Mar 12, 2015

The Gay Boy of "Soup to Nutz"

Soup to Nutz (2000-) is a newspaper comic strip about a working-class Roman Catholic family, with a truculent, clueless Dad, a faux-cheery Mom, dopey older son Royboy, and self-possessed daughter Babs.  It is ostensibly sent in the contemporary era, but often references the 1970s, with macaroni casseroles, G.I. Joes, and confusing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" with "Tony Danza."

The central character is 6-year old Andrew, a smart, sensitive, boy with gender-atypical interests that constantly startle or offend everyone around him. He lip-synchs to Whitney Houston and the Village People, plays with Barbie dolls, studies ballet (in a tutu).

Referencing gay-favorite The Wizard of Oz, he asks why Dorothy would ever want to leave Oz and return to the oppression of Kansas.

He decides to befriend Peter Pan even though Royboy warns that Peter Pan is a “fairy,” homophobic slang for “gay.

Sometimes Royboy just comes right out and calls him a "fairy."

Other strips suggest that Andrew has same-sex interests as well.  He gets crushes on Justin Bieber and the Brawny  Paper Towel Man.  He gazes in open-mouthed awe at the physique of a muscular superhero.

 He is usually unfazed by the bemusement or contempt of his family and friends.  When Royboy complains,  “You’re not normal.”  Andrew responds: “Why be normal when you can be happy?”
In an interview, cartoonist Rick Stromoski agrees that Andrew might be gay, but refuses positive identification, stating that Andrew is six years old and doesn’t know yet.  Besides, he is popular among both gay and straight men who felt like outsiders because they played with dolls and didn’t like sports.

Mar 10, 2015

The First Gay Couple on Children's TV

Children's cartoons are a vast wasteland, not only erasing gay people from the world, but erasing any hint of family structures other than heterosexual husband-wife-and-kids.  Think of Fairly Oddparents, Doug, Hey Arnold, The Wild Thornberries, As Told by Ginger, The Proud Family, My Gym Partner's a Monkey, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, 

Rugrats had a single Dad whose wife had died.

Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends had a single Mom, husband not mentioned.

Phineas and Ferb belonged to  a blended family, other parents not mentioned.

And that's about it.

Live-action children's tv doesn't fare much better.

Drake and Josh belonged to a blended family, but the other parents were not mentioned.

ICarly had a girl being raised by her older brother, her parents not mentioned and presumed dead.

The Suite Life of Zack and Cody had the twins being raised by a divorced mom.

And that's about it.

So Clarence (2013-) on the Cartoon Network is groundbreaking.

1. The titular character, the chubby, cheerful Clarence, lives with his mother and her live-in boyfriend, Chad, who appears to be a caveman or Sasquatch.

Cohabitating heterosexuals?  That has never been seen on children's tv before, ever!

2. Clarence's best friend, the square-headed Jeff (voiced by Sean Giambrone of The Goldbergs) lives with two Moms!

A lesbian couple?  That has never been seen on children's tv before, ever!

I don't count the single scene on the last episode of Disney's Good Luck, Charlie, in which two Moms appear briefly, discomfort the heterosexuals, and then vanish.

Jeff's parents are a butch-femme lesbian couple.  E.J., who wears masculine-coded clothing and has a square head, like Jeff has been referenced in two episodes.

She has a major role in "Jeff Wins," in which Boomer prepares for a cooking contest.

Sue, who has red hair and feminine-coded clothing, appears only in "Jeff Wins."

Clarence is not the least surprised to discover that Jeff has two Moms.  That bridge was passed long ago.

E.J. is voiced by Lea DeLaria (left), a well-known lesbian comedian with screen roles including  Friends, The Drew Carey Show, More Tales of the City, Will & Grace, Californication, and Orange is the New Black.

Sue is voiced by Tig Notaro, a lesbian stand-up comic who is writing a memoir about her childhood in Mississippi, her comedy career, and her battle with cancer.

Jeff's Moms have not been referenced in the second season; perhaps they will vanish into oblivion.

But it's a start.

See also: The First Gay Kiss on Children's TV

Mar 8, 2015

The Collegians: Muscle and Gay Symbolism of the Silent Movie Era

The Silent Movie Blog has an interesting post on The Collegians, a series of silent movie shorts (1926-1929) directed by Wesley Ruggles, about buddy-competitors at Calford College, Ed Benson (George Lewis) and Don Trent (Eddie Philips).  They spend their time playing sports, stripping down in the shower, and finding excuses to grab and fondle each other, while generally ignoring girls.

In Flashing Oars (1927), for instance, Don Trent goes out drinking on the night before the big rowing race with rival Velmar College.  In order to sober him up, Ed and his friends grab him, strip him out of his clothes, and throw him in the shower.

Meanwhile, Doc (Churchill Ross), a nerdish bookworm, explains why he goes to all the games, even though he hates sports, and hangs out in the locker room afterwards.

Supple vertebrae, right.

The Relay (1926) is about a boys-vs-girls swimming match, with the boys ripping each others' clothes off and wrestling in a swimming pool.  Oh, and the girls swim too.

There is occasionally a hetero-romance, or a scene of boys mooning over girls at the Hula-Hula Hut, but merely as film conventions, secondary to the plots that require the boys to get as naked as possible, as often as possible.

About a third of the 44 films survive.  The Relay is available on Amazon.

See also: The Four Devils: Lost Beefcake of the Silent Era; and Buster Keaton

Aubrey Beardsley: Closeting the Phallic Artist

When I was in college, gay people were never, ever mentioned in class.  Professors refused to assign the works of gay authors, artists, and musicians, or if that was impossible, tried their best to pretend that they were heterosexual.

So when they discussed Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), the artist of the Aesthete and Decadent Movement, they emphasized his illustrations of naked women and heterosexual couples, and ignored the gigantic penises (so gigantic that I'm embarrassed to show them here).

They emphasized his illustrations of Le Morte d'Arthur and Oscar Wilde's Salome, and his covers of The Yellow Book.  They skipped over the intensely homoerotic symbolism in his illustrations for Lysistrata and Venus and Tannhauser.

And they certainly ignored his friendships with Oscar Wilde, Max Beerbohm, and all of the gay writers and artists of the Yellow 90s.

What was left was a hetero-horny young man with an inexplicable interest in phallic imagery.

In 1897, Beardsley converted to Catholicism, like many of the Aesthetes in the years after Oscar Wilde's trial, and asked his publisher to destroy his "obscene drawings."  He died of tuberculosis a year later, at the age of 25.
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