Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

Sometimes I despair of the current crop of professional movie critics. Apart from their inability to parse sf and fantasy, there is their entire cluelessness about sex. This is actually worse, because it so often masquerades as pretending to be hip and progressive, and quite often leads to their dissing films as reactionary that are far more progressive and subversive than they are.

Which leads us to 'Kinky Boots'.
A lot of reviewers read the relationship between Charlie from Northampton, proprietor of a dying shoe factory, and Lola, the slightly time-expired drag queen who becomes Charlie's adviser when he decides to save the factory by retooling to make fetish boots in male sizes and heel-strength, as straight man vaguely attracted and running back to normal in a panic. This is absolutely not what happens, though the movie is quiet enough in its sexuality that the unslash-inclined can miss the resolution.

Charlie starts the movie engaged to slightly conventional estate agent Nicola, who wants him to sell up and have a comfortable life on the redevelopment income. She is unhappy with the fetish boot plan, and even more unhappy when he mortgages his house to pay for exhibiting at the Milan Shoe Show. He is complicatedly attracted to Lauren, one of his workers, and to Lola.

Part of the problem is that he is more attracted to Simon, Lola's male persona, than he is to Lola, partly because of embarrassment issues. The climactic row between them is precisely on this issue, though of course Charlie represents this in terms of Lola's being publicly embarrassing to be with. What precedes this row is a dance between Lauren and Lola which is all about their both wanting him, and liking/wanting each other enough to share, and the final break with Nicola. Charlie can have what he really wants, and it scares him rigid.

So rigid that he jeopardizes Lola and the troupe of drag dancers that work for Lola exhibiting the shoes at Milan. He rings up and apologizes, though we don't at this point hear the message he leaves on Lola's answerphone. He then goes onto the catwalk wearing his suit jacket and shirt, and a pair of the boots, and makes a holy ass of himself; this is called walking a mile in someone else's shoes. He falls over and Lola and the dancers burst on to retrieve the situation; Lauren watches this desperately impressed by both of them.

After the triumph, Lauren, Lola and Charlie huddle in the square outside and listen to Charlie's message. It is an apology, but it is also a confession of love; Midlands straight men do not use the word love to someone they perceive as another man, and a queer one at that, lightly. And then the three of them walk off across the square as a trio.

This reading is not removed by a final sequence in which Lola says farewell to the club where he dances and announces his intention of moving to Northampton permanently. True, Charlie and Lauren are together and Lola isolated, but only because Lola is performing.

This is a movie where the bisexual polyamourous queer reading makes sense and the entirely straight one does not. It just doesn't make a big splash of the eventual happy ending.

Oh, and we also saw 'Curse of the Were-Rabbit'. Which is fab, but then it's a Wallace and Gromit film so you wouldn't expect otherwise.


On a more serious note, I am utterly appalled to discover that the Home Office have decided to deem that rape is always a matter of individual criminality and never an instrument of state policy so that they can claim that people seeking asylum on the grounds that they are at risk of rape in e.g. Malawi, Zimbabwe and elsewhere are not political refugees. This is what happens when ministers fetishize appealing to the Daily Mail readership. It is also the long-term consequence of Thatcher's reduction of the independence of the civil service and insistence on only promoting loyal servants of the policy of the day.

It is one of the most disgusting things I have heard in some time and everyone involved should be thoroughly humiliated. And yes, I will labour the point and yet again point the finger at my former friend and colleague Fiona MacTaggart, long-term feminist and anti-racist and now a junior minister at the Home Office.

Resign, Fiona. You know you should.
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