Oct 22, 2016

12 Beefcake Stars of Marvel's "Luke Cage"

Luke Cage was a Marvel comic book series that tried to cash in on the 1970s blacksploitation craze with a jive-talking, bell-bottom-wearing Harlem-based "hero for hire."  He didn't fly or have laser-vision; he was only marginally super-strong.  In fact, his only real superpower was being unbreakable: nothing could pierce his skin (which leads to all sorts of questions, but ok, Superman can reverse the Earth's rotation, so I'm not complaining).

Fast forward to 2016, when Luke Cage becomes the star of a Netflix tv series: after "the incident," a depressed, angst-ridden Luke Cage is keeping a low profile, working at Pop's Barber Shop in Harlem, hiding his superpowers from a hostile society and trying to stay out of trouble.  But when Pop is murdered, he is forced into action again.

There are ample gay subtexts.  No one in the cast seems involved in a heterosexual relationship, or expresses heterosexual interest, except for Luke himself and an occasional murdered cop who gets the standard "He had a wife!" homage.  Otherwise this is a homoerotic Harlem where men and women lead separate lives, coming together only when necessary to run organized crime gangs or try to bring those crime gangs down.

And, since almost the entire cast is black, there is an explosion of black beefcake, more than on any other tv series I have ever seen.

1. Mike Colter (top photo) as Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, although he isn't hired much.  After Pop dies and the barber shop closes, he is basically unemployed, spending his time being moody, getting shot at, and trying not to get involved with hetero-romance.

2. Mahershala Ali (left) as crime boss Cottonmouth Stokes, the owner of the Harlem Paradise nightclub.  He wanted to become a professional musician, but he was forced into the crime game by his aunt, Mama Mabel, who also forced him to kill his uncle.

3.Theo Rossi as Shades Alvarez, a street thug who plays every side of the conflict.

4. Erik LaRay Harvey as Diamondback (the gang members all have snake names).  He also happens to be Luke's half-brother, the guy who framed him and had him sent to the prison where he got his superpowers.  He carries a Bible with him at all times.

5. Jaiden Kaine (left) as Zip, the leader of Cottonmouth's gang.

6. Jeremiah Craft as David, a teenager Luke befriends.

More after the break

Oct 21, 2016

Why Do Gay Men Like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"?

"Like" is too weak a term.  To gay men of a certain age, it is the movie.  It is more than a movie, it is salvation.

They don't attend the audience-participation midnight showings, with young oddballs throwing toast and rice, yelling nasty, often homophobic lines at the screen, and cheering when the "Frank the Fag" is killed.  They watch on VHS, alone, a private communion.

 Gay empowerment was not at all what Richard O'Brien intended when he wrote the script of a science fiction-horror musical comedy pastiche.  And it requires you to overlook or excuse quite a lot:

Frank N Furter is a villain!  He keeps Brad and Janet prisoner, turns them to stone with his Medusa ray, brutally beats his servants, kills Eddie and then serves him to his guests for dinner!  That's not just villainous, it's psycho-killer!

And what do you make of the song "Superhero", which Brad and Janet sing in the wreckage of Frank's lab at the end of the movie:

Superheroes come to feast, to taste the flesh not yet deceased
And all I know, is still the beast is feeding.

Not exactly uplifting, is it?

There's no one gay in the film.  The male characters are all bisexual, capable of sexual relations with men and women both, and the female characters are all heterosexual.

The main sexual awakening isn't same-sex, it's Rocky and Janet.

The "don't dream it, be it" scene in the pool isn't gay, it's a pansexual orgy, while Frank is floating on a life preserver from the Titanic.

That pink triangle on Frank's lab coat was not intended to be a gay symbol.  It just happened to be on the coat they bought for a prop.

So how did gay men of a certain age get around all that?

1. They didn't notice Frank's villainy.  All gay and bi men in the mass media of the era were villains, usually psycho killers.  It was business as usual.  They  simply didn't notice.

Instead, they remembered the scenes where Frank becomes a sympathetic character, longing for home:

I see blue skies through the tears in my eyes,
When I realize, I'm going home.

Telling about his first drag dreams:

Whatever happened to Fay Wray, that exquisite, satin-draped frame?
As it clung to her thigh, how I started to cry, 'cause I wanted to be dressed just the same.

2. There was same-sex desire!  Even the gay men in the mass media of the era never expressed same-sex desire.  Gay meant feminine and not interested in women, period.  You never saw a gay man with a boyfriend except Jodie in Soap, who was planning a sex change to become a woman for him.

Then Frank belts out:

A deltoid, and a tricep, a hot groin and a bicep
Makes me shake, makes me want to take Charles Atlas by the....hand.

3. There were penises!

You rarely saw men shirtless in movies of the 1970s, and costumers tried their best to remove all hints of a bulge.  But Rocky and Brad are both half-naked most of the time, in extremely bulgeworthy outfits.  Male beauty was celebrated, not erased.

4. There was transformation.

I feel released
Bad times deceased
My confidence has increased
Reality is here

After years and decades of being told, over and over, that he, like every man who had ever lived and who ever would live, longed for women and shuned the touch of men, that same-sex desire did not and could not exist, he heard Frank sing:

Don't dream it, be it.  Don't dream it, be it.  Don't dream it, be it.

He left the theater with tears streaming down his face, transformed, literally saved.

I was lost, but now I'm found.  Was blind, but now I see

See also: Beefcake in The Home of Happiness

Oct 20, 2016

Dino Boy and Ugh

Did we actually watch Dino Boy in the Lost Valley in the 1960s?

Ok, we watched -- but we didn't watch very closely.  "Watching TV" meant talking, reading, or playing with the TV set on, a flickering series of background images.

