Oct 31, 2020

Shaken, Not Stirred: The Gay James Bond

I think I've only seen three James Bond movies all the way through: Diamonds are Forever (1972), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and Casino Royale (2006). But I've seen many, many clips of pivotal scenes, plus countless pastiches, parodies, and imitations, on everything from The Flintstones to Family Guy.  

From his introduction in a series of novels by Ian Fleming (1953-64) through fifty years' worth of movies (1962-2012), Bond created the image of the suave, sophisticated spy that has been  imitated over and over, in tv series (I Spy, Get Smart, The Man from UNCLE, Mission: Impossible)in movies (The Bourne Identity, True Lies, The Secret of Boyne Castle, Austin Powers); even in comics (Spy vs. Spy in Mad Magazine).

Bond comes from a generation before the Man-Mountains, when Swinging Bachelors ruled.  He rarely took off his shirt; the producers didn't expect anyone to be looking at his muscles. In the tradition of "everybody's fantasy," the producers expected all women but no men to swoon over him due to his cool savoir-faire, his tailored suits, fluency in French, knowledge of clarets, and hint of danger.

And all men but no women to admire him for his spy expertise, his ability to jump out of an airplane without a parachute, kill an enemy spy on the way down, and land unfazed, unruffled, and ready for sex.

For all his popularity, there is very little for gay men to like in James Bond.

1. Very brief, minimal beefcake shots, only when absolutely necessary -- a part of his chest might peek out over the top of the sheets -- and overwhelmed by endless shots of bikini-clad and nude women.  Sean Connery (left) was a former bodybuilder and Mr. Universe runner-up, yet we saw no underwear, no towels, almost nothng of his physique.  Current Bond Daniel Craig has been a little better, offering an occasional swimsuit shot.

2. Few homoromantic subtexts.  The Bond world is as completely divided into evil men and nice women as Karate Kid.  Every woman Bond meets wants to have sex with him. Some try to kill him also, but usually they have a change of heart and become allies.

And the most a man can feel for him, or for any man, is a sort of grudging admiration. More often they feel raw hatred.  Same-sex friendships do not exist.

3. Intense homophobia.  Fleming wrote his novels for "warm-blooded heterosexuals," and decried the ranks of the "unhappy sexual misfits."  The movies almost invariably pit the heterosexual Bond against gay-vague "sexual misfits" -- or not so gay-vague, as the transvestite Spectre agent in Thunderball, or the hand-holding Mr. Witt and Mr. Kidd in Diamonds are Forever.  Even Jauvier Bardem, the latest villain (in Skyfall), camps it up to ensure that we identify him as a detestable poof.

4. It's hard to find a gay-friendly actor in the corpus of Bond movies.  Sean Connery became irate when he heard that some commentators found a gay subtext in one of his movies.  Roger Moore (left) played a negative stereotype in Boat Trip (2002).  Current Bond Daniel is a little more gay-friendly, but even he became irate at the suggestion that the superspy like both sexes:  "James Bond is heterosexual.  There will never be a gay Bond, ever."

Speaking of violent objections, in 1999 there was a rumor that gay actor Rupert Everett would be the next Bond.  He quickly spoke up, stating that it would be impossible: "Bond fans would burn down MGM if the studios got a gay actor to play James Bond."

So, what's gay about the James Bond movies?

1. A remarkable preoccupation with Bond's sex organs, from the laser-beam in Goldfinger to the chain-thwacking in Casino Royale.  Heterosexuals have never spent so much time envisioning phalluses.

2. Wearing tailored suits, drinking fine wines. dining on  haute cuisine, conversing in Italian and French?  Metrosexual, to say the least.

3. The violent objections incited when you suggest that Bond might be gay -- or played by someone gay -- suggest that he meets a deep-seated desire in heterosexuals to postulate a gloriously gay-free world.  It's fun to discomfort them, to point out that there are gay people everywhere, even in the most homophobic of texts.  So take one of Bond's male allies - Willard Whyte in Diamonds are Forever, Milos Colombo in For Your Eyes Only, Damian Falco in Die Another Day -- it doesn't matter how tenuous the relationship is -- and let the slash fictions roll.

