Dec 31, 2016

Speechless

We need more disabled actors playing disabled people on tv, but it's hard for non-disabled writers and directors to make the characters authentic, .

Speechless (2016-) seems to be doing it right.

It's a nuclear family sitcom with Mom, Dad, and three kids, one of whom, the teenage JJ (Micah Fowler), is confined to a wheelchair and "speechless" due to cerebral palsy.  He uses a communication board to spell out words and phrases.








18-year old Micah Fowler has cerebral palsy but can speak.  He notes that it's difficult to adapt to a non-speaking role.  There's a lot of eye-rolling and grimacing involved. .

















The rest of the family is filled in by a nebbish dad (John Ross Bowie, the bully Kripke on Big Bang Theory), a fiercely protective Mom (Minnie Driver), the conniving little brother Ray (Mason Cook), and a sarcastic sister, whose name I didn't catch (Kyla Kenedy).








Plus Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough), JJ's assistant.

The A plot of each episode involves JJ's push for independence (he plays hockey, joins the choir, gets drunk at a party), with Ray's conniving in the B.



Speechless is smartly written, with few moments of gag-inducing smarm.  My only complaint is that heterosexism reigns supreme.  Plotlines involve what boy is interested in what girl.  No gay people exist, unless Kenneth happens to be gay (he hasn't mentioned any romantic interests of any sort).

No beefcake, either.  Although Cedric Yarbrough has a nice physique, it's under wraps.













There are occasionally cute guys in guest roles, like Joseph John Schirle as Ben (one episode).



















The only gay connection I could find was Emerson Collins, who plays teacher Mr. Powell.  He played half of a gay couple with Jonathan Slavin (left) in The Boomerang Effect.






Dec 29, 2016

Bedtime Story Boyfriends: The Wind in the Willows

One of the favorite books of my childhood, The Wind in the Willows, was about two animal boyfriends in Edwardian England.  In the first chapter, the Water Rat is single, "messing around in boats" on the banks of a wide river (played by Lee Ingleby, in the 2006 Canadian movie).











But then he meets the timid Water Rat (gay actor Mark Gatiss), and invites him to move in. With no fanfare, they become a couple.

There are a few challenges to their relationship: Mole misses his old life underground, and Rat longs to explore the world beyond the River -- but the crises are quickly resolved, and the two men always return to the life they have built together, their romantic bond blatantly, painfully obvious.







The rest of the book involves the problems of their friends. The pompous Toad (gay actor Mark Lucas) steals a motor-car.

The reclusive Badger (Bob Hoskins) must defend his home from an invasion by juvenile-delinquent weasels (led by Radu Micu).

I knew that the gay subtext was strong and noble, but I figured it was accidental until, in graduate school at the University of Southern California (1985-1989), I read up on the life of Kenneth Grahame.  I even tried to include him in my doctoral dissertation.

Born in 1859, his parents forced him to become a banker; but he looked from afar at the glittering homoeroticism of the aesthetic and decadent movement.  He read Arnold Bennett, Max Beerbohm, and Karl Huysmans. He contributed to The Yellow Book.  He corresponded with Oscar Wilde.

In an 1895 story, "The Roman Road," a mysterious young man tells Kenneth about a distant, perhaps mythical city, where the only inhabitants are "friends."  No husbands and wives, no boyfriends and girlfriends, just "the princes in fairy tales who don't get the princess."  Kenneth eagerly makes plans to go to the "City of Friends," but then the young man vanishes, and no one else whom he asks has ever heard of it.

But Oscar Wilde's conviction for sodomy in 1895 scared Kenneth, and he distanced himself from the movement, and sublimated his same-sex desire.  He married in 1899, and had a son, Alastair, who heard bedtime stories about a Mole and a Water Rat who loved each other. They were published as  The Wind in the Willows in 1908.

See also: Saki (H.H. Monro).

Dec 25, 2016

Gay Surfers Down Under: Xavier Samuel


Speaking of the Twilight saga, Xavier Samuel, who plays muscular college-age vampire Riley Biers, has starred in many gay-positive movies and tv series back home in Australia.


