Oct 17, 2020

"Terminator: Dark Fate": Lesbian Triangle, 5 Missed Beefcake Opportunities, and Arnold

 The Terminator series (how many have there been so far?) is about machines taking over the world in the near future, trying to kill all humans, and sending a bot back in time to kill the mother of the person who will eventually thwart their plans.  Timelines change, the future is changed, evil cyborgs become good, and it all starts over again.  This time, it's Terminator: Dark Fate (2019).  Well, maybe we'll see Arnold naked.  

Scene 1: A teen couple, Miguel (Daniel Ibanez) and Maria, are kissing under a bridge.  Suddenly a blob opens up in the sky, and a naked lady falls to the ground.  They rush to help her.  

Ugh!  Naked lady!  But Miguel is cute.  Maybe he'll be her ally, and we'll get some beefcake

The police arrive, think they are abducting her, and attack.  She revives and kill s them-- naked lady fight.  Then she co-opts Miguel's clothes.  

And Miguel and Maria vanish from the story!  Boo!

Scene 2:
  A cute domestic scene, with grown-up brother and sister Diego (Diego Ramos) and Dani (Natalia Reyes) , Dad who makes breakfast, and cute dog.  Whoah, Diego has his shirt off for about five minutes.   Six-pack abs! Things are looking up!

They go to work at a factory, where they discover that Diego's job has been taken over by a robot.  Foreshadowing!

Meanwhile another blob opens up, and a naked man falls out.  Things are really looking up!  He knocks on Dani's door and talks to her father.

Scene 3: The naked man, now clothed, turns out to be a cyborg named Rev 9 (Gabriel Luna, below).  He goes to the factory and starts killing people.  Naked Lady (Grace, played by Mackenzie Davis) fights him, while explaining that he has come from the future to kill Dani.  

Dani, Diego, and Grace flee through the streets of Mexico City...

Hey, Mexico City.  There will be interesting location shots for a change! 

And out into the desert, which could be anywhere.  Boo!

Diego is killed, and vanishes from the story.  Double boo!

Scene 4:
Dani and Grace hook up with an elderly but still kick-ass Sarah Connor.  I like her call-backs: "Come with me if you...don't want to die"; "I'll be back."  

 For the last 20 years, she has been getting occasional transmissions telling her where and when a terminator will appear, so she can kill it.  Now she's ready to help them by killing the Rev 9.  

Three women together.  I'll bet Grace and Dani fall in love. Or Dani and Sarah.  Or Sarah and Grace.  Or all three.

Scene 5: Grace needs some kind of medicine, so they raid a pharmacy.  The pharmacy tech offers to help, and carries Grace outside.  Hey, he's cute.  Maybe he'll join them, and....

he vanishes from the story.  Boo!

Scene 6: They decide to go to the source of  Sarah's messages, in Laredo, Texas..  Across the border.

You realize that all of Mexico is not "across the border," right?  It's 600 miles from Mexico City to Laredo.

Coincidentally, Dani's uncle is a coyote, illegally transporting people across the border.  He's a bit crotchety, but there's a cute guy sitting on the couch, reading a magazine.  Maybe he will...

He accompanies them to the border without saying anything or getting a face shot.  They are all captured by the ICE.  Sarah breaks them out -- well, Dani and Grace, anyway.  She leaves the guy to his fate.  Hey, he was helping you, and you abandoned him!  Boo!

Scene 6
: They reach the source of the transmission -- a cabin in the Laredo forests, occupied by Arnold! The original terminator, a thousand years old but still buffed, retired, going by the name Carl.  He has started a family with a single mom (their relationship is not sexual, he specifies).

Arnold!  Things are looking up!

Plus his adopted son Mateo (Manuel Pacific) is cute.  Maybe he'll join them....

Nope, he vanishes from the story.  Boo!

Scene 7: Carl helps them destroy the Rev 9.  Grace dies.  I guess she and Dani won't become lovers.  Which is probably a good thing, because:

Spoiler alert!

Scene 8: Fast-forward to the future.  Sarah and Dani are living together, in what I assume is a romantic relationship, and Grace is their daughter!  

That must be why they missed so many beefcake opportunities.  What lesbian wants to look at hot guys?  Bring on the kick-ass babes!

