May 9, 2020

"The Hollow": Adam is Gay

Last year I reviewed the first season of The Hollow, the Netflix animated series about three kids working their way through the various worlds of a giant video game.

1. Strong leader Adam (Adrian Petriw)
2. Cut-up Kai (Connor Parnall)
3. Sensitive, intuitive Mira (Ashleigh Ball)

 I liked the animation, and the complex plotlines, and found a gay subtext between Kai and Adam.  I didn't like how Kai kept crushing on every girl in sight.

Season 2 just dropped. In the first episode, they all awaken back home. Or what they think is back home.

While Mira and her brother have breakfast, two men are discussing changing around their work schedues to go on vacation....wait...she has two Dads!  Not just in the background, like on Ducktales, but talking, addressing her as their daughter, hugging. 

No way to de-gay them as friends, roommates, or brothers.  Let the Million Mom screeching begin.

But that's not all.

Adam has a giant rainbow flag on his bedroom wall!  Not a little one.  Not just in a blink-and-you-miss it shot.  It's obviously hanging there throughout the entire scene.

Adam is gay!

He says the word in the second episode, explaining to Kai that he's not interested in Mira. Then Mira apologizes for trying to kiss him last season -- she wouldn't have, except for the amnesia they were all suffering from.

So  Mira knew, but Kai didn't.  They were together in the video game world for weeks, maybe months, and it never came up?

I'm not happy that the writers waited until Season 2 to out Adam, and it doesn't seem to be referenced again, except maybe in a bickering subtext with new character Reeve.  (Fans suspect that they're ex-boyfriends.) 

But those are minor quibbles.

There's a gay kid in The Hollow!

In other news, actor Connor Parnell, who plays Kai, is 26 years old, a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts, and gay.  Or does everyone already know that? 

See: The Hollow

May 8, 2020

Tommy Kirk

In the 1960s, the room my brother and I shared was cluttered with the likeness of Tommy Kirk, on coloring books, comic books, Little Golden Books, games, and toys.  A former Mousketeer, Kirk was packaged as “the all-American boy” and “the epitome of young masculinity”  in such Disney products as The Hardy Boys (1956-57) with Tim Considine,  as Old Yeller (1957) and Swiss Family Robinson (1960), with James MacArthur and Kevin Corcorran.  Plus several movies with Fred MacMurray as his beset-upon dad or favorite professor. My first date was to see him in Village of the Giants in 1968.

 But he entered his twenties, it became apparent that he lacked the tongue-lagging heterosexual horniness necessary for masculinity in the Cold War Era.  Although his intense brown eyes and respectable physique were by no means repellant, he was bookish and shy, an “oddball” (that is, gay).

In The Monkey’s Uncle (1965), his last gasp for the Disney Studios, the 24-year old Kirk plays Merlin Jones, a “scrambled egghead” studying science at Midvale College, oblivious to the heterosexist world of girls and sports around him.   To demonstrate that he is nevertheless straight, director Robert Stevenson cast beach movie babe Annette Funicello as his girlfriend.

Annette spends the opening credits singing, accompanied by the Beach Boys, a hard look of defiance on her face as she dares us to disbelieve that “I’m in love with the Monkey’s Uncle and I wish I was the monkeys aunt!”  Otherwise we would never know: they behave precisely as best friends, not as persons in love.
Midvale College is oddly deficient in collegiate beefcake; standing in for football jocks are hefty, slack-jawed Norman (“Woo-Woo” Grabowski) and balding, befuddled Leon (Leon Tyler).  One wonders why a college set omits any trace of hunky extras; perhaps it is for the same reason that Merlin’s best friend is a chimp:  human men might bring homoerotic desire too close to the surface.

Merlin does bat his eyes flirtatiously at girls, but even that gesture seems transgressive, flamboyantly feminine.  Instead, the various plot strands of the movie continuously return to the question of kinship: how does one form intimate, permanent associations in the absence of heterosexual desire?

Merlin finds two answers:

1. He adopts a chimpanzee.  A judge rules that he cannot become the chimp’s father; he must settle for an avuncular relationship, becoming a literal monkey’s uncle.

2. He joins a fraternity.  The "jock" Leon becomes his test case in a human-flight experiment and promptly crashes, forcing Merlin to grab him, cradle him in his arms, and whisper “Are you ok?”

