Jan 9, 2021

Michael Moorcock: Bisexual Decadence at the End of Time

Michael Moorcock was a leader in the British "new wave" of science fiction, confusing mishmashes of sci fi, fantasy, and James Joyce..  I liked the beefcake covers, and his name was...um, appealing.  But the novels were impenetrable.

Except for the Dancers at the End of Time (1972-76), a series of novels set in the far, far, far, FAR distant future, when the few remaining humans have practically infinite power.  They can change the shape of the continents and the color of the sky,  instantly.  No one has been born or died for thousands of years; they can be killed, but their friends resurrect them again.

Beings with names like Lord Jagged, Werner de Goethe, the Duke of Queens, Mistress Christia the Everlasting Concubine, Lord Shark the Unknown, and the Iron Orchid spend their time in aesthetic revelry and partygoing.

Sounds like the Aesthete-Decadent Movement of the late 19th century, with power rings.

And substantial beefcake.

They can change their sizes and shapes in order to produce more aesthetically pleasing effects, and what could be more aesthetically pleasing than a gigantic lavender penis?



And the first hints of same-sex activity that I ever saw in print. 

1. Miss Amelia Underwood, a time traveler from the Victorian Era, is horrified when Jherek Carnelian nonchalantly admits to having sex with "a male friend'!

2. An alien named Yusharisp warns them that they have expended so much energy in their various schemes that the heat death of the universe is imminent.  Jherek Carnelian doesn't really believe him, but thinks it would be a lark to accompany him through the universe, warning people.

Yusharisp comes to believe that Jherek is in love with him!






Turns out that Michael Moorcock often included gay-vague or bisexual-vague characters in his novels, although he never actually portrayed any same-sex relationships.

That's a lot more gay content than most science fiction of the 1970s.  Actually, it's a lot more gay content than most science fiction today.

See also: Xanth; Samuel Delaney.


Heterosexual Centaurs, Demons, and Ogres


I have been reading Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, on and off, ever since the first, A Spell for Chameleon in 1979.  They are set in a fantasy land that bears a striking resemblance to the mundane Florida. Magic works, but not in the expected way.  Every human has just one power, and some of them are silly or useless. There are also unicorns, centaurs, ogres, fairies, demons, dragons, gargoyles, and golems -- the fanciful list goes on and on.









Anthony draws you in with his cleverly convoluted plots and endlessly creative puns.  Even the titles are punny: Centaur Aisle, Roc and a Hard Place, Currant Events, Stork Naked.

And the covers often involve beautifully realized beefcake (drawn by Darrell K. Sweet): utterly naked young men, beefy knights, muscular centaurs and demons.  You expect lots of homoerotic buddy-bonding inside.

But you'll be wrong.  All significant relationships are heterosexual.  Same-sex friends always betray you in the end.  And there are no gay people, anywhere.




Stork Naked proposes that in Xanth, the old tale of babies coming from storks is true; prospective parents simply send the proper forms to the stork headquarters, and wait nine months for delivery. Since no straight intercourse is required, one would expect same-sex partners to apply for babies quite often; but only male-female couples are mentioned.

Every reference to desire, love, or romantic relationships in the book, and in all Xanth books, carefully specifies that it is straight.







When a fairy tells the adventurers about a strange lake filled with “love water,” they ask: “Standard love elixir? Male loves nearest female, and vice versa?”

“Yes. I have seen creatures there. I couldn’t make out exactly what they were doing, but always male and female.”

Piers Anthony could easily let his “standard love elixirs” target the nearest person, and have the fairy say “they were usually male and female.” But he is doggedly deter-mined to keep Xanth gay-free.




In his newsletter, Piers Anthony offered three responses to a fan’s criticism of the ongoing erasure.

First, as someone who is “110% straight,” whatever that means, he could never create believable gay characters (yet he is easily able to create ogres, demons, centaurs, mermaids, and talking storks).

Second, he is afraid that his publisher will not permit such a “controversial” move (but Avon Books has published many books with gay characters).

Third, he is afraid that including a gay character will ruin sales.


Straight science fiction and fantasy fans do seem to be more homophobic than usual. On an online forum, a fan asked why so many gay men like the genre, and was told that it gives them hope: “since sf has new inventions and discoveries, there would be a great possibility for a cure for it.”

A guide to Science Fiction Conventions advised straights who are subject to a same-sex advance to “refuse politely and clearly” instead of physically attacking their “assailant.”

Since the “new wave” of sociological speculation in the 1970s, many science fiction stories have depicted some form of “alternative sexuality.” There are species with three or more sexes or none at all, species whose sex organs change every season or at random, societies where technology makes changing one’s sex as easy as changing one’s shoes. Nevertheless, every sexual encounter, every romance involves a being who is male (right now) and one who is female (right now). The message is clear: one can be attracted only to beings with complementary sex organs; same-sex desire does not exist.

