Jun 12, 2015

The Hardy Boys

When I was a kid in the 1960s, I preferred science fiction and jungle adventures, but I didn't mind detectives, if they were Sherlock Holmes and Watson, or the Hardy Boys.  Frank and Joe Hardy, high school aged sons of the famous detective Fenton Hardy, began by butting into their father’s cases in 1927, but soon found trouble enough on their own: they captured smugglers and counterfeiters, thwarted spies, investigated haunted houses that weren’t really haunted after all.

Although they are both in the same year of high school, the Hardys are a year apart in age.  , but their personalities are complementary: the older Frank is reasoned, logical, and serious, while the younger Joe is impetuous, emotional, and something of a jokester.   Since they managed to endure and even prosper while other boys’ book series failed during the 1960s, we may conclude that they provided something hard to find in the movies, tv programs, and comic books of the era.

1. Intensive beefcake.  Frank and Joe share the Herculean physiques and breathtaking good looks of the boys in  British boy annuals and American adventure series, and the covers and interior illustrations (not to mention the 1970s tv series, starring Shaun Cassidy) often show off their physiques.

2. Contemporary boy scientist Tom Swift was girl-crazy, but the Hardys lacked heterosexual interest. Frank has a “favorite among all the girls of his class,” Callie, and Joe has “an attachment” to Iola.   However, Callie and Iola appear in only four of the first ten installments, and never as girlfriends.  No individual boy-girl dates are planned or discussed, no romantic attachment fuels any plot, and the only fade-out embraces occur between siblings.

Callie and Iola dance with the Hardys at parties, invite themselves along on their picnics, and run into them downtown, not so much objects of hetero-romantic desire as emblems of the “ordinary time” that frames the call to adventure.

3. Intensive bonding. In the first six installments, the brothers have particular boy friends, whom they do invite out on dates, to picnics and movies and camping trips.  Frank favors chubby, good-natured Chet, who frets over household chores, befriends girls, and eventually goes to art school.  Joe favors Biff, with “muscles like steel,” who dislikes household chores, dislikes girls, and plays every school sport (he is named after a famous boxer relative).

Later, however, Biff is demoted to a  minor character, and Chet becomes a ubiquitous best friend, confidant, tag-along, and comic relief.  After the mystery is solved and explained, he returns the Hardys to ordinary time by saying something about sitting down to dinner or else “We’ve heard the story.  Now let’s dance!”  He no longer favor either brother.  Instead, the Hardys live for each other.

The Hardys sleuth out clues together, piece together mysteries together, befriend the innocent and excoriate the guilty together, and in ordinary time attend all of the parties and picnics as a pair; one has to read through a great many pages to find a scene where they separate by choice.  They touch wrists and shoulders; they finish each other’s sentences; they express a world with a glance.  At least once per story, one of the brothers is captured, tied up, and threatened with torture or murder, and he is rescued by the other brother.

The two share the intensity, intimacy, and exclusivity of homoromance, and perhaps the permanence, since they never discuss their immanent entry into adulthood, except to vaguely declare that they want to become detectives.  All that separates them from homoromance is the fraternal bond: their passion is the passion of brothers, not of lovers.

Why are Frank and Joe brothers?  By boys’ book convention, they should be strangers who meet for the first time as competitors on a high school gridiron, or else in darkest Africa, when one saves the other from being sacrificed to the Leopard God.

Even the Hardy series must fudge a bit with the back story, alluding vaguely to an “illness” that kept Frank out of school for a year to explain why they are in the same grade.  For that matter, why must they be in the same grade? They are rarely shown in school, so it would make little difference except that to establish that they cannot bear to be apart for even the fifty minutes of an algebra class.  Real brothers sometimes require time alone, or with other friends.  Not the Hardys.
 Men in mass culture are often cast as brothers when the plot requires that they care deeply for each other,  when one will be rescued or have a deathbed scene,  since the fraternal bond allows for an intensity and a intimacy that would otherwise signify romance.

 But the Hardys display none of the easy jocularity, the good-natured ribbing, the posturing and the bullying of real brothers, in mass media or in real life.  They behave precisely as if their bond is romantic rather than fraternal, as if they are in love.

Jun 9, 2015

10 Things They Don't Want You to Know About Turning 40 (or 50, or 60)

I often hear complaints  that "Gay culture is too youth oriented!  Older guys are shunned!"

One of my dissertation respondents said "I hate being gay!  It's ok now, but what about when I'm 50?  I don't want to still be dancing at the Rage!"

Another said, in all seriousness, "There aren't any old gay men.  They all die before they reach 40."

Crazy ideas.  There are, and always have been, lots of gay men in their 40s.  And 50s.  And 60s, And so on.