Apparently they are not a canonical lesbian couple because the producers are homophobes or cowards, or both.  But the lesbian community has latched onto them anyway. 

Oct 16, 2020

"The Grand Army": Cute Boys, Vagina Dialogues, and Heterosexism do not make a LGBTQ Drama

 The Netflix series The Grand Army was on my list of "Emotional LGBTQ Shows," so I put it on without any research.

Scene 1: Establishing shots of subways, graffiti, a bloody dumpster, and  black women saying "I'm still here."  In a locker room, the black girls are dancing and giggling on on side, and the white girls on the other.  A white girl goes into a bathroom stall and tells Gracie, "I got you. It will be fine" while reaching ..into her vagina....I think I'll fast forward.

The black girls criticize Gracie for whatever happened, and White Girl yells "I don't have time for this shit right now. I'm drowning in APs."

Scene 2: Black Girl yells at White Girl about how she handled the situation.  "You're the Dance Captain!  You should do better."  They go out to the gym and cruise John Ellis, a hot boy walking by.

He walks out into the hallway, and passes Asian Girl, who is texting someone about how "I fucking hate it here."  Girl, everybody hates high school!  It's all about cliques, exclusion, bullying, hostility, and heteronormativity.

She bumps into some hot South Asian guys, who tell her to "Relax! Slow down."  Then one of them, Sid the Harvard Boy (Amir Bageria, left),  gets ribbed by his friends for being a virgin (maybe he's the gay one?)

Teacher grabs Sid and tells him he needs to finish his essay for "the deferment."  So many characters, so few names....

Scene 3: Class.  Asian Girl is presenting on Jews in China, while the Chinese girls criticize her for not being Chinese enough and for dressing like a whore.  

Scene 4:
Washington Square in New York. Two black kids get shwarma from a halal truck (I wish they had halal trucks in my neighborhood!) and discuss their saxophone auditions.  Jay (Maliq Johnson) has had a lot of privileges, so he is sure to get in; his friend is not so sure.   Not a gay couple -- they discuss vaginas.  They talk to an elderly guy who is apparently a 60-year old high school senior, heading for the University of North Carolina.

Scene 5: Just as they get to school, there's an explosion outside.  The school goes into mandatory lockdown.  Students rush to their designated hubs (apparently they have a lot of drills), while continuing to discuss the party tonight, complain that Grace's "vag pulled the condom right off," google "abortion," and look at pics of naked girls on their phones ("I jerked off to her for like two weeks").  This is really disgusting. And wildly heterosexist.

One of the vagina boys is Luke, played by Brian Altemus (top photo). 

Sid the Harvard Boy gets permission to go down the hall and sit with his sister. 

Scene 6: On the way, he finds Asian Girl crying in the hallway: she hates this school, and she doesn't want to die. Darn, I thought he was the gay one  I fast forward past their interminable falling-in-love conversation.

Scene 7: Sid and his new girlfriend finally reach his sister.  His friends text him.  A lot of "pussy" and "cunt" words, something about posting pix of sister's vagina.  I fast forward through the scene.  

Scene 8: Still in lockdown, students are texting furiously and reading news reports: Brooklyn Bridge bombing, two dead.   Apparently the elderly high school senior is one of the victims. I fast forward through their long, boring, "pussy" and "cunt"-filled vagina dialogues.

Scene 9:
Lockdown is finally over.  Joey, who hasn't been introduced before, has a trivial conversation with his sister and her best friend about staying with Dad instead of Mom.  He's played by Odessa A'zion, and gets top billing in the cast list, so I guess he's important.  Also, Odessa is a girl, but Joey is a boy.  Or is Joey secretly a transgender girl?

Or maybe Joey is one of the girls, and I just assumed it was a boy due to the lack of naming.

Whatever.  I'm outta here.

Beefcake: No. Some of the actors on the IMDB list have shirtless photos posted on their instagrams.

Gay Characters: Heck, no.  Every boy spends every second of his life either doing things inside vaginas or discussing vaginas with his friends. I had no idea that vaginas could even do all those things.  I thought they just sort of sat there.  Of course, I have never spent so much time hearing about vaginas before. How about mentioning a penis now and then, for balance?