Some stories are set in future or magical societies in which bisexuality is “accepted,” but not people drawn exclusively to the same sex, not gay people, especially not gay men, and any characters who happen to mention in passing that they are bisexual experience only straight passion during the course of this particular story.

The vast majority of science fiction and fantasy stories  do't  bother with "alternative” sexualities at all, or even with offhand references to bisexuality being “accepted”: there are straight men and women, period.

So why do I keep reading it?

Because occasionally I will find an Earthfasts, a Something Wicked This Way Comes, or a Lord of the Rings.

See also: Michael Moorcock.

Jan 8, 2021

Thursday Morning Mishegas: Seven Amazon Prime TV Series and One Netflix Movie

 


A new year: new classes, new committees, new Amazon Prime "we think you'll like" selections.  Let's see if there are any gay characters or gay subtexts.

Friday Night Dinner: "Brothers Alex and Jonny have Friday night dinner with their folks every week."  One of them is probably gay...

Scene 1: The brothers arrive, insulting each other.  Da cooughs on them. Everyone screeches and calls each other names.  

These people are horrible. I can't watch.  I can't believe it stayed on for 8 seasons!  


Stepdads
:
"When infidelity claims the life of Joanna, her children are left in the custody of her fiancee Mike and his brother Jerry."  

How do you die from infidelity?  And in what universe does Mike get custody?  Maybe if Joanna specified in her will; otherwise the birth father, the grandparents, or another relative long before Mike.

Well, at least they'll form a quasi-gay-couple family. no doubt of the button-down stick-in-the-mud/ reckless joie de vivre type.

  Whoops, Jerry is "a womanizer."  I haven't heard that term for years -- too old fashioned, too sexist, to heteronormative.  I'm not watching a tv show written by people who use the term "womanizer."



The Outer Boroughs
.  
"Upon moving to New York, Dan and Pete soon realize that the outskirts of the city are fillled with all sorts of monsters..."  They're either a gay couple, or one of them is a girl with a boy's name.

Scene 1: The two guys, a standard stick-in-the-mud/joie de vivre couple, are unpacking and insulting each other. "We shuld have stayed in Queens.": so they've lived in several places together.  Straight buds don't do that -- obviously a gay couple.

Scene 2: The one doing a bad Jim Carey imitation says "Let's go out and get us some of those Brooklyn girls."  

Not only are they heterosexual life partners, they have only one thing on their minds.

Next!



Life in Pieces
: "A hilarious new series that features four stories each week about members of one eccentric family!" (Exclamation point part of the blurb.)   "They try to savor the moments that add up to what lifes about" (Punctuation error part of the blurb).  

Here's what "lifes about": breastfeeding; walking in on Mom and Dad having sex; meeting the new girlfriend, meeting the "gorgeous new girlfriend", finding a nanny, and "Larks first Christmas" (does the apostrophe key not work on this blurb writer's keyboard?).  

So basically Modern Family without the gay people.

Washed: "Mark Fields turns 30 and has a quarter-life crisis."  He plans to live to be 120?  So he looks for the Fountain of Youth (figuratively, I assume) with the help of his bookworm buddy.  

The Fountain of Youth  consists of: selling drugs; landing a date with Aubrey (don't get excited, it's a girl with a boy's name), and having a contest to see who can pick up the most women.

Next!


Peep Show
"Mark and Jez, two dysfunctional friends, share a London apartment."  
The term refers to an old carnival game where you could see a naked or semi-naked woman, but i'm sure here it's figurative. 

 First episode: they're competing for the attention of the Girl Next Door.

Not only are they heterosexual life partners, they have only one thing on their minds.

Next!

The Adventures of Captain Allatrice.  "In an age where life hangs between two swords, one man and his apprentice..."

Oh boy, buddy bondng!

"...find themselves caught between the conspiracies of the Spanish court and the ladies of their heart, as gorgeous as they are cunning."

Oomph.

Heck with it.   I'm going to Netflix.


Unknown. 
Interesting premise, and it stars the hunky Liam Neeson.

College professor Martin Harris and his wife arrive in Berlin for a conference.  They're about to check into the hotel, when he realizes that he left a bag at the airport and jumps into a cab.

Tring to avoid hitting some pedestrians, the cabbie swerves, and the cab goes off a bridge and into the Spree River.  

Four days later, Martin awakens in the hospital.  His passport, wallet, and cell phone were lost; they don't know who he is, and they had no way of contacting his wife.

He rushes to the hotel, but his wife pretends not to know him, and another man is masquerading as Martin Harris!

A very thorough masquerade job -- even his profile back at his university has the other guy's picture on it!

Martin tries to figure out what's happening, with the help of....the cabbie from his accident, Gina....

Ulp.  It couldn't have been a male cabbie?  Some buddy-bonding?  

