Oct 5, 2018

American Horror Story: A School for Boys Run By Gay Men

American Horror Story: Apocalypse has gone to a toxic but beefcake-heavy place.

The last episode, "Could it Be...Satan," was the catch phrase of the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live

It is mostly a flashback of Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) growing up, with hair length varying depending on his age.  In the first scene, his Satanist mother asks the teenager to say grace to "Our Dark Lord" before dinner, with "amen" backwards.

Does anyone else hear "Michael Langdon" and hear "Michael Landon," star of Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie?

A few years later, Michael accidentally uses his powers to hurt people, and ends up in jail.  He is discovered by the warlock Ariel  (Jon Jon Briones)in a scene that looks very much like the discovery of Harry Potter's Voldemort, and brought to a warlock school, the Hawthorne School for Boys.







Hawthorne, which is the underground bunker in the present, looks very much like Hogwarts, except that it's boys only, and everyone dresses in 19th century costumes.  We see campy instructor Behold Chablis (Billy Porter) teaching a class in how to levitate beads, and upbrading a student (Kai Caster, left) for forgetting his textbook.

Also, all four of the warlock teachers are gay (or at least played by gay men).  That can't be a coincidence, but I can't figure out the reason.  Except to imply that all warlocks are gay.  You can't have magical powers if you're interesed in women.





The other warlocks complain that Michael's powers come from darkness, in another scene that looks very much like Voldemort at Hogwarts.

But Ariel believes that Michael is the Supreme, the prophesied warlock who will become the supreme leader of the witches and warlocks.

The witches find this idea ridiculous.  Men are physically unable to become powerful witches.  They should stick to parlor tricks.

In other words, stay in the kitchen where you belong.  And bring me a beer.



The warlocks are more hopeful.

See, men have endure oppression at the hands of women for generations.  They are forced to take second-rate jobs and housing, forbidden from achieving positions of authority, decried as inferior, insulted, humiliated, harassed.  But when the Supreme arrives, their oppression will end, and men will take their true place as heads of society.

Um...really? Women in general earn less than men, don't get promoted as often, get harassed and humiliated much more.  They can't walk down the street without getting catcalls and propositions.  20% of women and 3% of men have been sexually assaulted.

This sounds like one of those wacky men's rights groups that feels threatened by the possibility of a woman in a position of authority.

I know it's just a coincidence, but the episode happened to air during the Kavanaugh hearings, where multiple allegations of sexual assault have been summarily dismissed.




It was nice, after the very limited cast of characters in the first few episodes, to see the cast expand, with a lot of beefcake potential:  the students at Hogwarts...um, Hawthorne, some cops, a butcher who gets a knife in the head, and two "albinos."

But it was distinctly uncomfortable to watch all the "men are oppressed" rhetoric.

Oct 4, 2018

Will and Grace Rebooted: Not Awful, and There's Kissing

I don't have network tv anymore, so I only learned through the grapevine that the 1990s "gay men are really women" fest Will and Grace was getting a five-episode reboot.

 I just found out  that it returned for a whole season, a full fledged Season 9  (2017-2018), with Season 10 to start in October.  Curious, I dipped into a few episodes.

It's not awful.

Eleven years have passed, and the characters are pushing through middle age (Jack is 49 years old, Grace 51, Will  is 52, and Karen 59).

They have been rebooted: the relationships they had at the end of the last series have been dissolved, and there are no children to grow up and get married to each other.  Will and Grace are living together again.

Jack and Karen are still shrill and theatrical.

But Will and Grace are not quite as self-possessed.  Remember: "We don't believe in anything?"  Now they believe in things.  I guess you could get by with complacency in the Clinton 1990s, but in the alt-right era, it's time to march.

And the Fab Four no longer seem to hate each other.   The undertow of hostility is absent.  There are few barbs and put-downs, except for the ubiquitous ones about Will being too feminine and Grace being too masculine.

 The plotlnes are different. They face ethical dilemmas.


They face their mortality.  Grace has a cancer scare.  Karen's beloved housemaid Rosario dies.  Jack has a grandson.

They are actually affected by current events, although sometimes with a weird twist.  Instead of a bakery refusing to bake a cake for gay people, it's refusing to bake a cake for the President).

And being gay is different. In the earlier series, gay men were actually transgender bisexuals.  They thought of themselves as women, referred to themselves as women, and displayed traditionally feminine traits, with skin care products and romantic comedies.  They dated men (without kissing them), but they preferred sex with women and sought out female life partners.

