Oct 17, 2021

"Just Beyond": And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird

 The Disney Channel has dropped Just Beyond, an anthology of scary stories for kids, based on the work of R. L. Stine.  In search of gay representation or subtexts, I watched the episode "Parents are from Mars, Kids are from Venus," which involves two teen "bffs."

Scene 1: A generic small town.  The two
teen boys, Jack (Gabriel Bateman, no relation to former teen idol Jason Bateman) and Ronald (Arjun Athalye), complain that their parents are getting weirder and weirder, obsessed with solar panels and pillows.  They stop in Chris's Curiosity Shop, where Crazy Chris (Henry Thomas)  spouts conspiracy theories and tells them to "trust no one."

Scene 2: 
 Barbecue at Jack's extremely elegant house.  His Dad (Tim Heidecker) is obsessed with the pecan maple briquettes he's using to barbecue steaks.  His Mom makes lame attempts at teen slang.  Ronald's Dad (Parvesh Cheena, left) and Mom arrive, and talk about pillows.

In an interview, Tim Heidecker says "I'm not gay, but I love musicals, so I'm basically gay.  But I like guy stuff, too."  An annoying presumption that "gay" means "feminine."

Parvesh Cheena has LGBTQ and Transgender Pride Flags on his Twitter Feed. 

Scene 3:
Jack's extremely weird black-walled room, which looks more a museum display than a boy's bedroom.  Dad drops in to talk about "the changes that are going on in your body."  If he means puberty, he's a little late -- Gabriel Bateman is 17 years old, and has a muscular physique.   He means puberty.  At least he doesn't talk about "discovering girls." 

Dad tries to hug him, but Jack  insists on shaking hands.  Dude, that's harsh.

Scene 4:  Ron reveals that his dad tries the same talk, but it ended with a kiss on the lips.  Kissing your dad -- gross!   It's game night, so Mom and Dad head off to Ron's parents' house.  The boys stay home to play video games.  

Ron left his headset at home, so they go to retrieve it.  They see their parents performing a ritual in front of a glowing orb.  Suddenly the coffee table levitates!   Are they witches?  In a cult?

Scene 5:  While his parents are out, Ron goes into their elegant, black-walled bedroom to look for clues to their bizarre behavior.  He pockets a mysterious glowing stone.  

Scene 6:  Crazy Chris identifies the stone as Zugarian.  Plot exposition: aliens have been abducting town residents since the 1980s, and replacing them with duplicates. Then they wait until their kids mature, and eat them.  Uh-oh, puberty!   To be sure, he tells them to get a DNA sample and put it in a yellow liquid that he provides.

Scene 7:  The boys acquire a sample from a hair brush in Mom's bathroom.  She catches them, and wonders why they were in her bathroom -- together.  But she looks more annoyed than suspicious: "Boys, if you want to make out, go to Jack's room."

Next, they snip off a lock of Ron's Mom's hair while she's exercising.  They deposit the samples in the yellow liquid, which turns red!

Scene 8:  All that was circumstantial evidence.  Ron and Jack wait for the next game night, and spy on their parents.  Now the orb is displaying a sinister face.  And the adults all have tentacles!  The boys scream and run away -- but the adults notice!

Scene 9:  Jack in his room, researching aliens on the internet, when Dad comes in: "We're leaving now...to go...um...to the lake," he says sternly.  

Psych!  The two families are actually on their way to the lake.  Ron and Jack in the back seat, looking nervous. 

Scene 10:  They reach the cabin.  Dad points out that "It's just us.  No one else is around for miles and miles." Gulp!  Mom takes away their cell phones.  Gulp!

Mom: "You're a couple of mature specimens, aren't you?  Old enough to join us for Game Night."   

Scene 11:  The boys at Game Night, petrified with fear. The adults discuss what they should play -- Canasta?  Bridge?  How about Crazy Eights?  

While they're playing -- and gulping -- Jack's Dad goes to the kitchen and returns with a gigantic butcher knife -- which he puts down next to the cheese.  Psych!

Game over.  Ron's Dad picks up an axe and stares menacingly at the boys.  They grab the car keys and try to flee, but Jack has never driven a car before -- he puts it in reverse and crashes through the cabin wall.  

Scene 12: Time for explanations.  "Guys, we're not duplicates.  We really are your parents.  We're all aliens.  When you mature, your tentacles and telekinetic powers come in."  They come in.  The boys are delighted. Those tentacles could be interesting in the bedroom.

Since the cabin is wrecked, they have to head home. Except the van turns into a spaceship to take them to their real home, the planet Zugaria.  

In the last scene, we discover that Crazy Chris is an alien, too. 

Beefcake: None.

Heterosexism: The parents are hetero-horny, but the boys display no heterosexual interest.

Diversity: A family played by South Asian actors, but named the Gusmans.

Plot Holes:  If Chris is an alien, why did he spread misinformation and scare the boys to death?  Who is the mysterious figure in the orb, that they were apparently communicating with?  Why were the aliens on Earth, masquerading as humans?  Why do they get to go home the moment the boys' tentacles come in?

And why did Ron's Dad pick up the axe?  

Gay Subtext:  No. The only physical interaction between the boys is a bit of knee-knocking.  They don't hug, even when scared.  They behave more like brothers than boyfriends.

