Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan is a young adult novel released in April 2010. The novel surrounds two main characters, both with the same name, Will Grayson. The novel is different from many other novels we see today because it has two alternating points of view, both written by different authors.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson was the first ever LGBT novel to make The New York Times children’s best seller list.

Will Grayson , written by John Green, narrates the odd numbered chapters. All of his chapters are written in proper grammar and punctuation. However, will grayson, written by David Levithan, narrates the even numbered chapters. His words are all lowercase with no proper punctuation.

Will Grayson , who goes to a high school in Chicago, Illinois, tries to live his life without being noticed. His best friend is named Tiny Cooper, a very large homosexual boy. Will Grayson  is the only straight member of the Gay-Straight Alliance at his school. He lusts after a girl named Jane Turner who goes to his school.

will grayson, a homosexual high school boy from Naperville, Illinois, crushes on a boy named Isaac who he only knows from the internet. They communicate secretly through instant messaging online.

When will grayson  tries to set up a meeting with his online love, Isaac, the two boys accidentally meet at a porn shop and their lives intertwine.  Isaac turns out to be completely made up by one of will garyson’s female friends from school, Maura. Maura has always had a thing for will grayson, but he obviously never liked her in the same way. Acting as Isaac allowed her to get closer to him.

This was John Green and David Levithan’s first time writing a book with homosexual protagonists. A lot of readers questioned why the two authors decided to take this route.

On johngreenbooks.com, Green answers questions about the novel. Some of the more relevant and important ones to this course include:

“Q.  What was it like for you to write about gay characters and gay issues?
A. I didn’t think much about it, to be honest.”

This response really caught my attention, and it began to make me question whether John Green and David Levithan really knew what they were talking about at all when they wrote this book. Neither of them are homosexuals themselves, and probably do not have much experience with homosexual teenagers. Saying “I didn’t think much about it,” leaves me pretty disappointed in John Green as an author. He is one of my favorites, and I thought he would have gone beyond that.

It’s offensive and sad that he didn’t think much about it because there are so many teens out there today that do have very real issues that they deal with, and Green and Levithan didn’t even bother to do any kind of research.

“Q. Will Grayson seemed to have asexual qualities. Why wasn’t he?
A. He’s physically attracted to Jane from the very beginning of the book—or at least he drawn to describing her physicality more observantly than any of the other characters.
I certainly wouldn’t think it’s “too much” to have an asexual protagonist in one of my novels. I just wanted sexual love to be one of the kinds of love—but only one—that was celebrated in the book.
Thematically, I suppose this was important to me because I think both David and I wanted to normalize gay sexual encounters by equalizing them with straight sexual encounters.
But mostly I just saw Will’s reluctance to seek romantic entanglements as reflective not as asexuality but by his wrongheaded belief that pain is something avoidable/to be avoided.”

That, thankfully, is one thing they did accomplish in this novel. Although Will Grayson is completely straight, and to some, kind of asexual, he loves Tiny and doesn’t care that he is gay.

Merle Miller, author of “What It Means To Be a Homosexual,” states, “Nobody says, or at least I have never heard anyone say, ‘Some of my best friends are homosexual.’ People do say- I say- ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ without hesitation- and these words, no matter who is uttering them, are put- down words, in intent every bit as vicious as ‘kike’ or ‘nigger”” (1).

Will Grayson hangs around with Tiny and regards him as one of his best friends. He helps him through all of his troubles as he would any straight person. Words like ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ are not used throughout this novel. Tiny is also very proud to be gay, and he doesn’t hide it from anyone, as some homosexuals may.

Green even claims that having the two boys meet at a porn shop is an attempt to normalize heterosexual and homosexual engagement:

“Q. Why did the Will Graysons meet in a porn shop?
A. I guess I kind of wanted to force David’s hand here, because I really wanted to write a story that celebrated all different kinds of love, that talked about love between friends and between kids and parents, and that wasn’t just another love story in which the only kind of love was romantic.
And it seemed to me that part of our weird obsession with romantic love is a weird attraction/repulsion to our sexuality, which is inevitably going to be at play any time you write about young homosexual men and women, because there is still so much prejudice against them. (I knew I wanted to write about a friendship between a straight male and a gay male.)
So I thought it would be interesting and resonant to have these two guys have this aggressively unsexual and unromantic encounter in a place (a porn store) we associate so closely with sexuality.” 

