May 21, 2022

"The Ignorant Angels": Bisexual Rich Guy, Beset-Upon Wife, and Bohemian Artist Side Action Find Love

Why did the 2022 Italian tv series Le Fate Ignorante  ("the ignorant fairies" get translated into English as The Ignorant Angels?  Maybe because the term "fairy" is perjorative slang for gay men, and there are several gay characters?  The premise: after the death of her husband, Antonia discovers that her husband was having an affair with Michele.  They become close.  If they fall in love, I'm leaving. I reviewed Episode 1.

Scene 1:  Establishing shot of Rome.  Massimo (Luca Argentero) calls his wife and says he has something important to tell her, but it has to be in person.  He gets on his scooter and rides past the Coliseum.  He is distracted by "a beautiful woman" and crashes and dies. Then he tells us that "Death is a new beginning."

Scene 2:
One year before.  Hunky Michele (Eduardo Scarpetta) climbs out of bed in his bohemian-squalor apartment.  The voice over tells us that this is the story of "two people who thought they had nothing in common, and later on find that they are very much alike."  It continues ad nauseam: Michele "can't imagine that he is soon to meet someone he'll become extremely attached to." 

I have a sinking feeling that this is going to be the opposite of "Making Love": instead of guy who thought he was straight coming out as gay, it will be a guy who thought he was gay coming out as straight. Yuck! 

The voiceover continues, broadcasting the plot in infuriating detail, as we switch to Wife Antonia waking up Massimo (more beefcake!).  He pretends to be asleep, so she leaves, stopping to tell Nora the Maid to clean the outdoor decks.  We pan out -- there are 300 outdoor decks on the estate of this Richie Rich-style super-mansion!  Nora will be working for weeks!

Scene 3: Back in the bohemian squalor, Michele has a "he's a nice guy" conversation with his grandmother and her biddie friends.  He invites them to brunch on Sunday, but they refuse.  Then he goes to work: back stage at the opera, where apparently his job is painting sets.  He's currently working on a 40-foot backdrop of ballet dancers.  

He invites all of his coworkers to brunch on Sunday,. Sandro (Samuel Garofalo) glares at him: this will become important later.  Then he and the elderly Atillo tell each other things that they already know, like "I was your mentor when you first started out in backdrop-painting." 

Switch to Wife Antonia, who works as a doctor.  As Mrs. Richie Rich,  you'd think she'd spend her time shopping, doing lunch, and planning charity benefits.   Her regular patient asks her out, but she refuses, as she's married.  "Well, bring him along."

Scene 4:  At home, Wife Antonia's Mom criticizes her for being boring, "not interested in life," "anti-social.  You don't do anything.  You're not living."  Um...she's got a career?  Mom then criticizes Nora the Maid for dating a guy from Ghana -- his penis will be too big for her.  Gee, that's a selling point in gay communities.

Scene 5: Lots of young, attractive people, both boys and girls, helping Hunky Michele prepare Sunday brunch.  With lasagne?  Everyone wants to hear the Big News:  he's in love with Massimo, whom he met at the bookstore!  "We were both looking for the same book, a wonderful book of poetry by Nazim Hikmet." (A famous Turkish writer who died in 1963).  Hunky Michele got the last copy, so he offered to photocopy the poems he wanted and then give the book to Massimo -- a clever way to see him again!  Wait -- you didn't even make a date?  

Scene 6: 
  Massimo gives his Wife Antonia a book -- not the Hikmet, a book on Manet. I don't understand. What was the point of the Hikmet?  She's a bit disappointed; she's actually a fan of Monet, not Manet. What's the difference?  Two French impressionist painters. 

 They kiss 53,431 times.  

Meanwhile Sandro is storming out of the brunch because he can't stand Hunky Michele's story.  They've never dated; it's just an unerequited crush, but still....  Then Massimo shows up with a bottle of wine.  But Michele just told them the story of their meeting at the bookstore, and bragged that he strategized a way to see him again...has there been a time jump?

Inside the bohemina-squalor apartment, Michele and Massimo discuss how much they love each other.  They kiss once (no fair!  Antonia got ten minutes of kissing!)  Then they go out to brunch, where Massimo is introduced to the gang: two straight women,  a lesbian couple, a gay couple (one may be Burak Deniz, left), Atilla his art mentor, and his grandmother.

Grandma explains that they aren't nine individuals: they are a single entity, a single mind, a shared soul.  This seems a little extreme for a group of friends.   But not to worry, they are happy to absorb Massimo into the group consciousness.  "We accept him!  We accept him!" Instead of running away screaming, Massimo is touched.

Scene 7: After sex, Michele (still naked on the bed) and Massimo (getting dressed).  Michele gives him a house key.  Then Massimo goes home and spends 10 minutes of screen time having sex with Wife Antonia (no fair!).  Afterwards they cuddle.

