Brava? Bravo? For B.O.T.O.: “Victor Victoria” In The Lincoln Bedroom

by Steve Finefrock – [scriptwriter]

“It’s a guy” blurts King Marchand’s bodyguard, Squash, played by macho-domo pre-NFL mountain-with-legs Alex Karras in “Victor Victoria” at the revelatory moment. Julie Andrews’ 1982 turn as a woman in 1930’s Paris pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman was part of Turner Classic Movies’ choice of pre-election Sunday countdown cinematic offerings. “The Mortal Storm” and “All the President’s Men” comprised the finale of this weekend trifecta of politically-themed films.

“Mortal Storm” regards the moral choices in Germany during Nazi emergence, and of course “ATPM” reminds us of the evil Nixon presidency. “Victor Victoria” is one of a long string of ‘normalizing’ stories from Hollywood about homosexuality, cross-dressing and sexual impersonation. Intended to open up American’s tight-assed Puritan Protestant prisses to these themes, its appearance in this season of ““Who is Obama” is instructive.

The story is about deception – a larger theme than mere sexual preferences – and how easily we are fooled, and how sometimes a lone maverick’s gut perception turns out to be right. In this case, King’s initial attraction to “Victoria” on-stage is startled when “he” reveals himself to the audience, as King’s face contorts, his bodyguard uttering the exposition for those who may not yet get it, or don’t know if King gets it.  Backstage, James Garner’s King meets “Victor” and persists at his original perception – his ‘gut’ – that he is actually a woman. Thus the tarantula begins, between America’s sweetheart Julie Andrews and TV’s “Maverick” Garner.

Film is the lingua franca of our society, transgressing borders and language, but it is not the entire picture on the cultural combat that is a continuous saga in society.  TCM clearly has some kind of agenda in its choice of election-eve film broadcast – ya think! Buried in “VV” is the subtle, indeed conservative, notion of the judgment offered by the gut – King’s original sense that Victoria is indeed a girl [pardon me, gals] comes to be true.

Along this endearing pathway of entertainment, of course, Hollywood imbeds its embeds of homo-tolerance and other themes, followed by the additional cultural artillery softening the argument, in a range of films and TV shows that include “Brokeback Mountain” and “Will & Grace” as well as supporting characters of a gay spin on “ER” and virtually every other show. It’s been at us for a long time: Hollywood has been very busy since this early Reagan-era entertainment as effective propaganda.

Casting of “VV” was precious revenge by HWD: King’s broadly drawn mobster’s broad Norma is played by Lesley Ann Warren, whose start was as a TV-movie’s sweet, serene and proper “Cinderella.” Alex Karras as a former NFL champ played to the ultimate revelation: his machismo hides his queer-power statement, much to the delight of many in the middle-America audience when I saw it in ’82. He’s caught in bed with Toddy, Victoria’s manager and motivator – played by “Music Man” maestro Robert Preston.

And what was “MM” about? Fooling the fools in small-town America, pulling the wool over their eyes. At least con-artist Harold Hill was straight, going straight for the town librarian. Here, Preston plays counter to his normal role. You could hear Hollywood chuckling all the way to the box-office, as “VV” made inroads in all markets, of all sizes, and all political leanings. As well as when King challenges a Frenchie to a boxing match – he’s belatedly informed the upstart is the French middleweight boxing champ. Karras snidely notes: “But, don’t worry – he’s gay” – did ya hear the hoots in HWD, and in much of America.

At the bottom of this is the matter of DECEPTION and of GUT—King is an American gangster on sabbatical to France, and soon learns his gut was on the mark, and gets in the sheets with Victoria, and soon spots Karras in the sheets with a man.  Who is who? What is true?  We are to ask ourselves challenging questions, to doubt and examine our assumptions, not to trust any beliefs of what’s proper, good, or effective.

Thence cometh Barack Obama The One – BOTO – and his growing acolytes, who have constructed a leftwing construct that MUST NOT BE CHALLENGED. And the agreeable press has gotten that tingly leg feeling, with nary a deeply-asked question of BOTO’s background, qualifications, experience, competence, achievements or associations.

This election day, all are eagerly awaiting their preferred outcome. A Mac victory will set off riots, either in the minds and mouths of the left or possibly in a few streets as well. BOTO’s ascension will trigger an interior riot in the GOP, which will occur to some degree even with Mac’s election.

Victor’s cover as a Polish count is questioned by one swishy fellow, who jealously declares during rehearsal of Victor’s : “If he’s a Polish count, I’m Greta Garbo.” The little feller is not quite on the money – he suspects something fishy, if not swishy. And mind you, the film’s portrayal of homo-Politicus of a swishy persuasion is not hesitant to play many stereotypes. Even Toddy has a limp-wrist mannerism or two – maybe not allowed if produced today, 26 years later.