2:37 (2006), a high school angst ensemble, with a gay dopehead facing homophobia (and getting a boyfriend).





Newcastle (2008), about surfing brothers Jesse (Lachlan Buchanan) and Fergus (Xavier).  Fergus has a boyfriend, Andy (Kirk Jenkins).  They frolick naked in the surf.

.






Best friend to a gay guy (Miles Szanto) in Drowning (2009).

And even when there's no explicit gay content, there's plenty of homoromantic buddy-bonding.  And nudity













September (2007), about two teenagers, the white Ed (Xavier, left) and the black Paddy (Clarence John Ryan, right), trying to hold their friendship together during the turbulent 1960s.

A Few Best Men (2011), about a bridegroom (Xavier) who can't choose one best man from among his three mates.






Two Mothers (2013), about two women who fall in love with each other's sons (Xavier, Ben Mendehlson), who happen to be best friends.  Haven't seen it, but apparently there's some beach frolicking.

Dec 24, 2016

The Surprising Gay Origin of Pogo's "Deck Us All"

Every Christmas from 1949 to 1975, and then again in the 1980s and 1990s, the comic strip Pogo had the hayseed denizens of Okefenokee Swamp singing a mangled version of "Deck the Halls":

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., and Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower Alleygaroo!

Don't we know archaic barrel,
 Lullaby, Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou.
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola Boola Pensacoola Hullabaloo!



Cartoonist Walt Kelly said that he chose that particular song because it was easily recognizable but not religious.  His Pogo version became extremely popular, with a life outside the comic strip, broadcast on the radio, recorded by pop artists during the Golden Age of Novelty Songs.

But what about the lyrics?  Fans clamored to know what they meant.

At first Kelly claimed that they were pure nonsense.  But fans persevered, and in 1963 Kelly published a book listing several possible explanations.

None of them the right one.







Ten years after his death, his close friend, CIA Agent Wilbur Crane Eveland, was interviewed in a Pogo-phile fan magazine, and revealed the secret:

Prison slang.

Deck us all with Boston Charlie
Hang the prison guards up on the wall, so they won't bother us.

Walla Walla, Wash, and Kalamazoo
Names of prisons

Nora's freezin' on the trolley
Nora, the subordinate partner in a same-sex prison romance, is "freezin'", in solitary confinement, according to "the trolley," the prison grapevine.

Swaller dollar cauliflower, Alleygaroo!
???

Don't we know archaic barrel
Homemade prison booze

Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou.
Has facilitated the romance between Lilla Boy (another subordinate partner) and Louisville Lou.

Trolley Molly don't love Harold
But not Molly, according to the prison grapevine.

Boola, Boola, Pensacola, Hullaballoo!
???

I wonder how mild-mannered cartoonist Walt Kelly, who was never even arrested, knew all of this prison slang.  He was a language aficionado, so maybe he had reference books.

But why load-up his mangled Christmas carol with prison slang, including references to three same-sex prison romance?

In the 1940s, many prisoners were "prisoners of conscience," war objectors, political dissidents, gay men.  According to Eveland, this was the liberal, gay-positive Kelly's shout-out to them.

Kelly included same-sex desire all the time in Pogo.  Since his players were animals, it always slipped below the censorship radar.

In a long 1955 continuity, a male flea falls in love with Beauregard Hound Dog, and proposes marriage.  Five years later, in a commentary, Kelly wrote "I guess it would have to be a female flea.  That never occurred to me until now."

Way to cover your tracks!  But Kelly kept making the same "mistake" over and over until the day he died.

See also: Pogo, the Gay Possum of Okefenokee Swamp

Dec 21, 2016

The Real Bulges of "The Real O'Neals"

Last night I watched the December 6th episode of The Real O'Neals: Kenny, the gay kid (Noah Galvin), goes out for wrestling, and turns out to be good at it, due to his expertise in the dance numbers from West Side Story.

He wins the adulation of his conservative Catholic high school, receiving cheers, gifts, and an invitation to sit at the jock table, but infringes upon the territory of his brother, Jimmy (Matt Shively).

