Jan 23, 2021

What's Gay about "Married with Children"

One day in 1988, I was at the gym in West Hollywood, and I saw someone wearing a t-shirt reading "Married...with Children Fan Club."

I knew about Married...with Children.  On Sunday nights, my roommate Derek and I always watched the beefcake-heavy: 21 Jump Street and Werewolf  on the fledgling Fox network, but we turned the tv off when the "Love and Marriage" theme song began.

Who wanted to watch a tv show that praised the heterosexual nuclear family?

Big mistake.  Married skewered the institution.

Al (Ed O'Neill) and Peggy (Katey Sagal) are a middle-aged married couple who hate each other.  Sexually voracious Peggy keeps trying to trick, cajole, or berate Al into having sex with her, but he isn't interested (although he likes women in general).

In the first season plot arc, Al and Peggy have fun trying to destroy a naive newly married couple, Marcy (Amanda Bearse) and Steve (David Garrison).  They're like George and Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, except their tactic is criticizing wives and husbands, respectively, and it works!  The couple soon divorces, and Marcy hooks up with metrosexual boytoy Ted McGinley

 Other episodes involve problems with the kids, the promiscuous teenage Kelly (Christina Applegate) and the rowdy preteen Bud (David Faustino) -- soon a nerdy teenager.

No significant buddy-bonding, although Peggy and Marcy and Al and Boomererson come close.

Lots of beefcake -- Kelly had lots of shirtless, muscular boyfriends, such as Dan Gauthier, and in later seasons, Bud began to muscle-up big time.

Gay people appear only once.

Yet Married -- at least in its early years, before the downward spiral of Seasons 7-10 -- artfully revealed the flimsy foundation of the "fade out kiss," the myth of universal heterosexual destiny.  In the heart of the Reagan-Bush Era of conservative retrenchment, that was worth any number of "old friend visits and turns out to be gay" episodes.

Amanda Bearse came out in real life in 1993, and the rest of the cast are strong gay allies.

Katey Sagal and Christina Applegate have made public statements supporting gay marriage.

Ed O'Neill now stars in Modern Family, as the patriarch of a family that includes a gay son and son-in-law.

David Faustino played gay characters in Get Your Stuff (2000) and in Killer Bud (2001), and in Ten Attitudes (2001), he played "himself," not gay but on the gay dating circuit (for a sleazy reason). He also played "himself" in the webseries Star-Ving (along with buddy Corin Nemec).  See his post here.

He's currently in talks with producers about a Married spin-off, with Bud as an adult, married...with children.

"The New Mutants": Gay Characters, Beefcake, and Still a Grade of "D"


The X-Men, in the Marvel comic and film series, are mutants with superpowers.  Some powers mimic those of standard superheroes: the ability to fly, teleport, move super-fast.  Others are just bizarre: the ability to control metal, or to look at someone (or their photo) and turn into an exact replica, all the way down to the fingerprints.  The 13 movies to date are set in a vast stage, from the distant past  to the far future, from northern Canada to Vietnam to outer space, with enormous props, like throwing an entire baseball stadium at the White House.  But not the latest in the franchise, The New Mutants, which is painfully claustrophobic in its setting and cast.

 In the first scene, Native American teenager Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) is awakened by her father and forced to flee into the woods to escape a gigantic snarling, red-eyed "tornado."  She loses consciousness, and awakens in the Facility, a sort of mental hospital where mutants learn to recognize and control their powers.

The Facility is huge; there are dozens of buildings, including a church and a gym with an Olympic-sized swimming pool.  But there are only five residents:

1. Dani, who doesn't know what her power is.

2. Rich Brazilian Berto (Henry Zaga, left), who bursts into flame like the Human Torch whenever he gets excited.

3. Scottish girl Rahne, pronounced "Rain" (Maisie Williams), who can turn into a wolf.  

4. Kentucky coal miner's son Sam (Charlie Heaton), who can propel himself as a fiery human cannonball.

5. Obnoxious Russian Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), whose arm develops armour and sprouts a flaming sword (these powers seem rather redundant).  She can also go to limbo, where her puppet becomes a fire-breathing dragon, and see mysterious monsters called the Smiling Men, but those might not be superpowers.

And only one staff member, Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga), who runs the group therapy sessions, conducts weird experiments, and keeps them under 24-hour surveillance.

