Tuesday, September 16, 2008

YouTube Censors LaBruce

Muthas at YouTube have deleted my trailers for my melancholy gay zombie movie Otto; or, Up with Dead People. The original one had almost 60,000 views, so at least a lot of people saw it before it was removed for "violation of terms". I suppose it was either because of the nude orgy shots intercut with meat or the scene in which Otto eats a real dead rabbit. Some hardcore fascist vegans have been harrsasing me over that scene and they also had my Otto page on MySpace deleted because of it. Most of them have attacked me in a very vulgar and insulting way without even bothering to try to engage me in any sort of dialogue, and of course without having actually seen the movie. Predictably, they don't seem to like people very much. Here is what a guy with a blog named Fawny, who at least seemed slightly more civil, had to say about the matter on his blog, under a post questionably entitled "Dead Bunnies Out of Gay Porn Now":

Bruce LaBruce’s forthcoming porno, Otto, or: Up with Dead People, promises new forms of transgression. Just what we expect! But what I didn’t expect was the stunning iconography of the movie’s still photos, depicting a handsome, grey-faced, affectless zombie, dressed in high-fashion hoodies and hiding in plain sight amid flowers and shrubbery.

The Facebook invitation to a Toronto launch party–cum-screening for Otto includes a photo gallery. I was looking forward to seeing even more pictures, since the whole campaign is superb. But dead centre in the gallery I saw a thumbnail of our hoodied zombie and thought exactly the following: “Is he holding what I think he’s holding?” I made the mistake of enlarging the picture.

Yes, zombie Otto is standing there holding a dead bunny.

Here’s a proposition for you: Nobody has the right to use a dead animal in gay porn.

LaBruce explained the provenance of the bunny on his (unpermalinked) blog:

The art department has procured a huge dead rabbit for the scene in which Otto chows down on some roadkill. I feel guilty about the rabbit, so I ask if we can at least eat it at the end of the day – roadkill gourmet – but the art director informs me that it’s already been sitting out in the sun too long. Well, I tried….

The art director stuffs the gutted rabbit with cleaned pig intestines and sashimi tuna coated with strawberry sauce, which Otto has to eat. What next, waterboarding?

Indeed, what next?

I E-mailed LaBruce “on the Facebook” to find out if that really was a dead bunny. After he eventually figured out what I stated up front (that I was writing a blog post), he replied:

As I’ve talked about in a number of interviews already, the animal in question is a hare that we purchased at a farmer’s market in Berlin, where hares are eaten as commonly as foul. So the use of the hare is no different than using, say, a turkey in a Thanksgiving scene in a movie.

In fact, I wanted to see if we could eat the hare at the end of the day’s shoot, but the carcass was left out in the sun for too long and it was inebible.

I hope that answers your question.

Here’s another question: Can you show me the contract the hare signed in order to act in the picture? I thought porn was all about consenting adults. A dead bunny is neither.

Of course I don’t buy the argument that Germans eat hare so it was all right to kill that one. Nor that it would have been better to have eaten the thing after the shoot wrapped up. (It didn’t happen, so it didn’t improve things, either.) Nor that “a Thanksgiving scene in a movie” requires a dead turkey.

Do you buy the argument that it was OK to use a dead rabbit in a gay-porno video? Thought not.

I sent him this response, although he didn't deign to post it on his blog:

I read your blog post and I must say I resent the fact that you have characterized my movie Otto; or, Up with Dead People as a "gay-porn video." If you had the opportunity to watch the movie you would understand that it is an art film that is very much about consumerism, the aversion to consuming flesh and meat, and the way that pornography and the popular media package sex and body parts as so much meat. There is a scene in the movie in which the zombie actually visits a meat processing plant and eats raw chicken as the workers in the plant debone the chicken parts behind him. Should I not have included that scene as well? The zombie in the film, it is revealed, was a vegetarian when he was alive, and his aversion to eating human flesh is one of the central metaphors of the narrative. You are certainly entitled to your opinion about whether or not the dead rabbit should have been used in the film - although I still argue it's no different from using a real dead turkey on the table in a thanksgiving scene - but to try to characterize my movie as a "gay-porn video" in order to imply that the rabbit was used in some sort of salacious or sexualized way, is totally unfair and a gross mischaracterization of the work. Furthermore, had we not used the hare in question in the movie it would have ended up on someone's dinner plate anyway (as that is what it was being sold for at the market), so I really think you should put it in a less histrionic perspective. I take my work seriously, and I have to say that out of the hundreds of audiences I have shown the film to so far, no one has suggested that this scene had a prurient or frivolous intent. Thank you for your attention.

