Feb 5, 2014

Dorian Nkono: African-Australian Beefcake Star

So I'm watching all of the Terminator movies in order, and in Terminator: Salvation (2009), the fourth installment, I see Dorian Nkono as "Dave."

He's only onscreen for a few minutes as one of the adult John Connor's friends.

But a google search yields this rather amazing beefcake photo.

And this one.

Why have I never heard of this guy before?

He's an African-Australian actor, a graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, with theater credits including Dirty Butterfly and Merchant of Venice.

7 movie appearances, mostly directed by Sam Worthington.

City Loop, aka Bored Olives (2000), about six cynical young adults who work in a Brisbane pizza place, has a gay character.

The Hard Word (2002), about three brothers who are bank robbers, has buddy-bonding subtexts.  Dorian plays the psycho Tarzan.

He wrote and starred in the beefcake-heavy short Enzo (2004), about an African-Australian boxer.

He's also done a lot of Australian tv: White Collar Blues, Dance Academy, Rescue Special Ops, The Straits.

Then there's this shirtless photo shoot on the ocean.

But no biographies or interviews that I can find.  Even his personal website completely omits biographical details.

Is he gay in real life?  Or gay positive?  Details!  I need details!

Feb 4, 2014

Gay Tibet

Buddhists in the United States are generally gay-positive, but not in Asia.  This article by lesbian travelers Katie Cook and Maggie Young discuss the utter impossibility of being open in Lhasa -- to gay Tibetans, ultra-conservative China seems like a gay paradise.

And the Dalai Lama, an incarnation of the Buddha himself, has expressed many times that same-sex relations are "wrong," "inappropriate," and "sexual misconduct."  He clarifies: only if you're religious.  "If two men...are not religious, that's ok with me."

So if you're already going to hell, what's the difference?  Go ahead and date.  But gay Buddhists must be celibate.

Still, when I was a kid in the 1970s, I kept returning to the image of Tibet as a "good place," where same-sex romance was open and free.

I'm not sure why.  I didn't know about Bhutan, the Land of Penises, or about the homoerotic Bokh wrestling of Mongolia.

Maybe it was the image of thousands of muscular monks in orange robes draped around their shoulder, leaving their chest and arms bare -- acres of beefcake.

Or maybe an Uncle Scrooge comic  that I read in grade school, in which the intrepid duck and his nephews visit a Himalayan paradise, Tralla La (a play on Shangri-La).

Or The Blue Lotus, a Belgian comic novel that I read in high school.  The dashing journalist Tintin goes to China, where he rescues and buddy-bonds with the teenage Tchang -- the only person other than Captain Haddock that he ever loved.

Later, in Tintin in Tibet, Tintin goes to Tibet to save Tchang, over the objections of a jealous Haddock.

In high school I also read Seven Years in Tibet (1952), by Heinrich Harrer.  A German soldier during World War II escapes into Tibet.  Eventually he becomes the tutor to the young Dalai Lama.  They become friends, and stay together for many years, until the Communist invasion and escape into India.

I found it a powerful evocation of same-sex love.

In the 1997 movie version, Brad Pitt plays Heinrich Harrer.

Or maybe it was just the image of the Potala, the 1000-room palace-temple-fortress on a hill overlooking Lhasa.

1000 rooms!  I could hide in there, and no one could ever find me again, and I could escape the constant interrogation of
What girl do you like?
What girl do you like?
What girl?
What girl?
What girl?

Feb 3, 2014

Mr. Peabody and Sherman: Gay Adoption and Preteen Heterosexism

I first encountered most great figures of history, from Leonardo Da Vinci to Alexander Graham Bell, on the Mr. Peabody's Improbable History segment of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle show (1959-64, rerun on Sunday  morning through the 1960s).

Mr. Peabody is a super-genius dog (voiced by Bill Scott) who adopts a michievous, not-too-bright human boy, Sherman (voiced by Walter Tetley).  In each episode, they travel back in time to an important historical event, only to find that something has gone wrong:

Ludwig Van Beethoven is more interested in cooking than in composing symphonies.
Edgar Allen Poe wants to write Winnie the Pooh instead of horror stories
Ponce de Leon's men discovered the Fountain of Youth and turned into babies

  It is up to Peabody and Sherman to devise a crazy scheme that sets the course of history right again, and end the episode with an atrocious pun.

Most of the episodes were about "dead white guys," but 12 featured women, 3 featured non-Westerners (such as Oda Nobunaga, who unified Japan), and 3 featured African-Americans (Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, Little Richard).

The unapologetic geekiness of both Peabody and Sherman appealed to budding chess club members, and like Yogi Bear, the Flintstones, and most other 1960s cartoons, there was a substantial gay context.

1. Mr. Peabody and Sherman occasionally assist in heterosexual intrigues, but they never express any heterosexual interest of their own.
2. Mr. Peabody is the only talking dog in the world, a "queer" anomaly.  And he has adopted a son, creating an alternate family structure.
3. Sherman frequently becomes a feminine-coded "damsel in distress."  In the opening credit montage, Peabody is shown driving a chariot, with Sherman beside him, his women's headdress flowing in the wind.

There was a full range of comic books, lunch boxes, and stuffed toys.

