Jul 20, 2021

"Moone Boy": "The Goldbergs" with Hormone Monsters


The icon for the Irish sitcom Moone Boy certainly drew my attention, depicting a dour-looking man and a screaming boy joined at the head. How is it even possible to have conjoined twins of different ages?  And how would they avoid trivializing the problems of real conjoined twins?

Turns out that the icon is deliberately misleading -- the series is about imaginary friends.  Apparently nearly everyone has an imaginary friend to guide them through life.  The dour-looking man, Sean (Chris O'Dowd) is unhappy because he has been assigned to the screaming boy, Martin Moone (David Rawle), who is growing up in rural Ireland in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Sounds like The Goldbergs, with the addition of the hormone monsters on Big Mouth, but this rather odd premise has resulted in three seasons with excellent reviews: "a coming of age charmer": "a hidden gem": a Rotten Tomatoes score of 83%.

Ok, I'm game.  The only episode synopsis with the key word "gay" is #4, "Another Prick in the Wall."  (Does "prick" mean the same thing in Ireland as it does in America?).

Scene 1:
Imaginary Friend Sean narrates that Martin, age 12 or 13, is "learning the mysterious ways of women."  Heteronormative dreck!  Why do hetero men think women are so mysterious?  

Martin's sister put makeup on him while he is sleeping.  He's late for school, so he rushes out without looking in a mirror.  A group of girls laughs at him, but he thinks it's because he is eating cereal on the run.  

Boys variously wolf-whistle at him, call him "beautiful," and sing "Do you really want to hurt me," by androgynous singer Boy George.  Still clueless.

He asks his best friend Padriac (Ian O'Reilly) why everyone is acting so weird. "Probably because you're wearing makeup." Martin is shocked and horrified, but Padriac says "I kind of like it."

Scene 2: Mom amd Dad (Peter McDonald, below) having breakfast and watching the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989).  Mom announces that she's going to become an instructor at Weight Wishers (like Weight Watchers, but not trademarked).

Scene 3: Martin tries desperately to scrub the makeup off.  Another boy approaches: "I know everyone is giving you a hard time, but I want to wish you the best of luck at being gay."  "No, this is all just a big misunderstanding!"  

Scene 4: Dad at his shop, trying to get the printers to remove the apostrophe from his sign "Moone's Bed's." 

Cut to Martin tattling on his sister for applying the makeup. Mom: "She was probably trying to spruce you up a bit."  Martin: "No, she was being mean! She's pure evil, like...like...um..."  He looks around for an example, sees Hitler on tv, and decides on Skeletor from Masters of the Universe.  Mom suggests that he just get up earlier, but another lady tells her that he needs time to "play with himself."

Martin is horrified that the adults know he does that.  Flashback to him playing with a soccer game under the covers.

Scene 5: Martin tries to find a way to shorten the walk to school, so he'll have time to both "play with himself" and check for make-up.  The direct route requires him to climb a giant wall and then jump down.  He conjures Imaginary Friend Sean for advice.  

Sean: "You don't have the balls to make this jump."  

Martin: "What's wrong with me balls?"  

Sean: "No, I meant your attitude.  You're the cautious type.  Play it safe."   To demonstrate, he points out that Martin has conjured him wearing ladies' high-heel shoes.  I'm not sure how that demonstrates caution.   Why not knock a hole in the wall?

Cut to Padriac watching the Berlin Wall fall with his Imaginary Friend, wrestler Crunchie Haystacks (Johnny Vegas), who says of Ronald Reagan, "I'd let him tag me anytime."  What does that mean? Does he think Reagan is hot?

 Scene 6:
The plan is to remove small chunks of the wall every night, so no one notices until it's too late. Dad notices right away, but he doesn't care; watching news about the fall of the Berlin Wall has made him horny, but Mom refuses sex.  She's busy working on her Weight Wishers spiel.

Montage of a gradually increasing hole in the school wall.  Martin and Sean dance in celebration; Sister looks out the window, sees Martin dancing by himself, and calls him a "knob-bucket."

Scene 7: Finally the hole in the wall is ready.  Martin wakes up wearing makeup (has this been a daily occurence?), quickly washes it off, and heads through the hole, arriving at school on time.  Only today Padriac is wearing makeup!  

Scene 8: Many kids are using the hole as a shortcut to school with "gay abandon," and back home "with even gayer abandon."  Padriac rushes through the hole, trying to hide his makeup.  Being gay and wearing make-up are two different things, you knob-bucket!

"Cross-traffic soared," Imaginary Friend Sean tells us, "and Martin's popularity with it."  Now the boys are calling him Wrecking-Ball and singing "I want to be your sledge hammer" (a song by Peter Gabriel).  

Scene 9:  Mom and Dad finally get around to yelling at Martin about the hole, with kids coming through it all the time, and the kid in a wheelchair wanting an accessibility ramp.  "You need to fix the wall!"  

Martin fixes it, but does a shoddy job, hoping it will fall down on its own.  Imaginary Friend Sean complains that this is boring; no doubt Padriac and his Imaginary Friend are doing something exciting.  Switch to them watching David Hasselhoff at the Berlin Wall, discussing his extraordinary hotness.  Padriac is still wearing makeup. 

No. Ronan Raftery (left) appears in 10 episodes as Dessie Dolan, the boyfriend of Martin's sister. 

Gay Characters: Padriac, probably, but he gets a girlfriend in a later season.

Heterosexism:  Martin doesn't express any interest in girls in this episode, but he "discovers the opposite sex" later on.

Homophobia: Some of the jokes teeter toward homophobia, mainly by equating gay identity with feminine-coded behavior.  But it's rural Ireland in 1989; what do you expect?

My Grade:  B


  1. Before the 80s and 90s, working class and rural areas were a little different. Basically, you weren't necessarily weird for having sex with men, so long as 1) you weren't the bottom; 2) you either expressed sexual interest in women (even faking it, so long as it wasn't too obvious) or took a vow of celibacy, i.e., becoming a priest; and 3) you conducted yourself in a masculine manner. In fact, in some areas, boys who didn't play with other boys were seen as "odd" by their age-mates, and not getting caught doing so worried their fathers. (An unspoken rule was that these male mysteries were not to be spoken of to the women.) 1, by the way, meant that one would not top a friend either, to spare him the ignominy, but topping a man known by all to be "that way" or "funny" was acceptable, especially if he gave you some sort of compensation, either an official trick or some sort of present or maybe a meal or movie tickets. Make what you will of the "manly", "normal" guy being a literal prostitute.

    tl;dr: Being gay was literally defined as being unmanly, even to the point that sex with other males was under certain circumstances normative behavior, making homophobic jokes circular in nature.

    1. In some places, notably north Africa and southern Italy, being gay is labeled deviant, but it's ok for boys and unmarried men to have sex with rich American and European tourists in exchange for gifts or money: the reasoning is that they're doing it for pay, not because they like it, and besides, they need a sexual release when no "nice girls" are available.

    2. I would add many Latin American countries for that gay for pay list

    3. It's not "for pay" per se. There are two social scripts at work; one is reciprocal, the other transactional.

      The working class in most countries ends up with something like this, again, prior to the popularization of medicalized same-sex behavior. (Ironically it was already dropped from the DSM by this point.)

  2. The masturbation episode was pretty funny.


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