Oct 10, 2020

Homophobic Moment in History: Bob Hope's AIDS Joke

Bob Hope (1903-2003) was probably the most famous and beloved entertainer of the 20th century, from the 1940s Road movies with Bing Crosby (Road to Morocco, Road to Singapore) to 30 years as a radio staple to a series of tv specials in the 1950s and 1960s.

He was known for his snide, snarky one-liners -- over 500,000 through his career, contributed by an army of over 100 writers on his payroll.  Most commented on current fads, fashions, Hollywood stars, and politics.

From the 1950s:
Eisenhower admitted the budget can't be balanced and McCarthy says the communists are taking over. You don't know what to worry about these days ... whether the country will be overthrown or overdrawn."

From the 1980s:
Everything Reagan does, Gorbachev does him one better. Reagan wears the flag of his country on his lapel. Gorby wears the map of his country on his forehead.

During the 1970s and 1980s, gay activists often complained about the raw homophobia in his jokes, but Hope shrugged them off: "They're threatening to get together and hit me with their purses."

Until July 4th, 1986.

Hope was performing at a dinner to commemorate the hundredth year anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.   The aging entertainer told the audience of patriotic Liberty enthusiasts, who paid $1000 apiece to be there ($2000 today):

I just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS.  No one knows if she got it from the Mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan laughed, but the rest of the audience sat in stunned silence, horrified by the slur against Miss Liberty's sexual habits.  The Los Angeles Times said:

Hope's "joke" was worse than obscene. It was abusive and unworthy...It is both sad and shameful that a man who many have considered a national treasure should think it would be funny to besmirch Miss Liberty on her 100th birthday.

Gay activists complained again about the raw homophobia,, and AIDS activists complained about the horrifying misinformation.  Hope didn't actually apologize, but he said:  "I've known so many people like that over the years, worked with so many.  But it's different now.  Now they fight back."

Hope continued to make homophobic jokes until 1988, when a reference to "fags" on The Tonight Show prompted GLAAD to demand an apology.  Hope agreed to participate in an PSA, which aired only on local gay tv programs:

"I was amazed to discover that many people die each year in anti-gay attacks, and thousands more are left scarred, emotionally and physically.  Bigotry has no place in this great nation, and violence has no place in this world."

He was amazed to discover that anti-gay violence exists?  Really?

Gay people are not mentioned in the 2015 biography, Hope: Entertainer of the Century.  

See also: Bing Crosby

Oct 9, 2020

Spell: Buddy-Bonding Tease and Non-Homoerotic Male Nudity

I started watching Spell on Amazon Prime, thinking it was another movie, about a  cop buddy-bonding with a comic-book fanboy  -- so many one-word titles get confusing.  So I didn't read the plot synopsis, and I fast-forwarded past the film company logos to minute 2.59.

Scene 1:  A scruffy bearded guy, probably the comic book fanboy, is trying to pick up a hustler .  "Are you working/" he asks.  And "Where do people go?"  The hustler: "They usually go to hotels."  "Great, let's go there."

Scene 2: Scruffy bearded guy checks into a hotel.  Wait -- what about the hustler? He licks all of the fixtures and the window.  He then puts pills in his ears and takes a shower fully clothed.  Ok, I'm fast-forwarding.

Scene 3:  When is the fanboy going to meet the cop?  Establishing shots of Reykjavik.  He buys a sweater, then goes to the Penis Museum (and licks a silver dildo.  Schoolboys on a field trips stare at him.

Scene 4:
He goes to the Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft, where the guide is talking about magic in early Viking Iceland.  Practicing magic then could have gotten you burned at the stake (no, it couldn't, not in Iceland, anyway). The most famous story is about a magic student named Loftur, who created a spell so powerful that it could control Satan (the Vikings weren't Christian, so no Satan).  He died before he could complete the spell, but one day he will return and....

Scruffy Bearded Guy begins trembling and jerking uncontrollably, and runs out.  Guide texts someone: "I think I've found Loftur." So everyone with cerebral palsy is a dead magician?

