Apr 20, 2019

Why I Stopped Reading "Doonesbury"

Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury  first appeared in national syndication in 1970.  I had heard of the strip, but knew nothing about it until the summer of 1982, right after my college graduation, when I found a copy of The Doonesbury Chronicles (1975) at a garage sale.

It came along to grad school in Bloomington with me, along with my Greek New Testament and the copy of The City and the Pillar that I bought in West Hollywood.

I was mesmerized by these 1970s college students, who live together on a commune outside Walden College, and form an alternate family, with heterosexual romance virtually absent.

Mike Doonesbury, the level-headed, somewhat naive central character.
The radical hippie Mark Slackmeyer.
Pot-loving "freak" Zonker Harris
Conservative all-American B.D.
And especially Joanie Caucus, a housewife who abandoned a heterosexual life for the wild freedom of the commune.

In Bloomington in 1982, I started reading the strip in the Herald-Times.  The politics bored me, and I disliked the custom of using weird icons for political figures, like a cowboy hat for Ronald Reagan.

But hetero-romance was still virtually absent, and there were occasional glimmers of the same-sex friendships that once fueled Walden Pond.

From January 1983 to October 1984, Trudeau took a hiatus from the strip.  When it returned, I was in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas, the worst place in the world, and to my consternation, the characters had "grown up."  That is, most of them had acquiesced to the heterosexist life trajectory of husbands and wives.  Mike married J.J. , B.D. married Boopsie, Joanie married Rick Redfern.

So I abandoned them as relics of the Straight World.  I haven't read Doonesbury since.

But I have researched the gay story lines.

1. Andy Lippincott appeared in January 1976 as a fellow law student Joanie is crushing on.  In February, he tells her that he's gay.  She's shocked -- she asks "are they sure?", certain that he must have gotten several doctors to diagnose such a serious condition.

Then Andy vanishes.  In the late 1980s, he appears again, to die of AIDS.  Many newspapers refused to run the continuity, stating that the topic of gayness was "inappropriate for the comics page."

2. In 1977, Joanie decides to spend the night with her boyfriend, Rick.  No gay content, but many newspapers refused to run the "morning after" strip because they thought it was two guys in bed together.

3. In the 1990s, Mark realizes that he is gay.  By that time, he is an adult, the host of a call-in political radio program.  He and his co-host, the conservative Chase, begin dating, and finally marry in 2007.  They have since divorced.

Not a lot, but still, more than most newspaper comics.

See also: Escape from Hell fer Sartain

"Cold Pursuit": A Kidnapped Son, for a Change

You probably shouldn't watch a movie with a wikipedia page that says there is a "closeted homosexual" character.  First, the proper term is "gay."  Second, what is this, 1975?

But I'm stuck in Chicago, too tired from sightseeing to go out, and it's either Cold Pursuit (2019) or  whatever they put on network tv on Friday nights.

Besides, the plot is propelled by the murder of a son, not a daughter.  Do you know how rare that is?  99% of murdered or kidnapped loved ones in movies are wives, girlfriends or daughters.  Apparently film producers believe that women are weak and vulnerable, so their loss will tug at your heart strings, but if it's a boy or a man, you'll think "Why didn't he defend himself?  What is he, a pansy?"

Cocksman...um, I mean Coxman (Liam Neeson) is a taciturn but salt-of-the-earth Mr. Plow, named Man of the Year in his small town of Keyhoe, Colorado. He lives with his doting wife, natch, and adult son Kyle, a salt-of-the-earth Mr. Plow in training (Micheál Richardson, aka Neeson's real-life son, who must get very tired of saying "No, it's not Michael").

Then Kyle dies. The coroner says heroin overdose, but Kyle was not a druggie.  He was a salt-of-the earth Mr. Plow in training!   Obviously he was murdered when he stumbled upon a drug deal. 

Coxman loses his wife, too, natch, and then turns vigilante, using guns and a snowplow to go after the murderers, members of a Denver drug cartel trying to expand its territory into the pristine white mountains (white as in snow, not as in white people, I assume.)

That's when things get weird-er.

White drug lord Viking (Tom Bateman, top photo) blames local Native American gangster White Bull (Tom Jackson) for killing off his employees, and kills White Bull's son in revenge.

So now there are two murdered sons.  That's even more rare.

The white and Native American gangs are soon fighting a full-blown war in the small salt-of-the-earth town of Keyhoe.  And it's all Coxman's fault!  How to lessen the body count?

He gets his brother, salt of the earth Wingman (William Forsythe), to take the blame for the murders -- Wingman is dying of cancer anyway.  But that doesn't work, and now White Bull vows to kill Viking's teenage son Ryan (Nicholas Holmes, left) in revenge.

Ryan, by the way, is in prep-school, being mother-henned by his bodyguard Mustang (bald bear Domenick Lombardozzi, below), who is secretly dating White Bull's enforcer Dexter (Benjamin Hollingsworth).

Not surprisingly, the only reviews that mention the relationship are Christian websites that include it in their "objectionable elements" pile, along with the profanity.

Coxman decides to kidnap Ryan to...um...provoke a confrontation with White Bull or something?  Who cares?  The ridiculousness is overpowering.

