Feb 2, 2019

Gay Characters in America's Favorite Novels Part 2

I'm going through the list of America's Favorite Novels, as determined by a PBS survey, to see if there are any gay characters or gay subtexts.  Some of them I've read; others I ran away from in disgust.  Some I've never heard of

26. A Prayer for Owen Meany.  Ran away from.  I hate John Irving to begin with -- what kind of name is Garp?  And I heard this one was horrible. First, what kind of name is Meany?  Second, it begins with Owen playing baseball, and accidentally killing his friend's mother with a foul ball. Later he gets a job picking up dead bodies.  Cheery.

It inspired Simon Birch, a buddy-bonding movie starring Ian Michael Smith and Joseph Mazzello.

27. The Color Purple.  Read.  America's Favorite Novels are often depressing.  Woman in the Jim Crow South is abused by her husband and buddy-bonds with another woman. There's a lesbian subtext that was made explicit in the 1984 movie starring Whoopie Goldberg.

28. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  Read.  Very good, although dated journey to a dreamland, with many quotable lines.  No gay subtexts.

29. Great Expectations. Read. Dicken's best work, with Pip, the creepy Miss Havesham, and Estella ("You can break his heart).  Gay subtext with his school friend Herbert Pocket.

The 1998 "modernization" upped the hetero-romance (naked woman on the DVD cover!).  It starred Ethan Hawke as Finnegan Bell.

30.  The Catcher in the Rye.  Never read.  "Classic" teen novel about the rebellious Holden Caulfield, who smokes cigarettes and beats up gay people.  Gross.

31. Where the Red Fern Grows.  Never read, but I know it's about a boy and a dog, and I know what happens.  See Louise's Dictum: "Children's literature is about cool animals and kids who die."

Why are so many of these books for kids?  Is it that when the respondents grew up, they didn't read any more?

The 2003 movie starred Joseph Ashton as the Boy.

32. The Outsiders.  Never read, but the 1984 movie was horrible, all about "staying gold" and dying.  Louise's Dictum again.  I hear that the author was horrified by the idea of gay subtexts.  "I intended for them to be STRAIGHT!" she shrieked.

33. The Da Vinci Code.  Never read, but I hear that there's a boy-girl romance amid the skullduggery about the Priory of Sion, the Knights Templars, and who knows what else?  Maybe the Holy Grail kills some Nazis.

34. The Handmaid's Tale. Read. Horrific religious dystopia, slightly worse than our current fascist state, where fertile women become "handmaids," impregnated by rich men with infertile wives.  There are references to gay people being killed in this dystopian future.

In the 2017 tv series, Max Minghella plays Nick, an "Eye of God" (snoop) who may be working for the underground, and falls in love with handmaid June.

35. Dune. Read, but a long time ago.  A vast galactic empire, Star Wars complete with sand worms but without the freedom fighters. All I remember are the quotes from the Galactic Encyclopedia, the Messiah Paul Muad-Dib marrying his mother, and a staggeringly homophobic portrayal of a gay man.  But he still counts as a gay character.

36. The Little Prince.  Read. Awful.  Nightmare-inducing.  The narrator meets the Prince of a small planet, who is trapped on Earth.  The only way to get home is to be bitten by a snake.  He'll look dead, but he won't really be dead.  Louise's Dictum again:  "Children's literature is about cool dogs or kids who die."

37.  Call of the Wild.  Never read, though people kept trying to talk me into it through my childhood.  Apparently the dog doesn't die, he just goes feral after his humans are all murdered.

38. The Clan of the Cave Bear.  Never read. Cave people: A Cro-Magnon girl goes to live with the Neanderthals, and finds love.

39. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Read.  Funniest novel ever. I never laugh out loud while reading, but this time I did.  Nebbish Arthur Dent and galactic gadabout Ford Prefect have picaresque adventures. So long, and thanks for all the fish.  Gay subtext, no gay characters.

40.The Hunger Games.  Never read.  A dystopian future where groups of kids are forced to fight each other to the death, but a boy and a girl try to beat the system.  And...um...fall in love.  .  No gay characters.

In the 2012 movie, Josh Hutcherson plays the Boy.

41. The Count of Monte Cristo.  Read. This is another one that I can't believe people have actually read.  It's long and ponderous.  Dantes gets revenge on the people who wronged him, and helps a couple find true love.

42.  The Joy Luck Club.  Read.  Chinese-American women bond with each other and experience culture clash. Minor gay character who vanishes from the 1993 movie.

