Mar 14, 2015

Bob's Burgers: The Most Gay-Positive Sitcom on TV

Since 2011, Bob's Burgers has been airing on Sunday night, in the company of Family Guy and American Dad.  But it is quite different from those programs.

1. The father and mother in the nuclear family are not insensitive jerks.
2. They accept their children's idiosyncracies, instead of berating and belittling them (on American Dad) or maiming and murdering them (on Family Guy)
3. There are no sociopaths (like Roger Smith and Stewie Griffin), who kill, maim, and express same-sex interests all in the same scene, as if they are all equally disgusting.
4. There are few if any jokes involving menstruation, masturbation, vomiting, golden showers, diarrhea, or body fluids in general.
5. No one ever collapses in a pool of blood.
6. No one ever expresses hatred of blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Jews, Muslims, women, gay men, lesbians, or transgender persons.

In short, you never think you're watching a Nazi recruitment film scripted by potty-mouthed third graders.

It's about a small, struggling burger joint in a resort town in New Jersey, run by aspiring chef Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, top photo) and his New York accented wife, Linda (John Roberts).  Plotlines generally involve restaurant problems, such a visit from the health inspector, competition with the pizza place across the street, or buying a food truck -- and the problems of the three kids:

1. Shy, socially-awkward teenager Tina (Dan Mintz).
2. Chubby preteen Gene (Eugene Merman), an exuberant nonconformist who may be gay.
3. Preteen rebel Louise (Kristin Schaal), who always wears bunny ears (no one in the family seems to care).

Heterosexism appears on occasion.  A boy band has only female fans, and when Gene gets a secret admirer, everyone assumes that it must be a girl.  But not often.  Usually same-sex desire and relationships are seamlessly integrated into everyday life.

Bob gets a part-time job as a taxi driver, and finds himself driving a group of drag queens home from the bars.  Does he:
a. Freak out, but learn tolerance.
b. Rescue the drag queens from homophobic harassment.
c. Invite them to the restaurant.

Answer: C.  Invite them to the restaurant.

At Christmastime, Bob decides to reconcile with his estranged Dad, Big Bob.  They meet in a gay bar called the Junkyard.  Why?
a. Neither of them realize that it's a gay bar until they get hit on; then they freak out but learn tolerance.
b. Big Bob tells Bob that he's gay and closeted; that's why he withdrew from the family.
c. Big Bob likes hanging out there with his gay friends.

Answer: C.  Big Bob just likes hanging out there.

Gene announces that he is gay.  What happens?

a. The family freaks out but learns tolerance.
b. The family goes overboard with acceptance,
c.  Nothing.

Actually, this episode hasn't appeared yet, and it's not likely to, because stories require conflict and, at least on Bob's Burgers, there wouldn't be any.  Being gay is perfectly ordinary; the family wouldn't have a reaction to it.

By the way, John Roberts, the voice actor who plays Linda, is gay.

Mar 13, 2015

Which Has More Beefcake: "Fringe" or "How I Met Your Mother"?

I was finding a lot of beefcake among the guest stars and "security guard #1" roles of Fringe, but I began wondering: was Fringe unique -- a casting agent with an eye for male beauty -- or was every tv series inundated with musclemen?    Maybe every guy who gets his SAG card nowadays knows his way around a gym.

To find out, I picked a tv sitcom at random -- How I Met Your Mother, which I've never seen.

I picked the sixth season at random, and looked through the cast list on imdb.  The plotlines seem even more heterosexist than on Fringe: every episode furthers a hetero-romantic relationship.

In case you're interested (and I don't know why you would be), the sitcom is about a middle-aged architect (Ted) explaining "how I met your mother" to his kids, in an endless series of very, very long conversations (couldn't he have just said "we met in the laundromat"?).  To enliven the boredom, he recounts his young-adult adventures in sex and romance with his girlfriend Robin, his best friend Marshall, Marshall's wife Lily, and hetero horndog Barney (played by gay actor Neil Patrick Harris).

1: "Big Days."  Barney talks to a girl in a bar, but she has ex boyfriends. Soap star James Ryen (left) appears as Coworker #3.

2: "Cleaning House."  Barney's brother James reconciles with his father.  Nothing.

