May 6, 2013

Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends

The Cartoon Network has substantially less beefcake than The Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, of course; it's mostly cartoons.  Live action series, like Tower Prep, with Drew Van Acker (left) and Ryan Pinkston, or Level Up, with Connor Del Rio, can't seem to find an audience, and get cancelled quickly.

But it has a staggering number of gay-subtext series, Adventure Time, Looney Tunes, Regular Show, My Gym Partner's a Money, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, all the way back to Time Squad in 2001.

Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends (2004-08) has an interesting premise: many (but not all) children can create imaginary friends, sometimes human, but usually unicorns, minotaurs, birds,  bees, television sets,  and things with multiple heads.  When their creators grow too old, the imaginary friends are abandoned, so the elderly Mrs. Foster runs a sort of orphanage where they can be adopted by new children.

The protagonist, Mac (voiced by Sean Marquette, left), has been forced to give up his imaginary friend Bloo, but he visits every day and becomes an honorary resident of the house, dining with the imaginary friends and participating in house meetings.  And his relationship with Bloo is coded as romance in at least a dozen episodes.

1. Mac accepts a “date” with a “dreamy boy,” even though he must skip his regular after-school visit to Bloo at the foster home.  The date turns out to be a dud – the boy doesn’t want to do anything fun, like climb rocks or draw with chalk  – so Mac returns to Bloo, who may not be attractive but is always up for a good time.

2. When Mac creates another imaginary friend, Bloo roils with jealousy; “I thought we had something special!”  “I didn’t plan it,” Mac protests, as if he has been caught in a romantic indiscretion.  “It just happened!”

3. Mac becomes infatuated with the superhero Imaginary Man, who asks him to become his sidekick by kneeling and proffering a jewelry box, as if he is proposing marriage.  The jealous Bloo becomes a super-villain, Uniscorn (because Mac has scorned him), and wears a broken-heart pendant.

4. When a boy named Barry arrives at the foster home in search of an imaginary friend to “adopt," he and Bloo are instantly attracted to each other, but Bloo refuses adoption, declaring that he and Mac will be together forever. “He may not be a movie star,” Bloo says, quoting the 1970s classic song “My Guy,” “But if you ask if we’re happy, we are!”

In the next scene, Bloo has a change of heart, and arrives at Barry’s house ready to woo him with flowers and candy.  The two begin seeing each other behind Mac’s back. Eventually Mac finds out.  Bloo insists that “Nothing happened!” (what, precisely, could have happened between an eight-year old boy and a blue blob?), but Mac breaks up with him anyway.

Snooping around, Mac discovers the truth: Barry is actually Berry, a female imaginary friend who has a fatal attraction for Bloo, and wants Mac out of the way so they can “be together forever”  In a gender-bending damsel-in-distress scene, Berry ties Mac to railroad tracks with a train fast approaching, and Bloo rushes to the rescue.  To the end of the episode, however, Bloo is oblivious to the deception; he wonders why Berry suddenly showed up with murderous intent, asks when Barry will be back, and refuses to believe that they were the same person.