Nov 29, 2018

Children of Eden: A Beefcake-Free Adam and Eve

The musical Children of Eden is not the beefcake-fest you might imagine, with a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah. 

1. The actor playing Adam is rarely nude.  He wears heavy Patriarch robes, or a modern costume.   They can wear heavy Patriarch robes, or modern costumes.

2. So there is no reason to cast anyone particularly hunky.

What do you expect from something originally written in 1986 for a group called Youth Sing Praise

The Adam and Eve plot is relatively faithful to the two Biblical accounts, but it ups the heterosexism: love! love! love! is the key to everything.  Always choose love over power, regardless of what the Serpent says.

Cain's story is different.  He wants to leave the family, and bring Abel with him, but Adam forbids it.  They fight, Abel takes Adam's side, and Cain in a rage beats him to death.  Then, heartbroken, Cain says it should have been him who died and leaves.

Ok, there's a little homoerotic buddy-bonding there, but it's drowned out by the Second Act, a forbidden romance between Noah's son Japheth and Yonah, who belongs to the wrong race (it's as uncomfortable as it sounds).

I suggest that you wait around for the Community Theater's next production of Tarzan.

Nov 28, 2018

That Girl: Will and Grace for the 1960s

Why did That Girl (1966-71) made my childhood list of tv programs “good beyond hope"? The tale of Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas), madcap wannabe actress on the loose in a bright, effervescent New York City, had  some beefcake -- hunky guest stars and Don Hollinger (Ted Bessell) in extra-revealing 1960s pants.  But there were no same-sex plotlines, no same-sex romances. It's about a boy and a girl.

But still, Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell were both gay allies.  Ted previously costarred with gay actor Jim Nabors on Gomer Pyle and bisexual Glenn Corbett on  It's a Man's World.  Today Marlo Thomas writes a column on gay and women's history for The Huffington Post.

And they do not portray Don and Ann as in love. Indeed, they rarely even kiss. Instead, depictions of their evenings together often fade out with Don wisecracking and Ann laughing, like warm and caring friends enjoying each other’s company (in the third season, ABC helpfully added a kissing scene to the closing credits, to remind us that they were to be taken as a romantic couple).

Instead, they often treated the romantic reading of their relationship as a joke: in “The Good Skate” (September 1967), when Don presents Ann with a small jewelry box, she concludes that it contains an engagement ring and gapes in horror: she doesn’t want to get married. But it really contains a skate key.

Surely most lovers would consider such a joke rather cruel, but Ann laughs it off as mischievous fun.

ABC wanted the couple to marry in the last episode, but they refused. The series ended with Ann and Don trapped in an elevator en route to a Women’s Liberation meeting.

Two decades later, when Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell discussed a reunion movie, they agreed that Ann and Don had remained close friends, but never married.

They wanted fans to be free to explore their own feelings, instead of believing that their destiny necessarily lay in a cookie-cutter, assembly-line heterosexual romance. She and

Bessell took pains, therefore, to ensure that their characters could be read in any of the many ways that women and men might approach each other as equals: perhaps as romantic partners, but perhaps as friends. In that last category it is easy to read Don as a gay man.

Nov 27, 2018

Sick Note: Gay Subtexts in the Most Unpleasant Sitcom on TV

Daniel Glass (Rupert Grint, left) is having a bad day.  His girlfriend has kicked him out, his boss is planning to fire him, and to add to his woes, he's diagnosed with cancer.

Suddenly everyone starts being very nice to him. His girlfriend lets him move back in, he won't be fired, he can get out of anything by claiming that he's not feeling well.

Then Daniel finds out that his incompetent physician, Dr. Glennis (Nick Frost of Shaun of the Dead) has misdiagnosed him.  No cancer.  But he decides to play the sick card awhile longer.... and things start to go downhill fast.

His best friend, Ash (Togu Ogunmefun), who is sleeping with his girlfriend, overhears everything, then falls out of a window to his death.  To avoid being charged with murder, Daniel asks Dr. Glennis to make it look like an anonymous hit and run accident.  But Ash isn't actually dead, just in a coma.  But Dr. Glennis accidentally switched cell phones. A police office (Daniel Rigby, left) starts snooping around.  And Daniel's online gaming friend, Will (Dustin Demri-Burns) shows up with dark secrets of his own.

The complications are humorous -- I actually laughed out loud several times in each episode, and I almost never laugh at a tv show.  There are gay subtexts everywhere, especially Daniel-Dr. Glennis,but Will also seems to be in love with Daniel, and Daniel flirts with Officer Hayward.  There are also a lot of jokes involving same-sex behavior.

Will (to Daniel): "Take off your clothes.  We're going to take a bath together...just kidding."

Daniel's disgustingly sexist boss, Kenny West (Don Johnson), drops his pants in front of him.  Daniel assumes that he wants a blow job, but actually he is demonstrating that he is a cancer survivor.

