Dec 31, 2021

Kitz: Beefcake, Gay Characters, Glitz, Revenge, and the Austrian Alps. Happy New Year.

sounds like yet another teen drama with a Netflix-patented single-syllable title and a lot of lies, secrets, and silence.  Nothing wrong with that.  It's set in Germany, so there might be some nice scenery.  And naked guys -- some beefcake would be a blessing after several nights of incessant girl-boobs and butts on The Witcher.  

Scene 1: Narrating, Lisa tells us that. Kitzbuhel is the "Aspen of the Alps."  Funny, I always thought that Aspen was the St. Moritz of Colorado.   It's actually in Austria, about 120 km south of Munich.  Every winter the glitterati show up to ski, spend money, and look down on the locals.  Until Lisi decides to get revenge.

Cut to her brother, driving erratically on a snowy mountain road at night, talking on his cell phone about how his rich girlfriend dumped him: "She was just toying on me."  He accidentally skids off the road and over a cliff.  Lisi blames the girlfriend for his death.  Girlfriend, he was driving like an idiot.  Definitely not her fault. You're allowed to break up with people. 

Scene 2: New Year's Eve. Lisi waiting tables and breaking up arguments.  She watches a video of a social influencer selling skin products on the way to the "biggest party of the year" in Kitz.  Her coworker suggests that they go to London after the epic party.  A little lesbian vibe.  Is Lisi gay?).

Scene 3:  Hot guy Hans (Ben Felipe, top photo) in underwear quickly getting dressed.  His hookup, also in underwear -- big basket! -- wants to know why he's leaving so soon.  When they'll get around to exchanging names -- after all, they've hooked up three times!  And what he does for a living -- farmer?  Hans seems to be closeted. 

Scene 4:
Lisi putting flowers on the spot where her brother died.   Flashback to them playing foosball at a party.  They announce that she's received a scholarship to study in London.  Brother Jo (Felix Mayr, left) gets a text and leaves.  

Back to the memorial spot.  Closeted Hans arrives.  They're both sad because this is the first anniversary of Brother Jo's death.  Hans is having second thoughts about their plan, but Lisi insists that they have to go through with it.

Scene 5:  Liisi arrives at the elegant chateau where she will be catering the "epic party" -- and where their plan will unfold.  Whew -- there's a naked black guy frolicking in the snow! Nice butt.

He's Dominick (Bless Amada, left), an internet celebrity and the boyfriend of the Social Influencer.  He must post videos of him doing goofy things with his shirt off.

Scene 6:  In the kitchen, the head caterer is instructing the staff.  Lisi gets the job of taking champaign to the Social Influencer's room.  She looks around, at all the photos of Pure Evil unfairly continuing to be alive after causing her brother's death!  Dude, it was a breakup.  People break up with people all the time. 

While standing on the balcony, she sees someone below, scurrying behind a bush. This better be important later.

The Influencer's friend arrives and arrogantly orders Lisi out.  Lisi fumes: "What a bitch!"  Getting annoyed because you are snooping around in her room?.

Scene 7:  Hans' Trick on his way to the party.  He asks someone named Wirsing to be his Plus One.  

The multitudinous guests arrive, to sip champaign, talk about money, and ignore the servers. The cads!  Dominick starts a conversation with Lisi, but Hans' Trick -- Kosh -- interrupts them.  He says that Wirsing is bringing some drugs for them. Dominick gets upset -- "You can't invite HIM!  What if the Influencer sees him?" The drama -- it burns!

The Influencer makes a grand entrance, and gives a speech about how great it is to be back.  "Choose your weapons, and escape from reality."  I thought that this was the reality of the rich and famous?

Hans' Trick  -- Kosh tries to greet her as a close friend, but she blows him off: " course I remember you.  We knew each other way, way back in the old days"  Dominick consoles him.

There's no Kosh in the cast list, so he could be Ferdinand (Steffen Wink) or Basto (Alexander Gaida).

Sorry, none of these people have nude photos online, just fully clothed ,jfifs that I have to convert to .jpgs, and Chrome doesn't allow you to take screenshots from Netflix.  But believe me, the beefcake is stunning.

Flashback to the night of Brother Jo's death.  Lisi and Hans beg him to not drive to see her.  The roads are icy, it's snowing, he's been him an uber, for heaven sake.  

Scene 8: Back to the party.  Fireworks, dancing, Lisi fuming with rage. Cut to Kosh in the bedroom, getting high with the forbidden Wirsing (Laurenz Winkelhofer).  Dominick bursts in and orders him out.

After he leaves, Dominick apologizes to Kosh for not keeping in contact during the last year: "Things have been chaotic."  

Scene 9: Lisi hiding in the bedroom when the Influencer's friend Pippa comes in to insult a guy on the phone while he masturbates.  Pippa discovers her and fires her.  On her way out, Lisi locks the door.  Uh-oh, is she planning to blow up the place?

Back at the party, Lisi grabs a tray of drinks and "accidentally" spills them on the Influencer, so she'll have to go up to her room and change.   Lisi follows to "apologize."

Suddenly a masked man pulls them both into the room and brandishes a gun.  This must be part of the plan. Lisi takes charge, comforts the Influencer, and tells the masked man that she's already called the cops.  He rushes away.  

Scene 10: The cops taking statements.  They know Lisi.  Flashback to the same cops telling her about Brother Jo's accident.

The Influencer thanks Lisi for saving her life, and asks her to join her clique.  

The party is still going on, except it's more like an orgy now.  The cops aren't interviewing everyone to see if they know anything?  Or if one of them is the gunman?  The Influencer asks Lisi to brunch tomorrow.  She smiles...her plan is coming to fruition.  Destroy them all from within?

Scene 11: On her way out, Lisi runs into Dominick sitting by himself by the pool. He protests that, just because he's rich, doesn't mean he's a jerk.  Some rich people are nice.  Oh no, how can she destroy him now?

Hans picks Lisi up.  She congratulates herself on how well the plan worked.  Sure, Hans is the one who took all the risks.

Back home, she goes down to the basement where Jo was making a set of skiis, and narrates some stuff about grief. It's your fault for letting him drive drunk.  Leave the poor Influence alone.

