Apr 25, 2020

The Prisoner: We Want Information

When I was a little kid, we had only 3 stations, but sometime in the early 1970s, we got PBS -- the Public Broadcasting System -- and with it, a British invasion.  Suddenly I could see Doctor Who, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyMonty Python's Flying Circus, The Tomorrow People, and even fluffy comedies like Father Dear Father and No, Honestly.  I guess they figured that anything British was bound to be educational. They were certainly easier to find subtexts in.

Take The Prisoner, which appeared in Britain in 1966-67, and on PBS in the mid-1970s.

The plot: a British secret agent (Patrick McGoohan) resigns, angrily, then goes home and packs for a trip.  He is gassed, and awakens in a scenic, well-scrubbed Village, where everyone has a number rather than a name ("You are Number Six.").  The Villagers are mostly kidnapped secret agents, from a variety of countries, more or less brainwashed and docile.

The mysterious Number Two, who is in charge of the Village, wants "information."  Number Six wants to escape, or, failing that, to find out who his keepers are.  But plots soon moved beyond the "Why did you resign?" maguffin to explore questions of conformity and individuality.  In order to live together in a community, we must require certain behaviors and banish others, but at what point does the need for conformity impinge upon the rights of the individual to think and feel what he pleases?

It was heady viewing for teenagers in the 1970s, on the par with Animal Farm and Brave New World.  And it was especially evocative for gay teenagers, who were told, day after day, hour after hour, "You must conform. You must desire the opposite sex, date, have sex, marry."

The gay symbolism made up for a decided lack of beefcake -- handsome Patrick McGoohan never so much as unbuttoned a button, not even to work out.  And a lack of bonding -- though there might be a homoerotic subtext in the cat-and-mouse game played by Number Six and the current Number Two (the Village leader changed in almost every episode).

However, there was one plus: virtually no heterosexual content.  Sometimes Number Six got a girlfriend, or pretended to in order to harass Number Two, but they never kissed.  McGoohan had it written in his contract -- no kissing girls (but not because he was gay; he wanted to stay faithful to his wife).

McGoohan starred in many other movies during the 1970s and 1980s.  He is perhaps most famous for playing King Edward in Braveheart  (1995), and eliciting homophobic audience cheers by pushing his gay son's lover out a window.  Not that I believe McGoohan, who died in 2009, actually condoned throwing gay people out of windows.

Apr 24, 2020

Midnight Gospel: A Gay Teenager Ruminates on Death

Pendleton Ward's Midnight Gospel, on Netflix, is advertised as an adult Adventure Time.  There are certainly similarities in animation style and tone, but Clancy is no Finn.  Or Jake.

An amiable young man with pink skin and anime-eyes, shirtless, usually wearing a purple wizard's hat, Clancy (Duncan Trussell) lives in self-imposed exile in a virtual world called the Ribbon. We don't learn why, although there are a few hints:

His friends and older brother call to say how much they miss him. 

He encounters abusive fathers everywhere.

One friend ominously warns Clancy that someone is coming to kill him. .

His sister calls and begs him to come home, and he angrily hangs up.

He orders a pie online, but when it arrives, it is horribly decayed.

His mother visits, and we learn that she is dying of cancer.  She takes him through his whole life, from birth to death, and then he gives birth to her and goes through her life, from birth to death again.

I'm guessing that Clancy is dead, or else is so traumatized by abuse and his mom's imminent death that he has retreated to his room to play video games.  Clancy himself doesn't seem to know which it is.  

He passes the time by visiting various virtual worlds and interviewing the inhabitants for his "spacecast" (like a podcast, but beamed into space).  The dialogue consists primarily of the interviews, laconic late-night-talk-show discussions of conspiracy theories and wacko holistic healing techniques.  Meanwhile, on screen, Clancy and his friends are having bizarre, trippy adventures. 

For instance, he visits a world overrun by zombies, and must help the President of the U.S. escape from a besieged White House.  Meanwhile they discuss the merits of medicinal marijuana (for cancer patients, Clancy?). 

In a Medieval world, he helps a warrior re-animate her murdered boyfriend, and learns about forgiveness.  

