Jul 25, 2020

Little Lulu: The Perils of the Gay Child's World

During the 1960s, when Bill, Greg, and I zoomed into Schneider's Drug Store to blow our allowance on comic books, we zeroed in on the Gold Key jungle titles (Tarzan, Korak), Disneys (Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge), or maybe Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig as swashbuckling adventurers.  I had to go back later to pick up Little Lulu, since my friends would rib me for liking a comic that was "just for girls."

But Little Lulu offered something that no other comic book or tv program or movie of the 1960s had: cute boys running around completely nude. Stylized, cartoon nudity, but still exciting for a preteen who had a vivid enough imagination to fill in the blanks.

I didn't know that I was reading reprints of comics written by John Stanley in the 1950s, and originally based on single-panel strips published in the Saturday Evening Post.  So, like Out Our Way, I was mesmerized by this kid world so different from my own.

1. At Denkmann Elementary School, boy-girl friendships were discouraged, but Lulu Moppet had friends of both sexes: the self-assured Tubby (left); timid Annie and her brother Iggy (right); spoiled rich kid Wilbur; the haughty Gloria.

2. Some of the plots involved Tubby wanting to kiss Gloria or Lulu getting valentines from boys, but not many; mostly boys and girls were completely oblivious to heterosexual desire, a pleasant surcease of the girl-crazy boys on tv during the 1960s.

3. There was little of the gender segregation of my grade school.  Boys had no qualms about appearing in girls' clothing.  Girls excelled at boy-only pursuits.

4. They had remarkable freedom to go wherever they liked without parental supervision.

5. They lived in a urban neighborhood, a short walk from downtown shops that were curiously specialized (meat, vegetables, bread, and candy all in different stores).  There were also woods, a lake, caves, and a swamp nearby; the beach was a short bus ride away.

6. There were many inexplicable dangers.  Spankings, often for things they didn't do.  Truant officers who wouldn't listen to reason. Goblins who stole your identity.  Parental abandonment ("I found a little boy I like better, so you'll have to leave").  A witch who would turn you into a stone or a lead pipe and leave you, immobile and helpless, forever.

These dangers mirrored those of gay kids who tried to negotiate the straight world, following  nonsensical rules, knowing that the slightest slip-up would mean disaster.

Jul 24, 2020

"Ugly Betty": The Gay, Transgender, and Racial Diversity Has Not Aged Well

I've been re-watching Ugly Betty (2006-2010), the soap opera/comedy adaption of the Colombian telenovela Betty la fea, about a Latinx girl of unconventional attractiveness (America Ferrara} who gpes to work in the svelte, "new now next" world of fashion magazine Mode.  The two worlds, working-class Queens and the upper East Side upper-crust, compete, collide, and merge in humorous or heartbreaking ways (this is a soap opera,after all).

Alhtough only 10 years has passed since the series ended, our  world is completely different, and Ugly Betty has not aged well.

1. The executive producer, some of the writers, and halfof the cast was Latinx.  The show won Alma awards for Hispanic representation.  But some of the depictions of Hispanic persons are cringeworthy today.  They're not all crass, gauche, loud, and flashy.

2. I find it a little annoying that Betty is supposed to be la fea, but she has to beat off the suitors.  In the first season, she has an on-off romance with a Queens boyfriend and Mode accountant Henry (Christopher Gorham, below), and gets several other suitors.

2. Women, especially women of color other than Betty, are scheming, manipulative, devious, underhanded, and treacherous. Mode creative director Wilhelmina wants to become editor-in-chief, a job for which she is exceptionally well qualified.  But magazine mogul Bradford installs his ne-er-do-well son Daniel (Eric Mabius, top photo), who knows nothing about fashion (except how to bed supermodels) and doesn't even want the job, except as a chance to prove to his father that he's not a screw-up. Wilhelmina is the villain, a veritable Wicked Witch of the West.

Other scheming women of color during Season 1 included: Sofia (Salma Hayak), who tricked Daniel into falling in love with her so she could write it up as the lead article in her magazine; and Constance (Octavia Spencer), the case worker of Betty's father Ignacio, who develops a wacky Fatal Attraction obsession with him.

