(A recent read-a-thon of five queer contemporary YA novels showed me what’s been done to death in the genre and what there should be more of.)

My reading habits go through cycles. There are weeks when I’ll read nothing but feminist science fiction, or history books about the U.S. in the 1970s, or biographies of queer historical figures, or some other subject that my interest in was spurred on by a mention in a podcast or a stray tweet or something.

Roughly speaking the cycles move back and forth between fiction and nonfiction. The nonfiction cycles last longer, if occasionally split up by the odd novel or short story, and sometimes the subjects shift. Like right now I’m wavering between reading books on representations of masculinity in media and reading old foundational political and economic texts. …


Image for post
Image for post

K.M. Szpara’s Docile is a good novel about consent and a bad novel about capitalism.

Docile’s tagline is “There is no consent under capitalism.” This might make one think it’s about the inherently exploitative aspects of modern predatory capitalism, the intermingling of the personal — sexuality — and the political — class.

If you are patient, Docile does eventually do a good job of working out the impossibility of consent in a relationship with uneven power distribution, and distinguishes this with kinky power-play sex. (Though fair warning, it requires sympathy for a potentially irredemmable character and reading a lot of dubiously consensual sex). But it doesn’t successfully equate these dynamics to economic inequality. Szpara understands a lot about sexual dynamics but doesn’t show the same depth of understanding for capitalist oppression. …


Image for post
Image for post

I fear this comparison I’m about to make between two gay romance narratives will perpetuate queer people being too overly critical of their own community.

So let’s just make this clear now: I’m about to talk about two lovely stories. My placing one against the other is purely due to the circumstance of my having read one right after the other. What I say here speaks to my feelings regarding the current state of what is and is not represented in queer pop culture in general.

Nothing can represent everything for everyone, but when you haven’t seen enough of one kind of representation and too much of another, unintended lack of inclusion can feel more pointed than it is. …


About half of Greyson Chance’s album portraits is actually great and the other half is an awkward mess of him trying really hard to sound like someone who didn’t rise to fame from a Lady Gaga cover when he was a tween.

Image for post
Image for post

The album cover already puts him at a disadvantage. I’m really curious if he thinks he looks attractive. The image is greasy, a bit sleazy, suggesting a wild departure from the cutesy little kid from 2011, back when he was most in the public eye.

This is fine in principle, of course. Great, actually. Development and maturity and reinvention are essential to anyone looking to be noticed again after years out of the spotlight. But what Chance returns with is all exterior. The persona that he puts forth on this album is one that desperately postures in edginess and insecure swagger. It is a cringe fest, in large part because Chance doesn’t seem to want to express his actual identity, seems reticent to engage with the honest and vulnerable core of his personhood. …


Image for post
Image for post

American media in the early 1990s was a bit strange. The bizarre small town detective show Twin Peaks garnered mainstream praise throughout the country. Bret Easton Ellis’s transgressive novel about a yuppie cannibal rapist serial killer American Psycho reached widespread controversy and acclaim. Things weren’t following the wholesome, no-nonsense precepts of Ronald Reagan’s 80s. American popular media was expressing itself in ways previously pocketed away in the niche culture of ghost hunters and conspiracy theorists.

If American popular media was weird, its representations of masculinity were weirder. Twin Peaks’ “pinnacle of manliness” comes from a quirky FBI agent by the name of Dale Cooper, who values nothing more than a good cup of coffee, a slice of cherry pie, and starting each day by hanging upside down from a rafter in his hotel room for a few minutes. American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman meanwhile is a less-than-subtle satire of the 80s corporate masculinity model — even more depraved than Wall Street’s Gordon Gecko, Bateman’s utter lack of humanity and disturbed dedication to consumerism suggests a disillusionment with the ideals of the previous decade. …


Martin Ritt’s Hombre is a 1974 countercultural western starring Paul Newman as the hombre in question. It’s an amazing example of a phenomenon I’ve written about before: Media doing cartwheels to keep racist tropes alive, but in a more palatable way. It shows how whiteness is centered even in attempts to decenter whiteness.