I read a plot synopsis.  

I won't spoil the mystery, but in the last scene, guess who rides off into the sunset together?

This isn't my day.

Kilroy Was Here



In the 1965 Disney miniseries Kilroy, 27-year old Warren Berlinger (who won acclaim for his role in Blue Denim with Brandon DeWilde) plays a  bright-eyed, square-jawed young man named Oscar Kilroy, fresh from the War (the producers are never sure whether it should be Vietnam, Korea, or World War II).  

By the way, if you google the movie, the first hit is a review from a white supremacist website, but ignore them; Kilroy is not at all racist.   

Oscar drops on on the Fuller family of small-town Wilton Junction, and explains that he is a close friend of their son Greg – close friends, inseparable, comrades de foxhole, sharing chocolate bars and letters from home and who knows what else?  Impressed by his fervor, the Fullers allow him to move into Greg’s old room, so he can await his buddy’s return with open arms.


Oscar swaggers down the street like a movie star, bigger, brighter, more colorful, more alive than anyone else, expecting attention, used to being an object of desire.  He sits with his legs spread wide in the John Wayne style, taking up as much space as possible; one expects him to rip his shirt off at any moment to demonstrate the bulge of his biceps. 

Soon a young blonde woman walks up the Fullers’ front steps: Gladys, a previously unmentioned daughter, returning from a long trip.  One expects malt shops, shy walks in the dark, and a Reason for Oscar to stay in Wilton Junction.  But upon meeting Gladys, Oscar manages no stunned attraction,.  He looks positively disgusted as he recites his line: “Hello. Greg told me a lot about you.”  The other actors look surprised and uncomfortable, as if wondering how they should play the scene.  They were evidently expecting something like: “Hel-loo!  Greg told me a lot about you!”  

When Gladys’ fiancĂ©, nerdish but cute Harvey (23-year old Tom Lowell), arrives, he stares awestricken, eyes wide with desire – at Oscar!  The two shake hands for so long that the camera pans away, while Harvey stammers nervously until he musters the courage to ask Oscar out on a date!  
When Gladys, whom he has not seen in months, descends the staircase, Harvey busses her cheek as if she is a favorite aunt, all the time still gazing longingly at Oscar.  

Miffed but not surprised – evidently Harvey flirts with men quite often – Gladys drags him out the front door.  He calls a final invitation at Oscar: “I hope you come over later . . . .”

We discover that, like many closeted gay men of the 1960’s, Harvey is living a double life.  In the dull daylight world, he works as a bank teller, saving up money so he can marry Gladys and “settle down.”  But after hours he descends to an underground workshop full of odd mechanical devices, flashing lights, and deep secrets. When Harvey comes over for dinner and ignores Gladys for Oscar, she has had enough; she breaks off the engagement.  Now we assume that, like a “good queer,” Oscar will help Harvey reconcile with Gladys, promoting heterosexual responsibility over the dark and dangerous possibilities of the nightworld.  But Harvey and Gladys stay broken up. 

 Oscar does not engineer a reconciliation. Instead, Oscar and Harvey form a new couple, meeting secretly in Harvey’s lab – to share what desires, we can only speculate.   Harvey quits his job at the bank to become a professional inventor, and Oscar decides to stay in town. The two go down to City Hall, not precisely to acquire a mtwo arriage certificate, but by this point who is quibbling?  A homoerotic bond has definitively triumphed over the strictures of heterosexual narration.

But the last episodes got a new director, Norman Tokar.  Harvey, Greg, and Gladys no longer exist; the Fullers appear for only a moment; and Wilton Junction is populated almost entirely by balding, paunchy, unattractive men, seemingly cast because they are unlikely targets for Oscar’s dazzling smile.  Oscar remains, but no longer as the cocky, self-confident, screen-filling con artist. 

 Now he is a bumbler, a Dagwood Bumstead who has traded in his dreams for a newspaper and couch, a George Jetson who is tyrannized by his boss and outwitted by his wife and kids.  Except Oscar has no wife, no kids, just a big, scruffy dog.   

Deferring same-sex desire into a safely non-sexual passion for animals is a standard film tactic, especially for Disney, but here it is abrupt and jarring.  Who mandated the deletion of any possibility of same-sex desire, the absence of Harvey, the exchange of a brilliant, potentially subversive supporting cast for a stable of conventionally heterosexist B-movie actors?  These are changes too abrupt to represent merely a new director’s take.  Someone noticed the same-sex desire intruding into the first two episodes, and decided to take no chances in removing it from the last two.  Disney himself, perhaps?   


Jan 7, 2021

"The Slap": Slapping Your Kid Causes Trouble. One Gay Character.

 


The Slap:
 "A middle-class Australian community is torn apart after a man slaps someone else's child. " 

Something so inanely trivial will tear apart a community?  And it's going to be drawn out into an entire tv series?  Not even a 15-minute web series -- the first episode is 45 minutes long.

