In the Critics this week

Craig Raine on Hockney, Alec MacGillis on the Obamas and Colm Toibin on Alice James.

The Critic at large in this week's New Statesman is the poet and novelist Craig Raine. In the first of a series of essays on the visual arts for the NS, Raine considers David Hockney's "abiding concern with the nature of representation". For Hockney, Raine argues, "photography's hegemony is finished ... For [him], the camera is only a near equivalent to the way we experience reality ... Hockney's aim is to place the viewer inside the painting." The results, Raine thinks, are not uniformly successful, but there are undeniable "high points" in this show. "Allow four hours at least," Raine advises. "There's a lot to look at, a lot to think about."

In Books, the American political journalist Alec MacGillis reviews Jodi Kantor's The Obamas: a Mission, a Marriage. "With a writerly touch, Kantor conveys the oddly regal universe of the White House though the eyes of a couple who, just a few years earlier, had been living in a mid-sized apartment and had 'campaigned in 2008 as being citizens of the real world'". The problem with Kantor's account, MacGillis writes, is that it "assumes a prevailing inside-the-Beltway view of the Obamas' challenges". (Jodi Kantor will be the subject of next week's Books Interview.)

In the Books interview, Sophie Elmhirst talks to Marwan Bishara about his new book The Invisible Arab. Bishara insists that the role of social media in the Arab Spring should not be underestimated. "Technology had an important contribution to make ... [It] allowed the youth to open up to the rest of the world."

Also in Books: Novelist Colm Toibin writes an appreciation of Alice James, sister of William and Henry. "What she and her two eldest brothers shared, what sets them apart and makes their lives of such continuing interest, was the quality and intensity of their self-consciousness." Other reviews: Leo Robson on Hemingway's Boat by Paul Hendrickson; Mona Siddiqui on Heaven on Earth by Sadakat Kadri; George Eaton on Why It's Kicking off Everywhere and Rare Earth by Paul Mason; and Jonathan Derbyshire on The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.

Elsewhere in Critics: Ryan Gilbey on The Descendants; Rachel Cooke on We'll Take Manhattan (BBC4); Andrew Billen on Travelling Light at the National Theatre; "Test Card", a poem by David Briggs; Antonia Quirke on The Politics of Pandas (Radio 4); and Will Self's Madness of Crowds.

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Beyond Moonlight: how Hollywood is still failing LGBTQ audiences

2016 was a bleak year for gay and transgender characters in Hollywood pictures.

How was 2016 for LGBT representation in Hollywood? It was the year Moonlight was released – the breathtaking love story of two young black men that won Best Picture at the most recent Oscars.

Beyond Moonlight, many smaller studios produced thoughtful, empathetic explorations of the lives of gay characters: from Gravitas Ventures’s All We Had and 4th Man Out to IFC’s Gay Cobra to Magnoloia Pictures’s The Handmaiden.

So… pretty good, right?

Not when you look at the statistics, released by GLAAD this week. While a low-budget, independent production managed to storm the mainstream, of the 125 releases from the major studios in 2016, only 23 included characters identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. And almost half of those releases saw that LGBTQ character receive less than one minute of screen time. Only nine passed GLAAD’s Vito Russo Test – which, inspired by The Bechdel Test, asks whether characters are treated as real people, or just punchlines. Plus, while many studios claimed characters were gay, they refused to explicitly or implicitly discuss this in the script: take Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann in Ghostbusters.

A closer look at some of the LGBTQ characters we had from the big studios this year underlines quite how bad the industry is at portraying LGBTQ people:

Deadpool, Deadpool
While much was made of Deadpool’s pansexual orientation in the run-up to the film’s release, the only references that actually made it to screen were throwaway jokes intended to emphasize just how outrageous and weird Deadpool is.

Terry, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Mike and Dave’s bisexual pal Terry repeatedly tries to persuade other characters to sleep with her, often at deeply inappropriate times, and even attempting to bribe one character into engaging in sexual activity. According to this film, bisexuality = hypersexuality.

Marshall, Lubliana, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

This whole film was a mess in its treatment of LGBTQ characters, particularly transgender ones. The very concept of being transgender is here treated as a punchline. Edina’s ex-husband Marshall is described as “a transgender” and treated as a joke, Marshall’s wife Bo claims she is now black, insisting she can change race as her husband has changed gender, while Patsy goes undercover as a man to marry the rich Baroness Lubliana, who announces “I’m not a woman”. Other lines from the film include ““I hate how you have to be nice to transgendered people now.”

Random strangers, Criminal

Remember the moment when two men kiss on a bridge in Criminal? No, me neither, because it lasted approximately four seconds. See also: Finding Dory – which supposedly features a lesbian couple (two women pushing a child in a pram). Literally blink and you miss them.

Bradley, Dirty Grandpa

The black, gay character Bradley only exists in this film as somone for Dick (Robert De Niro) to direct all his racist and homophobic jokes at. But this film doesn’t stop there – there are also a whole collection of jokes about how Jason (Zac Efron) is actually a butch lesbian.

Hansel, All, Zoolander 2

Dimwitted former model Hansel McDonald is now bisexual and involved in a long-term polyamorous relationship with 11 people – his entire storyline of running from them when they become pregnant, finding a new “orgy” and eventually coming back to them – relies on the most dated stereotypes around bisexuality, promiscuity and fear of commitment.

Meanwhile, straight cis man Benedict Cumberbatch stars as a non-binary model named All, who has “just married hermself” after “monomarriage” has been legalized, and exists purely so other characters can speculate loudly over whether All has “a hotdog or a bun” – yet again reducing transgender people to their body parts for cheap laughs.

Various, Sausage Party

From Teresa del Taco to Twink the Twinkie to the effeminate “fruit” produce, these are stereotypes in food form, not actual characters.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

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