Dec 30, 2021

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 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 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 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.

Dec 20, 2021

The Magic Sword

On Saturday afternoons in the 1960s, if there was no sports match on, WQAD tv played science fiction movies.  Usually the same movie.  I saw snippets of it many times -- ten or fifteen minutes in between homework and going out to play -- but not enough to figure out the zany plot.

It was something about a young knight in a Prince Valiant haircut, who sneaks out on his witch-mother, goes on a quest to rescue a princess, gains companions who die in various gruesome ways, and then is captured by a wizard in an genie outfit.  Everyone looks frightfully embarrassed.

The witch had a rather cute servant, whose two heads spoke in unison.

The wizard was accompanied by a woman with an ugly face, who collected "little people for the stew."

There was also an egg-headed servant with a doleful expression.

It was dreamlike and surreal, like watching a story that everyone in the world knows intimately, but you've never heard of.

But I endured the craziness for a scene near the end, when the boy is strung up in the dungeon, his shirt torn off.  A stunning smooth glowing chest, tightly muscled arms and shoulders.

Twenty years later, when Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed it,  I finally discovered that the movie was The Magic Sword (1962), a loose adaptation of the legend of Sir George and the Dragon.  The witch was played by famous British actress Estelle Winwood, and the wizard by Basil Rathbone, who was well known for starring in a series of Sherlock Holmes movies in the 1930s and 1940s.

The boy strung up in the dungeon was 25-year old Gary Lockwood, who would enjoy a long acting career.  He is probably most famous for developing psychic powers on a 1965 episode of Star Trek and getting chucked out of the spaceship in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).  And, of course, for providing a glimpse of beauty on dull Saturday afternoons when there was no sports match on.

General Whitman and his Cold War Boyfriend

When I was a kid in the 1960s, my parents hated books.  Comic books were suspect enough -- but full-sized books would brainwash me into believing atheism and evolution keep me away from healthy masculine activities like sports, and "strain my brain"!  Maybe they were worried that reading would make me want to escape the future of factory job, house, wife, and kids they had mapped out for me.

So I could only get away with reading only if I could convince them that it was required for school.  That made General Whitman's Adventures ideal.

They were brief, 15-page storybooks, accompanied by "adventure maps,"  written by George S. Elrick (who also wrote tie-in books for tv series like Flipper, Batman, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).  They were published by comic book company Whitman (talk about product placement!).

General Whitman's Adventures in Intriguing Europe
General Whtiman's Adventures in Exotic Asia
General Whitman's Adventures in Exciting Africa

After that they ran out of adjectives, and just had him traveling to Australia, North America, South America, the United States, and Around the World.

General Whitman,  a "global troubleshooter for the armed forces," was a thin, middle aged white guy carrying a globe.

In each story, he traveled across the designated continent with his assistant, Lieutenant Scott, on on a top secret assignment.  In South America, for instance, he was assigned to inspect rivers that might provide "juice for mission control centers, "and to select likely sites for camouflaged missile silos."

This was during the Cold War, after all.

Meanwhile he pontificated about the continent's history and geography -- with what today seems a very paternistic, Orientalist superiority complex:  "Before this continent was discovered, the poor savages were uncivilized."

And Lieutenant Scott expressed constant disgust or amazement over local customs. In Tibet, he exclaimed: "That lady's making a sandwich out of her face!"

"Butter is often used as a beauty aid here," the General explains.  "The Tibetans are too primitive to have our modern scientific cosmetics."

Still, it beat National Geographic, with its boring "This country is a study in contrasts, embracing its rich traditions and looking toward the future."

And I could claim "research for my geography class."

And neither General Whitman nor Lieutenant Scott mentioned wives or girlfriends back home.  I was pretty sure that they were "Best Men" (my childhood term for gay partners).

Dec 19, 2021

"Home for Christmas": The Girl with 5 Boyfriends and a Girlfriend

One reason I hate the holidays is my memory of many Christmases past with endless dissimulations and awkward silences.  Some of my relatives back home had a "don't ask, don't tell policy," and others didn't know at all (and would start screaming if they did), so:
West Hollywood became Santa Monica
Gay Pride became "a street fair"
Volunteering for the AIDS Project became volunteering for Big Brothers
The Metropolitan Community Church  became First Presbyterian
The boyfriend became a "friend," if I mentioned him at all.
And I had a "girlfriend."

So I was interested in Hjem til Jul (Home for Christmas), a Norwegian short series in which 30-year old Johanne (Ida Elise Broch) gets so tired of her family's constant sneers and digs about being single that she blurts out "I have a boyfriend!"

Now she has three weeks to find a boyfriend for real and present him at the Christmas Eve dinner!

I know, this is the plotline of about 50% of Hallmark Christmas movies.  But bear with me.

