Jul 18, 2015

Mad Max: Beyond Homophobia

I've been watching the Mad Max movies.  Well, sort of watching them -- they're 90% Wacky Races, colorful post-Apocalyptic figures in weird cars chasing each other through the Australian desert.

With an obvious good vs. evil plotline, and guess what?  The good guys are all patiently described as straight, and the bad guys as over-the-top gay.

Mad Max (1979), set in an Australia that just started to break down, pits good, noble, uber-heterosexual Family Man Max, who has a wife and daughter, against an outlaw gang of mohawk-haired gay guys who hug and kiss all over each other.

Oddly enough, Max wears a leather-fetish outfit that looks like it belongs on Folsom Street.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), is set about 10 years after the Apocalypse, with the kind, gentle, white-clad, and uber-heterosexual residents of Gasoline Town hounded by a gang of post-Apocalyptic gays.  Their leaders look like refugees from Folsom Street.

There's also an explicit gay couple, the psycho Wezand and his boyfriend//slave, the Golden Youth, who gets killed.

The heterosexuals escape and flee north to a heterosexual future.

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985), the only one of the franchise I saw at the time of its release, stars gay-fave Tina Turner as Aunty Entity, leader of an evil Bartertown full of grotesque gay men.

By now AIDS is in the news, so the gay men are all diseased, like this leather-clad, tattooed Angry Anderson with his drag-queen totem.

But Max shuts it down, with the help of a group of kids and hunky teenagers  living in a heterosexual Blue Lagoon Paradise.  They fly off to the fabled Tomorrow-morrowland and a heterosexual future.  In the last scene, they've all reproduced.

How many different ways are there to demonize gay people?

Looks like three.

Jul 16, 2015

August Strindberg: Nude Statues and Dream Visions

Growing up in Rock Island, where most people were of Scandinavian ancestry, I heard constantly about Vikings, runestonesPeer Gynt, Knut Hamsun, Hans Christian Anderson, lukefisk, The Elder Edda, and especially August Strindberg (1849-1912), the Swedish playwright who explored subconscious drives and secret desires.

You'd expect a lot of same-sex interest among those secret desires, but mostly there are heterosexual longings and battles of the sexes.
The Father (1887): a father-daughter relationship goes wrong.
The Dance of Death (1900): a heterosexual marriage gone wrong.
The Ghost Sonata (1907): A young student discovers that the girl he likes is not what she seems.

His most famous play, Miss Julie (1888), is a standard rich-poor romance with a psychosexual twist, as the wealthy Julie and the footman Jean vie for power.  It has been filmed a number of times, and there are various stage productions, including a black/white version, Mies Julie, and a gay version set in 1905 South Carolina, Miss Julie(n).

A Dream Play (1901) strays from the formula. It's about the surrealistic journey of Agnes, daughter of the Hindu god Indra, who comes to Earth to see what men are like.  She runs into lots of them, of various sizes and shapes, with various ambitions, desires, traumas, and cruelties. Most fall in love with her, but some might be gay.

By the way, Strindberg is the only writer I know of who is immortalized in two different nude statues, both in Stockholm.  The massive, muscular "Titan" by Carl Eldh in Tengerlunden Park.

And this more realistic version, in a group with two other equally nude writers, Gustaf Frödingshöjd and Ernst Josephson, in Stadhusparken (City Hall Park).

There are also about a dozen non-nude statues of Strindberg scattered around town.

Who Says Childhood is the Best Time of Our Lives?

After reading about the 38 gay events  from my childhood  -- marrying the boy next door, seeing my cousin Joe naked,  getting kissed by a boy vampire, slow dancing in the school gym, my boyfriend Bill -- you might get the impression that I grew up in a homoerotic Eden, with muscular guys torn out of their shirts around every corner, all waiting for me to hug, kiss, or fondle them.

But those events are memorable because they were rare.  There were countless days of boredom, fear, and misery.  Life was rough, and there was no hint that it would ever get better.

1. Gender policing was constant.  Boys could reveal that they were really "girls," and therefore reprehensible, by carrying their books wrong, by wearing the wrong socks, by using the wrong words (greetings consisted of "H'lo," not "Hi," and we used last names, not first names.)

2. Thus opening themselves up for a barrage of physical assaults from Mean Boys and miscellaneous bullies.  And the adults never intervened.  "You will be fighting every day for the rest of your life," they said.  "You must learn to defend yourself."

3. Even more oppressive was the utter lack of civility in children's culture.  You found a small group of friends and clung together to ward off the constant jibes and insults from members of other groups.

