Sep 28, 2013

Joseph and the Amazing Gay Dreamcoat

I'm not a big fan of musicals, but Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1972) is one of my favorites, for three reasons (other than it was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who I met in 1999).

Reason #1: The utter absence of a hetero-romantic plot, almost unheard-of in musical theater.

It's a Mod version of the picaresque adventures of Joseph (from the Bible), favorite of his father, given a Coat of Many Colors.

His brothers, jealous, set out to kill him, but have a change of heart and sell him to slave traders instead.  He ends up in Egypt -- depicted as a glittery Las Vegas -- as a slave to sleazy merchant Potiphar.

Potiphar's wife tries unsuccessfully to seduce him -- "I don't believe in free love," he yells in 1960s slang.  Or maybe he doesn't particularly care for girls.  

Falsely accused of attempted rape, Joseph is thrown in prison, where he begins interpreting other prisoners' weird dreams, thus drawing the attention of the Pharaoh (an Elvis-like pop star).   Pharaoh makes Joseph his right-hand man. The brothers arrive, and Joseph toys with them a bit before reconciling.

Reason #2:  Pharaoh likes Joseph -- a lot.  Big gay subtext.

Reason #3: Joseph spends most of the play with the Dream Coat off.  And nearly everything else off.  The Pharaoh usually gets an opportunity to flex.

There have been innumerable revivals, in Britain and the U.S., with Joseph played by James Royce Edwards, Paul Jones, David James-Carroll, Bill Hutton, Mike HolowayDavid Cassidy, his brother Patrick Cassidy, Jason Donovan, Lee Mead, and Keith Jacks (top photo).  Former teen idol Donny Osmond starred in the 1999 movie version.

But that's not all.  Joseph is a favorite of high school and college theater departments; apparently there have been 20,000 productions since 1972. So you have a good chance of seeing Stars of Tomorrow performing Joseph and the Pharaoh at a little theater near you.

Girl Meets World: Teencom with Actual, Real Gay Characters

I didn't think we really needed a Disney Channel sequel to Boy Meets World (1993-2000), the TGIF sitcom about a high schooler (Ben Savage), his girlfriend Topanga (Danielle Fischel), and his boyfriend Shawn (Rider Strong).  It was great, loaded down with gay subtexts that the actors seemed fully aware of.  But what contemporary kid has ever heard of it?

Then I saw the picture of the boy on the elephant.

I can't think of anything to say about it.

He's 14-year old Teo Halm, who has just signed on to play the older brother.  He doesn't have many acting credits, but checking out his tweets and instagrams makes me rather certain that his character will be gay-vague.

The teencom, to premiere in January 2014, makes Corey a middle-school history teacher, and Topanga the owner of a restaurant specializing in pudding. Shawn may be stopping by occasionally.

 The central characters are Corey and Topanga's 12-year old daughter Riley (Rowan Blanchard) and her bff Sabrina (Maya Fox).  Girl-power lesbian subtext, anyone?

Riley has two brothers, Elliott (Teo Halm) and Louis (August Maturo), an obnoxious cousin (Leon Sparks), and a crush (Peyton Meyer, left).

Peyton's tweets and instagrams (top photo, for instnace) also suggest that his character might be gay-vague.

Or not.  Apparently this series will be a teencom first, featuring an actual, real, live gay character.  Wearing a Sign and everything.

No word on whether he or she is a regular, recurring, or one-shot.

But, in a few months, barring a last minute decision to close the closet door, the Disney Channel will breaking the silence.

Update: At the last minute, Disney decided to scrap the Teo Halm character, and the gay potential with him.

Sep 27, 2013

Malcolm: Cold War Hustler and His Clients

An elderly, debauched astrologer encounters a boy named Malcolm sitting on a bench outside a hotel in a nameless city.  He is waiting for his father to return.  He doesn't know how long he has been waiting; maybe weeks, maybe years.  His father has been gone a long time.  Let the symbolism begin.

Malcolm is stunningly beautiful, so everyone he sees desires him.  But he desires no one.  He is innocent, a virgin.

 The astrologer decides to corrupt his soul.

He has Malcolm visit a series of his evil associates and their wives or consorts. Each tries to seduce Malcolm, with sex, friendship, money, or art, but each fails, due to a tragic fault or deception.

1. Estel Blanc, a mortician who is not aware that he is black, or that his consort is a transvestite.
2. Kermit, who is not aware that he is a midget, or that his wife is a prostitute.
3. Girard Girard, who is not aware that he is impossibly old, or that his wife has four lovers.
4. Jerome Brace, who is not aware that he is impossibly young, or that his marriage is unconsummated.

Malcolm has sex with all of the men except Estel, in hints only, in suddenly awakening to a shared bed or feeling their face against his thigh.