Hustlers: Only One Naked Man, Nobody Gay


When Bob told me that he ordered Hustlers for movie night.  I thought,  Oh, boy, male hustlers.  Lots of muscular bodies and same-sex hookups.


A dressing room full of overly made-up ladies.  They'd better be drag queens.

Nope.  They're strippers.

Boobs and butts and boobs and butts filling the screen, gyrating in front of your face.  I cry out and turn away.  I always made fun of straight guys for being queasy around penises, but I'm actually feeling queasy.  I look down at my cell phone screen.  

After a few minutes, I look up.  Thankfully, the ladies are fully clothed.  Nope -- they're back!  Boobs and butts and boobs and butts! I look down at my cell phone again.

"Um...Bob?  Why did you want to see a movie about lady parts?" I ask.  "Is this your way of coming out as bisexual?"

"It got good reviews.  A lot of feminists are praising it."

Ok, well, I'll look up.  

Boobs and butts and boobs and butts!

Back to my cell phone.  I spend the movie going through the entire cast list on IMDB, looking for some beefcake.  I don't know who they play.

1. Alex Breux (top photo)

2.  Brandon Kenner

The plot, as far as I understand it:  Dorothy (Constance Wu) becomes a stripper to help her sick grandmother (aww....), and befriends veteran stripper Ramona (Jennifer Lopez).  Their customers consist entirely of extremely wealthy, morally bankrupt, "I'll pay you $100 for a blow job" capitalists.

$100 for a blow job!  I'll do it for the price of a soda.  Heck, I'll do it for free.

3. John Palladino

The salary and tips are enough for them to buy houses and cars in New York City.  If I didn't know that this was based on a true story -- an article in New York Magazine -- I'd think it was preposterous.

4. Tommy Beardmore

After the stock market crash of 2007, the stripper market tanks, so Dorothy and Ramona decide on a more blatant hustle.  They slip rich guys a mickey (Ecstasy and Ketamine), and while they are dazed, max out their credit cards.  If they complain later, the girls say "You were having fun.  New York is expensive."  Besides, who's going to call the police and complain "Some strippers overcharged me"?

They get a whole crew, including two familiar faces:  Keke Palmer, star of True Jackson VP (2008-2011) , and Lili Reinhart, who plays Betty Cooper on Riverdale.  

Familiar faces, and now familiar boobs and butts.

5.  Gerald Gillum

Eventually a client does call the police: a guy who had been trying to forget his financial and familly crises with a night on the town, and now can't even pay his mortgage.  So they are all arrested, and get various light sentences and an interview in New York Magazine.

6. Leonys Delossantos

Gay Characters:  I expected some lesbians, but the strippers appear to be all straight.   The journalist who interviwes them may be gay  -- she's shown at an all-female party.

Beefcake:  All of the clients are dressed in business suits as the strippers' boobs and butts gyrate atop them.  Except one: a guy jumps off the balcony naked, and they load him into a car and take him to the hospital.  Some body shots, including a blink-and-you-miss-it penis.

7. Usher.

Bob: Well, that was good.  Excellent acting, and it kept my interest to the end.  What do you want to watch now?

Me: Bodybuilders!  Wrestlers!  Men's butts!  Cocks and balls and cocks and balls!  

Oct 30, 2020

10 Election Night Hookups

Rock Island is staunchly Democrat, and my parents were the most staunchly Democrat of all.  I spent my childhood going to election rallies and passing out bumper stickers, and falling asleep on election night listening to the returns on tv in the next room.

But when I grew up, my political interests ended altogether.  Politicians seemed to be competing to see who could express the most homophobic hatred.  Why bother to support candidates where the choices were "I promise to keep your children safe from homo recruitment!" and "I promise to keep homos from shoving their sick lifestyles down your throats!"?

I still voted in most presidential elections, if I could figure out which candidate hated us the least.  And, to assuage my feeling of persecution and victimization, I started a tradition of Election Night Hookups.

1. Professor Burton.  November 4, 1980.  The first time I was able to vote: my junior year at Augustana College.  After voting, I had dinner with Professor Burton, a husky bear in his 40s who taught geology.