This I've got to see.

Episode 1, "Hector."

Scene 1:  A woman smoking a cigarette while having sex with a man.  Narrator: "Hector woke to a memory of Connie.  For a moment, he luxuriated in the memory of her."

Gross!  I thought this was a comedy, not a heterosexual sex schlock.  At least we see Hector's chest while he'x luxuriating in the memory of her (aka masturbating).

Hector (Jonathan LaPaglia) does push-ups and sit-ups (nice body, ugly face), then goes downstairs, where Connie is making breakfast.  They smooch, cuddle-wuddle, and argue about who wuvs who the most.  

In between smooching, he yells at his son, who has a "fat ass" and spents too much time playing video games.

Ok, it must be Connie's  son, or else when he gets around to the slap, it won't be "someone else's kid." 

Scene 2: Wait, the lady at breakfast was not Connie!   While driving, Hector flashbacks to the real Connie , the kids' babysitter.  He dropped her off at her house, and they smooched.  Narrator: "Hector reflected on what might happen if he allowed things to go further with Connie. Public humiliation, divorce, loneliness, despair, suicide."

All that over sex with the babysitter?  Is she underage or something?

Scene 3: Back in the present, Hector goes to the veterinary clinic where Connie works (I guess the babysitting gig was years ago, before she graduated).  He claims that he just came by to pick up some Valium, but actually he wants to luxuriate in her some more.   He invites her to the party this afternoon (dumb idea, dude).  


Scene 4:
Back home, Hector is smoking by poolside.  His mate Harry (Alex Dimitriades) wants him to come in the water, but he refuses.  "You're pussy-whipped!" Harry complains.   

So Hector jumps into the pool, and the two start frolicking.  I expected them to kiss, but then Hector's teenage son jumps into the pool with them, and his wife/servant gives him a beer.  He's straight, and Hector's cousin.  No homerotic hijinks, darn. 

The barbecue is in honor of Hector's 40th birthday. 

Meanwhile, inside the house, the wives/servants are cooking.  Sexist gender role polarization!  They discuss one of their toddler sons "playing with himself," and assume it's because he hot for a girl.  Heteronormative!

Scene 5: Regardless of the house full of guests, Hector goes upstairs and masturbates (full butt shot).  

Downstairs, more people arrive.  Hector's Mum and a gray-haired lady -- could they be a lesbian couple?  No, Hector's Dad is there, too. 

They spend about 10 minutes saying hi, how are you, how's the job, the sort of small talk real families might make at a party.  Except this is a tv show.  Dialogue should be interesting, or humorous, or drive the plot. 

What is the plot, anyway?  Where's the slap heard round the world?


Scene 6:
Outside, the men are firing up the barbie.  Hector yells at his son Adam: "Get off your fat ass and help your Grandpa!"  Adam (Adrian van der Hayden) refuses and walks off into the side yard.  Hector follows...to slap him?  

No, he apologizes for yelling.

This is Adrian van den Hayden's only screen appearance.  Since 2011, he has grown up and taken up bodybuilding.

More family stuff.  "Your papa and I got a present for you," an argument over whether to take a trip to Greece, that sort of thing.






More people arrive. Anouk and her boyfriend Rhys (Oliver Ackland), a soap star.  Everybody fawns over him and asks for selfies.  

Hector seems particularly smitten, and puts an arm around his waist and leads him into the house.  For smooching, I assume?  No, just to talk to the wives, who are still cooking in blissful gender polarized harmony in the kitchen.

Scene 7: Upstairs, the kids are fighting.  One of the wives goes up to check.  Her son says "I want booby!", so she pulls out her breast for him.

Breast-feeding a ten-year old boy?  Way, way creepy!

Hector goes up to check, too, and yells at Adam again.

But no slap.  Come on, Hector, slap someone!


Another heterosexual husband-wife-kid combo arrive.  

Hector and Wifey go into the other room and argue about the trip to Greece and childrearing.  Then Hector goes into the bathroom and smokes, drinks, and snorts cocaine, while thinking about leaving  his horrible wife, kids, and relatives and running off to South America.  I guess the lovey-dovey stuff earlier was just an act.


Scene 8: 
Back at the party, high, Hector finds Cornnie in the laundry room (where apparently they keep the beer).   They almost kiss, but at the last minute Connie backs off and goes to find Richie (Blake Davis). "He's not my boyfriend, he's just a guy I brought."  This will become important later.

Everyone sits down to dinner, except for about a dozen people who are gathered around the table but not eating.  They start the family criticism:

1. Anouk and Rhys are wasting their lives in the mindless drek of a soap opera.  

2. Gary wanted to be an artist but is stuck in a dead-end job as a librarian.  Surrounded by books all day!  How awful!  Darn, I thought Harry was unattached, but some woman smooches him.  It's heterosexual couples all the way down.