Beefcake:  Lots.

Scenery: Just mountains.  We never get to see the town itself.

Gay Characters: Hans and Kosh.  Maybe Dominick, although I think he's destined to fall in love with Lisi.

Plot Twists:  Several are set up.  Hans and Kosh.  The blow out between Kosh and the Influencer.  Dominick being dissatisfied as the Influencer's arm candy.   And of course Lisi's revenge plan.

My Grade: A-

Dec 30, 2021

"Bless the Harts": A Romance Between a Hunky Redneck and His Truck


Bless the Harts, lasted for two seasons on Fox, features a Southern take on the animated sitcom family: single Mom Jenny, who works as a waitress at the Last Supper (get it?); her hip mother Betty; her sullen teenage daughter Violet; and her hunky boyfriend Wayne.  Since it was designed to appeal to Southern audiences, I don't expect any gay representation, but look at that bicep!  Surely the uber-hunky Wayne flexes his redneck muscles regularly.  I watched a Season 2 episode about a heat wave, hoping that the heat would get the shirts off.

Scene 1: A newscaster reports on record heat and humidity scorching North Carolina.  Pan out to the Last Supper, crowded with people searching for free air conditioning.  Waitress Jenny tells them that they have to order something.  She makes plans with another waitress to go to Slusheritos tonight for drinks.  Hey, I thought she was fundamentalist -- no drinking, no dancing, no sex.

Scene 2:  At home, the family stands in front of the refrigerator with a fan in it.  Wayne plans to meet Travis at the movies, and asks if Grandma and Violet want to come.  

Scene 3:  The AC in his pickup truck isn't working, but Wayne cautions that it isn't her fault; "I know you're trying your best to run the AC, darlin'."  I hate it when men treat genderless objects like women.  It's the epitome of heteronormativity.  

Scene 4:
At the movies. Wayne sitting next to his buddy Travis (gay subtext?).  The movie is about hauling a bomb into the desert before it explodes. Travis grabs Wayne: "Hey, they're using your truck!"  Everyone is ecstatic.

Scene 5: At the Last Supper, even Jesus Christ is complaining about the heat (he goes to a diner named after the night before his death?).  Jenny complains that fellow waitress Brenda borrowed her sweater and ruined it   Jesus reminds her of the thoughtless and irresponsible things she has done over the years.  

Scene 6: The movie is over.  They go out to the parking lot to find everyone fawning over Wayne's famous truck.  A swish Rich Kid wants to buy it; he may be gay, or just rich/affected.  Violet insults him for using the word "anthropomorphic" and having a rich Dad.  At first the family refuse to sell, but Rich Kid offers an obscene amount of money, so ok.  

Scene 7: The Last Supper.  The B Plot about Jenny and the thoughtless Brenda: "Apologize for ruining my sweater!"  She refuses.  They break up.

Scene 8:  The Last Supper.  Jenny and Brenda sniping at each other.  

Scene 9: Travis and Wayne buying a new car.  They buy a Dakota Thunder, a truck that is "strong enough to haul the Freedom Tower up Mount Denali."  I don't know what the Freedom Tower is, but no doubt the intended audience does.  But Wayne is worried about getting a new truck-girlfriend: "out of his league."

They take the truck to a lot where guys are spinning trucks in the dirt (a common Southern pursuit?).  But Wayne doesn't want to get his new truck dirty.  

Scene 10: At Slusheritos, a Hawaiian beach-themed bar. Jenny and her friend discuss the breakup with Brenda.  Jenny talks trash: Brenda is always late, she steals food, and she slacks off work to nap in the boss's car.  Looks like two guys flirting, or maybe it's a guy and a masculine girl.  Otherwise it's all heterosexual couples at the bar. 

The next day, her friend, who is apparently the boss, fires Brenda!  

Scene 11:  Night.  Wayne and Jenny in bed (hey, I thought she was fundamentalist.  No sex before marriage!).  Wayne dreams that he's on a date with the truck, who nags him to order a salad instead of a steak, "and don't forget dinner at the Country Club tomorrow night."  He looks over, and sees the rich kid on a date with his ex-truck-girlfriend.  He tries to return to her, but Rich Kid turns the floor into lava.

Scene 12:  Wayne asks Violet to help him get his ex-truck-girlfriend back.  She reasons that Rich Kid is a poseur; he'll lose interest in the truck when the new hot item comes out.  

Scene 13: Brenda being miserable without Jenny.

Scene 14: Violet visiting Rich Kid in the garage where he stores his famous cars. She offers a meet-and-greet with the star of the next truck-hauling movie, which happens to be Wayne's new truck!  Or at least Wayne and company claim that it is.  Rich Kid is happy to trade, plus $651 for a new air conditioner.

Scene 15:  Wayne is happy to be back with his old truck-girlfriend, who likes to do fun things like mud-swirling.

Scene 16: Brenda and Jenny reconcile.  You knew that was coming, right?

Scene 17: Rich Kid asks Violet out.  Not gay.  The end.

No.  Wayne doesn't take his shirt off, and that's the whole reason I watched this show!  But we see Brenda's shirt off twice.

Here he is from another episode.  Not really impressive.  I was expecting a little more definition.

Heterosexism:  Wayne and Jenny don't appear together except in one scene, when they're asleep in bed.  His main erotic interest seems to be lady trucks.

Gay Characters: No.  Wayne-Travis have a gay-subtext relationship, but it's overwhelmed by Wayne's truck fetish.  In another episode, Violet and David's one-shot gym teacher is revealed to be gay.  

My Grade: D.

Seven Brothers: Homoerotic Rowdiness in a Finnish Sauna

I'm not a fan of the Kalevala, the Greatest Work of Finnish Literature: it's completely heterosexist, all about gods searching for wives (except maybe for a gay subtext in the teenage Kullervo).

But the Second Greatest Work is about seven guys alone in the woods. What's not to like?

Seven Brothers (Seitsemän veljestä, 1870), by Aleksis Kivi, is about guys who are perfectly happy living alone on their farm near Toukola.  They are rowdy, crude, and given to practical jokes.  They like to hunt and fish and get drunk and hang around nude in the sauna.  But then they discover that they must be civilized: they must learn to read, which will result in being confirmed into the Lutheran Church, which will result in wives!