Scene 5: 
I've figured out that this is not hte comic book fanboy movie, but I keep watching. Scruffy Guy goes to a pharmacy, but they won't renew his prescription, so he calls his psychiatrist and leaves a message: "My OCD is getting worse"   Obsessive-compulsive disorder: that explains why he obsessively licks things.

Scene 6: Scruffy Guy goes to a bar, where a hot babe flirts with him while her boyfriend looks on. Eventually she dumps the boyfriend to kiss Scruffy Guy.  

It's what I get for starting a movie without reading the plot synopsis: "After the death of his fiance, Scruffy Guy is drawn into a supernatural world."  Or watching the trailer, which shows him kissing a girl 3,248 times.

But he goes on some sort of spirit quest into the Icelandic wilderness with an old guy, so maybe there are some homoerotic scenes.  I'll fast forward.

Scene 7: Girl kissing, girl kissing, girl taking, getting a tattoo of the Loftur rune, girl kissing, naked girl kissing, girl sexing.  Poor boyfriend, left at the bar.  He was much hotter than Scruffy Guy, too.

Scene 8: The girl stole a bunch of important stuff from Scruffy Guy, so he goes to see the Old Guy she mentioned before, to try to track her down. Old Guy promises to help, but first he wants to take Scruffy Guy on a trip: "You will eat what I cook, sleep when I say.  You will see beautiful things." (Nice sized dick, huh?)

Scene 9: In the Icelandic Outback, Old Guy shows Scruffy Guy a runestone (Idiot doesn't know what a runestone is?  I learned that when I was about six!)  Powerful magic, yada yada yada.

Scene 10: They look at mountains.  Scruffy Guy opens up about how hard it is to control his OCD. Old Guy: "Then don't control it.  Let it be."

Scene 11: Scruffy Guy draws a comic strip about a boy named Psketti and his dog Ketchup. The long-dead Glen Bean originated the strip, so Scruffy Guy has to imitate his style and subject matter, and can't do his own stuff.  Aww, stifled creativity. Old Guy: "No, it is a beautiful thing. A man wants greatness, so he completes the work of another great man."

Scene 12: They get naked (butt shots) and sit in a thermal pool. Scruffy Guy doesn't like the idea of being naked "with a creepy old guy drinking vodka."  Maybe when you see his penis, you'll like him better.  Old Guy sees his Loftur tattoo, says that he chose it, and orders Scruffy Guy to accept his destiny.  He attacks, they fight (penis shots), Scruffy Guy drowns Old Guy.

Darn! So much for buddy bonding.

The Girl and her Boyfriend jump up out of nowhere and revive Old Guy.  They yell at Scruffy Guy: "You are Loftur!  We've been waiting for you for a long time!  Get busy!"  They drive off, leaving Scruffy Guy alone, naked, in the wilderness.

Scene 13: Scruffy Guy wanders around the wilderness, thinking about his dead girlfriend. He ends up in a house where The Girl is waiting for him.  They chat, drink tea, kiss, have sex, kiss, have sex, kiss, kiss, and chat.  

Scene 14: Back in the wilderness, he hears The Girl's voice: "You're so close.  Go to the water."  So he goes in the water and drowns.  

It was all a feverish hallucination in the last moments of his life.  And no buddy bonding!

Beefcake: Scruffy Guy is naked for about half of the movie. Old Guy is naked for awhile, too.

Other Scenery: The Icelandic outback looks horribly bleak

Gay Characters: Scruffy Guy is intensely, aggressivly, nauseatingly heterosexual. Old Guy might be gay.

Supernatural: It was all in Scruffy Guy's head.  But then, how do you explain things happening when he is not around?

My Grade:  F

Oct 8, 2020

Making Your Own Bulgeworthy Halloween Costume

In gay neighborhoods, Halloween is all about the beefcake.  Your costume should be clever and creative, but it should also display your biceps or bulge to good advantage: the stressful Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year season is coming, and you need a full social calendar.

