Jul 6, 2019

The Top 10 Hunks of "Stranger Things," Season 3, Plus Some of the Plot

The tv series Stranger Things, now in its third season, is an homage to 1980s Goonies movies, with monster-fighting kids in stereotypic small-town Indiana. I watched some of the first season, but couldn't figure out what was going on -- it was a mishmash of psychic powers, alternate worlds, missing children, and parents with histrionic backstories.

So I am starting Season 3, Episode 1 fresh,  mostly looking for gay characters and beefcake, but also trying, once again, to figure out the painfully interrelated characters and endless back stories in this monsterized Peyton Place.

Prelude: A top-secret underground lab in the old Soviet Union, where scientists are trying to break on through to the other side.  When they finally manage to blast a crack in the wall, something slithery and horrible comes out and kills them, then goes back in.  The experiment was a failure.  "You have one year!" Colonel Klink growls.

1. In stereotypic small-town Indiana, Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour, top photo) is annoyed about his daughter and another girl kissing.

A lesbian couple!  Score! When they pull back, I find that they're not lesbians after all, but it's still cool that they're so gender-atypical.  The more masculine one is the girl, El (Millie Bobby Brown), and the more feminine one is:

2. Mike (Finn Wolfhard).

Great name, although he looks less like a Wolf Hard than anyone I can imagine.

Sheriff Harper doesn't want his masculine daughter having sex with a feminine boy, or anyone, for that matter, so he asks advice of Joyce (Wynona Ryder), his old girlfriend, who runs a local drug store that has fallen on bad times since the opening of the mall.

Joyce suggests a heart-to-heart talk; but when the Sheriff tries the talk, the teens laugh at him, so he drags Mike out to his truck and threatens to kill him.

3. Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) is at the new mall with his girlfriend Max and another feminine boy, Will (who looks like Mike's brother but isn't).  Finally Mike and El show up, apologizing for being late -- the sex took longer than they expected.

They are sneaked into the movie Day of the Dead by:

4. Steve (Joe Keery), the ex-boyfriend of Nancy (Mike's older sister), who works at a horrible ice cream place in the mall.

Afterwards Steve tries to pick up every female customer in sight, but usually fails.  His coworker Robin is keeping a tally (spoiler alert: Robin turns out to be a lesbian.)

By the way, Nancy (Steve's ex, Mike's older sister) is now dating:

5. Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), the older  brother of the androgynous Will, who was waiting at the mall with Lucas and Max.

Both Jonathan and Will, by the way, are sons of Joyce, the ex-girlfriend of Sheriff Hopper who works at the drugstore downtown.

Jonathan sneaks Nancy (Mike's older sister) out of the bedroom, and she goes to work at a horrible job bringing hamburgers to the local newspaper staff and having them make fun of her ideas.

Turns out that Mom Joyce is aware of Jonathan's sexploits, and fully approves.  His heterosexuality established, she turns her attention to:

6. Will (Noah Schnapp). the androgynous boy who looks like Mike's brother but isn't.  "You'll meet a girl someday, yada yada yada."

 "I'm not gonna fall in love!" he exclaims.  So he's either asexual/ aromantic, or he means "with a girl," and he's gay.

Spoiler alert: later on, during a fight, Mike exclaims that Will doesn't like girls, and he gets all upset.  But he doesn't express any interest in boys or girls this season.  Maybe the writers are ok with lesbians but skittish about gay men.

After Joyce's "what girl do you like?" interrogation, Will meets up with his friends (El, Mike, Max, and Lucas), where they use El's magical powers to arrange a welcome-home surprise party for:

7. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), who has been away at summer camp. He got a girlfriend there, so instead of doing something fun, he insists that they all trek to a mountaintop to install a makeshift radio tower, so he can call her via short wave (what, no telephones in Utah?)

There's no answer.  They hang out all afternoon, abandoning him one by one, until he's all alone.  Then finally he gets a message -- but it's in Russian!

