Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Michael Tolliver Lives!


...is the title of a book coming out later this year from San Francisco author Armistead Maupin. The prospect of this makes me very excited. Michael Tolliver is the first sympathetic gay character I can remember reading about. Although I have since read all of Maupin's Tales of the City series, becoming probably the first person to borrow the omnibus set from the Millis Public Library, I first 'met' Michael through PBS. Their miniseries, which I taped and wore out through repeated viewings, was my first confrontation with homosexuality and the first time I began to accept it not only in society but ultimately within myself. Wikipedia says:
Amid the controversy surrounding the homosexual themes, nudity and illicit drug use in the miniseries, the program gave PBS its highest ratings ever for a dramatic program.
Lest you think this served as an emotionally-warping, without which I could have been otherwise completely heterosexual, it is a unfair exaggeration of the effect of media, which is in itself is subtly anti-capitalist, like anti-obesity advocates calling for a ban on fast food ads because they think too many people eat at McDonald's. So catalyst perhaps, cause no. Nevertheless, Michael, in his many trailblazing fictional episodes, serves as a literary precursor for subsequent positive gay dramas, such as QAF. His tales of the city include coming out to his conservative Florida parents, falling in love with a closeted doctor, and, yes even going to the Gay Rodeo in Calgary...in the Eighties.
Take Brokeback Mountain: BBM represents a dramatic anomaly in gay literature, almost calculated in its dreamy landscapes and mournful guitars (and noticeablely absent and poorly lit butt-fucking) not to offend. It was languid and gorgeous and heart-breaking, but too immediate in its repercussions for the perception of the Academy, their bottom line in marketing to the Heartland, and the potential critical effect on including Brokeback Mountain as a Western. Many of those AMPAS members, despite loudly clapping themselves on the back for the progressive tendencies, would not even screen BBM, the thought of gay cowboys becoming a part of the Oscar montage along with John Wayne and Clint Eastwood being abhorrent. Maupin's books are also one of the first to deal with the AIDS epidemic and incorporate it into the series, almost a decade before Longtime Companion, the first movie to deal with AIDS was produced. I digress...
Michael Tolliver is still one of my favorite characters of fiction and I will eagerly anticipate his thoughts on the 21st century, and by this Maupin's thoughts, as the two appear one and the same.

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