Sep 1, 2018

"The Good Place": Afterlife Beefcake and Bonding

Eleanor (Kristin Bell) has just died.   Her guide, Michael (Ted Danson), says that after a complicated algorithm analyzed her good and bad deeds, she has been assigned to The Good Place, a village where 300 compatible good people spend eternity.

They seem to mostly wander around, greeting each other, getting frozen yogurt, and flying kites.  In the evening, they throw parties.  Eternity seems really, really dull.

Or is it more sinister, like the Village in the 1960s British sci-fi The Prisoner?

Each resident of the village is assigned a soul mate, someone with whom they are spiritually compatible to share eternity with.  Eleanor, an environmentalist lawyer/human right advocate in life, is paired with Chidi  (William Jackson Harper), a West African professor of moral philosophy who suffers from indecisiveness and tummy aches.

I have a lot of questions:

Shouldn't most of the people in the afterlife be really old?

Should most of their soul mates be their partners back in life?

And what do they do all day?

Eleanor has a secret:  she is not who they say she is.  Someone made a mistake.  She was actually a boorish, foul-mouthed drunk who worked for a telemarketing company, scamming the elderly into buying medicine that they didn't need, and in her off hours refused to donate to charity or recycle.

She schemes to make sure no one finds out and sends her to the Bad Place.

Her allies include Chidi; Tahara (Jameela Jamil), a snobbish philanthropist; and Tahara's unlikely soulmate, Jianyu (Manny Jacinto), a Taiwanese Buddhist monk who has taken vows of poverty and silence.

Jianyu has a secret of his own.  He was actually Jason Mendoza, a small-time hood who sold fake drugs to college students.  He and his buddy Pillboi (Eugene Cordero, left) were trying to break into a safe when he died.

Actually rather bad.  Another mistake!

Tahara did get $6 billion in donations for a charity, but she was shallow, egotistical, obsessed with money and fame, and intensely jealous.  She died trying to tear down a statue of her pop-star sister at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


The first season has a big reveal.  Spoiler alert.

They are actually in the Bad Place!  Junior demon Michael got permission from his supervisor to try a new type of torture: Sartre's "Hell is other people."  Most of the villagers are demon actors.  Eleanor, Chidi, Tahara, and Jason are the only humans, brought in to annoy each other for all eternity.

Once they discover the secret, Michael wipes their memories and reboots the village.

They keep discovering the secret, and Michael keeps wiping their memories.  Over 800 times.

Eventually some of the demon actors get frustrated with their minor roles, and start working to overturn Michael's experiment. And Janet, robotic personal assistant/Google for the village, falls in love with Jason, then builds her own boyfriend, Derek (Jason Mantzouakas, left), and becomes an ally.

 The humans negotiate with Michael, his boss, and finally a big moderator, Judge Hydrogen (Maya Rudolph)  They argue that if people can change in the afterlife, becoming better, then eternal punishment is unjust.

The Judge promises to think about the issue, and in the meantime reboots them them all the way, sending them back to the moments of their deaths and making sure that they don't die in their various accidents.

They end up encountering each other.  Maybe they really are soul mates.

The Good Place is very funny, and the characters are appealing enough to make the show worth watching.

Gay content: Apparently, in spite of the male-female icons on the explanatory video, there are some same-sex soul mates: gay couples appear occasionally in the background.  And they are referenced occasionally:  one deceased person states that he spent the first half of his life in North Korea, working for women's rights, and the last half in Saudi Arabia, working for gay rights (it must have been a short life).  That's quite a lot for a comedy starring Ted Danson, who is not known as a gay rights advocate.

Beefcake:  The two male humans, Chidi and Jason, are both cute, and there are lots of other hot actors around.  All racial groups represented.

Chris (Luke Guldan, top photo), a demon playing one of Eleanor's fake soulmates, who rips his shirt off and says "I'm going to the gym" at odd moments. (Do spirits need to go to the gym?)

Uzo (Keston John, above), Chidi's childhood friend.

Demon actor Trevor (Adam Scott).

Luang (Hayden Szeto, left), a demon playing one of Jason's fake soulmates (a "best friend" rather than a romantic partner).

See also: The Prisoner

Aug 31, 2018

Dreamboat or Dud?: Heterosexism and "Mystery Date"

Mystery Date was a board game introduced by Milton Bradley in 1965.  The object was to assemble the proper cards to create a full girl's outfit for a formal dance, bowling, the beach, or skiing.  Then, if your outfit matched that of the dreamy boy at the door, you got to go on the date.  But you had to be careful of the wild card, a poorly dressed "dud."

The real object, of course, was to get girls used to the idea of being objects of desire, using fashion and accessories to draw the attention of dreamy boys.  The game was for "girls only." 

 I played on occasion, but only when my friend Beth insisted, and even then, I found it annoying to have to pretend to like wearing girls' clothes just to go bowling or to the beach with a cute boy.  Why couldn't boys go on "mystery dates" with boys?

The answer is that no one at Milton Bradley in 1965 ever considered for a moment that any girl  existed who might want to accessorize for girls, or that any boy existed who wanted a dreamy boy at his door.  

