Apr 10, 2021

"Baby Driver": Gay Boy Meets Girl in 1950s/2010s Small Town Atlanta

 Last night's Movie Night movie was Baby Driver, which I naturally assumed was a comedy about a chauffeur for a daycare center.  Actually, it's a reference to a Simon & Garfunkel song that I never heard of before:

They call me Baby Driver, and once upon a pair of wheels, I hit the road and I'm gone.

It stars the stunning Ansel Elgort as a Southern-fried country boy whose Mama actually named him Baby.  Aspiring country-western singer Mama and abusive Daddy are gone now, killed in an auto accident that gave Baby tinnitis, so he must constantly listen to music to drown out the whine (the opening credits demonstrate -- painfully loud!).

He works as a driver for the heists masterminded by supervillain Doc (Kevin Spacey), with whom he has a creepy gay subtext relationship:  "We're friends, aren't we?  You're my lucky charm.  You're my baby."

Other members of Doc's crew, which changes for every heist, disapprove, thinking that he's autistic, "retarded," or gay.  When Buddy (John Hamm), wall street banker turned criminal, is listening to Queen with Baby, the loose-cannon Bats (Jamie Foxx) objects:

Bats: Queen?  What's next, show tunes?  How you gonna pull off the heist when you prancing around like that?

Doc: You'll all be spending the night.

Bats: Great, now we gonna be sleeping together, too!

Baby lives with his aging foster father Joe, who is deaf, uses a wheelchair, and is apparently senile.  But he doesn't think that Baby is gay, not even when the boy pretends to flirt with him, or when he prances around the apartment, lip-synching Barbra Streisand like he's practicing for Rue Paul's Drag Race.

The heists get more and more violent.  People are killed.  When they stop for snacks, Bats kills the convenience store clerk ("What, you expected me to  pay for it?").  He even opens fire on the dealers trying to sell them guns:

Bats: They were cops.

Doc: Yes, but they were my cops.  

Oh, how will Baby ever escape this sordid world of heists, murder, and creepy gay relationships?  

You guessed it: A girl.

Correction: The Girl.

After work Baby goes back in time to the 1950s, where Debora (Lily James)  is working at Bo's Diner. 

 Well, not really working, since Baby is the only customer, and he never orders any food:

Debora: What can I get you?

Baby:  The title of that song you were singing.

There's another gay moment when Baby thinks that Debora is named "Jonathan" -- is she a boy in drag?  No, she's just wearing someone else's name tag.

Like The Girl in a hundred movies (and that Journey song), Debora dreams of escape from her dull small-town world (in Atlanta, metro population 6 million!).  She sees Baby, who she thinks works as a chauffer for rich people, as her ticket out. 

 They go on one date, kiss, and then things get interesting, with hostages, car chases, double-crosses, cops, and vigilante thugs.  Doc agrees to help them because "I was in love once" (he says while staring at Baby. Not much for subtlety, are you, dude?).

Cops everywhere, chases, dropping off the stepfather at a senior care facility, then more chases, Debora shows that she knows her way around a gun.  There's almost a Thelma and Louise conclusion.  But that would be too cliched even for Baby Driver. Instead, Baby goes on trial, and Debora claims that she was a hostage.  But he has a good heart.  

The closing shot literally places them in the 1950s, with Debora dressed like one of Fonzie's girlfriends on Happy Days picking up Baby in a pink 1950s convertible so they can go to a sock hop at Arnolds and rock around the clock.

I liked this movie, in spite of the cliched, homophobic plotline of a boy being saved from a destructive gay "lifestyle" by The Girl.  The driving sequences were beautifully choreographed.  Presenting Atlanta as both a modern metropolis and a cliched 1950s small town was wonderfully absurd.  There were lot of cute guys, especially if you like tattoos.

And I don't care if he did drive off into the sunset with a girl, that boy was definitely gay. 

Apr 9, 2021

"Them": Racism and Paranormal in 1950s Compton


Amazon has been pushing its new series Them, based on the movie about an  African-American family facing paranormal peril.  I liked the movie, although there was no gay content, so I decided to give the series a try.  Maybe there will be some beefcake.

Scene 1: While Judy Garland sings "Over the Rainbow," we zoom into an old-fashioned farmhouse, where young mother Lucky is feeding her baby, Chester.  Suddenly an elderly white woman appears out of nowhere and starts singing "Old Black Joe," about the death of a master's beloved slave!  This obviously doesn't sit well with Lucky.  Then the woman asks, "Can we have your boy?" Creepy!