With the help of her roommate/best friend Jørgun, Johanne posts a provocative profile on a dating app.  Some of the men are utter jerks, like Paul (Nader Khademi), who goes beserk in an escape room and then yells that they aren't intellectual equals, but most are perfectly nice, with one fatal flaw:

1. Stein (Mads Sjøgård Pettersen,top photo), a fitness enthusiast whose idea of a date is a spin class.

2.Henrik (Oddgeir Thune), who is old enough to be her father, and may in fact have dated her mother.

3. Jonas (Felix Sandman, left), only 19 years old, who is amazingly good in bed but dumps her by claiming that he's "leaving for Bali to go to college."

She also meets people on the street, at parties, and at the hospital where she works as an unconventional, "let's bend the rules" nurse:

4. Thomas (Kinsgford Siayor), a "cry on my shoulder" Christmas tree salesman and bartender.  He turns out to have a girlfriend.

5. Raul (Paul Andino), the hospital's "cheer up" clown.  Johanne just isn't into clowns.

6. A woman Johanne meets at a party, who goes down on her on the train.  She's just not into women, either.

After some subplots involving patients at the hospital and Johanne's parents trying out an open relationship, it's Christmas Eve. Who does Johanne bring home?

All eyes turn to the hallway as she brings in (spoiler alert!)

Jørgun, the roommate/best friend.  Everyone turns on their "little sister's coming out" smiles.  But then:

Raul the hospital clown, who has just started dating Jørgun, and:

The tough, non-nonsense hospital patient who has been mentoring her.

She brought people that she cares about. What difference does it make if they're romantically involved?

Gay characters:  The woman at the party.  Maybe Johanne's younger brother Sebastian (Arthur Hakalahti).  But everyone seems rather nonchalant about it. And subverting the "boyfriend for Christmas" trope queers the text.

Beefcake:  Three of the guys are displayed semi-nude.

Other Scenery:  Not very interesting.  The exterior shots are all on one street in the town of Røros

Misleading Title:  Johanne is not going "home for Christmas."  She lives in the same town with her family. It should be "A boyfriend for Christmas," but that tile is already taken by 5,000 Hallmark movies.

My Grade: B+.

Dec 18, 2021

Fangbone!: 3rd Grade Barbarian and Boyfriend Fight Monsters


(2014-2017) features a 9-year old warrior from the land of Skullbania who talks like Conan the Barbarian (and is voiced by Taylor Abrahamse).  He was entrusted with a magical talisman (if you must know, the severed toe of the Venemous Drool) and zapped into our world, where he befriended "weird kid" Bill (Colin Doyle).   Drool sends monsters and tries various psychological tricks to get his toe back, but Fangbone and Bill are always victorious.

You get the premise in the opening credits; the show itself is nonstop buddy-bonding, with almost all of the characteristics of a classic gay subtext: physicality, domesticity, exclusivity, lack of heterosexual interest, and permanence.  

In "The Necktie of Change," Bill is annoyed by Fangbone's barbarian excesses; he forces Bill to wake up three hours early, stabs the toaster, and won't let him enter "the maw of the metal beast" to get to school.  Then a magical photograph transforms him into a preppy who wears a suit and eats with a knife and fork. At first Bill is excited by this new toned-down Fangbone, but then he realizes that it was Fangbone's eccentricity that made him attractive.  Besides, he can't fight monsters as a preppy. Constant grabbing of hands, arms around shoulders, hugging.  Physicality.

In "The Mom of No Return," Bill's Mom discovers that he has been fighting monsters with Fangbone, and forces them to separate.  They are miserable without each other.  Besides, Fangbone can't fight monsters adequately by himself.  Mom finally relents, and Bill rushes in to save the day. Permanence.

Not many episodes involve friends outside the core duo.  I watched "The Pitch of Black," in which Fangbone takes the gang camping (aka "Skullbanian sky-snoring"), to check on their interactions.  He insists on roughing it -- no wifi, no tv, no "phones of smart."  Then shadow-monsters attack!  The friends consist of Dibby, who talks like a robot; Patty, a sarcastic girl; and a chubby eyeglassed person.  They act as a group, leaving the Fangbone-Bill pairing intact.  Exclusivity.

Only one episode mentions a girl or a woman: Fangbone is stressed out being responsible for the fate of two universes, so Bill finds a previous Guardian of the Toe to give him a pep talk: Wargrunt of the Bare-Claw Bear Clan, a giant adult Valkyrie-person.  But she turns out to be evil, hoping to use the power of the One Ring -- um, I mean Toe -- for her own ends.  No heterosexual interest.

All that's missing is domesticity: Fangbone lives by himself. 

Fangbone! is based on a series of books by Michael Rex, who has published many other children's books about monsters and warriors. No indication that the subtext is intentional. 

But no indication that it's not intentional.  Here another of his characters displays heterosexual interest, so why did he ensure that Fangbone and Bill don't?  A suggestion of authorial intent.