It was a supporting feature to the Space Ghost series, about a boy named Todd who parachutes from a crashing plane into the The Land of the Lost, an isolated valley with cave men and dinosaurs.

He befriends a cave man named Ugh, who somehow learned to speak a "me-Tarzan" English patois, and they set about looking for a way home.

7 episodes have Dino Boy captured (by Worm People, Moss Men, Tree Men, Sabretooth People, Giant Ants, Vampire Men, a Pteradon), so Ugh can rush to the rescue, and they can hug.

Three episodes have Ugh captured (by Wolf People, Ant Warriors, Sun People) and Dino Boy must rush to the rescue.

Two episodes have Bronty, their pet brontosaurus, captured (by Wolf People and Giants).

Four episodes have strangers captured (by Snow Monsters, Rock Pygmies, Birdmen, and Moss Men).

You get the idea -- a lot of attempted human sacrifices and cannibalism going on.

What made it worth watching -- or at least looking up at one of the flickering images from time to time -- was the cute boy our own age, the uber-muscular Ugh, and the buddy bonding rescues.

And a comparison with other constantly-rescued boys of the 1960s, like Jonny Quest and Tarzan's Boy Johnny Sheffield (from 1930s movies that played constantly on 1960s tv).

This isn't deviantart.com, it's an actual screen shot.  Surely they're about to kiss.

The episodes were rebroadcast on the Cartoon Network in the 1990s, but haven't appeared in any other medium.

Dino Boy was voiced by John David Carson, who went on to a long career in movies and television.  He may be best known for The Savage is Loose (1974), a take on Oedipus set on a desert island, with lots of beefcake.

Ugh was voiced by Mike Road, best known as the voice of Race Bannon on Jonny Quest

Oct 18, 2016

Ernest Hemingway: Homophobic, Gay, or Both?

You had to read the stories of Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) in school.  We all did. Teachers loved him, probably because he was a breath of fresh air, easy to teach in a semester otherwise devoted to the long, complex modernist stream-of consciousness self-important arcane claptrap that passed for Great Literature in the 1930s.

 A rebel and an iconoclast, Hemingway wrote with a spare, journalistic, adjective-light, description-light pen that is still, today, promoted as what "good writing" is all about.
"I'll drink absinthe."
"Do you think I should?"
"Why don't you try it?  Didn't you ever?"
"No, I was saving it to drink with you."
"Don't make things up."
"It's not made up."

He wrote about a macho, men's world of hunting, bullfighting, deep-sea fishing, and war, men without women, or with women as intrusions and threats.

Eight novels, of which the most commonly read is The Sun Also Rises (1926): The angst-ridden Jake Barnes has been castrated in the War, and cannot...um...rise to the occasion.  The Post-World War I Lost Generation resonates with all teenagers everywhere.  They are always a Lost Generation.

It was filmed in 1956 and 1984, with Tyrone Power and Hart Bochner (top photo) playing Jake Barnes, and was transformed into an opera 2000..

Lots of short stories.  The most commonly read is "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" (1933) about a depressed man drinking in a bar.

Ten nonfiction books.  The most commonly read is A Moveable Feast (1964), about Hemingway in Paris in the 1920s, hanging out with such gay luminaries as Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson, Cole Porter, and James Baldwin.

Not to mention F. Scott Fitzgerald, who he took to the Louvre so they could compare the penises on ancient Greek statutes to their own.

Um...well, looking at those, any guy would think himself huge..

With all that masculine energy going on, one might easily conclude that Hemingway was gay.

Except that his stories are full of homophobic asides, men swearing and sneering at sissies, trying to prove that they're adequately masculine -- that is, not gay -- by bedding women, picking fights, and trying to land enormous fish.

In his nonfiction and personal letters he was no less contemptuous: gays were "abnormal" and "pathetic."

Maybe he was working through his own issues with same-sex desire in the homophobic era before Stonewall.  After all, throughout his life, he preferred the company of men without women.

Oct 17, 2016

The Boys of Lassie 1: Jon Provost

As a kid, I liked Flipper and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, but I wouldn't be caught dead watching Lassie (1954-73)The soppily sentimental theme song, the collie's maudlin whines, the heart-tugging plotlines, the nauseatingly cute boy-owners -- I thought it was fit only for grandmothers and little girls.  I'd rather watch something a little more macho, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Giants, The Young Rebels, even Wild Kingdom if I had to.

But some gay boys liked the boy owners -- their cuteness, their lack of any perceptible interest in girls -- and, as they grew into adolescence, their hunkiness and the frequency with which they took off their shirts.  There were three of them, but the most famous was Jon Provost (born in 1950), whose Timmy lived with the dog from 1957 to 1964.

Timmy started out a blond kewpie doll, saying things like "golly-gee" to his adopted parents.  But he didn't stay a kewpie doll long.

When his stint on Lassie ended, Jon was 14 years old, well into his adolescence, and gay boys and heterosexual girls were starting to take notice.

He hung around with other teen idols, such as Davy Jones (left), Kurt Russell, and Kevin Schultz. No boyfriends, but according to his autobiography, Timmy's in the Well, gay buddy Sal Mineo once got a little too grabby during a three-way with his girlfriend.

Jon tried his hand at singing, and starred in some movies:  This Property is Condemned (1966), The Secret of the Sacred Forest (1967), and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1970), starring Kurt Russell.

The teen magazines responded with swimsuit and extra-tight painted-on-slacks photos.

But he was too typecast as Timmy to get the full teen-hunk treatment, so Jon retired from acting, except for a recurring role on The Adventures of Lassie (1989-92). He got his degree in psychology, and settled down to a civilian career.  He still attends fan conventions, and is gracious to the boomers, both male and female, who had crushes on him as kids.


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