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Political Mercury

No crying over spilled popcorn and Dr Pepper



Yes, Bruce Willis’ character really being dead all along got me in “The Sixth Sense” — and the movie particularly creeped me as I watched it in 1999 during a hurricane north of Boston.

There have been other shockers in my cinema-going days, particularly in the late 1980s and early 1990s before the Internet consumed our lives.

Here’s the one that stands out: “The Crying Game” in 1992.

Working in Washington, D.C., at the time, I’d take the Metro from Capitol Hill to the Pentagon City Mall on my way home to Arlington, Virginia, for mid-week movies. (There used to be a movie complex there; it’s gone now.)

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With a tub of popcorn positioned on one leg, the other slumped over a chair and a large Dr Pepper resting loosely, but for an easy reach, I escaped into the acclaimed thriller about doings of the Irish Republican Army.

Soon, like others around me, I’m drawn into the love affair at the center of the movie between Stephen Rea’s IRA member Fergus and Jaye Davidson’s Dil, a club singer. As their relationship moves from dialogue to intimacy, the audience gets a whammy to the prevailing worldview. Dil, who we are led to believe is a woman, is actually a man — something viewers learn in shocking fashion. So thrown by the revelation, and still attached to a 23-year-old Midwesterner’s sensibilities, I actually half-jumped from my chair, shouted “What the (blank)!” in the theater and spilled the entirety of my soda and popcorn. How can that not be a chick?

This brings us to the oddball debate today over transgender people’s public restroom’s options. Ted Cruz and many conservatives want regulatory measures in place requiring people who have changed sexes — or clothe and present themselves contrary to how they entered the world — to use restrooms based on their gender of origin.

I think that’s exactly the opposite way to view it.

If Jaye Davidson’s “Crying Game” character came strolling into the men’s room at the airport, I’d think the poor lady accidentally wandered in, and I might even politely correct her (not knowing it’s a him) in a decent effort to spare embarrassment. Wait, you are a dude?

I had another thought as that story broke and stayed in the headlines for a better part of a week: Why on earth would anyone, for any reason, spend more than one-ten-thousandth of a second longer than he or she requires in a public restroom? Get in. Get out. These are terrifically disgusting places. If you are sizing up another bathroom user to the point where you are questioning sexual identity, then you are the problem — you’re looking too much at the person in the wrong place, making too much eye contact.

As for Ted Cruz’s wild conjecturing about transgender men really being pedophiles in disguise, on the prowl for assaulting young girls in public restrooms? It sounds like a script pitch even the worn-out writers’ room at “Law and Order SVU” would kick to the curb. Young women are far more at risk of sexual assaults in their college dorms than public restrooms.

Finally, Ted, how do we police this? There are some really tall, manly looking women in Iowa. Is it OK to approach them in a restroom and ask for proof of “gender of origin?” You can’t really call the police because the “suspicious” users would likely finish the necessary business before the cops could arrive. Should citizens be able to detain questionable-gender folks in the bathrooms to give authorities time to rush in?

Worse yet, in the men’s room, if you are a straight man, but perhaps a little on the feminine side, and someone challenges you, suggests you are really a woman, couldn’t you (since the person is a stranger) interpret that as an unwanted come-on, or perhaps the beginning of an assault? If you were carrying, I’d say such an approach would be reasonable grounds for shooting first, questions later.

It’s a lot easier asking for a refill of your popcorn and Dr Pepper. CV


Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish burns doug 12-10-25newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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