Racial Diversity:  The students are segregated into black, Chinese, South Asian, and white cliques, and rarely interact with anyone else.  There seems to be one main character from each racial group, which makes identification easy, especially since there is an almost complete absence of names. 

Names: Your first job as a filmmaker is to get the main characters identified -- by name.  Here that just doesn't happen.  Some minor characters get names.  Abdulla the Halal Truck vendor is named.  But the main crew, not.   How hard is it to have someone say "Hi, Jay?"  Or in this series, it would be something like "Jay the Vagina Fan, how many vaginas have you had squeeze the condom off today, Jay?  Aren't vaginas great, Jay?  Vaginas!"

Oct 14, 2020

Dark Shadows: Barnabas and Willie

In the spring of 1969, my friends and I began running home from school as fast as we could (my house was the closest) to catch the last ten or fifteen minutes of Dark Shadows (1966-71), a soap opera about the brooding, guilt-wracked vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) and his immensely wealthy, occult-obsessed family.

He enters the story when the slim, stuttering ne’er-do-well Willie Loomis (John Karlen, left), prowling around the Collins estate on the stormy coast of Maine, discovers a secret room in the old mausoleum, and inside it a chained coffin.  At this point, most people would flag down the next bus to Boston, but the none-too-bright Willie decides to open the coffin.  A bejeweled hand shoots up and grabs him by the neck.

The next day Barnabas Collins presents himself as a long-lost “cousin from England” and talks his way into possession of the ancient, decrepit Old House.

Willie inexplicably moves in with him, telling his friends that he has taken a job as Barnabas’ servant; yet he is obviously more than a servant.  The two spend an inordinate amount of time together, and are on an altogether chummy first-name basis, a liberty taken by no other servant on the estate.

The truth, of course, is that Barnabas bit him, and now they are co-conspirators if not secret lovers.  What is a vampire’s bite, after all, but a form of sexual congress?

Gossip about the early years of the series reveals that the producers were so skittish about potential homoerotic readings of the relationship that they gave Willie a heterosexual crush, and mandated that same-sex neck-biting must always occur off-camera.

But the heterosexual crush backfires, as the writers have Willie confiding in Maggie Evans about his problems with Barnabas.
Maggie: Where's Barnabas?
Willie: I don't know where he is.  He left without saying anything to me.
Maggie: You seem very angry with him.
Willie: I don't care about Barnabas.
Maggie: You don't really believe that, do you?

Eventually the strain of living with a vampire is too much for Willie; he has a nervous breakdown, and is confined to Windcliff Sanitarium. Later, Barnabas misses Willie, and asks him to return.  Willie eagerly agrees.  Later that evening, their friend Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) is sitting alone in the drawing room of the Old House, evidently keeping guard, when someone comes to the door.  “Barnabas isn’t here  – he’s with Willie,” she says with a diffident glance upstairs – to the bedrooms. Exactly what is Barnabas doing up there to welcome Willie home?  

When Barnabas announces his plans to cure his vampirism by transferring his spiritual essence into a different body, Willie worries that the new Barnabas will not be attracted to him (or, perhaps, that he will not be attracted to the new Barnabas):
Willie: Suppose he don’t like me?
Barnabas:         He will be exactly toward you as I am.
Willie: You don’t know that!  You might come out of this all different. . .It won’t be the same.

Although Barnabas barely acknowledges his affection, Willie obviously cares deeply for him, with an unstated and perhaps unconscious homoerotic desire.

As Barnabas zapped back and forth between time periods and parallel worlds, he encountered different characters played by the same cast members, and John Karlen managed to infuse all of his characters with a sometimes frivolous, sometimes dark and passionate attraction to the vampire hero.

When Barnabas visits Collinwood in the year 1897, he meets Karlen as Carl Collins, a fop only slightly toned down from Oscar Wilde’s green carnation crowd.  Carl grabs his shoulder,  touches his hand, takes his arm, and whispers softly in his ear “You look so nice!  We’re going to be close friends, aren’t we?  We’re going to be buddies!”  And thereafter, whenever he has a problem (usually involving ghosts or werewolves), he throws himself into Barnabas’s arms, overtly presenting himself as a lover.

Many of the cast members were gay, including Joel Crothers, left (who played Maggie Evans' boyfriend and remained her best friend in real life) and Louis Edmonds (patriarch Roger Collins).

