Mar 22, 2019

Deadly Class

Deadly Class (2019), based on the American comic book series, is set in a weird dystopian Reagan-era, gay-free San Francisco.  Marcus (Benjamin Wadsworth) lost his parents in a freak accident, was put in an orphanage, and then went on the lam when he was blamed for blowing it up (with the orphans inside).  Seeing potential in him, the mysterious, brutal Master Lin (Benedict Wong) sponsors him for the King's Dominion, a training school for murderers.

The curriculum is rather brutal: in Poisons class, some of the kids actually get poisoned to demonstrate how they work.

Meanwhile Marcus has the usual "poor kid in a snob school" hijinks, including a snarling enemy, a doofus best friend, romancing the Girl (who, of course, finds him "arrogant"), negotiating between feuding gangs,  and avoiding being murdered as part of another student's final exam.

I don't know which made me more nauseous, the extreme violence or the constant girl-on-boy cruising.  These girls are ludicrously horny.  They act like stars in a porn movie, who pounce on any man who comes within 10 feet.

Or the racism.  The school is stratified into rival gangs: the nerds, the preppies, the losers, and various racial minorities displaying their own stereotyped violence (black, Hispanic, and Asian).  Marcus is half-Hispanic, so he doesn't know where he belongs.

I saw a little bit of reflection of heteronormativity in the outcasts, who don't really want to be killers, but were forced into the academy by their parents.  When I was in high school, just a few years before 1986, boys had to pretend to be girl-crazy.  Forget to stare, drool, and moan at the big breasts bouncing by, or to make a statement suggesting lack of interest, and your friends would simply not believe  you.  Your enemies would attack: "Fairy!  Fag!  Girl!"

But it's only a reflection.  The producers envision a world where gay people do not exist.  Two gay characters from the comic books have been erased.  This series is about violence, cliques, and female horniness

1. Benjamin Wadsworth

2. Benedict Wong (right); I don't know who the boyfriend is)

3. Ryan Robbins as Rory, Marcus' first kill, a homeless guy who preys on other homeless guys.

4. Willie (Luke Tennie), Marcus's sidekick, a member of the First World Order gang. a black guy whose girlfriend is a neo-Nazi white supremacist. I guess she just likes him for one thing.

5. Billy (Liam James, left), son of a punk rocker and aspiring murderer.

6. Chico (Michel Duval), the snarling enemy, leader of the Soto Vatos.  His girlfriend Maria kills him and starts dating Marcus.

7. Viktor (Sean Depner), a celebrity at the academy, the son of Joseph Stalin's top assassin (Stalin died in 1953, and this is 1988, so the dates sort of work out).

8. Juan (Juan Grey), a member of Maria's Soto Vatos.

9. Chester "Fuckface" (Tom Stevens), the Big Bad of a series about Big Bads in training.

10. Shabnam (Isaiah Lehtinen, left), portly, gay-coded, and a rich banker's son, three strikes against him, so he tries too hard to make friends.

The Gay Connection of "Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles"

Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles.  An instant New York Times bestseller!  A cross between J. Rowling and Douglas Adams!  The next Harry Potter!

Ok, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favorite books, and the Harry Potter series isn't bad, either.  I'll give it a try.  Of course, I judge a fantasy novel primarily on gay subtexts: deep, passionate same-sex bonds, or at least a minimum of heterosexual interest.

How much do you want to bet that Ronan gets a girlfriend?

Page 2: Ronan Boyle is a 14 year old intern in the Galway, Ireland garda (police force).

Page 25: He is recruited by the Garda Special Unit, a secret police force dedicated to relations the faerie folk -- leprechauns, trolls, and others,who live in their own world, Tir Na Nog, but like to transfer over from their world to ours to cause mischief.

So far, so good.  No hetero interest, but no same-sex romances, either.

Page 35: Ronan is a big fan of Dame Judy Dench, and when stressed, imagines conversations with her.  The actress is 84 years old, so it's probably not a hetero-romantic thing.

Page 51: His parents are in prison after being framed for the theft of a  4,000 year old mummified Bog Man, the oldest artifact in ireland, so he's living with his guardian, Dolores, "an absolute delight." No romantic interest mentioned.

