Oct 11, 2013

William Inge's Picnic

William Inge's Picnic (1953) has a simple plot: a guy takes his shirt off.

It's one of those plays that kept popping up in the 1950s, when you couldn't talk about gay people openly, so you threw in as many hints as you could.

The hunky Hal shows up in a small town that's busily preparing for the annual Labor Day Picnic.  He takes off his shirt.

This is the 1950s.  You never see bare skin.






Everybody -- literally everybody -- starts lusting after him: shy Millie, aggressive Madge, schoolteacher Rosemary, her boyfriend Howard, and Hal's old college buddy Alan.  They flirt, posture, break up with their current flames.

Hal gets naked with Alan, has sex with Madge, and flirts with everyone else, but in the end he leaves, leaving everyone blinking in surprise and asking themselves "What just happened?"

In the original 1953 production, Ralph Meeker played Hal, and newcomer Paul Newman played Alan.

It was filmed in 1955 with William Holden and Stuart Whitman (top photo), in 1986 with Gregory Harrison, and in 2000 with Josh Brolin.



Other notable Hals have included William Poole (above) and Sebastian Shaw (left).  It has been transformed into a musical and an opera.
















It's a favorite of high school and college drama clubs, though sometimes they cheat by putting Hal in a t-shirt.  He has to actually take his shirt off to get the full homoerotic effect of the piggy-back ride.

Oct 9, 2013

The Lost Medallion: Gay-Positive Actors in a Fundamentalist Movie

Want to know what gay-positive actors Billy Unger and Jansen Panettiere have been up to lately?  Making a mess.

Actually, though The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone was released in March 2013, it was filmed back in 2009, when Billy was 13 and Jansen 14.  They both look and act around 10. 

A boy and a girl on an archaeological dig in the South Pacific, Billy (Billy Unger) and Allie (Sammi Hanratty) find a medallion that sends them back in time 200 years.  By the way, finding the medallion is a long, torturous process involving a mysterious book and two native Goons (yes, that's how they're listed in the credits).




I don't know how they figure out that they're 200 years in the past, but it's obviously a primitive culture, led by the boy king Huko (Jansen Panettiere), who speaks English.

Enemies attack, destroy the village, and lead everyone off to slavery except for Huko and his bff Anui (William Corkery).









The plot progresses like Karate Kid mixed with The Lord of the Rings.  There's a Damsel in Distress scene, an elderly wise man who offers cryptic advice, and a climactic battle between Billy and gay-vague Head Evil Dude, Cobra (retired man-mountain Mark Dascascos) that results in the destruction of the Medallion.  Then, using the Medallion that was just destroyed (don't ask), the kids go back to the 20th century.

Even though it's a mess, there are two redeeming characteristics:
1. A complete lack of displayed heterosexual interest, from anybody.
2. Gay-subtext buddy-bonding between Billy and Huko.

After chugging around the film festival circuit with it for awhile, writer/director Bill Muir decided to re-frame it. He added opening and closing scenes in which a modern-day fundamentalist Christian is telling the story of the Lost Medallion to some kids, explaining that it illustrates God's love.

Wait -- what?  I didn't see any religious symbolism.

Bill Muir graduated from the ultra-homophobic Moody Bible Institute, and has spent twenty years working for the ultra-homophobic Youth for Christ.  I wonder how he would feel if he knew that his movie had two gay-positive actors and a big ole gay subtext.

Somebody tell him, please?



Jackson Guthy: Teen Idol with Lots of Male Friends


When a performer poses in such intimate same-sex pairs over and over, one has to wonder if he's gay in real life.  Or conclude that he is.

Jackson Guthy (the one who isn't grabbing himself) is a singer/songwriter who got his start singing on The Ellen Degeneres Show in 2011, at the age of 15.

After that he toured with the Disney boy band Big Time Rush and the gay-positive One Direction.    His debut album, Launch, is due out later this year.




Here he poses shirtless with another buddy, their matching Union Jack underwear showing.

His songs, all about lost love, are a mixed bag, some heterosexist, some not.

  "Bad Boy" is immensely heterosexist, yelling "Girl! Girl! Girl!" every five seconds.

 "Everything You Do" is about breaking up with a girl.

"Roll" omits pronouns: "You're so hot I can't even seen."




