Oct 20, 2012

Brad Renfro

Most teen idols appear cleancut, wholesome, innocent -- after all, they are performing for an audience of young heterosexual girls and gay boys who haven't even kissed anyone yet.

But a few lack the ability or the inclination to appear innocent -- they gaze at the camera, sultry, languid, knowing the score, wanting to be desired not as a boyfriend, but as a lover.  My list includes Ricky NelsonLeif Garrett, Matt Dillon, and certainly Brad Renfro.

It was impossible for Brad to pose as an innocent teenager, even with his shirt on.  And it usually wasn't.

Born in 1982, Brad became famous in 1994, when he starred as a boy who witnesses a murder in The Client.  Extensive homoerotic buddy-bonding followed: his Erik falls in love with the boy next door (Joseph Mazzello), who has AIDS, in The Cure (1994).  His Huck Finn falls in love with Jonathan Taylor Thomas's Tom Sawyer in Tom and Huck (1995).

Soon the homoromance became manipulative and abusive. He is a victim of sexual abuse in Sleepers (1996).  In Telling Lies in America (1997), his Karchy falls for Billy Magic (Kevin Bacon), an antisocial user.  In Apt Pupil (1998), his Todd becomes involved in an abusive, subtly homoerotic relationship with his elderly neighbor (Ian MacKellan).

As a young adult, Brad played characters who were either gay, or homophobic, or both, in Bully (2001), Tart (2001), Deuces Wild (2002), Tenth and Wolf (2006), and The Informers (2008).  They were usually immersed in a grim post-industrial wasteland, where everyone had an angle and no one was to be trusted.  It's almost impossible to find a picture or video of Brad Renfro smiling.

In real life, he was probably bisexual, but he never made any public statements.  He died of a drug overdose in January 2008.

Estrada versus Lopez

Erik Estrada was sort of the Mario Lopez of the 1970s: Hispanic, built, always smiling, constantly winning "World's Sexiest Men" awards, and photographed shirtless every ten seconds.

But there were some significant differences.

Erik is best known as Officer Ponch on Chips (1977-83), a role which allowed him to consort with beach-babes and big-brother troubled teens (such as Leif Garrett), while never establishing any significant homoromantic bond with his partner, Jon (Larry Wilcox).  Mario's characters frequently enjoy homoerotic buddy-bonds.

Perhaps due to the popularity of Chips, Erik was heavily identified as a police officer.  He played parodies of his character several types, he actually was a reserve police officer in Muncie, Indiana, and he lent his name to several police-related organizations.  Mario seems to have a wider range of roles to choose from.

And the most important difference: Mario Lopez has played gay characters several times and is a strong gay ally.  Erik Estrada has never played a gay character and has never made a public statement supporting gay people.  To be fair, he hasn't said anything homophobic, either.

In 2012, a photo of his Ponch character was found on a supervisor's desk at the notoriously homophobic Atlanta Police Department, marked with an anti-gay slur.  It was unclear whether Ponch was "accusing" the supervisor of being gay, or the supervisor was "accusing" Ponch.

Either way, Erik Estrada had no comment.

Oct 19, 2012

Tom and Huck

In Tom and Huck (1995), an idiosyncratic take on Mark Twain's classic Tom Sawyer, the standard elements are retained: Tom paints the fence, gets engaged to Becky Thatcher (with a tight-close up kiss), has a fake funeral, gets lost in the cave.  But as the title suggests, the relationship between Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn is emphasized.

Tom is played by fourteen-year old Jonathan Taylor Thomas, whose short stature and baby face could easily mark him as prepubescent, especially given his previous cute-boy roles.  Huck, in contrast, is played by Brad Renfro (left), thirteen years old but already a head taller and considerably more mature looking than Thomas, and already saddled with a reputation for being bad, wild, and irascable.

Brad Renfro’s Huck is a creature of the wild, as unpredictable and enigmatic as forest sprite.  He appears without warning, lodged in a tree or lying on a river bank to comment on the action of the fools with the dispassionate interest of a Puck.

In one scene he appears unexpectedly before Tom, naked, his body coated with mud.  He explains – it is a form of camoflauge – but still we are shocked at the sight of an elemental spirit. Indeed, his wilderness home is no hut or cabin, but an earthen pit, the sort of place one might visit at night to conjure hobgoblins.

Huck has no need or desire for human relationships. When Tom says softly “I thought we was friends,” Huck retorts “You thought wrong. I ain’t got no friends.”