When I personally think of a porn shop, I do very closely associate it with sexuality and even kinkiness. Having these two boys, both who do not have a lot of experience with sex in general, meet here, is kind of comedic.

Although the title is based off of the Will Graysons, Tiny Cooper becomes a very large part of the story, literally. Throughout the book, he is writing an autobiographical musical that surrounds his many past boyfriends. After both Graysons meet, will grayson gets in a relationship with Tiny. However, he ends it too soon due to his depression and lack of trust in others.

will grayson and Tiny Cooper reflect different types of stereotypes that society holds about homosexual men.

will grayson  is the goth, depressed, and angry gay teen who wants nothing to do with anyone. In the first line of his first chapter, he quotes, “i am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me” (Green and Levithan 22).  (Yes, it’s all lowercase. It makes me cringe, trust me.) Great first impression, right?

He’s rude to his mother, and he’s rude to pretty much everyone else around him, even people who he calls friends. The only person he truly adores is his online love, Isaac, who turns out to be completely fake.

He represents the whole ‘teen angst’ thing pretty well, rocking the whole goth look and acting like no one could possibly ever understand him. He hides the fact he is gay to everyone.

His chapters are written completely in lower case and with no proper punctuation besides periods between sentences. While it drove me crazy reading it, I don’t think it was done solely to help readers distinguish between the two boys.

Constantly throughout the novel, will talks about how he is not good enough and has nothing special about him. Writing in all lower case with no punctuation may very well be a reflection of these feelings. will feels like he is a lower case person who is not worthy of upper case letters, which usually start a sentence and indicate important words like nouns. Readers pay attention to upper case letters when reading. will feels that he isn’t worthy of anyone’s attention, hence why everything he says is written in lowercase.

Tiny, though also homosexual, is the complete opposite.

Tiny is loud and proud about who he is. He is flamboyant and very into musical theater, which is stereotypical of many gay men.

Green even addresses this on his website:

“Q. Tiny seemed to be almost a caricature of a stereotypical gay person. Did you do this on purpose?
A. I wanted Tiny to be entirely agnostic toward the stereotypes. I liked the idea that he really, deep down didn’t care if it happened to be “gay” to like musical theater. He just likes musical theater.
After all, he also doesn’t care that it’s “straight” to play football, and he’s the best player on his school’s football team. He just likes football…”

Though Green claims Tiny is “agnostic” towards the stereotypes, he still completely portrays and perpetuates them.

However, he does play football, which is not very typical of a gay man.

Lastly, when I originally read this novel, I was very hesitant to do so. I read all of John Green’s novels before this one, and I wasn’t too sure if I liked the idea of an unknown author taking up half of the book.

However, afterwards, I was so glad that I decided to give this book a chance. It’s now one of my favorites. In fiction today, especially YA, we rarely see books written with more than one author. Readers, including myself, worry that the novel won’t flow, and the characters won’t be able to fully develop or create a connection with the reader.

However, none of this was a problem in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Both authors have extremely powerful and distinct voices, but they mixed well together. I was able to easily tell which boy I was reading about, and I also cared about them both equally even though they each had to share narration time.

Overall, this novel is unique for its time. It aims to normalize interaction between heterosexual and homosexual people, but at the same time, it perpetuates stereotypes of homosexual men.

Lesbians cool only for the summer?

Demi Lovato, popular singer and actress, has continued to stay in the public eye and influence teens for many years now. She got her start as a child on “Barney & Friends.” In 2008 and 2010, she became a Disney Channel star in the hit movies “Camp Rock” and “Camp Rock 2” with the Jonas Brothers. In 2009, she was given her own Disney show, “Sonny with a Chance.”

Her music career took off during that time, as well.  In 2008, she released her first album, “Don’t Forget,” which was very pop in genre. Her second album “Here We Go Again,” was released in 2009, and it appeared on the U.S. Billboard 200. It’s top track made the Billboard Hot 100 at number 15.

During 2010, her music and acting career took a hiatus due to mental health issues. She openly discussed  her issues with anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, and bipolar disorder. In early 2011, she entered a rehab facility for three months to undergo treatment for these issues.

Three months after her release from the treatment center, she told People magazine, “What’s important for me now is to help others.”

After overcoming her struggle with mental health, her music took a meaningful turn. With every song that she released, she encouraged self-confidence, acceptance, and strength. Her third album, “Unbroken,” addressed a lot of her personal mental health issues. The album’s emotional and powerful lead single, “Skyscraper,” was Lovato’s first top ten single.