My Grade: With a plot that makes no sense, no beefcake, and no gay subtexts, what do you think?

Oct 16, 2021

The Decline and Fall of "Dear White People"


Dear White People
 (2017) highlighted the microaggressions (and some macro-aggressions) faced by black students at a "liberal" Ivy-League college.  The title comes from a radio program run by undergrad Samantha White, in which she chastises white people for their often-unconscious objectifying behavior, like teachers asking one black student for "the black point of view."

In 2017, Dear White People spun off into a Netflix series, with the same characters and the same seriocomic tone.  As the seasons progressed, the tone became less seriocomic and more comic, then less comic than bizarre. The plot arc of Volume 2 involved a ridiculous Illuminati-type secret society.  Well, actually closer to the Stonecutters on The Simpsons: "Who keeps Atlantis off the maps?  Who keeps the Martians under wraps?  We do."  

And in Volume 4?  Three complicated plotlines, lots of who's-dating-who drama -- they think we're much more interested in these characters than we really are.  And people breaking into song at odd moments. 

The frame story is set about ten years in the future, when they've all become successful writers, filmmakers, and so on by selling out to the white power structure.  Lionel (DeRon Horton) has published a novel, Dear White People, based on... you guessed it.  He and Sam decide to work together on a sequel, about the events of their senior year, before they sold out.  They interview their friends, most of whom they haven't seen in ten years, and tease things like "Are you going to include that terrible thing that happened?" or "Surely you're not going to include that dramatic, life-changing event!"  Then we see what happened senior year:

Reggie (Marque Richardson, left) rejects a $100,000 app-development job because that would be selling out.  He develops his own "New Green Book," a sort of Yelp reviewing safe and unsafe places for black people, but rejects a $27 million development deal because that would be selling out.

You'd think that an actor playing a major character who takes his clothes off every second would have some beefcake photos online, but there's noting usable for Marque Richardson except for a tiny jfif.

Joelle gets involved in a ridiculous experiment to determine if praying for random strangers in a hospital helps them get better.  She discovers that the whole thing is fake, but continues anyway, thus selling out.

Gabe (John Patrick Amedori) has an uncle who is head of a movie studio, and offers him $30,000 to make a religious movie.  He refuses, then capitulates, which causes breakup-rebounds with his girlfriend Sam.

Troy (Brandon P. Bell, left) gets his famous actress-mother to direct the Varsity Show, but having her around causes him to be impotent in the bedroom. I'm not sure why.

Lionel and his boyfriend are in charge of the big annual Varsity Show, which is being held in a building named after a slave owner.  They break up over creative differences.

Sam gets a guest on her radio program who accuses her of selling out because she's not protesting the slave-owner-building adequately.  They get into a fight, and Sam's show is cancelled.

There's a queer song-and-dance in the Varsity Show -- lots of pansexual hijinks -- which the white power structure wants removed.  They remove it, thus selling out.

I don't remember anything else.  It's all very obtuse.  And annoying when in the frame story, they keep saying "Let's include this extremely important, dramatic, earth-shaking event in our book," and the event is a couple having a fight because one of them has sold out.

In the last episode, Reggie thwarts a gunman who plans a mass shooting at the Varsity Show, but it comes and goes instantly, and has no impact on the characters, so it's not at all dramatic.  

In the third plot arc, everyone in their senior year is obsessed with a Real World type reality series, Big House, with its challenges, collaborations, back-stabbing, and selling out for us to watch and keep track of.  But at least there's a competitor who doesn't own a shirt.

You'd think that a guy hired to hang around with his shirt off would have lots of beefcake photos online, but all I could find was a series of stock photos with watermarks.  Why does Thomas Kasp even have stock photos?  

In the final scene, during the frame story, the various couples have gotten back together after breaking up during senior year.  They sing about how tight they are, even though they haven't interacted at all during the last ten years.  The ridiculousness continues.  

At least there was some gay representation: not only Lionel and his boyfriend (whose name I don't recall) arguing over selling out, but a song about male sex workers and their clients.

My grade: Season 1: A.  Season 2: C.  Season 3: C.  Season 4. D-.

See also: The Top 10 Hunks of Dear White People, Season 3; Dear White People

Oct 15, 2021

"A Million Little Things": A Million Little Tearjerkers, One Gay Kid


"They say that friendship isn't a big thing -- it's a million little things."  I never heard that saying until it was used as the title of a tv series on Hulu about a group of elite, entitled, self-absorbed young adults "dealing with life's curveballs."  

So, is A Million Little Things a Friends clone: Your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's DOA?  Nope. The episode synopses reveal angst, pain, and trauma ad nauseam.  This is a tearjerker!

Let's see how many terrible things happen to the friends.

1. Jon (Ron Livingston)
 starts the chain of angst by killing himself in the first scene.  Trying to determine his motive fuels some of the plot. Well, there's some shady business deals, and a woman he had an affair with, who shows up with a teenage son in tow.

And his daughter, Sophie, is sexually abused by her music teacher.

 His widow, #2. Delilah, was having an affair, and got pregnant by: 

3. Eddie (David Giutoni, top), an aspiring musician, a recovering alcoholic, and cheating on #4: his wife Katherine, a lawyer.

Jon and Delilah's son Danny (Chance Hurstfield) is gay, and a drama club kid (of course).  For a change of pace, his biggest angst is worrying that his first kiss will be with a girl on stage (he's been cast as Danny in Grease) instead of with a boy.