But what can you do if you don't have the money for a fancy store-bought costume, and can't sew?

It's easy to improvise with clothing you already have around the house, or a few props from the hardware store.

1. What could be easier than boxer underwear, with a twin-sized unfitted sheet tied around your neck for a cape?  It's good for being Conan the Barbarian, an ancient Greek philosopher, or a Roman centurion (make a helmet out of a paper bag reinforced with tape).

2. Draw a big letter Z on the cape to become Zorro (sword optional).

3. For Disney's Aladdin, you need white pants, tied with a rope instead of a belt, house slippers, and a leather vest.  Toy monkey can be taped to your shoulder.

4. To be a cowboy, you'll need jeans, a belt with a large buckle, boots (snow boots are fine), and a cowboy hat.

5. Add a plaid shirt, and substitute a baseball cap, and you're a farmboy (don't try it in the Midwest).

6. You can easily stencil a Superman logo onto a plain blue t-shirt, but you might have to do something with your hair.

7. Another easy superhero is Aquaman, who wears red shorts and green boots.

8. Tarzan's loincloth can be improvised with an old pair of brown pants ragged-cut in front and back.  Be sure to wear regular underwear, too.

9. Most people doing the Rocky Horror think of Rocky, who wears only gold lame shorts.

10.  But if you don't have a Rocky physique, you can do an easy Brad with white briefs (extremely well packed) and horn-rimmed glasses.

11. A white handkerchief, a black bow tie, black dress slacks, and you're a Chippendale Dancer.  For added effect, wear a white shirt pre-cut and sewn up so it can easily be ripped off.

12. It's never too early to get into the spirit of Christmas, and you can evoke Santa Claus without wearing the whole ensemble.  Black boots, red shorts,  and a Santa Claus hat are more than enough.

Oct 7, 2020

Baby Huey and Dimwit: Bottom of the Barrel Buddy-Bonding

When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, I loved Harvey Comics, in this order:

1.-2. The Ghosts, Casper and Spooky (Casper, Spooky, Ghostland, Spooktown), whose weird paranormal and science fiction adventures were full of gay subtexts.

3. Hot Stuff the Little Devil (Hot Stuff, Sizzlers, Devil Kids).  Sometimes he had paranormal and science fiction adventures, too, but more often he was stuck in crazy pun-ridden lands that made no sense.

4. Richie Rich.  Usually he was insufferable, with joke stories about how rich he was.  Who cares?  But sometimes there were fun adventure and spy stories.

5. The Girls with Halfway Interesting Adventures (Little Lotta, Little Dot).

6. The Girl with Incredibly Boring Adventures (Little Audrey).

7. Baby Huey.  Only if I was desperate.

Baby Huey was a gigantic duck toddler in a diaper and bonnet who got involved in slapstick shenanigans.  He had super-strength, like Little Lotta, but combined with basic lack of understanding of how anything worked.  The result was mayhem. He rarely if ever saved the day, although sometimes he succeeded through pure dumb luck.

He sparred with three normal-sized ducks who disapproved of him, and a fox who kept trying to eat him.  (Although the ducks were civilized and lived in cities, they were still likely to be victimized by predators.)

And he had an annoying lisping girlfriend, Matilda.  What did she see in the baby giant?  "You're so big and shtrong, Huey!"  I get it -- he was three times the size of a normal duck, so if he was proportional beneath the belt...

Who'd believe that there were 92 issues of Baby Huey (1956-1972), plus compendium titles Baby Huey Duckland (1962-66) and Baby Huey and Papa (1962-68).

As in all of the Harvey comics, there was a big change in theme and emphasis after 1966.  Baby Huey was still wearing a stupid bonnet and diaper, but he was older, able to go out on adventures by himself.

He was often accompanied by his Cousin Dimwit: an adult duck, rather cute as anthropomorphic ducks go, with a shirt that extended beyond his hands (a sign of stupidity, I suppose).

