Oct 21, 2014

The Flash: Gay Characters and Subtexts in a DC Comics Reboot

The Flash is one of the primal characters of the Golden Age of Comics, appearing in 1940 and rebooted several times as DC consolidated universes.  Flashes include Jay Garrick, who gained super-speed after accidentally inhaling "heavy water" in 1938; Barry Allen, who got splashed with chemicals, and named himself after his childhood hero; his nephew Wally West; and his grandson Bart Allen.

The new tv series returns to Barry Allen (Grant Gustin, left), who experienced a Batman-like trauma early in life, when his mother was killed and his father was framed for the murder.

Raised by the kindly Detective West (Jesse L. Martin), he has grown up into a police investigator and paranormal specialist, a moody Fox Mulder.  Then, after being doused with chemicals and hit by lightning, he discovers that he has become a "metahuman" with special powers.

The accident created other metahumans, too, with various powers.  Some are good, some evil.  And there's an Agency with a sinister interest in them.  And Barry's dousing with chemicals wasn't really an accident.  It has something to do with who killed his mother....

Sounds like there's going to be a lot of Batman-X Files - X Men mythology included with the mutant-of-the-week.

Will there be any gay content?

Lots.  Even a couple of gay characters: Barry's boss, Captain Singh (Patrick Sabongui, left), is gay, although this fact hasn't been mentioned yet, and his boyfriend Hartley (Andy Mientus) will become a super-villain, the Pied Piper.

Barry is played by Grant Gustin, who played a gay character on Glee.  

Iris West (Candice Patton) was Barry's girlfriend, then wife, in the comics, but here the two were raised together, so a romance between the adopted brother and sister might not be on the table.

Barry has a buddy bond relationship with Eddie Thawe (Rick Cosnett), a coworker with a dark secret who will eventually become his arch-enemy, Professor Zoom.  They may have a Superman-Lex Luther thing going on.

And there will be ample beefcake.  Many superheroes and villains will be dropping by, including The Arrow (Stephen Amell), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell).

Oct 20, 2014

Harry Houdini and the Gay Ghost

Born in 1874 in Budapest, Harry Houdini was a magician, escape artist, and showman.  And one of the few men of his generation for whom we have beefcake photos.

One of his favorite tricks was the "overboard box escape": he was handcuffed and manacled, then nailed into a box, which was thrown into the ocean.

No doubt seeing his powerful, muscular body nearly nude in chains was half the fun.

Several contemporary movie hunks have replicated the famous pose, including Paul Michael Glaser (in The Great Houdini, 1979) and Johnathan Schaech (in Houdini, 1998).

But Houdini has a gay connection other than his beefcake appeal to both male and female audiences:

1. He married Bess Rahner, in 1894, and remained married to her until his death in 1926 (she died in 1943). They had no children, reputedly because she had a problem that kept her from ovulating.  Some people speculate that she was intersexed.

2. He starred in several silent films produced by his close friend and fellow magician Arnold DeBiere. They were not financial successes, and one of them caused him near-bankrupcy.  He blamed DeBiere,  leading to a loud public "breakup."

3. He developed another close friendship with Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories and an avid spiritualist.  They, also, had very loud, very public "breakup," and the resulting bitterness led Houdini to spend the rest of his life as a spiritualist debunker.

4. He purchased -- or at least was a frequent guest in -- the Laurel Canyon mansion owned by R.J. Walker, a furniture magnate whose son killed his male lover by pushing him off a balcony.  The lover continued to haunt the mansion until it burned down in 1959.

5. He died of peritonitis while performing in Montreal.  He was entertaining some young male fans in his dressing room, when McGill University student J. Gordon Whitehead punched him repeatedly in the stomach.  Eyewitness accounts are contradictory; no one knows why.  Did Houdini invite the blows to prove his toughness?  Or was Whitehead responding in homophobic rage to some gesture or statement?

Oct 19, 2014

Johnathan Schaech: Playing to His Gay Fans

This is one of the iconic images of the 1990s, a bodybuilder with a Superman hairdo oiled up and flexing against an indeterminate background.

It burst onto the scene in 1994, and suddenly appeared on bedroom walls across West Hollywood.  We all thought that the model was gay, or at least aiming his biceps directly at a gay audience.

Wrong on the first count, maybe not on the second.

He was 25-year old Johnathan Schaech, a fitness model who had just broken into acting with a recurring role on the Melrose Place spin-off Melrose Place (1994-95).

During the mid and late 1990s, Schaech's biceps could be seen everywhere.  Everyone in San Francisco assumed that he was gay, even when he starred in the hetero-romance How to Make an American Quilt (1995) and The Doom Generation (1995), Greg Araki's tale of a three-way romance between alienated, homophobic teenagers.

Everyone in New York assumed that he was gay, even when he starred in Welcome to Woop Woop (1997), about a con artist in a colorful town in the Australian outback, and Finding Graceland (1998). A guy who thinks he's Elvis, a girl who thinks she's Marilyn Monroe, and Las Vegas.

Plus the usual tv movies about evil boyfriends who terrorize their exes and poor boys who find love with rich women.

Finally, in 2001, he married Christina Applegate, formerly of Married...with Children, and was interviewed in The Advocate, and we discovered that he was heterosexual.  But an ally who was fully aware of his gay fans, and even played to them.

Schaech continued to work in the 2000s, appearing in a couple of movies every year, but he never managed to quite find his niche.  He was too pretty to play Man-Mountains who take out small countries with their bare hands, too buffed to play New Sensitive Men who learn to cry and care.  His roles became increasingly small, hetero-erotic, and fully-clothed.

They Shoot Divas, Don't They?
Mummy an' the Armadillo
Living Hell
Sex and Lies in Sin City
Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2
Hidden Moon

Plus two kind-of gay roles:
Splendor (1999), about two guys in love with the same girl who decide to share

If You Only Knew (2005), in which a heterosexual guy pretends to be gay so he can share an apartment with the girl he is crushing on.

More recently, Schaech has been starring in tv series like The Client List and Ray Donovan, and become a writer/director/producer.

See also: Harry Houdini and the Gay Ghost.

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