Jul 17, 2018

"Play by Play": Girls are the Meaning of Life, Yet Again

We've had nostalgia-trip tv series about the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, so I guess it's about time for a "coming of age" tv series about a heterosexual guy looking back on his childhood in the wonder years of the 1990s.

Play by Play (2017-), available on go90sports and the Complex Network, follows the adventures of  ESPN sportscaster Pete Hickey (voiced by series creator Kevin Jakubowski) as he looks back on his adolescent self (Reid Miller), a freshman at St. Roman High School in Des Moines, Iowa.

  He's got a former athletic superstar big brother (Tyler Emerson Crim), a doltish dad (Jonathan Bray), a best bud (Max Amor), The Girl of His Dreams (Elle Jo Trowbridge), and various friends, enemies, and teammates.

Plots include trying to get on the team, being bullied, getting his own room, joining crazy clubs to impress girls, trying to draw girls away from the crude jocks they're dating, first date, first kiss, girls! girls! girls!.  Which, as you know, is all every adolescent boy thinks of, every minute of every day.

The series shouts, loudly, that heterosexual desire and behavior is universal human experience, a boy's "coming of age" means becoming interested in girls, gay people absolutely, emphatically do not exist.

Pete enters his freshman year at a previously all-boy school, but now it admits girls.  So, according to a synopsis, "every sophomore, junior and senior at his school — all dudes — are gunning for the girls in his grade."

Every one, with no exceptions.  Not one boy in a hundred, not one in a thousand, not one in a million is gay.

In an interview, Jakubowski states that he had a similar experience when attending Fenwick High School, a selective Catholic school in ritzy Oak Park, Illinois:  the freshman class was the first to admit girls, so "every" older boy in the school was trying to date the freshmen girls, leaving "all" of the freshman boys in the dust.

Not one of them was gay.

Um...Kevin, your heterosexism is showing.  I know for a fact that there were gay people in Oak Park, Illinois in the 1990s.  And today Fenwick High School has an Equality Club, "empowering marginalized groups of people such as women, the LGBTQ community, African Americans, and other minorities."

For a show about sports, there's surprisingly little beefcake: no locker room scenes, everyone wears uniforms to class, big brother wears a bathrobe at all times. I could find beefcake photos of only two minor cast members, Aiden Alexander (above) and Ben Getz (left).

But I wasn't looking very hard. I was busy thinking back to my high school experience in the 1970s, where preachers, teachers, parents, and peers were constantly screaming at me "What girl do you like?  What girl do you like?  What girl?  What girl?  What girl?"

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même.


  1. To be fair, homophobia was a huge part of the 90s as well, so gay people not existing fits!

    More seriously, I honestly don't think Baby Boomers get how conservative the 90s were. (And no, having a tech bubble instead of an S&L bubble doesn't change this fact.) Don't let the D next to the president's name fool you. This was the era of gay panic defense, after all.

    1. They had the gay panic defense long before the 1990s. In the 1970s you were very careful about coming out to someone, because you might get beat up, and if you called the police, the police would beat you up again, then arrest you for "lewd behavior."


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