Oct 29, 2016

The Unique Gay Romance of "Crashing."

In Britain, "property guardians" move into an abandoned property that wasn't designed for permanent habitation in the first place -- an office building, a school, a warehouse.   In exchange for "protecting" the property, they get cheap rent, about 55 pounds a week ($400 a month).  The downside is, the place is usually falling apart, with inadequate plumbing and heat, no bathrooms, no kitchen...

The upside is, there's lots of room for comedy material.

Crashing is a British tv series (2016-), now on Netflix, about a group of young adults who become the property guardians at an abandoned hospital.  Big, spooky rooms where people once got sick and died, now used for comic misunderstandings and buddy-bonding, sort of like Friends if they lived in the entire apartment complex, and had more snogging.

1-3. Anthony (Damien Molony, left) negotiates the sexual tension with Lulu (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and his fiancee Kate (Louise Ford).

4.-5. Hip French artist Melody (Julie Dray) pursues the portly middle aged Colin (Adrian Scarborough), though he can't for the life of him figure out why.

6.-7. Effervescent real estate agent Sam (Jonathan Bailey, who gets blond highlights and a beard so he doesn't look exactly like Damien Molony) courts the uptight Fred (Amit Shah).  Each claims to be "not gay."

The reviews all skip over 6.-7., concentrating on 1.-.3 and calling it a "two girls and a guy dilemma" sitcom, Archie torn between Betty and Veronica.

But the gay romance  is what makes the series unique.

Episode 1: Sam and Fred bond at a party scavenger hunt.  Piggy back ride, forehead bumping, forehead kissing, "beautiful eyes," "handsome face," but each claims that he's "not gay."

Episode 2: Sam lures Fred away from his dull office job for a wild day of rebellion.  They end up in bed together.  Fred hugs Sam, who protests: "This ain't never going to happen!  Ever!"

Episode 3:  Fred, who has admitted that he is gay, starts dating the effervescent Australian Will (Lachie Chapman).  Sam explodes in jealous rage.

Episode 4: Sam and Will compete for Fred's affection.  They get into a fight.  Sam tries to get them to break up by seducing Will, but it doesn't work.  So he has sex with Lulu instead.

Episode 5:  Will gets a new flat, and asks Fred to move in.  Sam seethes.  He accosts Will in the shower.   They kiss.

Fred finds out about the kiss and freaks out.

Sam claims that he was trying to tempt Will on purpose to prove that he's a bad guy.  Will claims that Sam is in love with him but won't admit it.  Everyone gets into a fight.

Will turns out to be a controlling jerk who insults Sam and all of his friends.  They break up.

Episode 6:  Fred and Sam are still at loggerheads.  Fred wants them to be lovers, and Sam insists that he is not gay, so they can only be best friends.  Then Fred collapses, and goes to the hospital.  Sam admits that he's in love with him.  They kiss.

Oh, I almost forgot, the other couples have romantic complications, too.  Melody and Colin and Anthony and Lulu end up together.  I think.  I wasn't really paying attention to them.

Richard Oliver Gross, the New Zealand Sculptor of Male Nudes

Ok, I had to find out about this Richard Oliver Gross, who scattered statues of nude men all over the Kiwi landscape.   He doesn't appear in most directories of 20th century artists, but there's a brief biography in Te Ara, the online encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Born 1882 in Barrow-in-Furness, England.  That's my new favorite English village name.

Studied under Albert Toft, "an academic sculptor heavily influenced by the classics."  Moved to South Africa, where he married Ethel Jane Bailey in 1912.  They had three children.

Later they moved to New Zealand, and took up dairy farming near Helensville, on the North Island.

After World War I, he moved to Auckland, where he specialized in memorial sculptures, in association with two architects that he met at the Quion Club (a club for Auckland-area artists): William Gummer and M.K. Draffin.

Under their association, he sculpted at least 9 memorials, 8 with barechested or nude men.