3. "Unfinished."  Barney tries to woo Ted by womanizing?  Nothing.

4. "Subway Wars."  The guys race each other on a subway to meet Woody Allen.  Geoff Stults as Max.

5. "Architect of Destruction."  Ted refuses to design a new skyscraper that would require demolishing a historic landmark, in order to impress a woman named Zoey. Apparently Ted and Robin have broken up.  Geoff Stults again.

6. "Baby Talk": Barney uses a baby to pick up women.  Payson Lewis (left) as Morris. He's not really that buffed, but he has abs, and you take what you can get.

7. "Canning Randy": Marshall has to fire an incompetent employee.  Nothing.

8. "Natural History": Ted and Zoey fight during a visit to the Museum of Natural History.  Nothing.

9. "Glitter." Barney finds a video from Robin's teen star past.  Nothing.

10. "Blitzgiving."  A Thanksgiving episode. Nothing.

11. "The Mermaid Theory."  Ted goes on a boat trip with Zoey's ex-husband.  Nothing.

12. "False Positive." Lily thinks she's pregnant.  Nothing.

13. "Bad News."  Marshall's fertility doctor looks like Barney.  Nothing.

14. "Last Words." Marshall's father's funeral.  Nothing.

15. "Oh, Honey."  Ted is in love with Zoey.  Nothing.

16. "Desperation Day." Lily goes to Minnesota to get Marshall, who skipped town. Nothing

17. "Garbage Island." Marshall withholds sex from Lily.  Is Ted really telling this story to his preteen kids?  Dan O'Brien plays Meeker (top photo, but I think that might be another Dan O'Brien).

18. "A Change of Heart."  Barney tries to impress a woman by claiming to want to get married. Robbie Amell (left) as Scooby.

19. "Legendaddy."  Barney reconciles with his father. Michael Rupnow as Scott.

20. "The Exploding Meatball Sub."  Ted and Zooey's relationship problems.  Robbie Amell is back.

21. "Hopeless."  Robin meets a guy she has a crush on.  Michael Trucco (left) plays the crush.

22. "The Perfect Cocktail."  The gang is barred from their bar hangout.  Nothing.

23. "Landmark."  More about the building to be demolished.  Nothing.

24. "Challenge Accepted."  Ted and Zooey break up.  Nothing.

7 of 24 episodes (29%) had beefcake actors, but 15 of 22 episodes of Season 4 of Fringe (68%),

Over twice as much.  Fringe wins by a landslide.

Somebody in the casting department likes a nice hard chest.

See also: The 15 Beefcake Stars of Fringe.

Mar 12, 2015

Michael Moorcock: Bisexual Decadence at the End of Time

Michael Moorcock was a leader in the British "new wave" of science fiction, confusing mishmashes of sci fi, fantasy, and James Joyce..  I liked the beefcake covers, and his name, appealing.  But the novels were impenetrable.

Except for the Dancers at the End of Time (1972-76), a series of novels set in the far, far, far, FAR distant future, when the few remaining humans have practically infinite power.  They can change the shape of the continents and the color of the sky,  instantly.  No one has been born or died for thousands of years; they can be killed, but their friends resurrect them again.

Beings with names like Lord Jagged, Werner de Goethe, the Duke of Queens, Mistress Christia the Everlasting Concubine, Lord Shark the Unknown, and the Iron Orchid spend their time in aesthetic revelry and partygoing.

Sounds like the Aesthete-Decadent Movement of the late 19th century, with power rings.

And substantial beefcake.

They can change their sizes and shapes in order to produce more aesthetically pleasing effects, and what could be more aesthetically pleasing than a gigantic lavender penis?

And the first hints of same-sex activity that I ever saw in print. 

1. Miss Amelia Underwood, a time traveler from the Victorian Era, is horrified when Jherek Carnelian nonchalantly admits to having sex with "a male friend'!

2. An alien named Yusharisp warns them that they have expended so much energy in their various schemes that the heat death of the universe is imminent.  Jherek Carnelian doesn't really believe him, but thinks it would be a lark to accompany him through the universe, warning people.

Yusharisp comes to believe that Jherek is in love with him!

Turns out that Michael Moorcock often included gay-vague or bisexual-vague characters in his novels, although he never actually portrayed any same-sex relationships.