3. Gay men are even worse.  In the first season, there were only two, both  flamboyant, flitting, fabulous fashion plates (plus a straight guy who pretended to be fabulous to get all of the wonderful benefits that gay people get, har har): Betty's nephew Justin, who doesn't actually come out until Season 4, in spite of his mother constantly saying how suppportive she is;and Wilhemina's "flying monkey" assistant Mark. She demeans, belittles, berates, and gay-bashes him every chance she gets, making it obvious that she ccnsiders him less than human.  She even "sells" him to a competing rich bitch.

4. The representation of transgender people is still worse.  Daniel's older brother Alex disappeared for two years and was assumed dead; then he returns as Alexis. It takes awhile,but eventually the other characters get used to she/her pronouns. But everyone, even Alexis, believes that she changed gender rather than confirming the gender identity she had all along: "I used to be a boy, but now I'm a girl." 

And "they cut it off," which is not at all what happens in sex confirmation surgery.

And back when he was a boy, Alex dated and had sex with girls, because, you know, everybody with a penis likes girls.  Now that she has "changed into girl," she dates boys. That's not how it works.  Your sexual orientation doesn't change along with your genitals. But heteronormativity and all that.

Did I mention that Alexis is even a bigger villain than Wilhelmina?

I still like the show, but it's amazing how much the world has changed in just 10 years.

See also: The Heterosexual Gay Kid of Ugly Betty

Jul 23, 2020

Jamestown, Ohio: Come for the Car Wash, Stay for the Shirt Lifting

I was looking on Facebook for team carwash photos -- usually they try to draw in heterosexual male drivers by promising high school girls in bikinis, but sometimes the boys get into the act, promising shirtless hunks with squeegees.

And I found another mother who posts lots of physique photos of her sons and their friends -- some apparently taken during a car wash.

But where is she from?  No clue in any of the photos except vague references to GHS and CHS, and a lot of videos of sports games with no names visible in the background.

The rest of my research is on A Gay Guide to Small Town America.

The Toast of London: Is Everybody in the Theater World Homophobic?

British humor is distinctly British; 90% of the time, we residents of that country across the pond don't get it.  Do you really sit through all of Monte Python, or do you fast forward to the Dead Parrot sketch?  For every Absolutely Fabulous, there are a dozen Drop the Dead Donkeys.

The Toast of London is a Drop the Dead Donkey

Matt Berry, who you may recall as the effeminate, pandsexual vampire on What We Do in the Shadows, plays a theaterical actor named Toast, who is having problems.  I'm not sure about all of them , but the main ones are:

1. Purchase (Harry Peacock, top photo)a failed actor who now works as a police artist, caught Toast in bed with his wife.  His attempts at revenge fuel most of the plot.  According to wikipedia, he is homophobic, but this doesn't come out in the first episode.

2. Due to financial problems, Toast is forced to stay with fellow actor Ed Howzer-Black (Robert Bathurst), who lives with an elderly agoraphobe, who may or may not be his lover.  When he convinces her to leave the house for the first time in two years, she is accosted by a flasher. Purchase frames Toast.

3.  Trying to find another place to live, Toast visits his estranged brother Blair (Adrien Lukis), a war veteran with an amputated hand, a bit of a looney, a lot of a homophobe.  He wants Toast to give up acting for the army, since there aren't any "homosexuals" to bollock things up.  Later, Purchase attacks Toast in the bathroom, and Blair thinks that they are having sex, and freaks out.

4. Toast gets a voiceover job which requires him to say one word: "Yes."  But the crew make him say it over and over until he loses his temper.

5. Toast must audition for Cliff Promise (Geoffrey McGivern), who is in prison for Holocaust denial.  I didn't know you could actually go to prison for that.  So Toast goes to the prison and reads a scene about an extra marital affair.

Promise tells him that the character is gay, so Toast camps it up.  The other prisoners think that they are a gay couple, and attack.

So, two scenes where people think that Toast is gay, and react with contempt or violence.  And we didn't even get around to Purchase's homophobia.  And I'm supposed to find this funny?