I heard that often enough while growing up: "Your childhood will end, and your real life will begin, when you find a wife."

Faced with a vision of their fun ending, definitively, at the wedding altar, they rebel.  They light out for the territory and build themselves a house in the wilderness of Impivaara, where they can continue to be rowdy and crude and play practical jokes, and hang out nude in the sauna.

There are perils: they fight a giant bear and wild boars. There are hardships: farming is tough; their house burns down, and they must rebuild.  But in the end, they prosper.

Actually, after ten years in the woods, they return to Toukala, join the church, and get married (except for Simeoni, who stays single).  You can't hold out forever.

But no one remembers the civilizing.  The images that stick with you are the seven guys in the woods, being crude and rowdy, needing no one else.

There have been many film versions, two operas (by Tauno Martinnen and Launas Armis), and a ballet (by Marjo Kuusela).  Some versions, such as the 1989 tv miniseries by Joukku Turka, make Simeoni gay, but really a gay identity isn't necessary.  The whole work revels in the homoeroticism behind male bonding.

Dec 29, 2021

"Anxious People": Androgynous Cop Negotiates a Heartwarming Hostage Crisis


Anxious People,
a Swedish limited-tv series about a hostage crisis, is tagged as "heartfelt," "sentimental," and "feel-good."   How could a hostage crisis possibly be "feel-good"?  Who cares if there are gay characters?  I have to see how this plays out.

Scene 1:
An older person, gender indeterminate, jogging through Södertälje, Sweden (a stand in for an unnamed small town).  Suddenly they turn into a teenage boy named Jack (Hugo Gummeson).  He tries to talk a well-dressed man out of jumping off a bridge, but fails.  Back to the older person -- a  middle-aged Jack -- remembering the tragedy.  

Scene 2: At home.  Jack (Alfred Svensson) asks his Dad (Dan Ekborg) why he doesn't run anymore.  Breakfast.  Plot exposition: They're a father and son police team.  Tomorrow is New Year's Eve.  Dad has invited his daughter Jill to visit, but Jack complains that she won't show up, as usual.

Scene 3: Three people walk into an Open House (an apartment for sale that prospective buyers can tour without an appointment). An older man, watching from a car, complains to his female companion that one of the women is pregnant, therefore irratlional, and will "ruin everything."  Are they planning to rob an open house?

Scene 4:
Jack getting his hair styled.  Very androgynous; maybe he's gay.  The stylist knows a secret: Dad sent Jill money for a train ticket from Stockholm.    Jack, irate, confronts Dad: How could you send her money?  She'll just use it to buy drugs and  blow us off, like she did the last million times!

Scene 5: A robber bursts into a bank and demands money, not realizing that it's a "cashless bank,"  Jack and Dad walk past, arguing, not noticing that there's a robbery going on.  Finally the robber runs out.  The cops and the Hairdresser chase him down the street, and into the building with the open house!  Since he has a gun, the cops don't follow; they wait outside until their weapons arrive (I guess cops have to requisition guns in Sweden).

Scene 6: The robber sneaks into the open house apartment, and accosts the guests.: an older heterosexual couple, a young heterosexual couple, a person in a S&M bunny costume, an elderly woman, and a young woman.  No gay representation is immediately evident.  

Scene 7: Backup arrives.  The cops discuss the situation.  A reporter appears, and interviews the Hairdresser.   The cops, now armed, try to reach the apartment through the back stairs, but they find a bomb on the stairwell, and retreat.  Jack wants to call for a SWAT team from Stockholm, but Dad forbids it: they can handle the situation themselves.  Not very heartwarming so far.

While waiting for the robber to make his demands, they discuss sister Jill again.  "She's not coming.  You have to accept it."

Scene 8: Nighttime.  A reporter tells us that more than an hour has passed.  Wait -- didn't Jack go to the hair stylist right after breakfast?  And the hostage crisis started soon after?  Finally someone comes out onto the balcony and says that the robber has a demand: pizza.  

While Dad commandeers pizzas, Jack tries to gain access to a nearby apartment. Why wasn't everyone in the building evacuated?   The "bomb" turns out to be a box of Christmas lights.

They deliver the pizzas, and the robber makes another demand: fireworks.

They set off the fireworks, and the robber releases the hostages.  Just then, the Stockholm SWAT team arrives, and tear-gasses the apartment, but the robber is gone.

Scene 9: They interview the hostages.  No one remembers what the robber looked like.  They all look at each other uncomfortably, as if they are hiding a secret.  The end.

Beefcake:  None.  The top photo is of Klaus Erikson, Alfred Swensson's costar in the comedy series Leif & Billy

LGBTQ Characters:
I made a mistake; one of the "male" hostages is actually a butch lesbian (played by Petrina Solange); her romance with the pregnant woman is one of the main plot threads.  Jack doesn't display any heterosexual interest, but no same-sex interest, either.

Plot Twists: The hostages all have secrets that come out in future episodes.  Most have some connection to the man Jack saw commit suicide years before, and the mysterious letter he sent.

Heartwarming:  Not really.  This is more of a whodunit.

My Grade: B.

Dec 28, 2021

The Top 10 Dead Hunks of "The Witcher"


Bob liked the first episode of The Witcher, so we've...ugh...continued to watch.  It gets better -- the color palette expands, so we see mountains and forests; there's some comedic relief; there's less bragging about strangling people and puppies.  I still don't like it: jumping back and forth in time between the interlocking stories of three sets of characters, so you're constantly confused ("does this take place years before or just after the previous scene"); naked girls everywhere; not a single gay hint -- even a giant orgy consists entirely of male-female couples; and the annoying habit of introducing cute guys, only to have them garrotted in the next scene.  

Here are the top 10 dead hunks (I could only list the ones named in the episode or on the Witcher wiki; many other nameless hunks bit the dust):

The first plot arc features the Witcher traveling from kingdom to kingdom, where he kills monsters that are "impossible to kill" and has sex wtih ladies.  He eventually encounters the people in the second and third plotlines, at various time periods in their history.  Meanwhile, his comic relief sidekick, the Bard, tries to pick up every lady he sees, and has to constantly flee from the irate husbands and boyfriends of the men he's cuckolded.