That's a lot more gay content than most science fiction of the 1970s.  Actually, it's a lot more gay content than most science fiction today.

See also: Xanth; Samuel Delaney.

The Gay Boy of "Soup to Nutz"

Soup to Nutz (2000-) is a newspaper comic strip about a working-class Roman Catholic family, with a truculent, clueless Dad, a faux-cheery Mom, dopey older son Royboy, and self-possessed daughter Babs.  It is ostensibly sent in the contemporary era, but often references the 1970s, with macaroni casseroles, G.I. Joes, and confusing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" with "Tony Danza."

The central character is 6-year old Andrew, a smart, sensitive, boy with gender-atypical interests that constantly startle or offend everyone around him. He lip-synchs to Whitney Houston and the Village People, plays with Barbie dolls, studies ballet (in a tutu).

Referencing gay-favorite The Wizard of Oz, he asks why Dorothy would ever want to leave Oz and return to the oppression of Kansas.

He decides to befriend Peter Pan even though Royboy warns that Peter Pan is a “fairy,” homophobic slang for “gay.

Sometimes Royboy just comes right out and calls him a "fairy."

Other strips suggest that Andrew has same-sex interests as well.  He gets crushes on Justin Bieber and the Brawny  Paper Towel Man.  He gazes in open-mouthed awe at the physique of a muscular superhero.

 He is usually unfazed by the bemusement or contempt of his family and friends.  When Royboy complains,  “You’re not normal.”  Andrew responds: “Why be normal when you can be happy?”
In an interview, cartoonist Rick Stromoski agrees that Andrew might be gay, but refuses positive identification, stating that Andrew is six years old and doesn’t know yet.  Besides, he is popular among both gay and straight men who felt like outsiders because they played with dolls and didn’t like sports.

Mar 11, 2015

The Jonas Brothers: I Wanna Be Like You

Joe Jonas
The Jonas Brothers, consisting of Nick (born 1992), Joe (born 1989, left), and Kevin (born 1987), were already popular performers, recording several albums and appearing on MTV, the Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon --  not to mention the White House -- before Disney took notice around 2006.

But after that the group was a Disney Channel juggernaut, recording new versions of movie classics like "I Want to Be Like You" (from The Jungle Book), appearing on Hannah Montana and Camp Rock, and finally getting two tv series of their own, The Jonas Brothers: Living the Dream (2008-2010) and Jonas (2009-2010).

That didn't keep them from releasing new songs: 14 singles and 16 music videos between 2005 and 2010, plus two more in 2013.

And releasing beefcake photos.  Like Justin Bieber, they drew the special interest of fans looking for random arousal.  Joe seemed especially vulnerable; his moments were tagged "joners."

Like most boy bands, their lyrics were heterosexist, with lots of "girl! girl! girl!"  But some dropped pronouns.  And "I Wanna Be Like You" sounds decidedly homoerotic when it's a man talking about a man:

What I desire is man's red fire
To make my dream come true
Give me the secret, mancub
Clue me what to do
Give me the power of man's red flower
So I can be like you

I wouldn't mind getting a little of that power of man's red flower myself.

The brothers are gay allies.   In an interview with The Advocate in 2012, Nick (left) noted that they loved their gay fans: "They’ve been incredible over the years. My brothers and I totally look forward to meeting them, because they really respond to our style."

In 2013 they appeared on the cover of Out magazine.

Now that their star has faded somewhat, the brothers have moved on to other projects.  Joe has embarked on a solo musical career, Kevin is acting, and Nick is in musical theater, starring in How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.  

Mar 10, 2015

The First Gay Couple on Children's TV

Children's cartoons are a vast wasteland, not only erasing gay people from the world, but erasing any hint of family structures other than heterosexual husband-wife-and-kids.  Think of Fairly Oddparents, Doug, Hey Arnold, The Wild Thornberries, As Told by Ginger, The Proud Family, My Gym Partner's a Monkey, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, 

Rugrats had a single Dad whose wife had died.

Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends had a single Mom, husband not mentioned.

Phineas and Ferb belonged to  a blended family, other parents not mentioned.

And that's about it.

Live-action children's tv doesn't fare much better.

Drake and Josh belonged to a blended family, but the other parents were not mentioned.

