Jul 13, 2019

"Hereditary": A Gay Demon and his Boy Host

It was so easy to find gay subtexts in the gay free Midsommar that I thought I'd check out diretor Ari Aster's other movies.  Other than some film-school shorts, he just has one, Hereditary (2018).

Piece of cake.

Surly, depressed 16-year old Peter (Alex Wolff, who you may remember from The Naked Brothers Band on Nickelodeon) lives in rural Utah with his crazy artist Mom and wimpy Dad.  Mom forces him to take his little sister Charlie, who clicks her tongue and stares at fires, to a high school party.  While he mingles, smoking pot and talking to boys, she eats a piece of cake with nuts in it and has an allergic reaction.

Peter tries to rush her to the hospital, but while he is driving down the dark country roads, he swerves to avoid a deer and slams into a telephone pole, decapitating her.

Mom Annie (Toni Collette) didn't like Peter much to begin with, and now the gloves come off.  She tortures him by building a miniature of the accident, coming into his room at night and asking if Charlie is there, and forcing him into a seance to contact Charlie, who doesn't realize that she's dead.  In another weird scene, she climbs into bed with him, attempting a seduction.

Meanwhile Charlie comes back as a malevolent ghost, throwing things around and trying to set them on fire.

Dad (Gabriel Byrne) tries to keep the family together, lashing out at Annie for torturing their son (and trying to seduce him), but in the end he is ineffective and gets burnt to death in one of the dead Charlie's rampages.

Peter spends most of the movie hanging out in the same grey t-shirt, being morose and guilt-ridden, receiving hand-on-shoulder support from his buds, and crying in history class.  The wikipedia page lists a Bridget a "love interest," but the scenes where they fall in love must have been deleted.   Peter only interacts with boys.  He never discusses girls or looks at a girl twice. He is obviously gay. 

Eventually we discover that Annie's dead mom, Ellen, belonged to a cult devoted to the demon Paimon.  He's been trying to break through to our world, but he hasn't yet found a suitable human host.  He goes down the hereditary blood line and inhabits someone for awhile, but eventually they aren't good enough, and he decapitates them and moves on.  Ellen, Charlie, Annie's friend Joan, and then Annie himself.

Well, these have all been female hosts.  Maybe Paimon prefers men?

A buffed, naked man appears in Peter's closet (hang on -- I'm checking to see if there's a naked man in my closet) -- and leads him to the attic.  More homoerotic subtext: same-sex desire leads Peter to his destiny.

There he finds the decapitated heads of his family, plus Grandma Ellen's cult members  (all naked, penises and everything showing).  They crown him king.  I was right: women were ok temporarily, but for a permanent host, Paimon prefers men.

Sure, that's understandable.  Lots of gay men don't mind socializing with women, but when the lights go down and everyone gets naked, they want to be inside the body of a man. 

See also: Midsommar.

The Banned Beefcake Photo of Michael Burns

You may not realize it, but every word and image on Blogger is carefully analyzed by an army of censors to make sure there are no penises.  Bloody, decapitated heads and eviscerated corpses are fine,but God forbid anyone find out that men have dangling parts.

This photo doesn't show one,but it still got me banned from Blogger Advertisements, because he's obviously covering it with a towel.

It happens to be one of the iconic beefcake photos of the 1960s, with handsome, muscular 22-year old Michael Burns hiding his penis behind that towel in That Cold Day in the Park (1969): Michael's character is an innocent, possibly mute,  somewhat addled Boy taken in by the middle-aged, repressed Frances (Sandy Dennis).  She provides food, shelter, nice clothes, whatever he needs, and he provides a coy eroticism.

When Frances' flirtation becomes too aggressive, the Boy leaves, returns to his hippie commune, and we discover that the innocent-addled bit was all an act. He often defrauds the establishment that way, acquiring free food and favors in return for displaying his body and feigning a willingness to have sex.

The Boy represented the desire and dread with which the adults approached the youth counterculture, but he also served as a metaphor for the game gay male teens must play: pretend to be interested in women, let them desire you, but pull back at the last moment. Always remember that your real desires, your real emotions, your real life lies elsewhere.

Born in 1947, Michael Burns was a very busy child actor, with starring roles as an orphan kid on Wagon Train (1960-65) and the kid brother on the overtly homoerotic It's a Man's World (1962-63), plus guest spots on about 30 Westerns, dramas, and comedies.

