Jul 27, 2021

"The War Next Door": LGBTQIAI is the same in English and Spanish


The War Next Door (Guerra de Vecinos) is a Mexican sitcom about a nouveau riche "hillbilly" family who moves next door to a family of stuffy socialites.  Culture clashes, humorous squabbles, and caring and sharing result.  I watched the episode "Game On."

Scene 1: The hillbilly family is having breakfast and complaining about the stinkiness of their underwear, due to Hillbilly Mom's inability to use a washing machine.  Cata, the maid of the Snob family, appears.  She says that she quit in protest, and needs a job.  Hillbilly Mom doesn't need any help, but Cata can stay with them while looking for a new job.

Scene 2: Snob Mom is screwing up breakfast; she's never actually had to cook before.  Teenage son Diego (Marco Leon) is ordering sushi instead.  They discuss the upcoming football (soccer) game between Dad's company and his rival.  This time Dad plans to use Diego as his secret weapon.

Scene 3: Hillbillies watching tv, while Cata does a great job with the laundry, vacuuming, and preparation of sandwiches.

Scene 4: Snob Dad discovers that Diego actually can't play football, but daughter Crista can.  So she's "hired" and will play at the big game.

Scene 5: Hillbilly Uncle Tomas (Christian Vasquez, top photo) giving young teen Pablito (Armando Said) advice on how to get with Crista, the Snob's daughter, whom he taught to drive in the last episode.  But Pablito is more interested in talking about his social media presence.  He already has a lot of followers, including one who is "big and strong" and sent him a shirtless pic.  Uncle Tomas: "I'm starting to wonder if you are playing for the opposite team."  

Scene 6: Cata demonstrates to Hillbilly Mom how to take out the garbage.  Snob Mom comes out of her house.  They have a "you're looking well" ex-lover conversation.

Scene 7:  Uncle Tomas is demonstrating how Pablito can attract guys by dancing with his butt swaying.  Sister bursts in.  

Uncle Tomas: "Pablito plays for the other team."  

Sister: "Just because Pablito likes his mother and gets scared watching horror movies, doesn't mean he's gay. Pablito, Uncle Tomas is being completely heteronormative (no, he's not, but I'm surprised the writers know that word). There are lots of ways to label yourself.  Let's find the one you're most comfortable with."

Uncle Tomas: "Nonsense!  There are only two labels: top and bottom."

Scene 8: Snob Mom tells Dad her scheme to win Cata back from the hillbilly neighbors.  Dad mentions that he invited Hillbilly Dad to play on his team: "Hillbillies are always good at football.  It's in their blood."

Scene 9: Sister has set up a chalkboard to explain the various terms in the acronym LGBTQAIA.  Uncle Tomas wants to help with a quiz that he found in a magazine: 1. "Who do you prefer, Ricky Martin or Bandas Machos?"; 2. "Do you use facial cream?; 2. "Have you ever been in a gay bar?"  But the quiz identifies Uncle Tomas as gay and Pablito as straight.  

Sister and Uncle Tomas argue.  Finally, fed up, Pablito says "My sexual identity is NOYB: None of Your Business."  

Scene 10: More about the maid.

Scene 11: Hillbilly Dad can't perform in bed: he's too worried about the upcoming football match.  

Scene 12: The Big Game.  

Scene 13: Uncle Tomas apologizes to Pablito: "The quiz we did wasn't cool.  Your problem isn't that you play for the other team...but she does."  He points to Crista, the Girl Next Door.  "Picking up a lesbian is impossible."

Sister rushes up: "Just because a girl is good at soccer doesn't mean she's a lesbian." She turns to Pablito: "You can be whatever you want, except an asshole."

Scene 13: More stuff about the maid.

I went through the other episodes on fast-forward to see if Pablito actually is gay.  Nope -- he has a crush on Girl Next Door Crista, although she thinks of him as "my best friend."   When she kisses him on the cheek, he collapses into a slurry of hetero-horniness.  But at least his family is gay-positive.

Yes, Your God Bruce Springsteen Really Did Say "Fag"

I wrote an innocent little post about Bruce Springsteen in 2016

I didn't know much about Mr. Springsteen.  I'm only familiar with a few of his songs, such as "Blinded by the Light," "Born to Run," and "Dancing in the Dark." But his biography, Born to Run, had just come out, so I thought  that a post would be timely, and conducting the research would be fun.  

I happened to mention a 1975 song called "Backstreets," in which Bruce in the persona of a working-class teenager talks about a boy named Terry, whom he was obviously in love with,  "on the backstreets."  They engage in various delinquent and destructive activities, one of which is "ripping off the fags": presumably picking the pockets of gay men who were out cruising.