#5 is Melba, a famous singer who keeps marrying young boys and discarding them when they grow up. Malcolm has sex with one of her discards, and then marries her.

A few months pass, and Malcolm finally finds his father, but the older man calls him a pederast and runs away.  They have switched roles, and ages; the son has become the father.  Malcolm has lived a lifetime.  And he is dying, of "sexual exhaustion."

James Purdy (left), who was gay himself, published Malcolm in 1959, when gay meant evil, sinister, soul-destroying.  The modern reader doesn't feel the same frisson of dread.  The self-deceiving libertines seem tragic rather than threatening, stymied in their attempts to find love.

And Malcolm seems less an innocent corrupted by his own beauty than a teenage hustler who is playing a long con on his wealthy clients.

 Playwright Edward Albee adapted the novel for the stage in 1966, with Matthew Cowles playing Malcolm. It closed after five performance.

Sep 26, 2013

Eric Martsolf: All Gay-Friendly

If you're a soap opera fan, you know Eric Martsolf as Brady Black on Days of Our Lives (2008-13): here he and his friends strip for charity (only women in the audience) -- or Ethan Winthrop on Passions (2002-2008).

But the 42-year old actor has had a long career as a singer, model, and stage actor -- four years as the Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat -- with several more gay-friendly projects.

Actually, his non-soap work has almost all been gay-friendly.

Four Steps (2009), about a lesbian who hires The Master to help her hone her gaydar.

Venice the Series (2009-), about a lesbian who works as an interior designer in Venice. In 2011-2012, Eric played Van, her roguish nephew. 


Miss Behave (2010-2012), about the mischievous children of super-successful parents, a writer and a talent agent.  Billy (Trevor Doyle Nelson) is "struggling with his sexual identity": Hollywood code for "gay, but we want to give him girlfriends anyway."  Eric had a 3-episode story arc as Marcus Dunne, a famous client who takes a liking to Billy.

No actual gay characters, but then the square-jawed type rarely gets cast as gay.  In real life Eric is a gay ally, a supporter of gay marriage.

Free Fall: Not Knowing for Half of Your Life

I haven't seen Free Fall (Frierfall, 2013), but apparently it's about a guy named Marc (Hanno Koffler) who has gone through half of his life as heterosexual (he's 33).  He's got a pregnant girlfriend.  Then suddenly, without warning, meets Kay (Max Riemelt), and turns gay.

Wait -- you can't turn gay -- you are attracted to the same sex or not.

But if you have no idea, not the slightest inkling, if you've never experienced a moment of same-sex desire, not consciously, anyway,  it's about the same thing.

Can anyone really not know for half of their life?

Parents, teachers, and other adults almost invariably assume that every child is innately heterosexual.

Have you ever seen anything as disgusting as this "lock up your daughters" t shirt?  Apparently this baby boy's parents can't wait until he's a teenager to start brainwashing him into the "girls! girls! girls!" mantra.  They want everybody to think that he's already anxious to sexually assault all of the girls in the neighborhood.  And this is a good thing.

Not only are they presumed grotesquely heterosexual from birth, kids are kept from the knowledge that gay people exist.  

One of my students, who was heterosexual, said that she had no idea that gay people existed until her senior year in high school, when an "alternative prom" was offered to those students who wanted to bring same-sex dates.  Why would anyone want a same-sex date? she asked.  Her friends explained.

After 18 years of silence.

When you are gay, but assumed heterosexual and denied knowledge that gay people exist, it's very easy to fall into a false heterosexual identity, to go through the motions of heterosexual desire and behavior, to ignore your same-sex desires or explain them as something else.

Or it can be merely a matter of definition:  when all you hear about and see on tv or in movies are negative stereotypes, you think "I'm not like that, so whatever I am experience, it doesn't signify gayness."  So you go through your life thinking that, like all heterosexuals, you are attracted to the same sex.

One of my dissertation respondents "came out" at age 63. He knew that he was not attracted to women, and that he was attracted to men -- he and his wife both enjoyed movies featuring male nudity.  And he knew about gay men, the flitting, sashaying queens of tv.  He just never made the connection until one day his wife came home from the library with a book on gay people.  Real ones.  A light bulb came on over his head.

After 63 years of silence.

I didn't make the association until the summer after my senior year in high school.  Before that, there were only hints and signals.

Sep 25, 2013

Turkish for Beginners: Gay Subtexts and Nudity

Turkisch fur Anfanger (Turkish for Beginners, 2006-2009) was sitcom airing on German PBS, about a blended family.

1. Psychotherapist Doris
2. Her children, Lena (who narrates), and gay-coded Nils (Emil Reinke).
2. Metin (Adnan Maral), a Turkish immigrant police officer

4. His children, devout Muslim Yagmur and wannabe gangster Cem (Elyas M'Barek, left).

Lots of "girls! girls! girls!" proclamations occur, as every one of the cast has to choose between two prospective hetero-romances: Lena is dating Axel, and Cem, who is dating both Lena and Ulla.