But other than That Cold Day in the Park, he was most famous for a 1967 episode of Dragnet, in which the deadpan detectives investigate a houseful of hippies who are using the "new drug menace, LSD," and going crazy.  Michael plays Blueboy, who has half of his face painted blue and screeches in paranoia before dying. Again, the desire and dread of the youth counterculture.

Michael retired from acting in 1977 to pursue an academic career.  He became a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, a specialist on the Dreyfuss Affair of 1890s France.

Dick York: Bewitching Beefcake

I imagine that most gay male and heterosexual female Baby  Boomers have been desperate to see Dick York with his shirt off ever since their diaper days, when they saw him eye-bulge as Darren Stephens, mortal married to the witch Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) on the gay-symbolism-heavy "my secret" sitcom Bewitched (1964-69)  

Good luck.  As a stick-in-the-mud advertising executive in the Mad Men sixties, Darren usually wore a business suit, slept in pajamas, and was never shown in the shower or at the beach.  Dick was suffering from a debilitating back injury that prohibited most stunts and action scenes; finally the writers had to find reasons to keep Darren in bed for entire episodes.

Prior to Bewitched, Dick starred in various Westerns, thrillers, and dramas.  I haven't seen any of them except for Inherit the Wind (1960), but they probably didn't include significant beefcake.

But you can find everything on youtube.  A  compilation clip called Dick York: the Sexiest Man Alive seems to be displaying clips from Dick's very early work, playing high schoolers in "educational films" such as "How Popular Are You?" (1951).  They were used in classrooms for promoting conformity and compulsory heterosexuality.

In Bewitched, Darren was the "straight" man, in more ways than  one.  Not only the eye-bulging, slow-burning spectator to the mayhem, but aggressively heterosexual, faithful to Samantha but tempted by slithery witches, wood nymphs, sirens, and human women every five seconds.

But the compiler finds some gay-subtext images.  Dick and another boy check out each other's equipment in the shower (top photo), and he demonstrates that he is popular by walking off arm in arm with the school hunk.

There are also a few pics, very small, of an older Dick York at poolside, courtesy of Democratic Underground.  Not a bad physique.  Too bad Darren didn't get zapped out of his clothes from time to time.

Jul 12, 2019

"Butcher's Block": Creepypasta Cannibals and a Naked Killer

Channel Zero spins a tv series out of a creepypasta (an online story that pretends to recount an urban legend, but has actually been invented by the author.  If it works, people will "remember" other examples, and a real urban legend will be born,).

For Butcher's Block, they took a very intriguing creepypasta about staircases in the woods.  Regular staircases, like someone grabbed one from your house and plopped it down in the wilderness.  A park ranger seems them so frequently that they seem ordinary, although he's afraid to approach or touch them.

From that intriguing opening, they spun off a crazy story about cannibalism.

Two girls in their twenties, Zoe and Alice, move to the city, both to get away from their crazy mother (who did something horrible one night) and to hide from their creditors (Dave from Collections keeps calling).

They rent a room in a creepy old house from Louise, a retired journalist whose hobby is taxidermy (because it's creepy, I guess). Alice gets a job as a social worker, Zoe sits around semi-lucid from schizophrenia medication. And the weirdness begins:

1. The Crazy Scissors Lady ("Do you have any scissors?  I need to cut off my bandages.") warns them to stay away from the run-down Butcher's Block neighborhood, where people always disappear.
2. Alice has to go to Butcher's Block for her job.  The first family she is assigned to help, a mother and daughter, disappear in the middle of the interview.  Alice tracks the Missing Girl to an overgrown park, where:
3. She sees a gigantic, ornate staircase.   A dwarfish creature climbs down and chases her with a knife.

Louise reveals more details about the park.  It used to be the private residence of the Peach Family, whose meat-packing business was the sole employer of Butcher's Block (get it?).  One night in the 1950s, the whole family vanished.  Rescue workers found something in the basement so horrifying that they burned the house to the ground.

Louise helpfully shows Alice a photo of the family on the eve of their disappearance: Patriarch Joseph; his elderly mother; the oldest son Robert (Andreas Apergis, left), whose wife is about to give birth; Aldous ("the bachelor," Louise says with disapproval -- hey, lady, you're not married, either); and some miscellaneous kids.

The photo comes in handy, as Peach Patriarch Joseph starts hanging around, asking Alice (or Zoe -- I can't tell them apart) if she believes in a higher power (turns out he was quite the fundamentalist in life).  He offers to cure them both of their schizophrenia with homemade lobotomies.