Now gay men are still "girls," but they rarely express any heterosexual desire.

In the earlier series, gay men (or rather, transgender bisexuals) faced no homophobia.  Even the ubiquitous "You're really a woman!" wasn't actually homophobic, since they agreed with the evaluation.  There was no discrimination, no prejudice, no homophobic rage.  There was no coming out: everybody always knew, everyone was always out (except no kissing). Now there is homophobic bias.  There are guys on the downlow.  You have to come out to friends and family.

There are some hunky guest stars and recurring characters, like Kyle Bornhammer (above) as a secret service agent.

Ryan Pinkston (left), one of my long-time favorite actors, as a closeted cop who dates Jack.















Ben Platt as a 23-year old who dates "daddy" Will (I know the feeling).

















Another of my long-time favorites, Michael Angarano, as Jack's son.

I'm actually not hating it.

At least there's kissing.

See also: Ryan PinkstonWill and Grace



Oct 1, 2018

Cartoon Muscle: Not Just Superheroes in Spandex

When I was a kid, you could occasionally see shirtless boys or men in Saturday morning cartoons, but it was rare, primarily on jungle or prehistoric adventure series like The Herculoids.   Mostly you had to make do with an open shirt or a spandex superhero uniform, and of course Saturday morning live-action series.

Fred from Scooby-Doo seemed to have a nice physique, but not once in 10,000 episodes did he ever take his shirt off.

Times have changed. In Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated (2010-2013), he flexes at poolside.




The Anime Boys with Their Shirts Off blog displays the shirtless boys and men appearing in a huge number of animated tv series, everything from adventure to comedy, and even some toddler tv.  Did you ever want to see Dora the Explorer's brother Diego with his shirt off?  Or Bill from Curious George?













There's a lot of Japanese anime, like The Legend of Korra and The Daily Lives of High School Boys),  but also a lot of Western cartoons, everything from Phineas and Ferb to Johnny Test.




There are even a few oldies, like these golden-haired preppy types (from Beverly Hills Teens and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, respectively).







Apparently animators are no longer worried about kids being traumatized for life by the sight of a torso or two (like these from Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego).

See also: Saturday Morning Muscle


Sep 30, 2018

Edwin Landseer and Jacob Bell: Victorian BFFs or Boyfriends?



I found this in, of all places, a book on Alice in Wonderland.  Male nudity in art is not a violation of Blogger policy, so it's ok to show.

It is actually a painting of a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream (1851), now in the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia.

Queen Titania embraces Bottom with the ass's head, while fairy folk look on in amusement. The rabbit on the right may have inspired Lewis Carroll to include the White Rabbit character in Alice in Wonderland.

 In the front foreground, we see a naked, muscular male fairy bathed in autumn light. .

The male physique is so striking, the nudity so incongruous, that I had to look up the artist.


Edwin Landseer (1802-1873), an artistic prodigy who began displaying his paintings at the Royal Academy at age 15.  A darling of the Victorian age: he painted Queen Victoria, her family, and her pets, and was chosen to sculpt the lions in Trafalgar Square.   But he made most of his money by selling engravings of his paintings, introducing fine art to the Victorian middle class.

When he died, flags flew at half-mast, and shops closed for the day in mourning.

I looked at his opus -- mostly dogs and horses, an occasional person.

His painting Man Proposes, God Disposes, depicting polar bears eating the remains of Sir John Franklin's Artic expedition of 1845, now hangs in Royal Holloway College at the University of London.  It is covered during exams, because according to rumor if you sit too close to it, you will go mad.

 As far as I can tell, the illustration from A Midsummer Night's Dream is the only nude man in Landseer's opus.  Could it be an eruption of hidden passion, gay desire come to light?

Here's my evidence:








Landseer never married, but he was always surrounded by men.  He suffered from bouts of insanity through his life, and when he was incapacitated, the person who took care of his affairs was not his brother Thomas, but his friend Jacob Bell (1810-1859).

The two also went on an extended tour of Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland in 1840.

So who was this Jacob Bell?








Originally intending to become a painter, Bell dropped out of art school and became a chemist (pharmacist).  He remained a patron of the arts, moving in artistic circles, sponsoring young artists, surrounding himself with...um...men. He was also an avid theater-goer and opera buff, sponsoring the first performances in England of La Traviata. And a dog lover, like Landseer.

He never married, either.

Two heterosexual bffs united through their love of animals and art?

Or boyfriends?

Or connected by a passion that neither understood or voiced, that erupted in a beefcake painting of Queen Titania?


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