#5. Rome
(Romany Malco, left), an aspiring filmmaker, is suffering from drug addiction.  He is dating Gina, who is suffering from financial woes. 

Rome's wife, #6 Regina, is traumatized by being sexually assaulted by her uncle Neill at age 12, so she tracks him down, but he dies before she can confront him. Her mother is also a victim.  

#7 Gary
(James Roday Rodriguez), a breast cancer survivor, is dating fellow cancer survivor #8 Maggie, whose cancer returns and gives her six months to live.  She dumps him because she doesn't want a boyfriend at her deathbed

Later, Gary starts dating Floriana, a soldier suffering from PTSD.

Maggie, by the way, has brother, Chad, who died in a car crash due to DUI.  Eric (Jason Ritter) shows up, claiming to have Chad's transplanted heart, but he actually has his sister's.  She died in the car crash, too.

Keeping track?  I counted 18 tearjerkers.  And I skipped over some of the boring "stalled music career" and "can't get a bank loan to open my ritzy restaurant" woes

Oct 14, 2021

Doogie Kamealoha, MD: "Is Kai Gay?" Update


When I reviewed the first episode of the Disney Channel's Doogie Kamealoha, MD, about a teenage doctor in Hawaii, I noticed that Lahela's older brother Kai (Matt Sato, right) was not interested in girls.  He planned to go to the big school dance with his male friends "It's more fun that way."  Lahela's friend Steph kept throwing herself at him, but he rejected her.  So..was he being identifies as gay, or would he ignore Steph for two seasons, then fall in love with her, like Joannie and Chachi?

I'm six episodes in, just watching the Kai plotlines.  Steph has all but stopped throwing herself at Kai; they share a scene only in one episode.  And Kai still fails to express any heterosexual interest.  He does agree to go on a "group hang" to miniature golf with Steph, Lahela, and Lahela's boyfriend Walter, but interacts more with Walter than Steph.  

Walter is rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy, which Lahela performs.  Afterwards Walter ghosts her.  Concerned, Lahela asks Kai, "Have you talked to Walter?"  Kai: "Sure, we texted a couple of times today."  

Kai never mentions anyone else, boy or girl.  His only interactions are with his family.  And not because, as a secondary character, he doesn't get much plot time: little brother Brian is constantly talking about girls and falling in love with girls.  The writers are making deliberate decisions to keep Kai from expressing heterosexual interest.

Nor does his family ever mention the possibility of dating girls.  In Episode 6, Kai gets a job working on an organic farm, and announces that he loves it: he wants to skip college and become a farmer after graduation.  The standard sitcom response in this situation is: "What's her name?"  Teenage boys on sitcoms traditionally make every decision, from joining a club to deciding on a career, in order to meet girls or impress a girl.  But Kai's parents never ask that, and in fact the only other worker shown on the farm is an elderly man.  Subverting sitcom tradition so effectively requires a concerted effort.  

The show's bible evidently contains the rule: "Kai is not interested in girls."  Of course, there's always the possibility of an Episode 8  meet-cute with "the girl of his dreams," but I'm becoming more and more confident that Kai will soon be added to the Disney Channel coterie of protagonists' gay brothers.

"Deadbeat": Slackers See Dead People, Hate Gay People


The icon for the Hulu tv series Deadbeat shows two guys recreating the pottery scene from Ghost, but they looked shocked rather than romantic.  A bit of homophobic panic going on, or a gay subtext romance?

The plot synopsis: Kevin (Tyler Labine) is a slacker medium who makes a living helping ghosts finish their unfinished business so they can go into the light.  How do they pay him?

For instance, the ghost of a World War II soldier who died a virgin (Todd Alan Cram) wants to have sex with his long-lost girlfriend before going into the light.  Kevin has to track her down -- she's now pushing 100 -- and tell her "Hi, your boyfriend who died in 1943 wants to have sex with you.  He's possessing my body.  How about it?"

Or: a professional hot dog eater (that's a thing?) died before the big contest, and his . stomach was donated to an elderly Jewish guy (they do stomach transplants?).  Kevin tries to convince the elderly Jewish guy to participate in the hot dog eating contest, but he refuses because they're not kosher. (Why not just possess Kevin's body, like with the WW II sex episode?).

Kevin is heterosexual, dating the ghost of a girl who died in his apartment.  And  a keyword search in the extensive, barely-literate episode synopsis reveals just one gay character, who doesn't get a centric.  The ghost of the head of the Swedish Mafi (Darrell Hammond) has to have his "secret" revealed to his coworkers in order to go into the light.  But the episode is actually about a ghost who videotaped a murder before he died.

There's some homophobic panic, however.  Kevin hires a male stripper, Billy Club (Chris Matesevac), to perform for the ghosts of some ladies who died on the way to their bachelorette party.  But he misunderstands and dances for Kevin.  When Kevin tries to explain the situation, Billy Club runs away, so the ghosts insist that Kevin dance for them.

The other guy in the Ghost parody is Clyde (Kal Pen), a fellow medium who appears in Season 3.  Clyde and Kal become roommates and coworkers.  So let's check for gay subtexts.

