A reprint from the groundbreaking Psrhea Magazine literary website.
This article saw first published in April 1997.
Not Ready For
Makes Me Wanna Hollar
by Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man
Have you ever watched premium cable television in the wee hours of the morning – that time of the day when most sane people are either asleep or burning the candle on both ends while still out partying? The 1:00 AM – 6:00 AM range on cable is usually reserved for those B-movie straight-to-video schlock flicks with loads of blood flying, body bags and skin slapping featuring second- and third-rate “stars” such as Shannon Tweed, Andrew Stevens, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Corey Haim, and Shannon Whirry. Every now and then, however, the premium cable channels will broadcast a rare underground movie or cult independent film that has received a modicum of critical acclaim but is deemed to not have the drawing power to sustain an audience through a prime viewing spot.
Early one weekday morning recently I was channel-surfing through the four main premium channels (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and The Movie Channel). On three of them was the aforementioned “schlock flicks” with no limits on the blood flying, bodies slapping and sweat slinging. On one of them, though, was a three-year-old independent film called “Bar Girls.” The film was an offbeat drama with a virtually all-women cast that examined the topsy-turvy romances that befell gay female denizens of a local lesbian tavern. While the movie was not as raunchy and in-your-face as would be expected at that time of day, it did take a moderately no-holds-barred look at emotional, mental, spiritual, and – dare I say it – physical concerns and anxieties of its gay female subjects. The characters held nothing back in their dialogue and there quite a few intimate scenes between women.
I had heard about “Bar Girls” when it was first released in 1994. Needless to say, because it was a small independent film with no major distributor, the film was distributed in limited release to small art-house theaters. But it opened to generally good reviews; I had not recalled any film critic disliking the film. So having a familiarity with the film, I decided to delay going to work and watch.
It was while watching one of “Bar Girls” all-female love scenes that I realized why this film had been relegated to the early-morning hours. Despite how well this movie was made, the perceived “delicate nature” of the subject matter made it “unsuitable” for mass consumption during a time when a majority of the populace may have had access to it. This puritan society is simply not ready to deal with the affairs, interests, and concerns of a subsection of the population which the mainstream, while outwardly giving lip service to their own open-mindedness, considers morally corrupt. Ellen DeGeneres notwithstanding, as long as this traditional society and its institutions don’t have to acknowledge that homosexuals have values, customs, beliefs and rights that are just as worthy of exercising as anybody else’s, then keeping homosexuality “out of sight and out of mind” becomes instinctive to the greater society.
In essence, what I’m saying is that broadcasting “Bar Girls” at a time when it is virtually guaranteed to draw the fewest viewers is a form of keeping it “in the closet…”
The city of Huntington Beach, California, is proud of its record as a place that is free of the problem of homelessness. The city government never ceases to make the claim that there are no homeless “people” aimlessly wandering the streets and that the city, ever so clean and spotless, has not needed to address a problem that in this community does not exist. A town like Huntington Beach, in the middle of the urban problems that plague surrounding southern California, is nothing short of miraculous.
Or surreal, when you consider what’s going on there. What is left unsaid here is an implied yet very well hidden policy which is practiced by the Huntington Beach Police. It seems that when a police officer happens upon a homeless person within the city limits, said person is picked up and transported to the city of Costa Mesa on the southeast border of Huntington Beach and dropped off.
Costa Mesa is known around southern California as having a somewhat more serious homeless problem than its neighbors. Now we know why.
This program of denial allows Huntington Beach to make the unsubstantiated claim that it does. You see, they’ve found a simple way of pushing the problem out of people’s consciousness – get rid of it and make it somebody else’s problem. Somehow I have to believe that the city government knows – and probably quietly signed off on it. The police couldn’t have come up with this idea on their own – as we’ve seen, southern California cops just aren’t that clever.
So no, I guess there is no homeless “problem” in Huntington Beach, but there sure as hell is a problem with the “solution”…
The Invisible Man is neither a movie creation nor Claude Rains. He was first publicly revealed through Ralph Ellison’s now-famous novel. He most recently was among the 600,000+ other obviously-invisible men that the Washington, DC Park Services failed to count during the Million-Man March.
Copyright 1996 Accurate Letters Enterprises/Psrhea Magazine