At a pivotal moment, Leon begins to return his interest, expressing a shy, tentative, hand-on-shoulder affection: “All the brains I ever knew were snobs, but not you. You’re just like a regular stupid fellow. That’s why I like you.”  He adds coyly “Let’s go back to the [fraternity] house,” rather an odd suggestion, since it’s the middle of the day.  What precisely does he expect that he and Merlin will do there?  But Merlin flashes a knowing smile, and we recall that this is the last of Leon’s film roles; though only about thirty years old, he will never work again.  Did the adroitness of his hand-on-shoulder affection cause Disney to abandon him?

About halfway through the film, all of Merlin’s plans have failed, and dark-eyed from despair he wails to the chimp, “[Do] you know what it’s like when the whole world is against you?  Everyone on campus hates me.  I’m being expelled from Midvale. . .kicked out. . . disgraced. . . .”  Years later, I learned why Tommy Kirk left Disney so abruptly: Walt discovered that he was gay and summarily fired him.  Although he was asked to return to finish The Monkey's Uncle, he was being expelled, kicked out, disgraced, and most likely everyone at the studio did hate him (except for Annette Funicello, who continued to support him).  That was the penalty in 1965 for taking the next step beyond fraternity, for falling in love (something similar apparently happened to Peter McEnery).

After some beach movies and teen horror like Village of the Giants (1965), Tommy was abandoned into a ghetto of drug abuse and late-1960s sleaze movies like Mars Needs Women and It's a Bikini World.  Eventually he pulled himself together and started a carpet-cleaning business.

May 7, 2020

Searching for the Grown-Up Tarzan of St. Michaels/St. Martins Middle School

I found this hunk Tarzan in my photo archive, labeled St. Michaels Middle School.  I doubt that he's one of the student.

But where is this beefcake-heavy school?

1. Google suggests St. Michael-Albertville Middle School in St. Michael, Minnesota, halfway between Minneapolis and St. Cloud.

It's a very Catholic community, as you can tell by the name, dominated by the St. Michael Church.

One unique feature of St. Michael is the Prosopon School of Iconology, which holds classes and workshops in icon-making in various cities around the world.  I always thought that icons were just Eastern Orthodox.

I wouldn't expect a Gay-Straight Alliance at the middle school (heavens!  14-year olds are too young to hear about anything so sordid!), but even the high school has nothing.  Not a peep about the existence of LGBT people.

There's a swim team and a wrestling team to provide some physique, but no mention of any Tarzan in the drama department of either school.

The rest of the post is on A Gay Guide to Small Town America

AFK: Gamers Trapped in a Virtual World

AFK (obscure title) is a webseries on Amazon Prime about some gamers who are trapped in the bodies of their avatars in a mysterious, chaotic world.  Sounds like the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon from the 1970s.  But the avatars must be totally built, Conan the Barbarian-types, and the Episode 2 synopsis has this tidbit: "Steven's revelation has a serious effect on his relationship with Brendon."

Dare I hope that they are a gay couple, and not brothers or horndog buddies, or "Brendon" is a girl?

Heck with the pilot.  I'm watching Episode 2.

Scene 1:  Not Conan the Barbarian types.  Two zombie avatars in military uniforms are wandering through a dark woods at night.  having a humorous conversation and dancing.  Is this a comedy?  The plot synopsis makes it sound like a grim, disturbing adventure series.

Suddenly two avatars in robes attack.  They kill one zombie.  The other tries to explain that he's just a player, trapped in this chaotic world, but they can't understand.

Scene 2:  Q (Mia Pistorious) and Maybel (Ravi Narayan, left), an elf and a gnome, are sleeping on the ground.  They awaen.

Uh-oh, a boy with a girl's name.  This doesn't bode well for the Steven-Brendon relationship.

They raise their bows and arrows, but it's just Jack (Calum Gittins) returning from a date with a girl.  Q  is angry with him, and tells him to go away, but he apologizes.

Maybel complains that he's not comfortable with Jack being around while he's sleeping. Is he worried about a sexual assault?

Scene 3:  They're sleeping again. Or is this another couple? The woman awakens to the man crying.She excuses him -- after all, he's really just a kid (age 15), trapped in this chaotic world, and he misses his Mom.  She calls him Brendon.

They cuddle.  Brendon gets an erection.  Watch it, girl -- he's jail bait.

He doesn't even know her name yet.  She tells him -- Steven (J.J. Fong).

Brendon (Grae Burton) is not happy with the revelation that she is a guy with a female avatar.

Scene 4: Back to Q, Maybel, and Jack.  It's finally morning.  They're upset that they didn't get back home during the night.  They go off in search of food and water and run into the bandits who stole Jack's armor.  But Q refuses to shoot them.  Jack is very upset.

Scene 5:  Lady feet -- why do we always get introduced to ladies from the feet up?  No one sees anyone like that in real life!