I'm not sure about Daniel's panicked reactions.  Is he horrified because he hates these two guys, or because the idea of same-sex intimacy is disgusting?

But my main problem with Sick Note is the characters.

Kenny West is an over-acted, over-the-top caricature of a sexist boss circa 1955.  He discusses his penis during business meetings, litters his speech with the crudest profanity imaginable, and openly propositions his employees.  Um...hostile workplace? Sexual harassment?

Daniel is a complete jerk, utterly amoral.  His best friend falls to his death because Daniel startled him.  No grief, no guilt -- how can I dispose of the body?  He kills his girlfriend's cat (it takes several tries).  He discusses whether he would go back in time and have sex with Marilyn Monroe's corpse.

Dr. Glennis is also utterly amoral, but more importantly, he's too stupid to live.  He doesn't know what ASAP means.  He mispronounces easy medical terms.  He doesn't know how to take a pulse (wherever did he go to medical school?).  There is no one on Earth that clueless.

Officer Hayward is also too stupid to live, but more importantly, he's too prudish to be a police officer.  A woman in a low-cut blouse sends him into a tizzy of embarrassment.

The characters are simply unpleasant to watch.  And unpleasant to look at.  Rupert Grint has a pasty, doughy body and a face out of a disease-of-the-week movie.  Nick Frost is a bit too chubby even for chasers.  And no one else unbuttons a button.

My verdict: rewatch Shaun of the Dead instead.  More buddy-bonding, and the characters are pleasant.

Nov 25, 2018

F is for Family: Gay Characters and Beefcake circa 1974

Comedian Bill Burr specializes in "the absurdity of political correctness," which usually means "the absurdity of not telling homophobic jokes," but I don't find his bits at all homophobic.  Gross maybe, but not homophobic:

When two dudes get married, how will their arguments differ from a man and a woman?  No punching the wall just above their heads.  You go for the liver shot.

His animated F is For Family is likewise utterly lacking in homophobia.  Instead, it reminds me of Married...with Children.  15 years ago, as a recent high school graduate, Frank (Bill Burr) found his dreams shattered when his girlfriend became pregnant.

Now it's 1974, he's lost hair and gained some pounds, and he hates his life: a dumpy house in a working-class Catholic neighborhood, a horrible job as a baggage handler at an airline, a nagging wife, three crazy kids.  He watches sports, drinks beer, and says "f..." a lot.

Through two seasons, each member of the family survives individual catastrophes.

1. Frank is promoted to manager, then fired on Christmas  Day.  He deals with the "humiliation" of his wife going to work, schemes to get his job back by sabotaging a coworker, changes his mind, and gets embroiled in a hostage crisis.

2. Sue (Laura Dern) gets a job selling Plasta-ware, and invents a salad-spinner.  But the company president takes credit for it.

3. Surly 15-year old Kevin (Justin Long) dreams of rock stardom, and gets his big break when his record producer neighbor, Vic(Sam Rockell), hires him for a birthday-party gig.  But things fall apart when Kevin has sex with Vic's girlfriend (and Vic, incidentally, is fired.  The girlfriend doesn't have any consequences).

4. Wimpy 11-year old Bill (Haley Reinhart) deals with the psychotic bully Jimmy.  After a stint at military school fails to reform him, Bill and his friends try the ultimate prank, which backfires and sends Jimmy to the hospital.

5. Sarcastic 8-year old Maureen wants to join the Computer Club at school, but Frank forbids it because computers are for boys.  She suffers an eye injury in a sledding accident.

As a child of the 1970s, I enjoy the 1970s references, especially the parody versions of some of the horrible commercials and tv shows of the era.

There is a surprising amount of beefcake for an animated program, with several characters who like to display their biceps and baskets.

And a surprising lack of homophobia.  Even the bullies don't seem particularly homophobic.  "F" never stands for "fag."

There are several gay-subtext characters, probably intentionally.  Kevin has two friends, Bolo and Lex, who constantly make jokes about their attraction to men:

Discussing a cute girl: "I'd give a thousand guys hand jobs just to see her boob."

Neighbor Babe Bonfiglio is obviously into Vic.  His son, Philip, is obviously in love with Bill, and doesn't blanch at being called his "girlfriend."

Plus two "secretly gay" characters, which makes sense, given that this is the homophobic 1970s, only five years after Stonewall.

Louis Gagliardi, the head of Frank's union, is sleeping with his chauffeur.

Greg Throater (pun intended), who dresses and acts like a Castro Clone, constantly makes jokes implying that he likes sex with men.  Eventually he realizes that he actually is gay.  He tries to come out to his wife several times, but she won't believe him.  Which also makes sense, given that this is the 1970s.

F is for Family has been renewed for a third season, which airs November 30th, 2018.

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