So many questions.  Why a huge facility for just five patients?   Who does the cooking? Who cleans the swimming pool?  What do the patients do all day, after their single group therapy session.  If they've been there awhile, why to they keep asking each other "What's your story?" sorts of questions, a if they have just met?  When does Dr. Reyes eat and sleep?  

Dani starts a romantic relationship with Rahne.  Sam and Berto buddy bond.  Berto flirts with Illyana (Sam doesn't seem to be interested in girls.)  They have group therapy, play foosball, and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer on tv. And, as on Nightmare on Elm Street, dreams come to life.

Sam relives the blast that killed his Dad and some other coal miners.

Berto has sex with Illyana, but she morphs into a flaming monster. 

Father Craig, who branded Rahne with a "w" because he thought she was a witch, returns and brands her again.

Illyana's Smiling Men appear and start chasing them.

Spoiler alert:  

It turns out that Dr. Reyes is working for an evil corporation that wants mutants trained as fighting machinese.  Those who learn to control their powers "graduate" to become assassins.  Those who don't get "terminated." 

And Dani's power, of course, is bringing your "worst fears" to life."  Including, finally, the Demon Bear that destroyed her village (which she may have created herself with another power; it's not clear).

So many movies begin with people escaping from Facilities that I expected Dani and the other patients to escape after about ten minutes and jaunt off on a caper.  Maybe ending up in Guatemala or Egypt.  With Dr. Xavier or Wolverine making cameo appearances.  Nope, they vanquish Dr. Reyes (who turns out to be a mutant herself) and escape.  Seeing "the end" was extremely unsatisfying.  Wait -- the movie is just starting...nothing has happened yet...

Plus I found the redundant powers trite, conventional, boring.  Mutant powers can literally be anything. Magneto can kill you by pulling all the iron from your cells.  So why make them all about playing with fire?

The Smiling Men were interesting, but never explained.

Gay Characters: Raine and Dani.  Maybe Sam.

Beefcake: Berto doesn't seem to own a shirt.

My Grade: D.

Jan 22, 2021

Woody Guthrie and his Clan: 4 Generations of Pro-Gay Folksingers

If you visit the facebook page of guitarist, drummer, and all-around cool guy Krishna Guthrie, you'll seem some nice beefcake photos.  And this sign:

Krishna is the latest in a dynasty of gay allies.  His great-grandfather was folksinger Woody Guthrie (right), who was introduced to radical politics by the gay couple Will Geer (later Grandpa on The Waltons, center) and Harry Hay, founder of the Mattachine Society, the first modern gay rights organization.

Woody remained close to Will through his life.  No doubt he would have been outraged to hear his anthem, "This Land is Your Land," used by the anti-gay marriage NOM at their rallies.

Woody's son Arlo Guthrie (left, with Will Geer) became the poster boy for hippie androgyny, gleefully transgressing gender norms in dress, hair, and behavior.

He starred in the counterculture classic Alice's Restaurant, which contains as many gay subtexts as the censors would allow.

He often sneaked pro-gay messages into his songs, like lambasting the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in "Alices Restaurant."

Woody's granddaughter (Krishna's aunt), Sarah Lee Guthrie, and her husband, Johnny Irion, often perform at gay venues.

And that's not all.  Arlo and his wife Jackie had four children and ten grandchildren.  There's an entire Guthrie clan out there, all raised to believe that it's ok to be gay.

Why Everyone in West Hollywood Watched "Dynasty"

After spending so many years looking for "a good place," when I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I didn't want any contamination from the straight world. I read Frontiers and The Advocate instead of the L.A. Times.  I didn't go to a movie unless it had gay characters.  And tv was the enemy, alien propaganda like the pamphlets dropped over enemy villages in wartime.

So in the fall of 1984 I watched 7 hours of tv regularly: Alice, Charles in Charge, The Cosby Show, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Facts of Life, Family Ties, It's Your Move, Kate and Allie, The Jeffersons, Miami Vice, Newhart, and Who's the Boss.  To be fair, that was my dreary year in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas.

And in the fall of 1986, I watched 3: The Golden Girls, Head of the Class, Mama's Family, Married with Children, and Dynasty.

I couldn't help Dynasty (1981-89).  On Wednesday nights, every tv in West Hollywood tuned in.  Bars had Dynasty Night.  On Halloween, guys dressed up as Joan Collins.

I didn't see the attraction. It was a Dallas clone, except set in Denver, and unscrupulous oil tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) was an East Coast elitist rather than good ol' boy J.R. Ewing, so there were more sexual intrigues than shady business deals, but it was still a soap opera.

