"I'm Lizzy the Lezzy, just sing it with me, I'm Lizzy the Lezzy and I like p..." Writing about Lizzy the Lezzy for a family newspaper can get tricky. It is one thing that the cartoon comedienne, created by filmmaker, animator and Web designer Ruth Selwyn, is loud and proud about being a lesbian. But most of the words she uses during her "gigs" - short animated films on YouTube and MySpace - are not suitable to be reprinted here.
Whether Lizzy, a rather simply animated black-haired woman standing in front of a microphone, talks about her coming-out, her first kiss, her thoughts on men or the Israeli-Arab conflict, the 2-minute monologues are sometimes funny but always racy. Most of the comments on YouTube find her humor "hilarious" and the "the funniest thing I've ever seen on the Web," but some also calle it "bad taste."
Selwyn, 39, says that many of the stories Lizzy tells to international audiences (her videos have been viewed by nearly two million people all over the globe) are somewhat autobiographical, but their two characters are actually quite different. Lizzy, who speaks with Selwyn's voice but five semitones higher, is a rude, frustrated, notoriously horny single complaining about homophobes and the stupid people who ask her who the man is in her relationships. Lizzy's creator, on the other hand, is a polite British woman, whose fine manners haven't yet been eroded by living in Israel for the last 16 years. Born and brought up near Birmingham, she finds it difficult to deal with the not-so-gentleman-like way some of her compatriots act.
"I do sometimes feel the rudeness that I as an English person still take offense to, whereas to them it's not meant to be rude," she says during a recent interview in a cafe near her Tel Aviv apartment. Her membership in a secular Zionist youth movement and a year on a kibbutz in 1987 led to her immigration here. "You get back to England, where it's freezing cold, and you say to yourself, maybe I should 'go home' [to Israel] and see what it's like, which is basically what I did."
In Israel, Selwyn worked as a Web designer and occasionally produced movies before finding her present calling. When she ran out of film ideas and grew tired of her day job, she decided her new project should have a lesbian theme. Besides one TV show and a handful of cult movies, she says, there wasn't much out there in this regard. "Even the films aren't good films. I'd rather watch Men in Black or Die Hard," she laughs. "I just felt there was some kind of hole somewhere and because I do animation, that was the most logical step." She looked for "lesbian animation" on Google, but found nothing. Lizzy was born.
Lizzy's name was a no-brainer, says Selwyn. But what about her monologue topics? "The stories are definitively based on my experiences," says Selwyn. Even the episode in which Lizzy tells the story of the first time she kissed a woman - who was dating a man at the time - is in essence true, maybe just a little exaggerated. "But she did go home with that guy that night," Selwyn remembers. Her first lesbian kiss happened at age 24, and was "pretty pathetic actually," she adds. "She dragged me out of this pub, gave me this kiss. For me it was like, oh my God, this is what I've been missing my whole life." Selwyn actually had a number of boyfriends before she became one of Israel's most well-known lesbians. "But I could never find that being-in-love feeling that everybody was always raving about. And I didn't really understand why."
What started as animated video on Selwyn's MySpace page soon became bigger than she could have ever imagined. Last year, theHuman Rights Campaign, a U.S.-based gay and lesbian rights advocacy group,asked Selwyn to produce a video for their Coming Out Day, and several American TV stations bought and broadcast some episodes. Lizzy is also popular in her home country: this past June, "Lizzy the Lezzy Does Gay Israel" opened the gay and lesbian film festival in Tel Aviv. During the eight-minute film, Lizzy speaks to local people about why it's good to be homosexual in Israel. "It is one of the most liberal countries in terms of gay rights and acceptance," Selwyn tells Anglo File.
Selwyn says she never intended for Lizzy to become a spokesperson for gay rights. "It wasn't meant to be provocative or political, it was meant to be funny," she says. Selwyn really cannot be described as a very political person. Asked what she thinks of the controversy about the gay pride parade in Jerusalem - which the city's Ultra-Orthodox vehemently oppose on religious grounds - she says she agrees "with both sides." On the one hand, she maintains that it's all about tolerance. "I don't get offended when there's a sukkah parade right outside my house, and there are also these guys who drive around with their music blaring, and I tolerate it," she says. But then she also signals some understanding for "the demographics of Jerusalem." She once went and the parade wasn't even that great, she says. "It wasn't fun because it wasn't really happening. She said circumstances make it to difficult to be "happening," while she loves the Tel Aviv parade.
While Lizzy is already known among hundreds of thousands of gays and lesbians in the entire world, her big break might still be ahead. Selwyn is currently writing a pilot for an animated sitcom that she will try to sell to American or British TV networks. On the silver screen, Lizzy the Lezzy will of course not be alone, but joined by Gary the Gay, Kate the Straight, Danny the Tranny, Spike the Dyke, Stan the Macho Man, Sid the Yid and "the whole mishpoche." And, because there are also Palestinian gays, as Selwyn points out, the cast also includes Samir the Queer. Now that's entertainment for the whole family.
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