4. No one knew, or let on, that same-sex desire, behavior, or romance could exist.  Same-sex friendships were portrayed as trivial, inconsequential, always abandoned instantly and without hesitation for the pursuit of the feminine.

5. That pursuit of the feminine was expected to be, or to soon become, our sole reason for living. So the interrogation of "What girl do you like?"  What girl do you like?" never ended.

It got better.  By high school, the gender policing was minimal -- it was ok to play in the orchestra, or say "delicious," or wear white socks.  The physical assaults ended.  Members of different cliques began to treat each other civilly.

But still, same-sex desire, behavior, or romance was never mentioned, presumed not to exist, and the "What girl do you like" interrogation intensified day by day, year by year.

That's why I hated it when a nostalgia-minded adult exclaimed "This is the best time of your life!  All joy and freedom, no problems, no responsibilities!"  I still do.

Where did that idiotic idea come from, anyway?

I blame Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), who disputed then then-current view of children as born evil, infested with original sin.  He proclaimed that they were "noble savages," untrained but endowed with the best of human nature.

By the time of the Romantic Era (1815), William Wordsworth was proclaiming that we come down from heaven "trailing clouds of glory."  Only later do "shades of the prison-house" close upon us.

During the late 19th century, more and more children were attending school instead of going to work, and gradually adults and children began to inhabit different spheres. They had different daily activities, games, toys, books, music; children were shielded from knowledge of sex and death, shielded, indeed, from any knowledge of adults except for relatives and childcare professionals.  And the adults began to look back at that separate child sphere with nostalgic longing.

Lewis Carroll was only 28 years old when he wrote:
I'd give all the wealth that years have piled, the slow result of life's decay,
To be once more a little child for one bright summer day.

But the worst offender is "The Barefoot Boy," by John Greenleaf Whitter (1851), which millions of schoolkids were forced to memorize by adults trying to impress upon them that their lives were perfect.

You've probably heard of it, or some of its many parodies, such as Max Shulman's humorous novel, Barefoot Boy with Cheek

But have you actually read it?  It's awful, even worse than James Whitcomb Rileys stuff.  It's about a "barefoot boy with cheek of tan" who wanders around the countryside, investigating woodchucks, moles, tortoises, orioles, and wasps, which is something a thousand times better than anything adults do.  The moral: we are born with an intimate connection to the natural world, but when we grow up, life stinks.

Ok, I never did any of those things when I was a kid, and the only cheeks of tan I was interested in were in a different part of the anatomy.

Jul 13, 2015

The Sacrifice of Isaac

One of the most horrifying stories in the Bible is the Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22).

You probably remember it: God tells Abraham to kill his son.  So he takes Isaac out into the woods, ties him up, raises the knife -- then, at the last moment, an angel appears and says something like "Hah, hah, fooled you -- God was just kidding!  Here's a lamb for you to kill instead!"

When I was a Nazarene, no Sunday school teacher or preacher ever tried to explain the historical/cultural context of the story, how human sacrifice was commonplace, and some gods, such as Dagon, actually did demand children.

They didn't try to distinguish Abraham's act from the many crazy things people did today because "God told me to."  Or wonder about what kind of God would play such a dirty trick.

Instead, they just praised Abraham for his unquestioning obedience, and drew a parallel with Jesus: .  God wants to kill every one of us, but Jesus offered to take our place, so God killed him instead.

That didn't make me feel more comfortable.

I found it a example of the savagery beneath the heterosexist imperative: everyone said that fathers were wise, loving, and benevolent, but at any moment they could turn violent.  And then say God told them to.

That didn't make me feel more comfortable, either.

According to the Biblical account, Isaac was sixteen years old at the time, already an adult in the eyes of his community.  But the Sunday school teachers and preachers always envisioned him as a very little boy, too young to understand what was going on.

I preferred the illustration in my Children's Story Bible (top photo): a very muscular, grown-up Isaac with a handsome teen-idol face, naked except for a little white cloth, tied up with his arms behind his back, like Bomba the Jungle Boy.

Other artists have generally depicted a grown-up Isaac: an ideal opportunity to paint muscular male bodies.  Gregorio Lazzarini shows Isaac fully nude, and transforms Abraham into a muscle daddy.

Jacopo Ligozzi's version (left) even has a penis showing.

See also: Bible Beefcake.

