Jan 9, 2019

Orphans of the Sky

My favorite Robert Heinlein science fiction novels,  in order.

#10: Starman Jones (1953).  The Starman falls for a girl.
#9: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961): A boy raised by Martians founds a hippie cult.
#8: Citizen of the Galaxy (1956): A rich kid is sold into slavery.
#7: Time for the Stars (1956): Hetero-romance spoils the ending of a deep-space adventure.
#6: Have Space Suit-Will Travel (1958): It's spoiled by Heinlein's belief that 1950s fads would last forever.
#5: Starship Troopers (1959).  Rico trains to be a soldier. The 1997 movie version gives him (played by Casper Van Dien) a girlfriend.
#4: Red Planet (1949):  The boys get lost on Mars, and have to depend on each other to survive.

#3: Tunnel in the Sky (1955): No buddy-bonding among the deep-space castaways, but no romance either.

#2. Space Cadet (1948):  The romance between Matt and Tex was a defining moment of my childhood.

And #1: Universe (1941), first published in Astounding, and expanded (and heterosexualized) in Orphans of the Sky (1963).

The muscular, half-naked Hugh grows up in a small farming community, rarely venturing more than two or three decks from home, not worried about much besides crops and friends and mutie attacks. He believes his parents and the Scientists when they tell him that the universe consists of the Ship, a cylindrical cavern. The stars and planets in old books are merely fairy-tales; when the ancients spoke of the journey to "Far Centaurus." they were being metaphorical, talking about the soul's journey to enlightenment.

Then Hugh is captured by a two-headed, muscular, half-naked mutant named Joe-Jim, who convinces him that stars and planets are real, that the Ship is actually traveling through space.  Civilization ended after a mutiny generations ago, and everyone forgot their true destiny.

Hugh and Joe-Jim revolt against the Ship's oppressive theocratic government, tell everyone the truth, and try to push forward to their original destination.

Why it's #1:

Gay kids in the 1960s and 1970s struggled with the realization that the adults were wrong, or lying, when they claimed that we all lived in a small heteronormative box, and that there was no escape possible, because there was nothing outside.  When they insisted that the same-sex romances that we saw on tv or read about in comics were chimeras, misinterpreted friendships, or at best metaphors for the true, mature, heterosexual loves of adulthood.

But, as Frankie Valli sang,
The adults are lying -- only real is real.

Jan 8, 2019

The Dukes of Hazzard

The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985) wasn't really a hillbilly show, though the "backwood Adonis" theme can be traced back through Jethro Bodine to L'il Abner.  It was set in the country (Hazzard, Georgia), not the hills, and the premise was derived on the 1970s trucker fad.  The Duke cousins, the blond Bo (John Schneider) and the brunette Luke (Tom Wopat), drove a 1969 Dodge Charger instead of a truck, but they still zoomed through rustic locales with a country-fried sheriff, Boss Hogg (Sorrell Booke), in hot pursuit.

The boys lived with their cousin Daisy (Catherine Bach) and their elderly Uncle Jesse (Denver Pyle), who narrated the stories ("Well, the Duke boys were in trouble again....") and provided sage advice.

It was obvious early on that the actors were hired for their beefcake appeal.  Although their shirts were off constantly and they had nice muscles, the main draw was below the belt.  Look closely -- well, you don't really need to look closely.  It's out there for everyone to see.  John Schneider wore jeans so tight that they had to be peeled off at the end of a shoot. (Just in case you liked girls, they also put Daisy into revealing short-shorts that came to be called Daisy Dukes).

But the beefcake (and Daisy's cheesecake) didn't mean that the show was obsessed with heterosexual hookups.  In fact, dating and romance was not high on anyone's list of activities. Daisy falls in love a few times, but Bo and Duke, never.  They save an orphanage, enter their car in a race, catch bank robbers, pursue card sharks, sing, and run up against the corrupt Boss Hogg.

