May 15, 2021

"Jupiter's Legacy": 537 Convoluted Plotlines. Something to do with Superheroes, I Guess

Jupiter's Legacy
, on Netflix, is another of those opaque titles with no discernable meaning: no character named Jupiter, no reference to the planet Jupiter.  Maybe a reference to astrology?  After three episodes, I've noticed four distinct plot threads:

1. The aging superhero Utopian, aka Sheldon (Josh Duhamel), and his wife, Lady Liberty/Grace, try to instill good old-fashioned "God and Country" values into their grown children -- they begin each meal with prayer, for instance, and insist that you never kill anyone, supervillain or not.  

The kids, however, have gone off on their own paths, returning just for Sunday dinner and "you were never there for me!" arguments: Brandon/Paragon (Andrew Horton, top photo) has his own superhero buds, while Chloe is immersed in a celebrity-kid downward spiral of drugs, illicit sex, and modeling shoots.

2. Flashback to Black Friday, 1929.  Young Sheldon and his brother Walter (Ben Daniels, shown here with his boyfriend) try to keep their steel company from going bankrupt (wait -- so Sheldon is about 120 years old?).  Their Dad commits suicide by jumping off a building, but then starts appearing to Sheldon and berating him.  

Sheldon thinks that he's going crazy, and retreats to his room, refusing to eat or sleep, scribbling odd nonsensical patterns on bits of paper.

3. Still in 1929, George (Matt Lanter) is ultra rich -- every morning he has his chef prepare 100 boiled eggs to choose from (tell me that he donates the leftovers to a homeless shelter).  He's also obviously gay, with fey mannerisms and multiple rings, constantly flirting with men, treating women as friends.  He even starts his day by listening to the old jazz song "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine," which begins "Pretending to be gay..."  (the old meaning, of course, but obviously symbolic).  

He goes to visit his best friend Sheldon, gives him heart-to-heart advice, and determines that the weird scribbles actually depict a windmill from Sheldon's past.

At this point I'm guessing that Sheldon, George, Grace, and the other superheroes are aliens who came to Earth as children and got their memories wiped.

4. Back in the present, Hutch (Ian Quinlan) is the leader of a criminal gang in an underworld where most people have superpowers.  He doesn't, but he has a magical rod that will zap him to anywhere he wants to go (it's also good for killing people; just tell it to go to his target's heart).  

His plotline was unnecessarily complex.  He was supposed to steal something, but the job got botched, so the Big Bad gave him another assignment, which also got botched.  Meanwhile he had a third job, unconnected to the others, which allowed him to purchase a superweapon for an unspecified secret agenda.  I guess there are two takeaways:

1.  Hutch's criminal team includes a cute guy (Morgan David Jones), maybe his boyfriend, and two women, who are in a relationship with each other (and have sex on the kitchen table).  

2. Big reveal:  Hutch is George's son.

Beefcake:  I haven't noticed any yet.

Other Sights: Some of the 1929 mansion sets are stunning.

Heterosexism:  Not much.

Gay Characters:
 Hutch's criminal teammates.  Obviously George, son or not, although in the original comic books, he's straight.  Hutch will apparently start a relationship with Chloe, the Utopian's daughter. 

 I thought that Brandon/Paragon, Sheldon's son, had a romantic relationship with Barry/Tectonic (Stephen Oyoung): he complains "I hardly see you anymore!"  But the character is killed off immediately.

The original comic book series was apparently quite homophobic, and included a character with the "dark secret" of being gay:  Richard/Blue Bolt.  He hasn't been introduced in the tv series, but I understand that his gayness will not be mentioned.  Don't want to get all those Million Mom superhero fans upset!

Convoluted:  Very.  Everyone has unexplained prior relationships, motives, back stories. Characters are introduced in excruciating detail, then vanish; major characters haven't even appeared yet.  It's taking forever for Sheldon, George, and the others to discover that they're actually aliens with superpowers (wouldn't you just know: "hey, most people can't fly!").  Referring to people randomly by their street and superhero names doesn't help.

My grade: C.

