Mar 1, 2016

14 Shirtless Stanleys of "A Streetcar Named Desire"

A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams (1947), is probably the most-beloved American play of all time.  It's staged incessantly in big cities and small towns; it's been filmed six times, it's been made into a ballet and an opera.

This seems odd, because it deals with topics likely to make censors nervous: sexual promiscuity, domestic violence, and rape.

Not to mention its strong gay connection.

1. Faded Southern belle Blanche is reduced to living in her sister Stella's two-room apartment in New Orleans after losing the family estate. She is traumatized by the long-ago death of her husband Alan, a "poetic" (that is, gay) boy who probably didn't realize that he was gay until she confronted him.  He went out and committed suicide, one of Tennessee Williams' stable of dead gay guys.

2. Stanley, Stella's brutish, violent husband, has a coterie of male friends who like him...a lot.  Notable is Mitch, who is mother-obsessed and not particularly interested in women (two signifiers of gay identity in the 1950s).  He courts Blanche, but badly, not at all sure what he is doing, and then dumps her when he discovers that she has a history.

After Mitch dumps Blanche, Stanley sexually assaults her, leading to her descent into insanity and famous last line: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

3. Stanley takes his shirt off -- a lot -- most notably when he is flirting with Blanche, and when Stella flees to the upstairs apartment after an abuse incident, and he yells up at her: "Stella!"

I don't know if Williams wanted to emphasize his raw savagery, or if he just liked seeing muscular guys with their shirts off, but Stanleys from Brando on down, whether on Broadway, community theaters, or college drama departments, have always displayed muscular physiques.  Here are two dozen shirtless Stanleys:

1. (Top Photo) William L. Peterson, star of soap operas and CSI, at the Stratford Festival in Canada, 1984.

2. (Second Photo) Joe Manganiello, star of True Blood, is currently playing Stanley on Broadway.

3. New York actor Miebaka Yohannes (left) at the Boal Barn Playhouse in State College, Pennsylvania, 2010.

4. Marlon Brando (left), the original Stanley on Broadway and in the 1951 movie version.

5. Alex Baldwin, who starred in the 1992 Broadway revival and in the 1995 tv movie version.

6. Stephon O'Neal Pettway in an all-black version of Streetcar at Pace University in 2009.

More after the break

Feb 28, 2016

Petey's Boyfriend in "Cul de Sac"

It seems that comic strips I hate, like Blondie, go on and on and on, generation after generation of gags about napping on the couch and burnt potroasts.  But comic strips I like are short lived.

Cul de Sac had a syndication run of five years, from September 2007 to September 2012.

Ok, it's not cartoonist Richard Thompson's fault.  He discovered that he had Parkinson's Disease, and it's hard to draw with your hands shaking.  But still...

Cul de Sac is set in a fascinating, jarring universe, a suburban wasteland on the outskirts of Washington, DC.  The star is ostensibly 4-year old Alice Otterlooper, a preschooler who combines adult-level world-weariness and childish innocence.

But I think the real star is her older brother Petey, a neurotic outsider who is frightened by everybody and everything. He is the world's pickiest eater.  He goes trick-or-treating in a costume consisting of a sign reading "Boo!" attached to his chest.  He is a devotee of Little Neuro comics, with a hero who does nothing.

Peter is unique, yet the type of all kids who grow up isolated, alone, hiding their desires and interests to survive.

Like every gay kid in a heteronormative society.

Petey has mild heterosexual interests.  A gigantic girl named Viola D'More (a play on d'amore) befriends and bedevils him.

Plus an admirer, Ernesto, who wears a business suit and belongs to the "Future Adult Guild."  Petey can't understand Ernesto's interest, and suspects that he is imaginary.

Later in the strip's run, Viola fades away, and Petey makes a "best friend," Andre Chang, at cartoon camp.  Andre is as gigantic as Viola -- apparently Petey likes them big.

The two become inseparable, in spite of Ernesto's jealousy, leading one to imagine that Andre is Petey's first real boyfriend.

Unfortunately, the strip ends shortly after the relationship begins.

It's easy to compare Cul de Sac with Peanuts, other children with adult voices, but while the Peanuts kids experience angst, cruelty, and pain, there is no pain in Petey's world, unless you count Mom forcing you to substitute a store brand for your favorite cereal.  There is no bullying, no cruelty.  No one even criticizes Petey's favorite pizza: no red sauce, and cheese on the side.

It's a world I want to live in.

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