And the bonding was intense!  Ok, they were "cousins," but they were inseparable, devoted to each other, with eyes for no one else.  They behaved, and the residents of Hazzard treated them, precisely like long-time partners.

When they left the series briefly in 1982, Byron Cherry and Chip Meyer came in as cousins Coy and Vance.

Both John Schneider and Tom Wopat have had successful post-Duke careers, and they are both gay allies. I met Tom Wopat in 1999.  In 2008, John Schneider performed at the L.A. AIDS Walk, and spoke about three friends who died of AIDS, including his "best friend in all the world" during his years on The Dukes. 

Jan 7, 2019

Eurotrip: Hunkage, Homophobia, and a Gay Subtext

While on the treadmill at the gym, I watched most of Eurotrip (2004), a standard young adult comedy of the era, which means recent high school graduates obsessed with boobs and proving that they're not gay.

During the summer after high school, Scotty (Scott Mechlowitz, left)) freaks out when he discovers that his German penpal, Mike, thinks that he's hot.

Hey, Scott, I hate to break it to you, but lots of guys think you're hot.  Deal with it. Gay guys have to deal with ladies liking us all the time.

Scott angrily breaks off all contact.  But upon discovering that Mike is actually Mieke, a girl, he determines to go to Berlin and apologize.

To his credit, his goofy friend Cooper (Jacob Pitts, center) is more tolerant.  He is fully prepared to accept Scotty's "coming out."  And even when he hears that Mieke is a girl, he says "He's the girl, you're the girl, sometimes you're both girls.  Whatever works for you.  I'm not gonna judge."

But he leaves his tolerance behind at the Cleveland airport.

In Europe, the duo hook up with the boobalicious Jenny (Michelle Trachtenberg), and her studious twin brother Jamie (Travis Wester, right).  Think Fred, Shaggy, Daphne, and a male Velma.  Their misadventures take them to London, Paris, Bratislava, Berlin, and Rome, with ample opportunities for gross-out humor:

Jenny and Jamie accidentally make out with each other.

Due to a variety of mishaps, Scotty sets fire to the Papal Apartment in the Vatican and ends up being hailed as the new Pope (But this major act of vandalism and sacrilege doesn't get him in trouble after everyone realizes that he did it "for love.").

There are ample opportunities to see boobs -- lots and lots of boobs -- and also male physiques,usually framed as moments of disgust.  And lots of opportunities for the boys to prove that they're not gay.

They end up on a nude beach that's...gasp...occupied entirely by naked men!

A Creepy Italian Guy on the train starts coming on to Jamie, to his shock and horror.

Cooper thinks that he's going to have a hetero BDSM scene with one Madame Vandersexx, but instead she brings in GUYS and yells "Administer the Testicle Clamps!"

Even throwaway gags:

Scotty: I'm thinking of majoring in German.
Cody: Don't be such a woman.

Even Jenny is ridiculed for being "gay" for telling a story about hetero-romance.

So, you're probably wondering, why did I stick it out?

Other than the fact that the only other choices were Meet the Press and The Andy Griffith Show?

To start off, the movie offered substantial hunkage, which is really all you need on the treadmill at the gym.

 Scott Mechlowicz looked extremely familiar,but I haven't seen him in anything else.  His most notable movie is Peaceful Warrior (2006), in which he plays a gymnast with his shirt off.

I was interested in Jacob Pitts, who so intensely channeled Matthew Lillard (Shaggy in the 2002 Scooby-Doo movie).  He moved from Macbeth on Broadway directly to Eurotrip.  Currently you can see him on tv in Sneaky Pete and The Sinner.  Here's a recent nude.

And I was interested in the character of Jamie.  He seems to have a major crush on Scott, even selling his beloved (and expensive) camera to finance Scott's trip to Rome in search of "true love": buddy-bonding.

And he's the only one of the group who doesn't get a fade-out kiss.  Instead, he's offered a job with Frommer's Guides.  A economic fade-out, but I'll take the gay subtext.

Travis Wester is currently in law school.  I assume the guy he's hugging is his boyfriend.

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