And the body count.  As each person dies, we get a RIP shot with their religious background noted.

And they all have ridiculous names: Speedo, Limbo, Gip, Sly, Smoke, Shiv, Windex, Avalanche, and Eskimo.

Beefcake:  One guy is killed while having sex, the bullet piercing his genitals (which we don't see)

Gay characters:  Those two closeted gangsters.

Racism:  Liam Neeson got in trouble when he compared his character's "primal anger" to an incident in which a friend was raped.  He asked what color the assailant was, and she said black, so he went out looking for a black man to beat up in retaliation.

Neeson didn't write the script, but this is definitely the story of a war divided along racial lines.  With only one black character: The Eskimo (Arnold Pinnock)

But at least there is a kidnapped son in a universe of kidnapped wives, girlfriends, and daughters.

Apr 19, 2019

The Sons of the Incredible Hulk

When you're the child of the Incredible Hulk and a personal trainer, muscles are a constant part of your life, so you'd have to expect Lou Ferrigno's kids to be rather buffed.

Born in 1984, Lou Ferrigno Jr., aka Sweet Lou, played football at USC and made his acting debut in two of David DeCoteau's beefcake horror movies, Hercules Unbound and Night of the Widow (2012).  Since then, he's been on soaps, commercials, Teen Wolf, and How I Met Your Mother

He's also a comedian, motivational speaker, and all-around hunk.

Born in 1990, Brent has not yet expressed any interest in an acting career.  But he did appear in the reality tv series The Incredible Ferrignos (2011), along with his parents and siblings, to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

The family that flexes together, stays together.

Apr 17, 2019

"Now Apocalypse": Beefcake, Gay Romance, and Reptilians at the End of the World

Well, the first episode was free on Amazon Prime.

Now Apocalypse (2019) begins with a slacker named Ulysses or Uly (former Disney teen Avon Jongia channeling Johnny Depp) wandering through a bleak urban wasteland done up in surreal colors.  A man approaches him!  Dark, sinister music plays.  Is this an assault?  Nope --  in the next scene, Ulysses is hooking up with him -- a glimpse of the trick's muscular naked body.

Any tv series that begins with a hookup and a brief glimpse of anal sex is fine in my book.

But then Ulysses goes home to his grim Brutopian apartment to find his roommate Ford (former Disney teen Beau Mirchoff, right) having sex with his girlfriend.  She bounces up and down on him, facing the camera so we see everything she has.  An entire conversation ensues.  No fair! Uly gets five seconds, the girl three minutes.

Uly informs us that Ford is a Kinsey 0, totally straight, but that doesn't stop him from fantasizing about his hunky roommie.  Uly himself is a Kinsey 4, bisexual tending toward gay.  But hookups make him feel "gross and pagan" afterwards, so he's looking for love at the end of the world.

It turns out that this bleak urban landscape is the Los Angeles that lies beneath the sunshine and palm trees, and everyone is looking to get into show biz somehow.

Ford, an aspiring screenwriter, is approached by a producer with the odd name Barnabas (Kevin Daniels).

Their other friend, Carly, an aspiring actress, also runs an online BDSM service, where she forces a clients to read lines with her.  She's dating a guy with the odd name Jethro (Desmond Chiam, left).

Now I'm looking through the cast list for other names from 1960s and 1970s pop culture.  I find Leif (Garrett), Magenta from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Daphne and Velma from Scooby Doo, and Cat Woman.

Back to Ulysses, wandering around the bleak urban wasteland, looking for love.   He meets Gabriel (former Teen Wolf teen Tyler Posey, tatted up also channeling Johnny Depp.  At first I thought Ulysses was hooking up with himself).  They hit it off, proclaiming that "not to be all stalky psycho," but it seems that fate brought them together.

On the way home, Ulysses is smoking a giant doobie, when he falls off his bicycle.  The next scene may be a dream or a vision: he sees a homeless man being raped by a reptilian humanoid.

Oh, no, this isn't going to be another Naked Lunch, is it?  Where disgusting reptilians are infiltrating the world, but maybe it's just a despondent end-of-the-world nightmare.

Then I saw that Gregg Araki wrote this.  He specializes in grim, bleak, nihilistic dramas about lost souls in urban wastelands.  It's not that they're despondent over the approaching end of the world.  It's that the end of the world has already happened, and there's nothing for them to do but get high and have sex and be really sad all the time.    The titles tell you everything: The Long Weekend o'Despair, Totally F*** Up, The Doom Generation, Nowhere, This is How the World Ends, Kaboom...

There are always gay characters, in that postmodern, post-gay, pansexual, "if it's alive I'll screw it; if it's dead, I'll think about it" way.  But the potential for beefcake and gay romance is not worth the Gregg Araki weirdness.

I won't be buying the full season on Starz.

"Special": A Non-Heartwarming Sitcom about a Gay Guy with Cerebral Palsy

At first I wasn't interested in Special, about a gay guy with cerebral palsy.  "Special"? Must be a heartwarming, gushing, "live every day to its fullest" warmedy, with lots of hugs and understanding.  Yuck.