Fast forward 50 years, and the 2014 Mr. Peabody and Sherman (premiering in March) gives Sherman a girlfriend, Penny.  In fact, it is Sherman's desire to impress Penny that promots him to use the time-traveling WABAC machine and cause the time paradox that fuels the plot.

Various conservative types, such as Peabody's social worker nemesis, are up in arms at the dog-boy adoption.  The shrieks of "It's unnatural" up the gay symbolism.

But that doesn't make up for the intense preteen heterosexism.

Cruising the Romance Novel Aisle

My brother's wife was a big fan of romance novels, so I occasionally got a glimpse of the covers: a paradise of beefcake.

One day I stopped by the romance aisle at the bookstore.  Incredible!  Cover after cover of muscular torsos bursting out of lumberjack shirts or British redcoat uniforms, bulging biceps, six-pack abs!  Often with real models, like Cristian Letelier. Where do all these vampires, dog breeders, and time-travelers from 18th century France get access to Nautilus machines?

The intended audience consists of heterosexual women.  The protagonist, always female, spends hundreds of pages falling for, kissing, thinking about, breaking up with, and reconciling with a man who has the sculpted physique of a Greek god, but has a dark secret or is afraid to love.  The fun for readers is in seeing the same basic situation played out in new, unusual settings, such as in a small-town travel agency or in the world of competitive dog shows.

Ok, so the plotlines are heterosexist.  But is there any gay content?  Any gay best friends who find romances of their own?

To find out, I read two novels by Linda Howard, a well-recognized master of modern romance (her covers don't have any beefcake, so I'm substituting others).

Dream Man, which  tied for first place on the Romance Reader website’s list of Top 100 Novels, stars Marlie Keen, a sweet-natured clairvoyant who longs to lose her gift and embark upon a “normal” life, that is, find a man. When she starts seeing through the eyes of a serial killer, she must team up with a macho detective named Dane Hollister.

Though the setting is present-day Orlando, Florida, there are no gay characters, and gay people are mentioned only twice. Dane denigrates a house for being painted in “ice cream colors, which only women and gays knew the names of”; and the killer explains that he prefers female victims because he isn’t “queer.”

Open Season stars Daisy Minor, a prim librarian who reaches her 34th birthday and realizes that she still isn’t married, so she tries to attract a man by hanging out in seedy bars on the wrong side of town. She sees too much, and must team up with a macho police chief named Dane. . .um, Jack Russo.  He grudgingly falls in with her.

Daisy has a male best friend, antiques dealer Todd Lawrence, whom she seeks out for hair and makeup tips. She suspects that he is gay, but he turns out to be straight. Macho cop or fey antique dealer, conventional or rebellious, guys are guys, all waiting, without exception, to be redeemed through the love of a woman.

Romance novels account for a fifth of all books sold in the United States.  And they present a world where gay people do not exist.

Feb 2, 2014

The Terminator: A Boy and His Robot

I saw The Terminator (1984) during my horrible year at Hell-fer-Sartain State College in Houston, Texas, the most horrible place in the world.  So the post-apocalyptic horror plotline didn't seem that bad...

The premise: evil computers take over the world and try to destroy all humans.  John Connor rallies the survivors and destroys them.  So they decided to send a cyborg with an Austrian accent (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to 1984 Los Angeles, to kill John's mother, Sarah Connor, so he will never be born.  John counters by sending one of his soldiers, Kyle, back in time to protect her.

The main gay connection is the intense beefcake.  Both the Terminator and Kyle (Michael Biehn, left) appear in the 20th Century naked -- we see muscle, back sides, and even Arnold's swaying penis. There's a lame explanation that time travel requires nudity -- one that I've never heard of in any time travel story I ever read.  Director James Cameron just wanted naked male bodies displayed on the big screen.

 Later Sarah's roommate's boyfriend Matt (bodybuilder Rick Rossovitch, below) has a nude sex scene, and then fights with the Terminator clad only in bikini-brief underwear.  The Terminator gets naked again.  Kyle takes off his shirt.  The beefcake goes on and on.  (There are also a few glimpses of Sarah's breasts, but this movie is definitely geared toward the male body).

With all the beefcake, it is rather shocking to find an utter lack of same-sex romance, friendship, or cordiality, just seething, posturing, and shooting. But Sarah is surrounded by men who love her:
1. Her roommate's boyfriend Matt
2. When she seeks refuge at the police station after discovering that someone is killing all the Sarah Connors in town, a mother-hen cop (played by gay-in-real-life Paul Winfield).
3. Kyle, who falls in love with her.

This is heterosexism writ large.  The only hint of gay subtext comes when Kyle describes John Connor in the future: he's big, bold, and handsome; "he has your eyes"; "I would die for him."  Sounds like Kyle has a little crush on John.

But then we discover that his sexual dalliance with Sarah has resulted in a pregnancy; he's the biological father of his future commander.  The warmth he describes is paternal, not romantic.

The sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), contains less nudity, but a lot more gay subtexts.  In the first scenes, the 12-year old John Connor (Edward Furlong) goes around with a boyfriend (Danny Cooksey), and then he gets a blatant crush on the new, good Terminator (Arnold); he literally can't keep his hands off the hunky cyborg.  Sarah goes out of her way to explain this, too, as paternal, not romantic.

I'm not buying it.  The boy all but rips the Terminator's clothes off.

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