In the first episode after they move in together, there's a ghost haunting their aparment: Clyde's middle school guidance counselor (Neal Huff). Clyde falsely accused him of "showing him his testicles,"  which caused him to be fired and labeled a sex offender.   To get revenge, the ghost tricks Clyde and Kevin into responding to a To Catch a Predator-type program.  

His name: Mr. Fage.  Pronounced "faggy."  Like the cigarette if you're in Britain, but these guys are in America, where it's like the homophobic slur.

 Clyde framed a gay guy named Mr. Faggy.  

Holy sh*t, that's the most homophobic thing I ever heard of.  And I've seen Chuck and Buck.

I'm out.

Oct 13, 2021

The 2021 Netflix "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" Reboot: Any LGBTQ Representation?


I have reviewed He-Man and the Masters of the Universe twice. first in July 2016.  Then again a couple of years later.   That's a lot of reviews for a program I never actually watched.  In case you don't want to read the reviews, it was a 1980s sword-and-sorcery cartoon/toy commercial featuring Prince Adam of Eternia, who raises his sword, yells "By the power of Grayskull," and turns into the superhero He-Man.  Yuck.  In spite of the obvious beefcake, yuck.

But recently I read an interview with the writers of new 2021 Netflix animated series, who are both queer, and note that in their childhood, He-Man was an essential gay icon.  Other than the beefcake, he had an "inner fabulousness" that he had to keep secret from the world.  Isn't that every witch, alien, vampire slayer, and superhero?  So, with the permission of the Mattel Company, they are trying to be "inclusive."  

We'll see. Episode 1:

Scene 1: Eternos, a futuristic planet, with flying cars and thin towers.  King Radnor is grumpy and depressed.  Meanwhile, Green Monster, his bumbling teenage apprentice Duncan (Antony Del Rio, top photo), and Snarling Lady Villain discuss Teela's mission to steal the Sword of Grayskull, which will give them infinite power. 

Teela sneaks past the guards and searchlights.  She hypnotized a soldier into giving her the key to the armory, grabs the sword, and runs out.  That was easy -- or not!  The royal guard squadron is on her tail!

Lady Villain sends a purple blast to annihilate them, but Teela objects: "They're just doing their job!"  She uses magic to protects them. 

"Whatever.  Now give us the sword!"

A mysterious voice hypnotizes her into not handing the sword over; instead, she must bring it "to the champion."  Um...a little more detail?  Who's the champion?

Scene 2:
Adam (Yuri Lowenthal), a dreamy teen idol type, is rescuing a sarcastic cat.  He botches the job, but his best friend Krass (a girl) rushes in to save the day and belittle him.  

They are out looking for the missing Cringer (David Kaye, a green tiger who talks like a Klingon: "To hunt will bring me honor".  He;s been captured and caged by poacher robots ("It is not honorable to capture a warrior!").  Wait -- tigers are sentient.  They talk.  They live in villages.  This isn't animal poaching, it's slavery!

Adam and Krass find his flying transport vehicle, disable the slaver bots, and spring him.  

On the way home, Cringer gives us some plot exposition: Adam has been adopted by the Tiger Tribe, but he's hesitant about giving up his metallic cuff for "stripes," tiger tattoos, because the cuff is all he has from his old life, before he was lost in the jungle. That cuff better be important later; they spend an Eternia of plot time discussing it.

Scene 3:  The hypnotizing voice has led Teela and her sword to the Tiger Tribe, but she's afraid of cats!  She's hiding in a tree! Adam points out that cats can climb trees.  They have a love-at-first-sight moment.  Then she uses magic, and the tigers freak out and throw her in tiger jail (which is human sized).

Meanwhile, the Evils are using Snarling Lady Villain's psychic powers to track down Teela.  Apprentice Duncan feels guilty over the crimes they're committing, but Green Monster -- Kronis --- explains that they're actually the good guys, out for revenge against the evil King Radnor. 

Scene 4:  Adam, visiting Teela in jail, complains that she wouldn't be interested in him because she's a sophisticated big-city witch, and he's just a jungle tiger.  But she doesn't like the big city, either, with King Rador being all tyrannical and oppressive.  They do some Sam-and-Diane insult/flirting.

Scene 5:   Kress, Adam's platonic bff, complains that now that there's a sophisticated big-city witch in the tribe, Adam is going to get all goofy and forget her. Ulp, this is the plot of every teen nerd movie: glamorous girl-of-his-dreams or plain-jane girl next door who supported him all along?

Teela explains that the hypnotizing voice ordered her to come to the Tiger Tribe and deliver a "package" to "the champion."  But what champion lives in the jungle with tigers?  Adam just happens to know the Champion Code: "being a champion means helping those who can't help themselves."  Then he says: "Excuse me -- I have to go help someone."  Got it figured out yet, Teela?  Obviously Adam is the boy King Arthur, about to find Excalibur.  No doubt he's King Radnor's long-lost son.

Scene 6:  The Evils appear with an army of reprogrammed robot slavers, and command "Give us the Witch."  She's a criminal, so why not hand her over? But the Tiger Tribe goes on the defensive.   If it's a tiger tribe, why are all the fighters humans?  

The Evils order Apprentice Duncan to have the slaver...um, I mean poacher bots kill everyone, but he refuses -- that would be, like, murder.  So Green Monster grabs the control device.  Fire spurts out of the poacher bots.  Duncan rushes over to the Tiger side, and coincidentally saves Cringer.  