Page 60: Ronan arrives at the training academy and meets the other recruits, including Log, a very tall, muscular, thick-limbed girl with the strength of a chimpanzee.  Doesn't sound like romantic interest.

And Dermot, a "dreamboat," who has broad shoulders and a square jaw, and is so tall he can block out the sun. Definite attractiveness. Ronan dreams of their "becoming mates," but he doesn't seem particularly interested in Ronan. Homoerotic interest!

Dermot is not pictured in the book illustrations, so let's imagine him as the top photo.

Page 115: He visits Lord Diamond Dooley, who he believes actually stole the Bog Man and framed his parents.  Not exactly Voldemort, but close.

Page 131: The Malton Hotel has been robbed of 30,000 euros of wine.  The suspect is probably Lovely Liam, a gancanagh-- everyone who sees him falls in love with him.

In the original folklore, the gancanagh is a male fairy who seduces only women.  Let's hope that "everyone" here is inclusive, men and women both.

Page 145: Ronan and Captain De Valera, must go to Tir Na Nog to investigate. Ronan respects her, but there is no heterosexual interest implied.

So far, so good -- inclusivity and no heterosexual interest.  But it seems that everyone important in Ronan's life is female: his guardian, Log, the Captain, even his police dog partner.

Page 156: The Bridge of Riddles is just the way into the faerie town of Nogbottom.  It provides a brief setback  -- not nearly worth naming the book after.  Someone is trying to emulate Harry Potter "and the Chamber of Secrets" or "the Prisoner of Azkaban."

Page 188: Ronan keeps his eyes averted, but both the Captain and a male troll get a glimpse of Lovely Liam and fall in love with him.

Score!  An inclusive love spell!

Page 220: While transferring the prisoners to Dublin, Log wants to take time out to visit the wax museum.  She wants to see the statue of Liam Neeson, whom she finds hot. Ronan states that he is open to the idea of "meeting a wax Liam Neeson," but would would prefer a wax Judi Dench. For that he would have to go to London, a trip he has planned a thousand times.

Page 237: They begin the next case, tracking down harpies in County Wexford.  There's a fight, and Ronan sees something that will propel the plot into the next book of the series.

Page 245: A male victim says "When this is all over, I'd like to take you to dinner." Ronan isn't interested  because the proposed dinner will be an an awful restaurant, but he says "Brilliant!  Sounds like fun!"

Brilliant!   This is an adult asking a 14-year old to dinner, so doubtless he has no romantic intent.  But it still follows the conventions of a romantic date request.

I wonder if the author is gay.  I look him up online: Thomas R. Lennon, Lt. Dangle on Reno 911!  Heterosexual.

Page 280:  We're almost done. Only a few pages left, and we'll be home free.  Ronan is cursed during the fight, and is forced to relive his most embarrassing memory over and over.  Which is:

Page 281: Last year his guardian, who thought he should get a girlfriend before high school, set him up on a blind date with a "pretty girl" named Bridget.  They were skating, and he was tryingt to impress her by showing off, and...he fell, splitting his pants.

Damn.  Mr. Lennon waited to the very end to heterosexualize the boy!

Although it was a set-up date, so maybe Ronan wasn't really interested...but he was trying to impress her, and he did say that she was "pretty"....

Page 286: The end.

How much do you want to bet that in the next book in the series, Ronan gets a girlfriend?

See also: Thomas Lennon: From Dangle to Felix.

Mar 21, 2019

What's a Rilakkuma?: Translating the Twink Tweet

The problem with having so many twink friends is, half the time I don't know what they are talking about.  Mass culture changes so fast that it's impossible to keep up.  Today one of the twinks I follow on twitter retweeted a post from Lana Condor, a person I've never heard of, stating "I'M SO EXCITED!!!!' with some emojis, retweeting a post from Rilakkuma, someone I've never heard of:

"New trailer and huge news! We are so excited to announce that the voice of Kaoru will be done by Lana Condor, star of "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" and "Deadly Class.'"

