Aug 9, 2014

Aladdin: the Musical is More Homoerotic than the Movie

Aladdin, the Chinese boy who finds a magic lamp, does not appear in the original Arabic stories of The Thousand and One Nights.  He was apparently invented for the French translation (1704-1717), which added the same heteronormative plotline as fairytales of the era: Aladdin wins the hand of a princess.

Modern adaptions of the story tend to emphasize the heterosexist angle, centering the plot on a rich girl-poor boy romance.

The worst offender is Disney's Aladdin (1992), which crams hetero-romance down your throat, and tops it off by giving the Genie (Robin Williams) a few homophobic gay-stereotype characters to riff on.

But at least it has inspired a lot of live-action Aladdins with pecs popping out of their sleveless vests.  They wander around in Disneyland and Disney World; they appear in pantomimines and on Broadway (such as Adam Jacobs, left), and in high schools, community colleges, and little theaters all over the world (such as Dom Domenich, top photo).

There's even a children's version, with Aladdin, singing and dancing with funny animals.

But the 2011 musical version of Aladdin has something that the movie never did: friends.

When the Genie is played by a human-sized person, his bond with Aladdin has more homoerotic potential:

Our bond will last like Mutt and Boomer's
OMG the guys are BFFs!
Say ain't it great to know that somebody's got your back!

Plus Aladdin has a gang of buddies who appear at various points in the plot:

Good pals, blood brothers,
Me and three others
Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim

They don't form the pairs necessary for a gay subtext, but they at least form a masculine counterpoint to the excessive girl-craziness that mars this fairy tale.

And they're just as shirtless as Aladdin himself (left: Andrew Keenan-Bolger, the first Omar).

Aug 8, 2014

Sumo Wrestling for the 21st Century: Bodybuilders and Gay Contexts

Sumo wrestling gets a bad rap in the West.  It's stereotyped as a ridiculous sport involving exceptionally fat men.

Originally the wrestlers were fat.  They had to be, in the era before scientific strength training, to physically push their opponents out of the circle representing the human world.

It was not only a sport, it was a Shinto ritual that symbolized humanity's triumph over an invasion of evil spirits.

Some purists still insist on heft, but nowadays muscles will do just as well.

Check out Jovann Rushing, who won a gold medal at the USA Sumo Open in 2010, and is also a competitive bodybuilder.

 There are over 600 professional sumo wrestlers in Japan, divided into six divisions, with the top, the yokozuna, becoming superstars.

There are 6 Grand Sumo Tournaments every year, plus dozens of smaller tournaments, exhibitions, and competitions.

You don't have to be Japanese.  The Sumo Academy has admitted members from all over the world, though China, Mongolia, and Korea dominate.  Osunaarashi (left) is from Egypt.

The sport has also become popular elsewhere.  In the United States, sumo wrestling is offered as a sport in dozens of high schools and colleges.  There are exhibitions in Japanese festivals, sports festivals, and even film festivals, as well as the U.S Sumo Open, held every year since 2001.

In 2014, it will be held on September 20th in the Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach.

Other than the fun of seeing muscular men pulling their opponent's miwashi (ceremonial belt) so tight that the buttocks and bulge are visible, is there a gay connection to sumo?

Maybe -- lower-level sumotori live in dormitories during their training regiment, and spend a lot of time hugging each other. Sounds like it's tailor-made for homoerotic hijinks.

Mark Munford: Fight Club with Buddy Bonding

Mark Munford has been in five movies.  Two involve him taking his shirt off, getting into fights, and bonding with other boys.

1. He plays one of a trio of bullying brothers in Ironsides (2009), who gets his comeuppance when he decides to start terrorizing the sons of a boxer.  One of whom is gay-vague.

2. You Have the Right to Remain Violent (2010) is like Fight Club for kids, except they are forced into fighting to entertain the sadistic adults of their small town.  Mark plays Zack, a juvenile delinquent who moves to town hoping for a fresh start, but instead finds more violence.  And buddy-bonding.

My Hometown (2011) is a comedy about a long-in-the-tooth permanent high schooler (Ryan Merriman) who is offered a chance to graduate if he makes a movie about his small town. He accepts, and with two buds (Mark, Casey Margolis) sets out to get girls and expose the town's foibles.  But then he runs across a bomb plot.  Haven't seen it, but it looks like a standard horny-teenager movie.