My grade:D

1 Shirtless Picture of Michael J. Fox and 10 Pics of Other Guys

Other than "that character can't be gay! He said hello to a girl in Scene 12!", the most common complaint I get is "that photo isn't of the obscure actor you're writing about!"

I don't understand the problem.  Why get angry when I accidentally put in a photo of someone else? How does it hurt them?

It's not ike I'm doing it on purpose to ruin their life.

I oftn have no idea what these obscure actors look like, so I'm flying blind.

They might look completely different over time and in different projects.

There may be only a few beefcake photos available, or none at all.

Besides, is it possible to enjoy the physique of someone else, or are you only attracted to that one person?

I get most of my images from the internet, using Google Images as a search engine.  It is notoriously unreliable, constantly suggesting photos of other people.  But what's wrong with that?

Pretend for a moment that I'm writing about Michael J. Fox, the famous star of Family Ties, Back to the Future, Teen Wolf, Spin City, and so on, the first celebrity I met  when I moved to West  Hollywood.  Pretend that I don't know what he looks like, but you do.  Google Images suggests these photos to illustrate my text:

1. Robbie Benson, a teen idol of the 1980s.  I'm definitely sure of this one, because I had that same photo hanging on my bedroom wall.

2. Some guy in a war movie with dogtags.  Looks like Charlie Sheen, who I think was in a war movie called full metal something.

3. No idea

4. I think he was in one of those Friday-night TGIF sitcoms, Full House or Raising Dad or something.

5. No idea.

6.  This looks like Kevin Bacon with a moustache in a white cowboy hat.  Did Kevin Bacon ever play a cowboy with a moustache?

7. Frank-n-Furter.  I definitely recognize this one.  It's probably the original Frank, Tim Curry, although I could be fooled by a recent roleplayer homage.

8. No idea.

9. William Gallo, who was doing Vinnie Barbarino clone things back in the 1980s  I know who it is because the poster is labeled "Teen Beat Hunk of the Month William Gallo," and it's probably correct.

10.  No idea.

10. The real Michael J. Fox.  I clicked on the original article, and it definitely states that this photo is of Michael J. Fox, although it's a blurry side shot, and he's about 20 years older than the last time I saw him, so I can't be sure.

  Is your life so terribly diminished by the ordeal of seeing nine other guys first?

Jul 22, 2020

Who is Michael Schoeffling? Who is Jake Ryan?

Note:  Since I am not sure what Michael Schoeffling looks like, I can't safely put up any photos.

During the 1980s, every movie was littered with homophobic slurs, so before you headed out to the Cineplex, you had to make a decision:: will the beefcake, gay subtexts, or general cinematic excellence be worth hearing about how much the straights hate us?

Teen Wolf, with Michael J. Fox? Yes.
The Breakfast Club, with Judd Nelson? No.
Risky Business, with Tom Cruise?  Yes
Sixteen Candles, with Anthony MIchael Hall?  No

So I've never seen Sixteen Candles (1984), and I had no idea who the Jake Ryan character is until I looked up a plot synopsis:

It seems to be a reverse of the teen nerd movie, in which the Nerd wrests the Girl from the Obnoxious Jerk she's dating.  Here, Sam (Molly Ringwald) wins the jock Jake Ryan (Michael Schoefling) and rejects the "fag"  Ted (Anthony Michael Hall).   There's also an offensive Asian stereotype, and a date rape scene.

Sounds dreadful.  But Michael Schoeffling was cute back in the day.

Born in 1960 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Michael attended Temple University, won a lot of wrestling medals, and worked as a Calvin Klein model before Sixteen Candles, his first credited movie role.

In the late 1980s, he worked (and took off his shirt) fairly regularly, appearing alongside some of the top stars of the era:

Matthew Modine in Vision Quest (1985), which is not science fiction.

Melissa Gilbert in Sylvester (1985), which is about a horse, not the singer.

Gary Busey in Let's Get Harry (1986), which is basically Rambo.

Bernadette Peters in Slaves of New York (1989), which is not about slavery.

I've never seen any of those movies, so I don't know if there are any gay characters or gay subtexts, but Longtime Companion (1989) is about gay men dying of AIDS.  Michael has a small role in a party scene, and later visits one of the main characters in the hospital.