In the midst of trying to destroy the negative mental health stigma in society, she also became an advocate for the LGBTQ community. On numerous occasions, she publicly spoke about supporting same-sex marriage.

Check out this video:

In 2014, she served as the Grand Marshal for LA Pride Week, where she filmed her music video for her single, “Really Don’t Care.”

Lovato at LA Pride 2014

Her newest album, “Confident,” was just recently released on October 16th. Similar to her other music after her recovery, it embodies self-confidence and acceptance.

“Confident” album cover

Billboard.com comments on the album: “Since her emancipation from the Disney Channel’s clutches, Demi Lovato has become one of pop’s leading motivational figures, wailing songs about self-empowerment and talking to Congress about destigmatizing mental illness.”

However, the release of the album’s first single, “Cool for the Summer,” received some backlash from critics and fans. The song doesn’t embody the same attitude of all her other music, which is being yourself and being proud of who you are

I am a fan of the song, and I really liked it when I first heard it on the radio this summer. At a first listen, I didn’t realize this song is actually about a lesbian relationship since it does not use any pronouns whatsoever.

Listening closely to the lyrics, however, it became very clear: “I’m a little curious, too,” “Got a taste for the cherry, I just need to take a bite,” and “Don’t be scared, ’cause I’m your body type.”

A song like this from Demi Lovato, a powerful advocate for the LGBTQ community, is not unexpected. However, overall message of the song threw me off, and I was not the only one.

The song is about a lesbian relationship, but it suggests that the relationship is not approved by society, and that it needs to be kept a secret.

She sings, “Shhh…Don’t tell your mother,” “We’re cool for the summer,” and “Just something that we wanna try.”

Overall, the song depicts a secretive, experimental lesbian relationship that isn’t very serious, and that it’s just “cool for the summer.”

Afterellen.com comments, “Certainly there are women whose interests align with “Cool For the Summer,” but when pop stars create hits about bisexuality being less serious or, you know, cool but just “for the summer,” it implies female/female relationships should be (or are) not on the same level of sincerity that a female/male romance might be.”

Being an ally of the LGBTQ community, Lovato would most likely disagree with this statement; however, the lyrics to her song suggest differently.

The issue with this song can be easily connected to a reading we recently did in class by George Chauncey, “Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1980-1940.” Chauncey introduces the myths of isolation, invisibility, and internalization. The myths of invisibility and internalization can be recognized in the lyrics of “Cool for the Summer.”

Chauncey states, “The myth of invisibility holds that, even if a gay world existed, it was kept invisible and thus remained difficult for isolated gay men to find” (3).

He also states, “The myth of internalization holds that gay men uncritically internalized the dominant culture’s view of them as sick, perverted, and immoral, and that their self-hatred led them to accept the policing of their lives rather than resist it” (Chauncey 4).

In the song, Lovato tells her female partner to keep the relationship quiet, especially from her mother. She fears that society will disapprove, so the relationship is kept invisible. She internalizes the fact that they will be judged negatively for participating in homosexual behavior.

Overall, this song does not align with what Demi Lovato claims to support. It sheds a negative light on lesbian relationships, and it supports hiding who you really are in fear of being criticized by society.

Pretty Little Transgender

The ABC Family television show, “Pretty Little Liars” has recently been one of the most popular shows on air. Over the past five years, millions of fans have been watching the lives of (from left to right) Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin, Emily Fields, and Aria Montgomery unfold after the queen bee of their group (center), Alison DiLaurentis, disappeared one night.

Soon after Ali went missing, the other four girls began recieving threatning text messages from an unknown source known as “A.” I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not Alison. It would be far too easy if it was Alison. Besides, Alison ends up coming home later in the series and getting tortured by “A,” as well. The entire plot/mystery of this show would take me far too long to try to explain. However, there is one aspect of this show that connects directly to the LGBT community: “A.”

“A” is one of the most cruel, heartless, and insane characters I have ever come across. “A’s” goal in life was to ruin the main character’s lives, and “A” did pretty well at it. While “A” managed to reveal every secret each girl ever had, these girls also have been put in the hospital, been in trouble with the police, been drugged, gagged, gassed, burnt, and even attempted to be drowned.  Here’s some examples of how terrible “A” is:

1. “A” hit Hanna with a car!