May 13, 2021

The Angelheaded Hipster: Craig Hundley

If you saw the Star Trek episode "And the Children Shall Lead" (1967),  in which an alien "angel"  brainwashes a group of children into taking control of the Enterprise, you remember Craig  Hundley.  He's the tall, lanky redhead in the weird striped smock -- about a foot taller than the others, way too old to play their "chasing each other" game, looking heavily embarrassed.

No wonder -- the others were between 7 and 10 years old, and Craig was 13,

Craig was a busy child and teen actor through the 1960s. He played Captain Kirk's nephew in another Star Trek episode, and he appeared on Ben Casey, Dragnet, The Virginian, Green Acres, Adam-12, and Kojak.  Several of his characters were "oddballs," outcasts, or residents of an underworld easily queered. He plays a mischievous young warlock on Bewitched, and one of the boys who convinces Greg to start smoking on The Brady Bunch.

He's hard to track down, since he went by Chris Hundley as a kid, Craig Hundley as a teenager, and Craig Huxley as an adult

At age 14,  he started a jazz band, the Craig Hundley Trio, with his friends, J. J. Wiggins (now jazz musician Hassan Shakur) and Gary Chase (now a composer and orchestrator for film).

Their Arrival of a Young Giant (1969) portrays them as cute, hip, and well-scrubbed. The back cover even includes their ages and weights, to emphasize their physicality, presumably to a teen audience.  But the music inside:  Chopin, Bach, and instrumental versions of the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and "The Jet Song" from West Side Story, plus Craig's own composition, "Arrival."  Not the usual teen idol fare.

Craig Hundley Plays with the Big Boys (1970), contains  Beethoven and Burt Bacharach.  Old standards for the adult crowd.

Next came an all-Gershwin album.

Jazz musicians are not known for being gay-friendly.  But none of the lyrics of the original songs Craig chose are heterosexist.  In fact, none mention girls at all. Some, such as "The Jet Song" and "The Midnight World," acknowledge a world of men.

He gave up jazz in the early 1980s to concentrate on synethesizer and electronic music, for which he has invented a number of instruments, including the Blaster Beam.  He has produced over 20 albums, including instrumentals for Roberta Flack, Quincy Jones, and Neil Diamond.  But he remains close to Hollywood, composing the music for Forbidden World (1982), Crime of Innocence (1985),  Rock Hudson (1990), and Walker - Texas Ranger (1993-2001), and the soundtracks for the first two Star Trek movies.

No word on whether he is interested in men, women, both, or neither.

See also: Star Trek

The Dreariness of the Netflix New Releases

 The "new releases" on Netflix seem particularly dreary this morning:

1. Monster: A teenage boy (ASAP Rocky, left) implicated in a robbery fights to prove his innocence, and falls in love.

2. The Baker and the Beauty.  A baker and a fashionista fall in love.

3. Call the Midwife.  How is this a new release?  It's been on for years.  No interest in a drama about helping women give birth.

4. Money Explained.
  A documentary? Yawn. 

5. Fatima.  I thought this would be about the Virgin Mary appearing to some kids in Fatima, Portugal in 1917 (as in the other Fatima movie that premiered in 2020).  But this is a Turkish tv series about  "a nondescript housekeeper" who "embarks on a murderous...."

6. Behind Her Eyes.  "A single mother enters a world of twisted mind games" when she begins an affair with her boss (Tom Bateman)  

7. Sky Rojo: "A fatal turn of events at a brothel sends three women..." Why translate half of the title?  Either say "Red Sky" or "Cielo Rojo."

8. Things Seen and Heard.  Whoops, sorry, it's the garbled Things Heard and Seen.   "A young woman discovers..."  That's four movies in a row featuring a woman facing murder, lies, and dark secrets.  How about a hot guy facing murder and dark secrets, for a change?  

9. The Innocent:
"An accidental murder leads a man (Mario Casas) down a dark hole of intrigue."  And lies and dark secrets?  Thank you.  Now, how about a different premise altogether?

10. Mine: "Engaged in a gold-clad life of secrets and lies, two women..."  Back to the women facing tragedy, murder, and dark secrets.  Yawn.

11. One.  "Love...and lies spiral when."  Is there some rule that every plot description must contain the word "lies"?

12. Dear Affy
: "An engaged couple encounters speed bumps on the way to their wedding."  At least there's no tragedy, murder, and dark secrets.

