Mar 14, 2019

Mary Poppins Helps a Gay Dad

Remember Mary Poppins (1964), the classic Disney movie in which a strange magical governess sweeps down from the sky to introduce joie de vivre into the lives of two kids and their stuffy, negligent parents? 

To refresh your memory, the parents are stuffy George Banks, a banker (good name), and Winifred, who is ludicrously obsessed with women's suffrage (imagine, women having the right to vote!).  The two preteen children, Jane and Michael, needed saving from their nascent juvenile delinquency.

Well, now there's a sequel, Mary Poppins Returns (2018).

P. L. Travers actually wrote a sequel to her first book, with Mary Poppins returning a year or so later, dealing with the same family all over again.  But in the movie version, it's been 25 years.  The elder Banks are deceased.  Michael (Ben Whishaw, top photo) has abandoned his dream of becoming an artist and taken a job in banking, like his father, and Jane has grown into a shrill labor activist, like her mother.

Michael has three children (Georgie, John, and Annabel), but no wife, and a lot of financial trouble: he's in debt up to his eyeballs and may lose his house.  So Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) has a lot of fixing-up to do:

1. Find some way to make Jane less shrill.
2. Restore Michael's faith in art.
3. Rescue the children from a kidnapping animal gang that also happen to be the Bad Guys trying to destroy Michael's career.
4. Find the note that will allow them to save the house.
5. Reveal the corruption at the heart of the British banking industry.
6. Oh, yeah, teach them how to fly kites again.

Bert, the jack of all trades who knew Mary from many of her dysfunctional-family-saving expeditions, has long since retired (Dick Van Dyke appears as the president of the bank).  Mary's new chum is the lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), who teaches the kids the joy of being working class.

Beefcake:  Not much.  I couldn't even find shirtless photos of most of the male cast in other productions.  This is Tarik Frimpong, who plays one of Jack's coworkers.

Gay subtexts: Lots.

Mary doesn't try to get Michael a girlfriend (or, horrors, become his girlfriend), which is usual in a show about a single parent.  Could it be because Michael is gay?  Ben Whishaw is, after all, and Michael never expresses a glimmer of heterosexual interest (Jane does start dating Jack; have to put the hetero-romance in there somewhere).

Also, Admiral Boom (David Warner), the navy captain from down the street who thinks he's still living on a ship, has a "first mate"/boy toy (actually they're the same age, but they've been living together without the company of women for a number of years, so....).

And Edward Hibbert, who played the swishy-but-straight Gil on Frasier, and is swishy-but-gay in real life, does the voice of Mary's talking umbrella.

Mar 13, 2019

Eddie Cantor: The Craziest Reason for Gay Rumors

One of the cartoons I saw on Captain Ernie's Cartoon Showboat as a kid in the 1960s was Billboard Frolics (1935), which spoofed contemporary radio stars.  I didn't recognize any of them at the time, of course, but I was intrigued by a big-eyed, big-eared man who clapped his hands in a feminine fashion and sang:

Merrily we roll along, Rubinoff and me; when he plays his fiddle, I just go on a spree!
It's a cinch that every time I go on the air, I just look around and find old Rubinoff there.

This guy obviously had a crush on a violinist named Rubinoff!

Years later, when I was in college, an episode of Matinee at the Bijou featured the same guy, mincing and rolling his eyes as he sang "Making Whoopee," a cynical look at marriage: women snare their "victims" to get free room and board, and men spend the rest of their lives trying desperately to escape (Johnny Weissmuller pantomimed the unhappy "victim").

Who was this guy who had a crush on Rubinoff and disapproved of heterosexual marriage?

His name was Eddie Cantor (1892-1964), known as "Banjo Eyes" for his mincing, eye-rolling song-and-dance routines.  He got his start in Vaudeville, then moved into Broadway musical reviews, and had his own radio programs in the 1930s and 1940s (Violinist David Rubinoff was a frequent guest).

Cantor became a film star with Kid Boots (1926), and went on to Whoopee (1930), Roman Scandals (1933), Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937), and many others.

He had a reasonably good physique for the 1930s (see top photo), but he was no muscleman, so he didn't provide any beefcake in his films.  However, he was often paired with muscular men, such as Paul Gregory (left) in Whoopee.

He never could resist peeking at pecs.