I could see the attraction for drag queens.  Blake's trophy wife Krystle (Linda Evans) and his ex-wife Alexis (Joan Collins) had big hair, fabulous outfits, and lots of temper tantrums. But what did gay men who weren't looking for fashion tips see in the succession of bikini-clad ladies lounging by poolside: Pamela Sue Martin, Emma Sams, Heather Locklear, Diahann Caroll.

There were a few hunky men, who sometimes stripped down for bed, but rarely lounged around the pool.  Sometimes they appeared in speedos on Battle of the Network Stars.

John James (above) played Jeff Colby, who courts Blake and Alexis' daughter Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin).  The two eventually spun off into their own soap, The Colbys.

Maxwell Caulfield (left) played Miles Colby, Jeff's cousin, who also courts Fallon.  A little triangulation between them, but not enough for a subtext.

There was a gay character, sort of: Blake and Alexis' son Steven (Al Corley, Jack Coleman), one of those tortured, self-hating 1970s gays who claim that they like men, sort of, while sleeping with every woman in sight and trying desperately to change "back" into heterosexual. Every time he kissed a girl, I groaned.

But then, seeing any gay person on tv in the 1980s, even a conflicted one who likes girls, felt like a victory.

Jan 20, 2021

Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers

September 1974: My friends and I are in ninth grade at Washington Junior High, 13 or 14 years old, aspiring to be cool, hip, and intellectual.  So we watch all of the hip sitcoms that would later be lauded as part of the Golden Age of Television.

Like Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers.

Never heard of it?

It was famous in the fall of 1974.

MTM Enterprises was changing the face of television, making it hip, modern, and "real," set in real places like Cincinnati and Minneapolis, starring people with real home and work lives (they even had sex).  It already had two hits, Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart, and Paul Sand looked like a third.

Especially when CBS put it into the fall schedule between its #1 show,  All in the Family and the Mary Tyler Moore/Bob Newhart block

I wanted to like it:

1. Cute, dour-faced comedian Paul Sand starred.
2. He was a bass player with the Boston Philharmonic (I was in the orchestra!).
3. Friends and Lovers sounded dirty.
4. There was a hot athletic older brother (Michael Pataki, left).  Maybe there'd be some beefcake.
5. And a workplace friend (Steve Landesberg, later of Barney Miller). Maybe there'd be some buddy-bonding.

I was only home to see a few episodes, and they weren't very good.

1. Paul Sand was not at all likeable -- his self-deprecating humor was...well, deprecating
2. The brother never took his shirt off, although Max Gail (later of Barney Miller) flexed in one episode.
3. And everyone was obsessed with heterosexual sex.  It was like Three's Company, a few years later.

It actually became the #25 most watched show of the season, doing better than its competition, Emergency! and The New Land, but by January it was cancelled, replaced by the mega-hit The Jeffersons.

Which also suffered from a lack of beefcake.

Jan 19, 2021

"The Glades": Life without Gay People is Really Boring


The Glades, a small-town detective investigating the murder of the week, appeared on my Amazon recommendations, so I checked to see if there were any gay characters.

A comment in an article about the show's cancellation: "The Glades will be missed by all viewers, straight and gay."

Why would gay viewers miss it?

More research: Another commentator praised the show for "Not ridiculing Christians, not having gay characters, reflecting family values."

"Family values" is code for "homophobia."

Wait -- why would gay viewers miss a homophobic show?

Truns out that the original comment was: "I have no problem with alternative lifestyles, but they make some people uncomfortable.  Not every show has to have gay characters.  Why can't you just relax and watch good, wholesome tv?"

It might be fun to go undercover, watch a show by and for heterosexuals, written and conceived with the idea that no gay people exist. Sort of like being a secret agent.

I choose an episode apparently about tearoom trade: Season 1, Episode 5: "Some incidental foot contact in a men's restroom enrages one of the men, who gives the other a piece of his mind.  But what he finds in the next stall is a man beaten to death."  

Scene 1:
Scary redneck trucker rushes into a truck stop restroom and sits down to do his business. A foot suddenly slides over and touches him.  He yells "Hey!," but the foot continues to touch him.  "You finish up in there, I'm going to kick your pervert ass!"  He opens the door to find a man beaten to death.

Ok, he thinks that gay people are "perverts.'  I'm sure the writers of the show agree.  But was it a dead gay guy in the next stall?  Someone who got a little too frisky?