13. Illegal Woman: "An immigration lawyer and a Nigerian woman are caught in a web of corruption, lies..."  I guess lying is a serious sin in our society?

14. Firefly Lane.  Two girls are best friends over a period of 30 years.  Show me a tv show about boy best friends.  Ben Lawson (left) gets third billing on IMDB, but I'll bet he is playing one of the girls' boyfriends/husbands.

15. Daughter from Another Mother. 
Two women about two men bonding?

16. Get the Grift.  Brazilian comedy.  Con artist must team up with his estranged foster sister.  I hope they don't fall in love.

17. Run On.  Korean tv series about a track star (Im Si-Wan) falling in love with a film editor, which somehow pushes his running career "off track."

18. Her Mother's Killer: Colombian telenovela
30 years after her mother was killed, a woman tries to bring down her mother's killer.  At least the title tells you exactly what you're going to get, not like most opaque single-word Netflix titles.

19. Monarcha. Mexican telenovela: "After twenty years, a woman returns to Mexico and vies for control of her family's tequila empire as it threatens to crumble under corruption and secrets."  No lies?  And what does the single word Netflix title mean?  It's not the name of the protagonist, or the Spanish word for "Queen" (Reina).  .  

20. Stowaway.  A woman stows away on a mission to Mars.  The crew includes Daniel Dae Kim, and hopefully his abs.

15 of the 20 movies and tv series have women protagonists, either bonding with other women, uncovering dark secrets, or falling in love.  Three of the 20 have male protagonists fighting to prove their innocence or falling in love.  None, as far as I can tell, features a prominent gay character or any significant male buddy-bonding.  I shoulda stood in bed.

May 12, 2021

"The Upshaws": Bernard Finds His Truth in Wanda Sykes' New Sitcom


The Upshaws, on Netflix, is being advertised as "the new generation of African-American family comedies."  It was created by and stars Wanda Sykes, who is gay, so I imagine there will be some gay representation.  I watched the episode "Night Out," in which "Bernard reveals his truth."  The truth that he's gay?

Scene 1: 
Bennie's Garage.  Muscular Duck (Page Kennedy, left) reading the Bible, svelte Tony (Michel Estime) cell phoning.  Boss Bennie  (Mike Epps) comes in and criticizes them for not doing any work.  They criticize him for his failed marriage.  He's planning to get back together with her at the employee party at her hospital tonight.

Captain Cam (Adam Lazarre-White), the boyfriend of Lucretia (Wanda), comes in and yells at Bennie for constantly insulting her.  Wait, Wanda is gay and created the character -- why isn't Lucretia gay? 

After Cam leaves, Lucretia reveals that she's been there, under a car, all along.   She's been avoiding him.

She appears to be the owner of the garage and Bennie's mother-in-law or sister-in-law (Wanda Sykes is only seven years older than Mike Epps, but she's presented as belonging to the older generation)

Scene 2: Regina the estranged wife (Kim Fields, best known as Tootie on The Facts of Life a lifetime ago) doing dishes as Bennie arrives to drop off their toddler daughter after ballet class.  He promises to come to her recital tomorrow. Regina points out that he always promises to attend, then doesn't show up (this girl looks about five.  how is she old enough to have had several recitals?).

Bennie is looking forward to the Big Hospital Party tonight.  Regina reminds him that they've broken up, so he's not invited.  

Scene 3: Lucretia (Wanda) helping Regina (Kim) get dressed for the big party with a necklace that looks like it came out of a pharaoh's tomb.  Lucretia: "Bennie actually thought he was coming?  I knew he was a dick, but I didn't know he had big balls."  About five more minutes of insulting Bennie.

Captain Cam keeps calling; Lucretia ignores him.  Regina: "You need to talk to him.  He left his family for you!"  

Scene 4:
The Ditch.  Beers on Tap.  Bennie and his friends/employees are eating and watching the game instead of going to the big hospital party.   Tony is standard sitcom married-but-hates-his-wife; Duck doesn't mention anyone, but with the Hollywood belief that all gay people are anti-religion, I highly doubt that he's gay.

Regina calls and tells him to go home and stop "acting a fool."  Hey, they broke up.  She can't tell him what to do.

