Jun 2, 2013

Zoey 101: Your Big Brother's Gay Subtexts

The teencom, like the teen idol, has a short life expectancy.  It bursts onto the scene and becomes an instant Saturday-night must-see for millions of junior high students.  They memorize favorite scenes, fantasize about the teen hunks, buy the tie-in novels and trapper keepers.  But they grow older, go to high school, get drivers' licenses, make plans on Saturday night.  The stars grow older, too, and yearn for mature roles.  So, after two or three years, rarely more, the teencom fades away, replaced by a new one that has the new class of junior high students gushing.

Between 2005 and 2008, this face and physique was intimately familiar to teens, when Zoey 101 ruled Nickelodeon, with 65 episodes and four made-for-tv movies.  It starred Jamie Lynn Spears (younger sister of the pop diva Brittney Spears) as Zoey Brooks, a student at an elite oceanside boarding school in California, and her coterie of friends and friendly enemies.  The boys included:

1. Logan (Matthew Underwood, above), a handsome but self-absorbed rich kid who doesn't own a shirt.

2. Dustin (Paul Butcher, left), Zoey's younger brother, who has bulked up and now stars on the webseries MyMusic.

3. Chase (Sean Flynn, right), a nerd with a crush on Zoey.  The grandson of film great Errol Flynn, and nephew of actor and photojournalist Sean Flynn, Sean has starred in several movies since, including Bad Blood (2012), about the Hatfield-McCoy feud.

4. Michael (Christopher Massey), the token black guy.  The older brother of Kyle Massey of That's So Raven and Cory in the House, Michael previously starred in the parodic "instructional training video" Color Me Gay (2000).

5. James (Austin Butler), Zoey's on-off boyfriend.

Aside from the beefcake, there were hints about same-sex desire or practice in nearly every episode.

A computer dating service mistakenly pairs two boys for a school dance, and they decide to go through with it.

Trying to wrangle an invitation to join a campus fraternity, it-boy Reese gives the president a gift and says “This is just to let you know I’m interested.” The other boy replies, “Thanks, but I’m seeing someone.”

When nerdish Logan displays an expertise in comic book trivia, another boy sighs, “He’s handsome and knowledgeable!”  Later, he challenges Logan to a trivia contest with “Let’s see what you got, Hot Shorts,” a Freudian slip on “hotshot.”

Enough hints and signals to challenge Drake and Josh, or even Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide.

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