1. The Cambridge Memorial (1923): a shirtless man digging.

2. The Auckland Grammar School Memorial: a naked man atop a sword.

3. The Havelock North Memorial (no nudity)

4. The frieze at the Auckland War Memorial Museum

5. The Wellington Cenotaph.

6. The Athlete (top photo).  It was so controversial that the headlines booted out the Italian invasion of Abyssinia.

7. The Holland Memorial (left)

8. The One Tree Hill Memorial.  A Maori warrior, not nude, but with muscular arms.

9. The Memorial to Michael Joseph Savage, the Prime Minister.

When criticized for his male nudity, Gross said that it represented our efforts to reach "spiritual accomplishment."

Right.  When I see naked men, I'm not usually thinking of spiritual things.

Gross disapproved of the new modernistm in art, and didn't do a lot of original works in the 1940s and 1950s.  He turned to writing poetry, and held many administrative posts, including president of the Auckland Society of Arts.

He died in 1964, survived by his wife and one son.

No specific evidence that he was gay.  But he did gay men everywhere a service by insisting that the male body could be inspiring and beautiful.

See also: Top Ten Public Penises of New Zealand

Oct 27, 2016

ABBA: Not Drag Queens

I first heard of ABBA in the spring of my sophomore year in high school in 1976, when "Fernando" hit #13 on the U.S. charts.

It was about a freedom fighter in a South American country and his "friend":

There was something in the air that night
The stars were bright, Fernando
They were shining there for you and me.

The tale of a same-sex love!  Quite different from the "Girl! Girl! Girl!" songs elsewhere on the radio.

"Dancing Queen" followed in the fall of 1976, just as I was figuring out what "gay" means.  I knew that a queen was a drag queen, so I assumed that the "girl" referenced in the song was a gay guy.

"Take a Chance On Me," 1977.  No pronouns.  The person waiting "first in line" to fall in love could be male or female.

Who was this group?  Abba meant father in Hebrew.  Were they Israeli?

 In the fall of of 1978, when I was just starting grad school at Indiana University, my friend Joseph, the secretary of the gay student group (and the first "out" gay person I ever met),  told me, "They're Swedish.  Four drag queens."

"No way!" I exclaimed.  "They'd never let drag queens' songs on the radio."

"They pretend to be straight, but you can tell. Like the Village People."

Sure enough, in 1979 "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Man After Midnight)" was about a gay guy who wants a man "to chase the shadows away."

It must have been too obvious, raising the ire of homophobic censors.  ABBA disappeared from the radio, and I moved on to the gay subtext songs of the 1980s, like "Physical" (Olivia Newton-John, 1981), "I'm Coming Out" (Diana Ross, 1981), and "It's Raining Men" (The Weather Girls, 1982).

But there was always a soft spot in my heart for ABBA, the first gay group I ever heard of.

Fast forward 13 years.  In 1992, I happened to walk through the room where my partner Lee was watching MTV, and saw four drag queens performing "Take a Chance on Me."

So that's what ABBA looks like, I thought, mildly interested.  But not interested enough to stick around.

In 1994, the drag queens in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert perform a medley of ABBA hits.  Figures.

Fast forward 16 years.  In 2008, along with the buzz from the musical Mamma Mia, the music of ABBA became popular again.  And the group was interviewed.

Two heterosexual couples, married at the time!  According to the interview, "very heterosexual," and "shocked" to discover that they had become gay icons.  They thought they were describing an exclusively heterosexual world.

"Fernando" is about a guy who lost his girlfriend.
"Dancing Queen": who knew that "queen" meant "gay"?  It's about a woman.
"Take a Chance on Me": heterosexuals only need apply.
"Gimme, Gimme, Gimme": it's a woman who wants a man after midnight.

And the drag queens I saw on MTV in 1992?  Erasure doing a homage.

I'm crushed.  Next you'll be telling me that Shaun Cassidy was straight.