In another episode, Clancy interviews Death  (he's not a ghost: his avatar is made of cream).  She talks about how the funeral industry makes us spend thousands of dollars to embalm our dead loved ones and make them look nice, when it is absolutely unnecessary: corpses are usually safe, and if you have the funeral within a few days, they won't decay enough to notice.  Death advocates washing and dressing your dead loved one at home, as a way of saying goodbye. 

Meanwhile, they travel across a weird Bosch-inspired landscape, fighting various monsters, including ghouls who jump out of mirrors. Death tells him that they are Regrets, and he can vanquish them by forgiving himself.  The Archangel Michael and a chubby demon join the team.

Watch with the sound turned off, and again with dialogue only, and you get two completely different shows.

I've never made it through an entire episode without fast-forwarding.  The interviews are bizarre, and we never get a sense that Clancy needs to hear them in order to move on.   We really don't learn much about what he wants or needs.

But we do learn something very important. Clancy experiences sexual desire -- he tries to visit a planet of orgies (and water slides) -- but he is not interested in women.  He never gets a girlfriend, or expresses an interest in getting one.  However, he does buddy bond with several of the male being he interviews, and all of the friends who call him are male.  

My verdict:  Clancy is gay.

See also: Adventure Time

Apr 21, 2020

Gay Connections on "The Facts of Life"

The Facts of Life (1979-1988) was a TGIF sitcom (that aired on Wednesday nights) about four girls with disparate backgrounds who, for contrived  reasons, are working in the cafeteria of a private girls' school under their boss/mentor  Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae)

In the first season, there were a lot of girls, and  "the facts of life" referred specifically to universal heterosexual desire ("when the boys you used to hate, you date"), but after that the show concentrated on the Fab Four and general Life Lessons.

When the world never seems to be livin up to your dreams
And suddenly you're finding out, the facts of life are all about you.

Wait -- I thought adolescence was a time of infinite possibility.  The world doesn't start squashing your dreams until your mid-20s.

Oh, well, the four girls were (clockwise from bottom left):

1.  Young, black, catchphrase-spouting Tootie (Kim Fields).  One episode I saw had her in a mania over pop star Jermaine Jackson, which caused Mrs. Garrett to reminisce about the Frank Sinatra mania of her youth.  She learns to be more cautious and less impulsive.

2. Spoiled rich girl Blair, whose parents basically own the school (Lisa Whelchel).  She learns humility.

3.Motorcycle-riding juvenile delinquent Jo (Nancy McKeon), whom everyone assumed was a lesbian, but she was straight (on the show, anyway).  She learns to solve her problems with words, not with fists.

4. Natalie (Mindy Cohn), who makes self-depricating jokes about being portly or Jewish, or both.  She learns to overcome her poor self-image.  Later in the series, she has sex with her boyfriend (after discussing it in detail with every character except Blair; a conservative Christian, Lisa Whelchel refused to be in the episode).

There were some men running around occasionally, such as George Clooney before he became a big star as a handyman-hunk, and Mackenzie Astin as a vulnerable kid that the girls sort of adopt.

No gay references, except in the first episode (August 24, 1979), when Blair criticizes another girl for being a tomboy, and insinuates that she is "strange" (hat is, a lesbian).  Mrs. Garrett takes control and helps the girl become more feminine.  Problem solved.

Also, there's the ongoing lesbian subtext with Jo, and for several seasons Cousin Geri (Geri Jewell, a comedian with cerebral palsy) was a regular, and more or less obviously lesbian,

Geri Jewell is gay in real  life, Mackenzie Astin is bisexual, and most of the other cast members are gay allies.  Even Lisa Whelchel; not all conservative Christians are screeching homophobes (see her interview in Chicago's gay newspaper, the Windy City Times).

Apr 20, 2020

"Blow the Man Down": Take As Much Time as You Need

I've heard the sea shanty "Blow the Man Down," or at least parts of it, many times, but I never thought of the double-entendre meaning before.  Until Amazon Prime offered a movie with Blow the Man Down as the title. Must be gay porn.  I'm in!

