Feb 27, 2021

"Tell Me Your Secrets": Lesbian Victims of Predatory Men on the Bayou

 


Tell Me Your Secrets, a tv series hyped as "mesmerizing" and "riveting."   All I know is that it's a drama about "three characters with a mysterious bond."  What are their genders?  Are any of them hunks?  Are any of them gay?  I'll watch until I find out, or until it becomes too disgusting or too heterosexist to stand.

Scene 1: Texas, Past.  Karen and Mary talking over one of those prison phones.  Mary was at the trial, and now asks if Karen knows anything about what happened to her daughter.  Karen says she doesn't.  "But she was last seen at a gas station in Nevada with your man, Kit  the Serial Killer" (Xavier Samuel, somewhat older than in this photo, with bad hair and a redneck moustache).

Scene 2: Texas, Present.  Karen is being released from prison. Gratuitous underwear shot as she changes out of her prison uniform.  Do prisoners really get issued lacey black bras?  She stares at her breasts in the mirror for what seems like forever (actually only a minute and a half).    

She spends another thirty seonds fingering her tattoo and getting dressed.. I can hear the director: "Take your time.  The viewers have to finish masturbating."  

Whew.  Ok, the porn is over. Pete (Enrique Murciano) arrives to pick Karen up. 


I tried five times to get an Enrique Murciano nude or shirtless shot, but ran into: webt files, html files,  "file cannot be downloaded safely.", and one of his chest as he is straddled by a naked woman.  So here's a screen shot sans lady parts.

He asks Karen "Are you ready to be Emma?"

Scene 3: Louisiana: The Present.  Establishing shot of Pete and Karen/Emma driving down a narrow highway through a swamp, with gospel music playing.  Oh, Lord, what have I gotten myself into?  Should I bail now, or continue sludging through?

I thought Pete was Emma/Karen's case worker, but he reaches over and affectionally touchers her body.  They're lovers.  Whoops, no, he's just a grabby psychiatrist, taking her to her new life in the Wtiness Protection program.

They arrive at a hunting lodge-type house on stilts.  He tells her: "We'll continue our sessions.  I'll help you through this.  And stay away from young women."  Huh?  Karen/Emma is a pedophile?


Scene 4: 
Mary from Scene 1, her ex-husband, daughter, and son (Elliot Fletcher, left) are sitting around the dining room table, talking to their therapist about the disappearance of Theresa seven years ago. They all think it's time to start grieving by declaring her legally dead and setting up a memorial or something, but Mary protests: "She is still alive. I know because of my maternal instinct." 

Scene 5: Karen/Emma's house, night.  Unpacking groceries. She flashes back to a memory of Kit the Serial Killer, cooking dinner and being all smoochy.  

Meanwhile, Mary is conducting research., surrounded by piles of papers and newspaper clippings, watching an interview with Kit.   He says that he killed the nine girls out of compassion, helping them escape from societal pressures: "those girls were begging for their freedom."

Kit has finally agreed to see her, so she's going to get him to confess to Theresa's murder.  Wait -- doesn't she think that Theresa is still alive?

She kisses her son Jake's hand.  A hint of an incestuous relationship -- gross!  

Scene 6: A fried chicken joint, night. Close-up of Karen/Emma's face as she scarfs down a burger. Teenage Jess stares at her.  Two more girls arrive, walk across the restaurant in slow motion, and play with Jess's hair. Uh-oh, temptation!

But they're not lovers; they're muggers or rapists.  They force Jess into the bathroom.  Karen/Emma rushes to the rescue, and then tries to leave, while Jess follows and flirts: "Nobody ever stood up for me before.  You live around here?"  

Scene 7: Kit in an empty maximum security cell, reading a "Dear John" letter from Karen/Emma.  


Scene 8:
Karen/Emma applies for a job at a hair salon.  There's a male hairdresser, Thomas (Marque Richardson, who played a gay guy on Dear White People).  Maybe he's gay.

Scene 9: A meeting of the foundation that Mary started that helps the families of missing children.  An ex-con is offering his services in "awareness raising," to help women avoid being raped and kidnapped.  Mary isn't interested: "We help women here. We don't introduce them to predators." So none of those missing children are boys?  Women are perpetual victims?

Scene 10: Karen/Emma's stalker...um, I mean friend...Jess arrives and asks her out.  They take a boat into the bayou, then go back to the house and hug.  Karen/Emma says "I can't give you nothing better than friendship."  Well, she's jailbait.

Scene 11: Mary goes to visit Kit in prison, but just as she gets into the interview room, he's found dead in his cell (nice chest shot).  She collapses, hysterical, while a guard kisses her hair.  Is that appropriate?

Scene 13: Pete the Psychiatrist shows upa at Karen/Emma's house to tell her that Kit is dead.  She screams and runs out, but Pete grabs her and kisses her hair (the director's got a fetish, I see).

