Oct 24, 2020

"The Queen's Gambit": Eight Minutes to the First Homophobic Slur

When I popped into Netflix this morning, it burst out with The Queen's Gambit, a tv series about a chess prodigy.  I'm sort of interested in chess, so I started watching:

Scene 1: A young woman with carrot-red hair wakes up in a French hotel room, late for something.  She rushes to dress (no nude scene, thankfully), runs to an elevator (where she stares at a little girl who is staring at her -- it's not rude in France) -- and rushes past reporters and photographers  to start an important chess match with a glowering older man.  

Scene 2: Someplace rural and antiquated.  A pile-up of old-fashioned cars, and a little girl standing by herself on a bridge.  

Scene 3:
A matron tells her that her mother has "passed away" and drives her to a children's home.  No Dickensian orphanage, it's well-appointed and quite comfortable.  She meets the headmaster,  the etiquette teacher and Mr. Ferguson (Akemnji Ndifornyen).  We don't hear what he does at the home.  

Suddenly a resident yells "You're all a bunch of fucking cocksuckers!"

A homophobic slur? 

Mr. Ferguson goes to tell her to shut up, and she yells "You fucking cocksucker!"

Another homophobic slur?   I'm out.

Ok, it's the 1950s, and the unnamed character might not necessarily be a good guy, but still, a homophobic slur is unnecessary and offensive.

In their review, the AV Club calls this a "humorous scene."  Would they think it was humorous if the girl was bandying around the n-word?  It's the same thing.

I understand from the review that there's a blink-and-you-miss it gay character later on, and there are a lot of hunks in the cast, like Matthew Dennis Lewis (top photo) and his twin brother Russell Dennis Lewis; Jacob Fortune (left).

Elvis Nowatzki

And let's not forget big bear Bill Camp, who teaches the girl how to play chess.  

Yes, she calls him a "cocksucker."

I'm definitely not watching this.

13 Writers and Artists of the Romantic Era That You Didn't Know Were Gay

When I was studying for my M.A. in English I had to select two adjacent historical eras for my Comprehensive Exams.  The problem is, gay content seems to go up and down, a homophobic wasteland (Medieval, Restoration-Augustan, early Victorian) followed by a period of homoerotic exuberance (Renaissance, Romantic, late Victorian).

For my first period, I chose the Victorian Era (1830-1910), mostly because the professor of my graduate seminar, was gay-- or at least we thought he was.  For my second period, I chose the Romantic Era (1770-1830), because the poets were young and cute, and their lives seemed informed by homosocial and homoerotic bonds.  Later I discovered that several were gay in real life. 

The top 13 gay or gay-subtext literary figures:

1. Hugh Walpole  (1717-1797), who built a pseudo-Medieval castle, Strawberry Hill, to entertain the A-list gays of the early Romantic era.

 2. and 3. The Ladies of Llangollen, Eleanor Charlotte Butler (1739-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831), who eloped, set up housekeeping, and entertained many of the artistic and literary greats of the era.

4. Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770), who forged a series of Medieval poems during his teens, and upset over his lack of recognition, committed suicide.  Many of the other Romantic poets revered him as a beautiful youth martyred by an uncomprehending world. He has only appeared on screen once, in a 1970 German movie, played by Ulrich Faulhaber.

 5. William Blake (1757-1822), who advocated for "free love" and illustrated his poetry with lovingly-detailed, super-muscular male nudes

 6. William Beckford  (1760-1844), who built his own pseudo-Medieval castle, Lansdowne Tower, where he kept his huge art collection. 

7. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and 8. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), who roomed together and walked across England together (in the company of William's sister Dorothy).In Pandaemonium (2000), they are played by John Hannah and Linus Roach.

9. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), who hung out with attractive men, especially Greeks and Italians, and shared a house in Rome with fellow poet Percy Shelley. I hadn't yet read Byron and Greek Love (1985), but I thought Manfred highly homoerotic.  In Gothic (1986), Byron was played by Gabriel Byrne (seen here holding hands with Shelley, played by Julian Sand).

10. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), who cohabitated with Byron and wrote Adonais to mourn the death of the beautiful young poet John Keats (check out the beefcake in the Star Trek episode "Who Mourns for Adonais". Besides, his wife, Mary Shelley, wrote Frankenstein.  In Frankenstein Unbound (1990), a scientist goes back in time to meet Shelley (gay performer Michael Hutchence, top photo) and the real Victor Frankenstein (Raul Julia).

11. Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), who introduced the gay-coded Dandy to England.

12. John Keats (1795-1821), whose love for Charles Armitage Brown overwhelmed his love for Fanny Brawne (which was never consummated), and wrote of pure beauty much more often than the beauty of women.  In Bright Star (2009), which makes the romantic triangle overt, Keats is played by gay actor Ben Whishaw (left), and Brown by Paul Schneider.

13. Gay artist Henry Fuseli.

Frankenstein, vampires, gay subtexts, and beefcake.  It beats boring, 800-page long Victorian novels about who is in love with whom.

Oct 23, 2020

Dracula: Dead and Homophobic


Dracula (2020), on Netflix, is advertised as a tv series, but it's actually three feature-length films revising the Bram Stoker classic.

Film #1:  At a convent in Transylvania, the extremely elderly, grotesque, fly-eating, and dead Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) is being interviewed by Sister Agatha Van Helsing (Dolly Wells).  Six months ago, a young, strong, handsome lawyer, he came to Transylvania to help Count Dracula (Claes Bang, left) sell off his properties in preparation for a move to England. 

I'm sorry, I know they don't realize who he is, but everytime he says "I am...Count Dracula," I laugh.

Count Dracula is extremely elderly and grotesque, but as the two spend time together, he becomes younger, stronger, and more handsome, while Harker grows older and weaker.  Obviously draining his life essence.

"Did you have sexual intercourse?" Sister Agatha asks.

Yes.  And when Harker finally turns into a vampire, Dracula asks him to stay on as "one of my brides."  But it wasn't consensual.  This was an abusive, predaotry gay relationship, a stark contrast to the  heterosexual "true love" of Harker and his fiancee Mina.

Surprise!  Mina is in the interview room -- she came looking for him.  And she still loves him, in spite of his grotesque looks and being undead, yada yada yada.

Film 2: 
Dracula and  his slave/lover.nemesis Sister Agatha book passage on a Russian ship headed for England.  The other passengers are a microcosm of diversity:

1.-2. Dr. Sharma (Sacha Dhawan), who is traveling with a deaf-and-mute girl.

3.-5. Lord Ruthven (Patrick Walse-McBride) is gay, newly married as a screen, and travenling with his lover (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), who is pretending to be his valet.  It's all done very subtly; a "blink and you'll miss it" half-scene here and there.

6. The elderly Duchess Valeria, whom Dracula danced with on her  18th birthday 60 years ago.

Dracula seduces and kills or just kills them all, and most of the crew as well.  The same-sex seduction/murders are handled cautiously, a hand on the knee, an off-camera neck-bite, whereas the heterosexual seduction/murders are done in full-fledged "We are meant to be together!" mode.

In the end the only survivors are comic relief pair Olgaren (Youssef Kerkour) and Piotr (Samuel Blenkin), a young man who defrauded his way onto the ship.  They have a gay-subtext buddy bond.

Sister Agatha and the Captain manage to sink the ship so Dracula can't "infect" England.  He ends up on the bottom of the ocean, but being undead, he just start walking toward the shore.

Film 3:
Apparently Dracula took a wrong turn.  When he emerges from the surf, 123 years have passed: it's 2020.  He seduces/kills a couple, moves into their house, and starts adjusting to life in the future.  

He gets a new slave/lover, Frank Renfield (Mark Gatiss), who works for the same law firm that sent Jonathan Harker over years ago.  And he meets Dr. Zoe Von Helsing, Sister Agatha's grand-niece, who is studying the undead, financed by the foundation set up by Harker's fiancee  Mina years ago.  

See how neatly everything works out?

Meanwhile Mina's descendant Lucy is a party girl, dating around, leading on lovestruck Jack (Matthew Beard), who is working for the Harker Institute (see how neatly everything works out?), and then rich playboy Quincey (Phil Dunster, left).  

That all changes when she meets  Dracula. The two begin a consensual vampiric relationship.  When she dies from a botched feeding, he eagerly awaits her returning as his bride, only to discover that Jack had the  body has been cremated!

That leaves Zoe, who for some reason has all of the memories of Sister Agatha, the only woman who was ever strong, powerful, and intelligent enough to be Dracula's equal.  They  fall in lo-oo-oove, deep, everlasting, soul-changing.  Heterosexual.

Moral: Same-sex desire is always destructve, predatory, downright wrong.  Only true, real, "normal" heterosexual romance can lead you to salvation.


The writer, by the way, is the gay homophobic Mark Gatiss, the Uncle Tom who kept the gay content out of Sherlock and swears up and down that there is no same-sex desire or behavior in "Dracula."