"Brothers and Sisters" seems to be deliberately inclusive:

This is for my brothers and sisters
All the trouble makers
Who are trying to get back at me

Well, were you dating a brother or a sister?  Or any of these guys?

Check out his official website here.  He calls his fans the Jackpack.


Cody Christian: Pretty Little Liars

You probably know Cody Allen Christian from the drama Pretty Little Liars: he plays Mike Montgomery, younger brother of head liar Aria, who has not yet displayed any heterosexual interest.  Many fans think that he is gay, but it's probably just a tease; the writers just haven't gotten around to scripting any girl-craziness for him yet.

But Cody has been in a surprising number of gay-friendly projects.

1. The short film The Corndog of Tolerance (2006), an "ode for accepting people for who and what they are" which made the rounds of the LGBT film festivals.  You can see it on Vimeo.






2. Xander Tucker in the series Back to You (2007), who appears to be a bully but actually has a secret.

3. Kill the Irishman (2011), about the rise of an Irish-American mafioso.  As the young Danny Greene, Cody has a gay-subtext buddy-bond with the young Billy McComber (Dante Wildern).  The gay-subtext continues, by the way, when the characters grow up.

He has also made the rounds of Disney/Nickelodeon, appearing on Lab Rats, Austin & Ally (where he's #10 on my list of Ross Lynch's Top Hunks), and Supah Ninjas.  





No word on whether he is gay in real life, but he doesn't appear to hang out with Jake T. Austin, so probably not.




Oct 8, 2013

The Catbird Seat: Strong Women, Gay Men

I hated a lot of the stories that teachers foisted on us in school. They were always heterosexist, and usually depressing, dreary, and boring.  One of my least favorites was James Thurber's "The Catbird Seat."














You know James Thurber (1894-1961) -- the mid-20th century writer who made a career of pointing out the humorous foibles of men as they pursued women, or women as they pursued men, heterosexual desire to the max: "The Male Animal," "My World and Welcome to It," "Is Sex Necessary?", etc., etc.

"The Catbird Seat" (1942) is about mild-mannered, gay-vague Mr. Martin, who is not interested in women and therefore reprehensible.

He clashes horns with brash, braying Mrs. Ulgine Barrows, who comes to work in his office and starts dating the boss.  She loves incomprehensible catch phrases derived from baseball, like "Are you sitting in the catbird seat?"

She's really annoying, and about to take over the business, so Mr. Martin decides to kill her.  But his plans don't work out as expected.

So its basically a conflict of wills between two people who are outcasts in 1942 society, a strong woman and a "weak" (read: gay) man.

Strong women and "weak" (read: gay) men were savagely lampooned during the 1940s.  On the Burns and Allen radio program, Mel Blanc played a mild-mannered, nebbish postman who dreamed of killing his overbearing wife.  But "The Catbird Seat" is notable for its utter misogyny and intense heterosexism.


It's a very short story, but still, it's been filmed twice.

1. In a 1948 episode of Actor's Studio, starring Broadway actor Hiram Sherman, who often played gay-vague roles.

2. In the 1959 movie The Battle of the Sexes, with Peter Sellers (34 years old, but wearing old-man makeup), which frames the conflict as a modern American vs. old-school British.


Oct 7, 2013

10 Most Homophobic Beatles Songs

Well, not really homophobic -- the Beatles never acknowledged the existence of LGBT persons in their songs or in any public statements.  But some of their songs go overboard with the "girl! girl! girl!" rhetoric, promoting the heterosexist mandate that same-sex relationships are invalid, that men's lives begin and end in the arms of Some Girl.

1. "I Saw Her Standing There" (1963)
Actually, anything from their teen idol period, prior to 1966, is likely to be infused with "girl! girl! girl!".  That's what teen idols of the early 1960s sang about, just like boy bands today.


2. "Norwegian Wood" (1965)
Once I had a girl, or should I say, she once had me?  They have sex.  And we all know what "Norwegian wood" means.

3. "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" (1965).
Many people think that this song has to do with gay people forced to "hide," maybe a reference to manager Brian Epstein, who was gay.  But "she" is definitely gone, leaving "him" feeling depressed and beset-upon.

And even if you can find gay people submerged among the "boy loses girl!", hiding your love away is the antithesis of gay liberation.