Ok, I get that this person, who has starred in movies or tv shows I've never heard of, will be doing some voice work in a new animated movie or video game produced by someone I've never heard of, starring a character I've never heard of.

Well, at least I can look up Lana Condor's movies on IMDB. To All the Boys I've Loved Before is a 2018 teen romance with Lana Condor as a teen whose letters to boys she had secretly crushed on accidentally get mailed. (There are still letters?).  Lots of boys, played by Noah Centineo (top photo), Israel Broussard(left), Edward Kerwin, Jordan Burchett, and Trezzo Mahori (who happens to be gay).

Deadly Class is a tv series set in the late 1980s, where a poor boy is recruited into an elite academy for the children of gangsters.  In the original manga, a boy named Kendall is gay, but he doesn't appear in the series.

After these two credits, she will be voicing Kaoru.  Who?

Kaoru is a common given name in Japan. It's the name of any number of fictional characters, both men and women, in everything from the classic Tale of Genji to the recent Our Two Bedroom Love Story.  How can I ever tell which one she has been cast in?  Maybe the original tweet, from Rilakkuma, is a clue?

Bingo:  Rilakkuma is a Japanese advertising character like Hello Kitty, created by the San-X Company (which is required to produce one cute character per month to put on things to sell to kids).   His name means "Relax Bear": he's a brown bear who appears on stationery, computers, backpacks, and so on.  Here he and his friends appear as McDonald's Happy Meal prizes:

  There are stores in Japan devoted solely to Rilakkuma merchandise.

Ok, so an animated tv series, Rilakkuma and Kaoru, will be streaming on Netflix in April (very short turnaround time for voice artists). According to Netflix, Kaoru is the young woman who takes in Rilakkuma, and then has to rescue him when he is kidnapped.  Other characters include another bear, a bird, and a little boy.  So this is sort of like Winnie the Pooh?

I can see why Lana Condor would be excited to be cast in a streaming video tv series about a Japanese marketing franchise.

But why would my gay American twink friend be excited about it?  Does Kaoru, like, have a gay best friend or something?

Mar 20, 2019

Thomas Lennon: From Dangle to Felix

How much do you hate mockumentaries?  They're contrived and ridiculous (were camera crews really following around the Modern Family families for 10 whole years?), and they demolish suspension of disbelief necessary for enjoying fiction.

Of all the mockumentaries you've been forced to sit through -- not only Modern Family, but The Office, Park and Recreation, Trailer Park Boys, American Vandal, The Naked Brothers Band -- which do you hate the most? I'll bet it's Reno 911 (2003-2009), the hugely offensive Comedy Central dreckfest about a down-and-out police force going out on patrol (apparently a parody of Cops). 

The situations were offensive to begin with: pedophilia, suicide, strip clubs, stereotypic portrayals of everyone from African-Americans to gays.  But what made it even more offensive was the dialogue -- improvised, not scripted, which meant that the actors were free to spout any disgusting sentiment that sprang into their characters' heads.

There were lots of disgusting characters, but I'll bet the one you hated the most was Lt. Dangle (Thomas Lennon), a hugely offensive gay stereotype.  He wasn't  particularly swishy, but my God, he was a walking penis.  His  name was actually a reference to his penis, and he wore short-short pants that showed off his bulge, as if a police department is a cruise bar.

He was constantly propositioning his male officers and criminal suspects, as if he couldn't think of anything but sex.

He was actually gay but "curved around the edges," capable of heterosexual sex on occasion: he was married to a woman once, had an affair with a female police officer, slept with another woman (under the impression that she was a drag queen), was attracted to a female officer (actually a man in drag).  And so on.

Can you believe that this dreck was nominated for a GLAAD award?  How slim were the pickings that year?

Strangely enough, Lennon states in a 2009 interview that he is proud of the character:  "an incredibly macho, tough gay man  not defined by his sexuality."

Um...not swishing is not the same thing as being macho.  And definitely defined by his sexuality...his name was Dangle.

I wanted to know what other homophobic work Thomas Lennon had done.

