Dec 4, 2016

The World According to Mork

The second celebrity I met after I moved to L.A. in 1985 was Robin Williams, at a party in the Hollywood Hills.  He wasn't nearly as nice as Michael J. Fox.  I did manage to land his date, though.


I first saw the recent Juliard graduate in Mork and Mindy (1978-82) an "I've got a secret" sitcom about the alien Mork from Ork, returning to the role Robin first played on Happy Days. Here he was sent to observe present-day Earth, specifically Boulder, Colorado.  He moved in with Mindy (Pam Dauber), who worked in a music store with her suspicious father.She initially found Mork annoying, but of course they inevitably fell in love, got married, and had a baby.


Heterosexist story arc aside, the first season featured Mork's reasonably humorous misunderstandings of Earth customs.  But plotlines soon emphasized treacly lessons of the week which Mork delivered to his commander, Orson, in an annoying "report" at the end of each episode: "I learned that Earthlings sometimes have trouble expressing their feelings."


The only redeeming feature was the beefcake.  Mork was relatively attractive, though rarely shirtless, and Remo DaVinci (Jay Thomas, later seen on Cheers), who ran their deli-hangout, had massive biceps.

Robin broke into movies with Popeye (1980), which I likedfor the gay symbolism.  Sweethaven was a fascinating, self-contained world, drawn from Depression-Era culture and the original comic strips, where everyone was as trapped as in the Village of The Prisoner. As the "National Anthem" stated:  "Sweet Sweethaven -- God must love us.  Why else would He have stranded us here?"

But then came The World According to Garp (1982).  When I was in college, all of the English majors were hoarse from shouting the praises of John Irving's original novel  so I may have been a bit prejudiced when I sat down for the  movie version.  It was slow, artsy, morbid, and disgusting, but when you cut trhogh the pretention and disquiet, you got heterosexual sex -- a lot of it. And castration -- a lot of it.

1. Jenny Fields (Glenn Close) wants a baby, so she sexually assaults a brain-dead GI to get the sperm.  She calls her son Garp.

2. Growing up, Garp has lots of sex before marrying Helen (Mary Beth Hurt).  Unfortunately, she is unfaithful. He crashes his car into a car where she is having sex with her boyfriend, simultaneously killing and castrating him.

3. Meanwhile, Jenny runs a home for abused women, most of whom have cut off their tongues in solidarity for a rape victim (symbolic castration).  Garp hangs out there, and meets transsexual Roberta Muldoon (John Lithgow). This movie has the mistaken impression that a transsexual is a castrated man.

4. Jenny is killed by a rabid anti-feminist, and her memorial service is open to women only.  So Garp puts on a dress to sneak in (symbolic castration).  But he is discovered and goes into hiding.  Eventually he is killed -- I can't stand movies where the central character dies, but at least it put an end to the castration anxiety.  
 
 Since 1985, I've seen five or six more of Robin's movies -- not the earnest, heartfelt ones where people die -- and I'm still not sure about him:

Heterosexism (Hook), anti-gay slurs, ad-lib channeling of some of the most offensively lisping, mincing hairdressers (in Aladdin and every comedy monologue), gay couples divided into "the man" and  "the woman" (in The Birdcage and Mrs. Doubtfire), immensely heteronormative plotlines -- but then there's The Night Listener (2006), where he plays a gay man mourning his lost love.

Was he a homophobic gay ally, a gay-friendly homophobe, or what?

By the way, the story of my date with Robin and his "boyfriend" is on Tales of West Hollywood..