Scene 8:  Wife Antonia's Mom suggests that Massimo is away so much because he's having an affair with a woman.  Antonia dismisses the idea, but Mom continues: All Italian men have affairs, so why should Massimo be any different?  There's nothing wrong with it.  You're still the wife; she's just the side action.

Scene 9: Hunky Michele's group mind is having the same idea: Massimo comes over only during the daytime, never at night.  You always stay in the apartment; you never go out.  Obviously he has a boyfriend.  Michele dismisses the idea, but the group mind continues: All Italian men have affairs, so why should Massimo be any different?  There's nothing wrong with it.  Being the side action is great, all of the fun and none of the work of a relationship.

Scene 9:  The group mind gives Massimo a cake and sings "Happy Birthday."  Then jealous Sandro has a big reveal: he's been snooping around, and discovered that Massimo doesn't have a boyfriend, he has a wife!  Hunky Michele angrily excommunicates him; he skulks away.  The group mind doesn't care: gay , straight, bisexual, whatever, side action is side action.  Michele isn't so sure, but he goes along with the groupthink.

Scene 10: Massimo suggests leaving his wife to be with Michele full-time.  Michele hates the idea: he likes being the side action.  They argue; maybe they break up.  Massimo storms out.  He makes The Call from Scene 1 anyway.  If he's broken up with Michele, why bother?  Is he going to tell Wife Antonia that he's coming out as gay?  We'll never know, because he gets onto his scooter, gets distracted by a beautiful woman, and crashes.  The end.

Beefcake: Both Massimo and Michele take their clothes off.

Other Sights: Streets of Rome.

Gay Characters:  Most of the group mind.  

Heteosexism:  We see lots of Massimo kissing and having sex with Antonia.  Massimo and Michele kiss once, and have sex only off camera.

My Grade:  I don't like any of these people, especially the annoying Michele.  And I don't understand his motive: he's ok but not ok with being the side action, but when Massimo decides to leave his wife for him, he has a fit.  At least, according to the plot synopses, Michele never hooks up with the Wife.  She joins the group mind and begins dating someone else.  C

May 20, 2022

"Boss Baby: Back in the Crib": Is Boss Baby Gay?

Boss Baby
 started as a children's book, then became two movies (2017, 2021) and a tv series (2018) about a secret baby-run corporation (the babies actually behave more like secret agents than business people).  In spite of the Hollywood mandate that every boy, regardless of age, meet the Girl of His Dreams, Boss Baby displays no heterosexual interest.  In the 2021 movie, he's all grown up; his older brother Tim has a wife and kids; but Boss Baby (aka Ted) never mentions a wife or girlfriend (at least, none are mentioned in the wikipedia profile).  

Now, on Netflix tv, Boss Baby is Back in the Crib, grown-up but reverting to a baby again. The promo is not promising:  he has a female counterpart, no doubt a girlfriend.  Has he finally given in to the heterosexist mandate?  To find out, I reviewed Episode 1.

Scene 1: The adult Boss Baby, real name Ted (JP Karliak), the CEO of an adult-run corporation, suddenly discovers that FBI wants to arrest him for embezzlement.  He calls around to see which of his employees is the real culprit.  Jaron?  "Yes, but I can't go to jail.  I have a wife and five kids."  Ted; "I respect your weird choices."  A guy married to a woman?  How bizarre!   

Bradley?  "All we did was take corporate money to buy stuff we wanted.  We didn't want to go to jail, so we framed you.  Is that cool?"

Ted runs.  There's no place to hide -- or is there/  He has a formula that turns adults into babies for 48 hours!

Scene 2: 
Now a baby, Ted approaches his grown-up brother, Tim (Max Mittelman), and his kids (baby Tina, preteen girl Tabitha), asking for a place to hide out for a few years (why doesn't he name his employees, who have all confessed?).  

He also needs a job at Baby Corp, so he can get more formula and stay a baby.   Tim is hesitant; his wife is not aware that babies can talk, and finding out usually scrambles adult brains.

Scene 3: Baby Ted gradually tells Tim's wife his secret, in spite of the brain-damage danger.  Bottom line: "I'm either a baby here, or a grown-up in jail."  

Scene 4:  Baby Ted and his baby niece Tina (not a girlfriend, sigh of relief) head to Baby Corp, where he's a legend.  Lots of hand-shaking.  He hugs Amal (Kevin Michael Richardson), an old co-worker. (Wait -- why didn't his co-workers from 30 years ago grow up?).

Back when he was CEO, Ted tried to increase the love for all babies, but new CEO Nannycam is only interested in the top 5%, the cutest babies.  Especially the Ultra-Baby Omega (UBO), whose cuteness level is actually toxic: after about eight seconds, you run away screaming.  Only authorized personnel are allowed to see her.  Reminds me of the Star Trek episode with an alien who drives anyone who sees it mad.  Is it too ugly, or too beautiful?