How To Date Younger Guys (When You're Over 40)

Ever since I turned 40, some fourteen years ago, I have a simple strategy for getting dates or hookups with twinks (guys under age 30):

1. Go to wherever they are.
2. Wait 30 seconds for one to approach and say "Take me home, please!"
3. If he's not attractive enough, politely refuse, and wait 30 seconds for the next.

But I've gotten lots of comments from other guys in the 40+ range:
"I can't get a date!  Nobody will give a guy over 40 a chance!"
"It's awful!  Nobody wants me!"
"Guys over 40 are shunned!"

After extensive thought about why their experiences are so different from my own, I think I've figured out the problem.  Here are 10 easy steps to hooking up with or dating twinks (first step: never call them that):

1. Ask yourself, "Why a young guy?"

What do younger guys have to offer that guys your age do not?  

Handsome faces, muscular chests, substantial beneath-the-belt gifts?  Some younger guys have these qualities, some don't.  And drop by any gym at 10:00 am to find retirement-aged gym rats with 18" biceps.

A high energy level?  Sexual inexperience?  A sense of wonder and excitement at the world?  Again, some younger guys have these qualities, some do not, and some older guys do.

The answer is: you don't want a twink, necessarily.  You're looking for certain qualities in a guy, regardless of age.

If you go out looking specifically for someone under 30, you're bound to fail.

2. Ask yourself, "Why me?"

What do you have to offer a 25-year old that guys his own age do not?  A hairy chest, sexual expertise, wisdom, maturity, an intimate knowledge of gay history and culture?  Play on your strengths.

Don't discount having money -- you don't need to be a sugar daddy, but theater tickets followed by dinner at the Gilded Truffle will open many bedrooms.

Just having a place to go can be enticing to guys living in dorm rooms or with their parents.

3. Get thee to a gym.

Younger guys tend to stereotype the older generation based on the heterosexual model, where men play sports in college, then spend the rest of their lives sitting on the couch eating potato chips and drinking beer.  They think old and fat are identical.  Give them a glimpse of hard, lean muscle and watch them get all hot and flustered.

4. Act your age.

You want to have something to talk about, so keep up with the basics of contemporary youth culture (be careful -- it changes fast).  But don't try to adopt their clothing or slang.  He can talk about Taylor Swift and Beyonce with any of his friends; he wants you in spite of the fact that you had a crush on David Cassidy in 1971.  Or because of it.

5. Go to non-sexual venues.

Gay bars are where younger guys go to hang out with each other.  You will be an unwelcome interloper -- one of those lonely oldsters sitting on a barstool by himself staring wistfully at the Cute Young Things like Charlie Brown wishing the Little Red Haired Girl would talk to him.  

The only exceptions are bear and leather bars, where guys of all ages congregate.

You need a low-pressure, non-sexual environment to put you and the younger guy at ease.  Try gay social groups, political groups, Gay Pride Festivals, Gay Film Festivals, gay positive churches, Karaoke Night at the Gay Community Center, Open-Mike Night at a gay coffeehouse.

If there aren't any gay-specific venues near you, try college and community theater or ballet -- that 15-minute intermission is perfect for mingling. Or after the performance, congratulating the players.

Or the gym, There are always gay guys in search of a spotter.  

Or an individual sports competition, such as wrestling, martial arts, or track and field.

6. Go with friends.

Guys who are alone look -- well, lonely.  When you are with friends, you seem more vibrant, energetic, someone worth meeting.   

7. Do not cruise him.

"Cruising" is my generation's word for attempting to initiate a sexual liaison, by flirting, talking dirty, or just by making eye contact and then approaching.

Dont' do it -- you will be labeled a Creepy Old Guy.

Besides, when you initiate contact, you put yourself in a subordinate position: he has all of the power, to accept or reject you, to acknowledge your existence or give you Attitude.  You must retain control.  Wait for him -- he'll be there!

8. If in doubt, ask for an id.

Once I was asked out by a guy who I thought was in college.  When I got home, I looked him up online -- he was a sophomore in high school! Of course, no date happened!  If you don't know for sure that he's over 18, ask for an id. He won't mind -- he gets asked all the time. 

9. Prepare to be a top.

Many younger guys will approach you because they want someone to take charge, dominate them in the bedroom. A hint of bondage always turns them on.  Or at least being a top for backside activity.  You can tweak the roles and positions later, but for the first time, you'll have to break out the condoms, or there probably will be no second time.

10. Prepare for romance.

With the numerous apps available for quick hook-ups, younger guys may be acquiring all of the "one-hour stands" they want without your contribution.  They are looking for something else with older guys.  Maybe a power-control scene (see #9), maybe a permanent, monogamous relationship -- which nowadays often means marriage and children, even for gay men.