Results: "Gay menace" Ronald Reagan enjoyed a landslide victory over the only mildly homophobic Jimmy Carter and John Anderson.

2. Dan the Chain Smoker.  November 6, 1984.  During my horrible, depressing year in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas.  After voting I hooked up with a guy named Dan: in his 30s, short, slim, bearded, smoked constantly.  I had an ash tray in my apartment, but instead he used a damp napkin on a saucer.
Results: "Gay menace" Ronald Reagan got 58% of the popular vote over Walter Mondale, who, when  asked to say something about gay people at a campaign stop, angrily walked off stage.

3. Turning Japanese.  November 8, 1988.  Depressed over my doctoral dissertation, broke, lacking a boyfriend, I paid no attention to the presidential race, and didn't vote.  I went to Mugi, the gay Asian bar.  A Romanian twink named Stash approached and asked where in Asia I was from.  I don't know why -- I don't look at all Asian.  For some reason I told him "Japan" and had to go with that through our entire date.

Results:  George Bush, Reagan's vice president of homophobia, beat out Michael Dukakis, who hated gay people and was a fierce opponent of gay adoption.

4. Alan's Ex.  November 3rd, 1992.  After we voted, Lane and I went to an Election Night Party held by the Stonewall Democrats, and ended up going home with Alan's ex-boyfriend.

Results:  Bill Clinton, the first candidate to mention gay rights (he promised to end the military ban on gay people), got 72% of the gay vote and 43% of the heterosexual vote, beating out George Bush.

5. The City Councilman. November 5th, 1996.  David and I went to another Election Night Party.  I didn't actually get a hookup, but I got a date with Tom Ammiano, who was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The full list, with nude photos and explicit sexual content, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

See also: The Boy at the Urinal with the Kovbasa++++

Oct 29, 2020

Head: More of the Monkees

After their spectacular, media-orchestrated rise to fame in 1966, with a top-rated tv show and several #1 hit songs, the Monkees were on top of the world.

 But not for long. They chafed at their "boy band" restrictions; they wanted be known as serious artists, to move beyond teeny-bopper love songs,  to tackle serious issues. They wanted to be free. Their handlers disapproved.

In the spring of 1968, they wrote and produced a movie, Head.  It premiered with great anticipation; fans thought that it would be a comedic documentary, like the Beatles' Hard Day's Night.

It wasn't.

You say we're manufactured -- to that we all agree.
So make your choice and we'll rejoice in never being free!

It consists of a series of sketches, most about the difference between reality and the manufactured plotlines of their tv series: Davy becomes a boxer; Micky is lost in the desert; they visit a haunted house and the Old West.  They constantly disrupt the stories, changing their lines, dropping character, or just saying "We don't want to do this anymore" and walking off the set.

But every set leads to a new story.

They think they have escaped, and settle down to throw a birthday party for Mike.  But he starts yelling that this is not his apartment, these are actors, not his real friends, it's all a fake.

They escape from a box only to find themselves in a bigger box.

They try to commit suicide, only to find that that, too, isn't real; there is no escape.

The constraint of modern life, the inability to ever be free, is a common thread in 1960s media, and resonated strongly for gay kids growing up in a constant drone of "What girl do you like?  What girl do you like?  What girl do you like?"

We've seen it in Easy Rider and Alice's Restaurantin the Tripods series of dystopian mind-control novels, in Richard Schaal trapped in The Cube; in Number 6 trapped in The Village, even in the Castaways trapped on Gilligan's Island.

Still, this version is worth a look for:
1. The clever "box inside a box" concept
2. The frequent beefcake.  You see more of Micky and Davy than ever before, constant shirtless and semi-nude scenes, and all of the guys gets close-ups of their very, very tight pants.
3. The homoerotic buddy bonding that shines through, in spite of the frequent girl-kissing.  These guys are into guys.

In a way, Head represented the suicide of the group.  Teen fans hated it, and the psychedelic generation stayed away.  Their tv series was cancelled, and their songs stopped charting.

But, 50 years later, the memory remains.

Head is streaming on Amazon Prime.