Which shows how far we’ve come – thou darest not utter anything outside the Church Pedagogy. The “new” church is that of BOTO, the Pope of the left, whether he wins today, or merely is humbly returned to the senate to partner with the Popette herself, the junior senator from New York. Partnered with the Junior Senator from Cook County, Hillary will make waves whether BOTO is to finish his first senate term, or relocate in the White House.

Whether Pope BOTO is able to complete the four-year mark of his career as senator – he’s never had a job that long to this date! [and why hasn’t the GOP made a point on that?] – or starts the clock again toward a four-year mark as President Pope, conservatism will have a rocky ride for four years. Lopsided control of Congress, and of the media [nothing new] and of academia [also not new] as well as entertainment [duh!] and other realms of public information processing will make the new conservatism’s strategery very difficult. At the rousing climax of Victor’s premiere success, one fan beside Toddy declares “Bravo” and Toddy corrects the cheer, with “no, Brava” to emphasize the feminine.

Then the confusion: Victoria is Victor? But really Victoria after all? Which is true? Which is false? King had it right from the first sight of Victoria, and never is satisfied publicly – even if pubically and to greater personal satisfaction. After, of course, a peeping-tom peek into VV’s bathroom. King just can’t accept others’ judgment, and must see for himself what is True.

Ditto as we wonder if it’s Brava or Bravo in the new political climate – which is the Pope BOBO? Not a sexual orientation, but political and theological orientation. And doubt not: their belief system is held as deeply as any theology was ever clasped to an emotional bosom. Many lefty families to this day, as a greater number did in my youth, display two saints as holy, in portraits on their living room wall: Jesus and FDR.

Of equal adoration and veneration. Some have added JFK. Now comes the hammering of nails to wall-mount the BOTO photo: to be as worshiped, and unquestioned, and unchallenged, and unridiculed as was the case with FDR.

While there was “Piss Christ” by Serrano years ago, to much public arousal, there will never be an ‘artistic expression’ constructed, much less displayed publicly, of “Piss FDR” or “Piss JFK” – and only heaven can help the ‘artist’ who displays “Piss Barack”! Or the museum which exercises such artistic discretion.

For me, I’m Greta Garbo – doubting forever that this guy is a Polish count, or even can be counted upon to adhere to the minimum of American classic political roots. He’s so good at distorting our roots that soon tax increases will be patriotic, and dissent will be unpatriotic.  It will be the job of conservatives to get together – a gargantuan feat to even contemplate – and get smart – similarly momentous – to figure out how to challenge Pope BOTO. We won’t get squat from Saturday Night Live, or the other realms of comedy’s central theme artists who bashed Bush and Cheney so well. Oh, a mild titter will be performed here and there, but nothing so devastating as to actually threaten BOTO’s ascendancy, either in the Oval Office, or on the floor of the Senate.

For you must realize that TCM’s Sunday daytime offering of “VV” and “Mortal Storm” plus “All the President’s Men” was no accident. We are thusly reminded of the nazi thugs of Nixon, the threat not seen in Hitler by those who were too blind to see, and the hysterical homophobia of America that is now being conquered.

They’ve conquered the “VV” agenda, and now what is next? I must admit a possible guilt for TCM’s scheme: months ago I sent a proposed list of election-season political airings to critic Richard Schickel, who’s had associations with TCM over the years. No response of any kind was received; the idea may have taken root already. But my ‘balance’ didn’t make the cut. There’s not much to choose that is truly conservative – they’ve seen to that.

And should we just whine? Sure, with discretion. But we must grind more than our teeth – put money and moxie and talent into the game, with some cleverness. For even with Mac in the Oval, he’ll be in “Mac Mode” soon enough: seeking détente with the left if he can be newly embraced their friend, going into consolation mode. Ya think “McCain-Feingold” was treacherous – ya aint’ see nuttin’ yet with Mac’s Oval Team reaching out to the very ones who excoriated his honor.

Thus, any way you cut it, it’s going to be rough going. The toughest road will be forcing the public to ask either President BOTO or Senator BOTO: JUST WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?

Victor or Victoria?  I’m still Greta Garbo on this one. ExileStreet

copyright 2008 Steve Finefrock

Finefrock is founder of Hollywood Forum, a speaker-bureau and panel-discussion vehicle to “Bring the Potomac to the Palisades” on issues that overlap politics and culture with the Hollywood film-TV influence on such national concerns. His scripts have addressed politics [including a TV series pilot/bible package about state political combat, called “A State of the Union”], hazardous materials [from twelve years in emergency management, including six years managing FEMA’s Superfund curriculum for hazmat], terrorism, equestrian reincarnation, serial murderer killing journalists in the nation’s capitol, and fantasy about time-wasters. Finefrock is proprietor of PhoneBooth: The Smallest Space in Hollywood…

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