Scene 1: Establishing shot of Easter Cove, Maine.  Some fishermen gutting fish and singing: "When boys become greenhorns, and greens become mates, give me some time to blow the man down."

Sure, take all the time you need. Once it took me 45 minutes to...um.....

Scene 2: Priscilla (right and Mary Beth (left) stand on the beach, talking about how much they loved their mother. Then they go to the funeral.

Meanwhile, a man chases a woman through the snow, while Mrs. Garrett from The Facts of Life watches from her window.

Scene 3: The wake. The Town Biddies discuss how much Mom helped them over the years, and advise Priscilla to attend the U. of Maine in the fall, where "they have the hottest boys."

Let's see some.  So far this is a community of women.

They argue.  Mary Beth gets mad and leaves.

Scene 4: Mary Beth goes to a bar and picks up a Sleazoid (Ebon Moss Bachrach, left).  Well, what other options does she have?

As they're driving home, they crash into the town statue.  She opens his trunk, sees bloody sheets and ropes, and changes her mind.  He turns violent, she kills him in self defense.

Great, there goes the only guy in town.

Scene 5:  Mary Beth and Priscilla start to call the police, but change their minds, for some reason.  They go back to dispose of Sleazoid's body, but they have to cut off its arms so it will fit in the cooler.

A Greek chorus of singing fishermen serenade them.

Scene 6: Officers Hunk (Will Brittain, top photo) and Gordo are investigating the town statue mishap.  Meanwhile, Blond Girl rushes to work at the Oceanview Bed and Breakfast, the town brothel, where Mrs. Garrett is the Madam.  They wonder why Sleazoid hasn't shown up for work.

Was he a male prostitute?  Is Oceanview an equal opportunity employer?

Scene 7:  Officer Hunk stops by to ask Priscilla to borrow her boat to go pick up a body that washed up on the beach. Uh-oh.  But it's not Sleazoid == it still has arms!  It's a woman....

Scene 8: The Biddies discuss their disapproval of the brothel.  Then they accost Mrs. Garrett at the hair salon, and inform her that the dead woman is one of her employees, so she's crossed a line and needs to shut the brothel down.

This is just a little Peyton Place, and you're all Harper Valley hypocrites.

Scene 9: Mrs. Garrett goes to Sleazoid's house, and finds the knife the girls used to dismember the corpse.  It has their name embossed on it.  Stupid!

At home, Mary Beth hides a huge bag of cocaine.  What?

Scene 10:  Blond Girl has an appointment with the Biddies.  But they don't want sex, they want een-for-mation.  Did her boss at the brothel, Mrs. Garrett, kill her coworker? 

Scene 11:  Officers Hunk and Gordo visit the brothel.  Gordo is a regular: "Hey, Daddy.  Come on in and wet your cock.  You want your usual?"  Hunk is shocked.

They interview Mrs. Garrett about the dead girl and the missing Sleazoid ("Weirdo, not from Easter Cove").  She gives them a lead: Declan, who runs the Desert (the docks, where lots of things "go in and out").

Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more. The town has both a brothel and street...er, dock...prostitution.  Is it all sex, all the time?

Scene 12:  Hunk and Gordo interview Declan, bringing donuts as a bribe.  He doesn't know anything, so Hunk interviews Blond Girl, who happens to be working there.

Paulie, Hunk's high school friend, shows up (Played by Owen Burke, who may or may not be this guy).  He says:  "I love the sexy cop outfit.  Where's your stripper pole?"

Implying that Hunk is a male prostitute working the docks.  Yep, an equal opportunity sex town.  

Scene 13:  Blond Girl gets a "thoughts and prayers" card from one of the Biddies.  Then she goes home and lies on the bed and thinks about Dead Girl ("I love you so much...").  Blond Girl is a lesbian!

Scene 14:  At the Easter Cove Pancake Breakfast, Priscilla and Mary Beth discover that their mother had a long history with Mrs. Garrett.  They "made a lot of money together."  They opened the brothel together!  But were they lovers?

The girls argue, the officers argue, Blond Girl argues with Mrs. Garrett., Mrs. Garrett argues with Declan.  Everybody got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

Mrs. Garrett visits the girls, and offers to exchange the knife implicating them in Sleazoid's death if they hand over the cocaine they stole.