Running from the Tripods

The first book that I thought of as “good beyond hope" as a kid, other than The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet from my earliest childhood, was The White Mountains (1967), by John Christopher.   Centuries ago, huge, lumbering tripods invaded the Earth, destroying human civilization and forcing the survivors to live in quaint Medieval villages, where they retain no memory of their former technological prowess.   At the age of fourteen, all children undergo a “capping” ceremony: they are carried off by the tripods, and return later as adults, heartily praised by their elders and plied with tablesful of “today I am a man” presents.  They also have wire mesh “caps” fused to their skulls to ensure absolute obedience to the Tripods.

Capping is obviously a metaphor for the onset of heterosexual desire, the glorious hormone-drenched "discovery of girls" that all of the adults drone on and on about once a boy reaches the age of twelve or thirteen.

Jack and Will (played by John Shackley in the BBC television production) live in a quaint post-Tripod village in rural England.  Jack is rapidly approaching his capping day, and has misgivings about his destiny as a thrall of the Tripods.  He and Will make vague plans to run away, but it is just a pipe dream; with the full force of adult society behind the practice, resistance is futile.  Soon Jack goes to be capped with the others, and he returns changed.  He now realizes that capping is wonderful: “You can’t understand now, but you will understand when it happens.  It’s. . .I can’t describe it” (19).  I heard many similar statements from older friends who had already acquiesced to their heterosexual destiny.

Despondent and alone, Will wanders aimlessly through the ruins of the long-lost technological England that stand everywhere beyond his village.  One day he encounters a vagrant named Ozymandias, who eyes him appreciatively and quotes a compellingly homoerotic Shakespeare (“Under the greenwood tree / Who loves to lie with me?).   After several similar flirtations, Ozymandias suggests that a rendezvous in the old ruins at night, when they will not be disturbed.  It is a frightening invitation, since Vagrants have been known to murder boys (or worse), but something compels Will to forsake his safe, gender polarized, heteronormative world and venture out onto the blasted heath.

Ozymandias does not have murder (or sex) on his mind, however.  He tells Will about the White Mountains (the Alps), too high for the tripods to climb, where a small group of men and boys live free from tripods and caps.  It’s a long and dangerous journey, “and a hard life at the journey’s end.  But freedom.”

Will jumps at the idea of escaping the tripods, and, along with his cousin Henry, sets out for the sanctuary in the White Mountains.  After crossing the English Channel, they are joined by another boy, a misfit science nerd named Jean-Paul, so tall and thin that they call him Beanpole.

Gay boys "knew" that the tripods were coming for them.  All of the adults said so.  In a day, or a week, or a month at the most, they would "discover girls," and no longer dream of boys and men.  No wonder The White Mountains was "good beyond hope." It offered a glimpse of that other place, the possibility of escape.

Oct 28, 2020

Vampires vs. The Bronx: Gentrification, Vampires, and The Girl


The adults don't believe in the threat of monsters, goblins, vampires, witches, or zombies, so it's up to the kids to save their town or the world: the teen nerd (who wins the Girl of His Dreams along the way), his wisecracking best friend (who has a gay-subtext attraction to him), and the outsider who derives vital monster-fighting information from classic movies.

Sound familiar?  It's the plot of about a hundred movies from the 1980s, everything from Monster Squad to The Goonies to Hocus Pocus.  But Vampires vs. The Bronx has an interesting twist: gentrification, rich white people squeezing out the black and Hispanic residents (who moved there in the first place because redlining kept them out of "white" neighborhoods).

Scene 1: Establishing shot of the Bronx.  Becki the manicurist has been bought out by Frank Polidori , who comes in to finish the paperwork (uh-oh, John Polidori wrote "The Vampire" in 1819!)  For Murnau Properties (uh-oh, Murnau directed "Nosferatu" in 1922).  After she signs, a vampire sneaks in and bites her.

Meanwhile, a teeange boy is riding his bike through the Bronx, putting up fliers: "Save the Bodega Block Party."  He wants to keep the bodega (grocery store) from being bought out by rich white people.

Scene 2: More establishing shots of the Bronx: people lifting weights, playing cards, buying a slushie. Teenage boy is greeted as "Little Mayor," but his actual name is Miguel.  Meanwhile Gloria the social influencer asks about all the missing person fliers.