4. "Ticket to Ride" (1965)
More "boy loses girl!"  The girl driving me mad is leaving, and I'm really, really depressed.

5. "She Said, She Said" (1966)
A conversation between male and female lovers about the loss of innocence.  Sexual innocence, probably: "When I was a boy, everything was alright," but now "I know what it's like to be dead."  But it's too much of a stretch to find him mourning the loss of his elemental homoerotic connection with men.



6. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (1967)
You travel through a psychedelic dream landscape, looking for the "girl with kaleidoscope eyes," but every time you think you've found her, she's gone. Sounds like the quest for the Eternal Feminine.

7. "Back in the USSR" (1968)
Well, the Ukraine girls really knock me out, they leave the West behind.
And Moscow girls make me sing and shout, and Georgia girls are always on my mind!

8. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Do" (1968)
Desmond and Molly meet, fall in love, get a house and kids, etc., etc., etc. Heterosexist mandate once again. Yawn.  Besides, it was the theme song for the decidedly depressing 1980s "comedy," Life Goes On.






9. "She Came In through the Bathroom Window (1968).
Female dancer with an aristocratic background falls for a police officer, so he quits his job, etc., etc., etc. Yawn.

10. "For You Blue" (1970).
A reprise of their boy-band songs from the beginning of their career: because you're sweet and lovely, girl, I love you.  Wraps things up nicely in an endless loop of desire, fulfillment, and loss, all of the "boy-girl" variety.

But not to worry: lots of Beatles songs are gay-positive, too.  Check out my list:

See also: Beatles Penises.

Oct 6, 2013

10 Gayest Beatles Songs

One of the first gay cartoons I saw, by Donolan, featured two lesbians discussing whether they came out before or after the Beatles' White Album.

Between 1963 and 1970, the Beatles recorded over 400 songs and changed the world.  They belong to everyone in every generation, of course, but they have a special significance to the gay people who were struggling for liberation in the Stonewall era.   Their songs about unity, friendship, and resistance played in the background as gay people formed organizations, printed newsletters, opened community centers, and marched on the streets.

This is my list of the "gayest" Beatles songs, those that eliminate heterosexism and speak most directly to the gay experience, roughly in chronological order.



1. "Can't Buy Me Love" (1964)
I'll buy you a diamond ring, my friend, if it makes you feel alright
I'll get you anything, my friend, if it makes you feel alright.
Notice that it's "friend," not "girlfriend."  A love song that omitted "girl! girl! girl!" was a revelation in 1964.

2. "Help" (1965)
When I was younger (so much younger than today), I tried to be self-sufficient, but now I realize that I need help, emotional connections, community.  No more acting as if I'm alone in the universe.  Time to start a gay subculture.

3. "Nowhere Man" (1965)
He's as blind as he can be, just sees what he wants to see.  Isn't that the heterosexist condition?  Trying to avoid thinking about same-sex desire, or explaining it as something else, trying to maintain the heterosexist status quo of wife, kids, house, job.  It ends in desolation.  But you can escape: "the world is at your command."



4. "Eleanor Rigby" (1966)
She picks up the rice in a church where a wedding has been.  Meanwhile Father McKenzie writes the words to a sermon that no one will hear.  Some people can't, or won't, embark on the heterosexist trajectory.  They are left out in the cold.

5. "Yellow Submarine" (1966)
With all my friends on board.

6. "With a Little Help from My Friends" (1967).
"My friends" may be psychedelic drugs, or maybe they're hippies, the members of the youth counterculture who led the way to liberation, and I need them to get by.






7. "Strawberry Fields (1968).
"I think, I know, I mean a yes, but it's all wrong.  That is, I think I disagree."
We know that "nothing is real," the mind-control chants of "what girl do you like?  what girl?  what girl?" lead nowhere, but they subtly take hold.

8. "All You Need Is Love" (1968).
You learn to play the game (of heterosexism), but in the end all you need is love.

9. "The Long and Winding Road" (1970)
It's been a long and winding road, but it leads me to your door.





10. "Let it Be" (1970)
When you get discouraged at the work of fighting heterosexist oppression, just remember the words of Mother Mary: there will be an answer, let it be.

Next: my list of the 10 Most Homophobic Beatles Songs.

See also: Beatles Penises.



L

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