In My Mind (2014), which hasn't yet been released, appears to be about three children who are terrorized by a psycho-slasher, then grow up and find that he's taking over their minds.  Or something like that.  The trailer looks promising.

By the way, most of these movies come from Jo-Mar Productions.  He's the Mar, so a producer as well as an actor.

But is he gay?

The only personal information on his facebook page is: Chicken Parmesan rules the world.

On twitter, he follows the Boston Celtics, Justin Bieber, and about 300 women.

I'm going to guess: heterosexual.

Aug 5, 2014

Night Court

In West Hollywood, tv was suspect, heterosexist propaganda beamed in from outside.  We didn't watch much; in 1987-1988, maybe Married..with Children, Kate & Allie, Throb, and on Friday nights, if we didn't have plans, Night Court (1984-1992),  an ensemble workplace sitcom set in a Night Court (where minor criminal cases are tried immediately after arrest).

 It was the lowest of the low in the court system, staffed by people who were too weird or incompetent to get better assignments, which led to some strange-bedfellows type of buddy-bonding.

1. Young prankster judge, Harry Stone (former magician Harry Anderson).

2. Stick-in-the-mud prosecuting attorney Dan Fielding (John Larroquette), a sexist horndog who made innapropriate comments to every woman in the court.  He was also the villain, when one was needed.

3. Idealistic, naive defense attorney Christine Sullivan (Markie Post), who became Harry's love interest but eventually married undercover cop Tony (Ray Abruzzo).

4. Gender-atypical court reporter Mac Robinson (Charles Robinson, left), who was married to naive Vietnamese immigrant Quon Le (Denice Kumagai).

5. Head bailiff Bull Shannon (Richard Moll, top photo), a hulking man-child.

6. The no-nonsense second bailiff, played by Selma Diamond, Florence Halop, and Marsha Warfield.

Half the fun was the crazy line-up of defendants: rock stars, mental patients, prostitutes, defecting Soviets, a Polynesian princess, cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, and on one Halloween, the Spirit of Death.

There were many appearances by famous guest stars like Lou Ferrigno, John Astin (as Harry's crazy father), Brent Spiner (Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation), Russian-immigrant comedian Yakov Smirnoff, and crooner Mel Torme.

LGBT people appeared twice:  in a standard "my old buddy had a sex change" episode; and in a "gay panic" episode, with homophobic Dan traumatized by being trapped in an elevator with a gay man (Jack Riley), who thinks he's gay, too!

About what you'd expect in the 1980s.

See also: Head of the Class; Growing Pains.

Aug 4, 2014

King Tut's Tomb Was Discovered by Two Gay Men

Everybody has heard about Howard Carter (1874-1939), the Egyptologist who was excavating in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt in 1922, when he discovered a tomb that had somehow escaped three thousand years of grave robbers.  It belonged to Tuntakhamun or King Tut, who died in 1321 BC, at age 18 (you can see a reconstructed head and torso, nipples and all, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London).

He became a celebrity during the 20th century, portrayed in popular culture by everyone from Victor Buono (on Batman) to Steve Martin (on Saturday Night Live), with Howard Carter himself almost forgotten.

But Carter didn't just stumble onto a tomb.  He was a competent Egyptologist with four gay connections.

 1. He never married.

That was not, in itself, unusual during the early years of the 20th century.  Medical science of the era taught that sexual activity was extremely hazardous, sometimes fatal, and should be avoided whenever possible, so many men avoided it altogether.

2. He studied Arabic so he could communicate more readily with Arab men.

3. When he realized that he had discovered something big, he wired George Herbert, Earl of Carnavon (1866-1923), who bankrolled the expedition, to share in the opening of the tomb with him.

Herbert was an avid Egyptologist (he died of an infected mosquito bite during an expedition).

And wealthy (his home is now used to film Downton Abbey). 
And gay.  He was married, but his wife, Almina, learned to tolerate his affairs, expecially in the field.

4. Rumor has it that Carter and Herbert were lovers.  It's impossible to know for sure after 100 years, but both seemed to prefer Arab men, keying into the fetishization of the Orient common in the era.  So maybe not.

See also: Ancient Egyptian Beefcake.

Aug 3, 2014

Breaker, Breaker: Truckers. Kung Fu, and Men Who Hug

When I was in high school, there were two major fads going on.

1. Martial arts.  Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon (1973), the song "Kung Fu Fighting" (1974), the tv series Kung Fu (1972-75).