No one I knew in West Hollywood saw it.  The straights spend the entire decade making movies about how much they hate us, and now they make a movie about us dying?  It's logical, but we're not going to go see it.

Don't razz me if some of these photos aren't actually of Michael.  I've never seen him in anything on screen or in real life, and I never heard his name until yesterday, so how am I supposed to know?

Next Michael appeared opposite Cher in Mermaids (1990), which is not about mermaids.

And opposite Gabriel Anwar in Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken (1991), about a guy who forces horses to jump off high dives into swimming pools.  Isn't that animal abuse?

Then he disappears from the big screen.  After starring in such a stupid movie, I'd want to vanish, too.

He high-tailed it back to Pennsylvania with his wife Valeria, where he started a business building hand-crafted furniture.

That's the plot of every Hallmark Christmas movie, except this time it's a man, not a woman, who abandons the big city to find love and fulfillment in a small town.

Here's an example of Michael's work.  Cute, very retro.

Like Jake Ryan

Jul 21, 2020

Kissing Game: A People-Eating, Goop-Licking, Stomach-Turrning Queer Orgy

In the midst of a pandemic, when I haven't had sex with, kissed, or even touched anyone but Bob since March, why am I watching a tv show about a disease spread by kissing?
1. It's set in Brazil, and I've been studying Portuguese.
2. Digital Spy calls it "the queer zombie show you didn't know you needed."
3. I sneaked a peek at the last scene, and a homely but buffed blue-haired twink is in bed with a mega-cute, muscular older guy.

Prologue: A Brazilian youth disco, with a lot of teenagers, strobe lights, and kissing.

Prologue 2:  A girl wakes up and goes into the bathroom, where her girlfriend is lying in the shower stall, her lips all purple.  Uh-oh, the disease begins.

Scene 1: Blue-Hair from the last episode apparently hasn't dyed his hair yet.  He jumps out of bed late and rushes into the kitchen to...make a sandwich?  Dad, who has already gotten Little Brother ready for school, berates him for being irresponsbile.  But to be fair, he has a nice chest.

Scene 2: Establishing shot of the picturesque small town.  Blue Hair rushes toward  school, where the professor is lecturing on -- cow anatomy? Is this an agricultural college, or maybe a veterinary school?  Theya ll have weird pink uniforms.

 A girl who was at the party last night gets worried, and starts texting people about Blue Hair's whereabouts -- his name is Bel. (Beauty and the Beast...).

Scene 3: Bel is called into the Principal's Office.  She wants to know how he likes the transition to a small rural town.  and if he's staying off drugs.  Also, was he hanging out with Isabel, the girl hospitalized after the party?  Were they close?    Did he give her any weird drugs last night?

Wait -- Blue Hair's name is Chico.  The sick girl is Bel.  Scene 2 was a major confusing misdirection.

Principal gets darker and scarier as she says "There is a clear line between us and the Cult.  We want to protect your."  What Cult?  Is this school a brainwashing institution?

Scene 4: The two girls from Prologue2, Fran and Bel, in bed in their underwear, discussing escaping from the dull small town to.Texas?  Not Brasilia?   This must be a flashback.  I fast-forward through a lengthy scene of them putting on make-up under the direction of an online video.

Scene 5:  Principal is interrogating Fran, the girl from Prologue 2 who didn't get sick, about the party last night.  She advises her that the Cult is dangerous; the parties they throw are just a cover to lure kids in.  Do they actually call themselves The Cult?

Flashback to the party, held under a giant tree, a mass of bodies having a baccanalian orgy, every person enmeshed by a dozen hands and mouths.  They look like they are all eating each other.  It's extremely unpleasant to watch; I can't imagine being there.

The two girls grab Blue Hair (now named Alex) and start groping/kissing/eating him.

Scene 6: Principal is interrogating Blue-Hair again, except this time she calls him Alex, not Chico.  She says: "I didn't make you sit on the ball out of respect for your great-grandfather."  What the heck does that mean?  And why, in every interrogation, does she call him by a different name?  Are there different Blue Hairs in this school?

Scene 7: Two guys have detention, which involves sweeping out the hay from an auditorium, because they refused to say what happened at the party.   Are they Alex and Chico?  I'm lost.