My Grade: A

Dec 17, 2021

Dicktown: Come for the Gay Subtext, But Beware of the Homophobia


A show called Dicktown (2020) will obviously draw my interest, although here "dick" probably means "jerk" or "private detective," not "penis." 

 It's a buddy comedy featuring Detective Purfoy and his hired muscle, Hunch, solving "teenage crimes."  So there might be some gay characters or subtexts.  I started watching Episode 2, "The Mystery of the Maybe Boyfriend," because the icon featured a half-naked guy.

Scene 1:   Purfoy and Hunch browsing in a video store called Needle and Head. Which is the hired muscle?  They're equally un-muscular and un-attractive.

They're looking for Gymkata, "the most badass movie ever made."  Also Quest for Fire, because of Rae Dawn Chong's breasts. Why does Purfoy have to demonstrate that he's heterosexual in the third friggin line of the friggin series?  Why are the writers so insistent that we don't "misread" the guys as gay?  

Their friend Meg complains that she's been screwing a guy, but they made eye contact during sex, so now they may be dating!  She wants to hire them to find out whether he thinks they are dating, so she can decide whether or not to reveal that she thinks they're dating.  Got that?  It's a teenage problem, all right.

Scene 2: Fowler's, a retro soda shop. To make sure he understands what Meg means, Purfoy looks up "dating" on Urban Dictionary, and of course gets a weird sex act.  They then interrogate Kurt (not the hunk on the icon), who says that he and Meg are indeed dating.  Case closed!  That was fast.

Nope, turns out that he's not actually Kurt and he's not actually dating Meg, he just says he is for some reason.  When Meg arrives, she leads them through the stock room to a secret door to a retro-1970s disco, where the real Kurt works as a "topless dancer."

Purfoy: "I'd deconstruct that text.  No homo."

I'm out.  I just want to research who created this  "Aren't gay people awful?" monstrosity.

There are two Homophobes in Charge.  David Rees is apparently some sort of comedian, with appearances on several talk shows.  This is his first writing/ producing/ acting credit.  

John Hodgman's biography on IMDB emphasizes that he's heterosexual -- don't even think about suggesting that he might know.  He has a number of acting credits: Married (of course),  The Venture Brothers, The Tick, Adventure Time, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, Ducktales.  

But some of those shows have gay characters.  How did he stand it?  I guess as long as there weren't any gay people actually in the room during the taping, he didn't mind.

Dec 15, 2021

"Bonus Family": Swedish Family Drama with Some Hunks and Maybe Gay Representation


Netflix says that I have a 93% match for A Bonus Family (Bonusfamiljan), a Swedish family drama that lasted for four seasons (2017-2021).  I don't go in much for family dramas -- why watch the marital problems of heterosexual couples, when I could be watching intergalactic battles or zombie apocalypses?  But I'll check out the premise to see if there are any hunks or proto-hunks.

1, Secondary school teacher Patrik (Erik Johannon, old photo or someone else) is married to Lisa, a stay at home Mom. They both have amicable relationships with their exes.

2. Lisa's ex-husband Martin (Fredrick Hallgren) works in a mattress shop, and dates a variety of women.

3. Patrick's ex-wife Katya works as an architect and dates a variety of men, notably Henrik (Niklas Engdahl) and Branco (Dragomir Mrsic, left).

4. The extended family has three kids: sons Eddie (Frank Dorsin, left) and William (Jacob Lundqvist), both 16-17 in the last season, and daughter Bianca, a young adult.

Frank Dorsin seems quite feminine; I might sample a Season 4 episode to see if his character is gay or trans.

Sample Results: Eddie has very few scenes; most involving being too lazy to do his chores.  William gets an entire plot arc about his decision to change high schools, from science-focused to music-focused, supported by his grandmother but opposed by his parents and the exes.  Neither have friendships outside the family.

5. Daugther Bianca is dating Mateo (Dakota Trancher Williams) 

6. Martin the Mattress Shop guy has a lesbian mother with a girlfriend, and a bohemian coworker, Sebbe (Leo Razzak, right).

7. Drag artist Christer Lindarw appears in 13 episodes as Danny, Mom's health care worker, so there must be some additional gay representation in Season 4.

Sample Results: Danny is flamboyant, but never does drag.  He has no friends outside the family.

8. Teo Dellback appears in a plot arc about Patrick manhandling a student in class after he asks if Patrick "blows the principal." He's a little young to be a hunk, but noteworthy because Google says he does not exist. 


