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Just what is she doing there?

[Originally published 1993 |
Updated here 1999.06.20]

Devoted Queer in Your Ear readers may assume I'm on top of everything and know about all the fabbo albums even before the musicians record them, but no. I'm constantly discovering things late – a case in point being Céline Dion.

The now-world-famous Quebec chanteuse's English work never interested me in the least, but a chance viewing of one of her French videos, "Des mots qui sonnent," piqued my interest last year. It turns out that back in 1991 Dion recorded an album, Dion chante Plamondon, of songs penned by that treasure of Canadian songwriting, living legend, and epitome of coolness, Luc Plamondon. There is much to like in Plamondon's nonchalantly adept songwriting, but I particularly respect his matter-of-fact use of English words here and there, which reflects French as it is actually spoken in Canada. While so much French music is treacly and forgettable, Dion chante Plamondon offers genuine, memorable emotion thanks to Plamondon's often touching lyrics and Dion's magnificent voice.

But even old albums can be reborn through the medium of video, and Dion's new clip "Ziggy" is certainly enough to prick up your ears. Based on Plamondon's 1978 song "Un garçon pas comme les autres (Ziggy)" from his well-known "rock opera" Starmania, the song and video depict a woman's crush on a young man who turns out to be, you know, that way. In a gesture of Canadian unity, here's the original French off the lyric sheet: "C'est un garçon pas comme les autres, mais mois je l'aime, c'est pas d'ma faute, même si je sais qu'il ne m'aimera jamais." She strikes up a friendship with this fellow and "tous les soirs il m'emmène danser dans des endroits très très gais. Oui, je sais, il aime les garçons."

In the video, Dion – dressed in a bezippered leather jacket almost garish enough for Michael Jackson – adopts pensive poses on chairs and bleachers in obvious filmic quotation of the lesboerotic videos of Carol Laure. We see the cute blond thing named Ziggy playing table hockey with his friends, who later forcibly pin him to a pool table, hike up his shirt, and fondle his abs and tousle his hair. While Ziggy looks like he isn't much enjoying this tickle session, he and the lads eventually leave the bar smiling, with their arms around each other. Later scenes show Ziggy, in quite a fetching raglan-sleeve shirt, tossing a football back and forth with the guys, who of course gigglingly pile onto each other the way football players do.

Through all this, Dion lingers as a sometimes-acknowledged, sometimes-unseen spectator, a role that works dramatically because she fails to lip-sync, thankfully enough. Dion even hangs around when the guys strip down to towels and underwear in the dressing room; she's there when they take a nice hot shower, showing off their svelte Québécois anatomies (full nudity, though not frontal) and nudging each other with the same mixture of playfulness and threat we saw in the tickling session.

In the final scene, Ziggy's apparent boyfriend flips his hood over his head and the two approach each other. They embrace, the camera ducks behind Ziggy and, just as they begin to kiss, the hood falls away to reveal... Céline Dion. Boom. End of video.

Dion's increasingly homoerotic video persona is at odds with the wholesome daintiness her looks project. Dion's video for "Love Can Move Mountains" featured a panoply of skating, weight-training muscleboys on a sort of White Man Can't Jump-ish sundrenched beachfront, and "Danse dans ma tête" showed off a shirtless ballet dancer coated in so much powder he ought to be deep-fried. "Ziggy" scores points for linking faggotry and sports (the latter not even alluded to in the song itself); the realism in the video's depictions of homocamaraderie takes the edge off the fantasy elements and keep the video from descending into the hackneyed realm of soft porn.

And for the record, displaying naked male derrières is hardly scandalous even on English-language TV. One used to see it occasionally in post-game dressing-room interviews on sports shows (now rare; the influx of female reporters has spurred a rash of jock modesty); Northwood, broadcast in CBC's "family hour," matter-of-factly depicted dressing-room nudity last year.

Céline Dion, Dion chante Plamondon, Sony Musique (CK 80168), 1991