3. Harry is just an idiot.  

4. Hector is great, because he's a good husband and a good father.  All the other men at the table are husbands and fathers, too.  What makes Hector so special?

Scene 9: Hector sneaks into the bathroom to smoke, drink, and do more coke.  Whoa, there are at least 20 people at this party.  There better be more than one bathroom, or there will be a line forming.

He hears the kids fighting again, and bursts into the bedroom (the ten-year old is breastfeeding again). 

He yells at Adam again, but still no slap!

Scene 10: Hector flirts with Connie while the kids play in the back yard.  Breastfeeding Boy grabs a bat and starts swinging around wildly.  Harry  tell him to stop, but he refuses, and kicks him in the shins.  So Harry slaps him.

All hell breaks loose.  "You fucking animal!" the boy's father yells, as he attacks. Saying "He deserved it" gets Breastfeeding Mom to attack: "This is child abuse!"   Another mom calls the police. Harry's wife is asked: "Does that fucking pig hit you, too?"    

Geez, one little slap.  I got slapped by the teacher in first grade for refusing to eat my salad (it was gross, chopped-up lettuce swimming in French dressing).

Scene 11: The traumatizing event has made Hector reconsider his life.  He gives up the idea of fleeing to South America, apologizes to Wife, and promises to do better.  

What did I just watch? This wasn't a comedy about a ridiculous misunderstanding spinning out of control.  These people were deadly serious.  They thought of a man slapping a crazy breastfeeding boy as a criminal offense.

I looked ahead in the plot synopses: future episodes are named after the person being affected by the horrible tragedy: Anouk, Harry, Connie, Rosie, Manolis, Aisha, and Richie. Harry is apparently arrested and put on trial, and loses everything "his Brighton Beach mansion, his beautiful wife, his son, his successful business." 

Beefcake: Lots of Hector, a bit of Harry and his teenage son.

Gay Characters:  In the 2015 American version and I assume the Australian version, the police examine Richie's camera, looking for evidence, and discover that he and his boyfriend were victims of cyberbullying.  The boyfriend committed suicide, and Richie spent time in a mental hospital.  When he got out, he changed his name.  But the discovery of the old tragedy compels him to attempt suicide.  Charming. 

Jan 6, 2021

The Top 8 Hunks of "Cougar Town"

 


I'm most of the way through Season 1 of Cougar Town (2009-2015) on Amazon Prime.  Thankfully, the premise of older women dating younger men has long been abandoned (although the title sticks around; it really should be called Wine,  since everyone has a wine glass in their hand at all times). 

Most of the characters have changed dramatically since the pilot.  Now it's Friends, with the friends middle-aged instead of young adults:



From left to right:

Dimwitte hunk Joey: dimwitted hunk Bobby.

Nerdish Ross and aggressive Rachel: nerdish Andy and aggressive Elle.

Micromanaging, anxiety prone Monica: micromanaging, anxiety prone Jules.

Dotty Phoebe: dotty Laurie.

Sarcastic Chandler, who ends up with Monica: sarcastic Grayson, who will end up with Jules.

Plus teeange Travis.

It's pleasant to watch the trivial daily problems of rich white people, especially when they form a close-knit family group (which, come to think of it, was the main draw for Friends).  But the attitude toward gay people is problematic.  


Teenage Travis pretends to come out to the babysitting Grayson (the sarcastic one) so he'll be allowed to have his girlfriend over.  Andy notes that he has fallen for the trick before: "He made me go to two Pride parades."  He says it like it's a humiliation.

Andy has an unrequited crush on Bobby (the nerd), which everybody knows about and plays with:

Elle: Go off with your boyfriends, Bobby and Grayson.

Andy: Only Bobby is my boyfriend.

When Laurie's Mom thinks that she and Jules are a couple, she asks "Which of you is the dude?"  Ok, Mom is ignorant, believing that lesbian relationships are divided into masculine-feminine.  But instead of educating her, they play along, arguing on which would be "the dude" if they were a lesbian couple.

In another episode, the friends play the "Everybody is a little gay" game, which involves getting a guy to admit knowing about or liking a girly thing, then yelling "Caught you!  You're a little gay!"  So being gay means being feminine?  And being "caught" suggests that it's a humiliation.

In the same episode, they discuss whether guys can have women friends without wanting to have sex with them.  Grayson thinks it's impossible; Jules tries to prove him wrong by calling every male friend she's had since junior hig.  They all admit that they wanted to have sex with her (most are still interested_.

But...but..you know about the existence of gay men!  Did you forget?

Not homophobic enough for me to stop watching, but troubling.