A sort of inventor, Dimwit popped in out of nowhere and announced "I want to take Cousin Huey on a trip to the Moon!"  Huey's parents would, strangely enough, permit this.

My favorite Huey/Dimwit stories:

1, They build a mechanical Frankenstein that terrorizes the town.
2. Trying to fly to Florida, they end up at the North Pole
3, They're hired by the governmnt to take top-secret pictures.
4. They use dehydrating pills to foil a criminal gang.
5. They take a wrong turn and end up kidnapped by spies.

Still humorous/slapstick, but with enough buddy bonding and nick-of-time rescues to create at least minimal gay subtexts.

Boy, I could really find it everywhere, couldn't I?

By the way, here are some people and businesses who have taken the nom de plum Baby Huey:

1. James Ramos (left), the front man for Baby Huey and the Babysitters, 1970s precursors to the hip hop style.  He weighed 350 pounds.

2. MMA fighter Tito Ortiz (top photo).  He's not fat at all.

3. Hell's Angels motorcycle club member George Wethern.

4. "Baby Huey," the host of the Saturday night show on The Bone (KSAN, 107.7 FM).  He also does the podcast "The Second Shift" with cohost Chasta.

Baby Huey is also:

1. A popular dance club and hipster hangout in Toronto

2. A moving company in Katy, Texas, and

3. A barbecue restaurant in Fremont, Nebraska.

Bugs and Porky meet a Drag King: Warner Brothers Comics

When I was a kid in the 1960s, my favorite comic titles were Harvey (gay-vague Casper the Friendly Ghost), Disney, Archie, and the Gold Key jungle adventures.

Comics featuring Warner Brothers cartoon characters Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and Bugs Bunny were low on my list.  Not as low as Woody Woodpecker, but low.

The art was amateurish, with minimal backgrounds, or just blank space.  This is one of the best covers,depicting Bugs opening a door leading to another planet, where a cowboy-rabbit is racing across the desert on a camel.

And instead of the anarchic outsiders of the cartoons, the characters were stable, stolid suburbanites, with houses and jobs and girlfriends. Porky was a single dad, raising his nephew, Cicero, like a Donald Duck knockoff.

But sometimes Bugs and Porky or Bugs and Yosemite Sam teamed up for adventure stories.  Maybe they stumbled upon a haunted inn.  Or they answered a job ad for "undersea explorers"  Or a telegram arrived about "trouble at the ranch."  Buddy-bonding, captures, and nick-of-time rescues followed.

A continuing series had Bugs and Porky working as Indiana Jones-style adventurer-archaeologists, investigating the myth of Pegasus or discovering a lost civilization hidden under the ice of Antartica.  With no girlfriends in sight, and no damsels in distress to be won.

Even when there was no buddy-bonding, the adventure stories offered opportunities for gay misreadings.  In "The Kingdom of Nowhere" (Porky Pig 4, 1965),  Porky wins a contest to re-name a Medieval kingdom (he suggests Boovaria).  But he must fight the other winner, the Black Knight.

When I first read the story, probably in in third grade, I didn't realize that this small, short-haired person was grabbing the king's cape, or that it was supposed to be his queen.  I thought he had a tiny boyfriend grabbing his rump.

When Porky and the Black Knight learn that, as an added bonus, the winner will marry the Princess,  they drop out of the contest and run away.  Porky, because he already has a girlfriend.

But why does the Black Knight run away?  Could it be that he doesn't particularly care for girls?

Later we get an explanation: the Black Knight was really his girlfriend Petunia in drag!  Porky exclaims "No wonder you weren't interested in winning the hand of the princess!"

But this quick-fix doesn't detract from the image of a boy not interested in girls.

And it adds a new question: why, precisely, did Petunia disguise herself as a man?

For that matter, why are Bugs and Porky so comfortable in drag?

Oct 6, 2020

He Walked Around the Horses

I'm a big fan of the paranormal, especially mysterious disappearances, people who suddenly and inexplicably vanish.