At first I found it only mildly entertaining.  I was waiting for some beefcake shots of Matt Shively and his teammates.




But I never expected to see anything like this on a prime time comedy.

He's an extra; I don't have his name.  I wish I did.







Ok, time for Kenny's match.  He drops his gym trunks, revealing a singlet of his own.

Doesn't he notice that his singlet is a bit...um...snug?  Doesn't the director notice?

Noah Galvin is 22 years old, by the way, so it's ok to look.

It's impossible not to look.












It gets better.

















And better.

Suddenly I'm a real fan of The Real O'Neals.

See also: The Real Gay Characters of "The Real O'Neals"

The First Bad Kid: Barry Gordon

In 1954, the six-year old Barry Gordon made the scene with a hit single, "I'm Getting Nuttin' for Christmas (because I've been nuttin' but bad)":

I broke my bat on Johnny's head;
I hid a frog in sister's bed;
I spilled some ink on Mommy's rug;
Bought some gum with a penny slug;
Somebody snitched on me.

Far more mischievous than Dennis the Menace or Peck's Bad Boy of the 1920s, he was a humorous precursor to the threatened and threatening kids whom the adults would fear through the 1960s.

You couldn't have a kid miss out on Christmas forever, so they made him record "I Like Christmas" in 1955.  He recorded several other singles and albums, with songs like "Rock Around Mother Goose" and "I Can't Whistle."



In the 1960s he made the rounds of tv guest spots: Leave It to Beaver, Davis the Menace, Make Room for Daddy, Jack Benny, and Love American Style (in the episode "Love and the High School Flop-Out").  Why is he sitting with his hands like that?










He made many movies, including Hands of a Stranger, Pressure Point, The Spirit is Willing, and Out of It (1969), in which a high school brain (Barry) buddy-bonds with a jock (John Voight).

He was nominated for a Tony for his performance in the Broadway play A Thousand Clowns (adapted for film in 1965), as a gay-vague teenager crushed when his free-spirit guardian (Jason Robards) caves to the establishment.

Barry never got to play romantic leads, but he played a lot of nebbishes, homoromantic best friends, and next-door neighbors in comedy and sci-fi. In voice work, he played Donatello in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Nestles Quick Bunny, and the Honeynut Cheerios Bee.



More recently he has played an impressive line of lawyers, doctors, rabbis, and sundry authority figures.

After serving as the longest-running president of the Screen Actors Guild in history and running for Congress twice, Barry settled down as a radio commentator (From Left Field,  Left Talk with Barry Gordon) where he gives his progressive viewpoint on everything from healthcare reform to gay marriage.







Dec 20, 2016

The Eagle: When Gay Subtexts Aren't Enough

The Eagle (2011) is a gay-subtext romance set in Roman Britain in 140 AD.

The plot is rather convoluted, but it seems to be about a young Roman soldier, Marcus Flavius Aquila (Channing Tatum), whose father disappeared on an expedition north of Hadrian's Wall many years ago, along with his entire Legion, plus the bronze eagle that represents "the honor of Rome."

Marcus hears a rumor that the Eagle has survived, so he sets out in search of it.  He brings along his slave Esca (Jamie Bell), who is from northern Britain and can speak the Pictish language (Gaelic is used as a stand-in).


After many scenes of the two riding through desolate wilderness, they are captured by the Seal People, the most barbaric of the Pictish tribes.  Esca buddy-bonds with their Prince (Tahar Rahim) and settles among them, explaining that Marcus is his slave.

Marcus believes that he has been tricked.

But at the proper moment, Esca reveals that he has tricked the Sea People.  They retrieve the Eagle and head back to Roman territory.  They even find the lost Ninth Legion in the process.

All of the classic gay-subtext elements are here:
1. Minimal or no heterosexual interest.
2. Men who rescue each other from danger.
3. And who walk off into the final fade-out side by side.





I still didn't like it.  It was dull and plodding, with scenes of gore juxtaposed with scenes of...well, talking.  And no attempt to provide a standard English to stand in for Latin.  Hearing Roman soldiers speark colloquial American really grates on the ears, particularly after hearing the superbly done Latinate English of Spartacus.

