillips bucks the conventional formula of the comic book genre by choosing instead to be a window into my twisted soul. Apart from a handful of references to the characters and setting of the Batman mythos, there is little indication that the movie takes place in a comic book universe, rather than in New York City during the 1981 garbage strike when the streets were clogged with filth—much like the dark corners of my mind.

It is a portrait of Arthur Fleck, a man broken and abandoned by an unfeeling society (sound familiar, mom?). A man tortured by fits of nervous laughter and who only wants the approval of a loving father and for black women to pay attention to him for once (Zazie Beetz, unblock me on Twitter!). A professional clown who lives with his ailing mother, Arthur slowly comes to an understanding that murder really is the best source of relief for people suffering from vague mental illnesses. Can you say "sign me up?"

I was as putty in Todd Phillips' deft and diabolical hands. For the first time in my life, probably in cinematic history, someone was actually telling the story of a disaffected loner using violence to solve problems. And Jaoquin Phoenix is even a lonely white guy, just like me! Truly, this was the pandora's box of movies. Once this lethal, unheard-of combination was unleashed before my eyes, there was no going back.


In the first hour, he's bullied, beaten, mocked—much like how, in my own life, people leave rude comments beneath my Watchmen fanfiction—and finally fired for the simple mistake of dropping a handgun on the floor of a children's hospital while he's clowning: an injustice so relatable, I defy anyone not to identify! But then, when Arthur is at his lowest, he is targeted for abuse one more time, and he fights back. I sat so enthralled by his transformation that my handful of skittles went ignored, leaving sweat-smeared polka-dots printed across my palm. As he performed his hypnotic, bathroom dance in the afterglow of his first act of murder, I saw those polka-dots—the taint of clownish colors—lit by the reflected glow of the screen. I licked them from my hand, taking Arthur's taint into my mouth.

Hollywood had really missed a trick by never glorifying brutal violence before! I thought of how much better Bruce Willis' career could have been if, say, the 2018 remake of Deathwish had incorporated some of this violent loner revenge fantasy. Hell, Sylvester Stallone could have built a whole, decades-spanning franchise out of this incredible new concept. And imagine if the John Wick series, instead of just being about a guy who misses his dog, had adopted this approach of having sad white guy kill a bunch of people. But because Joker is truly the first film of its kind, society has been saved from total collapse, until now…

Throughout the rest of the film, I was no longer watching Arthur. I was Arthur. I was the one struggling to understand my origin, to find love, and to achieve the destiny Frances Conroy had chosen for me. I was going to "make people smile"—preferably by sticking my fingers into their mouths while they just stand there, passively. I watched myself become a symbol of vigilante justice for Gotham City's downtrodden, even as I was made an object of ridicule by rich and powerful father-figures.

But it was not the cruelty of powerful men that ultimately broke us (Arthur and I), it was the failure of black women to empathize with our pain. From the social worker who wouldn't listen to us to the angry mother who scolded us on the bus and the would-be love interest who refused to be charmed by our stalking, black women consistently failed to save us from becoming brutal psychopaths. Each one represented another step on the road to our ultimate breakdown, and each was a stark reminder of the long history of pain that white men have endured—ignored and undervalued since time immemorial. Black women will never understand.

The film's final moments speak volumes. Arthur has shifted his violent, self-destructive impulses in a healthier direction—outward—and has managed to spark bedlam in the streets of Gotham. Laughing to himself, he tells his new therapist (another black woman) that she "wouldn't get it." Cut to Arthur, dancing in her blood. If only she'd had a better sense of humor :(

It would certainly be possible to read a lot of different messages into Joker—about gun control, economic inequality, access to mental health treatment, blah blah blah. But rather than wasting our breath on broader societal ills, the media narrative has already picked up on the most important point: We all need to do everything in our power to accommodate lonely white men. We need to make them feel better about themselves, to never let them feel rejected or judged, and for the love of god, we need to stop them from seeing this movie!

For me and Arthur, it's already too late. As soon as I got home from the theater, I stole a pack of sharpies from my roommate's desk and drew a thick red smile on my old Guy Fawkes mask and blue triangles around the eyes. I thought about donning my new face right away and joining the rioting crowds in the street, but when I turned on my laptop to search for the nearest violent mob, Pornhub was already open. I found some great hentai that I'd never seen before and masturbated myself to sleep—secure in the knowledge that the riots would still be there in the morning.

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They Said, “I Do!” - Michelle Williams Married Phil Elverum in Secret Ceremony

The Out-of-the-Spotlight Couple Made it Official Earlier this Month

An actress and a rock star.

Those are the main ingredients in the "famous couple" formula. But who knew actress Michelle Williams and Phil Elverum (singer for Mount Eerie) were so serious? They never really even "went public" with their relationship as E! News notes.

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Perhaps that was the key for the high-profile pair to develop a real romance, far from the spotlight and out of the headlines. Speculation they were a "thing?" Sure, rumors swirl whenever a star is seen even just talking to a potential suitor. But this relationship was the real deal. They found "the one" in one another and tied the knot in the Adirondacks earlier this month in front of just a few close friends and their kids (Williams' 12-year-old, Matilda and Elverum's daughter Agathe, 3). Intimate and private, just like the couple.