You may end up at the altar of a gay-friendly church nearby, with all of his relatives smiling at their new son-in-law.   

Jul 12, 2015

The Princess: Sometimes Boys are Girls

Sometimes boys are girls.

Eight-year old Sarah may have male physiology, but who cares?  She has been telling her family that she is a girl since she learned to talk.

Her father and aunt are ok with the dresses, the female pronouns, and the name "Sarah."  Her mother, not so much; she insists on boy-clothes and the name "Seth," hoping desperately that "it's just a phase."

Nope, not a phase.  Sarah is a girl, and every girl has a right to be a Princess.

While Mom is busy fretting over her child's future of bullying, transphobia, loneliness, and angst, Sarah is negotiating grade school admirably.

She has a coterie of friends:
1.  Irma, a cisgirl who likes superheroes, monster movies, and wearing boys' clothes (cis means that your physiology and gender identity match).
2.  Jordan, a teenage transboy who sometimes babysits (Mom doesn't realize that he's trans)
3. Chuck, a cisboy with a crush on Sarah.

Actually, it's the non-trans-related situtions that make the strip.  It's no big deal: Sarah is a girl.  Any questions?  Ok, then let's get on with the story.  In this case, Sarah and her friends playing restaurant.

This is one of the funniest child-oriented comic strips out there, on a par with Soup to Nutz and Frazz.  

And, with its G-rated humor, perfect for gender-atypical kids of any age (and gender-typical kids, too).

Christine Smith has been publishing the webcomic The Princess twice a week since 2009 (older strips are archived on The Duck).  There's a collection available through Prism Comics.

See also: Dykes to Watch Out For.

Razzle Dazzle:1970s Variety Shows

When I was a kid, I hated variety shows like Carol Burnett. even though the dancers wore tight pants.  So I tried my best to avoid the several thousand comedy-variety hours that populated the late 1970s.
But sometimes it was impossible.  They kept featuring movie superstars, or they were squeezed in between shows I wanted to watch, or my brother, a big fan of 1970s music, thought they were cool.

After a tv special in November 1976, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour appeared in January 1977.  It was a must-see because I wanted to know how the Brady kids had grown up. Barry Williams and Christopher Knight were dreamy, of course, but the big surprise was Mike Lookinland, still a kid when The Brady Bunch ended, but now, three years later, grown into a teenage hunk who was poured into his white leisure suit.

You could almost overlook the tacky costumes, weird numbers ("Do the Hustle") and crazy plot twists (Lane Majors and Farrah Fawcett asleep in the Brady living room?).

And the 1970s guest stars they kept trotting out to boost ratings: Vincent Price, H.R. Pufnstuf, The Hudson Brothers, Paul Williams.

But really it was about the blossoming of Michael Lookinland.

By the way Michael was the only Brady to do a lot of non-Brady projects during the 1970s, including The Mighty Isis with Tommy Norden of Flipper, a Disney movie with Mitch Vogel, and this commercial, apparently about putting him into the tighest pants they could find.

On Saturday mornings in 1974, after Shazam!, there was nothing on but The Pink Panther and the laughtrack-infused Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show, starring three middle-aged men with blatant bulges and disco shirts opened to reveal slim hairy chests.

The Hudson Brothers, Bill, Brett, and Mark, had some minor hits such as "So You Are a Star" and "The Truth About Us," but in the Leif Garrett era they weren't pretty or androgynous enough to draw a lot of teen idol attention, even though they made a whopping 16 episodes.

Brett, the youngest of the group (only 24 in 1977) has been the subject of some gay rumors.

The Keane Brothers had the opposite problem -- they were aged 11 and 12 when their show (called The Keane Brothers, naturally) appeared in the summer of 1977. The youngest kids ever to host a prime-time variety series, they were too young for most teenagers to consider adequately dreamy.

How did they get big names like Burt Reynolds, Betty White, and Andy Williams to guest star?

And whose idea was it to put them up against Donny & Marie on Friday nights?  No wonder they just lasted four episodes.

Teen magazines sort of skipped over them.  I don't know what this photo is about.  Maybe the photographer talked Tom into a shirtless shot, but he chickened out at the last minute.

And then there was Tony Orlando & Dawn, The Bay City Rollers Show, Sonny & Cher, The John Davidson Show, The Jacksons, Shields & Yarnell, Pink Lady and Boomer.

See also: The Brady Bunch Dad


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