Scene 5: The Big Hospital Party.  Elegantly-dressed people standing at tables eating hors d'oeuvres.  Her friend comes in, but only to grab some food -- she's in the middle of a shift.  She asks where Bennie is.   When's Bernard going to come out?  For that matter, when is he going to be introduced?

The butch Jan arrives and snarks at a lesbian couple.  She explains: "Bobbie's my ex-wife, and Nan's the bitch she left me for."  Ok, some lesbian representation, anyway.  They ask where Bennie is.  Regina is starting to realize that he was the life of the party.

Scene 6: Bennie and Tony at the bar.  Tony complains that he doesn't have the knees to dance with "young girls" anymore.  I assume he doesn't mean children.  They insult Duck for being religious, and he leaves.  

Lucretia comes in.  They trade insults.  Turns out that she's not there to see Bennie, whom she hates; she's meeting Captain Cam (so, just one bar in town?).  

Scene 7: The Big Hospital Party.  Regina is being ignored, except for people who walk up, notice that Bennie isn't around, and scram.  Hot guy in a UPS uniform (Jermelle Simon, top photo). comes in.  It's her son.  She texted him to get there pronto, to give her someone to hang out with. But he's in the middle of a shift...  Bernard, is that you?

Scene 8: Lucretia talking to Captain Cam: "We had fun, but it's over.  Accept it."  Cam: "I will never accept it."  Whoa, that's messed up, like a 1980s romcom.  Dude, it's 2021. No means no.   He gets angry and abusive; Bennie and the bartender come to the rescue. Recurring joke: Bennie thinks he has scared the bad guy away, but actually there's a man-mountain standing behind him.

Scene 9: At the Big Hospital Party.  Suddenly the tables are for sitting rather than standing.  Regina tries to figure out why she's so bored; her son, unnamed but I'm assuming Bernard, suggests that it's the absence of Bennie. "We were together 30 years.  I miss him," Regina admits.

"Well, I'm here for you," Bernard says.  Until a cute waiter comes by and cruises him, and he takes a crab puff, even though he's allergic.  Ok, the son is gay!  But apparently Mom doesn't know: "Is there something you want to tell me, like why you almost killed yourself over some hazel eyes?"  

Son: "Ok.  Mom, I'm..."

Bernard: "Gay.  I know, and I'm fine."  Um..Regina, this isn't about you.

Question: According to IMDB, Bernard appears in five of the ten episodes.  So why wait until Episode 8 for him to come out?  Why not just have everyone know?

I checked Bernard's appearances in the other episodes.  Mostly it's arguing with Bennie: "You were never there for me!" and so on. 

 Once Bernard mentions that he has a date, and Bennie says "What's her name?  Let me see a picture of this girl you been playing!  You Mama's worried that you've been running through women."   Bernard ignores the questions and leaves.

In two episodes, he sits down with Mom and says "I've been trying to tell you something for a long time, but we keep getting interrupted."  Then he's interrupted.

Kelvin, Bennie's young son from another baby mama, stops by for advice, just as a trick is leaving.  Bernard tries to cover, but Kelvin says "Do people really not know that you're gay?  My Mom and I talk about it all the time."  Bernard: "This stays between us.  I haven't told my parents yet."

After coming out to Mom, he comes out to Bennie in the boxing ring.  Bennie: "I wish you waited until the boxing match was over, 'cause now, if I hit, you it wil be a hate crime...Of course I'm cool with it, dude.  What kind of father do you think I am?"

In the last episode, Bernard is worried about going to his high school reunion and reuniting with his old girlfriend, who doesn't know that he's gay.  When he shows up, yes she does.  Everybody in high school knew.  "If you knew I was gay, why did you sleep with me?" Bernard wants to know.  "Well, look at you."

Can't argue with that.

Scene 10: 
 The next day.  Bennie is asleep in a car at the garage.  He wakes up with a massive hangover gng all day?

Whoops, Lucretia is in the car, too.  They are appalled, thinking that they may have had sex while drunk.  Before killing themselves, they check the security cameras to be sure: no, they just discussed how much Bennie loves Regina.

Scene 11: The Recital.  Toddler daughter gets stage fright, so Bennie jumps on stage and shows her how it's done.   The end.

Beefcake:  Some hot guys.  In other episodes we see Bernard shirtless and Duck fully nude.