CEO Nannycam refuses to give Baby Ted a job, since he's actually an adult.  To win her over, Niece Tina, the head of field operations, invites him along on a mission.

Scene 5:
 A rogue cheek-pincher has invaded a library, producing grumpy, fussing babies and thereby reducing baby love.  Tina and her team, try various strategies to stop her, but fail.  

One of the operatives, Pip (Karan Soni), appears to be non-binary: both pink and blue in their jumper, never referred to with a pronoun. 

Ted goes home and asks his pre-teen niece, Tabitha, to help him get Tina demoted, so he can take her job.   She's a computer expert, and offers to hack into the Babycorp system. He's going to sabotage his own niece?

Scene 6: Back at the library, Baby Ted tricks the Cheek-Pincher into seeing the Ultra-Baby Omega on a nanny cam.  She runs away screaming.  Now the CEO will think that Tina hacked into their system, and demote her!  An eerie parallel to Ted's staff framing him.

Scene 7:  Baby Ted has a change of heart, and takes responsibility (naturally).  The CEO is so impressed that she makes him Co-Vice President of Field Operations -- he'll be Tina's partner.  But she's his niece, so there still won't be any heterosexual subtexts.?

"Now go home and make time for what matters -- family."  Ugh, I hate the "heterosexual nuclear family is everything" rhetoric.  

Is Boss Baby Gay? 
Obviously for  plot logistics, the adult Ted can't have kids of his own, or he'd be adventuring with his own daughter.  Only the avuncular relationship will work.  But he could easily have mentioned a girlfriend.  He doesn't.  

When Ted becomes a baby, baby interests kick in, so he could conceivably meet a potential partner at Baby Corps.  But he doesn't seem interested in the female CEO or the female members of the field team.  And what are we to make his statement that his employee's wife and kids are the result of "weird choices"?  

The voice actor, John Paul Karliak, has purple hair, a queer identity, and a twitter account full of fundraisers for trans youth.  That doesn't mean that his character is canonically gay: he's also voiced Wile E. Coyote.   Wait -- Wile E. Coyote was obsessed with "eating" the Road Runner, a boy....

See also: Boss Baby: Rugrats Meets Dilbert

May 19, 2022

"Odd Squad": Any Gay Texts, Subtexts, or Beefcake in the Long-Running PBS Kids Show?


I was asked to review Odd Squad, on PBS, about a group of little-kid secret agents assigned to "odd" cases like hiccups that make things explode, while teaching us math and science.  In the first episode, for instance, the agents handle a case about vanishing zeros: 1000 wads of gum turn into 1 wad, and hot chocolate goes for 5 cents, not 50 cents.  Agent Otto is turning 10 tomorrow; if they don't stop the vanishing, he'll turn 1!  This crisis allows us to learn about the use of 0 as a decimal marker.   

I already know about the use of 0 as a decimal marker, and the mystery was a bit elementary for an adult viewer, so I won't become a regular viewer.  But I was promised gay content.

1. Beefcake? 
Not among the agents, of course, but the show has been around for eight years, so some of the kids have grown up.  Isaac Kragten (top photo), who played Agent Otis, is now a bona fide hunk.  Plus there are some adults around, such as Farid Yazdani (left) as the villainous Freeze Ray Ray.

2. Gay characters?  According to TV Tropes, Orla is presented as gay by a Oddtube episode where she has "rainbow-itis,"  She is also shown in an intro with "bisexual lighting," whatever that is.

In Season 3, Episode 22, we are introduced to the head of the Seattle Agency, the swishy, purple-eyelashed, show tune-loving Mr. O (Nico Cecci, who is gay in real life, according to TV Tropes).

A fan discussion claims that an agent named Zack has gay parents, as revealed in the episode "Parent Swap," but I find no other evidence.

There is also apparently a Season 3 episode set at a gay wedding.

3. Pre-teen gay subtexts? 
 The central characters in Season 1 are a male-female Muller and Scully, Olive and Otto.  Amazon Prime won't let me see the other seasons, but it looks like they are replaced by another male-female pair in Season #2.  Season #3 features four agents.  Maybe Omar and Oswald (Jayce Alexander, Gavin MacIver-Wright) have a gay-subtext buddy bond in spite of their obvious difference in age and maturity.  

4. Gay actors?
  Veteran Kids in the Hall actor Scott Thompson plays a villain.   In a Season 3 episode, the agents encounter a shushing librarian, Octavius, played by the now-15 year old Keegan Hedley.  Keegan, best known for Paw Patrol and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, is gay in real life.  But he only appears in Odd Squad for about 30 seconds.

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