Oct 22, 2020

The Beverly Hillbillies

The Beverly Hillbillies, one of the 1960s line of hayseed comedies (others included Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, Gomer Pyle, and The Andy Griffith Show), slogged on from 1962 to 1971, and your parents watched every week, so you couldn't avoid it.  It was amazingly popular with adults: some of the regular episodes -- not even Christmas specials -- became the most watched episodes of all time.

The basic premise: a hillbilly from Bugtussle, Tennessee or Arkansas, Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen), becomes unbelievably rich when oil is discovered on his property, so he moves to a mansion in Beverly Hills, along with his crotchety mother-in-law Granny (Irene Ryan), his daughter Ellie Mae (Donna Douglas), and his dumb-lunk nephew Jethro (Max Baer Jr.).

Though they became marginally assimilated after nine years, they still wore hillbilly clothes, ate possum pie, and referred to their swimming pool as a "cement pond."  Plots usually involved big city types trying to dupe and manipulate them, but their backwoods wisdom, orneriness, or dumb luck win out in the end.

The message: big city life is dehumanizing.  Only in the country can real be real.

Other plots involved Ellie Mae's dating, Jethro's get-rich quick schemes (odd, since he already was rich), and Granny's dislike of all things big city.

There was never much beefcake in hillbilly comedies.  Max Baer Jr., son of the famous boxer Max Baer, had a nice physique, but rarely showed it on camera.  We were supposed to laugh at his dopiness, not sigh over his muscles.

Bonding was also rather uncommon.  Most of the primary relationships were platonically male-female: Jed and Granny, Ellie Mae and Jethro, bank president Mr. Drysdale and his secretary, Miss Hathaway (Nancy Culp, who incidentally was gay in real life.)

But gay-vague was everywhere.

1. Mr. Drysdale's son, Sonny (Louis Nye) is sophisticated, well-educated, and not interested in girls.  His parents keep trying to hook him up with Ellie Mae (so he will eventually inherit the Clampett millions), but he will have none of it.  He and Ellie are just friends.

2. Hollywood star Dash Riprock (Larry Pennell), a parody of Rock Hudson, is handsome, suave, and not interested in girls.  He vaguely courts Ellie Mae, but his heart isn't in it,  regardless of how much his studio pushes them together.

Apparently the producers thought it hilarious to keep having Ellie Mae run into men who were not interested in girls.

3. Jethro had a "twin sister," Jethrine.  She stayed back in the hills, and didn't show up often, but when she did, it was obvious that it was Jethro in drag.  I got the distinct impression that everyone was just playing along, responding to his drag persona as if she was a different person.

See also: Petticoat Junction; Green Acres

Oct 21, 2020

How Homophobic Can "Redneck Roots" Go? Ask the Star


Amazon Prime recommended Redneck Roots (2011) about a woman introducing her big-city boyfriend to her redneck family. I can relate: I have lots of beer-guzzling, card-playing, country-western, red pick up truck, feed store cap redneck relatives. Besides, I wanted to see how homophobic it was.

Scene 1:
Establishing shots of the redneck town Stanley: an over-the top eye-crossed, slack-jawed, yee-hawing inbred yokel dj=ing at WPIG radio; a hand-clapping gospel choir at the fundamentalist church; the barber shop; kids jumping on a mattress in a front yard cluttered with old cars; the police station;  fat people with butt cracks visible.  

Cut to sophisticated big city Chris (Crystalyn) having dinner with her boyfriend Ben and his New York Jewish mother.  He has just proposed.  She runs into the bathroom, cries, and asks herself "How will I explain my family?"  She told them that her dad is a "mechanical engineer"; he  actually attaches tv sets to riding lawnmowers.

Scene 2:
Chris and Ben in bed.  Whoa, spectacular physique!  Sister Amber Jo,  a school bus driver, calls to invite her to her high school graduation (you can drive buses as a minor?).  She's class salutatorian, in spite of talking like "We ain't seen y'all for two years. You is coming, right?"

Amber stops the bus to break up a fight between Rowdy Boy (Austin Filson, below, with a slack jaw and terrible acne) and Loretta, who dresses like a boy and yells "My name is Lou!"  Could there be a transgender kid in the hills?

Lou is played by lesbian actress Abby Corrigan.

Scene 3:  Crazy DJ tells about the bus incident: the Ledford boy tried to touch "ol' lesbo Lou Lou. He found out right quick that some clubs is ladies only." Does everybody know everything about everybody in this town?