However, from the episodes I've seen, there are gay subtexts everywhere.  Nils crushes on Axel. Lena flirts with Yagmur.  Cem and his buddy Costa (Arnel Taci) are in love, and know it (kind of):

Cem: Have you ever said 'I love you'?
Costa: What are you implying, dude? We're just friends, aren't we?

There is also ample male nudity, including this frontal.

You can see episodes on youtube and Hulu.

The 2012 feature film Turkische fur Anfanger has the gang all meet when their plane crashes on a desert island.  Cem hooks up with Lena, and Costa with Yagmur, but I assume the gay subtexts are intact.

Too bad it's not playing in Turkey.

Sep 24, 2013

Dream Boy: Good Old Boys and Ghosts in Love

In Dream Boy (2008), it's the 1970s, and shy, intellectual high schooler Nathan (Stephan Bender), who looks like Shaun Cassidy, moves with his mousy mother and sexually abusive father to the small town of St. Francisville, Louisiana.  He falls in love with Good Old Boy Roy (Maximillian Roeg).  Neither has been in a same-sex relationship before; neither is aware that gay people exist.

That's the plot of every gay coming of age movie ever made, including several on my list of 10 Gay Movies I Loved and 10 Gay Movies I Hated.

But here, for a change of pace, the Big Bad isn't homophobia -- although the two experience a lot of that -- but jealousy.

Dad tries to control Nathan's life, and feels threatened by his new relationship.

Roy's closeted buddy Burke (Randy Wayne, below) wanted Roy for himself, and feels threatened by his new relationship.

Nathan leaves home to escape from the abuse; Dad threatens to find him.

He moves in with Roy; Burke fumes.

Then, for some reason, Nathan, Roy, Burke, and his rebound boyfriend Randy (Owen Beckman) go on a camping trip to a deserted plantation on the bayou.

The supernatural takes over, with omens, spirits, and chants.  Spoiler alert: Burke, maybe channelling Nathan's father or Satan or both, rapes Nathan, then murders him.

Yes, the sweet, innocent gay guy dies.  But not because he's gay.  That's very important.

After the funeral, Roy sees Nathan on the school bus, smiling at him.  Maybe he's a ghost.  Maybe, Christlike, he's risen from the dead.  Maybe he never died at all, and the camping trip and aftermath was all a dream.  The ending is ambiguous.

Stephan Bender is best known for Superman Returns (2006), where he is on screen for about five minutes as the young Clark Kent.

Maximillian Roeg (left), who is actually British, not Good Old Boy, has a few more screen roles, including the thriller Maneater (2009). 

 Randy Wayne is the biggest star of the group, and the only one who has specified a sexual identity: he's "straight but not narrow."


Sep 23, 2013

Fun Size: Nickelodeon Sex Comedy with Gay Characters

American movies and tv programs aimed at a juvenile audience are aggressively heterosexist, screaming hysterically in every episode "Heterosexual desire is universal!" and "Gay people absolutely do not exist!"  Nickelodeon's Fun Size (2012) got away with gay characters only because they were minor, adult, and female, and did not detract from the furious heterosexual machinations of the teens.

Oh, and because the movie got a PG-13 rating: Parents Strongly Cautioned!  Children under age 13 could be traumatized by discovering that gay people exist!

It's a Halloween-themed movie ("Fun Size" refers to the miniature candy bars people pass out to trick-or-treaters).

Wren (Victoria Justice of Victorious) has been invited to a big, cool Halloween party thrown by Aaron (Thomas McDonnell, left), the hunk she is crushing on.

But on the way, her younger brother Albert gets lost in a sea of trick-or-treaters, and she has to find him.  She enlists her best friend April (Jane Levy) and two nerds, Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau, left), who have crushes on them.  Guess who hooks up?

Meanwhile Albert gets involved with Fuzzy (Thomas Middleditch), who is plotting to toilet-paper his ex-girlfriend's house in revenge after she breaks up with him to date the jerk Jorgen (Johnny Knoxville).  Not to worry, Fuzzy finds a new girl.

In fact, the only one who doesn't hook up is little Albert.  Which is surprising, since in contemporary juvenile media, 8-year olds are usually portrayed as just as hetero-horny as teens.

There's a lackluster gay subtext between Roosevelt and Peng, and some beefcake, such as Josh Pence (left) as Wren's mother's twink boyfriend.

You also get to see Fuzzy naked.

And the gay characters: Roosevelt's two Moms, an oddball lesbian couple who will allow him to borrow the family car only if he can ask in Ancient Greek (he misses the word for "seat belt").

Not enough to detract from the unyielding heterosexism of this Nickelodeon sex comedy.

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