Gay Characters: Lesbian couple and ex-wife. Bernard comes out.  A full season plot arc about coming out seems a little retro, especially since there is no reason for reticence: everybody already knows or is completely accepting.  Is this an attempt to refute the alleged homophobia rampant in the African-American community, or an attempt to ease into Bernard's gayness so the primarily African-American audience won't recoil in homophobic horror?

My Grade: Some of the elements of African-American culture, like matriarchy and having children from several mothers, were intereesting, but Wanda Sykes was a bit too vulgar for my tastes.  And other than the Bernard coming out story arc, this seemed like standard sparring frenemy trope that we've seen a hundred times before.  Bennie and Lucretia are just clones of Drew and Mimi on The Drew Carey Show, or Fred and Aunt Ester on Sanford and SonB

May 11, 2021

Pepe Le Pew, the Bisexual Looney Toons Skunk

We know about Bugs Bunny's forays into drag in the old Looney Toon shorts, but what about Pepe LePew?

The faux-French accented skunk was named after the Pepe Le Moko character (Charles Boyer) in Algiers (1938), who reportedly signaled his amorous intent to Hedy Lamar with the request  "Come wiz me to ze Casbah" (although the line never appears in the movie).

Charles Boyer (1899-1978) was bisexual, by the way.

In Chuck Jones' hands, Pepe LePew became an amorous but odiferous skunk who mistakes a cat with a white paint stripe for another skunk and falls madly in love.  His "odor de pew" and aggressive manner -- which today would signify sexual harassment, if not a a ful-fledged sexual assault -- compel his intended to flee, so he's off on a wild pursuit.

It's usually a female cat, but in 4 of his 17 cartoon appearances between 1945 and 1962, it's a male.

In Odor-Able Kitty (1945), it's a male cat.  Pepe is not dissuaded.

In Scent-imental Over You (1947), it's a male dog.

In Scentimental Romeo (1951), Pepe follows the female cat into a Tunnel of Love, where he makes out with a human male by mistake.

In Dog Pounded (1954), Pepe pursues fellow Looney Toons star Sylvester.

That's 23%.  Pepe is definitely bisexual.

In his later appearances, Pepe has occasionally noted an indifference to the gender of his romantic partners:

On an episode of The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries (1995-2000), Sylvester gets a white stripe down his back again, and is amorously pursued by a male skunk, who explains that he is Pepe's fourth cousin: "What can I say?  It runs in the family."

Sylvester and the female cat Penelope both get white-striped in the direct-to-video Tweety's High Flying Adventure (2000).  Pepe pursues them both.

Sylvester tries to explain that he is an inappropriate partner, not because of his gender, because of his species:

 "You've got it all wrong. I'm not a skunk!"

Pepe responds: "Love can never be wrong."

May 10, 2021

"Girl from Nowhere": She Knows All Your Secrets

 I don't usually watch tv series with "girls" in the title, but the Thai drama The Girl from Nowhere had an interesting premise: A mysterious Girl from Nowhere arrives at a different high school in every episode, and helps a victim of bullying, sexual harassment, or some other problem get revenge -- or else she eliminates the middleman and wreaks revenge herself.  

I watched Episode 4, because it doesn't mention hetero-romance, and the victim who needs justice is a boy, Dino.  Maybe he's gay.

Prologue: The Girl -- Nanno -- burning an American $100 bill with her picture on it.  She smiles and asks "What can money buy?"  

She finds out as she is being shown around her latest school: the botany lab, the fashion studio, the spacecraft simulation room, all donated by rich parents. Hey, she could buy a room!  She pulls out a wad of cash and magically transforms an empty room into a sanctuary, complete with a huge stained glass window depicting the Virgin Mary. 

Scene 1:
 Rather svelte Dino (left) comes to class loaded-down with souvenirs from his latest trip to London.  He's competing with another boy, To, to see who can bring back the most souvenirs -- and he wins!  

Scene 2: Students being interviewed about Dino: arrogant, very rich, a show-off, tries to buy friendship.

Cut to Dino asking To why he didn't accept an invitation to dinner: "Duck at the Four Seasons."  Being gay is definitely not this guy's secret: he's right out there.  