Oct 26, 2016

Scary, Heterosexist Ads of the 1960s

I hate tv commercials where women take a bite of yogurt, cereal, or chocolate, and then roll their heads back and stiffen in orgiastic ecstasy.  Or kids see the cereal, macaroni and cheese, or hot dogs on the kitchen table before them, and they hug mom ecstatically in gratitude. (Men are expected to prefer quantity over quality, so they usually just shovel it in and say "Great meal, Honey.)

1. They're sexist, replicating ancient gender stereotypes.
2. They're heterosexist, replicating the nuclear family myth, Mom, Dad, and Kids as aggressively as A&W's Papa, Mama, and Baby Burgers (see "Bill and I Become a Mama and a Papa.")
3. If every bite causes a shuddering orgasm of joy, how do you ever get through a meal?

When I was a kid in the 1960s, print ads were even worse.  Not dependent on real humans, they drew faces with bizarre contortions of ecstatic abandon that real actors could never get away with, except maybe in horror movies.

Who ever thought that this picture would encourage kids to ask Mom for Sugar Krinkles?  I'd be worried that the clown would climb off the box and eat me.

Who wears hats to dinner?  And why is the demon girl levitating her plate of human meat, peas, and orange things?

What, exactly, did she put in those drinks?  And why is she serving four of them to one victim?

I've heard people say "O--oh-h Boomer!" before, but they usually don't follow with "It's a Schwinn!"

"Room for one more.  Join us!"

See also: The Bisexual M&Ms

Oct 24, 2016

Fox's Heterosexual Rocky Horror Picture Show

I'm not a purist who believes that The Rocky Horror Picture Show  is sacred writ.  I'm all for sanding down the plot inconsistencies, booting the jokes that mock women and the disabled, adding some racial diversity, and modernizing the dialogue ("You look like you're both pretty groovy.")

But I would have preferred the new version which aired on Fox last week to keep it gay.

The problem is, same-sex activity is not nearly as shocking  today as it was in 1975.  Richard O'Brien intended for Frank's same sex desire to be disquieting, and his "wedding" to be downright diabolical, far more sinister than Eddie's murder.

Today married men are commonly shown on tv commercials, eating soup.

How to restore that frisson of dread?

How about making Frank transgender?  Transpeople receive far more hostility and fear than gay men and lesbians.

How about Laverne Cox, arguably the most famous transgender person in the world, as Frank?

So far, so good.  Except:

1. Only a few lines are changed, mostly to eliminate profanity.  Frank is still a "sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania."

A transvestite is a man or woman in drag.  Not a transperson.

Columbia's story of first meeting Frank still has the line "He had a pick up truck and the devil's eye."

For awhile, I thought Cox was playing Frank as a male drag queen, but no, in all the interviews, she says "transgender."

2. This changes the dynamic of the movie immeasurably.  Making it more sexist.

The scenes where Frank seduces Brad and Janet no longer involve sex.  They involve Benny Hill antics of sexual harassment: leering, chasing, butt-slapping.

For that matter, all of the sexual activity is sexless.  When Janet sings "Touch me!", Rocky obliges by touching her...shoulder!

The attempted sexual assault ("You'd Better Wise Up, Janet Weiss") is much more violent, with Frank and Janet getting into a "girl fight" melee.

I guess we shouldn't expect oral sex jokes and breast-fondling with High School Musical director Kenny Ortega at the helm and two former Disney teencom stars as Brad and Janet.

Or anything gay.

3. It's way heterosexist.

The original had three gay male relationships -- Frank with Eddie, Brad, and Rocky -- and six heterosexual (count them!).  No lesbian, unless you count Columbia and Magenta grabbing at each other.

The new version has two lesbian relationships -- Frank with Columbia and Janet -- and seven heterosexual  (count them!).  No gay male.

And lesbian relationships are much more acceptable to the heterosexual "male gaze," so they're worth only about half as much in queering the text.

Meanwhile, the Transylvanians dance "The Time Warp" in strictly boy-girl configurations.

In the original, Rocky shows no interest in Frank during "I Can Make You a Man."  In the new version, Staz Nair plays him as obviously into the buxom leading lady.