A half-naked lady with feet brings a bucket of water to the scuzzy-looking Vlad (Ivan Essin), dressed as a 17th century pirate.  He is sort of like Negan of The Walking Dead, the brutal leader of a survivor community (they developed survivor communities in one day?).

The half-naked lady takes her breakfast to eat with a man whose beard is growing too fast (he wouldn't know -- he's never had a beard before).

It's Steven and Brendon. They look completely different this morning!  And when did they hook up with pirates?

They argue about how Steven could possibly allow Brendon to spoon, knowing that she was actually a guy!  Transphobia, Brendon?

Steven won't explain why he has a female avatar.  He just says that he has a nice butt as a woman, and invites Brendon to touch it.  Brendon refuses.

Vlad, in new clothes, appears to flirt with Brendon, but the scene goes by too fast to be sure.

Scene 6: Three warriors are hunting.  Whoops, they are Q, Maybel, and Jack again.  Everyone keeps looking different in this world!

They discuss what they would be doing in the real world right now -- eating a muffin, doing homework, going on Facebook.

Scene 7: Vlad, whose actual name seems to be Vanya, and Brendon are hunting. Brendon aims at a wild boar, but someone has already shot it: Q!

Brendon is upset that she's stealing his target.  He raises his bow and arrow.

Scene 8:  Maybel has to go to the bathroom.  He reveals to Jack that he's afraid to pull out his penis  -- he's a girl in real life.

Scene 9:  Vlad and Brendon capture Q and bring her back to the survivor's camp.  Q fights Vlad for her freedom.  Shirtless Vlad!  She wins,but is captured anyway. Vlad is about to kill her,when the a troll comes to the rescue.

Scene 10:  In the ruckus, Q, Brendon, and Steven escape.  They make it back to the camp, and reunite with Maybel and Jack.

Jack flirts with Steven, who explains that he's a dude, so of course no romance is possible.  Got it -- gay/lesbian and transgender people do not exist.

A ganker (avatar killer) appears.  They run away, and are saved by the friendly troll again.

Scene 11: They are separated (good -- too many characters).  Jack, Steven, and Brendon end up at a lightning tree, where they encounter Rita Repulsa from Power Rangers.  She appears to have a history with Jack.

Ok, I accidentally watched two episodes.  They mesh together.

Beefcake:  Only Jack is reasonably cute.  Why did they all select ugly avatars?

Other Scenery: Very low budget, all woods all the time.  I don't see what's so chaotic about it.  There are no perils except for other players, sort of like The Walking Dead without the zombies.

Gay Characters: Not that I could tell.

Transgender Characters:  Steven, maybe. But more likely this is a world where no LGBT people exist. ("I'm a dude, so no romance is possible.).

In a later episode, Jack wants to find out of Q is male or female in real life, so he kisses her: "You let me kiss, so you can't be a dude."

Transphobia:  "I cuddled with a woman who was really a guy!  How disgusting!"

Burnaby:B for Gay-Friendliness, A+ for Meeting Asian Men

This post has been moved to A Gay Guide to Small-Town America

May 6, 2020

Pee-Wee's Playhouse

When I was living in West Hollywood in the 1980s, we watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 every Saturday morning, but we stayed away from children's tv.  It was crowded with insipid child versions of adult characters -- The Muppet Babies, The Flintstone Kids -- or insufferably cute furry animals -- Wuzzles, Kissyfur, Care Bears, Gummi Bears.  

But there was one "must see" exception.  At 11:00 am between 1986 and 1990, every household in West Hollywood watched Pee-wee's Playhouse.  It was a surreal, live action series hosted by the androgynous Pinkie Lee lookalike Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens), who would invite various live and puppet characters to play in his playhouse.

It was the gayest show on television.

1. A hunky speedo-clad lifeguard named Tito.

2. Drag queens Ms. Yvonne (right) and Mrs. Steve (left).  They both appeared at the 1990 AIDS Walk. We all assumed that Mrs. Steve was a real drag queen, played by a male actor; I only discovered that she was played by a woman while researching this post. .

3. The extraordinarily feminine Jambi the Genie, who lived in a drag queen's jewelry box and lisped "Wish?  Did somebody say wish?"  Everyone in West Hollywood spend the afternoon saying: Swish?  Did somebody say swish?"

4. Laurence Fishburn as Pee-wee's best friend Cowboy Curtis, who informed us that he slept nude, and joked about his penis size: "You know what they say about big feet -- big boots!"