Their corpses include:

1. Mikal (Bogdan Iancu, top photo), from the kingdom of Timeria, is killed by a werewolf-type monster.

2. The Witcher Remus
 (Gudmundur Thorvaldsson, the one with his tongue out) offers to do the killing, but fails.

3. Lord Urcheon (
Bart Edwards)a knight cursed with a hedgehog face, dies off-camera immediately after being introduced.

In the second plot, a girl named Yennifer trains to become a mage (a magician who advises kings).  Although she is the most powerful mage in the history of the universe, she is underemployed as a babysitter to kings' neglected wives and boorish sons.  Eventually, after 30 years of this (shown in various scenes that aren't in chronological sequence), she goes rogue, conjures up a lot of orgies, has sex with lots of men, and tries to find her destiny.  And maybe hook up with her first boyfriend, or was that a scene from earlier in her history?  Who knows?

Her corpses include:

4. Prince Eyk (Jordan Renzo) whom she is babysitting and flirting with, gets his throat cut on a dragon-hunting expedition.

5. Atlan Kirk, a fellow mage, is killed during one of the climactic battles.

The third plot features Ciri, the Chosen One, destined to become the most powerful being in the universe, but so far just a princess who goes into hiding when her kingdom is conquered and the entire royal family commits suicide.  Some scenes take place before the kingdom-genocide, some immediately after, and some long after.  She gets a boyfriend at one point, but he dumps her because of all the "death and destruction" that follows her around.  

Her corpses include:

6. Sir Lazlo (Maciej Musial), 
her bodyguard, dies during the first-episode genocide (see previous article).

7. King Eist (Bjorn Haraldsson), her father, likewise.

8. Adon (Kriztian Czakvari) 
invites Ciri to stay with his family in a refugee camp, and is promptly skewered to death.

9. Anton (Rob Malone),
a friend of her childhood, now blaming her for causing the kingdom to fall, gets blasted by a magical scream.

10. Nadbor (Jack Wolfe)
 the son of a farm family that has taken Ciri in, gets blasted by a fireball five minutes after meeting her. 

See also: The Witcher: Everyone Dies.

Dec 26, 2021

"Duncanville": Is the Fox Sitcom More "Family Guy" Homophobic or "Bob's Burgers" Gay-Positive?


The families in Fox animated sitcoms come in two varieties: the Family Guy (FG) type hate each other and rarely interact except to exchange barbs, and the Bob's Burgers (BB) type like each other and often share plot.  Coincidentally, the FG type tend to be blisteringly homophobic, and the BB gay-friendly.  To see which the series Duncanville is, I watched the Season 1 Finale.

Intro: The teenage Duncan (Amy Poehler) walks past the other characters: aging rocker Dad, blond Mom, two sisters (tween with purple hair, Japanese toddler), three friends (nerd, stoner, girl), hip teacher, and The Girl of His Dreams.  Cue the hearts and flowers and goofy expression. Ugh!

Scene 1:
  Breakfast.  The kids all discuss their agendas; hard to tell which will get a plot arc.  It wil lprobably go to the purple-haired sister, Kimberly, who has to sell $800 of cookies so she can win a trip to the Fun Park and spend the day with the Mean Girls.  They're mean but popular, so if Kimberly hangs out with them, she will become popular, too.

Scene 2: Duncan and his friends hanging out at school.   The Girl of His Dreams drops by to tell them that she is the only candidate for class president.  She asks Duncan to run against her, so she'll have someone to beat.  Goofy look.  "Huh?  Did you ask me to do something?  Sorry, I wasn't paying attention.  I was busy imagining us kissing."

Scene 3:  The cookie-selling B Plot.

Scene 4: At school, before the big presidential debate.  Duncan is nervous.  He asks why the Girl  (named Mia) wants to be president so badly.  Isn't being the most beautiful girl in the universe enough?  She says she wants to improve the quality of life for the students.  "Couldn't you just smile at them?"

The debate begins.  Mia is asked her ideas about a prom theme, but she believes that proms are outdated.  Why not a service day instead?  Meanwhile, Duncan promises to provide sheet cake for lunch, abolish gym, and start class at 11:00 am. He's elected by a landslide. Dude, your chances of getting that kiss have just tanked.

Scene 5: The family congratulates Duncan on his victory.  Meanwhile, Kimberly tries to guilt her parents into selling the cookies for her: "the only reason I wanted to become popular was so you would be proud of me, and now I've failed you...."

It works; the parents decide to sell the cookies.

Scene 6:  At school. Duncan orders the installation of a taco bar, replaces the drinking fountains with snack machines, turns the Model U.N. into a ball pit, and cuts down the climbing rope in the gym. Mia points out that becoming class president is an essential step on the road to becoming U.S. president in 30 years, and asks him to resign.  He refuses.

"But I'm the Girl of Your Dreams.  Why don't you get a goofy expression and do whatever I ask?"  Duncan shrugs.  "I have a crush on you, but the school has a crush on me."  Apparently having power is more fun than imagining kissing.

Scene 7: The parents selling the cookies.

Scene 8:
  Mia conducts some research, and discovers that the school charter actually gives Duncan supreme power.  He cancels all classes forever, and won't allow anyone to check books out of the library without winnng a "John Wick style book fight."  

Meanwhile, the parents overhear Mia bragging about how she manipulated them.  They vow to get revenge.

Scene 9:  The friends congratulate Duncan on his success as president.  But the students start making absurd demands, like a pool on the roof, or "Make Caitlin go to the prom with me," or just "give me money."    He asks Mia's advice.  Again, she wants him to resign, but he counters by promising the students the biggest thing ever: a personal appearance by the youtube stars, the Flossing Bears.

Scene 10: The revenge scheme: Pretend to be an FBI agent. Call and tell Kimberly that the cookies are poisoned, so she has to get them back or she'll be arrested and have her cell phone taken away.  So she rushes and takes back the cookies, and returns the money (and the meth head's copper wire).