In the pool scene ("Don't dream it, be it!"), Brad and Rocky look like they are about to kiss, but Janet intervenes.  Boys don't kiss!

This is a heterosexual Rocky Horror.

I don't care if there are  a few rainbow flags scattered about.

Oct 23, 2016

Gay Men....Um, I mean X-Men: Apocalypse

There are two basic camps in the mutant community:

1. Separatists: Flee from the straights and their so-called "tolerance."  You are special.  Embrace your difference!  Do not be constrained by their rules about what is "normal"!  If you can fly, then fly.  If you have purple skin, have purple skin.

2. Assimilationists.  If only they got to know us, they would discover that we really aren't that different after all.  Live among them!  Join their clubs, if they let you.  Minimize your differences.  Don't fly, unless it is unavoidable.  Don't have purple skin.

Gay people are divided into the same two camps.  The Separatists live in their own neighborhoods, have only gay friends, and say "Being gay is who I am!"  The Assimilationists live in the straight world, have almost all straight friends, and say "Being gay is only a small part of who I am."

We've had a few Assimilationist-Separatist battles in the gay world, too, starting right at Stonewall, with the Mattachine Society (keep quiet!  don't make waves!) vs the Gay Liberation Front (be loud and proud!)

Back to the Mutants:

In most movies in the X-Men franchise, the Assimilationist camp is led by Dr. Xavier (James McAvoy), who runs a school for mutants on his vast estate, teaching them how to control or hide their differences so they can go back to "normal" society.

A Separatist leader arises, the Big Bad of the episode.  He gathers a group of followers, and engages in a big, flamboyant stunt to let the "straights" know that they're not going to be victimized anymore, they're Mutant and Proud.   But it goes wrong; now the straights hate them more than ever.

After a few changes in loyalty and second-guesses, there's a gigantic battle between the Assimilationist and Separatist groups.  The Assimilationists win.

Bryan Singer, the director, is obviously a gay Assimilationist.  That's why he doesn't have any gay characters in his movies.  "It's not important."

In X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), the Big Bad Separatist is En Sabah Nur (Oscar Sabah, left, except in the movie he has a Voldemort thing going on).  He's a mutant with godlike powers who ruled Egypt in 3600 BC (I won't go into the historical inaccuracies).  Trapped in his pyramid for 5000 years, he emerges in 1983 to gather some followers and restore the Mutants to their rightful place in the food chain.

It's a different Separatist-Assimilationist line-up from the last battle in the 1970s, so there are several trumped-up stories to explain why characters have changed sides, but it boils down to:

En Sabah Nur's Crew
1. Magneto, the Big Bad of the last episode (Michael Fassbender)
2. Psylocke (Olivia Munn)
3. Angel (Ben Hardy, top photo)
4. Storm (Alexandra Shipp)

Dr. Xavier's Crew
1. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence)
2. Beast (Nicholas Hoult)
3. Quicksilver (Evan Peters, below)
4. Cyclops (Tye Sheridan)
5. Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee)

I might have missed some.  Frankly, I found it hard to keep track of the changing alliances, the character reboots, the shifting backstories (and forward stories, since some installments take place later).

Cyclops has an origin-story subplot in which his eyes start giving off laser beams, effectively making him blind.  Enrolled at the school by his big brother Havok (Lucas Till), he gets goggles made of "ruby quartz" which allow him to control his powers.  Unfortunately, he also starts a romance with the Girl Who Thinks He's Arrogant.

Heterosexist tripe!

I was mostly in it for the beefcake, the 1980s references (very few), and the queer vibe that Quicksilver gives.  He can move so fast that bullets seem to be standing still.

As he gleefully saves all of the residents of the school (and a dog, some goldfish, and a pizza) from an explosion, he expresses disgust at a boy and a girl about to kiss, but rather likes a boy preening in front of a mirror.

Otherwise for gay subtexts you have to go with metaphor.  Everybody here is heterosexual.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...