The teacher passes out the grades from last term: Dino got a 3.46, very high.  The other students are jealous.

Scene 3: Meanwhile, Nanno is using her room as headquarters for a new company, Nanno Ltd.  

A blond boy worries that, due to his poor grades, he won't get the motorcycle his parents promised.  Nanno can arrange for him to get it, for a small fee (1500 baht, about $50 US dollars).  I thought she was going to use magic, but she hacks into the school's computer system and changes his grades.

Scene 4: Kids are lined up to pay Nano to fix things -- not just grades.  "My girlfriend cheated on me!"  The boy gets beat up.  "My Dad insists that "I get a girlfriend!"  Nanno hires one.

Scene 5:  Nanno offers to take on Dino as a client, but he doesn't need anything: he's rich, smart, and "doesn't have a girlfriend problem."  How about a boyfriend problem? 

Dino's four friends, a girl and three boys (one a ladyboy, a Thai third gender), ask Nanno to arrange a visit to a Buddhist meditation camp.  They invite Dino along, but he refuses.  You'll never get a boyfriend like that, dude!  Instead, Nanno suggests going to Dino's house.  He's bragged about the snooker room, the tennis courts, the swimming pool, the stables with horses.

(This is the only beefcake photo of a cast member that I could find.)

Dino keeps refusing, but they insist, so finally he says "Fine! Tomorrow!"  He leaves the school and gets into his chauffeured limo.

Scene 6:  Hey, it's not a limo, it's an Uber!  Dino lives in a crappy apartment in a bad neighborhood, with parents who have a work-from-home job packing boxes.  He's poor, just pretending to be rich!  Then how can he afford tuition at the elite school, the gifts for his friends, the daily Uber ride?

He goes into his crappy room, lies down on the bed, and gets lots of texts from his friends, all excited about the visit to his mansion. 

Ulp -- now he needs Nanno's help!  "Find me a house like the one I described."

Sure, but the processing fee will be 200,000 baht -- $6400 USD!  How is a poor kid going to get that much money?

Coincidentally, Dino overhears his parents talking about 200,000 baht that they've borrowed from a loan shark to pay for his tuition.  They'll have to pay it back right away, or the loan shark will kill them.  Ulp -- surely Dino won't steal from his parents, just to impress his friendsBut he imagines them ridiculing him, and...the ATM is 1.5 km away.  Feeling guilty, he takes the money.

Dad is played by Nuttapol Kumata, a member of the Babymime comedy mime ensemble.

Scene 7:  Morning.  Dad knows that the money is missing, and is yelling at the bank for its "error."  Feeling guilty, Dino puts on his shoes and leaves.

Scene 8: Nanno shows Dino the palace she's rented.  Geez, it's enormous.  There's a sign out front -- it must be a familiar Bangkok landmark.  

Later, the friends arrive.  The ladyboy is in drag. Dino rings for the servants Nanno has hired -- ulp, they're his parents! They pretend not to know him.

Nanno asks them to go get a photo of Dino's "parents," the ambassador and his wife. Oh boy, humiliation upon humiliation.

Scene 9: Dinner.  Dino asks for whiskey, but his parents/servants refuse to provide it: "You're too young to drink."  His friends find this odd. so he insists: "I'm your boss.  Do as I say."  

Nanno suggests "Since there are no adults around to supervise, let's smoke some weed."  While Dino's parents are right there, unable to act!  

When the "maid" spills wine on the girl's dress, she is irate.  "Fire her!  Fire her!"  

Scene 10:
They go into the study, angry and upset.  Why is Dino acting so weird?  Why won't he let them have fun?  Nanno suggests Russian roulette -- but aim for the arm, not the head, so you won't die.. This is what Thai teenagers consider fun?

They actually start playing, but when it's Dino's turn, Dad/Butler rushes in and stops them and starts yelling: "Your parents spent a fortune to raise you, and you're gambling it all away!"  One of the kids gets angry and hits him in the head; he collapses.  Mom/Maid, distraught, grabs the gun, but he attacks her, too.  They're both dead!

Nanno starts laughing hysterically.  She's gotten her revenge.  

Scene 11:  Dino goes home.  Mom and Dad are there, slightly bruised but otherwise fine.  They ask "How was the Buddhist meditation camp?"  Huh?