Teela (who could have broken out of jail at any time) orders Adam to take "the package" far away and hide it, while she confronts the Evils.  He insists on fighting, too.

Scene 7: 
 The Evils and their bots approach Adam and Teela.  He opens the package; it conveniently contains a sword!  When he wields it, holographic runes appear: "By the power of Grayskull, I have the power."  A burst of light from the sky transforms him into a muscular adult (bare arms only).

Watching from a distance, Bff Krass gasps: "He's a...Man!"  You almost got to He-Man there, girl.

Meanwhile, in a secret castle, a new Evil Guy (black beard, glowing eyes) notices that the sword found its champion.  "The power of Greyskull belongs to me!" he yells.  Lightning flashes.  The end.

  None.  Where's the mostly-naked He-Man of yesteryear?

Gay Characters: None specified.  

Heterosexism:  Adam will spend the series torn between Betty and Veronica...um, I mean Platonic BFF Krass and Sophisticated Big-City Witch Teela. Duncan had a moment of jaw-dropping "love at first sight" when he saw Krass, so he's heterosexual, too.  And that's all of the human good-guys.  

Representation: I don't see any LGBTQ+ representation.  So much for queer writers trying to be "inclusive."

Will I Keep Watching: I've fast-forwarded through a couple of episodes, to see if Duncan and Krass turn into a couple.  They don't appear to.  Duncan's most important buddy-bond seems to be with the tiger Cringer.

Oct 11, 2021

Charlie Brown, Linus, and Gay-Coded Peanuts

I didn't read  Charles Schulz's Peanuts in the newspaper; our Rock Island Argus offered only a cheap imitation called Winthrop. My knowledge of Peanuts came through Fawcett paperbacks acquired at garage sales during the 1970s and treasuries acquired at the Waldenbooks at the Mall during the 1980s.

Not a lot of gay content.

1. Only two significant same-sex friendships (Charlie Brown-Linus and Peppermint Patty-Marcie), and neither display the intensity, physicality, or exclusivity that might push them from friendship to romance. (Christopher Shea provided the original voice for Linus.)

 Marcie calling Peppermint Patty "Sir" does not signify lesbian identity.  Lesbians do not call each other "Sir."

Plus, every character, almost without exception, is involved in an unrequited heterosexual romance: Lucy is in love with Schroeder, Sally with Linus, Peppermint Patty and Marcie both with Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown with the Little Red-Haired Girl.  Linus and Snoopy never zero in on one crush, but they each get many girlfriends.

In one 1985 continuity, Charlie Brown merely has to say "Eleanor" for Linus to collapse, and "Fifi" for Snoopy to collapse in agony over their lost loves.

Heterosexual desire validated over and over again, same-sex desire absent.  It was a world where gay kids felt alien and unwanted.

But there was an exception.  Like Jughead in the Archie comics, Schroeder is not interested in girls.  He not only rejects Lucy's advances.  He not only lacks a heterosexual crush of his own.  He never expresses any interest in any girl, ever. 

Of course, Schroeder never expresses any interest in boys, either, but he had a passion for music, specifically classical music.  Mostly Beethoven, because Schulz thought the name sounded funny, but also Bach, Schubert, Brahms, Handel.  His artistic interest and ability is gender-transgressive in a world devoted to sports (continuities are devoted to baseball, tennis, golf, ice skating, and so on).  He alone resonated with gay kids as "one of us."  He alone saw the world in a way they could understand.

Oct 10, 2021

"Books of Blood": Not Much Clive Barker, A Lot of Beefcake


Any movie trailer that starts like this is bound to get my attention, even if the naked guy is caressed by a woman before collapsing amid threatening graffiti in his cell.  Besides, it's Books of Blood, based on the collection of stories by gay horrormeister Clive Barker.  Many of the stories had gay protagonists, so there are bound to be some gay characters in the movie, right? 

In the frame story, an elderly bookseller with a cavernous bookstore runs afoul of  mob enforcer  Bennett.  To save his life, he reveals that the extremely valuable Book of Blood is hidden in the abandoned town of Ravenmore.  So Bennett and his partner, Steve, set out to fetch it.  Maybe they're a gay couple?  While they're driving, we see some stories:

1. Jenna. 
A college student suffering from a mental disorder, Jenna stumbles upon a bed-and-breakfast run by a sinister heterosexual couple that paralyzes their guests and seals them in the walls.  

Contrary to expectations, she doesn't end up in the wall, but she does die, in a car crash, during an unrelated story about an guy blaming her for his son's death. 

Kenji Fitzgerald (left) plays fellow guest/ "love interest" Gavin.

2. Miles. 
 Psychic Simon (Rafi Gavron) and his girlfriend Mary are running a foundation that communicates with the dead (using Mary's money).   His technique involves getting naked and asking the ghosts to write messages on the walls in blood (that's what we see in the trailer)  Then Mary's dead son Miles appears to tell her that Simon is a grifter; it is all a fake.  So Mary and Ghost Miles get revenge.

The stories over, Bennett (Yul Vasquez, photo from several years ago) and Steve (Andy McQueen) finally reach the abandoned town of Ravensmore. Nope, not a gay couple: Bennett says that after this score, he and "Jeanne" are going to retire and live on the beachWas it really a good idea to give his wife almost the same name as Jenna in Story 1, so you think they're the same person?