When Don Briscoe (werewolf Chris Jennings) took time off to appear in the gay-themed Boys in the Band (1969), he brought Chris Bernau and Keith Prentice back with him.

Most of the others were gay friendly, including Grayson Hall (who was nominated for an Oscar for her role as a repressed lesbian in Night of the Iguana), Katherine Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans), Roger Davis (who went on to star in Alias Smith and Jones),  and the vampire himself, Jonathan Frid.

Most soap operas, like One Life to Live, were unremittingly heterosexist, requiring us to seek out subtexts, but Dark Shadows had ample male characters who were immune to the charms of eyelash-fluttering governesses and sought out each other: David Collins, heir to the family fortune; the fey Noah Gifford (Craig Slocum), who has an unspecified and “sinister” relationship with the golddigging Lieutenant Forbes (Joel Crothers); Aristede (Michael Stroka), a brooding, androgynous “manservant”; the nerdish mad scientist Cyrus Longworthy (Christopher Pennock); and the darkly sensuous Gerald Stiles (Jim Storm) who was not shy about expressing his devotion to werewolf/man-about-town Quentin Collins (David Selby).

No wonder we ran home from school as fast as we could to watch.

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: Farther Toward Gay Inclusivity than Any Other Cartoon

 Just six years ago, there were no gay characters on children's television at all.  Then it was only adults, an occasional girl with two moms shoved far, far into the background.  

Now it is almost customary for child-adventure teams to include a gay kid.  But the word "gay" is typically just a word.  The gay kid doesn't actually do anything to indicate gayness, like stating that someone is cute, or asking them for a date. 

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, on Nickelodeon, managed to have the gay kid actually being gay, although they eased in very gradually over the course of three seasons.

It's set in a post-Apocalyptic world, where all of the surviving humans live in an underground burrow, leaving the surface to various mutated animals, some monsters, some organized into human-style communities.  

Season 1: Kipo, a 12-year old girl, heads to the surface to search for her missing father, and joins forces with two humans who live there: Wolf  (a little girl raised by wolves) and Benson (a 13-year old boy whose back story is a mystery).  

In Episode 6, Kipo gets a crush on Benson, and he reveals that he is gay.  Of course, fighting monsters and mutant tyyrants leaves him little time to date, but in Episode 10, when they finally make it to Kipo's burrow, he has an eye-glistening falling-in-love moment with Troy (the only human near his age in the burrow-- good choice!).

Season 2
: You'd expect Troy to stick around, become a member of the team, right?  He appears only in the first episode, where they promise to get together at the end of the adventure, and he kisses Benson on the cheek.     

In Episode 10, he appears to help Benson escape from the latest threat, a volcanic eruption.

Season 3:  The plot arc is about stopping the series Big Bad, Dr. Emilia, who is trying to stir up anti-mutant fervor.  Troy participates in the adventure in Episodes 1 and 2, and appears in background shots in Episodes 5 and 6. 

Episodes 8 is about the preparation for the  PRAHM, a Party Reconciling All Humans and Mutants.  Benson keeps trying to ask Troy, but loses his nerve or is interrupted by a crisis.  Finally he ends up asking him in front of everyone (which sounds like it would take even more nerve).  Troy reveals that he had been planning to ask Benson.   They hug and kiss, while everyone applauds.

Episode 9 features the party, which is interrupted by Dr. Emilia's final threat.  Troy and Benson manage a dance before the crisis starts.

Episode 10 concludes the story with Kipo's showdown with Dr. Emilia, followed by a flash-forward five years.  

The humans and mutants have formed a society together. Benson owns a restaurant. Troy takes over when he leaves; they kiss.  

Giving up a life of rip-roaring adventure for capitalism and domesticity?  Isn't that the way every adventure story ends?

This was the  only romantic plot arc in the series, not an add-on in the shadow of a heterosexual romance.

In spite of gradually easing into it,  Kipo went farther toward gay inclusivity than any other children's animated series.  

