Sep 28, 2019

Searching for Gay Characters in Comics in 2019

Heartened by the gay-friendiness of Welcome to Wanderland, I went to my local comic book store and picked up a pile, I mean went to Comixology and downloaded the digital versions of six comic books that they recommended.   As usual, I was looking for gay characters, or at least gay subtexts, but beefcake would do in a pinch.

1. Amazing Age: "Sam Charleston is a normal kid who likes hanging out with his best friends Mike and Violet. However, a tragic event drives the trio apart and they navigate their high school lives without each other. That is until one day when one of Sam's old childhood comics mysteriously appears and brings the friends back together in an unexpected way."

Opening scene: they're writing a superhero comic.  Mike wants his character to "get a lady."  Not a good sign!

Then Sam's Dad dies, and he goes over to the dark side, becoming a juvenile delinquent.  Five years later, Violet is a punk, Mike is a jock, and they hate each other.

Sam passes out in class, and awakens as a character in his comic book, Amazing Age.

The end.  Why are these comics so short?  You barely get the premise.

Gay characters: None specified.  Mike wants "a lady."  I assume that Sam wants one, too.

2. Book of Monsters #1 - Alone: "Stories have long been told of the Pied Piper who leads kids through the deepest and darkest parts of the forest. But what happens when the children he is leading lose their way?"

The older teen's shirt reveals half of his chest on thecover, but nothing inside - a deliberate attempt to draw in readers with the promise of beefcake.

The kids lost in the woods fight troll-monsters who have a problem with personal pronouns: "Find own meat!  This mine!"  It gets old fast.

I'm much more interested in the Pied Piper than some dumb monster-battle, but he doesn't appear at all.

Gay characters: None specified.

3. Miskatonic High: "Five teens take on H.P. Lovecraft's monsters and their small-town high school ... They're just not sure which is worse."  Didn't know what to expect.

First scene: We open in media res at a Breakfast Club-like detention.  A discussion of nose-picking.  It can only go downhill

The five kids,   bookworm Simon, jock Matt , and three girls (Alex, Ren, Sarah), are performing required community service as their punishment, when they are zapped into the ancient world and fight an tentacled monster.

Yawn.  Not another monster battle!

Gay characters: Matt gets a girl.  I can't figure out if Simon is gay or just sophisticated.

4. Offbeats: "It's Tintin meets Tarantino in this 1950's crime noir! A young man tries to save a woman from a vicious street gang, but ends up needing to be rescued by a petty crook who introduces him to a whole new world!"

Next Issue: Booker and Jim rescue a missing dancer, but end up being betrayed. The cops hand Jim over to a local mob boss who offers to free him in exchange for betraying Booker -- who mounts a daring raid to rescue his new friend."

I was sold by the promise buddy bonding, but it was all a tease.  Jim is obsessed over his girlfriend, Booker has a wife, and they inhabit a world full of strippers and hookers.

5. Planet of the Nerds: "Three high school jocks in the 1980s are accidentally frozen by an experimental cryogenics device, only to be revived in the computer-driven, superhero movie-loving world of 2019, an era ruled by nerds!"

I chose Issue #4 because of the naked jock on the cover (top photo):  "Feeling like misfits in 2019, the thawed-out jocks from the '80s hatch a plan for revenge on the rich and powerful nerd who froze them."

No, they don't.  They break into his house, only to be stopped by his private security guards.

The cover picture does not appear in the story: the thawed-out jocks are staying with Steve's ex-girlfriend Jennie, who has aged 30 years, but Steve still feels that it's his duty to have sex with her (she refuses).

Fortunately for him, because he can now come out as gay (which is ok in 2019).  That's the end of the nudity.

I like the jocks' horror at the dystopian society they've awakened to:  We have Nazis again, Donald Trump is president, Prince is dead, Kirk Cameron is a religious cultist and Bill Cosby is a felon. 

