Jun 8, 2019

"Schooled": "Welcome Back, Kotter" for the 1990s

I got pulled into buying the $1.99 premiere episode of  Schooled (2019) with this shot of the abs of star Christian Gehring.

Turns out that it's a spin-off of The Goldbergs (2013-), the sitcom about future filmmaker Adam Goldberg's high school years in the 1980s.

Spin-offs usually take a wacky supporting character and push them into a starring role, then find out too late that wacky doesn't work for the central character.  So "Kiss mah grits" Flo was great on Alice, but bombed on Flo, and the bickering landlords on the top-rated Three's Company hit the bottom of the ratings barrel on The Ropers

In this case, it's the wacky Lainey Lewis (A. J. Michaelka), Erica's school friend and eventually Barry's girlfriend.  Sometime during the 1990s, after a failed musical career, Lainey returns to Philadelphia and takes a job as a music teacher at William Penn Academy, "the same old place that she laughed about."

Shades of Welcome Back, Kotter, except Kotter actually had a teaching degree, and Lainey has no degree, no certification, no practicum, no nothng. She doesn't even know what a syllabus is.  But the Principal (Tim Meadows) and Coach Mellor (Bryan Callen), who knew her a a student, "believe" in her.

The music class is, naturally, full of slackers, losers, and wise guys, but Lainey "gets through to them" by switching from the "Do Wop" music on the syllabus to Grunge. So this is more like Glee without the gay kid?

But things go wrong when Lainey tries to expell Felicia (who happens to be the Principal's niece) for asking to go to the nurse's office (an act which would immediately get a real-life teacher fired, but here has no consequences).  But she finally bonds with Felicia.

Meanwhile, the ridiculously fit Coach Mellor, who actually doesn't have much of a physique, is having his own problems adjusting to the 1990s (wait -- wasn't he there all along?).  He hates the new Be Like Mike non-teamwork basketball style and short-short uniforms that show everything you got (well, I'd like to see those).

In a parallel to Lainey-Felicia, he butts heads with the showboating Matty (Hunter Doohan),the best athlete at the school, who quits the team in protest.  Not to worry, they bond, and the Coach suggests that he try out for football instead.

We finish with cameos by "the real Matty," Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons football team,  who really  did attend the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, started as a basketball player before "the real Coach Mellor" convinced him to take football instead.

My head is exploding.  Are these all real people?  Are we going to get more interviews with famous graduates of William Penn Academy in future episodes?  I almost want to buy more episodes to see.

Gay References:  They will be performing Rent later on..

Gay Characters: None that I know of.

Beefcake.  Maybe I've been spoiled by Riverdale, but those team members are scrawny, and always fully clothed.

Lainey: Super annoying.

And where's Christian?

Back to Schooled:  It turns out that Matty appears only in the pilot.  The main students will be Ed (Israel Johson), Aaron (Dallas Edwards), Weasel (Gabe Gibbs), and Ronnie (Christian Gehring, finally).  There will also be another teacher, C.B> (Brett Dior, left), who will have a crush on Lainey.

Oh, and most of The Goldbergs will make cameos.

My grade:  D.  I'd rather watch Welcome Back, Kotter. Or Glee.  Or Riverdale.
Or The Goldbergs.

See also: The Goldbergs

Jun 7, 2019

Beefcake and Gay Topics in the Top Rock Songs

I've been going through contemporary music charts, to see if there are any gay themes or performers, or if it's all a wasteland of heterosexist boy meets girl lo-oo-oove.  And, incidentally, to see if any of the performers have been to the gym reently.  Previous posts covered rap, country, and pop, and today rock.

Wait -- how do rock and pop differ?
1. When I was a Nazarene, rock was strictly forbidden, but most pop was ok.
2. Rock favors groups, rather than individual vocalists..
3. Rock instrumentals are more elaborate.
4. Rock lyrics tend to be more complex.

So here's what's gay about the Top Rock Songs of June 1st.

1. Five Finger Death Punch featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd, "Blue on Black."  The lyrics are poetic and rather obscure, but I think it's about someone who died, gender and relationship unspecified: Joker on jack, match on fire, cold on ice, as a dead man's touch, whisper on a scream, doesn't change a thing, doesn't bring you back.

According to an article in The Houston Press, the group performs "Bro Metal," praising men as aggressive sexual predators, "penis-measuring of the most insecure type."  Ivan Moody (center) seems to have an alpha-male physique.

2. The Black Keys, "Lo/Hi" More poetic, obscure lyrics: Out on a limb in the wind of a huricane, down at the bar like a star in the falling rain.  But I think it's about being lonely.

The Black Keys, formed in Akron, Ohio in 2001, consists of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. They have won six Grammies.

In 2013 Patrick Carney was the subject of homophobic tirades from Justin Bieber's fans after he stated that the singer did not deserve a Grammy.  But he's married to a woman, so....