You and a friend are hiking in the woods.  He's a few paces ahead.  You see him go around a bend, but when you arrive, a second later, he's not there.

Your father walks out the front door of your house to go to the mailbox, a journey of 10 yards.  He is never seen again.

A man boards an airplane.  He is served by the flight attendant in flight.  When the plane lands, he is gone.

But the greatest of the "they never came back" stories happened on November 25th, 1809.  Benjamin Bathurst, a 25-year old British diplomat, was on the way to Vienna for  a meeting with Emperor Francis II.  He and his assistant, Krause, stopped for dinner at an inn in Perleberg, Germany.  When it was time to continue the journey, he walked around the horses to climb into his carriage.  Except he never made it to the carriage.

He was never seen again.

It was a journey of 10 feet.  He would have been out of Krause's sight for only a few seconds.

A few days later, his coat was discovered on a farm a mile north of Perleberg.  And his pants, in the woods near the town of Quitzow.

The gay connection:
1. Bathurst and his servant sharing a room.
2. Wherever he  went, he was naked when he arrived.

The story didn't get much press in 1809, but when it was rediscovered by Charles Fort in the 1920s, paranormal enthusiasts went wild.  It was repeated in every compendium of the unexplained.

Maybe he was abducted by aliens, or zapped into a parallel world.  Maybe he became a time traveler.  Or a vampire.

Many science fiction writers, including Poul Anderson, H. Piper Beam, Robert Heinlein, and Robert Bloch, have covered his story.

Recently debunkers have been pushing a more mundane explanation: that Bathurst was dragged back into the inn and murdered, with robbery or political assassination as the motive (it was a rough part of town, in the middle of the night).

An adaptation of H. Piper Beam's story He Walked Around the Horses appeared in February 2015, written and directed by Claude Miles, who also played Benjamin Bathurst.  Miles has also appeared in such films as Trouser Snake (aka Penis Monster), The Last Temptation of Fluffy, Cow Tippers from Outer Space, Flying Saucers over Fetishland, and Tarzan's Teenage Daughter, so I'm going to guess that this was not a serious production.

See also: Richard Halliburton

Oct 5, 2020

"The Boys in the Band": Any Day that Ends with a Naked Man is a Good Day


The movie The Boys in the Band, based on Mart Crowley's 1968 play, appeared in 1970.  I watched it on VHS sometime in the 1990s, and even with some leeway for being pre-Stonewall, I hated it.  A party with a bunch of screaming queens oozing with self-hatred, sniping viciously at teach other, obsessed with straight guys who don't know that they exist, trying to seduce a strraight guy who stumbled in by accident.  Yuck!

I just saw the 2020 Netflix version, and liked it a lot more.  The tone was more upbeat and positive, thanks to some subtle changes to the script (the line "if only we didn't hate ourselves quite so much" is gone) and additions to the mise en scene. For instance, we see the characters interacting after the party, eating in a restaurant, attending Mass, cuddling in a cab, having sex, building a life in spite of their homophobic society.

Bob still thinks that Boys is "gay misery porn," but remember, it's 1968.  "Homosexuality" is a psychosis, so you are in psychotherapy searching for a "cure."  Sodomy is an imprisonable offense, gay bars are illegal and underground, and there are no gay organizations except for the highly-closeted Mattachine Society.  The world hates you.  But you are still determined to live, so you throw a birthday party.

1. Michael (Jim Parsons), who is in debt up to his eyeballs and suffering from Catholic guilt, hosts the party.  He gets a shocker when a straight college friend, Alan (Brian Hutcherson), calls out of nowhere and wants to stop in "for a drink."  You never tell straights (the term "coming out" means acknowledging that you are gay), so he asks the other guys to act straight.  

When Alan figures it out anyway yet doesn't run away screaming, Michael introduces a party game to compel him into coming out: you have to call the one person you have always loved and tell them.  He assumes that Alan will call his other college buddy, now out, whom he was obviously in love with.  But the plan backfires when Alan calls his wife.