Postscript: In Issue #5, they confront the evil scientist cum Nazi who accidentally froze them, and Steve gets a boyfriend.  Fade out kiss and everything.

Gay characters: Two

6. Rex Radley, Boy Adventurer: "Rex Radley is an 11 year old boy born into excitement! His mom pilots a giant robot and fights towering monsters! His dad has a cavewoman bodyguard and defends the planet from an army of dinosaur men! The Adventure never stops for Rex!"

So Jonny Quest without Dad's life partner Race Bannon, or his own life partner Hadji.  Sounds awful.

Rex does seem awfully mature for 11; I would have guessed 16.  But he has no friends his own age, and the adults are almost all women: Mom, his aunt, and Dad's companion:  a cavewoman who doesn't know how to use personal pronouns "Been long time since Tharga ate dinosaur."

Come on, personal pronouns are easy.  Repeated after me: Ego, yo, eu, je, Ich, wo.  And everybody knows that humans and dinosaurs never co-existed.

Gay characters:  None specified.

1 out of 6, not a great score.  I think I'll stick to Kevin Keller.

See also: Welcome to Wanderland

"The Politician": Gay-Light Sociopaths in a Hunk-Infested High School

In The Politician on Netflix, Payton Hobart (how's that for a 1% name?) lives with his absent dad, clinging "I love you so much" mother, and psycho older brothers in a ridiculously elegant mansion in Santa Barbara, California.  He attends a ridiculously elegant prep school that looks like an Italian villa, where all of the boys are 30-year old fitness models and all of the girls tall, statuesque blondes.

And he wants to be President.  Oh, sorry, he will be President, he says repeatedly; it's not a dream or even a goal, it's a simple fact.  He tells the Harvard admissions board, "After my second term in office (which I will win by a landslide), I can build my presidential library here in Cambridge or in Palo Alto.  It's up to you."  Strangely, the board admits him.

Payton is a textbook sociopath, experiencing no empathy but good at pretending to, with grandiose visions of his own importance, willing to do anything to reach his goals.

This season's goal is to be elected school president, a necessary step en route to the White House.  His campaign staff (he already has some) suggest someone who is disabled.  He latches onto Infinity, who has cancer.

Problem: she really doesn't.  Her grandmother has been making her sick in order to get attention and free stuff.

Another problem:  Payton's best friend/occasional sex partner River throws his hat in the ring.  But then River commits suicide.  Problem solved.

That's right, there's a suicide in the midst of the first episode of a "comedy" series.

One of the tall, statuesque blonde girls throws her hat in the ring.  She may also be his girlfriend: they're both tall, statuesque blondes.  So are his campaign manager and River's girlfriend.  And they all have the same manipulative, self-serving, sociopathic personalities.  I can't tell any of them apart.  For all I know, they could be the same person.

I understood from the early reviews that Payton is gay, but he actually straight.  His only same-sex relationship is with River, and that quickly becomes a menage-a-trois with the girlfriend.

The show's attitude toward gay people is paradoxical.  Payton also threatens to out River unless he drops out of the election, implying that being gay is something scandalous (um...wouldn't he also be outing himself?).  But characters throw terms like "heteronormative" and "nonbinary" around, Payton actively courts the gay vote, and a gay slur in one of Infinity's old tapes is enough to derail his campagn.

Oh, well --- there are lots of plot twists, the sets are amazing, and the plot calls for lots of shirtless, underwear, and swimsuit scenes:

1. Payton (top photo), played by Ben Platt.

2. David Corenswet as River.  Dont worry, he may commit suicide in the first episode, but there are a lot of flashbacks.

3. The androgynous but heterosexual James, a member of Payton's campaign staff, who also sleeps with his girlfriend/future first lady, is played by trans actor Theo Germaine.

4. Benjamin Barrett with blond hair as Ricardo, Infinity's dimwitted but well hung boyfriend.

5.-6. Trey and Trevor Easton as Martin and Luther Hobart, Ben's older brothers, who hate him because their mom likes him best.