He probably wasn't gay, but his feminine mannerisms certainly code him as "queer."

And he was the subject of gay rumors for the craziest reason: he was the father of five daughters.  Thus drawing thirty years of gossip, speculation, jokes, and ridicule.

Why wasn't he "man" enough to have a son?  Was he gay?

Um...even in the 1930s, people realized that it doesn't work that way.

Cantor turned the gossip around, and made his lack of "virility" a running gag on his radio program.

See also: Burns and Allen: Not the Marrying Kind

Mar 11, 2019

A Gay Teen on the Disney Channel

Andi Mack is a Disney Channel teencom with an unusual premise: Andi discovers that Bex, who she thought of as her older sister, is actually her mother.  Celia and Ham, who she thought were her parents, are actually her grandparents.  And Bowie (Trent Garrett), the boy who got Bex pregnant 13 years ago, returns and wants to be part of Andi's life.

That's quite a lot to take in, but the actual show is mostly about Andi and Bex going out on dates, getting crushes on boys, getting boyfriends, and so on.  Andi's main crush is Jonah (Asher Angel).  She also has two best buddies, Cyrus (Joshua Rush) and Buffy (Chelsea T. Zhang).

In Season 1, there is only a gay-subtext relationship between Cyrus and Jonah.

They double date, and when the girls ditch them, they go on a date alone and buy matching jackets.

When Jonah texts that Cyrus is "girly," he is heartbroken, and tries to macho it up; but it turns out that Jonah meant to text "gnarly" (a slang term from the 1970s meaning "cool").

During the Season 2, in the episode "Hey, Who Wants Pizza" (October 27, 2017), Cyrus sees Jonah and Andi together, and tells Buffy that he is jealous.  She asks if he likes Andi, but he says no, which allows Buffy to conclude that he is gay, and likes Jonah.  It is unclear whether he just realized it, or whether he has known for awhile.

In the next episode, he has an awkward date with his girlfriend Iris, but won't tell her why he doesn't want to kiss.  They decide to be "just friends."

Later he's nice to T.J., (Luke Mullen),  the boy he's tutoring, and Buffy thinks he might "like" him.

In Episode 13 of the season, "Cyrus' Bash-Mitzvah" (February 23, 2018) Cyrus tells Andi that he is jealous of them together.  She knows that he doesn't "like" her, so she concludes that he likes Jonah.  Unfortunately, Jonah has just asked Andi to become his girlfriend.

Four more episodes have aired, and Cyrus has not told anyone else, including Jonah.

Which provides an interesting question: what do you do when your best friend has crush on your boyfriend?

 Cyrus, meanwhile, is not moving on.  He hasn't expressed more than a gay-subtext glimmer with any other boy, or actually said the word.

It's a start, but I would like to actually hear the word.

 5 episodes left in the Season.

The Top 10 Bodybuilders of "Bigger"

When I first moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I worked for Joe Weider's Muscle and Fitness. 

It wasn't as much fun as it sounds.  This was the era when bodybuilding was trying to rid itself of its homoerotic image, so the articles were often heterosexist, and male bodybuilders were invariably photographed with women draped around their biceps.

Weider was staunchly homophobic -- no fags in his organization!  Or if any sneaked in, they would be instantly fired.

So I haven't been all that anxious to see Bigger (2018), a historical drama about the bodybuilding empire that Ben and Joe Weider built, concentrating on the 1970s.

Especially when the blurb says they "Inspired female empowerment, championed diversity, and started a movement that changed the world of bodybuilding in America."  They were the opposite of diverse.

And it got a rating of 20% on Rotten Tomatoes.

According the Roger Ebert reviews, the movie toned down the homophobia: No bodybuilders or fans were gay, not that there's anything wrong with that.  And pushes up the anti-Semitic prejudice that Joe had to face as he introduced bodybuilding to the world.

 But I was curious to see what modern actors would be channeling bodybuilding greats:

1. Tyler Hoechlin as Joe Weider (top photo).

2. Aneurin Barnard as Ben Weider (second photo).

3.. Colton Haynes as Jack LaLane, who had a tv show aimed at fitness for women, and disparaged gays every chance he got.

4. Calum Van Moger as Arnold, who became the face and physique of bodybuilding for the masses, and later became the governor of California.  He isn't particularly homophobic, although he famously stated that "gay marriage should be between a man and a woman."