I read ahead in the plot synopses.  No gay characters appear, but Elle and Jules pretend to be a lesbian couple to get some of that gay privilege  (a standard plot device in the 1990s), and Grayson gets way upset when someone implies that he is gay (a whole episode devoted to it!).


Maybe I'll stop watching before the show gets more homopbobic.  But I do like beefcake: none of the regulars seem to own shirts, and there's a never-ending smorgasbord of hunks for Jules and Laurie to date or one of the guys to be friends with.  Most appear for just one episode, but here are some who stick around for awhile: 

1. Ryan Devlin as Smith Frank, the sophisticated, wealthy college boy whom decidedly unsophisticated Laurie dates (top photo).

2. Shawn Parikh as Sig, Travis's college roommate.  No beefcake photos, but people of color are so rare on this show that I wanted to include him anyway.

3. Nick Zano as Josh, the young guy whom Jules dates until he says that he loves her.  Then, of course, she has to dump him.





4. Edwin Hodge as Wade, a soldier whom Laurie dates until he becomes too clingy.













5. Scott Foley  as Jeff, an "arrogant" (that is, sexy) real estate client whom Jules dates until he asks for a commitment.  Apparently girls just wanna have fun.











6. Ryan Biegel as Doug.












7.  1980s hunk Lou Diamond Phillips as himself.












8. David Clayton Rogers as Matt, whom Jules hooks up with.

See also: Cougar Town



Jan 5, 2021

Bamm-Bamm's Muscles: Gay Promise on "The Flintstones"

Quick, name a cartoon character who came from outer space, was adopted by a human family, and has superpowers?

Right, Bamm-Bamm Rubble.

In an October 3rd, 1963 episode of The Flintstones, about "a modern prehistoric family," Betty and Barney Rubble are upset because they can't have children -- apparently Barney's sperm count is a little low.  They wish on a falling star, and the next morning a baby appears on their doorstep, asleep in a turtle shell, holding a club.

He can only say "Bamm-Bamm," so that becomes his name. He turns out to have superhuman strength, easily carrying furniture and tossing his adopted father around.



As a kid in the 1960s, I was intrigued by Bamm-Bamm's mysterious origin.  Could he be an alien -- a falling star could mean a UFO!  His white hair certainly looked alien.  And the superhuman strength surely meant super muscles!

I didn't see The Flintstones often, so I didn't notice that the writers failed to make much use of Bamm-Bamm's potential.  His supernatural origins were rarely mentioned, and his super-strength became little more than a comic nuisance.













No gay symbolism: in fact, he began expressing toddler heterosexual interest, mooning over toddler-next-door Pebbles, romancing her in baby-talk.  Eventually they were closing episodes by singing the treacly Sunday-school song "Open Up Your Heart (and Let the Sun Shine In)."




In 1971, a highly publicized spin-off appeared, The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show (1971-72, and rerun long after).  With the characters as teenagers!  I watched the first episode instead of the beefcake-heavy live-action Barrier Reef, to see if Bamm-Bamm had transformed into Superboy.

Nope.  No mysterous origin.  No superstrength.  Bamm-Bamm wasn't even built -- he had skinny arms and legs and a shapeless lump of a body.  He and Pebbles went to high school and belonged to a rock band, like everyone on Saturday morning in the 1970s.





I didn't bother with the three tv movies in the 1990s that aged Bamm-Bamm into adulthood.  Apparently he and Pebbles marry and move to Hollyrock, where he becomes a screen writer.  They have two children, Roxy and Chip.

A heterosexist conclusion to a story loaded with gay promise.

At least the Bamm-Bamm costume allows for some interesting cosplay.

See also: The Flintstones and Saturday Morning Muscle.




1970s Saturday Morning Beefcake

During the late 1970s, there was a fad for live-action adventure on Saturday morning tv. Mostly low-budget, sometimes stage-bound, but with lots of cute boys and men for the preteen set.  Occasional shirtless shots and some buddy bonding.  In the fall of 1977, for instance:

At 8:00: Space Academy (1977-78), starring Jonathan Harris of Lost in Space as the headmaster of an academy for kids with paranormal powers.  The main hunk was second-in-command Chris (Ric Carrott, seen here in a later softcore porn flick).  But there was also the super-intelligent Paul (Ty Henderson), the super-strong Tee Gar (Brian Tochi), and their mascot, an orphan boy named Loki (Eric Greene).




At 8:30: Skatebirds (1977-78). A Saturday morning  ripoff of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, lacking the earlier series’ insightful social commentary or wry wit.  But one of the live action segments, Mystery Island, starred the muscular Stephen Parr , the robot from Lost in Spaceplus their two teen companions, played by Larry Volk and Lynn Marie Johnston.




At 9:00: Kids from C.A.P.E.R. (1976-78), about four teenagers working for the Civilian Authority for the Protection of Everybody: the leader P.T. (Steve Bonino), muscular Bugs (Cosi Costa), gentle Doomsday (Biff Warren, left), and intellectual Doc (John Lansing).  They displayed varying levels of heterosexual interest in the girl of the week, and the blond, muscular Doomsday, none at all.