Scene 11: The big Flossing Bears concert.  Mia interrupts to tell the audience that they have to stop Duncan now, or they'll lose the things that make high school "a nightmarish four years that we'll look back on fondly," like football, marching band, the antiquated prom, and "whatever Key Club is."  Besides, Duncan doesn't have the money to pay the bears, so they attack.

Scene 12: The parents tell Kimberly about their deception.  They are on their way to school to return the cookies, when they run into Duncan and Mia fleeing from the rampaging bears.  Mia figures out a way to save the day.  Duncan resigns as president.  Everything is back to normal.  The end.

Beefcake: No.

Heterosexism: Obviously.  But I liked how Duncan was able to relate to Mia on more than a "Your smile fills my universe" level.  They could actually argue and compete.

Gay Characters: None.

FG or BB?  BB-style, with a bit of an edge.

My Grade: C.

Dec 25, 2021

"The Witcher": Everyone Dies, and a Mutant Has Sex, in a Dour, Gray Medieval World

December 23rd, 2021.
  Hulu, Vudu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus, and we've completely run out of tv shows to watch, except for the second season of Alex Rider and some old Simpsons episodes. We're both sick of Christmas romcoms.  

"The Witcher is #1 on Netflix," Bob says.  "Do you know anything about it?"
"Isn't about a guy who goes around Colonial New England accusing women of witchcraft?
"Sounds dismal.  But it's that or A Castle for Christmas."

Scene 1: In a dismal gray forest, The Witcher (Henry Cavill), a dour person with long white hair, fights and kills a giant spider.  He also kills a baby deer.  Ugh!

Scene 2:  He takes the spider corpse into the dour Medieval village of Blankomelette or something.  At the tavern, all of the dour-looking men without exception growl and grimace and say "We don't serve your kind!  Get out or we'll kill you!"  But the women are perfectly welcoming.  Isn't that the heterosexist myth?   Other men are antagonists and aggressors, women kind and nurturing.

The Alderman is offering a bounty for monsters, but The Witcher brought in the wrong kind of monster.  A little girl suggests that he bring the giant spider to the Wizard, who often buys dead animals to use in magical elixers.  She killed her pet dog to sell to him, for instance.  She killed her dog?  Ugh!  But don't worry, she's not a recurring character.

Scene 3:  The Wizard lives in a palace surrounded by naked ladies. Ugh!  But at least there's some color other than washed-out gray.  He wants to hire the Witcher to kill a woman for him.

Scene 4: 
On a gray, dismal street in another town, Septum or something, some teenage boys are playing with dice. (note to self: look up Martin,  the first semi-attractive person in e series).  One of the boys is..surprise -- a girl!  The Princess, yet.

Left: Sonny Ashbourne Serkis (Martin).

The Princess is dragged to the palace for a ceremony.  We get some personality cues for various members of the court, but don't bother memorizing characters -- none of them will last long.  And why do people in a Medieval world use phrases like "Gross," "My bad," and "Just saying"?

Scene 6:  Back in Blankomelette, the Wizard tells the Witcher that 60 girls were born at the time of the Black Sun with "horrendous internal mutations," so he locked them in towers, and finally killed them all and performed autopsies.  How does he know about mutations?  Or autopsies.  Wait -- he killed 60 girls?  But Renfri the Beautiful is still alive, living in the woods, strangling puppies and gouging out people's eyes.  No man can resist her charms, but the Witcher is not a man -- could he be a dear and kill her?  So the Witcher is gay?

Scene 7:  Back in Septum, the Princess is forced to dance with Martin, while the grown-ups discuss the Wraiths of Morhogg, the Niflgaard, Ebling, the Wild Hunt, the Amell Pass, Sodden, Skelligan, and something or other being "behind the curve." Translation: bad dudes are coming to kill them all.

Scene 8: The Witcher in the woods.  Renfrack the Beautiful approaches him and says "The rumors of my evilness have been exaggerated."  She just killed her rapist and the thugs the Wizard sent to kill her.  The Witcher wants to know if she's really a monster, so she gives him a watered-down version of Shylock's speech ("if I cut myself, do I not bleed?").  

"Now be a dear and kill the Wizard for me.  To sweeten the deal, I'll have sex with you."  He refuses.  Not into girls?

Scene 9: Back
at Septum, the Princess is sequestered with her keepers while a very gruesome battle with the bad dudes rages outside.  Why can't she fight?  (Note to self: look up Lazlo, the cute bodyguard in armor, even though he won't live past this episode).  The King is killed, and the Queen mortally wounded. I told you to not bother memorizing their names or character traits.

Left: Maciej Musial (Lazlo).

Scene 10: The Witcher talking to his horse about how people scream and run away, even after he has just saved them from being raped or murdered.  Renfield the Beautiful, unwilling to take "no" for an answer, approaches again.  This time they have sex, although it takes 10 minutes for their faces to gradually move in for the kiss.  So much for the "Witcher is gay" theory.

Scene 11: The bad dudes have stormed Septum and tortured and killed everyone in gruesome ways.  There's no escape, so everyone in the palace commits suicide.  Except for the Princess, whose keepers guide her through a secret passage: she's the Chosen One, so she can't be turned inside out and forced to eat her own esophagus.  Wait: if there was a secret passage, why didn't everyone escape?  

Scene 12:  The Witcher being haunted by the memory of hot sex with Renfrew the Beautiful.  She mentioned that she was going to try to kill the Wizard during the big Market Day, which is today!  He rushes back to Blankomelette, but all of the men attack.  He has to kill them in gruesome ways.  

Renfrick shows up.  They fight for some reason -- maybe his insistence that she not kill the Wizard.  The Witcher kills her, but with her dying breath she curses him: "The girl in the woods will be with you always."  Wait -- I thought she was the Big Bad of the series.

Scene 13: 
 The Princess runs away, pursued by bad dudes.  She discovers a super power: her screams can crash towers onto people's heads and open chasms.  (Note to self: look up cute Bad Dude warrior, even though he dies right away).

Left: Martin Berencsy, a Hungarian actor who may play the Bad Dude warrior.

Scene 14: The Wizard shows up, notices that Renfrew is dead, and wants to bring her body to his palace for an autopsy.  But the Witcher forbids it.  The end.

Beefcake: None.

Naked Ladies: Lots.

Gay Characters: None.

