Jun 9, 2018

Kurt Russell: Teen Idol Turned Man Mountain

Few actors make the difficult transition from child star to teen idol, and fewer still survive as adults in show biz.  Kurt Russell did it, but he lost something along the way.

Born in 1951, Kurt first became a star on The Travels of Jaimie McPherson (1963-64) , about a boy traveling through the Old West who bonds with a gruff wagon train operator (Charles Bronson).

Later in the 1960s, he became a familiar sight on tv, often playing oddball outsiders -- a jungle boy on Gilligan's Island (1965), an alien warrior who bonds with Will Robinson on Lost in Space (1966), an Indian boy who bonds with William Smith on Laredo (1966).  His physique became a familiar sight, too, as many gay preteens of the era could attest.

As a teenager, Kurt's impish smile and slightly confused expression made him unsuitable for Disney Adventure.  He made only one Adventure Boy movie, The Secret of Boyne Castle (1968) -- as American exchange student Rich who fights spies in rural Ireland, along with his boyfriend -- but unlike other Adventure Boys like James MacArthur and Peter McEnery, he never dropped a button.  He had many more shirtless, underwear, and semi-nude shots as a boy than as a teen.

After that, he concentrated in comedy, taking over the oddball genius roles left behind by the fired Tommy Kirk -- The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), The Barefoot Executive (1971), Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972), The Strongest Man in the World (1975). With one major exception -- Tommy Kirk wasn't very good at displaying believable heterosexual interest, but Kurt's comedy characters were indefatigably girl-crazy.

As a young adult in the 1970s, Kurt moved into serious dramatic roles, playing Charles Whitman, the University of Texas sniper, in The Deadly Tower (1975), and Morgan Beaudine, who travels through the Old West bonding with his estranged brother Quentin (Tim Matheson) in The Quest (1976).

And from serious dramatic roles to gnarled, surly Snake Plissken, who negotiates Manhattan as a maximum security prison in Escape from New York (1981); R. J. Macready, who fights a monster escaping from the Antartic ice in The Thing (1982); Reno Hightower, who longs to regain his former football glory in The Best of Times (1986).

His list of memorable buddy-bonding roles is practically endless: Detective Cash, who gets naked in the shower with Sylvester Stallone's Tango in Tango and Cash (1989); firefighter Bull McCaffrey, who rescues his brother Brian (William Baldwin) in Backdraft (1991); Michael Zane, who tracks down his former partner during an Elvis convention in 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001).

But subtexts only work if the actors are utterly unaware of the homoerotic potential of their on-screen friendship, or are completely aware and ok with it.  The adult Kurt Russell is aware, but not ok with it; he uses homoerotic potential as a source of squeamish laughter or disquieting menace.

There are nude photos of Kurt Russell on Tales of West Hollywood.

Jun 7, 2018

All Hail King Julien: Mort Still Has a Foot Fetish

Remember King Julien, the androgynous, booty-shaking lemur king from the Madagascar movies (2005, 2008, 2012) and the tv series Penguins of Madagascar (2008-2015)?   Dreamworks has produced a prequel, All Hail King Julien (2014-2017), which depicts the adventures of King Julien XIII beginning with his ascension to the throne of the Lemur Kingdom.

Since it's a prequel, taking place before the events of Madagascar, it's rather odd to watch Julien mature from a crazy party monster to a brave, resourceful leader (although still booty-shaking).  He must have regressed.

Maurice, the "that's not a good idea" advisor, and Mort, the squeaky-voiced mouse lemur with a crush on Julien's feet, develop as characters also.  Especially Mort: not a child, actually infinitely old, a mysterious traveler through multiple universes, who still has a crush on Julien's feet.

Countless new characters appear, including dozens of lemurs with varying personalities, a newscasting toucan, a psychic chameleon, a tenric scientist, rats, crocodiles, foosa, dolphins, sharks, allies and enemies, enemies who become allies, in exhaustingly complex plotlines.

