Jul 25, 2015

Chuck & Buck: The Most Homophobic Movie since Cruising

Some movies you go into expecting homophobia -- any comedy about young adult slackers, anything directed by Ron Howard, anything starring Will Smith. But sometimes the director or actors are gay, or the reviews suggest that the movie is gay-positive, and the homophobia hits you out of nowhere, like a slap in the face.

I heard that The Phone Call (1989), with Michael Sarrazin, was the most homophobic movie of all time, but it has to be Chuck & Buck (2000), just because the homophobia is so unexpected.

Mike White is the son of gay Christian advocate Mel White, author of Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America.  One would not expect him to be homophobic.

Chuck & Buck was actually advertised in gay publications!  Sort of like advertising Birth of a Nation in Ebony.

The premise: Chuck (Chris Weitz) and Buck (Mike White) were gay boyfriends when they were kids.

Years have passed, and Chuck has grown up: he has a a house, a job, and a fiancee. And of course, he's now heterosexual  But Buck hasn't grown up. He's living with his mother, he still likes childish things.  And he's still gay.

When his mother dies, Buck remembers his lost boyfriend, and begins stalking him.  Humorous complications ensue.  Chuck is up for a "bit of fun," one last homoerotic fling, but he finally convinces Buck that he's got to move on.  Being gay is fine for kids, but eventually you have to grow up, get a house, job, and wife, accept your heterosexual destiny.

But it's not merely a matter of acquiescing to the heterosexist mandate.  When you grow up, you literally turn heterosexual.

What about adults who are gay?  Well, they are, in the words of Mike White, "retards."  They've experienced arrested development.  They're terrified of adulthood, with its responsibilities and its ladies, so they get stuck in childhood.

 Freud thought that, too: you're gay because you stopped at the oral stage of psychosexual development, and have yet to experience real, mature, heterosexual desire.

And Mr. Falwell -- um, I mean Mr. White -- expected gay people to eagerly accept this theory?  Did he think he was writing for Will and Grace?

This is easily the most homophobic movie made in the U.S. since Cruising (1980).  I would say "the world," but Poland's Floating Skyscrapers is a little worse.

Two years later, Mike White wrote the script for Orange County (2002), which has two gay characters ( played by Kyle Howard and RJ Knoll), but they actually are adolescents, so I can't tell if they have "arrested development" or not.

And director Miguel Arteta?  The New Normal (2012).

By the way, the top photo is of Eric Nies, who has no connection to this movie, and has probably never even seen it.

He'll Eat Most Anything: Gay Symbolism in Hot Dog Ads of the 1960s

When I was a kid in the 1960s, we couldn't ignore the resemblance between the hot dog and the penis.  We used the word "wiener" for both. Consumption of the hot dog became a metaphor for sex, with the implication that whoever liked eating hot dogs also liked sex with men.

At summer camp the boys all made fun of anyone foolish enough to sing:

I love the Wiener Man, he owns the Wiener Stand
He'll eat most everything from hot dogs on down
Someday I'll join his life, I'll be his wiener wife.
Hot Dog! I love the Wiener Man!

Especially boys who aspired to become a "wiener wife."

A series of 1960s commercials involved hot-dog fans bullying a holdout into singing this song, providing us with more hilarity:

Oh, I'd love to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener, that is what I truly want to be
Cause if i were an Oscar Mayer Wiener, everyone would be in love with me.

Bragging that the hot dogs were "all beef" helped clarify what was meant.

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, a 27-foot long car shaped like a hot dog, was especially phallic.  A fleet of them toured the country.  One appeared in Rock Island at the Pow Wow every year (where I saw the Naked Indian God), sometimes at the Celtic Festival, and once at Denkmann Elementary School.

The driver, Little Oscar, distributed hot dogs, hot dog-shaped whistles, or toy wienermobiles.

I liked the toy wienermobile the best.  Even more phallic, if that's possible. Imagine that the base is an unzipped pair of brown pants.

There are currently 8 Wienermobiles on tour.  The 12 drivers (8 women, 4 men) are selected from college students for year-long gigs.

They all have whimsical names, but I'd like to know more about Sizzlin' Steve (aka Mike Tierney) of the University of Missouri, a journalism major, and Stevie Bunder (aka Steve Johnson, left) of St. John's University in Minnesota, where he majored in environmental science and was on the lacrosse team.