3. Bad Wolves, "Remember When."  Two  brothers remember their lost innocence and their descent into crime, and now they're tired of the violence, tired of the silence, and falling through the ice.

Bad Wolves is a heavy metal band formed in 2017.  When lead vocalist Tommy Vext was in another group in 2012, he released a song about two soldiers who have a secret gay relationshp.  So probably not homophobic.

He looks like he has some  muscles under the ink, too.

4. Badflower, "Heroin."  It's not actually about drugs, it's about a girlfriend  She's back in my life.  She's so poisonous that I'll die, but I can't stop myself.

Badflower only released their debut album in March 201.  Lead singer Josh Katz (pictured) has sort of an underfed emo thing going on.

I keep searching on these artists with the key word "gay," and getting the same article that has nothing to do with them, but mentions Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford coming out in 1998.  So I guess nothing specifically gay or homophobic in Badflower's opus.

5. Shinedown, "Monsters."  My monsters are real and they're trained to kill, and they're coming back.

Shinedown is an alternative rock band from Jacksonville, Florida. Nothing specifically gay or homophobic in their press.

Guitarist Zach Myers (right) may have seen a free weight or two.

6. Papa Roach, "Elevate."  I'm sinking down, and I want something to lift me up, to elevat me to the next level.

The lyrics seem rather like Christian rock, but Papa Roach is actually not an elderly man who smokes marijuana and sings about Jesus, but a group from Vacaville, California, formed in 1993.

None of the Beatles had tattoos, you know.

Papa Roach replied to a hater on twitter: "We're not gay, but you really shouldn't talk bad about gay people.  They can kick your ass."

7. Breaking Benjamin, "Tourniquet."  I won't save you, I won't change you, I won't fight the pain within, because I was born to live this hell.

Breaking Benjamin is a rock group formed in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1999 by Benjamin Burnley.  They have been criticized by haters as "a gay screamo band," whatever that is, and one of their lyrics refers to a "polyamorous friend."

8. Godsmack, "Under Your Scars."  You're like a shooting star in the rain, you're everything that feels like home to me, under your scars I could live inside you time and time again.

Now that's got to be Christian rock, living inside "the scars" of Jesus.

Godsmack, a band from Lawrence, Massachusetts, is so famous that the mayor of Boston declared March 6th Godsmack Day.  But one of its singers, Sully Erna, is a vocal proponent of Wicca, so if not Jesus, whose scars are they?

In 2010 Sully Erna used a homophobic slur against rock competitor Creed.

9. I Prevail, "Breaking Down."  Got a pain that I can't avoid, I think I'm breaking down.

"I Prevail" or "One Prevail" is a metalcore group formed in Southfield, Michigan in 2013.

Lead singer Eric Vanderberghe (the one who doesn't look like a nightmare ghoul) is gay, I think.

10. Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, "Mind Your Manners."  I'm leaving you behind, I don't need you anymore, times change, so mind your manners and just stand there nicely.

Slash, born in 1965, was formerly lead guitarist for the heavy metal band Guns n  Roses.  Even I know that they were one of the more homophobic bands of the 1990s.

He performs with the nightmarishly ugly Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, the name of his backup performers.  I'm not even going to look them up.

Themes:  Only one of 10 songs specifically refers to romance (with a girl), and 4 others refer to people who could be romantic partners, friends, relatives, or God without specifying gender.  All of the songs angry or depressed, full of loathing for one's self and "this shitty world."

And people enjoy listening to them?

Gay Subjects:   Nothing mentioned in the lyrics, but five of the groups appear to be gay-positive.  The others appear to be homophobic.

Beefcake:  If you like skinny, sickly Emo or heavily-tattooed Alpha Male.

Jun 6, 2019

"The Red Line": Gay, Black, Muslim, Asian, Non-Binary, Boring

During a hard night of saving lives in the ER, young, attractive doctor Harrison Brennan (Corey Reynolds) chats with his husband and daughter back home.  Later he stops into a convenience store for a gallon of milk.  A robber bursts in, assaults the clerk, takes money, and leaves.  Harrison rushes to perform first aid.  Then Officer Paul Evans (Noel Fischer) bursts in and shoots him in the back.

Did I forget to mention that Harrison is a young black man wearing a hoodie?

The police are 30 times more likely to kill an unarmed black man than an unarmed white man.  Stereotypes associating "black" with "danger" and "threat" make them likely to shoot in situations that would seem perfectly innocent if the person was white.

The Red Line (2019), on CBS and Vudu, explores the impact of the shooting on "three families".  Actually four interconnected groups.

Harrison's family and friends:
1. Husband Daniel (Noah Wyle, left), a high school history teacher, who is still hearing "How are you holding up?" six months later.  When Paul is exonerated for the shooting, he files a civil suit.