Steve hears his dead mother calling him, so he shoots himself so they can be together.  Ok, the "in love with his mother" stereotype might code him as gay.  

Bennett presses on.  He meets Mary and Ghost Miles, and discovers that -- spoiler alert -- the book is actually stories told by ghosts, written on Simon's body.  And now Bennett's story will be there, too, after he's eaten by rats.

Hmm -- I guess it wasn't a frame story after all.  We return to Jenna, who survived the car crash.  But she still feels guilty because, before the bed and breakfast incident, she talked her boyfriend Tony (Seamus Patterson) into jumping off a building to "make a statement" about the futility of life.  Maybe being walled up in a B&B is a good idea, after all.

Beefcake:  Simon is naked all the time.

Gay Characters: No.

Heterosexism:  Everybody has or alludes to a heterosexual partner.

Convoluted Plot:  The frame story turns out not to be a frame after all.  And why does it say "Books" of blood, when there's just one book?

Grossness: Lots.  Fortunately, it's usually too dark to see what's going on.

My Grade: F.

Oct 9, 2021

"The Kids Are Alright": None are Gay, But Some Have Physiques

 "The Kids are Alright" is a 1966 song by The Who, about a guy who is leaving his girlfriend in the care of his friends because "Sometimes I feel I gotta get away, and I know if I don't, I'll go out of my mind."  But it's ok, they won't try anything: "The kids are alright."  

It's used on the soundtrack of practically every movie and tv show set in the 1970s, and in this case in the title of a 2018-2019 nostalgia tv show, The Kids are Alright, about an Irish-Catholic family in the 1970s.  With 8 sons.  It's like a gender-reversed Loud Family, or a double Malcolm in the Middle.

Kids aired on ABC, the worst of the big four networks for gay representation, it was cancelled after just 23 episodes, too soon for the traditional Season 2 introduction of gay characters, and nostalgia tv is usually gay-free.  So I'm not even going to look for representation.  But...8 sons.  If they're teenagers or young adults, that might make for some major beefcake.

Mom and Dad are played by: Mary MacCormack and Michael Cuditz (top photo).  The 8 sons are, in order:

1. Lawrence (Sam Straley).  The liberal, socially-conscious one, who left seminary to "save the world." While preparing for his first date, he asks Eddie (#2, below) to go on a practice run with him, and when Eddie is drafted, he wants to go to Viet Nam too, to protect him.  Maybe a gay-subtext brother-brother thing going on?

2. Eddie (Caleb Foote).  The jock. In his only centric, he and his girlfriend play mind games with Mom to keep her from finding out that they were drinking alcohol in his room.

3. Frank (Sawyer Barth).   The goody-goody "I'm telling Mom!" one.  According to TV Tropes, he "lacks social skills" and doesn't like being touched.  But he's  heterosexual: after seeing Catwoman on Batman, he takes an extra long time in the shower.

4. Joey (Christopher Paul Richards. left).  The absurdly hetero-horny one: he schemes to see Barbara Eden flash a boob on a Bob Hope tv special, and builds a tree house so he can watch the lady next door undress. 

5. Timmy (Jack Gore, left), the focus character who narrates as an adult.  A ventriloquist's dummy is his constant companion, and he has various show business-related centrics, which paint him as somewhat deviant.  But no one thinks that he's gay: when Mom and Dad discover glue splashed on a woman's clothing catalog, they assume that he has been masturbating (actually he is making puppets). \

6. William (Andy Walken).  The 12-year old bookworm of the family.  Only one centric: he loses interest in Catholicism, so his mom tries to trick him into regaining his faith.

7-8. Pat, a little kid, and Andy, a baby.


Oct 8, 2021

"Pretty Smart": Pretty Stupid

 Any program with this opening scene is going to get my attention. Unfortunately, it failed to keep my attention.

The program is Pretty Smart on Netflix, about Harvard grad student/aspiring novelist Chelsea (former Disney teen Emily Osment), who comes to L.A. to visit her  long-estranged free-spirit sister Claire (Olivia Mackiln).  

Claire's roommates are drawn as the most broad-based stereotypes to fall out of a writer's laptop since junior high creative writing class.

1. Dumb jock Grant (former Disney teen Greg Sulkin).  Olivia explains that they used to date, but now they're platonic roommates. 

"How French!" Claire exclaims.

Grant responds "No, Nebraska."

2. Fluttering, diamond-as-big-as-the-Ritz flashing, screaming queen Jayden (Michael Hsu Rosen).  Sorry, Greg Sulkin was in the photo, too, so I accidentally cut Michael out.  He's in the bottom photo.  

3.  Ditzy New Age chakra-and-crystal 1990s throwback Solana.  "I'm going to make you a garlic-tumeric-lemon shot."

The absurdly repressed stick-in-the-mud Chelsea dislikes them all -- their enthusiasm, their hugging, their joie de vivre!  How crazy is it to have fun?  Don't they understand that you're supposed to hate your life and be depressed all the time?

I actually prefer the stereotypes.

But she comes around -- in just one episode.  Jayden discovers that Grant is depressed because he doesn't have a shed, so he buys one for him.  Friends are...um...nice to each other?  Without an ulterior motive?  Maybe this joie-de-vivre stuff isn't so bad after all.

These writers don't know anything.