But nearly half a century has passed.  Now we have same-sex marriage, gay senators, gay-straight alliances in high schools, a gay teen in Paranorman, and a video of Woody, the cowboy toy from Toy Story, advising gay kids that "It gets better." Surely in new versions of the game, boys can participate, and there might be male or female dreamboats at the  door.

No, not at all.  In 1995 Hasbro released a new version of the game, with a real "mystery" component: you received clues about your date from boys talking to you on the telephone, and had to dress properly for 24 potential dates.  But it was still girls prepping.

Milton Bradley released several versions to tie-in with Disney's successful (and relatively gay-positive) High School Musical  franchise.  I checked the latest, High School Musical 3  Mystery Date (2008).  You have  to prep for a date with one of the four movie hunks, Troy, Ryan, Chad, or Zeke.  But you still have to be a girl.

Aug 30, 2018

Men in Handcuffs

If you're interested in BDSM, sooner or later you will run across someone's stash of photographs of attractive men who have been arrested, and are being led off (or dragged off) in handcuffs.  Shirtless, or sometimes even naked.

The problem is, you don't know who these men are, or what crimes they are being charged with.  They could be murderers or rapists.  They could be charged with possession of marijuana or disturbing the peace.

You have to distance yourself from their alleged criminality, and concentrate on the erotic potential.

1.Insouciant nudity.

2. Why are the cops so interested in his butt?

3.  The School to Prison Pipeline means that teenagers are now being arrested and charged with crimes for things that used to get you detention.

4. The guy is losing his pants.

5.  Don't they usually let you get dressed when you are arrested?

More after the break.

Aug 28, 2018

A New Sensitive Tarzan

Miles O'Keeffe graduated from the University of the South with a degree in psychology, and worked for a year as a prison counselor, before heading for Hollywood, hoping to make it big as an actor.

He did.  The biggest.

Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), the first Tarzan movie in over a decade, was an attempt to revitalize the Tarzan myth for the 1980s generation.  It starred the breasts of Bo Derek, a heterosexual sex symbol from 10 (1979).

 The plot was about Jane (Bo Derek) and her breasts traveling to Africa on a scientific expedition, where they meet, civilize, and have sex with the Ape Man (Miles O'Keeffe).  Though superbly muscular, Miles' Tarzan was not a man-mountain; he was a romance novel hero, a New Sensitive Man, desirable more for his tenderness than his muscles.

I don't remember him speaking, not even a "Me Tarzan" grunt.

There was no gay subtext.

Bo won the Golden Raspberry for the Worst Actress of the year, but Tarzan was a box office success, making more money than, Excalibur, The Great Muppet Caper, or An American Werewolf in London.

Miles disliked his Tarzan character, and spent the next decade trying to live him down.  I haven't seen any of his later movies, but apparently he played sword-and-sorcery heroes Ator (1982, 1984, 1987), and the Lone Runner (1986), the Medieval hero Sir Gawain (1984), and some man-mountains rescuing buddies from Southeast Asian warlords (1987, 1988, 1990).

No gay characters, but between 1999 and 2001, he appeared six times on So Graham Norton, a late-night talk show hosted by the gay British comedian.

See also: The Tarzan Who Might Have Been.

Aug 26, 2018

Battlestar Galactica: Star-Fighting Boyfriends

On Sunday nights in the fall of 1978, Boomer kids who were too young for All in the Family sat watching Battlestar Galactica, the beginning of a mythos that would last for three decades and rival Star Trek in scope and complexity.

The brief plot: in a distant part of the galaxy, the Twelve Colonies of Mankind have been destroyed by the evil Cylons.  A ragtag band of survivors, led by Commander Adama (Lorne Green) on the last surviving warship (the Battlestar Galactica), head out into space to seek the last human colony. . .Earth.

The beefcake was handled by the cute Star Wars uniforms. The bonding was handled by Commander Apollo (Richard Hatch, below) and Lieutenant Starbuck (Dirk Benedict, left).

In spite of their quests after girls, gay Boomer kids and the writers of slash fiction knew that they were romantic partners.

Teen magazines were content with gushing articles and semi-nude photos.

There were dozens of other characters. Ray Bolger, Fred Astaire, Randolph Mantooth, and Ed Beghley Jr. showed up.  Jonathan Harris of Lost in Space played Lucifer, leader of the Cylons (this was the heart of the Cold War, so good vs. evil were clearly drawn).

Ratings problems and howls of "plagiarism" from 20th Century Fox, owner of the Star Wars franchise, led to the cancellation of Galactica after just one season.  But it returned for Galactica 1980, set on Earth, with Kent McCord (left) and Barry Van Dyke (right) as the star-fighting romantic partners.

And in 2004-2009 as Battlestar Galactica, a re-imagined series with a female Starbuck.  And a prequel, Caprica (2010).

And feature films, comic books, a web series, over 20 novels (some written by Richard Hatch), video games, action figures, toys.

Just before the end of the 2004-2009 series, a couple of characters were outed, but not on screen, on a webisode. A bone thrown to gay fans, but more than they ever got from Star Trek. 
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