Daily CanCon: “Misogyny” by Rusty — an odd outpost of queerness in Grunge rock

In honour of my new play, BIG IN GERMANY, which is all about Canadian rock music and growing up in Toronto in the 1990s, I’m going to share a CanCon music video everyday. BIG IN GERMANY plays at Buddies in Bad Times April 9-21. Get tickets here.

Today, probably the gayest thing MuchMusic ever put in regular rotation outside of Electric Circus, the Bruce LaBruce-directed video for Rusty’s song “Misogyny”:

Although this is the official music video, it’s actually just a bunch of clips from LaBruce’s smutty gay arthouse picture/pornographic wankfest Hustler White. The film, and by extension this video, got a lot of attention for casting Tony Ward in the lead role as a male prostitute because at the time he was a famous underwear model and one of Madonna’s boytoys (he’ll eventually appear in another DailyHustler-white-film CanCon entry).

Followers will remember this isn’t the first time I’ve posted a CanCon music video/movie mashup.

While this music video is (thankfully) restrained compared to the film it’s trailing, it’s still unambiguously about gay lust, in a way you just never saw on TV in the early 1990s. And it was such an odd justaposition to see this in a grunge rock video of all places (sure, Kurt Cobain would wear dresses but you never saw gay hustlers in Nirvana videos!). Rusty thrust this right out in the open for a whole generation of grungey gay teens — and helped create a space for gays within grunge rock music.

I remember thinking this video was an awesome trailer for the movie, although I had no idea how I’d ever get a chance to see it — it would probably be R-rated (it’s X-rated) even if I could find a theatre playing it or a video store carrying it. I eventually got a chance to watch it about ten years later when Showcase aired a lightly censored version of it (a black bar covered up the amputee-penetration scene, for example). It’s, quite frankly, an absolutely terrible movie that tries to cover up its lack of plot and character with an homage to Sunset Blvd, a bunch “shocking” sex scenes, and a pretentious narration. But hey, it was gay in 1995, so let’s just be grateful for it.

In college, I interviewed LaBruce for my faculty literary magazine, and told him that I’m more familiar with his work on a few music videos he directed in the 90s than from his movies, which were damn near impossible to find in Montreal. He lamented that that was common, and seemed to dismiss all the music videos he directed — they don’t even show up on his wikipedia page.

Rusty’s debut album Fluke also included a song called “k.d. lang” which was inspired by homophobic graffiti the band once encountered about her.

Rusty never got as big as some of the other Canadian rock acts of their time, and I wonder if videos like this had something to do with it. Although they did play Snowjob one year, so what do I know?

A few years later, Rusty hired queer filmmaker Josh Levy to make another quite homoerotic (Midnight Cowboy-themed) video for “Soul For Sale”:

I have no idea if any of the members of Rusty were queer themselves, but they certainly made connections in that world and were actively cultivating that image. Still, I know most of my friends in school didn’t catch that at all. Midnight Cowboy is, after all, a straight boy fantasy as much as it is a gay boy fantasy; Rusty and Levy are great at walking the line between the two.

Rusty broke up in 2000, but reunited for a performance at NXNE in 2011. Vocalist Ken MacNeil no longer wears dreads:


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