Jan 9, 2013

What's Gay about Beany and Cecil?

Beany, a grinning 10-year old boy with blond hair, freckles, and a magic beanie that allowed him to fly, first appeared as a puppet on the local Los Angeles tv series Time for Beany (1949-1954). 

 A 26-episode animated version appeared on prime time (1962-63), and on Saturday mornings (1962-67). There were also books, toys, games, and comics.

This screencapt is from the short-lived 1988 remake, drawn by John Kricfalusi.

The plots involved Beany, his adult companion, "Uncle Captain" Horatio Huffenpuff, the giant green phallic symbol,Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent, and a lot of puns which I didn't understand at the time: Hungry I-Land,  Cyrano de-Bugs-R-Back, "Malice in Wonderland," "Phantom of the Horse Opera."  

Their main antagonist, Dishonest John, a silent movie melodrama villain with a handlebar moustache and a sinister "Nya-ha-ha" catchphrase, often captured and threatened to torture or kill Beany, whereupon Beany would cry "Help, Cecil, help!" and Cecil would rush to the rescue.

When I was a kid, I didn't notice the heterosexism.  It was far more pervasive than in the Hanna Barbera cartoons (Yogi Bear, The Flintstones).  The crew explores No Bikini Atoll, an island that looks like a reclining woman.  The Captain is in love with a husky woman named Ida, Cecil is dating a female sea serpent named Cecilia, and even Beany has a girlfriend, Baby Ruth. 

I just noticed a boy who needed lots of rescues.  Beany and Cecil didn't have a romantic bond.  But the inversion of the standard female damsel-in-distress plotline paved the way for more overt gay partners, boys who faded-out in each other's arms -- Jonny and Hadji, the Hardy Boys, the Adventure Boys in the Green Library.

The first childhood toy that I remember is a huge, cuddly Beany doll wearing a red turtleneck sweater and blue overalls (I didn't check to see if he was intact underneath, like I did a few years later with my G.I. Joe and my sister's Donny Osmond). When you pulled the string in back, he said random things:  "I'm Beany Boy!"; "Let's go explore!"; "Gee, this is fun!"; and "Help, Cecil, help!" 

He got rescued a lot.