  Scene 2:  Henry Emory (Ashley Thomas), Lucky, and their two kids, neither of whom is named Chester, driving with a U-Haul across the desert.  Eldest child Ruby reads a magazine article about Doris Day, so it's the 1950s.  Where's Chester?  Is this years later, or years before?

Sorry, no beefcake images, as there are dozens of girls named Ashley Thomas, and I won't risk searching on  "Ashley Thomas nude." 

A scrollover tells us that between 1916 and 1970, roughly 6 million African-Americans relocated from the rural south to the big cities of the North.  On September 13, 1953, the Emory Family moved from North Carolina to Compton, California. The following events occurred over their first ten days.  Funny, the movie was set in the present.

Scene 3:
White Stepford Wife Betty talks on the telephone amid her collection of creepy dolls. She sees that the house across the street has been sold, and rushes out to talk to the realtor.  Wow, what a white neighborhood.  The houses are white or pink pastels, the women are all blond or redhead, wearing washed-out colors.  The props department is trying too hard!   And no men around; I'm starting to feel beefcake deprivation.

Cut to Judy Garland singing "Get Happy" as the Emorys crosses the Los Angeles River. It had water in it then.  They tour downtown L.A. in 1953, and enter Compton. White people grimace menacingly or rush inside their houses as they pass.  

Finally the Emorys arrives.  Peering through the window from across the street, Betty and her friends gasp "Oh, my God!"  They rush out to grimace menacingly.  

As the Emorys explore their new house, Sargent the Dog starts growling and whining at the door to the basement.  Ruh-roh.

Lucky looks through the window, and sees a group of men -- no doubt the husbands.  Oh, boy, beefcake!  But they're a snarling mob getting ready to lynch the Emorys. 

Scene 4: Night. The snarling mob is still out there.  Lucky is loading her gun, just in case.  

Scene 5:
Morning.  The Wives wave at milkman George Bell (Ryan Kwanten).  Oh, boy, Ryan is built, and apparently a major character!  Then they, along with about 30 other women,  park on the Emorys' front lawn and play loud music, hoping to annoy them to death.  Meanwhile the delivery guy grimaces menacingly as he delivers the furniture.

Uh-oh, Lucky has to escort her kids past the Wife mob to the school bus stop -- where there are a group of teenagers grimacing menacingly.  

Scene 6: Henry goes to Grimace Menacingly, Inc., and tries to explain to the grimacing receptionist that he's the new engineer, not a cook.  Calvin the Mail Guy (Malcolm M. Mays, top photo)) comes to the rescue.  

Cut to the music-playing wives, now numbering in the thousands (I think), while Calvin tells Henry about the last black family that tried to move to Compton.  The harassment drove the wife insane.  

Scene 7:  Calvin drops Henry off at the Engineering Department. Darn, I thought they were going to be buddies.  The engineers all grimace menacingly.  

Meanwhile, Lucky is explaining to her youngest daughter, Grace, why she's being home schooled (so she won't be murdered by a grimacing student or teacher).  Grace says that Miss Vera, the fictional teacher in her book, is real, and taught her a song.

Guess what/?  It's "Old Black Joe."  She sings while channeling Crazy Lady from Scene 1.  Lucky freaks out.  Wouldn't you?

Grace says: "It' ok.  You're not crazy anymore, are you?" 

Scene 8.  Later, in the bedroom, Lucky pulls out a secret chest containing Chester's baby blanket.  Wait -- is she the only one who remembers the baby being taken? That's why they thought she was crazy?  

She brings the chest to the scary basement and finds a hiding place for it.

Scene 9:
Betty made lemon meringue pie for the Wives' "how to get rid of the black people" meeting.  Husband Clarke (Liam McIntyre) arrives, shoves his finger into the pie (disgusting!), and leaves (darn!).

The meeting: the black people must have come from someplace terrible, so just screaming "We hate you!" won't get them to leave.  They have to do something really bad.

Meanwhile, the husbands are having their own meeting.  "Shoot them?  Burn the house down?  Poison the dog?  Aw, why can't we shoot them?  It's not like they're people or anything."