Clover, the king's bodyguard, who writes fantasy-world fan fiction.

Sage Moondancer is the pacifist, faux-Eastern wisdom quoting hunk.

Karl, a fanoloka antagonist who is dating a cockroach named Chauncey.

Here is a fan art anthropomorphic version of the characters.

It's also frustrating that passionate same-sex relationships abound, but they're always subtext. The closest we come to an open depiction of a gay relationship is when Julien notes that Karl and Chauncey are "together or something."

When Clover announces that she's getting married, Julien assumes that she's marrying a woman, but she's not.

When Mort is imprisoned, he flirts with the guard to get released.  We think that the guard is male, but she turns out to be "all woman."

The lemur Ted is "Hollywood gay," with feminine traits and interests, a nasal voice, and a fear of intimacy with his wife Dorothy.  In one episode, he is made to believe that Dorothy is imaginary, and responds with unabashed glee "You mean I'm not married?"  But nothing comes of it.

It goes on like that, character after character bringing up same-sex potential only to back off at the last minute.

I also find it frustrating that they continually depict Madagascar as a small island with no human residents (the lemurs have never met a human, but they get a lot of our stuff that washes up on the shore.)

It's the 4th largest island in the world, with 12 million humans.

It's hard to suspend your disbelief when you keep shouting at the tv screen "You lemurs should be speaking Malagasy, not English!"

Jun 3, 2018

Boy Meets World

Boy Meets World (1993-2000) was a teencom about a boy named Corey (Ben Savage, left), his girlfriend and eventual wife Topanga (Danielle Fishel), and her jealousy over his his stylish, feminine, gay-coded boyfriend Shawn (Rider Strong).

The subtext was nearly text, same-sex romance always just beneath the surface.  In "Learning to Fly," Topanga finds Corey and Shawn hugging and cries, "Stop it!  You're both boys!"  A flashback reveals another same-se hug in kindergarten, and Topanga again crying "Stop it!  You're both boys!"  Evidently she has spent her life policing Corey's actions to ensure that he "remain" heterosexual.

After they are married, Topanga continues to be jealous of Shawn, referring to him as Corey's "boyfriend" and insisting that Corey choose between them.  At Topanga's instigation, Corey must constantly explain that he is in love with her and not Shawn.  In "The Happiest Show on Earth," in the midst of a conversation, Corey suddenly feels the need to tell Shawn: "When I see Topanga, I want to hold her, hug her, kiss her.  When I see you, I have no desire to do any of those things."  This is a nonsequiter.  Shawn has never intimated that he wants Corey to hug, hold, or kiss him (although they hug all the time).  Shawn remains placid, waiting for the audience howls to die down before he goes on to his next line.  Really, there is no way he could act without foregrounding the possibility that their relationship is indeed romantic.

Corey's older brother Eric (Will Friedle) is a gay-vague free spirit.  When Corey asks  Eric about his "first time," Eric says "Remember Mitchell Davis?"  Stunned, Corey stops him: "Why don't you tell me about your second time." Instead Eric tells about how Mitchell Davis convinced him to take the training wheels off his bike before he was ready, a parable about waiting for sex.  Yet he also evades the question of his first sexual experience.  His knowing smile suggests that it may have well been with a boy, but he switched to the bicycle story upon determining that Corey would respond badly.

In the fifth season, the producers sought to replicate the Corey-Shawn homoromance by introducing Corey's older brother, Jack Hunter (Matthew Lawrence, left) to hook up with Eric.  He also got some on-the-air time with Jason Marsden.

All of the male cast members have been the subject of gay rumors, but none except for Matthew Lawrence have been involved in particularly gay-friendly projects.  Rider Strong (left) starred in Cabin Fever (2005), with its infamous "shooting fags" line, but he also played a gay character, Davis, in Crumbs (2006).

Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel are currently planning to reprise their characters as married with children, in the new sitcom Girl Meets World.
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