Unreliable Narrators: I like how everyone exaggerates the evilness of other people, while glossing over their own horrific misdeeds.

Mutants and "My Bad": Is this Medieval fantasy, or post-Apocalyptic science fiction?

Kill Everyone:  Everyone you think is going to be a main character is killed, except for the Witcher and the Princess.  Will there be a new town every week, with new characters to nonchalantly confess to strangling puppies?

Ugliness:  The cast is unattractive, the sets ugly, the color palette a washed-out gray.  Everything is grim.

My Grade:   At least we don't see the sex scene.  F.

Dec 23, 2021

"With Love": Hispanic Comedy Romcom with Gay, Bisexual and Nonbinary Characters


With Love on Amazon Prime. Dumb title for a Christmas romcom, but I thought I saw two guys hugging on the icon, so we'll give it a try.

Scene 1: Establishing shot of Portland, Oregon. Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) Mass en Español. Lily covers for her brother Jorge, who missed the service, so Abuela doesn't freak out.  Jorge is played by a grown-up Mark Indelicato (below), the gay kid on Ugly Betty.

Scene 2: Preparing the Nochebuena dinner.  Wait -- don't Catholics have Mass at midnight on Christmas Eve?  It's got to be 2:00 am!  Abuela tells her daughters that Grandpa tried to have sex with her in the shower earlier.  Horny Aunt Gladys tells her sister, Lily's Mom, that it's obvious she's not getting any, and would she like a vibrator?  This is not your grandmother's romcom.

Scene 3: 
 At the liquor store. Santiago (Rome Flynn, top photo) is shopping for a "2010 or 2012 Left Bank Bourdeaux."  Clerk Henry helps him, and tries to flirt.  Santiago puts his hand on his shoulder, but otherwise rejects him: "We don't have to talk." Henry is played by Vincent Rodriguez III, who had a heterosexual character on My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend but is gay in real life.

Scene 4: Lily going on a wine run.  She's upset because she just broke up with her boyfriend, but excited because Jorgito is finally going to introduce them to his boyfriend!  Ten to one it's Henry from the Liquor Store.

She tries to meet-cute Santiago coming out of the store, but he rejects her and moves on. Psych!  Next she flirts her butt off with Henry.  They were both recently dumped.  She asks him to be her date for Nochebuena Dinner, but he refuses (duh, he's working).  Well, what about next week?  She hands him her phone number. Um....

Scene 5:
Jorge's apartment.  Hot Roommate (Desmond Chiam) walking around shirtless (sigh...).  He offers to become Lily's new boyfriend, but she refuses.  Apparently they've been friends for 10 years, and she always refuses.  I'd give him a tumble

Jorge is freaking out about bringing his boyfriend to Nochebuena Dinner, where 3,000 relatives will judge him.  Lily consoles him: "Don't worry -- everyone will love Henry."  Henry!!!! The plot thickens. Then why did he say he was recently dumped?  And why did he accept Lily's phone number?

Knock on the door.  It's Henry!  He pretends not to know Lily.  Why not say "We met earlier at the liquor store?"  What is he trying to hide?

Scene 6: Walking to the dinner, they go over their strategies for pretending that they were at Mass earlier, and just missed Abuela.  Henry feels bad about lying to their grandmother.  Jorge explains: they're fine with him being gay, but not going to church is a mortal sin.  Mom, who knows their dirty secret, even greets them as "My favorite sinners!"

They greet  Mom, Dad (Benito Martinez), and Sol, who presents as female and uses they/them pronouns.  Sol chastises Jorge for not going to church:

Jorge: God doesn't like people like us.

Sol: Some people don't like people like us.  God is all about love.

The big scandal is apparently Lily being boyfriend-less, alone and lonely at her age!  Innumerable tias complain, offer advice, and try to fix her up with various nerds and grandpas ("he's 62!  You'll be an abuela!").

Scene 7: Lily sitting on the toilet.  When Sol comes in to change clothes, she reveals the biggest scandal: the boyfriend didn't dump her, she dumped him!  But why?  He's a lawyer who owns his own house -- the perfect man!  Sol suggests that she win him back with a big romantic gesture.

Scene 8:
Sol had to skip dinner to go to work at the hospital.  They brought some empanadas.  Hot Doctor (Todd Grinnell) flirts with them.  

They stop into a hospital room, and -- wait for it -- Santiago from the liquor store is there!  He gives them the bottle of wine he bought, as a thanks for taking care of his dying mother (they're pulling the plug tonight, on Nochebuena because it was her favorite holiday).

Scene 9: Back at the house, Henry reveals that he's actually bisexual, and had a girlfriend before meeting Jorge.  Everyone is shocked, and peppers him with questions. So gay and nonbinary relatives, no big deal, but bisexuals are weird and exotic?

Scene 10:  Back at the hospital.  Hot Doctor points out that they've been flirting for months; why not go on a date?  But Sol will only date Catholics. I don't believe that for a second.  Are they afraid of physical intimacy?  But Hot Doctor already knows that they are nonbinary -- he must be ok what not knowing what kind of genitals they have.

Scene 11:
Lily's grand romantic gesture to win back her ex-boyfriend (Peter Porte).  It's just standing outside his house in a Santa hat and singing.  But he refuses to take her back: "We liked each other, but we were never in love.  But your True Love is waiting out there."  Why isn't she wearing a coat?  In December in Portland the temperature is in the 20s and 30s.

Scene 12: Santiago standing outside in the dark, being sad over his mother's death.  Sol, not wearing  coat, consoles him.   He suggests that they date the Hot Doctor.  Why not?  He's cute and nice, and "you deserve a little love and happiness."  Hey, Santiago, not everyone wants a romantic partner.  

Scene 13: Dad saw Jorge and Henry kiss.  Now he's fuming in the back yard. Apparently he's not as gay-friendly as he thought.  Jorge comes out to ask why he's been so distant all evening. Psych!  He's got no problem with the kissing.  He feels bad because he wasn't able to teach his son about the "gay love stuff."  He wanted to give Jorge a "facts of life" talk about blow jobs?

Scene 14:  Lily wants to tell Jorge "something important," but she loses her nerve. Not about flirting with Henry at the liquor store.  People flirt -- get over it.