2. Truckers.  The song "Convoy" (1976), CB radios, trucker lingo ("10-4, good buddy."), Smoky and the Bandits (1977), The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-85, although they actually drove a race car).

Inevitably they were combined in Breaker, Breaker (1977), starring 37-year old martial artist Chuck Norris, who played Bruce Lee's opponent in Way of the Dragon (1972), and would go on to a successful career as a man-mountain.

He plays J.D. Dawes, a trucker/martial arts expert who lets his younger brother Billy (Michael Augenstein) take over one of his loads.  J.D. warns Billy to stay away from Texas City, where a speed trap allows the police to haul truckers to a corrupt trucker-hating judge.  But the Billy is fooled by a CB radio broadcast from a evil police officer pretending to be a trucker in trouble.  He goes to Texas City and vanishes.

J.D. goes off in search of his brother, meets The Girl, gets into fights, and is thrown in jail.  He reunites with Billy, who has been brutalized and probably raped by the evil cops.  Both are sentenced to die (for speeding and fighting, respectively).

But fortunately, The Girl gets on her CB radio and notifies the other truckers, who rush to the rescue and tear the town apart.  That's Trucker Justice.

I loved this movie when I first saw it, during my junior year in high school.  I don't anymore.  It's very, very bad.  But it has lots of gay subtexts.

1. The object of the man-mountain's rescue is a man, not a woman.
2. J.D. and Billy have an effusively physical relationship.
3. Billy doesn't express any interest in women.
4. There are lots of shirtless scenes.

But don't tell Chuck Norris: today he's a vocal homophobe and all-around right-wing nutjob.

I haven't been able to find out much about Michael Augenstein, who was apparently cast because he looked like a younger, prettier version of Chuck Norris -- his only other movie role is a walk-on in Macbeth (1981).  

On stage, he starred in A Christmas Carol, Hairspray, and The Weir in Colorado Springs.

According to his Facebook page, he likes Bill Maher, Ram Dass, Democrats, and Move, and Chuck Norris is not on his "friend" list.  I'm going to guess a gay ally.

See also: Sidekicks: Gay Kid Meets His Crush.

Sidekicks: Gay Kid Meets His Crush

One day in the early 1990s, Jim McIngvale, "Mattress Mack," flamboyant owner of the Gallery Furniture chain in Houston, was talking to his BFF, man-mountain Chuck Norris, who sometimes appeared on his late-night commercials and helped him deliver his catch phrase "save you money!"

"Chuckie," Mattress Mack said, "We need to do something about the problem of bullying of LGBT youth in Texas. How about a movie about a bullied gay kid who learns karate?"

"Karate Kid?  It already came out.  And there's a fad of ninja kids right now..."

"Yes, but this one will be different.  The kid will be more obviously gay.  In fact, he's gonna have a crush on you, with homoerotic fantasies and everything."

"Sounds great!  Whatever I can do to help the gay community!  Let's get my brother Aaron to direct, hire some gay and gay-friendly actors, and get to work!"

Actually, this probably wasn't the conversation that got the two ultra-conservative, flamboyantly homophobic Texas good old boys to work on Sidekicks (1992), but it was the end result.

It stars gay actor Jonathan Brandis as Barry, a flamboyantly feminine Houston teenager who can't play sports due to his asthma, and consequently is bullied by nearly everybody, including classmates (John Buchanan) and his gym teacher (gay ally Richard Moll of Night Court).

He has some allies, but no girlfriend -- the requisite hetero-romance comes between his dad (Beau Bridges) and favorite teacher.

Instead of pursuing hetero-romances, Barry fantasizes about martial arts star Chuck Norris.

He decides to study martial arts, like his crush, but the owner of the local karate school (Joe Piscopo) turns out to be a sissy-hating bully.

So the Asian stereotype Mr., I mean Mr. Lee (Mako) agrees to train him.

Soon Barry is so good that he trounces the bullies, incidentally cures his asthma, and beats out the rival team at a karate tournament by chopping a pile of flaming bricks in half.

 But that's not all -- Chuck Norris appears in person, a guest at the tournament, and they share a tender moment on a park bench.

Talk about a happy ending!

Of course, the gay subtext was purely unintentional.  For some reason homophobic nutjobs are really good at them.

See also: Jonathan Brandis; Ninja Kids of the 1990s; Breaker, Breaker
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