A long list of movies, beginning with A Friend of Dorothy (1994), in which Winston (Raoul O'Connell) starts college in New York and is afraid to come out ("a friend of Dorothy" is 1950s slang for a gay men).  Lennon plays a Moonie (religious cultist) who sends Winston the wrong signals.

In 17 Again (2009), he plays the crazy-but-heterosexual-roommate of a man who turns into his 17-year old self (played by Zac Efron).  Lennon is asked if the pressure to be sexy is lifted, since all the girls in the audience will be looking at Zac Efron.  Ok, not all girls or boys are heterosexual.

I Love You, Man (2009) is about a socially inept hetero guy Peter (Paul Rudd) trying to find enough friends to be his groomsmen at his wedding.  He goes out with Doug (Thomas Lennon) to "interview" him for the friend role, but Doug thinks it's a date and kisses him.   Peter is quite surprised; he hadn't been aware that gay men exist, in spite of having a gay brother.

You probably don't know that there was a 2015-2017 remake of the classic 1970s sitcom The Odd Couple, about a slob and a metrosexual forced to become roommates.  Oscar (the slob) states that Felix (the metrosexual) "very, very gay, extremely gay, but he isn't."  Asked why they didn't just make Felix gay,  Lennon says that it never occurred to anyone.  Besides, hasn't the gay-straight roommate bit already been done, in Will and Grace?

Right,  you couldn't have another program with a gay character, could you?  It would be redundant.

Lennon also has a lot of writing credits, including Let's Go to Prison (2006), about the fear straight men have that if they go to prison, they will be raped by monstrous gay predators. The reputed rapist (Chi McBride) turns out to be a nice guy (that's a rubber duck he's holding).

 As you can tell, I don't like this guy (Thomas Lennon, not Chi McBride). His gay characters and jokes send a message that most gay people are harmless, even nice when you get to know them, but they're still a bit off, not quite right.  That's not staggeringly homophobic, but it's still homophobic.

The Top 10 Teen Titans

Remember the Teen Titans of 1960s DC comics, pushing together various DC teen sidekicks, including Kid Flash, Aqualad, Wonder Girl, Robin and Superboy (he's actually the teenager version of today's Superman, who is much older then Robin, so...oh, just go with it).

Turns out they've been doing the comic book store circuit ever since, with many changed characters, changed premises, and changed titles: The New Teen Titans, Team TitansTitans, and finally The New 52, which appears in issues of Teen Titans, Titans Hunt, and Ravagers.

Yeah, that's why I don't read DC Comics.  Who wants to read a hundred issues of a dozen titles to get the story?

Forging a tv series out of such a complicated storyis risky business (really, who in the real world has ever heard of any teen sidekick except Robin?).  It was announced in 2014, went through the ranks of acceptance and rejection, and finally premiered on the DC Universe network in October 2018 with an 11-episode first season.  Most of the Titans are young adults, with some new teens added.

According to rumor, in Season 2 they are planning to introduce a gay Titan.  Bets were on Bunker, canonically gay in the 2012-2013 comic book series. But they have just cast Joe Wilson as Jericho, who has a long backstory of closeting: he was originally meant to be gay in the comics, but the authors changed him to straight, but in Rebirth he was bisexual, and...

I'm getting a headache.  Let's just go on to the beefcake:

1.Brenton Thwaites (top photo) as Dick Grayson, the Robin of the comics now retired and working as a detective in Detroit.  No superpowers, but very athletic.

2. Ryan Potter as Gar Logan, one of the early Titans, then a member of the Doom Patrol. He can turn into a tiger, which I imagine is very effective against bad guys with guns.I guess he's like Beastboy.

3. Joshua Orpin as Superboy.  One from an alternate universe.

No beefcake photos of Superboy?  Really?

4. Alan Ritchson as Hawk, a former prizefighter, now a vigilante with his partner Dove.

What's with all the Titans lacking in superpowers?

5. Curran Walters as Jason Todd, the new Robin.  You didn't know that Batman keeps changing them when they die or get too old, did you?

6. Elliott Knight as Don Hall, the deceased younger brother of Hawk, the original Dove.

That's it for the male Titans.  I'm disappointed.  Where's Cyborg?  Kid Flash? Aqualad?   Gnarkk the Caveman?