But Tom desires him with a intensity beyond friendship, beyond even erotic longing.  Though he knocks around with acts of minor mischief, conning his schoolmates and torturing his cousin, he yearns to be naked and muddy, to need no one, to be free.

Yet he also yearns for a connection with Huck: he seeks out the sprite, invites him places, gazes at him with glassy-eyed wonder, sometimes dares to put touch his shoulder or put an arm around his waist.  This version omits the traditional homoromantic idyll on the island, since, in a terrible paradox, if Tom ever succeeds in establishing a connection with Huck, it will destroy the very “no-strings” freedom that he finds so attractive.

Huck is mistaken, of course: he does need human relationships, and Tom is indeed his friend.  In the cave with Injun Joe, he risks his life to save him – not Becky, who has long since escaped, but Tom alone: “When a friend’s in trouble, you can’t run away.”

With an elemental human connection (and, coincidentally, a fortune), Huck accepts the Widow Douglas’s offer to civilize him.  He puts on pants and enrolls in school and church.    Now Tom feels betrayed.  He decides to stay in the pit and replace Huck as woodland sprite, proclaiming “Somebody’s got to carry on!”  But Huck convinces him that one can be both uninhibited and civilized, and the two walk off together to plan their minor acts of mischief. The outsider has become a schoolboy through the evocation of friendship, with Becky Thatcher long since forgotten.

Oct 17, 2012

Simon and Milo Don't Find True Love

In the fall of 2003, after they sang the theme song for the Disney movie Get a Clue, starring Bug Hall, the Canadian pop group Prozzak was splashed across the Disney channel.  They were renamed Simon and Milo, to avoid the association with drug use.

Their music videos were animated.  Simon (Jay Levine) was short and dark haired, well dressed, with a head that had the habit of separating itself from his body.  Milo (James Bryan) was tall, blond, and muscular, a stereotypic pretty boy.  And they had a back story.

Centuries ago, they were on opposite sides of a long, harsh war.  Finally they fought each other in hand-to-hand combat.  Then a voice from the sky told them:

You have been chosen.
Chosen to live in a time that is not your own,
sentenced to walk the Earth in search of True Love.
Only True Love holds the key to your destiny.

They were zapped into the 21st century, where they were sometimes in high school, but more often rock musicians.

The music videos on the Disney Channel illustrated "Get a Clue" and three earlier songs: "Sucks to Be You" (1998), "Strange Disease" (1999), and "It's Not Me, It's You" (2001).

They all have the same general plot: Simon tries to find "true love" with a woman, but is rejected.  As he sits, depressed and lonely, Milo is there to offer his hand.  They walk side by side into the sunset.

Could Milo be Simon's true love?

There are lots of clues.  Milo never exhibits any interest in women, and he treats Simon in an unfailingly loving manner.  Most friends would tire of Simon's constant depression and self-doubt, but Milo never hesitates, always supports him, gently waits for him to realize who his true love is.

And once, as Simon flipped through a list of potential lovers, Milo's face was there.

But Disney didn't see it that way: all of the rather extensive press about the duo talked about Simon's quest for a girl.

Nor did Prozzak. The band released a new album in 2005, Cold Cruel World, with Simon older, but still depressed, still searching for true love.  Not with Milo.

Oct 16, 2012

Joe Slaughter: Dancer/Model/Bullying Survivor

It's hard being a male terpsichorean (dancer) in high school.  You face constant homophobic harassment from the jocks, the bullies, and even the teachers.

And it's even harder if you're heterosexual, working out and stripping down with 5,000 girls, all of whom treat you like a buddy and aren't up for dates.

But Joe Slaughter survived both the homophobia and the horniness to become a successful dancer, touring with superstars like Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and the Pussycat Dolls.  He has modeled for brands like The Gap and Calvin Klein (and he's not shy about underwear and semi-nude shots).

Checking out his killer physique, one wonders if he really had a problem finding girls to date. 

Checking out his killer bulge, one wonders if the jocks and bullies were harassing him to hide their homoerotic attraction.

He has recently broken into acting.  In Step Up 3D (2010), the first 3-D dance movie, he plays Julian, the leader of the evil House of Samurai dance crew, who disapprove of his sister's romance with Luke (Rick Malambri) of the rival House of Pirates.  Lots of gay subtexts all around.

In Music High (2012), a music teacher tames a group of surly juvenile delinquents with -- you guessed it -- music and/or dance. Joe plays the gay-coded William.

Joe has also played dancers or models in several tv series, including CSI, The Bold and the Beautiful, and Femme Fatales.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...