43. Frankenstein.  Never read, and I doubt most respondents have, either.   It's an epistolary novel, published in 1817.  They're thinking of the many Frankenstein movies.

44. The Giver.  Never heard of it. In a dystopian future,  a teenage is chosen to be "The Giver" and receive the memories of the past, like Christmas carols and seeing in color,  but there are complications.  And falling in lo-ooo-ooove.

In the 2014 movie, Brenton Thwaites plays Jonah, the boy chosen to be the next Giver.

45.Memoirs of a Geisha.  Never heard of it. A young girl becomes a geisha (a pleasure woman, but not a prostitute), lives through World War II, and falls in love.  I don't think there are any gay characters.

46. Moby-Dick. Read, I think some of the respondents said it was their favorite novel because they thought they were supposed to.  Ahab searches for the whale, while Ishmael and Queequeg share a bed.  Gay subtext; Melville was gay, after all.

The 1998 mini-series (yes, there was a mini-series) stars Henry Thomas as Ishmael.  It minimizes the gay subtext.

47.Catch-22. Ran away from. Weird surrealist war novel.  Lots of people die.

48. Game of Thrones.  Heard of the tv series, didn't realize it was based on an alternate world fantasy with magic swords and such.   Apparently some gay characters, who get killed right away (bury your gays).

49. Foundation.  Read.  About the fall of a galactic civilization.  A lot more boring than it sounds.  Isaac Asimov simply cannot create vivid characters.  Gay people do not exist.

50. War and Peace.  Never read.  Were the respondents serious, or making a joke about the novel's infamous length? Remember the Peanuts story arc where Snoopy plans to read one word a day?

The 2016 mini-series starred Paul Dano as Pierre. I have no idea who that is.

It also featured a naked soldier, penis and all, which I'm sure has Tolstoy turning over in his grave.

I've read 10 of the 25 books on this list.  There are some gay subtexts, but only three have actual gay characters.  So far, not so great.

Gay Characters in America's Favorite Novels. Part 1

Last summer PBS broadcast "The Great American Read," a listing of the top 100 best-loved novels as derived from a survey. Many of them I've never heard of, and others  I've heard of but ran away from.  Let's see if it's all men and women gazing into each other's eyes, or if there are any gay texts, subtexts, or characters.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird.  Never read. It's about a girl named Scout, whose father is defending a black man accused of rape in the Jim Crow South.  Some people die.  Sounds awful.

2. Outlander.  Never heard of it. Seems to be about a woman zapped into 18th century Scotland, where she falls in love.  It was turned into a tv series starring Sam Heughan, who seems a bit chunky for a romantic hero.

3. Harry Potter. Read.  Excellent series about the Boy Who Lived and his life at Hogwarts, a magic academy, and eventually a final confrontation with arch-mage He Who Must Not Be Named.   Ron-Harry subtext.  No gay characters except Dumbledore, who isn't outed.

4. Pride and Prejudice.Read. The Bennett family tries to marry off its house-ful of daughters.  It can be kind of queered.  In the 1995 mini-series, Colin Firth played main squeeze Mr. Darcy.

5. The Lord of the Rings. One ring to rule them all.  A fantasy trilogy, one of the iconic books of my childhood.  I still only like alternate-world fantasy, nothing set in the mundane reality.  It can be queered five ways from Thursday. 

6.Gone with the Wind.  Never read.  Did the survey respondents actually read it, or are they going with the movie? Of course, Clark Gable played the iconic Rhett Butler who has a tempestuous romance with Southern Belle Scarlet.  Frankly, Scarlet, there are no gay characters.

7. Charlotte's Web.  Never read, but I think it's about a pig who befriends a spider, who dies.  As Louise from Bob's Burgers said, "Children's literature is about cool animals who die."

8. Little Women.  Never read.  Again, I wonder if the survey respondents have actually read the reputedly ponderous 19th century novel about girls growing up.  Some of them die and some of the marry.  To rephrase Louise's Dictum: "Children's literature is about cool animals or kids who die."

A 2019 film version will star Timothee Chalamet as Laurie, who marries one of the girls.

9. Chronicles of Narnia.  Read.  Excellent children's fantasy series, a little topheavy with the preaching toward the end, and in the last book they all die (remember Louise's Dictum).  But until then, it's a wild ride. Some gay subtexts here and there.

10. Jane Eyre.  Read.  Jane becomes governess to the mysterious Lord Rochester, who has a madwoman in the attic.  The first of the governesses-in-danger tropes.  Not much of a gay subtext.