2. “A”  crashed a car into Emily’s home!

3. “A” tried to burn the girls alive!

4. “A” kidnapped all of the girls and put them in a real life dollhouse where they were tortured!

5. Finally, “A” set them up as murderers!

In summary, “A” has done a lot of terrible and psychopathic things.

In the most recent season finale, the identity of the horrendous “A” was revealed after five years of waiting.

“A’s” real name is Cece (full name Charlotte) Drake, who was born as Charles DiLaurentis. Charles just so happens to be the lost brother of main character Alison DiLaurentis.

“A” is a transgender woman.

Charles DiLaurentis

Cece Drake

As a child, Charles acted out. For instance, he accidentally dropped baby Alison into the tub while trying to give her a bath. His father found them and thought that Charles was trying to drown Alison. After multiple incidents, they sent him to live at Radley, a mental hospital.

A very crucial video (pay attention until 2:12):

Charles spent his whole childhood and teenage years in the seclusion of a mental hospital where only his mother visited him. His father never accepted him. His mother, however, accepted Charles for who he really was and let him become Cece. Although she was accepting towards Cece, she told everyone on the outside that Charles had died in Radley.

Alison never even knew of Charles’ existence, and Mr. DiLaurentis was under the impression that Charles was dead and gone.  Mrs. Dilaurentis continued to see Cece in secret after her transition.

This transgender woman lived a life of seclusion and loneliness, only wanting to be with her family and accepted for who she really was. Instead, she was surrounded by a world of hatred and lies.

Looking back on the horrible, crazy things that Cece did as “A”, it sheds a terrible light in the transgender community.

Since Cece was so full of rage towards the girls and her family, she tormented them. Susan Stryker talks about the term “Transgender Rage”  in her article, “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above The Village of Chamounix,” that easily applies to Cece: “Transgender rage is a queer fury, an emotional response to conditions in which it becomes imperative to take up, for the sake of one’s own continued survival as a subject, a set of practices that precipitates one’s exclusion from a naturalized order of existence that seeks to maintain itself as the only possible basis for being a subject” (249).

Cece was secluded and rejected from her family her entire life. When applying the term “Transgender Rage” to Cece, one can assume that it was her motivation to become “A.” However, I don’t think a normal transgender person would ever go as far as to do what Cece did to innocent people, and it is an awfully negative representation of the transgender community.

ABC Family associated transgender with evil, sociopathic behavior; an association that no group of people would ever want. Transgender people all deal with major hardships when transitioning as it is, and this negative representation in such popular media is a slap in the face.

“Pretty Little Liars” is also a series of 19 books by Sara Shepard. The major plot of the books is represented in the show, but the show has many different aspects. In the books, “A” is not a transgender woman, and I think the mystery is still just as captivating, if not more captivating.

ABC Family did not have to choose the transgender route, and many fans think they did it just to jump on the transgender bandwagon following Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner. However, the creators of the show claim they made the decision to make “A” transgender four years ago.

Executive producer Marlene King told Buzzfeed.com, “I knew we had so many years to build this story and make it layered and not what it could have been. We were pretty confident we would get a few negative responses — and there are negative responses from people who just don’t want to see transgender on TV at all,” she said. “To be honest, I see a lot more of those than people who were upset about a transgender villain. I think, again, we’re bringing more awareness to the subject and, really, humanizing Charlotte.”

I disagree with the fact that they are “humanizing” Cece. According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, the definition of “humanize” is to “to make (someone or something) seem gentler, kinder, or more appealing to people.”

The character of “A” completely contradicts that definition. “A” was not gentle or kind; she tortured people and even killed some.

That is definitely not “humanizing” to me. If anything, it reflects to the public that they should fear transgender people because they are insane.

I will admit that the creators of the show did give Cece a back story that probably many transgender people can relate to, and it does spread awareness for the terrible treatment that transgender people go through. However, I think “A” was the wrong character to spread awareness with. Most of “A’s” wrath was directed towards Spencer, Hanna, Emily, and Aria, who did nothing to Cece directly. In turn, she hurt innocent people that had nothing to do with the foul treatment against her.

Overall, the representation of the transgender community in the television show, “Pretty Little Liars,” comes off as extremely negative and may even increase transphobia in our society. Cece Drake, previously known as Charles DiLaurentis, may have a past that other transgender people can relate to, but how she turns out is insulting to anyone like her.