Miguel continues to be greeted by so many people that it's annoying.  Does everybody love this kid?

He stops into the bodega, talks to the owner and his friend Bobby.  Then he sees The Girl and gets all gooey-eyed.  I thought in 2020, we would be more inclusive, but nope, there always has to be a scene e demonstrating that the kid isn't gay.  

I'm fast-forwarding.

Miguel solves the vampire problem with the help of his two friends: bad boy Bobby, who has been expelled from school is being groomed to join a gang; and Luis the standard eyeglass-wearing monster-movie expert.

Miguel finally gets rejected by The Girl.  His friends say "Don't forget your boys," and he hugs them and says "I love you guys."  So there's a homosocial ending, anyway.

Two weeks later, he's at a "vampire-free" block party with his two friends and The Girl.  So maybe it's a heteronormative ending.

Beefcake: none.  There are various attractive adults in the cast, including Cliff "Method Man" Smith and Joel "The Kid Mero" Martinez, but nothing comes off, either in the movie or in a google search.  (The top photo is just a random hunk.)

Gay Characters:
Miguel moons over The Girl; Bobby flirts with girls constantly; but Luis doesn't express any heterosexual interest.  Maybe he's gay, but if so, it's unstated and very well hidden.  A google search on "Vampires vs. the Bronx"  and "gay" reveals only advertisements for The Boys in the Band.

My Grade:  The gentrification angle doesn't outweigh the heterosexism. C.

Oct 26, 2020

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

When I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, everyone was watching Movie Macabre (1981-86), starring Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (Cassandra Peterson).  A throwback to the horror movie hosts of the 1950s and 1960s, Elvira was vampire-like being with a Valley Girl accent ("As if!") and a revealing Morticia Addams outfit.
She showed bad movies like The Fall of the House of Usher (with peplum star Mark Damon not taking his clothes off), Horror Hospital (with Robin Askwith threatened by gay psycho surgeons), and Werewolf of Washington (with Dean Stockwell, werewolves, hippies, and hippie werewolves).

In a tradition that would extend to Mystery Science Theater 3000, Elvira made snarky comments about the movies.  And in the tradition of drag queen performers, she made lots of self-referential jokes about her sexual escapades and cleavage ("I'm glad to see you're back...and you're glad to see my front!").  

Gay fans loved her, and she returned the affection, appearing at AIDS benefits and Gay Pride parades through the 1980s.

And not only gay fans.  She was everywhere, branding her image to sell everything from beer to Halloween costumes.

The feature film Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988) sends Elvira to the small town of Falwell (named after Jerry Falwell, the poster boy for 1980s homophobia), where she befriends all of the town's outcasts, butts heads with local bigots and romances an uptight theater manager (professional hunk Danny Greene).

Since Elvira is immortal, she continues to perform, cleavage and all.  She continually hosts new versionfs of Elvira's Movie Macabre., on cable in the 2000s and now on Amazon Prime.

The Naked Pumpkin Runs

Naked festivals are held in many cities around the world, but in most parts of the United States, public nudity is a criminal offense.

Back during the freewheeling 1970s, it was merely a violation, or at most a misdemeanor -- lots of high school and college kids participated in the fad of streaking.  But now we've become even more puritanical, and it's often a felony.

So what do you do if you want to participate in a nude run?

You put a pumpkin on your head.

At Halloween 1999, over 100 University of Colorado students ran through the streets of Boulder wearing only shoes and pumpkins, or sometimes other masks.

They carried on the tradition for a decade, but in 2008, the police threatened to arrest participants, charge them with indecent exposure, and have them registered as sex offenders, along with the rapists and child molesters.

15 runners were arrested.

In 2009, Boulder passed a new anti-nudity ordinance, mandating fines rather than jail time, but people were scared off, and the runs have not resumed.

However, runners are taking up the tradition in cities which permit  public nudity as part of a "festival or performance, such as Portland, Oregon and Arcata, California.

 In Seattle, Washington, there's a full week of activities, including day and night runs and skinny-dipping.

Skinny dipping?  The temperature is usually in the 40s!

Oct 25, 2020

The Wolverine: In a World of Evil, Backstabbing Men and Kind Supportive Women, Who Are You Gonna Date?