Wait -- how could she prove that she found the knife in Sleazoid's house?

Scene 15:  Officer Hunk drops by and Columbos the girls about the night Sleazoid disappeared ("there's just one thing bothering me...why did someone from this house call the police, then hang up?").  Then he goes to the bar and discusses them with Paulie: Mary Beth has quite the reputation for hooking up with sleazoids...like...um..Sleazoid!  She was with him that night!

Meanwhile, Blond Girl tells the Biddies that Mrs. Garrett killed her girlfriend.  They all confront each other.

Scene 16: The girls arrive with the cocaine, and get their knife back.  Blond Girl sees the whole transaction.

Scene 17:  Blond Girl steals the cocaine and leaves town with another brothel girl.  Meanwhile, Officer Hunk has breakfast with Biddie, who happens to be his grandmother, and tells her that the case has been solved. They are on their way to make an arrest.

Later, the girls walk by, and see Biddie hosing out the chest that contained Sleazoid's body.  She smiles at them.

Wait -- does this mean she turned them in, or didn't turn them in?

Or did she implicate Mrs. Garrett, who is actually innocent?  

I'm lost.

Beefcake: None.

Other Sights:   Exterior shots of small-town Maine all the time.

Gay Characters:  Blond Girl is a lesbian.  Priscilla doesn't display any heterosexual interest.  The other characters all seem rather hetero-horny.

Sex Scenes:  None.  Not even a kiss.  For a town with a brothel, street prostitution, and bar hookups, this is odd, but welcome.  No hetero-romance.

Plot Holes:  Mrs. Garrett comes across as sympathetic, and then villain.  Likewise Mary Beth. The Biddies start out as tiresome small-town gossips, then become sympathetic. Make up your mind!

And what's with the annoying Greek chorus?  This ain't Euripides!

My Grade:  B for the scenery and the surprise lesbian.

Apr 19, 2020

Chris Demetral: Dream On

Star Trek fans will recognize Chris Demetral from his role as Riker's son on a 1990 episode of The Next Generation.  The 14-year old Michigan native had only been in Hollywood for two years, but he had already landed guest spots on several high-profile tv series, including Mr. Belvedere, The Wonder Years, and The New Lassie, and he would go on to guest on several more.

Chris became best known for playing Jeremy Tupper, son of book editor Martin Tupper (Brian Benben) on the HBO series Dream On (1990-96). Advertised as an "adult sitcom," it mostly featured Martin pursuing women (with lots of cable-tv nudity).   Jeremy has his share of dates and romances, and even has sex during the December 18, 1993 episode.

But the heterosexist part didn't prohibit buddy-bonding elsewhere. In the spring of 1993, Chris became a series regular on Lois and Clark, playing a homeless teenager named Jack, whom Clark/Superman (Dean Cain) takes in.  Designed as a replacement for Jimmy Olsen, with some buddy-bonding and nick of time rescues, Jack didn't click with Superman purists, and he was written out.

In Blank Check (1994), Chris plays Damian, the brother of the 12-year old who cashes a check for $1,000,000.  Damian's relationship with his brother Ralph (Michael Faustino, younger brother of David Faustino) is called into question when a computer repeats "Ralph and Damian sleep butt to face."

Chris's last major role was in The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne (2000), a Canadian tv series.  The French science fiction writer travels around with his friends, Phileas and Rebecca Fogg (Michael Praed, Francesca Hunt), and his servant Passepartout (Michel Courtemanche), fighting monsters and the League of Darkness.

Not much buddy-bonding, but Jules is certainly gay-vague. Whenever the group meets a damsel in distress, the horny Phileas takes over.  Jules spends most of his time striking up conversations with strange men.

Chris disliked the "Hollywood lifestyle," so he retired from acting and moved back home to Michigan. He currently works for talkhumor.com, where his bio states that he is "a reformed smartass" known for his love for his wife, family, friends, the Lakers, and his saviour Jesus. I didn't find any gay-positive or homophobic content on the site.
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