7. Luis Avila as Amir, the gay kid who Hobart tries to woo by claiming an interest in the musical Hamilton.  Because all gay men are into musical theater, right?

8. Russell Posner as Elliot, who gets a whole centric episode: both sides actively woo him, but he couldn't care less.  He's all about gazing at girls' breasts and looking for a private place to masturbate.

9. Koby Kumi Diaka as the school's only Haitian student, wooed by the other side to become vice president after the nonbinary African-American lesbian fell through.

10.  For #10, no one in particular comes to mind -- the woods are full of hunkoids.  So I just picked a name from the cast list at random: Brian Nuesi as a miscellaneous student.

And I haven't even gotten to the adults yet.

Sep 26, 2019

Corey Haim

What gay boy in the 1980s didn't thinking of Corey Haim as a kindred spirit?  His cute lopsided smile, his metrosexual fondness for hair care products, his slight-but-firm physique, his well-publicized bromance with fellow teen star Corey Feldman.

Whether he was playing cute kids -- in Secret Admirer (1985), Silver Bullet (1985), Lucas (1986) and The Lost Boys (1987) -- or horny teenagers -- in License to Drive (1988), Dream a Little Dream (1989), and Fast Getaway (1991) -- Hollywood censorship decreed that his characters could not be gay.  Yet he often played them as gay anyway -- subtly, cautiously, with a leer at a passing hunk or an intensely emotional buddy-bonding moment that stood out like a beacon in the midst of the "fade-out kiss" plotlines, telling gay kids "You're not alone.  You're ok."

According to Corey Feldman, he was sexually abused by a "Hollywood mogul" as a child, and he doubtless did his share of same-sex one-nighters, but he was undeniably a ladies' man.  He had relationships with nearly every female actor, model, and singer in Hollywood: Alyssa Milano (of Who's the Boss), Nicole Eggert (of Charles in Charge), Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, Holly Fields,  Cindy Guyer, Tiffany Shepis.

During the 1990s, fame -- and his draconian workload -- hit him hard.  Like Tommy Kirk 30 years before, Corey abused drugs and alcohol; his teen idol dreaminess vanished, and he became haggard, craggy, and tattooed.  His movie roles grew sleazy and sinister.  He died of pneumonia in 2010.

To the end, Corey was welcoming and gracious to his fans, both gay and straight.

Duke Kahanamoku: A Life Devoted to Surfing and Men

Born in 1890, Duke Kahanamoku was "the fastest swimmer alive," who popularized the sport of surfing, and to a great extent popularized Hawaii.  He won gold medals for swimming at the Olympics in 1912 and 1920, and a silver in 1924 (Johnny Weissmuller won the gold).

In 1925, he won even more international fame when he rescued eight drowning men from a sinking ship off Newport Beach, California, using only his surfboard.

He divided his time between Honolulu and Hollywood, where he appeared in 14 movies, playing a lifeguard, an Indian chief, an Arab, a pirate, and a "devil-ape," most notably as a Pacific Island chief in Mister Roberts (1955).  Later in life he appeared in the surfing documentaries Free and Easy (1967) and Surfari (1967).  He died in 1968.

He married Nadine Alexander rather late in life, at age 50. Although they apparently enjoyed ballroom dancing together, he spent most of his time with men, and surrounded himself with both Hollywood hunks and Speedo-clad beach boys.

He knew all of the athletes and beefcake stars of the day, including Buster Crabbe (top center), Wallace Beery, and Tyrone Power.  He was a particularly close friend of fellow Olympian and 1930s Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller (left, the one with the bulge).

The punk group The Queers has a song about him:

It ain't the waves you catch
It ain't the drugs you do
You'll never be as cool as Duke Kahanamoku

More conventionally, he has been honored with a statue in Waikiki (where the Oahu Gay Surfing Club meets) and a postage stamp.