Plus there's no chemistry between Marcus and Esca.  They're supposed to be in love with each other.  There should be glances, gestures.  But I don't even see much of a friendship.  Esca accompanies Marcus to the north because he has no choice, he's a slave; and Marcus uses Esca for his language skills.

At the end of the movie, as they're walking off together, Esca asks "What now?"  Marcus says "You decide."

It's a cute line, but it doesn't seem deserved.  Based on what we've seen, we expect them to say "Well, thanks for your help" and part.





There's actually more chemistry between Esca and the Seal People prince (Tahur Rahim).

The director and actors insist that the movie has no gay subtexts.  Channing Tatum states that there's love in the relationship, like in any relationship, but that doesn't mean that Marcus and Esca are a couple (even though, he jokes, he and Jamie Bell have been having sex for years).

Except in 2011, writers and directors usually take pains to ensure that their characters must be read as heterosexual by adding hetero-romance or at least some longing glances here and there.  If they weren't intending gay subtexts, why not add hetero-romance?

Maybe because the movie is based on a children's novel, The Eagle of the Ninth, published by Rosemary Sutclif in 1954, the glory era of gay subtexts, where men without women was an accepted literary convention, especially in juvenile fiction.

Sutclif wrote over 100 children's novels, many about two boys or two men together.

Dec 18, 2016

Cameron Palatas: Avoid this Disney Teen Hunk

Cameron Palatas (left, with David Henrie of Wizards of Waverly Places) has appeared on ICarly, ANT Farm, and The Haunted Hathaways.  He has one of the better physiques in the hunk-heavy Disney and Nickelodeon universe.  So it seemed like a good idea to look up his other projects.

First Day (2011), a tv series that seems to exist only on the IMDB.  I can't find out anything about it.

A Bag of Hammers (2011), about two bromantic partners who adopt a kid after his mother commits suicide.  Lots of gay subtext potential.  Cameron plays the younger version of one of them.





But..uh, oh: Pass the Light (2013), about a 17-year old (Cameron) who runs for Congress to "protect the faith he loves."  Yeah, we all know that federal law in the U.S. prohibits Christians from reading the Bible, praying, or going to church.  Oh, wait -- it doesn't.

And the MTV series Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous (2013), starring Bo Burnham, an  "edgy" comedian whose jokes ridicule just about everyone, except for that most oppressed of all minorities, white heterosexual men: "We've been through enough."

He has a lot to say about how ridiculous gay people are:

How old is too old to stop believing in, like, the tooth fairy? Like 12? I've got a cousin who is 18, still believes in gay marriage."

The show is about recent high school graduate Zach (Bo), who decides that he wants to be famous, despite lacking any particular talent (a poll showed that 40% of high school senior chose "being famous" as their preferred career path).

So he hires a camera crew to follow him around while he tries to become a celebrity chef, makes a fake sex tape, stars in a dating show called "The Zachelor," and goes missing to see if there is a media circus interviewing his grief-stricken family and friends.

Cameron plays the "normal" younger brother, who "doesn't wear a dress with a camera crew following him around."

His tweets and instagrams feature statements like "that's gay."

At age 18, he was dating 14-year old Ariel Winter (Alex Dunphy of Modern Family), amid allegations of abuse.  The couple has since broken up.

I'd give this one a miss.

The Kid from "A Christmas Story"

Even  though 30 years have passed, Peter Billingsley is still know as the kid from A Christmas Story (1983).  You know -- the bespectacled 9-year old whose only Christmas wish is "a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass and this thing that tells time."  Hardly anyone saw it in theaters in 1983, but it has become a TV tradition -- TBS usually mounts a 24-hour marathon -- so you've probably seen A Christmas Story as often as the much gayer White Christmas or It's a Wonderful Life.

I don't like it.  There's a creepy lamp shaped like a lady's leg (that turns Ralphie on), a nasty bully, a borderline-abusive Dad, a gun as a major plot point, and no cute guys or discernible homoerotic subplots (although some of the cast has gay connections).

And Peter Billingsley has made up for it since.

