No, not about the graphic interpretation of the gospel.

Boingboing, geek icon and ditigalibertarian (-libertine?) bastion, summarizes the recently-released This Film Is Not Yet Rated in a recent endorsement. That summary includes the following paragraph:

The movie revolves around the mystery of the MPAA’s ratings process. Kirby Dick hires a likable middle-aged lesbian private eye who stakes out the MPAA’s LA headquarters, writing down license plate numbers and war-dialing the MPAA voicemail system until she gets the names and addresses of all the “parents” on the ratings committee, some of whom are childless, or with grown children.

Do you see what I see? The private eye’s sexuality gets mentioned in the piece, but the director’s doesn’t; even in a vigorously pro-gay venue such as Boingboing, lesbian identity is marked, and heterosexuality unmarked.

Is the private eye’s sexuality pertinent to the documentary’s plot? Maybe — but if hers is, I’d be interested to know why Kirby Dick’s is not (indeed, he’s named in the article, without indication of sexuality; she’s anonymous, identified only by occupation, temperament, and sexual behavior).

My point is not to scold Cory Doctorow or to dictate anyone how they ought to communicate. I want to bring to awareness the ways that our expressions effect messages that go beyond what “we wanted to say.” I know that Cory doesn’t think that lesbians are an aberration from a “normal” heterosexuality, but it’s worth extra trouble deliberately to compose prose that aligns with one’s considered philosophy.

Cory checked in with me this morning, and our conversation obliges me to clarify that I didn’t mean to suggest that Kirby Dick is gay (I don’t know one way or the other), just that Cory leaves Dick’s sexuality unmarked, where the private eye’s is marked. I’m referring to the socio-grammatical concept of “marked” and “unmarked” categories — you know, “the assailant was an African-American male, 5 feet tall” versus “the assailant was male, 5 feet tall [= white],” or “female comedian Brenda Bobbysox” versus “comedian Alan Athleticsox [= male].” The “different” category is marked; the “normal” category is unmarked.

As it turns out, Cory assures me that the investigator’s sexuality does engage the movie’s narrative arc, so that his specifying her identity as a lesbian was not out-of-a-clear-blue-sky.

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