Call back to the first scene.  He's getting transmissions from the Soviet lab where they had "one year" to break through to wherever the slithery thing is from.

8. That night, Joyce, having rejected Sheriff Hopper's dinner invitation, is eating microwaved lasagna and peas and watching Cheers.  All of a sudden Sean Astin is sitting next to her, laughing at Cheers and asking whether  Sam and Diane (the "will they or won't they" couple) will ever get together.  Apparently this is a metaphor for Joyce, who has been rejecting Sheriff Hopper for quite some time.  But I have no idea what Sean Astin was doing there.

9. Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery), the older brother of Max (one of Mike's friends, the girl who is dating Caleb) works as a lifeguard, where lots of middle-aged women are lusting after him.

He tries to pick up Karen Wheeler, the mother of Nancy and Mike.  Initially she resists, probably due to his horrible 1980s double-entendre talk: "I could give you a...private lesson...I know some...moves...the breast stroke...."  But then she agrees. That night she gets dolled up, and leaves her husband and youngest child asleep on the couch to head out for her hookup.

On the way to the hookup, Billy hits something slithery that drags him into an old abandoned iron mill.  Call back to the Russian blasting experiment?

That's all for this episode, but see how nicely everyone is interconnected?

10. To get to 10, I had to go to Episode 2, where Grigori (Andrey Ivchenko) shows up, a Russian agent assigned to beat up Sheriff Hopper and otherwise cause mischief.

I don't think I'll be watching.

My grade: B for the gender-atypical and queer characters, D for the plot.

Jul 1, 2019

"What We Do in Shadows": Everyone is Queer

What We Do in Shadows (2019) sounds like closeted gay men, who used to be called "shadow people."  It's actually about vampires, but aren't they sort of the same thing.  The vampire has always had a tinge of queerness, from the androgynous count Dracula through tortured femme Barnabas Collins to the pansexual gay-dad Lestat.

This iteration is a sort of Real World mockumentary about four vampires sharing a house on Staten Island.

1. Austere Nandor (Keyvan Novak, left), the oldest of the group, has been around since the days of Vlad the Impaler. 

2. and 3. Chubby aesthete Lazlo (Matt Berry, left) is devotee of the pleasures  of the flesh.  He has starred in thousands of porn movies, and enjoys pruning bushes into lady parts.  He is married to Nadja (Natasha Demetriou), but they both seek out other lovers. 

Nadja, for instance, turns Jenna (Beanie Feldstein) during a lesbian encounter, and is having an affair with Jeff (Jake McDorman), a reincarnation of a former lover.

4. Colin (Mark Proksch), an "energy vampire," feeds on the annoyance of humans.  So he has a cubicle-job, where he can annoy his coworkers with inane conversations.

5. Guillermo (Harvey GuillĂ©n, right, with boyfriend), Nandor's human "familiar" (slave, servant, apprentice).  He usually gets ignored or rejected, and then goes to his room to pout (think Willie Loomis to Barnabas). 

The humor comes from vampires engaging in modern urban activities like planning parties and going to nightclubs,with some plotlines about negotiating with enemies, forming alliances, and dealing with the Vampire Council.

The delivery is very understated, deadpan, with a lot of improv, which I find a bit dull.  Maybe, like, hire some writers to actually write some dialogue?

But on the bright side, everyone on the show is unreflectively pansexual; they don't seem to even be aware of the existence of sexual orientations.  For instance, Nandor orders Guillermo to invite his virgin friend Jeremy (James Dwyer) to the upcoming orgy to be eaten (virgin (infinitely attractive to vampires).  Guillermo tries to make Nandor think that Jeremy is not a virgin by discussing his "girlfriend," marking him as heterosexual.  But when Jeremy comes to the party anyway, he has energetic anal sex with a man. "This is a great party!" he exclaims. 

Well, not a great party, but a pretty good one.

My grade: B. 

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