Scene 15: Back at the hospital, it's time for Sol to flip the switch and let Mom die.  Santiago and his Dad cry.

Scene 16: Lily's Mom is wondering if her husband won't have sex with her because she's getting old (remember that subplot?).  But it's time for the talent show. Hot Roommate and Horny Aunt Gladys sing "I Need a Hero."   Henry and Abuela: "I Will Survive."  Jorge and Lily: "A Whole New World." 

Scene 17: At the hospital, Sol decides to take a risk and give Hot Doctor their phone number.

Scene 18:
The party is finally over, gracias a Dios! Lily, Jorge (left), Henry, and Hot Roommate walk home.  They decide to dance in the street while singing "Feliz Navidad."  Santiago and his Dad happens to be driving by.   Santiago: "It's hard to hear that song now."  Dad: "Your mother would be heartbroken if she knew this was making you sad."  Sad about her death? Really? I want people wailing and crying.

Scene 19:  Mom and Dad get ready for bed.  He still refuses sex.  Well, it's 4:00 am and he's been hosting a party for 16 hours.  He might be a little tired.

Scene 20:  At the apartment, Lily is preparing to sleep on the couch. She doesn't live there?  Why doesn't she just go home?  She asks Henry why he didn't reveal their meeting at the liquor store.  He says he felt guilty.  He flirts with customers all the time, to get better tips (wait -- you don't tip sales clerks).  But with Lily it was...sad.  I don't buy that.  He was considering cheating on Jorge.

Hot Roommate comes out in his pajama bottoms. Lily reveals that she didn't say anything at the party because it was Jorge's night, but she's sad.  Because she's never been in love.  They start kissing, and head to the bedroom.  

Beefcake: Hot Roommate.

LGBTQ Characters:  Jorge and Henry and Sol. 

Endless Parties: Future episodes take place on the major holidays of the year: New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, the Fourth of July, and the Dia de los Muertos.  I imagine that each will involve an endless party.

Who Ends Up with Whom:  No way to tell.  The main cast appears in every episode.  If Henry dumps Jorge for Lily, I'm leaving.

Will I Keep Watching: Why not?

Dec 22, 2021

Wild Things: The Gay Art of Maurice Sendak

Adults like to think of childhood as a blissful Eden, a period of endless joy, unblemished by anxieties over money or sex or death.  But they're wrong.  Childhood is terrifying and painful, crowded with anxieties over money, sex, and death, dismemberment, abandonment, anger, friendship,  and desire.  Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) inhabited this world better than any other writer.

He was gay, so several of his books can be read as the struggle of a gay child to make sense of the world, and two are about gay couples.

1. Where the Wild Things Are (1963): Max threatens to eat his mother, and while being punished, runs away to the world of the Wild Things.  He stares them down, becomes their king, and decrees that a Wild Rumpus begin. But he gets homesick and goes home. The 2009 movie added some hetero-romance, among the Wild Things, not Max (Max Records).  There have also been stage plays and a ballet.

2. In the Night Kitchen (1970). An amazingly vivid, scary story of Mickey, who sneaks out of his bed to a surreal night kitchen, where three chefs (all of whom look like Oliver Hardy) are making the breakfast "cake."  He helps them, meanwhile wondering about where his body ends and the natural world begins: "I'm in the milk and the milk's in me."

It has been banned in many schools because the toddler is naked -- don't want five-year olds knowing that five-year olds sometimes have a penis.

Sendak's art for adults often contains penises as well, but never to be salacious, to depict vulnerability rather than desirability.

3. We are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993) is a traditional nursery rhyme with a gay family twist.  Gay partners Jack and Guy find a little boy with "one black eye," a victim of bullying or abuse.  Jack wants to "knock him on the head," continuing the abuse, but Guy suggests that they buy him some bread instead, and "We'll bring him up as other folks do."

4. My Brother's Book (2012). Two brothers are torn apart when a falling star crashes to the earth.  It's a love letter to his partner of fifty years, psychiatrist Eugene Glynn, who died in 2007.  With beautiful watercolors inspired by William Blake.

Dec 21, 2021

"That Wilkin Boy" and Other Beefcake Wonders of the Archie Universe

The Comic Cave in Rock Island, like most other comic book stores, was devoted to the Marvel and DC lines.  If you wanted something else, you had to sort through the "Other" bins, which consisted mostly of Archie: Summer Fun, Christmas Stocking, Pals and Gals, Betty and Veronica, Jughead, Reggie, TV Laugh Out, Joke Book, on and on ad nauseam.

But occasionally you hit a comic in the same recognizable style, same recognizable pals and gals, but with different names and maybe a change of costume.  Riverdale and the regular gang is far in the background, or altogether absent.  Apparently John Goldwater thought that a new crop of teen characters would expand the market.

Expand the market, when The Big Five (Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Reggie) and a dozen or so supporting players had personalities malleable enough to fit thousands of plotlines, in every genre imaginable, from teen angst to wacky adventure to mystery to superhero spoof?


Reading them was an eerie experience, like a dream where the people you know are a little off.  But they had some beefcake joys of their own.

Wilbur (1944-1965) is the oldest, appearing only a few years after Archie himself, and the closest to the Riverdale gang.

Wilbur is blond, not a redhead, but he has all of the other Archie characteristics, including a sardonic best friend, a nemesis, and two girlfriends, the girl-next-door and the it-girl.  Except in this case "Betty" is a brunette and "Veronica" is blonde.

Not much of beefcake interest. Wilbur was portrayed as rather scrawny, like the 1940s Archie.

And no crossovers into the Archie universe.  No wonder -- the characters would be looking at their doppelgangers.

Bingo, That Wilkin Boy (1969-1982), was a modernized version of Wilbur (both of them have the last name Wilkin, no "s"):  a 1960s guitar-strumming, bell bottom wearing hippie with a talking dog named Rebel and a with-it sidekick (more Reggie than Jughead).

 Also notable, his girlfriend's father is not an industrialist, like Mr. Lodge, but a bodybuilder.  It was always nice to see a chest and abs on someone over 16.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1971-1983) was the most popular of the non-Archie characters, allowing the introduction of magic into the plotlines. There weren't a lot of continuing teen characters, just Sabrina and her hapless boyfriend Harvey.