So Alan was straight all along?  Or is he still in the closet?  Michael is devastated.  But after the party, he goes to midnight Mass and feels better.

2. Donald (Matt Bomer, right), Michael's best friend and former lover, is visiting for the weekend.  He doesn't play the game.  But he does take a shower, giving us a nice beefcake scene that did not appear in the original movie.

3.-4. Hank (Tuc Watkins, left) is in the process of divorcing his wife so he can be with Larry (Andrew Rannells).  Larry recoils at the thought of heterosexual-style monogamy, but still calls Hank during the game.  They decide to try an open relationship.

5. Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington), who is black and has to deal with racist jokes (even from his friends), has always loved the first guy he had sex with, the son of the rich family his mother used to work for.  In a flashback, we see them frolicking naked in a pool, butts and cocks visible. He calls, gives the message to the mother, and is devastated.

6. Benard's best friend is the campy queen Emory (Robin de Jesus), who was outed and ridiculed when everyone at his high school discovered his crush on an older boy.  Later he apologizes to Bernard for his racist quips, and they are shown having dinner together.

7.-8. Harold, (Zachary Quinto) the guest of honor, is a "32 year old ugly pock-marked fag Jew" who takes lots of weird drugs and  constantly picks at imaginary facial blemishes.  They seem to all love him, but he strikes me as threatening, observing and criticizing the events like a petty tyrant.  I kept wondering what he had on them.

The Cowboy (Charlie Carver, top photo) is a dimwitted hustler hired as one of Harold's birthday presents.  They get more romantic interactions than in the original movie, kissing, cuddling, and, in the last scene, having sex (Harold has a surprisingly nice butt).  

The "call someone you've always loved" game still seems too cruel to foist upon your friends (and you can only play it once), but at least the self-loathing is gone.

Bob: "It was awful!  Gay life as endless misery!"

Me: "But it wasn't all misery.  They had friends.  They had lovers.  Any day that ends with a naked man in your bed is a good day, in 1968 or  2020."

Summer 1971: Donald Duck's Double Life

When I was a kid in the 1960s, my favorite comics were the Harveys (CasperRichie Rich), followed by Gold Key jungle heroes (Tarzan, Korak, Brothers of the Spear), and then Archie, and maybe some Marvel and DC if I could get them.  Disney's Donald Duck was not as low on the list as Bugs Bunny, but it was down near the bottom.
The problem was that Donald led a double life.  I liked the stories where he was an adventurer, brave, resourceful and intelligent, setting out with his rich Uncle Scrooge to explore lost Atlantis, the Yucatan, Tibet, Antarctica, or the Seven Cities of Cibola, in plotlines as macho as Treasure Island, as passionate as Time Tunnel.  It was a man-only world, with no damsels in distress to be rescued and no girls waiting back home at the story’s end.

In fact, no one expressed any heterosexual interest at all, though the nephews sometimes swooned over male crooners and teen idols.  (During the 1990s, Don Rosa retconned the characters to give Uncle Scrooge a long-ago romance with dance-hall girl Glittering Goldie).

But in other stories, Donald transmutated like a zombie into a single father living in the town of Duckburg, where he was saddled with a series of dismal jobs: janitor, gas station attendant, door-to-door salesman, delivery boy. And  he had a girlfriend, Daisy Duck, who was constantly natting her disapproval of  every single one of his interests, hobbies, goals, and dreams (precisely like Poil's disapproval of Spooky's passion for scaring).

The two could not be more different. Donald exuded toughness and aggression, Daisy was dainty to the point of idiocy. Donald bellowed at baseball games, Daisy drank tea at the Tuesday Afternoon Ladies’ League. Donald puttered around in junkyards, Daisy puttered about in her petunia bed.

It was disgusting! Donald had not only abandoned his life of swashbuckling adventure, he could not even enjoy the simple pleasures of boxing matches and working on cars. Instead, he sat bored on a frilly white chair at the Bon Ton, while Daisy tried on hats. Why would he do it? If they shared no common interests whatsoever, why would he even want to hang out with her?