Scene 2: Scary redneck being interviewed by the cops. Jim (Matt Passmore, top photo) and Carlos (Carlos Gomez) discuss one's daughters' quinceanera (family man, see?).  Dead guy had a fake Florida driver's license.  He came in on a bus. Robbery wasn't the motive.

Picture #2 is of the wrong Carlos Gomez.

I find no mentions of Matt Passmore or Carlos Gomez being homophobic.

Sophie the "beautiful" forensic pathologist shows up and flirts with Carlos.  Jim is jealous.

Opening Credits: Florida beaches full of women's legs and breasts.  This is a "family friendly" show?  I guess if you're a heterosexual sleazedog.  Then an alligator, Jim flirting with a woman, Carlos dissecting a corpse, and The Glades, created by Clifton Campbell.

Scene 3: The kid Jeff (Uriah Shelton) comes home from visiting Dad.  Mom asks why he's acting so weird: "Didn't you have a good time?"  Turns out he blames Mom for not seeing Dad very often, but it's the fault of Witness Protection.

Meanwhile, Jim and Carlos track down the dead guy, whle discussing whether the "beautiful" forensic pathologist is hot: he was David Zale, a realtor who was convicted of embezzlement and got out of prison four months ago.  Daniel (Jordan Wahl) has dug up more intel: Dead guy called the same number twice every day, and he was on a bus to Maggie, North Carolina. 

Daniel does some swishy hand stuff.  I wonder if he's gay.  

Nothing specific, but I found a 2019 review of the homophobic Hialeah, starring Jordan Wall.

Scene 4: Carlos and Sophie the Forensic Pathologist flirt and dissect the corpse. Jim comes in and suggests that Carlos ask her out.  By the way, no drugs or alcohol in Zale's system, and the call was to his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor. 

Scene 5:
They interview the sponsor, Dr. Sloan.  He runs a high-class addiction recovery center, where Zale worked as a peer counselor.  The detectives are extremely rude, accusing Dr. Sloan of profiting from other people's misery.  

Cut to the kid Jeff playing video games.  Mom comes in, wearing a towel or an extremely inappropriate dress cut to the waist.  She wants to talk, but Jeff storms out. (I'd leave, too, if my Mom wanted to talk while wearing a vagina-showing mini-mini-mini skirt).  She follows.  The problem:  he wants to live with Dad, because Mom works two jobs and is always broke (he says as he stands in the rec room of their palatial McMansion).

Scene 6: Back to the forensics lab.  Turns out that Zale wasn't beaten to death; he was killed by a sharp object like an ice pick.  Amd Daniel has new intel: Zale had lost a class-action suit by the clients he defrauded, so why would any of them want him dead?  Then he couldn't pay.

But if he was broke, how did Zale afford the high-end rehab center?

Back to the rehab center.  Dr. Sloan says that Zale lived at the center.  They check his room; it's been cleared out, and there's blood on the curtains.

Suddenly a guy comes in, thinks that Matt is Zale, and attacks, yelling "You're dead, Zale!" 

Commercial break: a phone charger, IMDB TV, a sentient cookie about to be eaten by his human "friends."

Scene 7:
The attacker is Connor Burrows (Sam Ball), millionaire tennis coach (just go with it).  Jim, who knows more about drugs than the professionals, tells Dr. Sloan that he is still using.  Zale was probably the supplier.  Then he cut Burrows off, they had an argument, and Burrows killed him. (Then why did Burrows think that Zale was still alive the next day?)

But he takes a blood sample from an argumentative Dr. Sloan, too.  

Matt and Carlos discuss how hot Sophie the Forensic Pathologist is.

Scene 8: Interview with Connor. Jim confronts him with his past: pushing his 12-year old player too hard, so she collapsed and died; 3 months later he attempted suicide.  Three DUIs, but no criminal convictions because he hired a crooked attorney, Andrew Waller. How is being a judgmental jerk going to help your case?

Connor doesn't explain his beef with Zale, but he does reveal that Zale was never an addict.  He was just pretending so he could work there.  

They research the Crooked Attorney, who got lots of people the rehab clinic instead of prison.

Meanwhile Carlos is measured for a suit for the quinceaƱera (writing it without the tilde was driving me crazy).  

Wait -- a middle aged woman is helping him, and then they kiss.  A wife! Why is he considerig a date with the Forensic Pathologist?

Daniel goes through Zale's luggage.  In a secret compartment, Crooked Attorney's business card, with a meeting written down! (Gee, most people keep those things on their phones).

