Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is calling for religious exemptions to be included in the executive order President Obama is expected to issue that will protect LGBT employees of federal contractors from discrimination.
The Washington Blade reports:
“While the specifics of this executive order are not yet clear, I believe it must include the same religious protections that are included in the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act that passed the Senate,” Hatch said. “ENDA strikes a good balance to ensure that discrimination based on sexual orientation will not be tolerated, but also that one of our nation’s fundamental freedoms — religious freedom — is still upheld. The same must be said for any Obama Administration initiative on this issue.” […]
A White House official responded to Hatch’s request for similar language in the executive order by saying it doesn’t any have details to share about the specifics of the directive.
The Washington Blade notes that in the current version of ENDA before Congress, religious institutions, like churches or religious hospitals and schools, could continue to discriminate against LGBT workers in non-ministerial positions even if the bill were to become law.
Last September, Hatch was among 10 Senate Republicans who voted for ENDA.
Bigger and better must have been on Dreamworks’ mind as they produced How to Train Your Dragon 2, an emotionally rich follow-up to the 2010 original. The new film takes on many of the themes of the last — loyalty and self-worth to name two — and heightens the stakes. The result is a sequel which builds upon the last for the better, adding characters and action but never losing its emotional center.
That center rests upon the shoulders and wings of a boy, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon, Toothless (right). We catch up with the pair free-wheeling in the sky; it has been five years since Hiccup lost his leg in a battle between humans and dragons. No longer to be feared, everyone in Hiccup’s hometown of Berk has a winged-pet of their own, including Astrid (America Ferrera), Hiccup’s girlfriend.
Back on the ground Hiccup is dealing with news that his father, and Berk’s chief, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), would like for his son to follow in his powerful footsteps. Domestic drama gets put on hold, however, when Astrid and Hiccup run into a crew of professional dragon trappers capturing a horde for Drago Bloodvist’s (Djimon Honsou) dragon army. Determined to convince Drago that dragons are to be loved and respected, not captured and used for human power, Hiccup sets off to find him only to be found himself, by the mysterious Valka (Cate Blanchett, below left).
To say more about the relationships between Hiccup, Stoick, Valka’s origins, and the lovable Toothless would be a disservice, but their experiences facing the dragon army of Drago and a new Godzilla-sized threat known as the Alpha form a deep, and often dark, emotional core of the film. At its heart is the notion of power and two opposing views: that it must be captured, and that it must be earned. Suffice it to say that every character comes out changed by what happens and, were we not in an animated universe, therapy would be a must. I was surrounded by children in the theater and while none of them seemed particularly frightened, the moral burden placed on Hiccup by a late-in-the-game twist was undeniably disturbing.
Like many recent animated studio efforts, then, this is a film for adults as much as (or possibly more than) for younger audiences. However, all viewers will enjoy the lush, colorful animation and flying sequences. Two moments in particular, a dragon-hopping aerial ballet and Valka’s initial appearance through the clouds, combined the mystical pathos and ease of the best Miyazaki films with the furthest reaches of animation technology. Cate Blanchett’s phenomenal voiceover work adds aural stimulation as well, and makes for a tear-jerking moment or two. It all combines to make a sequel which expands upon the world and mythology of dragons while keeping the drama human in the utmost.
*It should be noted that the film has slight intimations of damsel-in-distress gender politics (all the more noticeable after the girl-power Frozen phenomenon) and Drago, an embodiment of pure evil, is problematically the only character of color (voiced by the only actor of color). Of particular representational note for Towleroad readers, though, is the possibility of a gay character in Stoick’s sidekick, Gobber (Craig Ferguson, right). Entertainment Weekly recently asked the film’s openly gay writer/director Dean DeBlois about a scene involving a marital argument in which Gobber remarks “This is why I never married. This and one other reason":
Ferguson ad-libbed the second part of the line, and director Dean DeBlois chose to keep it in. “The nice thing that Craig brought to it is, it’s such a hand-off line that I think for the older members of the audience, it’ll take them a moment to realize, like, ‘Did he just say what I think he said?’” says DeBlois. “And then you’re moving on. [The movie] treats it like normalcy, and that’s what I really like about it. Because I’m a gay man, and I don’t draw attention to myself for that reason. It’s just a fact of who I am, and the way the world is, and it’s nice to treat it as just a passing notion that isn’t something that people have to get so up in arms about. I think it makes people chuckle, and in every test screening we’ve had, it’s always gone over really well. I know there are probably a few people whose feathers it will ruffle, but you can’t worry too much about that...”
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is in theaters now.
Though HTTYD2 merely hints at homosexuality, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 22 Jump Street, starring odd-ball couple Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, revels in it. Not explicitly, of course, and none of the characters say that they are in fact gay. However, this very funny, very self-aware comedy nearly perfects the art of the bromance.
CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...
In the last film, Jenko (Tatum, a deadpan doofus) and Schmidt (Hill, a kinda-smart dope), two undercover cops working out of a converted church, took down a high school drug ring. This time Captain Dickson (Ice Cube, hilarious, right) tells them they are going off to college. The film, mocking the notion of sequels, makes it painfully obvious that even though the locale has changed, everything else will be exactly the same as the last film “but with twice the budget.” Holding true to its premise, Jenko and Schmidt must find the distributor of a new designer drug called WhyPhy (Work hard, yes, Party hard, yes--pronounced wi-fi) which killed a student at the humorously named Metropolitan City State University. Hilarity, and a surprising amount of humanity, ensues.