1. Chelsea met her boyfriend Dwayne in her class in 15th Century Comparative South American Literature Across Multi-Ethnic Diaspora Migrations.  The Mesoamerican civilizations of Pre-Columbian America had writing systems, but none of the South American civilizations did.  Unless they were translating the title, and didn't realize that in Spanish, the 15th Century is the 1500s.

2. She brings a gigantic hardbound book read at the coffee shop (never heard of paperbacks?): Remembrance of Things Past.  "His finest, don't you think?"  Yeah, and his only.  Except it's multivolume, so you usually mention the specific volume you're reading: In a Budding Grove, The Cities of the Plain, and so on.

(The barista flirting with her has never heard of Proust.  He's reading The DaVinci Code).

3. Boyfriend dumps her -- he was just using her for her female perspective on Garcilaso de la Vega's ahistoricism.  Ok, they got that one right: the 16th century Spanish-American historian has been accused of being ahistorical.  But why would there be male and female perspectives?

Too humiliated to go back to Harvard, Claire decides to stay.  The free spirits will teach her joie de vivre, and she'll teach them...what?

I don't know.  I'm not going to stick around to find out, unless Greg Sulkin has more shirtless shots.  Or Michael Hsu Rosen, minus the screaming-queen outfit.

Oct 7, 2021

"There's Somebody Inside Your House": Derivative Horror with LGBTQ+ Characters


There's Someone Inside Your House
(2021) sounds like that old campfire story: "The calls are coming from inside the house!"  But the plot description is aboit someone revealing all of the high schoolers' secrets, so maybe it's more like I Know What You Did Last Summer.  No doubt one of those secrets is about being gay.

Scene 1: Isolated farm house.  Country-Western music plays as a pickup truck drives up, and small-town high school jock Jackson (Markian Tarasiuk), complete with letterman's jacket, climbs out.  Inside, the decor is from the 1950s, but he has a cell phone!  A friend named Macon (as in Georgia, y'all) calls.  They discuss various girls, so fast and furious that I can't keep track, but one has flat chest and is therefore repugnant.

Funny -- the egg timer is on, but Mom and Dad are out tailgating before the Big Game, and there's no one in the house.  Or is there?  Besides, the Doritos taste terrible.

Jackson goes to his room -- pictures of big-breasted models and a University of Nebraska banner -- to take a nap before Kickoff.  But he falls asleep, and doesn't wake up until late at night.  The Doritos were drugged!  And someone has left a trail of pictures of him roughhousing with a cute guy!  A boyfriend?  Is the gay secret the first one?  No: the photos turn dark: we see that Jackson beat and killed Cute Guy. Then a hooded figure leaps out of the closet and stabs him! 

Scene 2: 
The game.  Mom, Dad, and Sis are watching, and wondering why Jackson never showed up.  "It's not like him."  Suddenly everyone gets a video from an unidentified source: Jackson killing Cute Guy.  Wait -- Cute Guy isn't dead.  He's Caleb (Burkely Duffieldm left), playing in the game right now!  

Scene 3: Students gossipping about Jackson.  Murdered just because he beat up Caleb.  And why did he do it?  Because Caleb is gay?  But they were buddies!  Now everybody thinks Calebe is responsible for the murder.

Jackson's bff Macon sings about how much he lovoed him.   Two boys, two girls, and a nonbinary person (Darby) have trouble feeling sad, since Jackson bullied them savagely for years.  

Scene 4: Lunchtime.  Macon is bragging about how many girls Jackson had sex with, and what he did with pizza sauce (you don't want to know).  The Nice Kids from Scene 3 invite Caleb, now ostracized by the team, to sit with them.  

Student Body President talks about how diverse the school is, with gay and nonbinary students ("we love your he, she, and they!"), and leads them in prayer.

Scene 5:
At home, Makani (one of the Nice Kids) worries that people might find out about the horrible things that happened in her old town.  Then her college scholarships and friends would vanish!  What did she do?

She goes up to her room and starts working on a poem. "The psycho" Oliver (Theodore Pellerinm left) texts.  Ulp -- they used to date, and now he's stalking her!  And he's #2 on the cast list!

She wakes up in the middle of the night.  Odd -- there are a lot of dishes piled on the kitchen table, and flowers in the oven.  Could it be...psych!  It was Grandma, sleepwalking!

Scene 6:  At church, prepping for the memorial service.  Catholic, like everybody in small town Middle America, right?  Student Council President is distributing memorial leaflets (why is she wearing a white hooded robe?),  when suddenly the overhead screen displays her comments on a  podcast: "White Wash: Your Daily Ethnic Cleanse."  So she's a closet racist.  A white robed figure appears and slashes her to death!  Parishioners coming into the church hear her podcast, and see her hanging from the altar.

Scene 7: The Sheriff (towns don't have sheriffs) has passed a city-wide curfew (he doesn't have the authority to do that).  Makani flashes back to the terrible thing that happened (arrested for pushing another teen into a fire).  Rodrigo (Diego Josef) from the Nice Kids calls to commisserate about the lockdown.  Uh-oh, he's taking prescription drugs.  Is he sick, or an addict?   

He reveals that he's heterosexual: "why can't I have a life where nobody gets murdered, and I get a girlfriend and go to college?"  Also, he has a crush on Alex, the other girl in the Nice Kid gang. When are we going to get a scene with the LGBTQ+ characters?