 I'm having a bad week in mass media, looking for gay representation and finding heterosexism or homophobia: Pass the Light,  A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting, Redneck Roots, The Queen's Gambit...and now it's Saturday night, when we watch the X-Men movies in order (Bob's idea, not mine).

The X-Men are mutants with an X-gene that gives them varying types of superheroic powers.  Tonight: The Wolverine (2013) features the hard-drinking, hard-fighting, annoyingly surly Logan (Hugh Jackman), whose ability to instantly regenerate cells makes him immortal.  And depressed.  Plus his hands sprout Freddy Krueger-style blades whenever he's angry or upset, or sometimes at random and inopportune moments.

Logan still feels pain, so one would expect him to spend his immortality in quiet contemplation of the Divine, or take a nice teaching job at Dr. Xavier's X-Men Academy, but no, he enlists in whatever war is going on at this moment: American Civil War (even though he''s Canadian), World War I, World War II.  

Scene 1: 
Logan in a pit, a prisoner of war in Nagoya, Japan on July 26th, 1945.  Everyone is evacuating or committing ritual suicide as the Enola Gay approaches with nuclear bombs.  Young soldier Ichiro (Ken Yamamura) tries to release Logan, but he states that the pit is the safest place, and shields Ichiro with his own body.  

A homoerotic buddy bonding scene!  Things are lookng up. Maybe Ichiro will stick around, and they will go on adventures together.   Wouldn't that be great!  Even if they're not a gay couple, just heterosexual life partners.

Scene 2: Logan in bed with a woman, kissing and hugging.

Way to burst my bubble in the first five minutes!  Ok, same-sex relationships are trivial and disposable, heterosexual romance eternal.  I get it!

Scene 3: After some machinations to demonstrate that he likes woodland creatures, Logan looks up with a kick-ass babe, who tells him that the now-elderly and dying Ichiro wants to see him again, to "say goodbye."

So he has fond memories of their time together, after all these years?  Memories of a homoerotic buddy-bond?  Things are looking up.

Scene 4: Logan and Kick-Ass Babe fly to Japan on a private jet.  Turns out that Ichiro is a multi-billionaire electronics mogul, and also a bit of a kook: he likes to pretend that he's living in traditional Japan, with rice-paper walls, samurai swords, and women in kimonos.  

He actually doesn't want to say goodbye: he wants to modify Logan's X-gene so he can experience cellular decay.  He will therefore age normally and eventually die, and in the meantime "fall in love, get married, raise a family."

Ok, ok, the sole purpose of existence is heterosexual marriage and reproduction.  Same-sex friendships are worthless.  I get it.

Scene 5:
Logan meets Ichiro's snarling, surly, ninja-fighting son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) and quiet, passive, impossibly virtuous granddaughter Mariko.

Uh-oh, Ichiro is dead.  That means that Mariko inherits everything, and everyone wants to kill her, including her dad.

And her fiancee, corrupt finance minister Norobuku Mori (Brian Tee)

Geez, are all the men in this movie evil, and all the women good?  

Well, slinky Bond Girl scientist Dr. Green is evil, a mutant whose super power involves poisoning men to death by kissing them.  Fortunately she's not attracted to men, so she doesn't have to worry about kiss/killing someone she likes.

No heterosexual interest means evil?   This is getting very close to stereotyped gay villain territory. Do we have to keep watching?

To be fair, I got the "no heterosexual interest" from the line "I'm immune to men."  In the comics the character is heterosexual, and even marries Logan at one point.

Kenouchi Haruda (Will Yun Lee) may be the only male character other than Ichiro who isn't evil.  According to Wikipedia, he's a ninja "sworn to protect the Yamada family."  I don't really remember him, though.  I stop paying attention.

I wish I was watching whatever movie this photo is from, instead.

I start paying attention again in the final scene plot twist: 

Spoiler alert:

Ichiro is alive!  He has transformed into a man-machine supervillain, Logan's arch-nemesis.

Moral: All men are evil, they wiall same-sex relationships are destructive and dangerous. But women -- at least heterosexual women -- are unfailingly good, kind, and supportive.

I suppose you're going to tell me that this director is gay

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