Image for post
Image for post

Let me explain. Hombre is the story of John Russell (Newman), a white man raised by Apache people who is entirely ingrained in Apache culture. He is a quiet character, at odds with the loud and outwardly aggressive white cowboys encountered throughout the movie. …


Image for post
Image for post

A brief summarizing of the abuse allegations Aaron Ansuini (and other corroborators) have directed at Youtuber Chase Ross.

To say the least, there’s been a falling out between the two co-hosts of the podcast You’re So Brave, Chase Ross and Aaron Ansuini, and it’s affecting a lot of of folks in the online LGBTQ+ community. Essentially, Aaron has accused Chase (with evidence) of manipulation, abuse, and the hoarding money and power.

It’s complicated, so I’m going to try to quickly summarize what’s happening here for your convenience. If Aaron doesn’t want me doing this, just let me know and I’ll take it down. I’m going to pull the narrative from tweets, DM screencaps, and videos, as that’s where the majority of the information is being revealed. I have no personal stake in what’s happening except that I enjoy their podcasts and want others to have a reasonably clear idea of the situation without having to wade through the muck of social media threads. …


The following is an article I published on a now-defunct gaming website a few years back. I was reading through some of my pieces for the site and thought they might be worth republishing on my own. I’ve since completed Dark Souls, along with Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls 2, and Bloodborne, and despite the fact that I can’t deny I enjoy these games, I think my criticisms here remain pertinent.

The tl;dr of it is kind of that I think Dark Souls demands an unhealthy time commitment of the player for it to actually be enjoyable.

Image for post
Image for post

On an episode of the DOS Nostalgia podcast, while discussing the Might & Magic series, indie Twine developer Richard Goodness noted how CRPGs can make the player feel a deeply personal satisfaction. The standard RPG feeling of growing stronger and overcoming obstacles is there, certainly, but unique to this most dungeon-crawly of subgenres is its demands on the player — it requires the player to master their surrounds, gain familiarity with each nook and cranny of its virtual universe, figure out how to build your characters to match each ensuing challenge. …


Image for post
Image for post

An unintentional successor to my lengthy essay “‘Songs about getting better’: Suicide ideation and pop punk ”. This one is a shorter exploration of how Sivan is transgressing masculinity in pop music and what that means to me.

I’m really fascinated with Troye Sivan’s second album Bloom. This is kind of a surprise to me since I could barely get through Blue Neighborhood out of sheer boredom. His first album was fine — just way too safe, too conventional. Maybe it’s something about our current pop music zeitgeist that’s bringing out the best in our pop artists, as we’ve been riding this wave of more liberatory, personal, experimental, and occasionally explicitly queer work over the last few years (Dirty Computer, Palo Santo, ANTI, Sweetener, A Seat at the Table, Lemonade, etc.). …


Image for post
Image for post

This will be my first winter without snow. That sounds like the first sentence of a cerebral literary novel about displacement and finding connection (audiobook read by Ben Whishaw), but in this case it’s just a statement of fact. I moved to northern California this year, where in order to get a winter wonderland you drive up to the mountains instead of waiting for the weather to change. “We’re driving up to the snow today,” you say here, apparently.

I’ve lived in the Midwest most of my life: Illinois till eighteen, Michigan for a few months, and then Wisconsin for the next three years. A classic Midwestern proverb is that we have two seasons, winter and construction. Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois winters could easily mean six months without decent sunlight. And after that I was in Colorado for three years, which while technically “the West” has these undercurrents of Midwestern suburban cultural sensibility that they don’t like to admit. So, with some little changes in the last three years, this is my first winter outside Midwestern cultural influence. …

About

Bryan Cebulski

Writer. Cis queer. History, masculinity, media. Point-and-click adventure protagonist. He/Him/His. Contact @ bryancebulski@gmail.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store