See also: Jack London and the Gay Surfers.

Sep 23, 2019

"Cloud 9": Gay Couples in 1879 and 1979

Caryl Churchill is an avant-garde playwright in the mold of Ionesco and Samuel Beckett; her plays challenge your notions of plot, characters, and narrative structure itself.  Actually, most of her plays don't really have a plot, but they have a political point. 

Cloud 9, first produced in 1979, was originally advertised as about "sexual confusion," but now it's about gender fluidity.  There are two acts, set in British Africa in 1879 and London in 1979.

British Africa:
Colonial administrator Clive has a perfect relationship with his wife and children, until forbidden desires disrupt things.

He has an affair with Mrs. Saunders, a visiting widow.

His wife Betty (played by a man), is having an affair with his friend Harry Bagley, and is also approached by the governess for a lesbian fling.

Harry has also seduced Clive's10 year old son Edward (played by a woman), the manservant Joshua (black, but played by a white man), and Mrs. Saunders.  When he makes a play for Clive himself, things fall apart.

Fast forward 100 years, but only 25 years have passed for the characters.

Betty (now played by a woman) is recently divorced.

Her son Edward (played by the actor who played Betty in 1875) is gay, and involved in a relationship with Gerry (who played Joshua in 1875).

But he also has an affair with his younger sister Victoria (a doll in 1875).

Victoria is separated from her husband Martin (who played Harry in 1875), and involved with Lin (who played Mrs. Saunders in 1875).  She has a 10-year old daughter (played by a man)

This time everything resolves happily, with both of the gay couples on "Cloud 9."

I didn't actually like the play -- weirdness for the sake of weirdness has never been my thing, and I'm not as shocked by same-sex relationships as the author intended. 

But I liked it more than anything by Ionesco, and it's nice to see two gay couples in the forefront, "sexual confusion" or not.

8 Gay Hunks and 2 Gay Non-Hunks of "American Horror Story: 1984"

The 9th season of American Horror Story is set in the summer of 1984 (a year before I moved to Los Angeles), when a group of aerobic-studio friends get jobs as counselors at a remote woodland camp. What follows looks like a standard 90-minute teenkill, with a ridiculously over-the-top Jason-Michael-Freddie named Mr. Jingles (John Carroll Lynch) picking them off one by one.

That seems a little thin for an entire series.  I assume there's a big twist coming, and some additional characters, but until then we'll have to make do with just 8 hunks and 2 non-hunks, all with some gay connections.

1. Conor Donnally as Eddie, one of the aerobics students.  He previously starred in Hooked (2018), about two gay teens trying to make a living on the street.

2.  Deron Horton, who you know as the cute gay nerd of Dear White People, plays Ray, the black counselor.  Traditionally the black guy is the first to get sliced and diced, but he sticks around through the fifth episode.

3.  Luke Lowrey as an unnamed aerobic dancer. Too bad he isn't dancing shirtless.  You might remember him from the webseries Bi (2014-15), about a bi guy negotiating life, love, and hookups.

4.  Matthew Morrison as Trevor, the counselors' supervisor, with a 1970s pornstache and a super-sized package.  I think he's actually a ghost.

You may remember Trevor as Will Sylvester, the choir director on gay fave Glee.

5.  Cody Fern, who played the Antichrist last season, as Xavier Plimpton, the rich party boy counselor.  Cody, who is gay in real life, is set to appear in the remake of the pre-Stonewall classic Boys in the Band.

6. Lou Taylor Pucci in a 1960s outfit as the hiker the counselors run over (I Know What You Did Last Summer homage).  I think he was already a ghost.  Lou played a bi character in the short A Good Dinner Party.

7. Gus Kenworthy as Chet, the jock counselor.  Gus was the first gay-identified Olympic athlete before moving into acting.

8. Zach Villa as Richard Ramirez, the serial killer who terrorized Los Angeles in 1984.  In 2014, Zach starred in the indie film Honeyglue, about a "gender-defying artist" who starts a romance with a terminally ill girl.