Scene 8: 
The students all waiting to be interviewed by the sheriff.  Nice Kid Zack (Dale Whibley) thinks he's the murderer.  There's a referendum to dissolve the police force -- but not if he solves a series of murders "by blaming someone who's not white."  

Zach is excused from the interrogation due to his rich Dad's pull.  Dad yells at him hanging out with the Nice Kids -- bunch of losers! -- and for smoking marijuana.  

Back in the waiting room, "that psycho" Ollie asks Makani why they broke up.  Whoops, he's the Sheriff's younger brother!  The plot thickens!

Scene 9:  The Sheriff interviews Makani.  She doesn't mention the terrible thing that happened to her.  No, she didn't know Jackson or Student Body President.  He leers, makes creepy comments, and lets her go. 

After the interview, she agrees to a date with Ollie: "Let's do what we always do": park, gaze longingly at each other, listen to love songs, and have sex (no beefcake).  Ollie: "I miss this."  You miss having sex?  What a surprise!

They get an invitation to Zack's "Secret Party," and head over to his mansion.

Scene 10: At the Secret Party, Makani ignores Ollie, whom she was mounting five minutes ago.  Everybody reveals their minor secrets: "I post dick pics online."  "I eat junk food."  "I sing opera on youtube."  Darby "confesses" that they got into a NASA program. They appear to be hanging out with Caleb, the gay jock from Scene 4.  Maybe they're dating?  

The extremely troubled and drunken Zack announces the biggest secret: his  "festering pustule" of a Dad doesn't just oppress the townsfolk, he has the tenth largest collection of Nazi memorabilia in North America.  That doesn't sound like a lot.  How many collectors of Nazi memorabilia can there be?  He's converted most of the weapons into bongs for smoking pot.

The guests grab various Nazi items and start smoking.  Rodrigo pops a prescription pill, then talks his crush into going into the kitchen for sex.  Maybe a more secluded spot?  People will be coming in for snacks all the time.  

Scene 11:  Back at the party, Rodrigo sees a trail of pills.  Uh-oh, now the Nice Kids are being targeted.  Suddenly everyone gets a text about his addiction to Fentanyl (a prescription opioid), and the hooded killer appears.  Everyone runs out -- past the killer?  -- leaving Rodrigo to get sliced and diced. Or -- there's one killer and 200 party guests?  A little help?  

I'm out of space, so I'll stop the scene-by-scene recap there.  

Beefcake: None.

LGBTQ+ Characters:  Caleb gets stabbed without having a secret (just so the killer can frame Makani).  He doesn't die.  But he also doesn't have a centric or any plot development; he just hangs out with the others.  Darby also has no centric; their only plot point is getting into NASA and telling Makani "I'm here for you."

Heterosexism: Makani and Ollie spend half the movie kissing.

There's Someone Inside Your House:  Not usually: your house, someone else's house, a church, or the school.  The final conflict takes place in a corn maze.

The Killer: Exactly who you expect.  It's broadcast loudly practically from Scene 1: the actor keeps channeling Matthew Lillard's character in Scream.

My Grade: C.  Just having LGBTQ+ characters in a movie is no longer cause for celebration.  They need to do something other than tell the cisgender heterosexual characters "I'm here for you."

Oct 6, 2021

Allan Kayser: the Bodybuilder of Mama's Family

During the 1970s, a series of sketches on The Carol Burnett Show featured the young Vicki Lawrence in old-lady drag as the abrasive matriarch of a dysfunctional Southern family.  In 1983 she spun off into Mama's Family as the elderly Thelma Harper, still grumpy but considerably nicer -- a champion of the underdog, fighting such social ills as illiteracy, nursing home abuse, and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Her family consisted of her conservative sister (Rue McClanahan, later of The Golden Girls), her dimwitted son Vint (Ken Berry, center, previously of Mayberry RFD), his sexually voracious wife Naomi (Dorothy Lyman, right), and his kids.

The son was played by Eric Brown, left, star of the sex farce Private Lessons.

After a season, the show was cancelled.  It returned in syndication in 1986, with the sister and kids gone, and Allan Kayser (left) introduced as Bubba, Thelma's juvenile delinquent grandson.

And the jaws of gay men everywhere dropped.  The 22-year old Kayser had a dazzling smile, a stunning physique, and an amazing bulge, and he knew it.  And the producers knew it.

In every episode, he was crammed into muscle shirts and sweatpants or painted-on jeans, and his body always got the limelight, even when something else was going on.

Mama's Family immediately became must-see tv.  It aired on Saturday nights, so we watched Mama's Family and The Golden Girls before going out to the bars.

The only gay content was Thelma's subtext friendship with mousy neighbor Iola (Beverly Archer).  Bubba's plotlines were standard teenage sitcom fare -- school projects, teams, dates --  with no significant male friends, except his Uncle Vinton, and that relationship was avuncular, not romantic.

But sometimes beefcake is enough.

During the 1980s, Allan also starred in a few B-movies that allowed him to show off his bulge and biceps, including Hot Chili (1985) and Night of the Creeps (1986).

When Mama's Family ended in 1990, he retired from acting, married, and moved to Missouri.  He has appeared in only a few small roles since.

He still has a stunning physique, and he is still gracious to his gay fans.

See also: The Golden Girls
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