In the 2011 movie, Michael Fassbinder (not to be confused with director Werner Fassbinder, which I always do) played Lord Rochester.

11. Anne of Green Gables. Never read.  Isn't about a girl in the 19th century who goes to live with some relative or other, and has feelings?

I'm going to look it up on wikipedia.  $5 says that someone dies.

Yep: Louise's Dictum strikes again.

12. The Grapes of Wrath.  Read.  Some of it, anyway.  It's very long and very pretentious, about Okies from Muskogee who seek their fortune in California during the Dust Bowl.  In one chapter, breast milk figures prominently, to the disgust of generations of schoolchildren. No gay characters.

13. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  Come on, I know not one person in a hundred has read this antique novel about a girl growing up in a poor New York family, with some deaths and marriages.  Was it an Oprah's Book Club selection or something?

14.The Book Thief.  Ran away from.  A "children's" novel about a girl in Nazi Germany who reads stolen books and hides Jewish people in her basement. Gross. It was made into a 2013 movie starring Robert Allam as the Narrator and Death.  I'll wager Death had a lot of lines.

15. The Great Gatsby.  Read. During the Jazz Age, Nick befriends the mysterious Gatsby, who is obsessed with his old girlfriend.  So he buys the mansion next door and throws lavish parties in hope that she will eventually drop in.  Nice gay subtext, but I could do without the heavy-handed symbolism.

The 2013 movie starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby.

16. The Help.  Never heard of it.  A black maid and a white socialite in the Jim Crow South collaborate on a book about a black maid and a white socialite. Is this like one of those infinite puzzles?  There seem to be some gay references, anyway.

The 2011 movie had a male actor half way down the character list: Chris Lowell.

17. Tom Sawyer.  Read.  19th century Hannibal, Missouri scalawag Tom is totally in love with Becky Thatcher. I'll give it a pass.  Now, Huckleberry Finn -- there's a novel with subtexts!

18.  1984.  Read. It's about how totalitarianism quashes true love.

19. And Then There were None. Read.Agatha Christie was a great writer,maybe a little judgmental, and I really liked the mystery of who is killing off the guests on the mysterious island.  But she was not very gay-inclusive.

In 2015 it became a tv mini-series (really?  a short novel into a mini-series?), with Aiden Turner as Philip Lombard, the only semi-positive character.

20. Atlas Shrugged.  Ran away from.  Ayn Rand, selfishness as political philosophy?  I didn't even know it had a plot.

It doesn't, really.  It's mostly people giving speeches.  But the main character, a businesswoman named Dagny, does get a boyfriend.

21. Wuthering Heights. Read.  Heathcliff and Catherine are tempestuous lovers.  Heathcliff has a terrible secret,but being gay isn't it.

22. Lonesome Dove.  Never read.  It's a Western, for heaven sake.  Who reads Westerns anymore?  Especially Westerns about a cattle drive.  What's next, a Western about a chicken ranch?  No gay characters, but apparently there are lots of gay subtexts, such as between Gus and Call (Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones in the 1989 miniseries).

23. The Pillars of the Earth.  Never read.  I make a point of not reading novels that are on the book racks at airport gift shops.  It's about building a Gothic cathedral in Medieval England, and men and women falling in love.  The 2015 mini-series (have any of these NOT been made into movies?) starred Eddie Redmayne.

24. The Stand.  Read.  Well, skimmed.  If I read every word, it would take days.  The world ends due to a plague, and the few survivors gather in Boulder, Colorado (good people) and Las Vegas (wicked people).  Stephen King is not good at gay inclusion, but there are some subtexts.

25. Rebecca.  Never read, but I saw the movie. The narrator marries Mr. DeWinter, but soon discovers that she can never replace...Rebecca!  Stern housekeeper Mrs. Danvers is probably a lesbian, but it is only hinted at.

f the top 25, I've read 13.  None of them have major gay characters (who are out), and only one has a non-closeted gay reference.  Pretty bad job so far.

Next up: #26-50.

Feb 1, 2019

Cuckoo: Constantly Shifting Britcom

I don't understand the Britcom Cuckoo, which has been playing on British tv since 2012 and Netflix since 2016.  It keeps changing its premises and its cast.

Season 1 (2012) was simple: Stuffy button-down lawyer Ken (Greg Davies) discovers that his medical-student daughter Rachel (Tamla Kari) has up and married an American hippie named Cuckoo (Andy Samberg), who exemplifies everything the British don't like about the Americans: he's loud, exuberant, lazy, irresponsible, and certifiably nuts.