9.  Spencer Neville as Joseph Cavanaugh (I don't know who that is, as the character hasn't appeared yet).  Spencer is best known as a competitive bodybuilder, and as the gay Derrick on the soap Days of Our Lives.

10.  And who can forget John Carroll Lynch before he moved into serial killer roles, as Drew's straight transvestite brother on The Drew Carey Show? 

Sep 22, 2019

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Boldly Going Where No Heterosexual Has Gone Before

Science fiction has been notorious for promoting an exclusively heterosexual future, insisting over and over again that gay people do not exist.  The Star Trek tv series have been the worse offenders, and Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) the worst of the lot, trying over and over again to be as heteronormative as possible, ignoring countless blatant opportunities for inclusivity.

The premise: On a far-off space station (but only about a day's flight from Earth), United Federation of Planets is assisting the planet of Bajor, which has just won its independence from the brutal Cardassians.  Meanwhile a wormhole opens up to the other side of the galaxy, bringing new possibilities for exploration, plus the threat of the Dominion.

The politics get complicated, and rather boring.  And all of the characters, bar none, are heterosexual:

Odo (Rene Auberjonois) is a changeling, a liquid in his natural state, capable of adopting any form he wishes.  He usually adopts the form of a humanoid male -- who is attracted to women.

Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) is a trill: a symbiont named Dax "joined" to a humanoid host.  Dax has lived in seven hosts before; its last was Curzon, an elderly man very, very interested in ladies.  Now that it's living in a female host, however, it's very, very interested in men.

The possibility of same-sex desire intrudes in a few episodes, briefly:

1. The Ferengi, space capitalists/Jewish stereotypes, do not allow women to go to work, so Pel (Helene Udy) disguised herself as a man to become a waiter at the bar/restaurant run by Quark (Armin Shimmerman). "He" falls in love with him, and seeks the advice of Dax, who is not surprised by what she thinks is same-sex desire.

Later "he" grabs and kisses Quark.  They are interrupted in media res by aliens, who assume that they are a same-sex couple.

Quark responds to the same-sex advance by ignoring it.

Pel: "I kissed you."

Quark: "No, you didn't."

2. Dax and her boyfriend Worf (the Klingon from The Next Generation)  go to the pleasure planet Risa, which seems to be a gigantic tropical brothel, with scantily clad women walking around saying "Everything we have is yours."  Dax reunites with a woman "he" dated as Curzon.  They get altogether chummy, even though Dax is now female, and Worf suspects that they are involved.

3. In a parallel mirror universe, the counterpart of Bajoran Major Kira Nerys is slinky, seductive, and  predatory, hinting that she's bisexual.

And some gay-subtext bromances.

1. Garak (Andrew G. Robinson), the only Cardassian left on the space station, is a fey, androgynous tailor who seems to be hitting on Dr. Julian Bashir.  Then they settle in for a romantic friendship, as each pursues hetero-romances.

Robinson later stated that he played the character as bisexual and in love with Bashir, but it was "a family show," so he couldn't be open about it -- can't let those kids know that gay or bi people exist!

2. Jake, son of the station commander (Cirroq Lofton), and Nog, Quark's nephew (Aron Eisenberg), are teenage best buds who have a quasi-romantic relationship.

By the way, after Nog joins Star Fleet, take a look at him in his uniform.  You'll soon find out why they generally film him from the waist up.

Beefcake is practically non-existent.  None of the main cast are ever shown shirtless.  Occasionally one of the women hooks up with a muscle man.

Lieutenant Manuele Atoa (Sidney Liufau) performs a Hawaiian fire-dance at Dax's pre-marital party.

Of all the Star Trek series, I like Deep Space 9 the least.  Instead of exploring strange new worlds, it's internecene politics.  Instead of boldly going where no man has gone before, it retreads the same old tired "no gays in space" mantra.
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