Harvey was always scrawny, never particularly muscular.  You could see more beefcake with the Archie comics in the summertime beach issues.

 At first they were portrayed as living in Riverdale, just with a different group of friends, so the Archie gang was in the background (here she talks boys with Archie supporting character Ethel).  Later the setting shifted to Greendale, and the Archies vanished.

Sabrina has spun off into several tv series, most recently The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, with the hunky Ross Lynch (top photo) miscast as Harvey.

Josie (1963-1982) started out as a distaff Archie, a red-headed Everygirl bookended by the  "that's not a good idea" Pepper and the walking id Melody (who sang all of her lines, musical notes filling the speech balloons). They all had boyfriends, and butted heads with an obnoxious rich twin-set, Alex and Alexandra Cabot, drawn identically to Veronica and Reggie.

In 1969 the book was completely revamped into Josie and the Pussycats, a musical group consisting of Josie, Melody, and the with-it African-American Valerie.  The boyfriends vanished, although Josie started dating the muscular Alan M (the reason for the refusal to use his last name is never explained).   Alexander Cabot became their manager, and Alexandra remained their chief foil, out to destroy them because they refused to let her join the group (because she insisted on renaming it Alexandra's Cool-Time Cats).  Oh, and she got witchcraft powers somehow.

The group traveled all over the world to perform, but their home base was Midvale (no competition with Archie's rock group).  But later they moved to Riverdale, so Archie and the gang could occasionally appear.

Alan M. became more muscular as the series progressed, until in the spin-off tv series he was completely ripped (plus he sported an ascot like Fred on Scooby Doo).

In the 2001 Josie and the Pussycats movie, Gabriel Mann (right) played Alan, and his last name is revealed: Mayberry.

I can see why he went by Alan M.

"Merry Happy Something": Watch it with the Family Bigot

Spending Christmas with The Relatives on the other side of the world is always stressful: stuck in a house for two weeks with no exercise unless it's nice enough to jog outside, forced to watch...ugh...sports and eat...ugh...meals prepared by people who think potato chips are vegetables, all the while deflecting conversations about religion, politics, Muslims, and homa-sekshuls (you don't want the Family Bigot to start screaming).

Spending Christmas with the boyfriend's relatives is even worse, since you have to switch instantly from boyfriend to "roommate" depending on which member of the extended family knows. And sometimes you aren't informed in advance.  I once spent an entire afternoon being "the roommate" for my boyfriend's aunt, only to hear "Oh, she's known since I was 12."

So when I saw that Netflix released Merry Happy Whatever, an entire eight-episode tv series about the horrors of meeting The Relatives at Christmas, I planned to watch.  No doubt it would be infinitely heterosexist.  So what?  It would still be a good cure for the Day After Thanksgiving malaise, with The Visit looming.

It's a traditional multi-camera sound-stage sitcom, with a couch downstage center facing what is supposed to be a tv set.  With a laugh-track yet.  How retro!

L.A. hipster and aspiring musician Matt (Brent Morin, below) agrees to fly cross country to small-town Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to spend a 10-day Christmas vacation visiting the Family of his girlfriend Emmy.

10 days?  That was his first mistake.

Family Patriarch Don Quinn (1980s hunk Dennis Quaid), a small-town Sheriff, seems to be channeling Tim Allen on Home Improvement, or maybe William Shatner on S* My Dad Says.  Sports, tools, cars, grunting, flee from anything feminine.

He's got ancient gender-based hangups on everything from women working to men wearing the wrong kind of shoes, plus a few that I never even heard of, like "only women should decorate the Christmas tree."

And he has three children (not counting Emmy) who are totally on board with his cave man machismo, and three in-laws who are trying hard to avoid his wrath by pretending to be:

1.Dimwitted jock son Sean (Hayes MacArthur, top photo) is generally a success: wife, house, job, kids, the litany of male accomplishments that I heard incessantly while growing up.  Then he loses his job, and is afraid to tell his wife, Joy (Elizabeth Ho), because a man who can't support his family is not a real man.

And their 12-year old son, Sean Jr. (Mason Davis), ha a heart-to-heart about "feelings" that he's been "trying to hide."  They brace themselves for a coming-out, but Sean Jr. means that he's an atheist.  Almost as bad for this conservative Catholic family!

2. Chirpy housewife Patsy is married, but has been unable to conceive a child.It must  be due to the less-than-manly sperm of her husband  Todd (Adam Rose). Also he's Jewish, but terrified of suggesting the most innocuous dreidel to augment the Birth of Baby Jesus.   

3. Aggressive, controlling Kayla (Ashley Tinsdale)  is married to mild-mannered Alan (Tyler Ritter, left). But when they arrive for the first of 10 traditional holiday gatherings with the Family, he announces that he wants a divorce. They're arguing all the time, and they haven't had sex in a year.

Kayla begins dropping broad hints that the reason they broke up is: she is not attracted to men. In fact, she likes women -- a lot.  She comes out as a lesbian to Matt, but is afraid to tell the Family. Wouldn't you be?

When Matt falls into this maelstrom, Dad immediately labels him "a woman" because he is a musician, doesn't like sports, faints at the sight of a needle, and is from California.  Aren't they all sort of iffy out there?   The rest of the Family, sensing that he' the weakest member of the pack, fall in line:

Matt: Where is everybody?
Patsy:  The men all went out to get a Christmas tree.
Matt:  Well, not all the men.
Patsy:  All the real men.

At first Matt tries to macho up and bond with Dad, but then he changes his tactics, pushing back against Dad's gender-role malarky.  Men can be sensitive, artistic, intellectual, non-sports enthusiasts.

Energized, the others start pushing back, too.  Todd gets the nerve to suggest adding some Jewish traditions to the household.

Sean gets the nerve to tell Dad that he lost his job, AND that his son is an atheist.

In the last episode, set on New Year's Eve, Kayla comes out.  The Family gathers for a group hug, and Dad gives her a rainbow-flag keychain.  Matt's intervention has worked wonders.

I think I'll watch this show again in a couple of weeks, when I'm back home visiting The Relatives. 

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