7. Lester Speight as Clayton Williams, a bouncer in a Detroit nightclub who is good friends with Dick Grayson.

8. Jeff Roop as Thomas Carson, a minor character.

Beefcake seems rather limited, for a series about superheroes.

9. Alain Moussi as Batman (uncredited).

Oh, right, I need 10. about Brooker Muir as the Superboy body double?

Mar 18, 2019

Champions: Gay Kid with Two Dads

TV series that failed after only 10 episodes used to fade into oblivion.  Now they are picked up by streaming services, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Netflix.  But streaming services also have self-contained 10-episode series, designed to tell a story and end.  See if you can figure out which one Champions is.

We open in a run-down Brooklyn gym, where two guys, a hunk and a dork, are arguing over whether to get a dog.  A gay couple?  Nope, just heterosexual life partners -- gym owner Vince (Anders Holm, below) and his layabout brother Matthew (Andy Favreau, left). Think Alan and Charlie of Two and a Half Men.

  Suddenly a gunman bursts in, threatening to kill Vince for sleeping with his wife. Matthew convinces him that Vince has such a horible life that death would be a blessing.  This is the stuff of comedy?

Is it just me, or are the pair named wrong?  The hunk should be named Vince, and the dork Matthew. And shouldn't the one with the muscular physique be the gym owner?  Did the actors get their casting calls switched?

Also, why is it the dork who has sex with a hundred women per day, beginning in high school, where he got his girlfriend Priya (Mindy Kaling) pregnant?

Speak of the devil.  Cut to the ritzy Manhattan Academy of the Performing Arts, where 15-year old Michael (transgender actress Josie Totah) is being told that there's a problem with his application (whose bright idea was it to name the two stars Michael and Matthew?).  The Dean of Admissions, who admitted him and offered to let him stay in his house, has been arrested in a "Jared from Subway type sting," so Michael (the kid) has nowhere to live.

Wait -- Michael (the kid) was being groomed by a pedophile?  This is the stuff of comedy?

The solution is clear: Michael (the kid) can live with Dad Vince (the dork) and Uncle Matthew (the hunk), who didn't know that he existed before today.

Michael s the only kind of gay kid one ever sees on tv, an uber-swishy, facial product-wearing, show tune-obsessed swish.  He reminds me of Justin from Ugly Betty, except that Justin took five years to come out, and Michael's gayness is a done deal, not ever questioned.  In this world, homophobia does not exist.

But racism does: Vince has a type, preferring to date Indian women, although he's eclectic in his choice of bedroom partners. Anti-Indian and other racial prejudice is frequently evoked.

Michael proceeds to rehabilitate his two Dads. He encourages Vince to cut back on his womanizing, Matthew to study for his GED, and the duo to reconcile with their estranged mother.  He helps out at the gym, too, revising its web page and giving gym bookkeeper Dana (Ginger Gonzaga) advice on her love life. 

Not that Michael (the kid) lacks problems:  he's painfully naive about everything but musical theater, he struggles to embrace his Indian heritage and to accept the fact that he's no longer the most talented performer in his school.

I watched one of the two "someone tries to take Michael away" episodes:  Rich Uncle Ro (Hasan Minhaj) breezes into town, courts Michael with trips to Paris and tickets to Broadway musicals, and petitions to take over as the boy's guardian.  Vince and Matthew (the dork  -- no, wait, Vince is the dork, Matthew the hunk) discover that he doesn't care about Michael (the kid) at all; he just wants his urine for drug tests.

In the other episode I watched, Vince (the dad) finds a sexy poster of Matt Bomer in Michael's room, and decides that it's time for "the talk."  But he knows nothing about gay sex, so he conducts research, and prepares a 4-hour long lecture beginning with the need for a Hepatitis B vaccine, which mortifies Matthew -- um, I mean Michael (the kid).

And what does this mean: "If you have any questions about this (rubbing his chest), let me know."

Um...fondling the chest is not Second Base for gay men.

The characters are likeable, and the conundrums, if not original, are pleasant.  The caste is diverse, with many Indian actors showcased.