Dec 14, 2021

"Ronal the Barbarian": Lots of Bulges and Butts in this "Lord of the Rings" Parody

The Danish sword-and-sorcery parody Ronal the Barbarian (2011) bombed at the box office and got bad reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, no doubt because the bulges and butts made heterosexuals uncomfortable.  But I was recommended the movie specifically because of the bulges and butts, and it's streaming for free on Youtube, so here goes:

Prologue: We're in the world of Conan the Barbarian. The mighty warrior dies in battle.  Everyone drinks his blood and develops massive muscles and bulges, except for Ronal (Anders Juul): there's not enough left for him to build anything but a bulge (which is a problem because....).

Scene 1: Ronal works out, but doesn't get bigger.  His uncle says he's going to go on a quest anyway: it takes balls, not brawn, and he's

A singer and his hetero-horny apprentice (Hadi Ka-Koush) arrive in the village.  Apprentice wants to go on a quest with the barbarians so he can attract girls, but the Master says he must continue studying.

Scene 2: The barbarians feasting, chugging, and flirting with girls.  Ronal is sick of being bullied or ignored, so he asks to be assigned guard duty.  No one ever attacks anyway.  But at that moment, the Dark Lord (Lars Mikkelsen) and his army of Orcs attack!  Everyone is captured except for Ronal and the Singer's Apprentice. It's up to them to rescue the barbarians!

We would expect a gay subtext, except the Apprentice CONSTANTLY talks about girls of various sizes and shapes, and when he compliments Ronal on his butt, Ronal says "Don't touch me."

Scene 3: They arrive at the ruined palace of the Oracle, a crazy witch doctor type who tells them that the Dark Lord can only be defeated by the fabled Magic Sword which has been lost for thousands of years.  Meanwhile, the barbarian captives arrive at Mount Doom. The Dark Lord is not pleased, however, since one is missing -- they don't have a full set?  Go find Ronal!

Scene 4: On the road, the Apprentice singing about girls.  One of his songs happens to mention that the Elves' Book of Wisdom tells where the Magic Sword is hidden, so it's off to Rivendell.   Oh, and they meet a Lady Warrior, who agrees to join their quest.  Warning- hetero romance ahead.

Scene 5: An inn where people, monsters, and fairies are carousing.  Elric, the Frutalicious Gay Elf (Brian Lytte), offers to guide them to the Elf kingdom.  Ronal is embarrassed by his touchy-feely crotch-kissing physicality.  The Dark Lord's minons arrive in search of Ronal, and they have to flee.

Scene 6: The entrance to the Elf Kingdom, a high wall in the desert.  Only those with "the right stature" can enter, and Ronal is afraid, so they try to find another entrance.  He almost gets them killed. (When Apprentice needs rescuing, Lady Warrior, not Ronal, does the job.  No gay subtext here!).

Scene 7: Ronal turns invisible (except for his balls) and sneaks into the castle.  He finds the Sacred Book, tears out the page with directions to the Magic Sword, and rushes out, chased by fairy guards shooting arrows at his balls.  

Scene 8: Ronal and Lady Warrior have a heart to heart.  She likes him, but she can only date men who defeat her in combat.  And she's a great warrior, which is why she's always single.

Scene 9: Nazguls attack!  They capture Lady Warrior and Elric.  Ronal and Apprentice run away, only to be captured by Amazons, who need Ronal to make babies (Apprentice will get his turn tomorrow night).

Later, they argue; Ronal storms out.  Then a hot Amazon tries to have sex with Apprentice, but he rejects her because "My friend needs me."

Meanwhile, the Dark Lord drools and paws over captured Lady Warrior, but she breaks free. They fight; he defeats her, so now she is in his power.  So she not only dates the man who defeats her, she is his slave.  That's sexist!

Scene 10: Ronal finds the Magic Sword, but drops it, and Lady Warrior, under the Dark Lord's power, picks it up. Finally they have all of the barbarians, and they can use their blood to summon Chernabog, the monster from Fantasia

Elric and Apprentice disguise themselves as Orcs and sneak into the Dark Lord's palace just as the ceremony is about to begin.  They release Ronal, who releases all the barbarians.  Everyone fights.  Ronal defeats the Fantasia Monster with some help from his friends.  Even Lady Warrior: Ronal has "conquered her heart," so she is no longer under the Dark Lord's power. Kiss.

Scene 11: Everyone celebrating.  Apprentice is impressing girls with his lute. Elric is massaging a barbarian ("I sense a tightness in your groin.").  Lady Warrior and Ronal are lovey-dovey.  The end.

Beefcake: Lots of bulges and butts.

Heterosexism:  Ronal and Lady Warrior, Apprentice and his horniness.

Gay Characters: Elric is a swishy stereotype.

Rushed Plot: Finding a guide to go to the Elf Kingdom to find a Sacred Book to find a Magic Sword.  Fantasy stories are usually quite convoluted, but in 90 minutes, the various searches seem rushed. 

Pastiche: A Lord of the Rings parody, 70 years after the books were published, and 10 years after the movies.

My Grade: C for the story, B for the bulges.

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