Mar 21, 2015

Ryan Pinkston and Sterling Knight: BFFs or Power Couple?

No relation to Rob Pinkston of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Ryan Pinkston got his start in martial arts: he received his black belt in Wushu Kung Fu at age nine and has won championships in karate, kung fu, and tae kwan do.

An interview on the Jenny Jones talk show landed him an agent, and within a month he had roles in Spy Kids: 3D (2003) with Bobby Edner, and Bad Santa (2003), and he was helping Austin Kutcher play celebrity pranks on Punked.

But there was a problem.  Although handsome and muscular, Ryan was somewhat too short to play heartthrobs, and he had already been typecast as an aggressive wise guy, basically a jerk.  So that's the sort of role he received:

In 2004, the 16-year old got his own tv series, Quintuplets, about teenage quintuplets with conflicting personalities.  His Patton was pushy and aggressive; brother Parker (Jake McDorman, left) was the athlete

Next came the boorish Felch in Revenge of the Nerds (2006), chronic liar Sam Leonard in Full of It (2007), and Fletcher in the execrably homophobic College (2008), with Drake Bell

(which paradoxically offered an extensive homoerotic subtext).
His guest spots on the teencoms Out of Jimmy's Head and Hannah Montana were a little better, jerks with a soft, sensitive side.

But then he hit the bottom of the barrel: teen sex comedies. Foreign Exchange (2008), Extreme Movie (2008) with Frankie MunizAdventures in Online Dating (2009).

At least he had no problem with shirtless, shower, swimsuit, and semi-nude shots, including rear nudity.  And with rolling around with other guys naked.  Teens could sigh over the homoerotic subtexts even if they didn't like his characters.

But then, in 2010, something remarkable happened: a complete turnaround.  Ryan's characters changed from jerks to nice guys, and coincidentally some buddy-bonding was added to the girl-crazy schtick.

Boy Band (2010): in 1982, his Greg buddy-bonds with Brad (Michael Copon) to form the first boy band in history.

Tower Prep (2010), about a school for kids with paranormal powers: his Gabe has a crush on Ian Archer (Drew Van Acker).

Cougars, Inc. (2011): his Jimmy and best friend Sam (Kyle Gallner, left, with his foot pressing against Ryan's penis) start an escort service pairing older women with teenagers.

Since Ryan is living with a man, fellow actor Sterling Knight, he's been the subject of gay speculation.  But he hasn't made any public pro-gay or anti-gay statements.

Mar 20, 2015

December 1979: Fred, Gay Liberation, and "All That Jazz"

December 1979, about a month after my 19th birthday.

 I'm having a very busy Holiday Season.  Back from a semester abroad in Germany, my last date with a girl, the Chinese Restaurant Incident ("Don't call Bruce gay!"), meeting Fred the Ministerial Student.  Then, on the 28th of December, Fred asks me to a movie.  This will be our second date.

All my life, I've been looking for gay subtexts in movies, tv shows, books, comic books, and cartoons.  But after junior high, I had to keep them to myself.  My friends would say "don't be stupid" and point out the movie's profusion of female breasts.

I couldn't even point out the cute guys without getting weird looks.

And I didn't even know that they were gay subtexts until a year and a half ago.

Now, finally, I can both recognize gay subtexts and discuss them afterwards!  I imagine Fred and I sitting at a dark-wood booth in a restaurant pointing out the two male characters with a special closeness, who rescue each other and stay together at fade-out. Or at least grinning over the beefcake.

I've already seen Star Trek and The Black Hole, so our choices are Kramer vs. Kramer (Dustin Hoffman gets a divorce), Going in Style (old guys rob a bank), The Jerk (Steve Martin as a jerk), and All that Jazz (about a theater director).

Fred tells me that the theater director is based on Bob Fosse.  I've never heard of him, but I say "Great, he's one of my favorite actors!"

Besides, it sounds better than those other movies.

It's about a grotesquely ugly old-guy theater director named Joel Gideon (Roy Scheider of Jaws), who chain smokes, uses drugs, and keeps butting heads with his ex-wife, teenage girlfriend, and teenage daughter.  His impossible work schedule runs him into the ground.  He has a heart attack, goes to the hospital, has open heart surgery, dances with his arteries, and flirts with the Angel of Death.  Finally he dies.

Incomprehensible, depressing, and disgusting!  And no gay subtexts -- Joel Gideon is utterly obsessed with women.  Even the Angel of Death is a woman.

A little bit of beefcake -- some hot guys dance together in the "Airotica" number.  But they are drowned out by the proliferation of female breasts.

We leave the Showcase Cinemas in silence and stop in at Happy Joe's Pizza.