Meanwhile Robert, dancing around like the Riddler, tazes the Crazy Scissors Lady, so Officer Luke (Brandon Scott, left) arrests him.  While in lockup, he kills and eats his cellmate.

But the police chief, who happens to be Officer Luke's father, lets him go!  (Robert doesn't actually have any mind-control powers; Dad just made a deal with the Peaches).

When Robert kills someone else, Officer Luke has had enough, and shoots him.

Wait -- the Peaches aren't ghosts?  No, but they're not living in ordinary time, either.  They made a deal with their god (spoiler alert: not exactly a benign god) to allow them to live on in their summer house at the top of the staircase., whence they send the dwarfish creatures or Robert down to kidnap people to eat.

The two teenage daughters of the family were murdered before they moved to Summerland, so the Peaches are very interested in having Zoe and Alice join them as substitutes.  All they have to do is climb the staircase and eat some people.

All that from a staircase in the woods?

There are a lot of disgusting scenes involving bloody this or that, and a lot of boring scenes of heart-to-hearts between Alice and Zoe, made even more boring by the fact that you can't tell them apart.  They could be identical twins (after Zoe is "cured," she dresses in bright colors, which help a little.)  I fast-forwarded, looking for gay characters or beefcake.
Homophobia:  Officer Luke checks up on Robert in the lock-up and recoils in disgust.  Robert is reclining naked on the floor, giving his cellmate a blow job!  Wait -- no, he's pulling out his cellmate's intestines.  But for a moment you think Officer Luke is recoiling in disgust over a same-sex act.

Gay Characters:  Dad tells Officer Luke "You were always a sensitive boy."  And he never expresses any heterosexual interest, never mentions a wife or girlfriend.  The last scene shows a creepy family at dinner:  Officer Luke, Louise (the retired journalist), Izzy (the girl who disappeared), and Zoe or Alice (I can't tell them apart), but there's no indication that any of them are romantic partners.

Aldous Peach ("The Bachelor).  At least, Louise seems to think so.

Actually, no one expresses any heterosexual interest except for Alice's comic-relief coworker (Aaron Merke), who admits to being sweet on her.

Beefcake: Naked Joseph, if you don't mind the pool of blood.  A couple of cute guys, such as Dave from Collections (Adam Hurtig, top photo).

My grade: D.

See also: No-End House; Candle Cove

Jul 11, 2019

Parker Lewis Can't Lose

The 1980s was the era of the teen operator, the teenager who works behind the scenes, enraging tyrannical assistant principals and college deans.  He starred in virtually every TGIF sitcom, from Family Ties to Growing Pains; he used his stealth to save the day in Toy Soldiers; he ruled the school in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Parker Lewis Can't Lose (1990-93) was a late entry in the teen operator canon, a Ferris Bueller clone that aired on Fox on Sunday nights.

Parker (Corin Nemec, left) ruled the school with flashy costumes and surreal antics, along with his bud, the uber-cool Mikey Randall (Billy Jayne, previously Billy Jacoby, below), and their  nerdish protege Jerry Steiner (Troy W. Slaten).

They had several allies, including inarticulate man-mountain Kube (Abraham Benrubi) and Nick Comstock (Paul Johannson), manager of their diner hangout.

And several nemeses, including the cartoon-villain principal Grace Musso (Melanie Chartoff), who was obsessed with men with "big hands," and her vampiric crony, Lemmer (Taj Johnson), who could appear and disappear at will.

There was a lot of heterosexism; about half of the episodes involve somebody trying to get with a heterosexual crush.

But Parker and Mikey made a cute couple, with Jerry as their surrogate son, and later Kube found a soulmate in the obese Coach Kohler (John Pinette), in spite of their respective hetero-crushes.

In the third season, hunky bricklayer Brad Penny (Harold Pruett) became interested in Parker, and tried to win his "friendship."  When Parker rejected him, he got revenge by stealing Jerry, who dropped  out of school to join him in the career of bricklaying.

After Parker Lewis, Corin Nemec had a stable career, mostly playing sleazoids: two serial killers, an Adolph Hitler lookalike, and "himself" (in the webseries Star-Ving with buddy David Faustino).

He was the associate producer of the evangelical Christian film Hidden Secrets (2006), and starred as an ex-gay guy who can't accept God's forgiveness for his sinful past.  Yuck.

Billy Jayne had some acting and directing credits, but he's better known now as a commercial producer.

Troy Slaten is now an attorney.
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