ICarly had a girl being raised by her older brother, her parents not mentioned and presumed dead.

The Suite Life of Zack and Cody had the twins being raised by a divorced mom.

And that's about it.

So Clarence (2013-) on the Cartoon Network is groundbreaking.

1. The titular character, the chubby, cheerful Clarence, lives with his mother and her live-in boyfriend, Chad, who appears to be a caveman or Sasquatch.

Cohabitating heterosexuals?  That has never been seen on children's tv before, ever!

2. Clarence's best friend, the square-headed Jeff (voiced by Sean Giambrone of The Goldbergs) lives with two Moms!

A lesbian couple?  That has never been seen on children's tv before, ever!

I don't count the single scene on the last episode of Disney's Good Luck, Charlie, in which two Moms appear briefly, discomfort the heterosexuals, and then vanish.

Jeff's parents are a butch-femme lesbian couple.  E.J., who wears masculine-coded clothing and has a square head, like Jeff has been referenced in two episodes.

She has a major role in "Jeff Wins," in which Boomer prepares for a cooking contest.

Sue, who has red hair and feminine-coded clothing, appears only in "Jeff Wins."

Clarence is not the least surprised to discover that Jeff has two Moms.  That bridge was passed long ago.

E.J. is voiced by Lea DeLaria (left), a well-known lesbian comedian with screen roles including  Friends, The Drew Carey Show, More Tales of the City, Will & Grace, Californication, and Orange is the New Black.

Sue is voiced by Tig Notaro, a lesbian stand-up comic who is writing a memoir about her childhood in Mississippi, her comedy career, and her battle with cancer.

Jeffs Moms have not been referenced in the second season; perhaps they will vanish into oblivion.

But it's a start.

See also: The First Gay Kiss on Children's TV

Mar 8, 2015

The Collegians: Muscle and Gay Symbolism of the Silent Movie Era

The Silent Movie Blog has an interesting post on The Collegians, a series of silent movie shorts (1926-1929) directed by Wesley Ruggles, about buddy-competitors at Calford College, Ed Benson (George Lewis) and Don Trent (Eddie Philips).  They spend their time playing sports, stripping down in the shower, and finding excuses to grab and fondle each other, while generally ignoring girls.

In Flashing Oars (1927), for instance, Don Trent goes out drinking on the night before the big rowing race with rival Velmar College.  In order to sober him up, Ed and his friends grab him, strip him out of his clothes, and throw him in the shower.

Meanwhile, Doc (Churchill Ross), a nerdish bookworm, explains why he goes to all the games, even though he hates sports, and hangs out in the locker room afterwards.

Supple vertebrae, right.

The Relay (1926) is about a boys-vs-girls swimming match, with the boys ripping each others' clothes off and wrestling in a swimming pool.  Oh, and the girls swim too.

There is occasionally a hetero-romance, or a scene of boys mooning over girls at the Hula-Hula Hut, but merely as film conventions, secondary to the plots that require the boys to get as naked as possible, as often as possible.

About a third of the 44 films survive.  The Relay is available on Amazon.

See also: The Four Devils: Lost Beefcake of the Silent Era; and Buster Keaton

Aubrey Beardsley: Closeting the Phallic Artist

When I was in college, gay people were never, ever mentioned in class.  Professors refused to assign the works of gay authors, artists, and musicians, or if that was impossible, tried their best to pretend that they were heterosexual.

So when they discussed Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), the artist of the Aesthete and Decadent Movement, they emphasized his illustrations of naked women and heterosexual couples, and ignored the gigantic penises (so gigantic that I'm embarrassed to show them here).

They emphasized his illustrations of Le Morte d'Arthur and Oscar Wilde's Salome, and his covers of The Yellow Book.  They skipped over the intensely homoerotic symbolism in his illustrations for Lysistrata and Venus and Tannhauser.

And they certainly ignored his friendships with Oscar Wilde, Max Beerbohm, and all of the gay writers and artists of the Yellow 90s.

What was left was a hetero-horny young man with an inexplicable interest in phallic imagery.

In 1897, Beardsley converted to Catholicism, like many of the Aesthetes in the years after Oscar Wilde's trial, and asked his publisher to destroy his "obscene drawings."  He died of tuberculosis a year later, at the age of 25.


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