Scene 10: Betty and Clarke going home.  Betty talks about how awful it is that the neighborhood is about to be destroyed.  They have to protect their property!  Clarke cautions her to not go crazy: "You're my property, and I have to protect you!"  But Betty won't listen: "I'll do whatever is necessary.  If I have to kill them, so be it."  

Meanwhile, the Emorys are being loving and wholesome and practically perfect in every way.  

Scene 11: Night.  Grace, the "Old Black Joe" singer, gets up and heads to the living room, where a mysterious figure approaches: a tall, thin woman.  Light flashes on her outstretched hands -- uh-oh, white, evil!  Probably Betty, starting her campaign to kill them all. Suddenly she grabs Grace and cackles maniacally. 

In the morning, the dog is dead.  Lucky grabs her gun and rushes out into the neighborhood and yells "Stay away from my family!"  The end

Beefcake: None.

Gay Characters: None.  Only two scenes of men interacting with each other: Henry and Calvin talking for 20 seconds, and Clarke at the "kill them" meeting.

Victim porn:  Lots.  The suffering is laid on too thick to be believable, and is actually counterproductive.  You can't do a good job of revealing the extent of racism by making every white person grimace and seethe and plot homicide.  Audiences will think "If I don't want to literally kill them, I must not be racist."

Paranormal:  Chester's disappearance and implied memory wipe.  The mysterious Miss Vera.  The scary basement.  The ghost lady, if it's not Betty.

Will I Keep Watching:  Nope.  Too much suffering.  I came here to be entertained, not get my soul squashed.  Besides, they killed a dog.

Apr 8, 2021

Richie Rich Joins a Gym

Richie Rich, an impossibly wealthy kid about twelve years old, was a mainstay of Harvey Comics from his first introduction in 1953 until the company folded in 1982.   By the 1970s, he was starring in over fifty titles, far more than all of the other Harvey characters put together, in stories ranging from humor to romance to paranormal mystery to James Bond-style espionage  So many thousands of stories required a huge supporting cast, so Richie quickly got a girlfriend, some boy pals from the wrong side of the tracks, a mischievous cousin, a debutante with a crush on him, and so on.

I never cared much for Richie Rich, preferring the more magical adventures of Casper the Friendly Ghost , Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost, and Hot Stuff the Little Devil.  But I did notice two things that happened to Richie during the mid-1970s, when I was in high school.

1. Richie gets a new boy pal, a young comedian named Jackie Jokers, who likes him.  A lot.  Holding hands during the crisis, hugging when the crisis is averted, stammering "If anything were to happen to you....".  In one story, he makes his romantic intentions very clear: "If you weren't always wearing that silly red bowtie, I'd marry you."

2. Previously Richie had been drawn as a pudgy kid in a Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit.  When depicted in swimsuit or shirtless shots, his body was nondescript:

But, just as the homoromantic subtext began, Richie grew some biceps, pecs, and abs.  He had almost as many preteen muscles as Tommy Norden on Flipper.

Coincidence?  Or a way to draw the avid interest of pubescent gay boys, some thirty years before Kevin Keller became the first official gay character in kids' comics?

Apr 7, 2021

"Family Reunion": Is Mazzie Gay...um, I mean Musical?


Family Reunion
(2019) on Netflix is a throwback to the TGIF sitcoms of yesteryear that I never watched because I was living in West Hollywood, and had better things to do on my Friday nights than watch nuclear families erase gay people.  It seems to be a remake or reboot of an earlier series -- every episode title asks us to "remember" something from the past -- but I can't find the reference.

A TGIF sitcom?  No way will it have any gay representation.

The premise: An African-American family headed by Cocoa (Tia Mowry) and Moz (Anthony Alaby) travels from the South to the Pacific Northwest for a family reunion, and like it so much that they stay. 

A TGIF sitcom about an African-American family?  Hollywood assumes  that all gay people are svelte white men living in Manhattan.  Absolutely no way will it have any gay representation.

Plotlines involve mostly conflicts at school and church.

A TGIF sitcom about a religious African-American family.  Hollywood assumes that all gay people are anti-God, and all religious people are homophobic.  Absolutely, positively no way will it have any gay representation.

But I check the episode guide anyway.  One of the girls is upset because of a breakup with "Royale."  Obviously a girl's name.  She must be gay or bi or pansexual, from a new, inclusive generation of TGIF sitcoms.

