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From Vietnam to Afghanistan: Myra Breckinridge to the rescue

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As Afghanistan enters its last dreadful lap, much like Vietnam circa 1970, I have been looking back to what fiction from those 'golden days' had to say, when students were alive with antiwar politics and sexual revolution, the empire at its peak of power and savagery. The parallels are bleak, and very, very enlightening.

In Norman Mailer's Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967), the rich Texan D.J.'s son spends the night in a tent with his best friend. They feel lust for the other, but intuit that the only response to such desire is violence; they will never be lovers, but only 'killer brothers'.

They (and their fathers) worship their high-powered guns. They revel in shooting an exquisite fox, standing nobly at dawn, a magnificent grizzly, wounded and running crazily in pain. The atmosphere is full of cruel violence against the natural order and lack of understanding of reality. Then, in the final sentence, 'off to Vietnam we go.' Argh.

It was then that I turned to Gore Vidal's Myra Breckinridge (1968) and Myron (1974). Unlike Mailer, Vidal's opus is defiantly queer ('there are only homosexual acts'), taking Mailer's sexual tension to the breaking point, emphasizing the overpowering influence of advertising in dumbing down and homogenizing society, pointing to a quixotic solution to America's post-WWII angst.

Who needs testosterone?

Vidal uses the Dr.Jekyll/ Mr Hyde archetype, the split between the two warring natures, in this case the wimpy male Myron film critic, and aggressive female Myra Hollywood star.

Myron/ Myra takes revenge against the normal, aggressive male archetype as outmoded. The world doesn't need aggressive males anymore.

My mission: the destruction of the last vestigial traces of traditional manhood in the race in order to realign the sexes, thus reducing population while increasing human happiness and preparing humanity for its next stage.

Subdue the aggressive male nature to fit the techno-world which no longer can rely on mass starvation and large-scale wars to control the population size. Better yet, get rid of testosterone altogether.

Both Mailer and Vidal, in their own ways, come to the same conclusion: American worship of violence, a groundless idolization of male aggression, is the problem.

The remarkable rise in the militant transgender movement today can point to Myra as a precursor, but a two-edged one. Though s/he is a transwoman (a post-Vidal neologism) herself, she sees no need for 'Gay Lib', or 'Trans Lib'. Rather, use this marginalism as a conspiracy against all of society. A kind of 'Protocols of the Elders of Myra' against what is now dubbed heteropatriarchy.*

In a nutshell: wimpy repressed gay film critic Myron's alter ego is Myra, a superwoman, combining male aggression, strength and rationality with feminine wiles and beauty, but without emotion. This requires castration to free Myra from irrational male sexuality, leaving her free to control/ manipulate all men and women in the era of Woman Triumphant.

Though Myra is Myron's Mr Hyde, only taking over his physical body from time to time, s/he is able to bring her conspiracy to life in Steve Dude, a Hollywood rising hunk, who she convinces to have a sex change, becoming Stephanie Dud, Myra's avatar, who at the end of Myron, has entered US politics, risen to governor of Arizona, and is in line to be the next (Republican) president of the US. Woman Triumphant conquers the world.

What bothers Myra about gays (we can add 'and transgenders') is the narcissism:

The make-up artist Maude wears eyeliner and is a f*g, an element I do not mind when they keep to themselves and do not prey on minors or solicit straight people like yours truly. Or hold these parades down Hollywood Boulevard and talk about Gay Lib.

Where is old-fashioned public decorum? To the end, Vidal bemoaned that "the love that dares not speak its name has become the love that won't shut up."*

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Eric writes for Al-Ahram Weekly and PressTV. He specializes in Russian and Eurasian affairs. His "Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games", "From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization" and "Canada (more...)

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