Wait -- why is she in witness protection?  She was a witness in Kit's trial, and now he's dead, so why isn't she safe?


Scene 14:
Montage of Jess working, Karen/Emma attempting suicide, and Mary being distraught.  Jess comes to the door but Karen/Emma won't answer.  

Mary goes to see John the Ex-Con and tells him that people can't change.  You can try to be better, but if you have an evil nature, you're stuck with it (um, that goes against every criminological theory of the last 130 years).  Once a rapist, always a rapist.  So she gives him the job of finding Karen/ Emma.

I don't follow.  Why would being an innate rapist make John qualified to do private detective work?

She blackmails him: take the job, or I'll tell everyone that you are an innate rapist.

Scene 15: Karen/Emma goes to see Jess to apologize for ghosting her before.   But Jess has been stabbed to death.  Well, that was unexpected. The killer is still there, so she runs away in slow motion.  Wait -- is that Mary chasing her?  

Scene 16: The hair salon.  Someone -- I don't think it's Karen/Emma -- is cleaning up.  A middle-aged woman comes in for a trim, and announces that her name is Theresa.  Huh?

Beefcake: None.

Gay Characters:  Jess and probably Karen/Emma, but it's mostly subtext.

Reprehensible Characters:  I really hate Mary. Her attitude toward criminal offenders is extremely old-fashioned and punitive.   If she doesn't think anyone can change, why does she hire an ex-rapist to do detective work?  If she really thinks that Kit killed her daughter, why does she think her daughter is still alive?  Besides, she seems to be in love with her son.

Sexism: Women are constant victims, being constantly raped, kidnapped, and murdered by men.  Men are never victims, just predators doing the raping, kidnapping. murdering, and kissing of hair.

My Grade: D

Feb 25, 2021

The Top 12 Greek Myth Mash-Ups of "Atlantis"


In the first episode of Atlantis, (2013-2015), Jason (Jack Donnelly) goes off in a submarine to search for his missing father, and ends up in ancient Atlantis (fortunately, an English-speaking Atlantis), where he tries to discover the mystery of his parentage and learns that he is the Chosen One.  But don't worry about that; this is mostly a series about Jason taking his shirt off and encountering the "Greek myth of the week," along with his companions, the boozing, brawling Hercules (yes, that Hercules) and the meek polymath Pythagoras (yes, that Pythagoras). 

Atlantis starts out as ancient Crete, ruled by the tyrannical King Minos, power-hungry Queen Pasiphae, and their daughter Ariadne: The first adventure is "Theseus and the Minotaur," with Jason playing Theseus.  But then it becomes an ordinary Greek city-state, surrounded by desert or forest, depending on the episode, visited by dozens of figures from Greek mythology and literature.

You may expect that, knowing how the stories turn out, Jason would be at an advantage, but after a few episodes the writers forget that he is from the 21st Century,. They are busy going through the index of Edith Hamilton's Mythology and having every mythological and literary figure they can find drop by for a visit.

Here are the top 12 mash-up myths.

1. Hercules dates Medusa before she gets that snake-hair curse.  There's no Perseus to cut off her head, though.


2. Daedalus (Robert Lindsay) and his son Icarus (Joseph Timms, right)  are just regular inventors; there is no "flying too close to the sun."  Icarus, in fact, starts dating Pythagoras (on the sly; the writers keep them both closeted until the last scene of the last episode, lest homophobic audiences turn off the show).

3. Orpheus (Ronald Pickup) is a seer who loses Eurydice to a zombie plague.  But he doesn't go to the underworld to fetch her.  He's also not attractive enough to be torn apart by Maenids.

4. Pandora's Box pops up as a magical tailsman.


5.  Telamon  (Clive Standen, left) doesn't help Jason hunt for the Golden Fleece or hunt the Calydonian Boar.  Here he is an enemy who is working with Queen Pasiphae to take over the throne.

6. Medea doesn't help Jason acquire the Golden Fleece (strangely, even though his name is Jason, there are no Argonauts here).  She's an enemy who works with the exiled Queen Pasiphae to try to conquer Atlantis.















7. Circe doesn't turn men into pigs, but she is a powerful soceress, encountered by Jason instead of Odysseus.

8. Nestor (Sam Swainsbury, left), a hero of the Trojan War, becomes a hero on Jason and Ariadne's team.














9. Cassandra is still an oracle who predicts doom, but for Atlantis, not Troy.

10. Laius (Tristan Gemmill, left) and Jocasta drop by with the infant Oedipus, who is saved by Jason and company (but won't get around to killing his father and marrying his mother for about 20 years).

