Questions Spurred After Watching Rocketman
With much joy, I saw Rocketman recently after much anticipation. It was a delightful, rhinestone filled ride with nasty bits thrown in between. That’s life, you know? Wonderful events – love, family, success – with a running gauntlet – ego, stress, xenophobia – bumping into and over obstacles as you bumble through, hopefully wearing sequins.
The film – just like Elton John’s life – can bring attention to a lot of important life lessons.
The power of “proper” love.
The implications of not accepting people for the glorious person they already are.
How music can both communicate and heal one’s experience.
And, of course, the magnificence of fashion.
I understand not everyone ponders after a movie, “Now what have I learned here?” Most, probably, simply want to be entertained. That’s wonderful and respected. I love to be entertained, but I also can’t help but want to go deeper. At risk of sounding like a broken record, to me, there’s always more to it. I started thinking about other way this movie shares lessons with we, the viewer.
The movie was released on the eve of Pride Month and that is no coincidence. Pride Month is about celebrating love, all love, but also isn’t is about not forgetting how we got here and how much work there is left to do, right here in Canada? Flare notes,
“To be clear, homophobia and transphobia can, and does, happen anywhere in Canada, but we know that people living in smaller Canadian cities and towns face challenges that their urban counterparts don’t. Same-sex couples in rural areas may have to travel to find a marriage commissioner who will marry them. Rural police seem to take intimate partner violence (IPV) between different-sex partners more seriously than IPV between same-sex partners. And it’s well-established that there are fewer LGBTQ-friendly resources, not to mention role models, available to people who live outside of Canada’s major cities.”
Seeing non-heteronormative romantic scenes in bid movies is important? Straight men have been playing gay men for years. Is the reverse true? Billy Porter sheds some light on his experience in the latest The Hollywood Reporter roundtable,
“Being black and gay and out came with a lot of unemployment. It's a double layer, the layer of being a person of color in this industry then the layer of being a queen. Nobody can see you as anything else. If "flamboyant" wasn't in the description of the character, no one would see me, ever, for anything, which wouldn't be so enraging if it went the other direction, but it doesn't. Because straight men playing gay, everybody wants to give them an award: "Thank you for gracing us with your straight presence." That gets tiresome. So here I sit, I can't get the gay parts, I can't get the straight parts.”
Addiction is a beast. Shopping, sex, drugs, alcohol, fame. Whatever the thing, it’s a slippery slope. It’s never too late to work it out as help is near. Elton shared this in Rolling Stone years back,
“I was a drug addict and self-absorbed,” said John, who explained this was in the early Eighties, around the same time the AIDS epidemic was starting. “You know, I was having people die right, left and center around me, friends. And yet I didn’t stop the life that I had, which is the terrible thing about addiction. It’s that – you know, it’s that bad of a disease.”
Does the world know the genius of costume and fashion designer Bob Mackie? Wait, do I need to revisit his legacy, too? Sure did. Vogue shared an oral history of his legacy in conjunction with his latest CFDA honour.
“You can’t make these crazy-ass clothes unless they’re beautifully made, and hopefully perfectly proportioned for the woman. I grew up around people that made clothes for film in the old days when everything was made from scratch, even the little black dresses for the secretaries behind their desks. You can make the best designs in the world on a piece of paper, but if they aren’t made beautifully and they don’t fit right, it just doesn’t work—especially when clothes as clothes are as goofy as some of the ones I’ve done like for Cher. They have to sit perfectly. They can’t start moving around in the wrong places, you know what I mean?”
My heart sighs deeply and fully when I think about what Elton John and Bernie Taupin gifted us. Their music, yes, but also a non-toxic example of what a platonic male friendship could look like. Here’s Elton again in a different Rolling Stone article.
“Every lyric on Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy was about Bernie and me, about our experiences of being able to make songs and make it big. I cry when I sing this song, because I was in love with Bernie, not in a sexual way, but because he was the person I was looking for my entire life, my little soulmate. We'd come so far, and we were still very naive. I was gay by that time and he was married, but he was a person that, more than anything, I loved, and the relationship we had was so odd, because it was not tied at the hip. Thank God it wasn't tied at the hip, because we wouldn't have lasted. That relationship is the most important relationship of my entire life. In a way, years later, I ended up being Captain Fantastic and he ended up the Brown Dirt Cowboy: Here, I'm living my fabulous lifestyle, collecting paintings, and Bernie is interested in horses and bull riding and shit like that. We became those characters. Who was to know?”
So my question is why don’t we have more examples like Elton for our young people? Or I should ask my cisgender self, why don’t I know of them? Surely they exist. Of course they do. As an ally, shouldn’t I seek them out and share them?
Maybe that’s the gift of Rocketman: imagining the world from outer space in ways I haven’t yet; in ways I want to experience – sometimes as a respectful spectator-; and then share the joy in celebration.