At college, Jenko immediately falls in with the football crowd, befriending Zook (Wyatt Russell) and Rooster (Jimmy Tatro), while Schmidt somewhat unexpectedly finds camaraderie, and even more surprising, sex, with the dead student’s ex-neighbor, Maya (Amber Stevens). Jenko and Zook quickly strike up a bromance which begins to drive a wedge between the emotionally unstable Schmidt and his partner. Beyond this frail frame of a narrative, there is little driving the story forward except for Tatum and Hill’s natural chemistry and a script that is shockingly preoccupied with making everyone around them think they are in a romantic relationship.
Scene after scene, we find the two engaged in dialogue specifically aimed at creating this impression: the dissolution of their partnership sounds like a couple deciding to open themselves up to other sexual experiences, an exchange with the school counselor inadvertently turns into a couples therapy appointment. And all of it is delivered without the slightest bit of irony. One of the more memorable moments of the film occurs when Schmidt and Jenko are called “faggots” after being found in a faux-sexual position and the enraged Jenko unleashes a tirade about how inappropriate the word is: “You can call us gay, sure. Homosexual maybe. And queer, but only if you’re good friends with a person!” They never deny their homosexuality to anyone who acknowledges it, making for a shockingly gay-friendly film that still gets comic mileage out of homoerotic situations.
Other actors fare just as well. Ice Cube has a highly amusing revelation about Schmidt’s sexual history, Maya’s roommate, Mercedes (Jillian Bell), delivers dry one-liners with extreme rapidity, and a pair of identical twins across the hall from Schmidt and Jenko have hilarious mental synchronicity. It’s a great ensemble, but ultimately the film is Tatum and Hill’s, proving once again that they are an absurdly fun onscreen team. This sequel may have little to no ambition in expanding its former premise, but in recognizing as much, and heightening the homoerotic fun, it’s a win.
At a GOP convention in Iowa over the weekend, Rick Santorum’s hilariously misguided choice of words were again on full display, with Santorum saying:
“Look, I understand why campaigns and all of you want to go out and just bang the president. It’s fun. I mean, it’s fun. It’s easy. It’s getting easier every day...”
Watch his uncontrollable “Santorum-of-the-mouth”, AFTER THE JUMP…
Last week, you may also recall Santorum trying to be all hip and cool and whatnot when he told USA Today that Hillary Clinton wasn’t “young and bling” enough for the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2016.
Anyone else think Santorum is kind of like a much less cool, much more rabidly homophobic version of Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy?
Check out our weekly guide to make sure you're catching the big premieres, crucial episodes and the stuff you won't admit you watch when no one's looking.
— Fans of the fang-banging antics unfolding in Bon Temps won’t want to miss the premiere of True Blood’s final season, Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO. We’ve seen the first few episodes and can tell you to expect a high body count. (And don’t forget to check back Monday for our weekly True Blood recaps!)
More picks and clips, including the return of The Fosters and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, AFTER THE JUMP ...
— The Jennifer Lopez-produced drama The Fosters returns for its second season tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern on ABC Family. The show, which centers on a family helmed by an interracial lesbian couple, won a GLAAD Media Award (and a GLAAD Vanguard Award for Lopez).
— Send off television’s funniest schlub with the final two episodes of this season of Louis C.K.’s Louie tonight at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Eastern on FX.
— Trash TV hardly gets trashier than Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, which is here for a fourth season starting Thursday at 9 p.m. Eastern on TLC. No word on how much we’ll see of young Alana’s gay uncle (and safe-sex advocate), Uncle Poodle.
— Take a break from TV’s sex and violence with a new show from YouTube star Kid President. Ten-year-old Robby Novak helms Kid President: Declaration of Awesome (produced by The Office’s Rainn Wilson) on the Hub Network starting Saturday at 7 p.m. Eastern.
The music video for Britney Spears’ “Work Bitch” was a vampy ode to self-improvement. But super-fan Gal Volinez improved the original by editing himself into Spears’ place… and boy does he turn it out — yassss!
See the video AFTER THE JUMP...
Police are continuing to investigate the mysterious death of a transgender activist whose body was found Thursday morning in a parking lot behind a Dairy Queen in Anaheim, California.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
The death of Zoraida “Ale” Reyes is being investigated as suspicious, although authorities said there were no immediate signs of foul play. An autopsy has been completed, but no cause of death was given pending further investigation, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said.
A toxicology report is pending, said Lt. Bob Dunn, spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department, and could take weeks to be completed. Investigators hope it will help them identify a cause of death.
Friends and family gathered for a vigil on Friday to honor the 28-year-old.
“I didn’t know the family my daughter had, but I thank you,” Macrina Reyes said in Spanish. “I know she’s here uniting us.”
The paper added that many at the vigil said they were concerned that Reyes was the victim of violence because she was transgender.
A fund for Reyes’ burial costs has been established by her friends.
[photo via Facebook]