In "The Double Date," Daisy and Donald go on a double date with Clara Cluck and Rockhead Rooster.  Donald and Rockhead exhibit an instant, eye-bulging attraction to each other, and become so engrossed in discussions of cars and sports that they ignore the girls.  They even dance together at a party.  Daisy and Clara agree that "They shouldn't see each other again."

One rainy afternoon in the summer of 1971, when we were sitting on the floor in Bill's family room, reading comic books, I brought up my concerns.  "I don't get it.  Donald Duck has a lot more fun on his adventures with Uncle Scrooge, and he doesn't anything that Daisy likes.  Why does he hang out with her?  What's the big deal?”

Bill's older brother Mike happened to be passing through on his way out, wearing a raincoat and tossing his keychain in the air. He pulled the comic from my hands and leafed through it, murmuring “Hmm…very eenterest-ing,” like the Nazi spy on Laugh-In. Then he returned it with a grin. “Een mine professional opinion, Uncle Scrooge ees a boy, und Daisy Duck ees a girl.”

“So what?” I asked.

Mike  laughed, and reached down to tousle my hair. “So what!” he exclaimed in his normal voice. “Just wait ‘til you discover girls. Then you won’t ask ‘so what’? You’ll say ‘gimme her number!’”  And he was gone. I heard him repeat “so what!”, chortling to himself, as he clomped through the kitchen and out the back door.

Suddenly chilled, I scooted over to sit next to Bill, our backs against the couch.  He smiled, and we sat together, quietly.

Abandon the Seven Cities of Cibola to drink tea from fragile cups and discuss poetry! The idea was absurd!

See also: Heterosexualizing my Childhood Hero

Oct 4, 2020

Emily in Paris: If You Can't Visit During the Pandemic, This Is Your Best Bet


I used to go to Paris every spring.  It's my favorite city in Europe, maybe in the world, so of course I'm going to watch a tv series called Emily in Paris, even if it is terribly heteronormative.

Scene 1:  Establishing shot of Chicago.  Emily (Lily Collins) is jogging (5.3 miles in 40 minutes, not bad..)  Then she goes to work in a skyscraper.  Her boss, Madeleine, who does something in advertising-marketing-moving and shaking, has just been offered a job in...Paris!   She loves Paris because "young French men love older women."  Heteronormative!  

They try on a new perfume that makes Madeleine sick.

I know where this is headed.

Scene 2:
Emily meets her sports-speak-spouting boyfriend (Roe Hartrampf, who has 3,000 shirtless and underwear shots on Google Images, and about 1000 more on his instagram page).  

Madeleine is pregnant, so she won't be taking the job in Paris, and Emily volunteered.  Boyfriend is not happy with the prospect of a long-distance intercontinental relationship.  Besides, Emily doesn't speak French.  Heck with that, she's going!

Scene 3: Emily is in Paris!  (You can tell because of the Eiffel Tower, which you actually can't see from everywhere in the whole darn town.)  Her taxi also takes her past the Luxembourg Gardens, the Musee d'Orsay, the Arc d'Triomphe (hey, that's back in the other direction!), the Palais Royale (back the way we came!), and finally to her apartment building in what looks like the Invalides, on the Left Bank across from the Louvre.

She is met by the rental agent, who escorts her up to the fifth floor (sixth, in American terms) to her crappy apartment. The 5.3 mile in 40 minutes runner is out of breath.  But at least it has a nice view. He then asks her out, but she refuses: "I have a boyfriend."  Besides, it's like 5 am her time, and she's been up all night.  I can never sleep on that plane.

Aerial view from her apartment window across Paris.  Hey, I was right.  The Invalides.

Scene 4:
Emily goes to the office, a quaint old building, where the receptionist, Julien (Samuel Arnold, left), doesn't speak English.  She meets the boss, Sylvie, who is shocked  because she isn't supposed to arrive until tomorrow (with jet lag and all), and why would anyone come to work in France who doesn't speak French? 

