Jan 16, 2013

Everybody Hates Chris

Everybody Hates Chris (2005-09),  loosely based on the childhood of comedian Chris Rock in the 1980s, was about a boy named Chris (Tyler James Williams) beset-upon by weird neighbors and a crazy family.  School is even worse; as the only black student at Corleone Junior High, he suffers both overt and well-meaning liberal racism.

True to the tradition of erasing black beefcake, no one disrobed on camera.  But there were nearly as many bulges as on The Jeffersons, and you could easily find shirtless and nude shots elsewhere.

Tequan Richmond, who played Chris's opposite, his supremely lucky and supernaturally attractive brother, posted many muscle pix on his website.  He now plays a teen hunk on General Hospital.

Terry Crews, the Dad, is a former football star with a bodybuilder's physique who often flexes in his movies (most recently he has done voice work on The Ultimate Spider_Man).

The word "gay" was never spoken, though once they used "androgynous" as a euphemism.  And, at least in the first season, Chris featured one of the strongest teenage homoromantic subtexts in contemporary tv.

When Chris arrives at Corleone Junior High, the only kid who will befriend him is the nerd Greg (Vincent Martella, now voicing the Disney Channel's Phineas and Ferb).  Soon they become inseparable  -- and exclusive; when one courts another boy, the other seethes with jealousy. They break up, realize how much they care for each other, and reconcile again.

They have a Romeo-and-Juliet moment in “Everybody Hates Greg” (November 24, 2005): Greg’s father forbids him from seeing Chris, and the two go through absurd machinations to be together, behaving according to media conventions for heterosexual participants in a “forbidden romance.”  Finally Greg’s father relents, saying “You’re big buddies, huh?”, apparently recognizing that the emotional importance of their bond transcends that of ordinary “buddies.”

The adult Chris Rock, who narrates each episode, seems somewhat discomfited by the intensity of the pairing.  Some of his asides, such as “Hey, this ain’t Brokeback!” (referring to the gay-themed movie Brokeback Mountain) deny that the pairing is romantic while explicitly linking it with gay romance.

Other asides, such as “How could I have so much drama without a girl?” appear to proclaim that the relationship is invalid because it does not involve girls, but actually indicates that girls are not necessary, that “drama” (emotional turmoil) is equally possible in same-sex relationships. The attention paid to the homoromance, and its thematic association with heterosexual romance, suggests that it is significant, even intentional.

However, it is temporary; after the first season, the two become ordinary best friends, both are wild about girls.