11. Leonidas (Phillip Correia), a hero of the real-life Persian Wars, is now a hero of the Atlantis Wars.

12. Real=life poet Alcaeus (Louis Maskell) is still a poet.




David Soul


David Soul never quite made it as a teen idol.  Maybe because he wasn't visible enough.  He appeared on The Merv Griffin Show in 1966-67 wearing a mask (so people would like him for his music, not his face).


He appeared in a 1967 episode of Star Trek, but in alien makeup that made him unrecognizable.


He appeared on the beefcake-heavy Western Here Come the Brides (1968-70), but his star was almost completely overshadowed by Bobby Sherman.






But he did fine as an adult actor.  In Starsky and Hutch (1975-79), he played the shy, intellectual, gay-coded Detective Hutch to Paul-Michael Glaser's tough, streetwise Detective Starsky.








The duo was explicitly a romantic couple, not shy about displays of physical affection, openly stating that they loved each other.  Producer Aaron Spelling called it "tv's first heterosexual love affair."  And although they investigated the usual 1970s crimes involving strippers, call girls, and various women with large breasts, there were very few girlfriends introduced to distract them from their buddy-bonding.  
Of course, there was also lots of homophobia.  Gay-themed episodes of 1970s sitcoms usually involved a visiting high school buddy announcing that he's gay, but drama series always had a gay murder victim, and in order to investigate, the detectives had to enter  his sleazy underworld, full of pomaded misfits who simper and leer at each other.

During Starsky and Hutch, David found his singing career taking off.  His "Don't Give Up on Us" hit #1 on the charts in the U.S. and in Britain.  Unfortunately, his songs tended to be heterosexist.    In "Silver Lady," which hit #1 in Britain, he's a drifter until he finds salvation in the lady's arms.

He also found time to fall in love with Lance Kerwin in Salem's Lot (1979).

Currently a British citizen, David  does a lot of acting on stage and in film.  He is careful to point out that he is not gay in real life; however, he is a strong supporter of gay rights.

The New "Are You Afraid of the Dark": Are They Afraid of Beefcake?

Everything old is new again on Nickelodeon.  The venerable children's network is brushing off several long-lost shows and giving them a 2019 treatment:
All That
That's So Raven
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

And most recently, Are You Afraid of the Dark, the anthology series that aired from 1990 to 1996: in each episode, the Midnight Society gathers to hear a ghost or paranormal story recited by a member, and acted out for us. 

I didn't care for it.  We learn almost nothing about the lives of the Midnight Society members.  They gather, exchange a few words, tell the story, and "the end."  It would have been much more effective if the stories had some connection to their real-life problems. 

But I had to admit, the actors were photogenic:  intellectual group leader Ross Hull, bad boy Jason Alisharan, nerd Nathaniel Moreau, and my personal favorite, the massively gorgeous Daniel DeSanto.

The reboot, a three part miniseries premiering in October 2019, breaks the cardinal rule of the old series:  the paranormal events are just stories, not real. 

Now they are.


New girl on the block Rachel (Lyliana Wray),who is having mysterious, disturbing dreams, shows up at school, where both the geek Gavin (Sam Ashe Arnold, top photo) and the geekier Graham (Jeremy Ray Taylor, left) hit on her. 

They invite her to a meeting of the Midnight Society, which apparently has only four members.  The other two are girls, Akiko and Louise.

Rachel tells her story, about a sinister carnival that rolls into town, and a manager, Mr. Tophat (Rafael Casal), who steals kids' souls (apparently she's been reading Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes).

To their surprise, a sinister carnival does roll into town, and the Midnight Society must fight real paranormal peril.

As you may have noticed, the miniseries is rather beefcake-deficient:  only two boys, neither likely teen idol material.

I did find Brandon Routh down the cast list as "Mysterious Handsome Man."

So who's looking at his face?

And since personal lives of the original Midnight Society were absent, it was easy to read them as gay.  Not here: the two male Midnight Society boys are aggressively heterosexual.

I give it a C-.

See also: Are You Afraid of the Dark?>




Feb 22, 2021

"My Dead Ex Boyfriend", aka "I Was a Teenage Zombie"

 


My Dead Ex-Boyfriend
, on Netflix, sounds like one of those classic 1960s "my secret" sitcoms, where a "normal" has to hide a magical being -- genie, ghost, witch, or Martian -- from the outside world.  So I tune in.

Turns out that:

1. This is set in high school.  Ben (Ryan Lee) has asked out Charley (Katherine Hughes) a bazillion times, but she finds him repugnant.  Her lesbian friend Wren (Medalion Rahimi) calls him "shit on your shoe."  I don't know why -- he's cute, he seems nice, and when she finally agrees ("just coffee, and then you never ask me out again"), the date turns out to be gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches by candlelight.  Fun!