At 9:30: Search and Rescue (1977-78): the Alpha Team consisted of Dr. Bob Donell (Michael J. Reynolds), Katy (Donann Cavin), Jim (Michael Tough, left), and some specially trained animals











At 10:00: The Red Hand Gang (1977-78), inner city kids who fought crime: leader Frankie (Matthew Laborteaux, center, who would go on to star in Whiz Kids), J.R. (J.R. Miller, right), Lil Bill (Johnn Brogan, second right), and Doc (James Bond III, right).

And there were many other with that I missed.

See also: More Saturday Morning Live Action Beefcake


Jan 4, 2021

James Whitcomb Riley: Even Dull, Depressing Poets Can Be Gay

When I was growing up in Rock Island, teachers thought it their duty to lecture incessantly on local writers and artists, like Carl Sandburg, gay jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke, and Isabel Bloom.

My cousins in Indiana were hearing about their local writers and artist, of course, and whenever I visited, I had to hear about them, too: Theodore Dreiser, Gene-Stratton Porter, Hoagy Carmichael....

The one I hated the most was James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916), the "Hoosier Poet," the official poet laureate of the state of Indiana.


My Aunt Mavis scared me and my Cousin Buster to death with her rendition of "Little Orphant Annie":

The goble-uns'll git you ef you don't watch out! (The "git" was accompanied by a sudden grab.)

And "Nine Little Goblins":

You shan't wake up 'til you're plumb dead!

My Cousin Joe had to read "My Bachelor Chum," about a guy who is old -- nearly 40 -- and fat, who claims that he loves being unmarried -- he can smoke and drink and stay out late, and there's nobody around to nag him.  But then he sneaks off to a private study, looks at a picture of a woman, and starts crying.

Not only heterosexist, but depressing! Can you believe that James Whitcomb Riley was one of the most popular writers of his era, and all of his books were best-sellers?



Glancing through a copy of the Selected Poems that was on every bookshelf in Indiana, I found nothing but death, despair, lost heterosexual loves, dying soldiers, and more death.

They loved that kind of thing in the 19th century.

Riley's most famous poem is "The Old Swimmin' Hole": an old man reminisces about how as a boy he used to enjoy skinny dipping with his chums, but now he just wants to die:

I wish..I could dive off in my grave like the old swimmin' hole

Wait -- he liked to swim naked with his chums?

Could Riley have been gay?


His biographer, Elizabeth Van Allen, says certainly not, but what biography doesn't try desperately to establish the heterosexuality of her subject?

She admits that he sought same-sex friendships through his life, and described them in passionate terms; to physician James Matthews, for instance, he wrote: "I love you, and no knife shall cut our love in two."

But that's just a 19th century convention, she explains: "he understood that there was a limit to what was socially acceptable between people of the same gender."

Of course there was.  The same limit exists today -- it is expected, encouraged, and demanded that same-sex relationship be platonic, and cross-sex erotic.    Being gay crosses that line.  But that simply means that gay people must spend a lot of time defending themselves against the accusations that they're trying to destroy the world.  It doesn't mean that they aren't gay.

Or that they never experienced glimmers of same-sex love while writing their dull, depressing poems.

See also: John Greenleaf Whittier and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Jan 3, 2021

"John Apple Jack": Nobody Cares That You're Gay, You're a Jerk

 


It's January 3rd, and Amazon Prime's "Movies We Think You'll Like" begins with Christmas Cancellation, Christmas Time, Christmas in the Clouds, Christmas in the Bayou, Santa Fake, All is Bright, and Christmas Survival.  Ok, so maybe we're Eatern Orthodox, celebrating until January 6th?  

But it also recommends Pitching Tents, Fishing Naked, The Inbetweeners (a woman flashes her breasts at grinning boys), Valley Girl, Riot Girls, and John Apple Jack ("When playboy John discovers that his sister's fiance is his childhood crush..."

So this guy was gay as a boy, but turned straight when he grew up?  Sounds dreadfully homophobic.  I'm in.

Scene 1: Establishing shots of Vancouver.  Closeups of the interior of a fancy restaurant.  John (Chris McNally) is cooking. Narrating, John says that he is a "rich, gay slut whore" who at age 25, has had sex with about 1,000 men   

Wow, major slut-shaming. "Playboy" is more positive, but I've never heard it applied to a gay man before.  And 1,000 sounds like a lot, but if  he's been out since age 18, that's only 2.7 men per week, one or two dates and an occasional sex party.   

