Dec 6, 2012

Drake without Josh

Drake Bell is best known for Drake and Josh (2004-2007), the Nickelodeon teencom about two stepbrothers (Drake, Josh Peck) whose devotion, intimacy, and sheer physicality provide a hard-to-miss gay subtext (I've never done this with my brother.)

But Drake had a long career as a child actor before Drake and Josh.  At the age of 9, he he had the starring role in Drifting School (1995), about a school zapped twenty years into the future. More starring roles followed: he played a boy wizard (not a Harry Potter clone) in Dragonworld: The Legend Continues (1999) and a baseball player in Perfect Game (2000). He had guest spots on Home Improvement, Men Behaving Badly, Seinfeld, The Drew Carey Show, Caroline in the City, and many other tv programs.


When he had a starring role The Amanda Show (1999-2001), a variety series on Nickelodeon, he was required to play all of the teen hunks in the comedy sketches.  But then he and Josh Peck developed a teenage straight man-buffoon routine channeling Abbott and Costello, and it stole the show, resulting in their own sitcom.








Drake and Josh propelled Drake into the ranks of the teen idols.  He has released several albums of teen-idol and adult pop songs, including Telegraph (2004) and It's Only Time (2006).  A few of the lyrics are gender-specific (like "Hollywood Girl" and "Telegraph"), but most drop pronouns, making them accessible to both male and female fans.  And some seem to be addressing men:


By the way, I'll no longer ignore you,
I wanted to show you again, I'm your friend,
Sometimes we just pretend.
And all I can say is you save me.






But Drake's film work since Drake and Josh has been disappointing.  Superhero Movie (2008) was entirely heterosexist.  College (2008), where he costarred with Ryan Pinkston, offered substantial buddy-bonding amid the fart jokes, and had the antithesis of a "fade-out kiss" ending; Kevin rejects The Girl to hang out with his male friends.  It was also amazingly homophobic for a movie released during this century.

He does better in his juvenile films, such as The Fish Tank (2009) the live action versions of Fairly Oddparents (Grow Up, Timmy Turner, 2011, and A Fairly Odd Christmas, 2012), and voiceover work (The Ultimate Spider-Man).







I can't say for sure if Drake is a gay ally or not.  But at least he doesn't reach Shia LaBeouf's level of homophobia. When he started a Twitter war with Justin Bieber's fans, he never used any homophobic slurs to describe them, or the pop star.