5. The creepy, leering, obviously drunk King of Cartoons, who stumbled across the room and slurred "Let the cartoon begin." And the creepy 1930s cartoon that followed.  Ok, he wasn't gay-coded, but who puts a guy who's drunk, or pretending to be, on a kids' program?

6. A hunky soccer player named Ricardo.

The writers, producers, directors, and cast have always claimed complete ignorance of any gay-coded characters or gay-subtexts.  In fact, according to Inside Pee-wee's Playhouseby Caseen Gaines, Paul Reubens was homophobic -- if he had known about any subtext, "he would have put a stop to it."

Or maybe he was just closeted.  Paul Reubens has consistently refused to comment on his sexual identity, although when he was arrested for allegedly possessing child pornography in 2002, he stated that he was a collector of muscle magazines and "vintage homosexual erotica."

May 5, 2020

The Upload: Forbidden Romance in a Digital Afterlife

My friend in West Hollywood binged on Upload, on Amazon Prime, in two days, so I thought I'd check it out:

Scene 1: Poor people on a subway are ignoring a video commercial about an elite resort where you can go after "a life well lived."   Some of them are wearing face masks -- the new normal?

Nora, a young lady wearing a hoodie and listening to rap, gets off and goes to her job among computers in a giant brick warehouse.  She begins the process of uploading a lady to Upload.

Scene 2: Nathan (Robbie Amell) is working on computer code.   He then gets on the freeway, turns off his self-driving car, and starts speeding.  He's stopped by a female cop hologram on a drone, and flirts his way out of a ticket.  I guess this is all to tell us that:
1. Nathan is HETEROSEXUAL!
2. It's the FUTURE!

Scene 3: Nathan and his extended family are eating Thanksgiving dinner (bird looks raw).  Cute Jamie (Jordan Johnson-Hinds) bursts in, and asks "What's she doing here?"  Nathan thought it was a bad idea, too, but he had no choice.

The exchange is not explained, but from reviews I gather that they are talking about Ingrid, Nathan's girlfriend.  She's a jerk, and no one likes her.  In fact, Nathan is planning to dump her.

At the table, Ingrid makes an ass of herself.

Scene 4: Nathan and Ingrid having sex in the self-driving car (some of his chest, from the side).

Scene 5: Nathan goes shopping. The food advertises itself, and the checker is a robot. While waiting, he watches a video featuring half-naked ladies. Ok, ok, I get it: it's the FUTURE!  He's HETEROSEXUAL!

Back on the road, the self-driving car doesn't see a parked truck ahead. It crashes.

Scene 6:  Norah from Scene 1 starts uploading Nathan's memories.  Some of them are corrupt, and have to be deleted (an important plot point!).  She and a coworker discuss what a douche he looks like. Must be future-speak for "arrogant": Norah keeps staring at him.

Upload his penis next!

Switch to Nathan in the hospital, surrounded by doctors and doctor-bots, and Ingrid saying she wants to start the upload right away (you can't upload after they are dead),  After assuring him that there is still sex after Upload, the sales rep convinces him to sign up for the service.

And he gets uploaded.  The procedure involves exploding his head (gross!).   His body falls onto a gurney (nice butt).

Scene 7:  Nathan awakens in a digital afterlife that looks like a Victorian hotel. Nora gives him the orientation.  He flirts with her (HETEROSEXUAL, remember?).

Scene 8: Nathan showers (nice pecs), dresses, raids the mini-bar (they charge you for it?), meets his neighbors (a gay couple who uploaded together) and a black-and-white woman (they used a photo from 1951 for her avatar).  Down in the dining hall, he is accosted by pop-up ads.  The afterlife is a lot like the internet.

He discovers that Ingrid is in charge of his account, so she holds the purse strings -- and everything here costs extra!  Uh-oh, Nathan is her slave forever, and he doesn't even like her!

Scene 9: Nora is home, having dinner with her Dad. He coughs (uh-oh, on tv a cough means you're dying).  She asks him to Upload, but he wants to die normally, so he can go to the real afterlife and see his dead wife.

Wait -- can't he do both?  His head explodes, his soul goes up to heaven, and a digital copy lives on in the Upload.

Scene 10: Breakfast ends at 10:00 am. Nathan just missed it.  Luke (Kevin Bigley) who also missed breakfast, storms into the dining hall and uses a program glitch to get a cinnamon roll.

Why do the avatars get hungry, and tired, and sleepy, anyway?  Why do they go to the bathroom?

Luke tells him it's for  versimilitude.  If you don't pretend it's real here, you'll go crazy and jump into the Torrent (a data stream that avatars use to commit suicide).

