Sep 12, 2015

Frankie and Erik in the Middle

The heir of dysfunctional family sitcoms like Roseanne and Married...with Children, Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006) was about the middle boy (Frankie Muniz) in a family of miscreants, who happened to be an academic overachiever.

I've already posted on the rather explicit gay subtexts of Malcolm's older brother Reese (Justin Berfield), and the lesser but still substantial subtexts of his oldest brother, Francis (Christopher Masterson).  But how do the other two boys in the family fare?

Not good.  All of the show's heterosexism seems to distill onto them.

Malcolm spends the series hot for one girl after another, with no close male friends except Stevie (Craig Lamar Traylor), who uses a wheelchair and has a lung problem that allows him to say only a few words at a time.  Not a lot of buddy-bonding there.

When Malcolm joins the photography club, his mother believes that he joined only to meet girls -- that's the reason any boy does anything, isn't it?  "What's her name?" she asks, over and over.  Malcolm insists that there's no girl. . .but, in a plot twist, there really is one!  Boys play sports, join clubs, choose classes and careers, for one of two reasons: to meet girls, or to impress The Girl.  Period.

Not a lot of gay interest in Frankie Muniz' later career, either. The hetero-horny Extreme Movie (2008), with Ryan Pinkston.

Pizza Man (2011), who wins The Girl of His Dreams.

What about the youngest, Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan)?

No better.

When the boys get a hot female babysitter, they try various strategies to win her over, but Dewey has the best: he has a "bad dream."  She promptly invites him into her bed, and he grins with triumph as his brothers watch.

After Malcolm, Erik starred in Mo (2007), about a teen with Marfan Syndrome who "discovers girls."

At least he's rumored to be gay in real life.

See also: The Top 10 Hunks of "Malcolm in the Middle"

Sep 10, 2015

Boy in Darkness: Gay Symbolism and Gothic Horror: The Most Frightening Story Ever Told

When I was an undergraduate at Augustana College, I bought lots of old science fiction novels at the used bookstore.  A surprising number had naked men on the covers.  I picked up The Inner Landscape (1969) for that reason.  But even more surprisingly, it contained the most frightening story ever written, "Boy in Darkness," first published in 1956 by Mervyn Peake (who wrote the fantasy trilogy Gormenghast).

A boy -- identified as Titus, the 77th Earl of Gormenghast -- grows up in a gigantic castle, oppressed by endless rituals, expectations, and obligations.  Everyone tells him that there is no world beyond the castle, no life beyond that which he's being groomed for, but he doesn't believe it.  On his fourteenth birthday, he escapes.

He walks through a nightmare world, an ashen wasteland crowded with translucent shapes and slimy things, until finally he encounters two beings, the Goat and the Hyena -- not animals, exactly, nor yet men.  The husks of men.  They were once lovers -- they call each other "my dear" and "my love," but only in mockery, the affection they once shared bled away long ago through their service to the Lamb.

The Lamb is an ancient, evil being, blind, empty of brain or bone, but beautiful, with long golden curls.  He is dependent on the Goat and the Hyena to provide his victims -- men and boys, who he will first drain dry and then change into monsters. The Boy will be his next victim.

Through a combination of courage, luck,  and sheer innocence, the Boy manages to slay the Lamb and release the Goat and the Hyena.  Then he walks "in kind of a dream" to where the searchers from the Castle can find him.

The gay symbolism was obvious -- the Lamb and his minions who worked to pervert men and boys were nothing more than the "Swishes" of Rocky High, who could destroy you with a whispered word or a touch.   But that wasn't the frightening part -- many, many stories of the Cold War Era -- such as James Purdy's Malcolm, depicted gayness as a brooding malignancy.

The frightening part was the end, when the Boy is found, and taken home to return to his duties and obligations.  There really is nothing out there.  There is no escape.

Mervyn Peake drew the illustrations himself.  For some reason he specialized in male nudes, though I haven't seen anything indicating that he was gay.

Boy in Darkness has been made into a short film (2000) starring Jack Ryder (of the British soap East Enders, top photo), and into a play (2009), starring Gareth Murphy (left).

Sep 8, 2015

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet

When I first moved to L.A. in 1985, I met 40-year old David Cameron, a lawyer involved with historic preservation and gay politics -- and a connection to my earliest childhood.

When he was nine years old, he asked his mother to write a story for him and his best friend, Chuck Fabian, about a "little planet just their size."

The result was The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (1954), one of the first books I read on my own (another was The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree), a fascinating evocation of the world of a gay child whose gayness is known but not yet consciously acknowledged.

David becomes David Topman, "tall and quick, with freckles and sun-bleached brown hair that flopped over his eyebrows."  Chuck became Chuck Masterson (the gay S&M references obviously unintentional), "shorter and squarer with brown skin and dark hair."

Their call to adventure is a newspaper ad for boys to build a space ship.  They build one, and deliver it to an odd little man named Mr. Bass, who lives in an observatory on the outskirts of town. Soon all three are en route to his home planet, Basidium, which orbits the Earth at a distance of 50,000 miles (a lot closer than the Moon), for some clever critiques of modern bureaucracy and a crisis to resolve.

When I was very young, I found in Mushroom Planet "a good place," a precursor to Earthfasts,  The Tripods, or The Lord of the Rings.

1. Everyone insisted on misunderstanding the boys I liked, calling them "buddies" rather than boyfriends.  But in Mushroom Planet, no one mistakes David and Chuck for buddies.  They are most obviously partners, with a bond that is unstated but as strong as any true love. There is no question but that they will be together forever.

2. Everyone insisted on misunderstanding my friendships with girls, calling them "girlfriends" rather than buddies.  But in Mushroom Planet, no girls are gazed at, thought of, or even mentioned, except for the boys' mothers.  The planet Basidium is occupied entirely by little men (later we discover that they reproduce through spores, like mushrooms).

I didn't realize at the time that there were sequels: Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, Mr. Bass's Planetoid, A Mystery for Mr. Bass, Time and Mr. Bass.  The boys grow older, and the plotlines more elaborate and mature.  But through it all, Basidium remains a good place.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...