Paul Broussard, the founder of  Mode...um, I mean Savoir (a fashion and "luxury product" company), complains about American food (pizza is "like quiche made of cement"), asks why all Americans are so fat, and so on.  Spot on!  When I visited Europe, I always claimed to be Canadian, to avoid spending the entire trip apologizing.

Sceene 5:  An office meeting around a quaint round table instead of those shiny rectangular monstrosities.  Emily alienates everyone by not speaking French and by "shouting" (Americans talk too loud).  She wants to crank up the company's social media presence...but wouldn't that all be in French? 

Scene 6: M. Broussard and Sylvie argue in the hallway.  Who is that girl?  She knows nothing!  What idiot sent her here?  Sylvie points out that they are stuck with her -- unless she decides to leave.  Cue the sinister laughter.

Scene 7: Unaware of the evil scheme, Emily stands on a deserted bridge at night.  I think the Pont des Artistes.  She sends a photo to the boyfriend in Chicago: "Isn't it amazing -- the entire city looks like Ratatouille" Ugly American!

Wait -- this is the evening of the day she arrived?  She's been up for 36 hours!

Scene 8: 
Back at her building, Emily accidentally tries to get into an apartment on the wrong floor.  A hunk answers. Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) from Normandy. She says: "I know that beach from Saving Private Ryan."  Has she even looked at a map?  He flirts with her.

Scene 9:  Establishing shots of Paris, including, of course, the Eifel Tower.  Emily stops at a bakery, where the shopkeeper corrects her French. Arriving at the office, she finds the door locked.  Oh, you didn't know -- we start work at 10:30 am here.

She alienates the social media director by being brash and American, and not speaking French.  

She invites her coworkers to lunch, one at a time, but they all reject her.  

Scene 10: At lunch in the park, Emily meet-cutes  Mindy (Ashley Park), a Chinese-Korean girl working as an au pair, who flirts with her 

Mindy loves everything about Paris except the people -- "So mean."  Wait - when I was in Paris, everyone was super-friendly.  Of course, I spoke French.

On the way back to the office, Emily sees all the coworkers who refused lunch with her, having lunch.  

Scene 11: Coworkers have a new nickname for Emily -- La Plouc (the hayseed).

Scene 12: At a cafe near the Pont des Artistes, with the Louvre across the river and the Eifel Tower in the distance.  Emily sits by herself.  A hunk asks "Is this seat free?", and when she says "Yes," takes it to sit somewhere else!  I hate it when that happens.

Luc from the office (Bruno Goery) stops by and apologizes for the La Plouc nickname.  He says that everyone is afraid of her because of her big, brash American work ethic -- starting at 8:30 am!  45 minutes for lunch!  For Americans, their work is their life -- everything else is trivial. "I love my work!" Emily protests.  "I like accomplishing things, being a success."  "What you call success, we call a prison.  We want to enjoy life."

Darn -- he was going to ask her out, but then they started insulting each other.

Scene 13: Boyfriend calls at 3:00 am, unaware of the time difference (really?).  Nice chest shot, and we finally get his name -- Doug.  They begin cybersex, but get cut off.  Fortunately, she brought a vibrator --- Emily, no!  You need an adapter!

She shorts out the electricity all over the neighborhood. The end.

Beefcake: Just Doug having cybersex.

Other Sights: Lots of exteriors of Paris landmarks. I could usually tell exactly where they were filming.

Gay Characters: Mindy strikes me as a lesbian, but it's probably just subtext.  In future episodes, Julien turns into the sashaying, snarky gay best friend of 1990s romcoms.

Heterosexism: Lots of boy-girl stuff.  The second episode is entitled "Masculin-Feminin"

The Ugly American:
I kept being embarrassed for this poor girl making one faux pas after another.  Did she really get on that airplane knowing nothing whatever about France?

The Fashion Industry: This reminds me very much of The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty.

Will I Keep Watching: Maybe to feel nostalgic about those days and nights in Paris.

Here's another Roe for the road.

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