Why do they have a dangerous data torrent fully visible to the avatars?  If they want to commit suicide, they can just cancel their account.

Scene 11: Nora is in the shower, talking to a girl who is scanning a dating app. Later she goes into a virtual world while her roommate has sex with a guy on the next bed (don't they pay Upload techs enough for their own place?).

Scene 12:  Nathan goes for a walk and notices how things are a little off.  Leaves on trees have copyright notices, the lake is glittering too fast, a diver gets stuck in mid-air, the hotel staff are all the same person (Owen Daniels).  And his hair isn't right!

Scene 13: Nathan practices urinating:wherever he stands, he always hits the urinal.  No penis visible, darn!

Scene 14: Norah rejects coworker Ivan (Josh Banday).  He complains that "nice guys can't win with you."  Of course not -- she likes "arrogant" guys,

Nathan is heading toward the Torrent.  Nora rushes into the Upload to talk him down, and flirts with him.  But she's not allowed to date avatars, or even reveal real her name or personal information (she does).  Forbidden love angle!

Scene 15: Nora goes home for the day.  Close-up of her computer, where somebody is remotely cutting out code.  Changing Nathan's memories? Uh-oh.

Beefcake: Robbie Amell a lot.

Other Scenery:  The Victorian hotel has some interesting features.

Gay Characters: The gay couple next door, in one scene.  I don't think they appear again.

Heterosexism: It's a  heterosexual love story.

My Verdict:  The digital afterlife reminds me too much of the real-life hotels I've stayed in.The philosophical questions are barely touched on  (what makes us human?)  The minor mystery of who is tampering with Nathan's program, and why, is not enough to sustain my interest through a heterosexual romance story.  C+

May 4, 2020

Winnetou: German Gay Western

Karl May (1842-1912) enthralled generations of German boys with his tales of Charlie "Shatterhand" (because he is an excellent fighter, and can shatter your hand with one punch).  A German engineer, Shatterhand moves to the Old West and falls in love with the young Apache prince Winnetou.

Literally.  It's not a subtext.  Charlie, the narrator, spends many pages describing his Blutsbroder's massive chest, lean, supple waist, dark mysterious eyes, and his "gentle, lovingly mild and yet so energetic. . .half-full. . .kissable lips" (I left out a few dozen adjectives).

Karl May wrote 30 novels about the homoromantic pair. 300 million copies were sold in a dozen languages (here Hungarian).

Between 1962 and 1968, 11 German-Croatian movies were released, starring French actor Pierre Brice as Winnetou and former Tarzan Lex Barker as Shatterhand.

Brice also appeared as Winnetou without Shatterhand in two tv miniseries:  Mein Freund Winnetou (My Friend Winnetou, 1980), with Eric Do as his teenage "friend," Tashunko.  and Winnetous Ruckkehr (The Return of Winnetou, 1998).

Between 2007 and 2010, a series of German tv movies have recreated the sage for a new, gay-savvy audience, with Erol Sander and Gojkol Mitic (top photo) as Winnetou and Thorstein Nidel and Joachim Kretzer as Shatterhand,

And that's not including the Karl May festivals, held annually in Bad Segelberg, Germany, where thousands of participants dress as their favorite characters and see live performances (you can get tickets for the summer 2013 festival here).

Or the film parodies, or the toys and games. A whole world for gay German kids to dream of.

See also: George Goetz, Gay Dad with a Chest.

May 3, 2020

10 Muscular Musselmans

When I was a kid, you found your images of hot guys anywhere you could.  Like on the jar of Musselman's Apple Sauce in the kitchen.

I don't like apple sauce -- sauce isn't a food, it goes on foods -- but I liked the label displaying a muscular guy lifting a gigantic apple.

The mussel in Musselman has nothing to do with muscles.   Different etymologies are suggested.

1. The Middle German term for "wood, forest"
2. The Dutch word for "mussel"
3. Muslim

The apple sauce company was founded by German immigrant Christian High Musselman (1880-1944).  It's still run by his descendants in Inwood, West Virginia, in the northern part of the state, near Hagerstown, Maryland.

The Musselman Corporation funded a high school in Inwood.  The team is called the Applemen, and the mascot is an Apple.

I looked around to see how many muscular Musselmans I could find.

1. Adam Musselman (right), attending Rider University in New Jersey.

2. Darren Musselman from Michigan, who manages a hospice program for the dying.

3. Dustin Musselman, a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania.

4. Dylan, technically not a Musselman, but most of the apples come from his family's farm.

5. Eric Musselman, a coach at the University of Nevada, seen here taking his clothes off to celebrate a victory.

More after the break.

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