Oct 13, 2020

"The Walking Dead: The World Beyond": Five Disappointments and One Genocide


I was looking forward to the new Walking Dead spinoff, The World Beyond.  It reputedly had a big time jump from the original two series, so some rebuilding would be evident, with new societies rather than just ragtag groups of survivors holed up in soon-to-be-destroyed baseball stadiums and theme parks. Plus it promised some answers to the big questions, like what was Jadis (Anne)'s doing, living in a garbage-labyrinth, dividing people into A and B and sneaking them away on helicopters?

First disappointment:No Time Jump. Only 10 years have passed since the zombie apocalypse began.  This is the same time as the last season of The Walking Dead.

Second disappointment: No New Society.  Well, there is a new society, on the grounds of Nebraska State University.  9,000 people, high school and college classes, zombie-proof doors, Memorial Day celebrations. 

But no evidence of sustainability.  No one is growing crops or tending animals.  What do they all eat?  Besides, it is soon-to-be-destroyed.

Third disappointment:  No answers.  Well, we do find out that the helicopters belong to the ominous-sounding Civic Republic Military, which has a secret "you don't need to know" base and rules/administers the colonies of Nebraska State, Omaha, and Portland.

Portland, Oregon?  On the other side of the continent?  Are there no other survivor settlements in the whole U.S.?  Come on, there are four near Alexandria in The Walking Dead.

Occasionally Elizabeth (still no last names) drops in for  "We love you, Fearless Leader" homage, but she is not really a leader at all.  She can't reveal anything about the CRM, or she will be "fired" (more likely zombified).  

Fourth disappointment: Bizarre coincidences.  Teenage sisters Iris and Hope were only six years old when "the sky fell" (an airplane crahed, and all of the occupants got zombified and tried to eat them).  They both feel guilty over that night, one (I don't remember which) was separated from their mother; the other watched mom being shot by a pregnant lady, and then shot the pregnant lady.  As a result, Iris has become an over-achiever, and Hope a juvenile delinquent.

Their father has been taken/volunteered to work for the CRM, which means they cannot contact him.  But he is sending secret messages anyway, even though if anyone found out, he would be "fired" (probably shot out of a cannon).  When he  sends a message saying that he is in trouble, they decide to go help out.  

Fortunately, Elizabeth gives them a forbidden map with his location, even though if anyone found out, she would be "fired."  He's in upstate New York, a thousand miles away. 

And there appear to be no cars or horses, nor any patrolled trade roads between Nebraska State and Omaha, so they have to walk  through overgrown, zombie-infested suburbs.

And they have no experience with killing zombies, except some useless classroom instructioon.

Plus leaving the colony is forbidden, so they will have to sneak out.

Fifth disappointment: No beefcake

Two other teens offer to go with them:

1. Silas (Hal Cumpston), a shy, bookish, rather fey young man who dresses in a 1970s leisure suit. He's been sneaking out anyway to look for a dinosaur tooth that he lost on the night the sky fell.  His mother was pregnant, and he had been planning to give it to his baby sister.  

Pregnant...ulp...one of the sisters killed his mom!.What a coincidence!

2. Elton (Nicolas Cantu), a hulking, quiet, slow-moving boy who doesn't seem to be all there.  Maybe autistic, maybe bipolar -- just what you want on a long journey.

The minute they leave (and Silas finds his dinosaur tooth!  What a coincidence!), head security guard Felix (Nico Tortorella) rushes out in  hot pursuit, accompanied by a woman named Huck, who has a dumb name and a crazy accent. 

At least Felix is gay.  A flashback in the second episode shows him as a gay teenager being kicked out by his homophobic father just before the zombie apocalypse begins.  And, wouldn't you know it, the trip takes them right past his old house, where zombified Mom and Dad are still tromping around (what a coincidence!)

But for beefcake, I had to go with recurring characters played by Al Calderon (top photo) and Ted Sutherland (left)

Final disappointment: Genocide.

The moment they all leave, Elizabeth orders the colony destroyed and everyone killed.  They then go from house to house, looking "for her."

Heck, Liz, if you didn't want "her" to leave, why did you give the girls a map? 

Aside from the logistic impossibiity of four soldiers killing 9,000 people, even with machine guns, why destroy one of the three survivor colonies left in America, a third of its population?  Just because one of the residents knows where the CRM is, becauss you gave her a map?

It doesn't matter anyway.  I didn't come here to see genocide.

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