It's harassment to continually to importune someone who has made their rejection clear, but it's not Ben's fault: back in fourth grade, when they were dating, an old woman gave them two pendants guaranteed to make them "fall in love."  Ben is still wearing his, but Charley put hers away in a box.

The pendant has more magical powers: when Ben is killed during an attempt to take a selfie, it brings him back to life.








2. But Ben has no ghostly powers.  He can't  turn invisible or walk through walls.  He eats, sleeps, and goes to the bathroom.  Presumably he can't be killed, since he's already dead, and he won't get any older, but in every other way he is fully human.  

The problem: he has to stay within 30 feet of Charley at all times, for the rest of her life.  If he stays away for more than an hour or two, his body will start to decay.  

3. And it's not a secret: they tell the world.  Reporters clamor to interview the Boy Who Lived. The parents negotiate about where Charlie and Ben will be staying.  The school hires an escort to defend the students if Ben turns into a Walking Dead-type zombie.

I fast-forwarded through a few episodes.  Most of the plotlines seem to be about Ben adjusting to being undead and Charley trying to continue her ordinary high school life.  Ryan Malaty (top photo) plays her crush, Luke.   Of course you know who she is going to end up with.

 Lesbian friend gets a plot arc about her crush on a conservative Republican girl. 



There don't seem to be any gay male characters.  At the school dance, the  cop hired to be Ben's escort (Sarkis Ninos) seems to be flirting with the Principal: "Are you single?  Me, too.  Do you live in a...house?  I love houses."  But I think he is just being annoying.

Some big surprises in the last episode.

My grade: C.  I wanted Ben to have magical powers.




Feb 21, 2021

Was Elisa Lam Gay?

 


The Elisa Lam case has some undeniable fascination.  In January 2013, a 21 year old Canadian college student on a tour of California checks into the sleazy Hotel Cecil in downtown L.A. (why would anyone who knows anything about Los Angeles stay anywhere near downtown?).  She vanishes.  

Two weeks later, her body is discovered in a water tank on the hotel roof.  The only way to get there is through a door that will ring an alarm, or up a fire escape on the outside of the building.  In the middle of the night?

And the tank access lid was closed.  Elisa would not have been able to close it after jumping in.  Obviously someone was with her, helping or forcing her into the tank.





Then there's the security footage of Elisa in an elevator, crouching, pushing all of the buttons, making weird hand gestures, looking around as if she is waiting for someone, apparently talking to someone.  Who was with her?

The video went viral on the internet, with wild, crazy speculation.  She was playing a Korean game where, if you push elevator buttons in the proper order, you end up in a parallel world.  She was re-enacting (or being forced to re-enact) the plot of an old horror movie about a haunted hotel.  A ghost was holding the elevator doors open.



The bloated Netflix miniseries Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel plays up all the speculation, and adds some of its own.  Why did the police searching the hotel not check in the water tanks?  It took guests complaining that the water tasted funny for a staff member to think to take a look.  Why did the autopsy report take so long?  Were the police involved in a cover-up?  What about Morbid, a death-metal musician who stayed at the Cecil -- could he be the murderer?  What about the two men who delivered a mysterious package to Elisa the day before she disappeared -- could they be involved?

There are a lot of closeups of people's hands on keyboards, a lot of interviews with people who weren't involved in any way ("Yeah, we stayed at the Cecil two years before Elisa did.  It wasn't very nice"), and a lot of set-pieces about unrelated incidents at the Cecil (two serial killers stayed there...not at the same time as Elisa...and no hotel guests were victims..but still...).  Strangely, there are no interviews with Elisa's family or friends.  

The series waits for the last 10 minutes of the last episode to reveal that Elisa was bipolar, and had the habit of not taking her medication, which resulted in psychotic episodes where she thought people were trying to kill her.  She had been exhibiting bizarre behavior during her entire stay at the hotel.  On the night she died, she was probably fleeing from an imaginary assailant.  She climbed onto the roof, thought the water tank would be a good place to hide, climbed in, was unable to get out again, and drowned.  

The closed hatch? Probably a staff member noticed it the next day, and closed it without checking for a body at the bottom.

The elevator?  Elisa accidentally pushed the "stop elevator" button, got frustrated when the elevator wouldn't move, looked around for someone to help, and talked to herself before giving up.

The mysterous delivery? Some books she bought earlier that day.

Morbid?  Not even in the country at the time.


The four hours of wild speculation are not only annoying, they do Elisa a disservice, making her mental illness a "dirty secret."  And having to postpone it to the big reveal means that we learn nothing about her life before the visit to Los Angeles.  We learn nothing about her family and friends.  

 I assumed that the absence meant that Elisa was gay, and skittish producers closeted her.  But an internet search reveals several photographs of Elisa in chummy poses with male friends.  Buddies, or romantic partners?  It would be nice to know.




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