Scene 8: Montage of kids being interviewed for a podcast, discussing theories about what happened to Isabel.  Her father is the mayor, so this is very serious, not like a nobody getting sick.

Scene 9: Fran yells at Alex about what happened at the party.  Flashback to a lot of people pouring a gross slimey gunk onto their tongues.  This is one of the most disgusting sights I've seen on film in a lifetime of moviegoing,.  I literally feel sick to my stomach. I'm done.

Aha!  According to the IMDB, Alex and Chico are two different characters, played by Caio Horowitz and Michel Joelsas (left).  For some reason they are made up to look alike in the tv series.

I would watch this in spite of the name-confusion and misdirection.  The Cult and the Big Brother principal are interesting.  But there are too many flashbacks to the  disgusting people eating and goop-licking at the orgy last night.  I can't take the nausea.

My grade: D

Jul 20, 2020

Youth: Despicable Queer Youth Get Away with Murder

I was a queer youth, for 18 years, but I don't understand a word of Youth.

Not the 1857 Tolstoy novel.  A limited-edition comic book series being pushed by Comixology as groundbreaking!  incredible!  a mind-boggling aesthetic experience!

It's supposed to be about a gay teen couple who set out on the road and meet a group of "other misfits."

Characterizing gay teens as "misfits"  is contrary to the philosophy of the Trevor Project, the Gay-Straight Alliance, PFLAG, and  GLAAD, but the sample first page is intriguing.

An opening spread of a horrible militarized wasteland.  I'm thinking future dystopian concentration camp.

And a beefcake shot of a gay teen in bed, his name helpfully provided..  So for $2.00, why not?

The beefcake teen is River, white, surly.  It's early in the morning.  His stepdad bursts in to belittle him and yell.

Scenes of River being yelled at are intersliced with scenes of Frank (black, surly) being yelled at by his boss at Meatlords Burgers, then belittled by a customer, who starts insulting him without even ordering a burger.  Is that what he came in for?

Wait -- it's morning, before school.  Why is a burger place open?

River punches out his stepdad, and Frank simultaneously punches out the customer.  They suffer no consequences.  

'In the next scene, they walk through the school hallway and get jeered as "fags."

Later they met up on some sort of cliff and kiss, while Frank talks like a rapper to demonstrate that he's black.  They decide to leave this one-horse town and go to California.  But they have no money (wait -- Frank has a job.  He must have money).  So they steal River's Stepdad's car, apparently a famous classic Mustang that he values more than life itself, and head out on the highway.

With no consequences, like Stepdad calling the police. over the loss of his famous classic Mustang?

Some time later, the famous classic Mustang gets a flat tire, so River and Frank pull into a Wal-Mart parking lot.  Some Goth kids (Kurt, Jan, and Trixie) happen to be parked nearby, and offer to put the spare on for them.  But there is no spare tire, so the only possible option is to set the car on fire, watch it burn, and head out with their new buds.

No consequences?  No one at the Wal-Mart called the police?

They stop at a raucous teen party to get drunk, and use Molly and cocaine, but don't eat anything, even though it's been at least 12 hours.

While Kurt and River exchange depressing back stories about abusive and dead dads/stepdads, Frank and Jen flirt.  "I thought you were gay?" Jen says, surprised.  "You're so beautifuL!" Frank responds.  They kiss.  Everybody, gay, straight, bi, or ace, likes to kiss hot girls, right?  Wrong!  I'd rather kiss a frog!

Suddenly the cops burst in, guns drawn, and yell "Everyone on the fucking floor now!  Don't make me fuck you!"

Is this the way the cops really respond to a noise complaint?

Kurt hits one of the cops with a beer bottle, which allows them all to run out to the van and drive away.

When he saw his partner being attacked, didn't the other cop help or anything?

Some time later, a cop car starts chasing them.

Are they wanted for assaulting a police officer?  Or for having a loud party?

So Kurt does the only sensible thing -- he pulls into oncoming traffic (we get a helpful diagram).  To avoid a collision, the other car swerves out of the way, into the path of the cop car!  A high-speed head-on collision!  Everyone dies.