2. Jira (Aliyah Royale), their daughter, who has to hear "I understand what you're going through" from well-meaning white people.   Suddenly saddled with just one father, and a white guy at that, she starts searching for her birth mother.

3. Liam (Vinny Chhibber), their friend and Jira's teacher.  Who, by the way, is the first South Asian, Muslim, gay character on network tv.  .

Jira has two friends of her own:

1.Riley, who is non-binary (played by non-binary trans-masculine actor JJ Hawkins, left).  There are so few non-binary characters on tv that you'd think they would get some showcasing, but they don't do much besides say "I'm here for you."

2. Matthew (Rammel Chan), who doesn't do much.  But the actor is very interesting, a science fiction writer and improv artist.  I'm following him on twitter.

Jira's birth mother:
1. Tia, who s running for alderman (city council) on a "stop shooting black people" platform.  Her campaign gets complicated once word gets out that her biological daughter is associated with the "shooting while giving first aid" case.
2. husband Ethan (Howard Charles).

Remember Officer Paul?
He's affected by the shooting, too.  He has to wear a disguise due to protests, and he had to move, but he's exonerated by his superiors, and his coworkers praise him: "You did your duty!"  He is never actually shown feeling guilty over the shooting, or even regretting it; he believes that he acted appropriately under the circumstances.  His unconscious racism is never addressed, at least in the two episodes I watched.

His famly and friends include:
1. Work partner Vic (Elizabeth Laidlaw).

2. New partner Diego (Sebastian Sozzi, left), who tries to tone down his "all black people are violent" hand-on-gun-during-traffic-stops aggressiveness.

3. Brother Jim (Michael Patrick Thornton), a former cop who is in a wheelchair, and has "got your back."  The actor is paralyzed, but uses a walker.

Other than the aggressive diversity of the cast, there's not much to see here. People making pronouncements and feeling things, talking points writ large.

Manking the victim a saint was stacking the deck a bit.  All black lives matter, not just the ones made palatable to white folk.

Jun 4, 2019

"The Shape of Water": The Things We Do For Love

"I've been dying to watch The Shape of Water," Doug says.  This is our first date, so I'm inclined to agree to anything, but really, what a dumb title!

"Water has no shape; it fills whatever vessel it is in."

"That's the point, silly!"

I see on the blue-ray cover that the thing was directed by Guillermo Del Toro.   His movies alway trick you with a bait-and-switch: you think you're getting a cute fantasy, but instead it's about people dying.

"So what's it about?  Elves being killed during the Spanish Civil War?"

"Close.  You'll see.  Anyway, there's a gay character."

I see that I have no choice.  Doug the film buff wants to see it, so it's either watch or not get invited to see him naked later.

Well, he's cute...

We sit cuddling on the couch.  He lowers the lights so I can't even escape by reading a magazine.

Openng: a gratuitous full-frontal nude shot of a woman taking a bath.  Disgusting!  Decreasing my interest in my date's bedroom.  And completely irrelevant to the plot.

The gratuitous nude girl, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), is mute, so she uses sign language. Not important to the plot.

Every day she she gets gratuitously nude, then boils three eggs and makes egg salad sandwiches, which she shares with her elderly invalid neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), who keeps a tv on at all times.  It shows only movie musicals from the 1930s.  No importance to the plot.

Everything is so washed out and drab and unpleasant to look at that I think we're in an awful dystopia like 1984, but  it's actually some apartments over a movie theater in Baltimore in 1962 or 1963*.  They can actually look down at the movies playing.  Not that any of them are important to the plot.

They got the dates all wrong: We see Mr. Ed (1961-66), The Story of Ruth (1960), and Mardi Gras (1958).

Every night she goes to work amid a crew of cleaning ladies in a top secret government installation run by incredible jerk scientists. Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) keeps trying to have sex with the women.  This is before sexual harassment laws.

One day they bring in the Creature from the Black Lagoon (Doug Jones).  Elisa feeds it eggs and plays it some dance music, and soon discovers that it is sentient, male, and hot.

A Soviet spy (Michael Stuhlbarg) helps Elisa break the Creature out (who knew that the Soviets were the good guys during the Cold War).

Wait -- this should be the end of the movie.  The plot is resolved, right?  I ask Doug to put it on pause so I can go to the bathroom.  It's only half over!

In the last half of this endless 123 minutes, Elisa takes the Creature home and plunks him into the bathtub where she takes her gratuitous nudity,  planning to release him to the ocean on the day that the canal opens.  Um...there aren't any beaches in Baltimore?  

Meanwhile both the Americans and the Soviets are trying to find the Creature, so there's some Spy vs. Spy shenanigans.  And Elisa has fallen in love with the Creature.  They have sex twice (full female nudity, no Creature penis).

Not to worry, it all ends happily when Elisa develops gills and goes to live in the ocean with her beloved Creature.