See also Gay Symbolism in Hamburger Ads; and "Have You Had a Squirt Today?"

Jul 21, 2015

Gay Characters on Children's TV: Steven Universe

For fifty years children's tv has been a heteronormative wasteland, where same-sex desire exists, at best, in code and innuendo.  But during the last two years, two programs on the Cartoon Network have introduced recurring same-sex couples.

Steven Universe (2013-) is about three extraterrestrial gem-creatures -- Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl -- who live on the East Coast of the U.S. and fight evil, particularly the corrupt gems from their homeworld who want to destroy all humans.

Steven (voiced by Zach Callison, left) is the son of a fourth gem-creature, Rose, and her human partner, Greg Universe (a traveling musician who lives in a van).

He has inherited his mother's super-powers, so he assists the others, meanwhile engaging in ordinary kid adventures:

Steven gets upset when his favorite brand of ice  cream sandwich is taken off the market.
He helps place a Moon Goddess statue atop the ruined Lunar Sea Spire
He is banned from his favorite restaurant.
He fights two corrupt gems who want to destroy the world.
He watches scary movies (after the last episode, one wonders what scares him).

The gems, including Steven, can fuse to produce new beings with their own distinct personalities.  Steven fuses with his girlfriend Connie to produce Stevonnie, a tall, long-haired, androgynous being who is intensely attractive to boys and girls alike.

It turns out that Garnet is actually a fusion of Ruby and Sapphire, two smaller gems who fell in love and fused together so they would never be separated.  They sometimes talk to each other beneath Garnet's personality.

When they appear separately, Sapphire is a passive, pretty blue woman with long blue hair, wearing a long dress, and Ruby is a more aggressive, macho red woman with short hair, wearing a maroon tank top.

Did I mention that they're both female?  And their romance has been the focus of one episode, and referenced in three others?

Not exactly regular characters, but it's a start.

Now let's see some gay men.

See also: The First Gay Couple in Children's TV

Jul 20, 2015

Popeye: The First Gay Superhero

During the 1960s, Captain Ernie's Cartoon Showboat often showed Popeye cartoons.  They were awful, nothing but heterosexist morality plays.  In every single one of them, the absurdly macho sailor Popeye and Bluto vied for affections of sexist stereotype Olive Oyl, they fought, and Bluto was pulverized (even though he had a far superior physique).

Then in 1979, I stumbled upon a book called Popeye: His First Fifty Years, which talked about Castor Oyl, Ham Gravy, King Blozo, Tor, and Oscar.  Who were these people?

I discovered that the cartoons were the latest incarnations of  E.C. Segar's "Thimble Theater" comic strip, which began in 1919, starring get-rich-quick schemer Castor Oyl and his wise-cracking sister Olive.  In a 1929 continuity, Castor hired gruff one-eyed sailor Popeye for a sea voyage.  He became so popular that Segar added him to the cast, honed down his rough edges, and eventually made him the star of the strip.  It continues to run in some newspapers today.

There have been Popeye comic books almost continuously since 1948, published by Dell, Gold Key, Charlton, Harvey, and IDW.

There's a lot of gay content in the comic strip and comic book Popeye:

1.  He's sweet on Olive Oyl, but his main emotional bond is with Castor.  They run a detective agency together, rescue each other from danger, argue, break up, and reconcile.

2. Popeye has no interest in women other than Olive, but he develops several gay-subtext male friendships, notably with King Blozo.

Similarly, he becomes the object of desire of several men.  Reformed villain Tor keeps trying to kiss Popeye and saying that he loves him.

In fact, male friendships drive far more plots than quests for heterosexual romance.

3. The comic strips and comic books mostly occur in male homosocial spaces -- ships, boxing rings, detective agencies.  But Olive constantly disrupts those spaces.  The other characters keep telling her to "wait here" or "stay home where it's safe," but she is a full participant in every adventure.  And when there's trouble, she proves herself a competent fighter, as good or better than Popeye himself.

4. Popeye has no qualms about gender transgressions. He frequently dresses in women's clothing to accomplish some plot point.  When he becomes the ward of the infant Swee'Pea, he joins a women-only parenting class.

All that changed in the heterosexist "every man's fantasy" world of the cartoons.

See also: My review of the 1980 Popeye movie.
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