I should have also told him that I was born on a farm below the poverty line and my father was a hunter and trapper and he killed animals for fur and meat as part of the income he used to raise his family. He hunted to put meat on the table. I was raised seeing animals being killed all the time as part of the natural cycle of life and death. At nights riding home with my father in the family car he would sometimes swerve to hit a racoon or a rabbit. He would stop the car and throw the fresh road kill in the trunk. If the pelt wasn't too damaged he would skin it and stretch the fur and cure it and send it to Hudson's Bay Company just as he would if he had hunted it with a gun or trapped it. That's just the way he was raised to make a living. So obviously I have a completely different perspective when it comes to animals, road kill, and what is and isn't proper or moral. Some of my siblings ended up being vegetarians. I was a vegetarian for three years starting when I was eighteen but I gave it up when I started having dreams about being chased by hamburgers.

Incidentally, I wonder if these guys have seen the British TV show "The Road Kill Gourmet", in which a chef goes around the country looking for fresh road kill, cooks it up gourmet-style on the spot, and eats it.

Anyway, I'm posting the trailers in question here in case you haven't seen them.


joeclark said...

One reason why I didn’t “deign to post” your “response” is because you have your own blog. You posted your response yourself. As such, the system is working as designed.

Incidentally, even with expansive post-CCH fair-dealing rules, you excerpted too much of my blog post to make your point.

On the serious charge that I criticized your movie without seeing it, be more careful next time: I criticized your publicity stills, indeed after seeing them. I will be exercising my choice not to see your picture, though you may be surprised to learn I have seen several of your previous films (including once at the infamous screening at the porn theatre on Bloor).

My name, incidentally, isn’t Fawny.

A French NewYorker said...

Well done Bruce! As a French guy, I don't even see the point of veggie extremists. What is the problem with showing a dead rabbit on screen ??? Rabbits are part of human foods, just like chicken, salads, tomatoes, beefs, eggs, fishs etc etc.

Joe Clark, people happen to be meat eaters, deal with it !

Bruce LaBruce said...

To Joe Clark: you sound like a real yoyo.

thelemurpeople said...

I've been vegan now for thirteen years and I'm still excited about seeing Otto. I find that it's usually the younger ones who are misguided and more militartistic in their views.

I do find it a bit frustrating that many art films show actual animal deaths. I love John Waters but the opening scene of Mondo Trasho is a little rough for me. I found Michael Haneke's use of a horse's throat slashing very disturbing in 'Time Of The Wolf'. This need to document actual gore is something I question a lot in the context of art films. My question is usually should I be watching this? Not where are the torches.

So I may cringe for a second at the rabbit scene but I'm still very much looking forward to seeing this film someday.

Scott said...

Well done. The music is particularly effective and you have a keen visual sense. It looks like there are some especially poetical location shots. I'm slightly reminded of "The Cook, The Theif, His Wife, and Her Lover" sexy, challenging and beautiful.

Sofia Barlocco [Pony] said...

if i had told you how disgusted i am by your work, would you have answerd something to me?

Jack Curtis Dubowsky said...

I also had a video removed from YouTube for "content violation" and it's quite infuriating and frustrating that there is no arbitration, there is no one to contact, and the decision of the admin who takes it down is basically irrevocable. It makes you realize that the system is not for the public good, it's private enterprise, you're being allowed to play in someone else's sandbox, and they have their rules, and that's about it. They deliberately make it impossible to contact anyone; the contact page leads to a maze of policy explanations. As much as the net was going to be free blah blah blah, there's in fact less and less freedom and democracy online and when you realize it, it's a little shock. The video I had taken down had its world premiere at the BFI. I don't think you could get more legit than that. Anyway, I posted a "clean" G-rated version on YouTube because the issue was... plain and simple nudity. It is just shocking and amusing what trifling things people get upset over!

Anonymous said...

This looks amazing...i've GOT to see this!

The Red Son said...

"It's not porn, its an art film." I've heard that one before. But it's OK because it "was only once in college, that doesn't make me gay, right?"

Ricardo said...