Sep 23, 2015

The Beefcake is Back: Axl in Underwear on "The Middle"


Beefcake alert -- I just saw the season premiere of The Middle.  The episode itself wasn't great -- about Sue going off to college.  But Axl (Charlie McDermott) spent the entire first two acts in his underwear.

He was fully clothed most of last season.

It's nice to see the beefcake back.

I've been watching The Middle since it premiered in 2009.  It's a striking contrast to Modern Family, which comes on ABC shortly afterwards: two "family sitcoms," but the families are rich/poor, big city/small town, West Coast/Middle America, and inclusive/not-inclusive

White -- all white all the time.  Christian.  And heterosexual.  I was holding out for quirky youngest kid Brick (Atticus Shaffer) to be gay, but nope, he "discovered" girls, and now he's as hetero-horny as his brother Axl.





The flamboyantly feminine Brad, one of high schooler Sue's friends, appears occasionally.  But the joke is that no one thinks that he's gay except Sue's parents.  Not even him.

Other than that, nothing.  Not a word or a scene suggesting that same-sex desire, behavior, or identity exists.  This is a complete, utter heterosexist wasteland.

To what can we attribute this void?

Maybe the producers, Eileen Heisler and Deanne Heline believe that all gay people live in L.A. or Manhattan, so Orson, Indiana must obviously be gay-free.

Or the suits at ABC

Or the cast.  Most are not exactly gay allies:

1. Patricia Heaton (Mom Frankie), formerly the wife on the heterosexist Everybody Loves Raymond, is openly conservative, although she states that she has gay friends.  She complains that the kids of The Middle would never display themselves as sexual objects, like the kids of Glee.  Um...Axl and his friends are displayed semi-nude in nearly every episode because....?

2. Neil Flynn (Dad Mike), formerly the sardonic janitor on Scrubs, doesn't have any gay roles on his resume and hasn't made any pro-gay statements.

3. Charlie McDermott (the shirtless Axl) has played in several movies with "aren't gay people ridiculous?" jokes, such as Sex Drive (2008) and Hot Tub Time Machine (2010).

4. Eden Sher (the over-enthusiastic Sue) has a gay best friend.

5. Atticus Shaffer (Brick) had a role in the homophobic Year One (2009), but he was only 11 years old at the time, so you can't really blame him.  He hasn't made any pro- or anti-gay statements.

I guess we'll have to make do with subtexts.

See also: Raising Hope/The Middle and Brock Ciarlelli: The Uncle Tom of The Middle