5. Billy Reilich as Reg Park, a 9-time Mr. Universe and peplum Hercules.

6. Arash Rahbar as Frank Zane, a 3-time Mr. Olympia and renowned fitness author.

7. Jared Motyl as peplum great Steve Reeves ("If you want something visual that's not too abysmal, we could take in an old Steve Reeves movie.")

8. Sergio Oliva Jr. as Cuban bodybuilder Sergio Oliva.

9. Stan DeLongeaux as Claude Regine.  I never heard of him, but who cares?

10.  That's it for the historic bodybuilders in the cast.  I couldn't help noticing that the black, gay, and deaf bodybuilders were conspciuously absent.  So much for diversity.

Just to get an even number, here's Steve Cook, who plays "California Beach Model."

Mar 10, 2019

Whiskey Something: Spy vs. Spy, with Gender Stereotypes

While researching Miracle Workers, I saw an article entitled "Miracle Workers, Whiskey...." and subtitled "Two shows to keep your eye on."

Whiskey what?  That's as far as the title went, and I didn't want to go to the article site, for fear of endless pop up ads: "Subscribe to our newsletter!  Don't miss a single article!  Buy!  Buy!  Buy!"

So I searched for tv series and movies with "Whiskey" in their titles.

Whiskey Foxtrot Tango, Whiskey River, Whiskey Bay, The Whiskey Bandit, Whiskey Fist, Whiskey Blue.  Whiskey Business, Whiskey Wars...

 Well, which one was it?  It was impossible to tell without knowing the precise name.  So I had to click on the original article after all.

Whiskey Cavalier.  It's a new series, with only two episodes aired to date, so no wonder it's a bit obscure.

The less-than-informative title is the code name of FBI agent Will Chase (Scott Foley, top photo, who's been on every romantic drama since Sweet Valley High).  He teams up with Agent, I mean Maddie....or is it Diane? Mrs. King?  Mrs. Peel?   Well, one of the hundreds of women on tv and in movies who are partnered with a man they think is "arrogant" (a word which here means "sexy").  Bickering and hetero-romance follow.

So far, so cliched.

Action adventure series usually begin with the main character mourning a dead husband or wife, to give them a "sympathetic" back story yet leave them open to romance with their new partner. Here the cliche is tweaked a bit:  we open on Will crying and listening to sad songs after being dumped by his fiancee.   Somehow his crying video goes viral, making his colleagues worry about his masculinity.  (A man who cries? He must really be a woman.)

Will and his partner Ray (Josh Hopkins, left), whose affair with the fiancee led to the breakup  (the soap opera thickens) get an assigment to track down hacker Edgar Standish (Tyler James Williams, best known from Everybody Hates Chris), who has apparently grabbed some state secrets and absconded to Moscow.

Standish turns out to be innocent, a kidnapping victim. The bad guys, Russians or Chechens or Bulgarians or something, want to kill him.

CIA agent Frankie Trowbridge (Lauren Cohan, Maggie from The Walking Dead) also wants Edgar, so she, Will, and the bad guys play a ludicrous "Spy vs. Spy" game across Europe, all but hitting each other on the head and dragging Edgar away like in a Looney Tunes cartoon.

Wait -- Frankie does hit Will on the head and drag Edgar away.

Boris and Natasha were more competent.

This is far beyond the authority of either the FBI or the CIA.  Does anyone associatd with this show know what these agencies actually do, or are they just magic acronyms?

Will and Frankie argue incessantly, of course.  Will thinks Frankie is too butch, and Frankie, who has seen the damning video, thinks Will is too girly.

But, after the crisis is resolved, the bickering soon-to-be-lovers are forced to become the heads of a super-secret spy outfit, promising chases and fisticuffs in a different European capital every week (Prague first, then Rome).

Is this 1968? When you can see all the European capitals you want on Google Maps, why is that an audience draw?

By the way, their team consists of:

1. Sam and, I mean Mulder and, one of those

2. Ray, the muscle.

3. Edgar, the computer whiz.

4. Susan (Ana Ortiz, best known from Ugly Betty), the profiler.

5. Jai (Indian comedian Vir Das), the weapons specialist who builds exploding tampons and cosmetic kits.  One review states that he is probably gay.  He wears lavender, and he isn't grossed out by tampons.

I won't be sticking around to find out.

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