In The Dirt Bike Kid (1985), a modern retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk," the 14-year old Jack (Peter) is sent to buy groceries, but gets a magic dirtbike instead.  He uses it to clean up the corrupt town, save a struggling hot dog stand, and become a town hero. He expresses no heterosexual interest; his main emotional bond is with Mike (Patrick Collins), the owner of the hot dog stand, though it falls short of homoromance.

 In Russkies (1987), it's the heart of the Cold War, Danny (Joaquin Phoenix) and his friends Adam (Peter) and Jason (Stefan DeSalle) find a a Russian sailor, Mischa (Whip Hubley), washed up on the shore. Adam  is obviously entranced by the beefy, bulge-laden Mischa, especially after he takes off his shirt at the doctor's office.


 But it is Danny who acts as his friend and protector.  He hatches a scheme to smuggle Mischa to Cuba, whence he could get back home.  When the baddies shoot Danny down over the water, Mischa rushes to the rescue. Later, Danny rescues Mischa.  Though the movie ends with Mischa going  home, the experience changes Danny forever; it is his Summer of '42.

An anti-gay slur (this was the 1980s, after all), but no girls thought of or spoken of.

In Beverly Hills Brats (1989), Scooter (18-year old Peter) is ignored by his rich father (Martin Sheen) and bullied by his siblings, so he fakes his own kidnapping, hiring the bumbling thugs Clive (Burt Young) and Elmo (George Kirby).  The thugs are hostile at first, but soon come to feel sympathy for the lonely Scooter.  Again, an anti-gay slur, but no expressed interest in girls.  Instead, Scooter tries to reach out to the thugs for emotional support.

By this point, Peter was starting to muscle up; in fact, he later played a high school athlete abusing steroids on an Afterschool Special.
 
Peter's characters didn't start ogling girls until Arcade (1993).  By that time, his acting roles were becoming scarcer as he moved into production.  He hasn't been involved in many gay-friendly projects, but he received a special thanks in the credits of the gay-angst Mysterious Skin (2004). For what, I don't know.

Dec 16, 2016

300 Naked Men Before Breakfast

I looked at over 300 pictures of naked men this morning before breakfast.

Old and young, big and small, flaccid and aroused, all ages (18+), shapes, and sizes.

And, if I had the time and inclination, I could easily look at 300 more.

When I was growing up in Rock Island, and even through my years in West Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s, you might see ten pictures of naked men per month, if you were lucky.

They were glossy photos of professional models in expensive magazines.

Nude photos of amateurs were extremely rare.  Photo labs wouldn't develop them, so you had to have your own darkroom.


Even shirtless photos were rare.  Occasionally a shirtless celebrity would show up in a movie magazine.  Or you could look at the underwear ads in clothes catalogs.



Beginning around 1990, you could buy cameras that developed the pictures on the spot, so you didn't need a photo lab.  Suddenly you could get nude photos.

But only of your friends, who you had seen naked in real life.  There wasn't much point.

The full story, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.










Baptism Beefcake

Baptism is a Christian ritual that symbolizes your spiritual rebirth by dunking you in water or pouring or sprinkling water on you.

Liturgical denominations like the Roman Catholics and Lutherans do it soon after birth, usually by sprinkling.

Nazarenes don't baptize people, calling it "an empty ritual" and a "meaningless superstition."  But other evangelical denominations, like Baptists and Pentecostals, do.

Adults only, by dunking you under.






Imagine having the preacher's strong arms around you as he draws you down into the water and back.  There must be a sensual, homoerotic component to the spiritual experience.

Especially if you war a swimsuit instead of the traditional white robe.












This guy is getting baptized in a towel.  What does he have on underneath?














A couple of teenage boys are performing this baptism in a swimming pool.   Is it my imagination, or is the one on the right bulging a bit?
















Evangelicals have to wait for the "age of accountability" to conduct a baptism, so no kids.


But the adults can be of any age.  This beefy older guy waited until quite late in life to get his baptism in.  He's got two swimsuit-clad preachers to guide him down.













A sports figure of some sort is going under in his team uniform.
















Why is this guy being baptized in a swamp?












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