Boy Stroke Girl: a play without a heart or a brain

boy stroke girl playThere are no two ways about it. Ian Dixon Peter’s Boy Stroke Girl is a terrible play.

The story follows a hip young guy called Peter who starts to fall in love with someone called Blue without knowing Blue’s sex or gender. I should have known this was going to be awful. The premise is bad enough: gimmicky at best, and requiring mockery at worst. (The writer chose the second option.)

There are three main problems with this play, so I’m just going to focus on those.

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In trying to be a man, I missed out on so many friendships

When kids are growing up, they see the difference between boys and girls, men and women. In films and video games, men do the most things—the fighting, the wise-cracking, the hunting, the problem solving. Women generally earn less money, don’t have as many important jobs, and do much of the housework and caring for the kids. So girls and boys pick up the fact that there’s a feeling, usually unspoken, that men have more power than women.

This means that being a girl is worse than being a boy—that’s how kids see it. For a boy, being seen to be a girl is really scary because it means he’d be giving up the chance to be on the more powerful side. I know that some boys support Grimsby Town, but generally why would any little boy want to be on the crap side in life?

Boys really want to have power, so until they can get some real power through having a job or having money, they court it in games. Boys play with guns and magic, worship superheroes, and pretend to do jobs that come with power, like builders or footballers. When I was a boy, I wasn’t too interested in these things. I don’t know why (please analyse me in the comments), but I wasn’t that keen on pretending. I preferred just to read. I just wanted ideas and the chance to peek into other people’s lives—so books were my closest friends. Continue reading

Being A Man at the Southbank Centre—full programme now live

This year’s Being A Man festival is going ahead 27-29 November. And it looks like a stonker. I’m chairing a panel debate on male characters in film, TV and video games. It’s called Mad Men, X Men and Grand Theft Auto, and it’s on the Saturday at 1230.

I’ll blog about plans in more detail soon—and I have loads of other half-imagined blog posts to write too (sorry I’ve been absent)—but in the meantime here’s the full Being A Man programme 2015.

Here’s what I’ve said about the festival previously.

Advertising: Volvo, Pot Noodle and the surprises of masculinity

“The fourth blade shaves you closer still. The fifth blade does your VAT return.”

This Mitchell & Webb sketch still cracks me up. It’s a parody of those adverts for razors that are marketed at men. With each new model, the manufacturers invent superlatives for their advertising, whether to do with extra blades or just how smooth your face will be when you seek the reward of a woman’s touch. Then there’s the bigger story to do with razor advertising of course: men’s razors are tough and named after weapons, while women’s are curvy and pink.

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Zayn Malik: does a crush only move in one direction?

Zayn MalikI know he’s the mysterious one, and maybe that’s the point. I don’t know much more about him. But I know I love him. It’s a ridiculous teenage crush, of course. I could never get a boy like Zayn. For so many reasons. But I can’t help loving him.

When he announced he was leaving One Direction I was over the moon. I don’t listen to their music—I can’t even name a song—so the reason I was happy was because the spotlight shifted to Zayn. The other hapless morons in his band were pushed into the shadows while the world speculated on the mysterious one’s reasons. Was he going solo? Was he choosing to settle down? Had he fallen out with the other lads? Who knew? Six months on, do we have any answers at all?

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How a KFC advert ruined my coming out

Families and fried chicken. What more do you need?

I’m almost everything my mum and dad wanted me to be. I came so close, and yet I’m so far. I don’t own a car or a home, I not socially conservative like they are—and recently I told them I’m gay.

Uh oh. Well, they had it coming. And they probably knew they had it coming. I haven’t ever had a partner and have basically played the role of an asexual person. So they must have suspected something…

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What I’ve learnt since Being a Man at Southbank Centre

A lot has changed for me in the last eighteen months. I’ve had to take control of my nose hair and I’ve had way more sex than before. These things may or may not be connected to each other or to the Southbank Centre’s inaugural Being a Man festival, 31 January to 2 February 2014. On Saturday I’m going to a planning session at the Southbank for the next festival, due for November. I blogged about earlier ideas here. In the meantime I thought I’d recap a few things that are not to do with nose hair but ARE to do with blokes and have happened to me since the last Being a Man. Continue reading

Hi Stan Lee, Spider-Man doesn’t have to be white and straight because we don’t care

Spider-Man’s real-world dad Stan Lee (left, being kissed) says that Spidey can’t be anything other than white or straight because that’s the way he was born. I understand what he’s saying. The character was created as a straight, white lad from New York called Peter Parker. He’s fought off villains wielding explosive pumpkins and mechanic octo-legs.

He’s got the girl, then lost the girl, then got the girl again. There have even been different girls for him to get and lose and get again. He’s been in comics, films, cartoons and on the side of a million plastic lunchboxes. He’s even had dozens of costume changes over the decades. But there are some things that are fixed: his whiteness and his straightness.

Dear Stan, I say: poo! What are you on about? I thought you had imagination. Continue reading

Jurassic World’s dinosaurs are more believable than its men and women

Ellie Sattler: an actual person
Ellie Sattler: an actual person

There is a moment in Jurassic Park when Ellie Sattler, the smart and charming paleobotanist, slams down the old man who paid the geneticists to bring back the dinosaurs. Someone needs to go out to rescue the kids from the dinosaurs, and the old man says to her, “It ought to be me going really, because I’m a… and you’re a…”

Sattler rolls her eyes and says, “Look, we can discuss sexism in survival situations when I get back.” And off she goes with her walkie talkie and her dignity. Later in the film, the geeky girl Lex (“I prefer to be called a hacker”) figures out the computer system running the island—and activates the door locks that block the ferocious velociraptors from eating her, her little brother and two grown-ups.

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Four heroes who make masculinity look exhausting

1 Indiana Jones

indiana jones, bashed again
indiana jones, bashed again

Indy’s a good lad who is not afraid to break the rules of academic objectivity and non-violence in the pursuit of an ancient artefact or a smoking-hot Nazi. He’s a strong fighter, but he’s rarely strong enough. I remember feeling every punch when he’s beaten up by that strong guy underneath the grounded airplane in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Poor Indy’s face gets totally battered. Fortunately there’s a propeller that Indy can push the bad guy into. If it wasn’t for that propeller I’m not sure Indy would have survived that fight. It’s one reason why he’s a great hero; he’s always on the verge of failing, so it keeps us on our toes. Continue reading