Ok, an odd couple comedy.  Cuckoo teaches Ken how to be less stuffy, and Ken teaches Cuckoo some responsibility.

There's also a certifiably nuts teenage son, Dylan, lying about and playing video games.

Season 2  (2014): Cuckoo is long gone, disappeared during a mountain-climbing expedition in the Himalayas and presumed dead.

Rachel (recast with Esther Smith) has moved on, and has a new boyfriend, Ben (Matt Lacey).

But then Dale (Taylor Lautner, left) shows up, claiming to be Cuckoo's son, raised in a Himalayan religious cult.

Um...Cuckoo was in his 20s.  How....?

At first everyone suspects that Dale is conning them, but he's so utterly innocent -- jumping in bed with Ken and his wife when he has a bad dream, calling Rachel "Mom" even though she's his age, that they come around, and lets him move in.

I like the episode "Funeral," in which Dale meets Ken's old college professor for five minutes, and then is overwhelmed with grief when he dies --- obviously displaced grief for his dead father.  He insists on going to the funeral, where he is mistaken for the professor's "young American friend," i.e., lover.  But no homophobic panic results from the confusion.

Dale begins sparking with his stepmother Rachel, and confesses his love in a Christmas special.  She rejects him, and he leaves town.

Season 3 (2016):  Dale is long gone, vanished and presumed dead.  Ken and his wife have a new baby, Rachel is dating, and Dylan (Tyger Drew-Honey, left) is off to University.  Then...Dale returns!  He's been living in China, working for a man who, unbeknownst to him, is a gangster.  This will become important later.

In spite of his high-concept return, Dale takes a back seat this season, which is mostly about the new baby. Plus Steve (Kenneth Collard) is added to the cast, a friend of the family with no boundaries and unacknowledged homoerotic desires.

Season 4 (2018): At least nobody has vanished this time.  Baby Sid is now a toddler, and Dale works as his nanny (to explain why he's still around).  He's also dating Rachel, and he opens a bar with Steve.   But the season is mostly about Ken's job problems and midlife crisis.

I like the episode where Sid happens to be wearing girls' clothes when they bring him to interview at an exclusive daycare (if he has a full-time nanny, why...), and the teacher mistakes him for transgender.   They end up throwing a party for transgender toddlers.

And the episode where Ken gets a crush on his neighbor Lloyd (Nigel Harmon), an uninhibited free spirit -- um, like Cuckoo and Dale?

Season 5 (2019): Dale is gone without explanation. I'm guessing that he was becoming too respectable, with a full-time job and a permanent relationship.

But not to worry, another "cuckoo," an uninhibited innocent, arrives to cause havoc: Ken's long-lost sister Ivy (Andie McDowell).  Mostly the season is about Ken's political career, as he runs for M.P.

We've come a long way from the American hippie who married Rachel back in 2012. But at least there have been a lot of gay references and bare chests.

Jan 31, 2019

Love Beat: Tony DeFranco

Listen to my heart beat -- it's a love beat
And when we meet, it's a good vibration

Whatever that means, it brings back a rush of memories of the fall of 1973: pep rallies at Washington Junior High; accidentally touching my friend Dan's hand in science class; reading Greek mythology and Tintin comics; watching Chuck Acri's Creature Feature with my brother in our attic bedroom

The DeFranco Family never hit the heights of the Osmonds or the Jackson Five, but during the 1973-74 school year, they were everywhere, guest stars on every variety show, fave raves in every issue of Tiger Beat, competing with Tony Orlando and Cher to top the pop charts.  (Here Tony DeFranco competes with Tony Orlando to see who wears the tightest pants).

They consisted of five siblings: Nino (age 18), Marisa 19), Benny (20), Tony (14), and  Merlina (16).

In the tradition of Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson, Tony
was the standout star, the source of many semi-nude pinups and many misty-eyed dreams for the heterosexual girls and gay boys at Washington Junior High.

For all the media attention, they recorded only seven songs, and only three charted -- "Heartbeat" (1973), "Abra-Cadabra" (1973), and "Save the Last Dance for Me" (1974).  They're all heterosexist, heavy-laden with "girls" and "babes."  But sometimes tight pants and a killer smile is enough.