But I dated a guy with cerebral palsy back in grad school. His legs and hands didn't work very well, but he had a massive upper body, completely cut, not an inch of body fat anywhere.  He got cruised constantly.

I figured, it wouldn't hurt to watch for the beefcake.  I could always fast-forward past the hugging and motivational speeches.

Ryan O'Connell, a writer and editor with credits including Will and Grace (the reboot), Daytime Divas, and Awkward, turns out to be not particularly buffed, but he is definitely cute.  Still, he was ashamed of his CP, and spent years trying to hide it, attributing his "limp" to a car accident.

His CP is obvious to me -- stiff-leg walk, random hand movements -- but I guess it worked.  He finally came out as disabled in a 2015 book, I'm Special and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, which inspired Special (2019).

8 episodes, about 15 minutes each, which actually is not as short as it sounds.  In traditional 23-minute sitcom episodes, the A plot takes about 15 minutes, with 8 minutes devoted to B and C plots.  Here it's mostly A-plot. 

Episode #1: Ryan Hayes, who has led a sheltered  life due to his cerebral palsy and helicopter-mother (Jessica Hecht), wants to break out into the world.  He gets a job -- an unpaid internship at an online magazine (he has an income from his CP) --and a new bestie with body issues of her own, Kim (Punam Patel).  He tells everyone the limp story. 

Episode #2:  At a pool party, Kim encourages Ryan to display his body.  He  almost hooks up with Keaton (Jason Michael Snow), but Keaton bails when Ryan turns out to be a bad kisser (hint: when you're kissing a guy with CP, his head should be below yours).

Episode #3: Ryan has sex for the first time, with a sex worker (Jordan Alvarez) who is very understanding and even cuddles afterwards.

Episode #4: Ryan moves into a new apartment, and tries to hold a housewarming party, but he doesn't have any friends.  So Kim invites some of her friends, including Carey (Augustus Prew), who becomes his new gay bff.

Episode #5: Devoted to Mom, who is a harried caregiver to both Ryan and her own mother, and now has a new boyfriend.

Episode #6: Carey invites Ryan to a gay guy-only poker game.  Ryan thinks it's a date, but it turns out that Carey has a boyfriend.

Episode #7:  Ryan goes on a blind date with Michael (Andrew Daly), who is deaf, and speaks through an interpreter (Justin Kirk).  Ryan is freaked out by the encounter, and realizes that he has a problem with disabled people.

Episode #8:  Ryan comes out at work (as having CP), tells Carey that he likes him  (which is fine -- Carey and the boyfriend seem to have an open relationship), and stands up to his mother.

Ok, I changed my mind.  That did seem rather short.

Beefcake: Lots. Hot guys are always wandering in and out of Ryan's life.

Gay characters: Lots.  Most played by actual gay men.

I'll give it an A-.

Not an A because it's too darn short. I could have used more character development.  The Mom B-plot was just distracting.

But at least it was not at all heartwarming.

See also: My Student Steals My Boyfriend

Apr 14, 2019

The "Happy Death Day" Bulge

Ok, who are these guys?  I'm particularly interested in the one on the left, the one with the sock shoved down his pants. Google says that they are Jessica Rothe and Ruby Modine, but that's obviously wrong.

It's at the premiere of Happy Death Day (2017).  The one on the right is the director, Christopher Landon (son of Michael), who is gay.  But who is the one on the left?

The plot: a girl named Tree (Jessica Rothe) is murdered on her birthday, and must keep reliving the day over and over until she discovers the identity of her killer.

So a time-loop combined with a teen-kill.

Tree is apparently quite the player: she wakes up on the morning of her birthday in the bed of a one-night stand, Carter Davis (Israel Broussard).

Not the guy on the left.

Then, after refusing a cupcake from her sorority sister Lori (Ruby Modine), she meets with the married professor who she's dating, Dr. Butler (Charles Aitken).

Not the guy on the left.

 Later, on the way to the party, she is murdered by someone wearing a school mascot costume.

Awakening in Carter's bed again, Tree realizes that she is in a time loop  (she's seen Ground Hog Day), and tries to avoid the killer, but he finds her no matter what.  She decides to look for him instead.   (I would go with Carter).

Other than the Carter, Lori, and Dr. Butler, the main suspects are serial killer John Tombs (Rob Mello), who of course is a red herring.

Not the guy on the left.

Her estranged father (Jason Bayle).


And Carter's roommate, Ryan (Phi Vu), whose experiments in quantum mechanics cause the time loop.

Not the guy on the left.

There's also a closeted gay guy, Tim (Caleb Spillyards). whom Tree encourages to come out.  Not the murderer.

Not the guy on the left..

I found the original article on Just Jared.  It's in a gallery of about 50 photos, without identification.  But there is list of everyone who was there.  Other than the ones mentioned above: producer Jason Blum and Blaine Kern III.

It's Jason, who has produced Get Out!, The Purge, The Darkness, The Gallows, Paranormal Activity, and dozens of other movies, mostly horror.

He's gay, too.  I can't comment on the rocket in his pocket, it doesn't seem to be there in this photo.

But at least I found a movie with a gay character, and two gay Hollywood players.
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