Scene 9:  They check: Crooked Attorney represented Zale in an extortion case. They had a meeting scheduled the very night Zale was murdered!  And Crooked Attorney is missing!

The Kid is having pizza with Jim, but Jim is not his dad.  Then what is their connection?  I'm confused.

Scene 10: Jim meets with the Kid's Mom, still in her insanely inappropriate outfit.  They discuss the upcoming divorce, while Jim digs up the body of the Crooked Attorney.  How did he know where it was?

Jim pries the Forensic Pathologist away from Carlos and asks if she is taking anyone to the...um...party (finding the tilde is too hard).  But the scene changes before he can ask her out.

Scene 11: They found a hair follicle on the body, and they want to see if Dr. Sloan is a DNA match, but he refuses to give them a sample. (You already have his blood.  Do you know what DNA is?)

Back at the lab, after they gaze at the Forensic Pathologist's butt as she walks away, Daniel tells Jim that he found a cigar wrapper in Zale's room.  A cigar sold only in two stores in Miami.  He called the stores: Zale bought three per week, at $750 each.  Where did he get the money?

Scene 12: Night. Carlos is in bed with his wife, who is wearing a normal outfit, for a change.  He goes downstairs and looks at a picture of his three girls and smiles.  I don't understand the purpose of this scene. To prove that Carlos is heterosexual?

Scene 13: Crooked Attorney had a puncture wound just like Zale had, and there's a follicle of the killer's hair inside!  How did Forensic Pathologist miss it during the autopsy?  She explains that she's doing sloppy work because she doesn't have a boyfriend.  WTF?  Single people can't do competent work?

Uh-oh, the boyfriend she wanted was Carlos!  They were having an extramarital affair!  Adultery -- so much for family values.

I'm getting bored.  There's an excruciatingly detailed plot summary on the fan wiki.

Spoiler alert:

The Forensic Pathologist did it.  She was helping the Crooked Lawyer falsify medical records because she was in love with him.

None of these people were the least bit interesting, especially the judgmental asshole Jim.  The sexism was overwhelming.  The plot was all about money laundering, yawn.  And there were no gay people (the redneck trucker in Scene 1 knew that "perverts" exist).

My verdict: TV shows without gay people are really boring. 

Jan 18, 2021

Annie Get Your Gun: Beefcake and a Gay Couple

I have mixed feelings about Annie Get Your Gun, the 1946 musical that was made into a half dozen movies, revived a dozen times, and remains a favorite of high school and college drama clubs.  Maybe because I got confused, thinking it was about a guy with his arms and legs blown off (that's Johnny Got His Gun).  

It's actually about real-life sharpshooter Annie Oakley (1860-1926), who joins Buffalo Bill's traveling Wild West Show in the 1880s and competes with the star, Frank Butler.

There's something to be said for a big, tough, rastlin' backwoods gal who can shoot guns, but why make her so all-fired eager to give it all up for a man?

I'm quick on the trigger with targets not much bigger than a pin point, I'm number one.
But my score with a feller is lower than a cellar- Oh you can't get a man with a gun.

Wait -- I know the answer.  Heteronormativity.

But she goes even farther, proclaiming it as universal human experience, "doin' what comes naturally":

My tiny baby brother, who's never read a book, knows one sex from the other --
All he had to do was look!

And the object of her affection is rather a cad, leaving a chain of seductions wherever he goes:

There's a girl in Tennessee who's sorry she met up with me
I can't go back to Tennessee -- I'm a bad, bad man!

The kicker: Annie is a better shot than Frank, but in the big match, she deliberately loses, so he will like her.  What kind of message is that for young heterosexual girls?  Squash your talents in order to get a man!

But some the songs are catchy, especially the show-stopping "There's No Business Like Show Business," which became the unofficial anthem of Hollywood.

There is a small gay subtext in the relationship between Buffalo Bill and his manager, Charlie Davenport.

And some beefcake: Annie is mentored by Indian performer Sitting Bull, who adopts her into his tribe.  Costumer designers often decide that the Indians should display their physiques.

Besides, Annie has been played by some of the biggest gay icons of the stage, including Betty Hutton, Ethel Merman, Judy Garland (actually fired from the 1950 film), Bernadette Peters, and Doris Day.

Notable Franks have included Bruce Yarnell, John Raitt, Harve Presnell, Tom Wopat, and Patrick Cassidy,

See also: The Sound of Music; The Pajama Game.
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