Flashback explanation: Dino came clean about being poor.  Nanno gave Mom and Dad enough money to treat their wounds and replace the 200,000 baht, on the grounds that they "never talk about it."  So they're going to pretend it never happened.

Nanno faces the audience and asks "What do you think money can buy?"  

Postscript: The students being interviewed: "Money is the most important thing in my life."  "How could I live without money?" "Money can buy anything, even people!"

Beefcake: Some of the guys are cute.

Other Sights: Just the mansion.

Gay Characters:  Dino and his three male friends are all gay.

Supernatural:  No.  Nanno gets everything done through computer hacking and throwing money around.  But in other episodes she is killed and comes back (several times), so she's definitely a supernatural being.

My Grade:  Very impressive.  Excellent production values, excellent acting.  Some problems with motives -- why, exactly, did Nanno want revenge on this boy?  But that might be due to cultural differences.   A-

Heintje: A Boy to Introduce to Your Grandma

 Heintje Simons (or just Heintje) became famous at age 11 for his syrupy, sentimental, soprano recording of "Mama" (1967).

Mama, you shouldn't weep for your boy
Mama, the fates will unite us once again

More hits followed, in Dutch, German, French, and English:
"Du sollst nicht weinen" ("Don't Cry," 1968)
"Ich bau' dir ein Schloss" ("I'll Build You a Castle," 1969)
"Ik hou van Holland" ("I Love Holland," 1970)
"I'm Your Little Boy" (1970)
"Jij bent der allerbest" ("You're the Best", 1971).

Just as syrupy, sentimental, and soprano.

This type of music is called schlager in German and levenslied in Dutch -- slow, sentimental, mostly about being homesick and missing Mom (other schlager artists include Hans-Jurgen Baumler

 Heintje was singing to parents, or maybe to grandparents, the type who pinched his cheek and exclaimed  "What a nice boy! Not like those dreadful hippies!"  He was the anti-hippie, offering a conformist alternative to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead.

And therefore a remedy to the heterosexism of most 1960s music.

At the same time Heintje started on a film career, mostly tearjerkers with his name in the title
Heintje -- A Heart Goes on a Journey (1969)
Heintje -- My Best Friend (1970); his best friend is a dog who dies.
Heintje -- Someday the Sun will Shine Again (1970)

To bring in the kid and teen audience, he also played schoolboys who reject the conformity of the establishment:
To Hell with School (1968)
Hurray, the School is Burning! (1970)
Tomorrow the School will Fall (1971)

I've only see clips, but they seem to displace heterosexual intrigues onto the adult performers, leaving Heintje and his friends in a homoromantic Arcadia.

When he was 16 and his voice changed, Heintje' attraction to grandmothers and nuns faded.  Taking on an adult name, Heintje Simons, he continued to record and perform in Dutch, German, French, Japanese, and Afrikaans, but with nothing like the fervor of the 1960s.   Today he lives on a horse farm in Belgium with his wife and three kids.

Nude Norse Gods

I went to a Swedish Lutheran college, where we were proud of our Viking heritage.  Our team was the Vikings, our radio station was WVIK.  There was a quote from the Icelandic Hamaval over the circulation desk in the library.  The courses in Norse Mythology was well populated.

Ancient Greek and Roman myths seemed somehow decadent: wandering around the bucolic Mediterranean half-naked, eating grapes and having erotic encounters.  The last story is about Venus and Cupid.  But the North was harsh, with frost giants and battle-hammers, and it ended with Ragnarok, the Apocalypse of the gods.

But Greek and Roman myths had a benefit: nudity.  The gods were portrayed naked, with hard, thick chests and abs and even penises on display.  You had to did deep to find a Norse god with his shirt off.

Ok, it was cold in the north, but still...

Thor was the most popular of the Norse gods among the college students, due to his appearance in comic books and fantasy illustrations.  Here Boris Vallejo shows him fighting some very buffed giants.

But Freyr or Frey seems to have been the most popular among the real Vikings.  He was the god of fertility and prosperity.

Some phallic images of Freyr have survived.

Some phallic images have survived, and modern Neo-pagans have produced many more.