We choose a secluded booth so we can talk about gay topics without being overheard.   I'm feeling sick and depressed, not only from the depressing movie but from the lost opportunity.  I wanted to talk about gay subtexts, openly, without fear.

Fred starts.  "Boy, was that movie awful!  That Joel Gideon is a horndog!"

"I know!  All he can think about is girls, girls, cigarettes, and girls!"

"You'd think with all of the gay people working in the theater, there'd be at least some fruity stereotypes in the background somewhere.  Just for the sake of versimilitude!"

"Or a couple of guys who were into each other," I add.

"And what was it with the female body parts?"

"Disgusting!" I exclaim.

And on and on, dissecting each scene for heterosexism and the heterosexual male gaze (though we didn't know either term yet), bemoaning Hollywood brainwashing, how it tells the world over and over that we do not exist, we cannot exist, or if we do, we're monsters and freaks of nature.

I've never been able to discuss our oppression before, either, not openly.   It's almost as much fun as finding gay subtexts.

See also: 10 Reasons Why "Kiss Me, Kate" is a Gay Classic

Mar 15, 2015

More Homophobia on "Friends": This Time It's Serious

March 9, 1995, a Thursday night.  I always watch Seinfeld at 9:00, and then at 9:30 occasionally the Seinfeld knockoff Friends, about a group of younger, less cynical friends negotiating small-town Manhattan.  Mostly because the first ads promoting the show displayed them in their underwear; they haven't been shown in their underwear since, but one can hope.

Tonight's episode is called: "The One Where the  Monkey Got Away."

The pet capuchin monkey of nerdish paleontologist Ross (David Schwimmer) escapes while his crush Rachel (Jennifer Anniston) is babysitting.  The friends all search, but run into a recalcitrant neighbor and the revenge plans of an animal control officer (Megan Cavanaugh) whom Rachel bullied in high school.

At the end of the episode, they all share stories of the horrors of high school life, except for horndog Joey (Matt LeBlanc): for him, high school was "just four years of parties and dating and sex."

Chandler (Matthew Perry) morosely states that he went to a private boys' school: "Any sex I had would have involved a major lifestyle choice."

A major lifestyle choice?  Is he kidding?


This is not the era of the Reagan-Bush conservative retrenchment.  We're in the heart of the relatively gay-positive Clinton years.  Roseanne had been kissed by a lesbian admirer; there was a gay wedding on Northern Exposure.  There are gay partnership laws, anti-discrimination ordinances.  The horrendous "Don't ask, don't tell" policy is being challenged in the Supreme Court.

It's not exactly safe in the straight world beyond gay neighborhoods, but it's safer than it has been in over a decade.

Then Chandler said that?

I knew that Friends was heterosexist, extolling male-female romance as the meaning of life.  I knew that the guys ridicule each other's slightest gender misstep as evidence that they are gay.  But this isn't minor, veiled, "panic-over-touching-a-dude" homophobia.  It's open, brutal, disgusting.

Who is responsible for this outrageous slap in the face of every gay person on Earth?

The episode was written by Jeff Astrof and Mike Sikowitz.

Jeff Astrof (left) wrote eight other episodes of Friends.  More recently he has written and been executive producer of Grounded for Life, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and S*** My Dad Says (yes, there really was such a program), and Partners (about two best buds, one straight, one gay).

Mike Sikowitz (below) co-wrote the episodes, collaborated with Jeff Astrof on most of his projects, and also wrote/produced episodes of The Class (which had a gay character and a gay-stereotyped straight character who shrieks "Oh, my popovers!"), Rules of Engagement, The McCarthys (which has a gay character), and Welcome to the Family.  

He has a film writing credit in 2014: Larry Gaye: Renegade Male Flight Attendant.  I'm not kidding.

Neither of them seem the faces of evil, exactly.  They're just really, really ignorant, believing that gay men were born straight, but at some point made the decision to turn into flitting, wispy creatures who shriek "Oh, my popovers!" Lesbians, conversely, made the decision to turn into butch, short-haired creatures who grunt a lot.

Another question: why didn't someone speak up?  Director Peter Bonerz?  Creator David Crane, or guest star Megan Cavanaugh, who are both gay?

Why didn't anyone insist that the line be changed to something less ridiculously homophobic?

How about "any sex I had would have required the words out of and closet."

How about "any sex I had would have required a whole new 'birds and bees talk'."

How about "any sex I had would have barred me from donating blood for the rest of my life."

30.4 million people watched.  The next week's episode had only 29.4 million, perhaps the result of 1,000,000 gay people and allies turning off Friends forever.

I didn't watch Friends again, except for the nine episodes with Giovanni Ribisi as a guest star.  He was cute, so I figured I could handle the hatred.

See also: The Homophobic Small Town Manhattan of "Friends."
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