A series of disastrous business decisions -- and the rise of disco  -- and maybe Tony's refusal to embark on a solo career -- led to the DeFranco crash.  By 1975, they were working Vegas, and in 1978 they disbanded, taking jobs behind the scenes in the music industry.

Today Tony works as a real estate agent in Westlake Village, a ritzy suburb of L.A.  He still performs occasionally, for fans who have fond memories of being in junior high in 1973.

Jan 30, 2019

Superstore: Just Leave It on and Watch

Superstore (2015-) is a workplace sitcom set in the vast Wal-Mart like Cloud 9, where responsible, by-the-books Amy (America Ferrara, best known from Ugly Betty) butts heads with the free-spirit Jonah (Ben Feldman, who bears an eerie resemblance to Charles in Charge-era Scott Baio).

We've seen this free-spirit/by the books pairing a thousand times.  Sam and Diane.  Sam and Rebecca.  Scully and Mulder.  But the twist here is: Amy is married.

Her husband Adam (Ryan Gaul) hosts a barbecuing podcast, watches football, fools around with tools, and basically acts like the uber-sterotypic Macho Man, in stark contrast to the sensitive, feminine-coded Jonah.

So this is the real-life aftermath of a teen nerd movie from the 1980s.  Instead of the teen nerd using his sexual prowess to steal The Girl away from her loud-mouth jerk boyfriend, she marries him. 

Of course, Jonah and Amy will hook up eventually anyway, but adding a husband delays the inevitable enough for the first two seasons to be palatable.

The other characters are the eclectic bunch familiar from other workplace comedies:

1. Lauren Ash as Dinah, the gun-toting, karate-chopping assistant manager/security specialist, who skins wildebeests before breakfast and dropped out of the marines because everyone was too wimpy.  She has a crush on Jonah.

2. Colton Dunn (left) as Garrett, the sarcastic, street-smart black guy who knows how to work the system to his advantage.  He's also in a wheelchair.

3. Nicole Bloom as Cheyenne, an airheaded 17-year old high schooler who got pregnant by her boyfriend (Johnny Pemberton), an aspiring rapper with extremely progressive, pro-choice, pro-gay, anti-racist lyrics: "God is a black woman, yo!"  They get married, and name their daughter Harmonica. 

4. Josh Lawson as Tate, a sadistic pharmacist who makes Jonah his personal slave.

5. Jon Barinholtz as Marcus, a doofus who gets everything wrong and often is injured ("My spleen!").

I was concerned about two characters.

6. Nico Santos as Mateo, who starts out as a priggish tattletale and brown-nosing sycophant, self-righteous, condescending, scheming, manipulative, a gay villan in training.  Over the first season, he softens and becomes more likeable, and in the second season he begins dating.  I still don't like him, but at least his character is not entirely homophobic, a source of laughter rather than disdain.

7. Mark McKinney as store manager Glenn.  McKinney was an original member of the Canadian comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall in the 1980s.  He plays Glenn with a squeaky cartoon-character voice, and as so completely clueless that he comes across as mentally challenged.  And he's a born-again Christian who reads the Bible aloud  and asks for Jesus' blessings during staff meetings.

Born-again Christian usually means homophobic, so I was cringing when a gay couple came into the store to plan their wedding.  He asks "Which is the lucky groom?", and upon hearing "Both of us," assumes that it's a double male-female wedding.  Upon being apprised that it's a gay couple, he is surprised but not angry, and overdoes the enthusiasm: "Oh, you're gay?  That's terrific!  I'm totally supportive! I think gay people are great!"  Finding out that Mateo is gay provokes the same reaction.

Ok, not homophobic.  Scarily out of touch, but not homophobic.

Superstore is not the most innovative of shows; it's mostly what we've seen before.  But it's pleasant enough.  It reminds me of the old days of network tv, where they put a C+ show in between two A+ shows, so you could either turn off the tv for a half hour or just leave it on and watch.

I'll just leave it on and watch.

Youth Wrestling

I don't understand competition. Why does there have to be a winner and a loser? There's no point in hurting someone's feelings just because they didn't perform as well as someone else.  In teaching you never tell the A students that they're winners, and the C students (C is the new F) that they're losers.

That's why I don't like sports.  Why is that team trying to take the ball away from the other team?  Can't they just share?

And I hate violence, so I especially don't like sports that are just stylized fights, like wrestling.

The only reason I pay wrestling any attention is for the homoerotic subtext of two guys grabbing at each other.

And of course for biceps and bulges in the revealing uniforms.

