Sunday, June 20

‘I’m that candlestick!’: Mae Martin on her unlikely cultural icons | TV

PPeople often ask me about “queer representation” in the media and why it is important. I am a queer person and, like other minority groups, I have been very excited to see more queer characters and stories being told in recent years. It has been pending for a long time and there is still a long way to go, I think.

Growing up, there was a real shortage of people who looked like me, or loved like me, on television, which can be a feeling of isolation. Fortunately, queer is only a small aspect of who I am, and thus growing up I was able to think abstractly and feel “seen” in other ways, so I did not feel left out of the mainstream culture. Here are my four main characters from television and film that I identified with.

Gordie, stay by my side

Stand By Me, the best coming-of-age movie ever made, follows a group of 12-year-old boys on a camping trip to see if they can find a corpse, rumored to be in the woods. I identified with all those guys, actually, because they were the same age as them when I first saw the movie. Like any great set of characters, each reflected a different tone of human nature. They were all recognizable: Chris Chambers’s good intentions, Vern’s fear of being left out, Teddy’s self-destructive rage … but it was Gordie who really spoke to me. Gordie, a gangly boy with big wide eyes, dedicated to his best friend Chris in the same way I was to my coolest and most confident friend Susie, feels like a stranger in his family and in the world . There is a moment where he and Chris walk side by side and Gordie turns to Chris out of nowhere and says, “Chris, am I … weird?” Chris looks at him and shrugs: “Yeah, but so what, everyone is weird.” Yes.

Lumière the candlestick, beauty and the beast

Lumière and Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast.
Lumière and Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast. Photograph: AF Archive / Alamy

Disney movies, even though I loved them, always blew my mind. Being somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum my entire life, and not fitting in with the ideals of masculinity or femininity that Bella / The Beast, Aladdin / Jasmine, Eric / Ariel (I mean, anyone?) Possessed the characters. eager and sexually ambiguous, like Lumière, the French candle from Beauty and the Beast who is simply desperate to please and wants everyone to “be her guests.” I am that candlestick, I thought. Zazu, that nervous bird in The Lion King who chases everyone, telling them to stop behaving recklessly, was also my vibe.

Dr. Allan Pearl, waiting for Guffman

Waiting for Guffman follows a group of amateur actors putting on a play in the small town of Blaine, Missouri. Overall, all of the characters in this movie – expertly played by Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, and more – possess a kind of fascinating lack of self-awareness and outright seriousness that I really relate to. I was 13 when I saw the movie. Teenagers (and indeed most adult comedians) value irony above all else, which was stressful for me because I was totally unable to project that kind of slightly cynical feigned detachment. I couldn’t fake it, I couldn’t begin to pretend that I didn’t care with every fiber of my being about things like new romances or friendships, loved ones … my cheeks were flushing and my eyes filled with tears at the suggestion of an emotion. I felt deeply serious and sensitive. And by feeling I mean “currently I still feel.”

Pearl of Wisdom ... Eugene Levy in Waiting for Guffman.
Pearl of Wisdom … Eugene Levy in Waiting for Guffman. Photograph: Moviestore / Alamy

As Eugene Levy’s masterfully crafted character, Dr. Allan Pearl, I suddenly also felt like I had “found my people.” A local dentist, in the movie, Dr. Pearl had just discovered amateur dramaturgy, and I had just discovered the world of professional comedy. There is a scene in Waiting for Guffman where Dr. Pearl has just had his first rehearsal for the production and reflects on camera, shaking with excitement: “I am… I am walking on air. You know, this is a feeling that is … forget it. When I became a dentist I thought I was happy, but this … ”I. I felt. Then. Viewed. For me, discovering the comedy community, where people were allowed to say the things that were weird / different about themselves on stage and be applauded for it, the opposite of the high school experience, was an equally revelation. emotional.

That kid in the Spice Girls music video for Viva Forever

An absolute classic from the era of weirdly fantastic music videos, Viva Forever presents a geeky boy guided through an enchanted forest by the Spice Girls, who are a kind of animated fairy creatures. I attended an all-girls school at the height of Spice Girls fame and constantly had to answer the question (in lip sync groups, lunchtime games, etc.) “Which Spice Girl are you?” Well, none of them. For me, the Spice Girls were mysterious goddesses. In fact, a lot of the girls at my school looked like that. They always knew what lip gloss to wear, how to dance, what stationery to buy. I felt like my body was made of sticks, string, and glue. So I really identified with that boy who blinks in wonder as these magical spice fairies guide him inexorably towards puberty.

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