"All those years of Grand Theft Auto paid off!" Kurt exclaims.  The others all congratulate him on his clever evasive technique.

He just killed three people!

 Then they relax, and River gets angry over his boyfriend hooking up with Jen.  She apologizes; she wasn't aware that Frank and River were, like, together.

More cop cars are coming!  And arrests for auto theft, assault, and vehicular manslaughter!

Suddenly a meteor zooms out of the sky and crashes directly into the van.

Finally, some cosmic justice!

They crawl out of the rubble.  Jen is dead, and Kurt is...um...floating in the air.

I'm a little curious about what happens next, but not curious enough to buy Issue #2.  I hate this story.  Actions have no consequences, like in a Daffy Duck cartoon.  And the characters are all despicable.

Jul 19, 2020

"Adventure Zone": A Gay Elf Plays Dungeons and Dragons

I received a recommendation on my Facebook feed for a book called The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins., and immediately wondered "Why not goblins?  It's not a copyrighted term."

The cover displayed "#1 New York Time Bestseller!" prominently, and three people in a Medieval fantasy setting: a red-haired barbarian, a white-haired wizard, and a green-skinned girl in a purple witch's hat.  The Amazon page had the usual glowing review, and something about an illustrated podcast that I didn't understand.  But I paged through a bit, and the artwork was pleasant, so ok, I ordered it.

We begin in media res, with  three  people on the road to a Medieval-looking city, when they are attacked by Gerblins  Characrter profiles identify them as:
1. Magnus, a Human Fighter (the barbarian)
2.  Merle, a Dwart Cleric (the one I thought was a wizard).
3. Taako, an Elf Wizard (the one I though was a witch)

They are in real danger -- they can kill and be killed -- but they are also apparently playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons.  Every now and then Griffin the Dungeonmaster pushes into their reality to  give information or make comments.

Wait -- Taako is a guy!  A rather androgynous one, full of gay-coded artistry and snark.  When the Gerblins attack, he complains "Their war cry isn't very creative."

But to be fair, everyone makes snarky comments.  Taako puts out a fire with the incantation "throw-ius blanket-ius," and the Dungeon Master comments "Perfect!  Wonderful! Tolkien-esque!"

The goal keeps changing as one quest leads into another.  They were  hired to deliver a wagonload of mining supplies to a guy named Bogard, but then their friend Barry is captured by Gerblins, so it's off to the rescue.  Yahve the Gerblin offers them Barry in exchange for killing the boss, G'nash.  But G'nash turns out to be a furry sweetheart who offers them tea.  So they decide to kill Yahve instead.

It's mostly an excuse to face random dangers -- a flood!  a giant spider!  a blob monster!  --while making MST3K-style meta-comments.  Pleasant, as long as you're not expecting much in the way of plot.

Wait -- are Taako and G'nash flirting?
Taako: Since we're friends here...
G'nash: Best friends?
Taako: Definitely
G'nash: Lovers, maybe?
Taako: Time will tell.

Wait -- is Taako canonically gay?

Time to conduct some research

Back in 2011, brothes Travis, Justin, and Griffin McElroy  ran an advice podcast called My Brother, My Brother, and Me.  Then, joined by their father Clint, they began playing Dungeons and Dragons live during  the podcast.  Soon they were getting corporate advertisers, and making enough money to go full time, under the name Adventure Zone..  

I'm not sure what the fun was for fans, just watching some guys play a table game,  but not being able to play themselves (although they could make suggestions).  But to date there have been three seasons of "campaigns" (D&D storylines), with names including "Murder on the Rockport Limited," "Lunar Interlude," "The Eleventh Hour," and "The Crystal Kingdom."

The brothers all have wives and are presumably heterosexual, but they made Taako gay.   In one of the podcasts, he gets a boyfriend.  Another featured a gay couple who was killed, but the  McElroys later apologized for the "bury your gays" trope.  According to wikipedia, the podcasts are very popular among juveniles and "in the LGBT community."

Three graphic novel versions have been published to date, based on podcats and illustrated by Carey Pietsch.  I'll have to read the otthers to see if Taako's gayness translates to the printed page, or gets censored

See also: Dungeons and Dragons

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