My favorite myth is of Baldur the Beautiful, so beautiful that all the gods were in love with him.  His mother went around to ask every animal, plant, and natural object to agree not to hurt him, so the gods played a game of throwing things at him, to see them bounce off harmlessly.  But Mom forgot to ask mistletoe.

The evil Loki convinced the blind god Hodur, here portrayed as a muscular Classical beauty, to throw a sprig of mistletoe at Baldur, thus killing him.

For punishment, Loki was chained beneath a giant serpent that sprayed venom onto him forever.

We don't see a lot of myths about Odin, the leader of the gods, but here he, plus archaic gods Villi and Ve, are creating the world.

See also: Loki.

May 9, 2021

Firesign Theatre: We're All Bozos on This Bus

The youth counterculture of the 1960s listened to JeffersonAirplane, Donovan, -- and the Firesign Theatre.

They were a comedy troupe consisting of  Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman, and Philip Proctor. Beginning in 1966, they performed parodies of mass media on L.A. radio --  tv commercials, soap operas, film noir -- switching from sketch to sketch randomly, with a surrealism that presaged Monty Python's Flying Circus.  

Soon they were releasing comedy albums, with seemingly nonsensical titles that actually take on meaning as the story progresses:
Waiting for the Electrician, or Someone Like Him
How Can You Be in Two Places at Once, if You're Not Anywhere at All?
Don't Crush that Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers
I Think We're All Bozos on this Bus
Everything You Know is Wrong

Roller Maidens from Outer Space (1974) is Phil Austin's solo album.

No gay characters per se, but they skewered everything, including heterosexual romance, the heterosexual nuclear family, even American exceptionalism:

This land is full of mountains, this land is full of mud.
This land is full of everything, for me and Elmer Fudd.

And the fluidity of desire was included gleefully, un-selfconsciously:

Ralph: Look at the muscles on that dude!  He's got muscles in his ears!
Babe: That's Steve Reeves.
Ralph: No.
Babe: There he is!  That's Steve Reeves!
Ralph: No, that's Agnes Moorhead.

But their most important contribution to gay boomer kids was the parody itself.  When Peter Bergman died in 2010, one of the tributes on the Firesign website message board said:

"It was hard being a gay kid a backwater part of the country,  and Firesign made me realize that the world is nuts -- that we are all bozos on this bus -- and I was not the only person who perceived it."

In the album Radio Live Now (2001), the troupe decided to make long-term characters Hal and Ray, news anchor partners, a gay couple. Phil Proctor explains: "we were kind of implying that they were committed to one another for life, and they were living together, and treating all that with complete respect, as a normal aspect of the end of the century in American society."

Animaniacs: Heterosexist to the Max

In a 1992 episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, Buster and Babs help some outdated black-and-white cartoon characters from the 1930s, who become so popular that Tiny Toons is cancelled to make room for their new show.

Precognitive or not, Tiny Toons was cancelled that spring to make room for Animaniacs (1993-1998).

The frame story: three black-and-white characters, Yacko, Wacko, and Dot, were too zany for 1930s audiences, so they were locked in the water tower at Warner Brothers Studios.

 Fifty years later, they escaped to unleash their zaniness on the world.

Wait -- children were locked in a water-tower prison?

The discomfort continued with the show itself.

First, Tiny Toons had ample gay subtexts, but Wacko and Yacko were preteen horndogs, aggressively heterosexual, sexually aware, and probably sexually active.  When a woman with big breasts comes on state, they all but have orgasms on the spot.  They leap into the arms of the big-breasted nurse so often that their leering "Hello, nurse!" became a catchphrase.

Dot disapproves of the activity, but when a handsome man approaches, she throws herself at him in a fit of heterosexual mania.

Their cartoons were horrible, but the subsidiary features were even worse.

1. Slappy Squirrel, an aging, raunchy cartoon character from the 1930s, and her grandson.
2. The Goodfeathers, gangster pigeons
3. Rita and Runt, a showtune-singing cat and stupid dog.
4. Some others that I don't remember.

The only feature with redeeming value was Pinky and the Brain, about two lab rats who plotted to take over the world. They at least had a gay subtext.  But in 1993 they were spun off into their own show, leaving Animaniacs to promote childhood heteronormativity for another five years.

See also: Pinky and the Brain

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