BAM!  The screaming started!  "You despicable monster!  You Judas!  Our Lord and Savior Bruce Springsteen never wrote that!  He couldn't possibly write that.  How could Our God say something hateful?  He can do no wrong!  You just made that up in an insane attempt to denigrate his holiness!"

And that's just the ones I didn't delete immediately.

I'm used to getting screamed at when I mention a gay subtext in someone's work, especially a teen idol: "How dare you accuse Him of something so horrible!  He's totally straight!  I know because he's my boyfriend, and we hug and kiss every night, and as soon as I get old enough, we're going to get married!"

But true believer ire over one homophobic slur in one line in one song among the 3,000 or so written by their God -- that's a new one.

So I'm going restore my honor as a journalist by proving that I wan't lying, and I didn't make it up for some nefarious purpose.  Here are five citations where the line appears.

1.  BruceSpringsteenlyricscom: Unofficial studio version #2, recorded between May and July 1975 at the Record Plant in New York: "Watching the heroes in the funhouse, ripping off the fags."

2. Bruce Springsteen Lyrics Database: The line appears in both the "Carnival Lights" and the "Basement of St. Johns" versions, but it doesn't have a comma: "watching the heroes in the funhouse ripping off the  fags."  Could Terry and Bruce be watching someone else do the deed?

No, that doesn't make sense.  Carnival funhouses were buildings with dark corridors where scary things popped out at you; they weren't used for cruising.  For that matter, funhouses didn't have heroes.

3. In the book Runaway Dream: Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen's American Vision (2010), the line is interpreted as suggesting that Bruce had a romantic relationship with Terry (a boy), but they couldn't be open because of societal disapproval of "fags."

4. The Springsteen Discussion Board (https://www.spl-messages.net/) has a discussion of the song.  Most posters agree that it's about a gay romance, but one person disagrees, suggesting that a guy in a gay relationship wouldn't use the phrase  "ripping off the fags"

5. The article "Queer Bruce Springsteen" in Popular Music  reads the line as indicating that Bruce and Terry were MSM: working class men who have sex with men, but don't identify as gay, and in fact look down on "fags."

But I don't intend to denigrate your religion.  Bruce Springsteen can still be your Lord and Savior.

1. He is writing from the point of view of a working-class teenager in the 1950s, who would have used that term.

2. During the 1970s and 1980s, movies threw around the word "fag" with no qualms at all.  Try to find a 1980s comedy where it doesn't appear.  Bruce may have though that the word would be ok.

3.  But the line appears in only two early versions of the song.  Bruce changed it for the album and live performances, so no one has ever heard it. 

Bruce Springsteen: Gay Ally with a Sordid Past

Bruce Springsteen, "The Boss," went completely under my radar in the 1970s and 1980s.  I knew "Blinded by the Light" (1973), but only through the 1977 cover by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, something about a teenage boy who "pumps his way into a hat" and is  "wrapped up like a douche."

The actual word is "deuce," but I have no idea what a deuce is.  Something to do with card playing?

I knew "Born in the U.S.A." (1984), but I thought it was a jingoistic patriotic anthem, not an indictment of our treatment of Vietnam War veterans.  How could you get that from:

Born in the USA, I was born in the USA, I'm a cool rockin' Daddy in the USA.

And I had a vague image of dead-end towns, pick-up trucks, hard-drinking men who worked in factories and the women who gave their lives meaning, gross heterosexist country-western stuff, nothing I would want to listen to.

There are lots of homophobic slurs in his songs.

In "Lost in the Flood" (1973), a returning Vietnam veteran moans that the countryside's burning with wolfman fairies dressed in drag for homicide.  

Not a very positive depiction of the Gay Rights Movement.

In "Tokyo" (1973), as the sun rises, a macho garbage man gets ready for work:  He hurriedly sipped his beer, and poked fun of the queer, and threatened to kick his ass.

"Backstreets" (1975) two friends grow up on the mean streets.  One of their pastime is "ripping off the fags."

More recently, "Balboa Park" (1995) talks about hustling: Where the men in their Mercedes come nightly to employ the services of the border boys

No positive references to gay people, but "Streets of Philadelphia" (1993) which was used in the movie starring Tom Hanks as gay man dying of AIDS, can be about any gay person's struggle with a brutal, heartless, homophobic world .

Ain't no angel gonna greet me,  it's just you and I my friend
And my clothes don't fit me no more.  A thousand miles just to slip this skin

Nevertheless, Springsteen claims that he had gay friends from the very beginning, and at least since the 1990s, he has been a vocal ally of the gay community.  He cancelled a concert in North Carolina in protest of the homophobic and transphobic House Bill 2:

"Some things are more important than a rock show, and this fight against prejudice and bigotry is one of them."
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