Nov 8, 2018

The Heteronormative Creepypasta of "Dream Door"

I was conned into buying Season 4 of Channel Zero, "The Dream Door."  First, it got lots of excellent reviews: a triumph, a visual delight, the best horror tv series of the decade, and so on , and so on. 

It's about secret doors that pop up out of nowhere.  Where do they lead?  Another universe?  The land of the dead?  I was in intrigued.

Turns out that the series is based on creepypastas, a sort of internet urban legend.  This particular storyline comes from "I've Found a Hidden Door in My Cellar."   A husband and wife find a doorway hidden behind the wallpaper in their cellar.  It leads to a stairway and another cellar, where they find a man with strange jerky movements.  They rush out and call the police, who find nothing in the secret room but some dried blood and weird symbols.

Ok, a real secret room, but it still sounds intriguing.  So I bought the season.

Uh-oh.  The writers expanded the briefly mentioned "husband and wife" into Tom and Jillian (Brandon Scott, Maria Sten), a newlywed couple, although they both look like they've passed 40.  They're moving into a new house, so there are bouts of stereotypic playful fixing-up (one puts paint on the other's nose) juxtaposed with bouts in the bedroom.

Gross.  I didn't sign up for all this heteronormative garbage.  Fast forward.

The secret door opens, without a secret room, and a very scary contortionist clown named Pretzel Jack emerges.  Why didn't they name the season "The Contortionist Clown"?  He turns out to be Jillian's childhood imaginary friend (like she would really have someone so scary as a childhood friend!).  Right now his job is to kill people who make her upset or angry.

Like one of their friends, Jillian's therapist, and Tom, who acts like a jerk a lot.

Meanwhile next-door neighbor Ian (Steven Robertson) tells Jillian that she has conjured up the clown, and can control it.

At first I thought that Ian and Jillian would become romantic partners, fighting against the evil Tom. 

Then, when no one even suspects that they have a romantic bond, I thought that Ian know.

He turns out to be the Big Bad of the series, creating the monster out of Jillian's subconscious.  And he has some scary creations of his own, Tall Boy (Stephen R. Hart) and some multicolored boogies, who are pitted against Tom and Pretzel Jack. Why?  I have no idea.

Tom gets a lot of physique shots.  So the show has that.

The contortionist clown is scary, even though most of the contorting is not strictly necessary, but just for effect.  He wasn't CGI;  he was the creation of real-life contortionist performer. "Twisty" Troy James.

But the sinister queer villain trying to thwart True Hetero-Love?  I've seen it all before.

Nov 6, 2018

Teenie Harris and the African-American Physique

Charles "Teenie" Harris (1908-1998) grew up in the Hill District, Pittsburgh's African-American neighborhood, and became a professional basketball and baseball player in the Negro League. 

Later he opened up a photography studio and began publishing in the Pittsburgh Courier, Flash, and elsewhere.  Although he published "glamour portraits" of celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, President Kennedy, and President Eisenhower, his main interest was in documenting everyday life: men and women going to work and school, playing, partying. 

60,000 of his photos have been digitized by the Carnegie Museum of Art, and many offer a rare glimpse of African-American beefcake of the era.

1. Camp Weldon Johnson, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, 1941. 

2. More from Camp Weldon Johnson, 1941.

3. Two men at an interracial pool party in 1946 (quite revolutionary at the time).

4. Centre Avenue YMCA Pool, 1951.

5. Golden Gloves Contenders, 1951

6. East Liberty YMCA, 1953.  Men  teaching lifeguard techniques.

7, Boxer Wendell Turner with boy scouts, 1961.

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