I would prefer more beefcake in a show set in a gym (even the personal trainers are rather less than muscular).  And there are occasional cringeworthy moments of sexualization that give the whole show a bad taste.

Granted, Archie and his pals and gals over at Riverdale are Michael's age and jumping into bed with each other every five minutes, but Michael looks much younger, and characterizes himself as "a kid" and "a little boy."  He's not even ready for his first kiss.  But Vince and Matthew (the hunk) suspect that Uncle Ro has a sexual intent with him, and Matthew (the hunk) points out that Matt Bomer looks like Vince (the dad), implying daddy-incest issues.

It's not a raunch-fest, like Two and a Half Men, but still, we could do without jokes like that.

In the last episode, Michael brings a dreamy boy (Kevin Quinn) home for dinner.  Vince takes that opportunity to announce that he has taken a job managing a baseball team in Louisiana (really?), leading to an abandonment-argument and fist fight with Matthew (the hunk), thus ruining Michael's first date.

Not to worry, Vince decides not to go.  Zoom out with the three riffing.

I'll give it a B

Answer: Champions was cancelled by NBC, and failed to find a home elsewhere.  Josie Totah has begun transitioning, so will probably not be accepting any more male roles.  So this is all you're going to get of  Michael, Matthew, and Vince.

Which one is which, again?

The Homophobia of "Rocky and Bullwinkle"

Rocky and Bullwinkle (1959-64, and rehashed into many different series during the 1960s) is often praised as genius, a classic of animation. Amazon promises: "the wittiest, most inspired, and relentlessly hilarious animation ever created!"

No one thought it was great in the 1960s.  It was relegated to the Sunday morning ghetto, with Totalitarian Television and Davy and Goliath.

Either of which were preferable to the Moose and Squirrel.

Ok, maybe I was too young to understand the clever satire, so a few months ago I  purchased and watched Season 1 on DVD.

I still hated it.

50% of each episode was devoted to repetitive, incomprehensible filler:

When the mountain they are climbing is destroyed by lightning, Rocky and Bullwinkle fall to their deaths, but are resurrected in a field of daisies.

Magician Bullwinkle tells Rocky, "Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat."  He pulls out a scary monster instead, and quips, "I take a 7 1/2."  

When you finally got to the story, it was an endless serial cut into five-minute segments.  I never saw the first or the last of them, so I had no idea what was going on.  But the titles were bound to involve incomprehensible puns.
The Treasure of Monte Zoom
Maybe Dick
The Guns of Abalone
Kerwood Derby

I know what most of them refer to now, except "Kerwood Derby."  It's a malapropism of "Durward Kirby," a very, very, very minor tv personality of the early 1960s.

And the animation!  There wasn't any.  Incomplete art, splashes of color instead of filled-in lines, no backgrounds, static scenes with only the tiniest mouth movement or gestures.  Abysmal!

The only things I liked were:

1. The scenes set in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, the home town of the Moose and Squirrel, where they behaved and were treated like romantic partners.

2. Boris and Natasha, the Cold War spies from Pottsylvania assigned to steal the couple's secret or just grift them in various ways.  Although a male-female dyad, they were obviously not a romantic couple, nor did they express any heterosexual interest.

3. Some of the supporting features, like Fractured Fairy Tales, Mr. Peabody's Improbable History, and Aesop & Son.  

4. Some of the parodies of dull poets, like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and William Wordsworth (really, who would write an entire poem in praise of daffodils?)

5. Edward Everett Horton, who narrated Fractured Fairy Tales, played "pansy" roles during the 1930s.

The Moose That Roared (2000), a history of the program, reveals that Bill Scott, Jay Ward's partner and the voice of Bullwinkle, often made homophobic statements.  "Women's dresses today look like they were designed by fags," he would rant.  Or he would tell a voice artist, "for this story, do your Fag Prince voice."

Of course, lots of people in the 1960s were homophobic, but it is shocking how Moose That Roared author Keith Scott (no relation) gushes about the homophobia as if it somehow made him endearing: "'There are too many fags in Hollywood,' Bill said with his characteristic wit."

See also: Peabody and Sherman

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