And they have a big secret that they aren't sharing with the young guys:

Gay life gets better after 40.  And better than that after 50.

If you haven't hit those milestones yet, here are 10 things the older guys don't want you to know:

1. Every twink in town will want to date you. The cute 20-somethings who give major Attitude to their peers will be pushing and shoving to get their phone numbers into your hand.  Prepare to be annoyed by constant texts: "What u doing? Can I come over?"

2. Everyone will want to hear your stories.  Forget about Grandpa Simpson, who bores everyone with his tales of jitterbugging on the Hindenburg.  Everyone will be interested in your stories of the Dark Ages, when gay people were invisible, closeted, assumed not to exist.  And the riotous years of Gay Liberation.  Mention the concept of "sharing" one's roommates and boyfriends, and watch their eyes widen.

3. It won't take a lot of work to have a nice physique.  Many guys over 40 fall victim to lowered metabolism and a sedentary lifestyle, and start to put on the pounds.  Which means that just an hour in the gym every day -- or even every other day -- will make you stand out in the crowd. .

4. You'll have a lot more stuff.  When I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I had $100 in my pocket and everything I owned in the back seat of my 1975 Dodge Dart.  Now I have roomfuls of furniture, 1000 books, 1000 DVDs  and Blurays, 2 computers, about 50 shirts, a retirement account, and more than $100 in the bank..

5. You'll be able to stay home on Saturday night without guilt.  In your 20s and 30s, you have to be going out on a date or out with friends, or inviting someone over, every Friday and Saturday night, no exceptions.  Staying home alone is a sign that you are antisocial, socially inept, or a loser.  Now I can stay home if I want, no explanations, no apologies.

6. You will have a ready-made excuse to get out of anything.  
I can't do the laundry -- I pulled a muscle at the gym.
I can't go to dinner with your parents -- I'm coming down with a cold.
I can't make it to work today -- I ate something that disagreed with me.  
Those excuses didn't work when you were 15, but at 45, no one disputes your body aches or finicky stomach.

7. No one will pressure you to date women.  In your 20s and 30s, it's a constant, from everyone you're not out to, and quite a few that you are: Do you have a girlfriend?  Are you looking?  What about her?  Or her?  Or her?"  In your 40s, the interrogations stop.  If you're not married with children by now, they figure, you never will be.  Peace at last!

8. You will have a toolkit to handle any problems that arise.  Chances are, whatever happens to you -- romantic problem, boss from hell, noisy neighbor -- has happened to you before.  You will know how to handle everyday hassles and even major crises.

9. You will remember a time when things were much, much worse.  Today we tend to measure homophobia by whether or not you will cater a gay wedding. In the 1980s, it was whether or not you wanted gay people sent to concentration camps.

10. You will have a lot to look forward to.  Chances are you'll live to age  80, or longer.  If you came out at age 20, that means that only 1/3rd of your gay life is over by age 40.

You have 2/3rds of it left, in a well-furnished apartment with a decent physique, and an army of Cute Young Things banging at your door.

See also: A Guy with Daddy Issues Tears My Clothes Off; and  10 Easy Steps to Hooking Up with Twinks

William Shatner, Teen Idol

William Shatner will forever be remembered as Captain James T. Kirk, who taught alien babes how to kiss and got his shirt ripped off by alien demigods on the first incarnation of Star Trek (1966-1969).

Or maybe as T.J. Hooker (1982-86), the veteran cop paired with rookie Vince Romano (Adrian Zmed).  But in a 50-plus year career, he's played hundreds of characters, including some beefcake and buddy-bonding roles.

Especially early in his career:

 Billy Budd, the young cabin boy who draws the erotic interest of the captain in a 1955 tv adaption of the Herman Melville novel.

The kind, sensitive, gay-vague Alexei in The Brothers Karamazov (1958), with Yul Brynner as Dmitri.

Peter Gifford in The Explosive Generation (1960), who causes a scandal by teaching sex ed in high school (his students include Lane Kinsolving, Billy Gray of Father Knows Best, and a very young Beau Bridges).

The gay Greek emperor Alexander the Great in a 1968 tv movie (heterosexualized, of course).

In Vanished (1971), a powerful presidential adviser (Arnold Green) vanishes.  The White House tries to cover up the fact that he was gay. Shatner plays a reporter trying to uncover the truth.

Not a lot of gay roles, but he did appear on the drag queen-friendly Madame's Place in 1982, and he played a homophobic lawyer on a 2007 episode of Boston Legal, assigned the case of a judge who is suing a company for not "curing" his "same-sex attraction disorder."

And in his 2010-2011 sitcom $h*! my Dad Says, his Ed has a gay assistant.

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