So I don't approve of "youth wrestling," where they take preteen boys, aged 5-13 (typically girls aren't admitted), and force them to compete and fight with each other.  It's nothing but a training school for bullies.

But there are hundred of youth wrestling clubs around the U.S. for parents to force their kids into.  They have state and national competitions with thousands of participants.


I don't get it.  Who would want to watch their kids doing this?

And photographing their 5-year olds in creepy preteen beefcake shots, thinking "Soon my muscleman will be beating up fairies in the schoolyard."

The Wisconsin Youth Wrestling Federation even suggests proselytization.  To be fair, it cautions against using sexist rhetoric like "Are you man enough?"  Instead say things like "I think you'd be good at wrestling" or "Want to have fun wrestling?"

Team USA cautions that "Wrestling does not promote violence.  Matches begin and end with a handshake."  It also promises that youth wrestlers don't have to wear singlets, so no bulges on display (leave that for high school), and that "wrestling is for all ages, races, and genders."

It doesn't mention sexual orientations, but I doubt that gay kids are welcome.

Gary Gygax and the Homophobic World of Dungeons and Dragons

When I was in college, Dungeons and Dragons was The Big Thing.  Everybody who was anybody -- and by that I mean the guys who hung out at Adam's Bookstore -- played. 

Actually, I never got into it, but I always felt that I should.  On the surface, it seems appealing -- creating a Medieval character and going on a quest, with dragons, orcs, elves, mages, runes, magic swords, barrow wights, you name it.  But the actual play felt mechanical and soulless.  "You raise your sword. Throw the dice to see if you slay the goblin.  You have lost 3 strength points but added five points to your stamina.  Roll the dice again."

I've never got into board games, either.  They call them "bored" games for a reason.

But it still brings back memories of that halcyon time, when Tolkien,  Renaissance Faires, the Society for Creative Anachronism, Isaac Asimov, Old Norse Sagas, Celtic folklore, comic books, and Dungeons and Dragons evoked a bright, glittering alternative to the dull world of jobs and marriages that we were destined for.  So, out of nostalgia, I bought Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons and Dragons.

Also the cover illustration was sort of cool, and author Michael Witwer is cute.

The first half of the book was very interesting, and very well written.  We hear about Gary Gygax (1938-2008) growing up in Chicago and then the far suburb of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, exploring an abandoned asylum, having paranormal experiences, buddy-bonding with his best friend Dan, getting involved with the fledgling military role-playing game community of the 1960s.

Finding a bright, glittering alternative to the dull world of jobs and marriages that they were destined for.

Then suddenly destiny hits.  Gary gets married and has a lot of kids, gets a job, earns extra money by writing and editing gaming magazines.

For awhile the gaming world and the mundane world co-exist.  Gary plays his war games most nights with groups of boys and young men.  Sometimes, when it gets too late, he spends the night.  His wife is certain that he's having an affair, and storms into the house, only to be relieved to find him surrounded by teenage boys.

Yest she never suspects that he might be gay?

Then Gary invents Dungeons and Dragons, with no fanfare and no detail. 

The rest of the book is dull, dull, dull!  Gary sells a share of the business for a 10% royalty, corresponds with gaming publishers, negotiates with p.r. firms, gets rich, buys a mansion, gets a regular seat at the Playboy Club, has affairs with lots and lots of young ladies -- to the consternation of his wife, who breaks up with him on the plane on the way to London.

The joy is gone, buried under an avalanche of ledge books and tax forms.

And I found out a lot about Gary Gygax. Though Witwer tries to sugarcoat it as much as possible, it becomes increasingly obvious that Gary Gygax was not a nice person.  Authoritarian, imperious, judgmental, a leering, sexist jerk, promoting old-fashioned gender stereotypes.  An "America: Love It or Leave It" warmonger.  And, I assume, homophobic.

At least the author is.  Gay people do not exist in his book except in one story.  The 1980s backlash against Dungeons and Dragons began when a 16-year old college freshman, James Dallas Egbert III, vanished from his college campus.

The media latched onto D&D as the culprit, no doubt causing him to commit suicide (actually, he just ran away).

But, Witwer tells us, the lad was already unstable long before he discovered D&D.  He was an outsider, a science geek, too intelligent for his own good, and "an emergent homosexual."

I don't know what an emergent homosexual is, but it can't be good.

I feel betrayed.  One of the icons of my childhood has been tarnished.  The bright glittery world had a homophobic underbelly.

See also Dungeons and Dragons; Six Naked College Boys
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