Really?  I would think that to live in the ocean, you'd need more than gills.  It's cold down there, you can't swim around very well, and won't she eventually want to hang out with some other sentients?

Besides, the Creature is from the Amazon.  How is he going to handle the ecosystem of the North Atlantic?

Beefcake: None.

Interesting sets:  None.  Everything is washed out and drab.

I wasted two hours on this garbage, just to get invited into a guy's bed?

Gay characters:  Oh, I forgot.  Giles isn't an elderly invalid after all, he just acts like one.  He's actually a graphic artist who gets fired from a lot of jobs.  He makes a series of strange fumbling come-ons at the counter man (Morgan Kelly) at the local pie restaurant, who finally catches on and recoils in homophobic horror (not to worry, he's also racist, an all-around bigot).

Ok, an elderly gay man in the early 1960s should know how to determine if someone is gay before grabbing.

So Giles is one of these depressed, lonely gay guys who knows nothing about gay culture but happily facilitates the True Love of the heterosexuals.

My grade: F-.

All this for a penis?  Next time I'm just going on Grindr.

Jun 3, 2019

What Happened to Gay Italy?

In the summertime I usually make the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam run, but this year I'm going to Italy. It's been 30 years since my ill-fated graduate studies in Renaissance Italy, so I am prepping by reading some books.

I'm looking for the lushly homoerotic Italy that I remember from grad school: the nude photographs of Wilhelm Von Gloeden, the androgynous prettyboys of Caravaggio, the musclar bodies of Michelangelo.

I'm looking for the glittering gay-positive Renaissance, when  Leonardo Da Vinci sought out male lovers, and Aretino wrote about same-sex marriage.

And the  20th century, with Moravia's Two Adolescents, Umberto Saba's Ernesto, Visconte's Death in Venice, and Pasolini's many homoerotic masterpieces.

Instead, I'm finding a lot of praise of beautiful women, and the erasure of gay people from the world.

1. Dianne Hales, La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language (2010) is not actually about the language, but about the culture, with chapters on Dante, film, food, and so on.  Ms. Hales mentions her husband every five seconds, which is annoying but understandable.  But she makes a concerted effort to heterosexualize everyone and everything.  

She learns to appreciate the Italian vocabulary from Niccolo Tommaseo, a 19th century essayist "whose passions included women and words."  Why was it necessary to tell us that, except to make Italy feel unwelcome to LGBT people.

We learn the words for a boy who starts going after girls before he grows a beard, a man who lets ladies walk all over him, a lady-killer, and an elderly man who still longs for women but can't get any.   I'm sure I'll never need any of those words.

How about the word for a man who wants you to come back to his room?

The frescos of Pompeii apparently contained only scenes of men and women coupling.

Lorenzo de Medici extolled "the joys of youth: women, falconry, and the Tuscan countryside."

How on Earth are those the joys of youth?  I was young, and didn't like any of those things.

AND Lorenzo liked men.

Five pages on Michelangelo's relationship with his elderly patron Vittoria, hinting that they were lovers, but no hint that MICHELANGELO WAS GAY.

Is this the same Dianne Hales who wrote a human sexuality textbook with two paragraphs on 'homosexuals':  "Homosexuality threatens and upsets many people because homosexuals are viewed as different."

They're called "gay," and saying that "they upset many people," you assert gays aren't people, you bigot.

2. Tim Parks, A Literary Tour of Italy (2016) actually is no travelogue. It consists of short essays on various Italian writers, all of whom are...you guessed it...straight.

If I have to hear how much this writer "wrote about beautiful women" just one more time.

Aretino is in the book, but he's straight.  Pasolini is not.

Tim Parks, by the way, is the elderly bald-headed guy on the far right.  The other two are Mark Krotov and Alex Shephard, senior editors at Melville House Books.   As far as I know, not a gay couple.

3. Seeking Sicily, by John Keahey.  Ok, Sicily, you're my last hope.  Home of the Taormina nudes in the 19th century and a gay governor today.

Keahey interviews a lot of people, mostly women and elderly men, who reminisce about the beautiful women of their childhood.

Apparently Sicily is a land of "beautiful women."  Old men sit in the cafes, looking at the "pretty girls."  Breasts.  Breasts.  Breasts.

Ok, I get it.  He grew up in Idaho and graduated from the University of Utah a thousand years ago.  He's one of those elderly men who sits in cafes looking at pretty girls and grumbling.  It's understandable that he is unaware that gay people exist.

Keahey visits Racalmuto, the home of "writer Leonardo Sciascia and famed opera tenor Salvatore Puma." Wait -- a gay couple?

No.  He means they both were born there, Scascia in 1921 and Puma in 1920, not that they were a couple.

He does not visit Taormina or interview the governor.

Is it too late to change my trip to Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam?

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