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"Very sacred and very special," is how Williams describes the relationship. They have both experienced great love…and great loss. Williams' daughter's father and her former love, Heath Ledger died in 2008 after an accidental overdose, and Elverum's wife passed after a battle with cancer in '15 when their daughter was just an infant. To bond over such tragedy and find a new shoulder to lean on must make their partnership precious.

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Williams has forever been notoriously mum when it comes to who she is romantically linked to, but Elverum had her shouting from the rooftops, or at least to one Vanity Fair writer. Well, maybe not quite "shouting" but she's certainly smitten. "Obviously I've never once in my life talked about a relationship, but Phil isn't anyone else," she revealed to Vanity Fair. "And that's worth something. Ultimately the way he loves me is the way I want to live my life on the whole."

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The former Dawson's Creek star has made a serious name for herself in the entertainment world as an acclaimed Oscar-nominee, and her musician husband is on the up-and-up as one to keep an eye on. Being married to Williams is sure to catapult his career even further. It comes with the territory and surely, he's not mad about it.

As far as celebs go, these two seem refreshingly grounded. No 72-day marriage for these lovers. Now a blended family with two adorable daughters to raise together, Williams and Elverum would be smart to remain as off-the-radar as possible. Naturally, paparazzi will hound them down and celeb-focused trash mags will do whatever it takes to find photos from their special day. But something tells us Williams and Elverum won't give in to gossip when they have such a great thing going.

Congrats to the newlyweds. We're wishing you lots of love and happiness, and as much privacy as you can retain during this "honeymoon phase" and beyond!


Melissa A. Kay is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. Follow her work on Popdust as well as sites including TopDust, Chase Bank, P&G, Understood.org, The Richest, GearBrain, The Journiest, Bella, TrueSelf, Better Homes & Gardens, AMC Daycare, and more.


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Kate Hudson has smooched with quite a few men during her acting career – from Matthew McConaughey to Matt Dillon.

But the 35-year-old has revealed that her favorite onscreen kiss was with the late Heath Ledger.

In a tender moment during an appearance on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, she told host Andy Cohen:

“I would say my favorite one was Heath. That was pretty excellent… He was just so beautiful and sweet and gentle…”

Clearly lost for words the mom-of-two said: “I would say I look back at all of the…he was lovely... That’s a tough one to answer.”

Heath – who died in 2008 at the age of 28 – starred with Kate in the 2002 movie The Four Feathers.

In a lighter moment, during a round of the game Plead the Fifth she revealed a few interesting things with herself and was coy about others.

Andy asked Kate – who was on the show with her Wish I Was Here costar Zach Braff – if she ever smoked pot with Matthew McConaughey.

The actress  he said, “No.”

But while she refused to reveal which one of her boyfriends her parents liked the best, she did hint that she has, at the very least, kissed another woman.

When asked by Andy if she had ever “taken a dip in the lady pond” she paused to think about it before asking: “How deep is a dip?”

Andy responded by saying: “I would say more than making out.”

Check out Kate’s answer in this cheeky video clip.

Philip Seymour Hoffman once intervened to persuade Heath Ledger to quit heroin—talking the actor into believing there was a life worth living outside of hard drugs and guiding him into sobriety—a source tells Popdust exclusively.

Sadly, Ledger's new found commitment to staying clean was short lived—the 28-year-old was found dead in his New York apartment in 2008 from an accidental drugs overdose—although he had stayed away from heroin it seems he had found other ways to satisfy his addiction, eventually succumbing to a deadly combination of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine.

And, as evidenced by news reports Sunday, despite his best efforts to persuade others to get clean, Hoffman himself continued to struggle with his decades long drug addiction.

As previously reported, Hoffman was discovered dead in his apartment yesterday—authorities believe the 46-year-old died from a heroin overdose, echoing the tragic death of his fellow actor and friend—who lived just blocks away in NYC— whom he had attempted to sober coach years previously.

A close friend of Hoffman's tells Popdust the big hearted Capote star dedicated hours of his time to mentor struggling friends in an effort to help them stay clean, all the while fighting his own, now very apparent, demons.

“Heath was just one of many friends Phil tried to help along the way," the source says. "He had endless time and patience whenever it came to someone struggling with drugs or alcohol.

"He would spend hours talking people down from the ledge and would do everything and anything in his power to help those who were in a dark place or a hole.

“Phil was very active in the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship and didn't hesitate for one second when Heath's people reached out to him to ask for his help getting him sober. They had been friendly for years and Phillip spent hours talking to Heath, counseling and helping him, persuading him to choose life over drugs.

"That's what is so incredibly tragic about Phil's death—he would spend all this time on others giving them reasons to stay away from drugs and to live and yet when it came to himself it's like he was spent, there was nothing left."

Prior to checking into rehab last year, Hoffman had 23 years sober under his belt and helped countless young men and women with their addictions.

“Phil happily took Heath under his wing. He took him to all the best meetings and even some private invite only ones where celebrities go so they can share openly without worry.

"Heath would get a few weeks clean and Phil would be so happy and optimistic, but then Heath would pick up again. He had trouble sleeping, so he could only go a few days without taking prescription drugs to help him pass out—and that would always eventually lead him back to drinking and harder drugs.

"Even though Heath relapsed, Phil never gave up on him. He had so much respect for Heath’s talent and really wanted to see him succeed. It broke his heart when he died. He saw a lot of himself in Heath.

"They were both really intense, passionate people and Phil truly believed that if he could get sober, Heath could, too. The biggest irony of all is that this disease took both of them in the end."