Nope -- Royale is played by Tyler Cole.  Just a boy with a girl's name.

Later another girl or the same one is forced to hang out with "Keith," which she hates, but they become friends anyway.  

An internet fan blog suggests that the character of Mazzie is gay.  Is that the girl hanging out with Keith?  They suggest the episode "Remember Macho Mazzie."  Ok, I'll give it a shot.

The family gives their names and chief character traits.  Mazzie is a little boy (played by Cameron J. Wright, 14 years old in 2021).  The announcer states: "Family Reunion was filmed in front of a live audience."  That brings back memories!  I'm getting verklept.

Scene 1: Moz and his wacky sitcom friend Daniel (Warren Burke, below) are watching the Big Game.  Grandma comes in and criticizes them for being loud and rowdy. and gives Daniel the TGIF standard "Go home, Urkel."

Daniel asks if Mazzi will be going out for football this year.  

Moz: No, he's not that kind of kid.

Daniel: Well, what kind of kid is he? 

Mozzie enters in an apron and asks "Who wants cookies?" in a feminine lilt.

Daniel: Got you. (Winks).

Mozzie protests that he wants to go out for football, but Moz insists that he should stick with what he's good at, like singing and baking.  

Scene 2: The B plot about the daughter competing in a beauty pageant.

Scene 3:
  The football try-outs.  As Mozzie happily skips toward the starting line, an embarrassed Daniel tries to distance himself: "That poor kid.  I'm glad I'm not his uncle."  Coach Adkins assures Moz that he won't be giving Mozzie preferential treatment because his Dad is a famous football star.  

Mozzie gets the ball, and leaps and side-steps his way across the opposing team to the end zone (translation: he's good).  He explains that got his skills from modern dance class.  The other kids on the team laugh at him, but Coach Adkins berates them: "You all need to take that modern dance class and learn his skills."

Scene 3: The B Plot.

Scene 4: Moz is making celebratory pancakes.  Cocoa comes in, and hears that Mozzie made the team.  She's surprised...he's so...um...you know...little.

Scene 5: The C Plot, about Grandma doing yoga.

Scene 6:  Another football practice.  Mozzie's band club friends are cheering him on, but the football jocks advise that he shouldn't hang out with them.  He blows them off, but feels guilty.

Scene 7: The B Plot.

Scene 8: Moz, Daniel, and Mozzie watching the Big Game.  Mozzie is getting a big head, and acts disrespectful to his mother: "Get me a root beer."  "What's the magic word?"  "Now."  She banishes him to his room, and complains "If this is what football is turning Mozzie into, I don't like it."

She specifies: he's become affected by toxic masculinity, "overly aggressive, misogynistic, obsessed with his manly status."  She doesn't mention being interested in girls.

Scene 9: The C Plot.

Scene 10:  Moz and Cocoa at football practice. Coach Adkins complains that Moxie is being overly-aggressive and "needs to channel his energy into a more positive direction."  He growls and knocks over all of the cups of Gatorade.

Scene 11:
The B Plot. By the way, Telma Hopkins plays Grandma's friend, and there are a lot of other familiar faces from sitcoms past in other episodes: Jaleel White, Garrett Morris, Tempestt Bledsoe, Jackee Harry, and of course Tahj Mowry, Tia's brother.

Scene 12:  Mozzie in his room, doing homework.  Moz comes in.  Mozzie criticizes a teammate for being "musical" (is that code for gay?).  

Moz: That's not a nice thing to say.

Mozzie: You and Uncle Daniel said it about me.  And you were right. I had to get tough.

Turns out that he just tried out for football so his Dad would think he was a "real man" (not gay?).   Dad says that they were just being dumb; "real men" can be fashion designers and musicians (so, they can do feminine things; that don't mean they're gay).  TGIF hug.

Scene 13: The C Plot.

Scene 14: The B Plot.

Scene 15:  All of the players in the three plotlines are sitting on the porch, eating the cookies that Mazzie baked and discussing the B Plot.

My Verdict:  It wasn't as awful as I expected.  I liked that Dad was ok with his son being feminine, but I didn't like the implied difference between "real men" and gay men: "real men" can do all sorts of feminine-coded things, including play music, without being "musical," which is an insult.  

And why use code, anyway?  If you don't like gay people, just say so.  Don't beat around the bush.

In a later episode, Mazzie gets a crush on a girl.