Meanwhile, four rednecks are working on a motor and scratching their butts, discussing roller derby.  One is planning to bring his ex-wife/cousin to Amber Jo's graduation party.  Another is Crystalyn's Dad.  

Scene 4:
The hugely successful Chris is having a high-power meeting in a glass-and-steel office. Ben, coworkeras well as boyfriend, invites her to the beach this weekend. but she has a "sorority thing" to go to.  She means Amber Jo's party.

Later, Chris calls her sister and complains that she's not living up to her potential, staying in redneck land instead of going to college. Then she tells Sis and Mom that she doesn't have "a special fella." Just as Ben comes in!

Scene 5: Back in Redneck Land: cars, trains, horses, dogs, and Crazy DJ on the toilet,discussing his constipation (on the air!).  He calls for his Mama, and she comes downstairs and takes over the broadcast.

Meanwhile, the school bus comes to pick up Lou,but she refuses to go because of the bullying. Amber Jo tells her "You got to love and respect yourself.  You may be a little different, but that ain't a bad thing."  A tolerant redneck? Isn't that a contradiction?  

Scene 6: Ben in his underwear again!  He steals Chris's phone to call back whoever she was talking to last night.  Rowdy Boy answers: "You want me and you know it.  I'm so hot for you.  I'm your boy toy."  Um...who does he think he's talking to?  Has he even met Crystalyn?  Ben doesn't say anything. 

Meanwhile, Dad is at the feed store in Redneck Land: a black lady is the salesclerk.  He tries talking to her in rap, so she gives him a book, Jive Talk for Crackers. 

Scene 7: Chris arrives in Redneck Land in her fancy red convertible, causing a commotion.  Everybody in town starts yelling "It's Crystalyn!  Hey, it's Crystalyn!"  Come on, no town is that small.  She is so distracted by the shouts and praises that she accidentally runs into the Crazy DJ, who has been carrying an unrequited torch since second grade.  Ben is much hotter!.

Meanwhile, Ben is on the phone to a friend, complaining that he freaked out Chris with the impromptu marriage proposal, and now she's off with some dude. Fortunately, he has a stalking app on his phone, so he can follow her to Redneck Land, North Carolina and "rip the guy's balls off."

Scene 8:  At the house, with redneck Dad, his disapproving brother, and Grandma, who is on oxygen but not planning to die until after Amber Jo's party.  The house is actually quite nice.  Chris arrives.

Meanwhile Ben starts out from the big city.  Redneck Land is only 200 miles away. 

Meanwhile DJ Darrell announces Chris's arrival on the air.  Mom yells at him for "starting this up again."  

Scene 9:
Getting close to town, Ben calls the number.  Amber Jo is still driving that bus -- does she just drive the kids around all day?  Rowdy Boy picks up her phone  again and starts breathing heavily. Wait -- he doesn't know who it is. 

Meanwhile, at the house, Dad's brother turns out to be a limp-wristed, sassy, sashaying gay stereotype, like Jack Tripper pretending to be gay on Three's Company in the 1970s.  He lists his "friends::  "Cory, Samuel, Xavier, Marshall, Mitchell, Philip, John..."  Dad yells "No!  I don't want to hear it."  

He owns a flower shop yet.  Can you believe this?

Sure, everybody except Dad likes him, but still...I can't even....

I'm fast-forwarding through the rest.  Ben somehow hooks up with DJ Darrell.  His Mom shows up in Redneck Land

Turns out that Amber Jo and Swishy Queen are co-hosts of an antique show on the Homo Garden Shopping Network.  That's what he says.  And the homo shoppers are wild over the art produced by Crystalyn's rednedk Dad.

And Lou the Lesbian doesn't appear again except in a crowd scene.

Most of the cast was drawn from local Charlotte, North Carolina actors, except for Dean Napolitano, who is a New York-based stand-up comedian.  He does a schtick about how he told a gay joke once and a swishy queen came up after the set and said " That was offensive!  You're homophobic!"  But he's not homophobic (he says).  You can joke about various groups.  That's what brings us together.

Gee, I never realized that jokes, slurs, and name-calling signified that you were a gay ally.

He also has a song, "Gay Days at Disney Land," in which someone tells him it's Gay Day, and he says "Are you shittin' me?  Every day is Gay Day at Disney Land because when you pay $110 for a ticket, you're really taking it up the ass."

Maybe I should have researched Napolitano before I watched the movie.

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