John flashes back to when he had crushes on boys as a kid, and wanted "fairy tale perfection, true love," which doesn't exist.  Or you could try a regular relationship.  Flashback to being a kid (costumes from the 1960s?) -- kicking his boyfriend out of the treehouse so his mom won't notice them holding hands.  To being a teenager (hairstyle and car from the 1950s?) , dumping one boyfriend to date another.

Ok, John is 25.  He was a kid around 2005, not in psychedelic hippie days.

Scene 2: Jack is getting a blow job under his desk from a feminine, English-mangling Asian stereotype  ("You like?").  His stuffy father (Drummond MacDougall) interrupts, telling him to "leave the titties outside the building." Uh-oh, he's not out. 


Scene 3: 
John inspects the flagship of the 15 restaurants his Dad owns,  Childhood boyfriend Jack (Kent S. Leung) is the sous chef!  What a coincidence! John pretends not to know Jack, Jack beans him with an apple, John fires him.

Scene 4: Jack the Ex-Boyfriend rejects a Street Hustler (Manny Jacinto), who will become important later.  

He shows up at the office just as Playboy John is preparing to screw giggling, English-mangling Boytoy.   John rehires him, but he wants more: to modernize the menu with French-Asian fusion  dishes and locally sourced ingredients. Jack says he will consider it. They kiss -- just as shirtless Boytoy arrives with coffee, and deliberately spills it on his crotch.

John: "Sorry.  I'm not attracted to you -- I was just fooling around.  Let's get drinks tomorrow."

Way to send out mixed signals, dude!



Scene 5:
Jack in an elevator with coffee on his crotch, looking like he peed his pants.  The Security Guard, who will become important later, asks if he's ok.

Meanwhile, back in the office, Boytoy (Alvin Tran) put on cat ears and is meowing around the floor.  He throws Ex-Boyfriend Jack's menu ideas out the window to poop on the competition.  They land right in front of Jack, who thinks Playboy John has rejected them and gets mad.

Meanwhile, Playboy John is annoyed by the clinging Boytoy and fires him.  I see his point -- how can you get any work done, when your assistant is constantly saying "We have sex now?"  Boytoy tries to blackmail him into keeping his job, but John has had a string of boytoy assistants, and knows how to cover.

Sceene 6: Playboy John arrives at a restaurant for lunch with his father and sister Vivienne, who hasn't talked to them in ten years for some reason (maybe because they are jerks?).  She's brought her fiance for them to meet.  Surprise!  It's Ex-Boyfriend Jack!

Well, I guess if they grew up in the same 1950s neighborhood, it's conceivable that they would....maybe...know each other.

Marrying your sister would mean "off limits" to most people, but Playboy John keeps trying to grab Jack's hand under the table, and Jack keeps pushing him away.  Meanwhile, we discover that Playboy John has issues with Vivienne and is not invited to the wedding, and their parents are stunningly racist.

Playboy John decides to come out: "I am gay.  I have alwasy been gay, and I will always be gay.  I live in Yaletown, the gayest place on Earth."

Dad:"Please, it's not the 1900s anymore.  We know.  Everybody knows."  He addresses the restaurant patrons: "Hey, everybody, I'm the owner of Jardine's.  Raise your hand if you know that my son, John Jardine, is gay?"

Everyone raises their hand.  Laugh out loud moment.

John is, surprisingly, not pleased by Dad's acceptance.  He yells, criticizes, says the standard  teenage line: "You're trying to make me like you, but I'm not like you"  That's exactly the opposite of what Dad just said.  

Dad fires him.  John storms out.  What just happened?

Boytoy arrives and "outs" John to get revenge for being fired..  Laugh out loud moment.


Scene 7:
 Behind the restaurant, Playboy John yells at the waiter (Jag Bal) for giving food to the Street Hustler (left).  But he's homeless and was "eating garbage."  Besides, the waiter will pay for it: "Please don't fire me.  Wait -- you don't work for your Dad anymore.  You can't fire me."

Then John asks the waiter for a date. This is not even remotely what a real person would do. Waiter rejects him, naturally.  

Ex-Boyfriend Jack comes out and explains that he and Viviane are getting married because they're best friends; "this is about commitment and family, not sex."  So you will have a Platonic marriage?

So it's the 21st century, and no one cares if you're gay or not, but you have to be in a heterosexual marriage for your career, working for a gay man and his father, who doesn't care that his own son is gay, so why would...... I'm confused.

Scene 8:  Playboy John arrives at work.  He can't remember the security guard's name, even though he's seen him twice a day for years, so he calls him "Bruce." 

Turns out that John no longer works there, so he can't get in the building. So what does John do?  He flirts with "Bruce."  Who would do that?

I've had it with this movie.  I'm fast-forwarding.

Spoiler alert: John disrupts the wedding, a la The Graduate.  This makes everyone extremely happy, even sister Viviane, which makes no sense whatever.  Dad is so pleased that he finances their new restaurant, John Apple Jack.

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