See also: The Coming Out Episode of "Family Reunion"

My Fair Lady: A Gay Couple in Edwardian England

My Fair Lady (1956) is one of my all-time favorite musicals, but there is no beefcake, so I'll illustrate it with some nude shots of actors who have played Henry Higgins in their other roles..

It's about an elderly gay couple in London at the turn of the twentieth century, Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering,

Henry, an instructor of elocution, claims that language is the key to social status; he bets Pickering that he can take anyone of the lower class, give them elocution lessons, and pass them off as nobility.

Ok, why not try Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle?

Henry doesn't have much use for women, even as friends.  He is definitely a man's man.

Henry: Would you be slighted if I didn't speak for hours?
Pickering: Of course not!
Henry: Would you be livid if I had a drink or two?
Pickering: Nonsense.
Henry: Would you be wounded if I never sent you flowers?
Pickering: Never.
Henry: Well, why can't a woman be like you?

But he agrees.  Eliza moves into their house, and the lessons begin.

Everyone thinks that Eliza and Henry have an amorous relationship.  Henry's mother, who has suspected him of being gay for years, is delighted.

Eliza soon becomes indispensable in the household, keeping track of Henry' appointments and performing secretarial tasks.  She even gets a little crush on him.  Though he doesn't share her romantic inclinations, Henry begins to think of her as a friend and confidant.  He expects that, when the contest is over, she will stay on.

I've grown accustomed to her face
She almost makes the day begin
I've grown accustomed to the tune
She whistles night and noon

Learning not only "proper English" but art, music, and the norms of upper-class society, Eliza easily passes as an aristocrat.  Everyone congratulates Henry, not Eliza, who concludes that she was being used an experiment, and leaves in a huff.  But she is persuaded to return.

 Henry, never one for apologies, or hugs, says "Eliza, where the devil are my slippers?"  Curtain down.  The end.

That's right -- no fade out kiss.  There are hints that the two might become lovers, but they remain only hints, a heterosexual subtext in what is a rarity in musical theater, a plot about male-female friendship.

Of course, heterosexual critics and audiences try their best to force the text into the trajectory of a heterosexual romance.  Sometimes they don't even notice that Henry and Pickering are a gay couple.

Henrys: Jack Gwillam, Reg Livermore, Ian Richardson, Rex Harrison.

See also: Sherlock Holmes, Gay Icon and The Gay Connection in The Sound of Music.

The Gay Surrealism of Kalervo Palsa

Kalervo Palsa (1947-1987) lived and died in a cottage near the town of Kittila, a ski resort in Lapland in the far north of Finland.  Like Veijo Ronkkonen, who worked in a paper mill in isolated Parikkala, he used his art to record gay dreams and nightmares.

Most are too graphic to display on this blog.  Instead, here's the cast of Bad Boys (Pahat pojat).

One rarely sees a moment of homoerotic joy on his surreal canvasses.  There are images of pain and death and disgust.

Kullervo from Fninnish mythology hanging himself, his belly distended, uses his penis to write "This is the world's reward to the strong."

A muscleman with a skull head is being invaded by his own intestines.

Men hang to death from their own penises.

Men have sex with inanimate objects, give birth to each other, explore weird fetishes, or just die in the mud.

Palsa also wrote and published a graphic novel, Eläkeläinen muistelee (Memoirs of a Retired Man), about the life of a successful mass-murderer and necrophiliac.

During his lifetime, his work was often censored, hidden, decried as pornographic or morbid.  But he countered "It is not enough to paint the flowers; one must also paint the gallows."

Did the association between homoerotic acts and death evoke of Palsa's self-loathing, a struggle with internalized homophobia?  Or was it a critique of conservative Finnish society, which labeled homoerotic beauty disgusting and acts between men perversions?

After his death, long-time friend and supporter Maj-Lis Pitkänen struggled to raise an appropriate tombstone, over the objections of townsfolk who disapproved of the "town pervert."

In 1999 she donated his collection of 3,000 paintings and sketches to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, which resulted in an exhibition, "Kalervo Palsa: The Second Coming," in 2002, and a re-appraisal of his work.

A fictionalized biography, The Surrealist and his Naughty Hand (Kalervo Palsa ja kuriton käs), by Pekka Lehto, premiered at the 2013 Midnight Sun Film Festival.  It gives him a girlfriend.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...