Jul 10, 2021

Ahhhh! The Horrible, Heteronormative, Offensive, Disgusting, No-Good End of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a huge series of movies starring Marvel superheroes, who all know each other, interact with each other, and refer to events and situations from previous movies, so you have to watch all of them in order to understand what the heck is going on.  Every origin-story movie involves a superhero meeting, losing, and winning his True Love.

1. Iron-Man, aka Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), head of the giant corporation that provides technological stuff, falls in love with his former assistant Pepper.  They retire, move to a farm, and have a kid.

2. Captain America, aka Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, top photo), a World War II soldier turned into an Axis-fighting machine, falls in love with Peggy, one of the scientists working on him.  He's trapped in an iceberg for 70 years, leaving Peggy to grow old. But when he emerges, he still hangs out with her.  

3. Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) falls in love with Hope, daughter of the scientist who invented his shrinking suit. He has a daughter from another relationship, I think.

4. Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner, left), retired from the superhero business to move to a farm, get married, and have some kids.

5. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, below), leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy crime-fighting team, falls in love with his coworker Zamora.  

6. The Hulk, aka Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), had a True Love in one move, another in a second, and then fell in love with fellow superhero The Black Widow.

7. Superhero Scarlet Witch, aka Wanda Maximoff, fell in love with  the android Vision (Paul Bettany), but he was killed.

There are lots more, but I'm getting tired. 

After the origin story, the True Loves are barely mentioned, especially in the ensemble movies titled the Avengers.  But apparently they were always there, forming the basic motive for each superhero's life and work, and at the end of the movie series they come roaring back like the Second Coming of Christ.

An ongoing plot arc is an attempt to track down all of the Infinity Stones, like Tolkien's Rings of Power but much more powerful, because an evil demagogue named Thanos wants to use them to wipe out 50% of all sentient life in the universe (that's right, I said the universe).  The team tries to keep him from getting the stones, then tries to stop him, but in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), he succeeds.  Snap!  Half of the sentients in the universe crumble into dust, including a lot of superheroes and their True Loves, but never both.

Imagine the chaos!  We're so interconnected that civilization would definitely collapse.  But here the economies and governments of the world seem fine; survivors are traumatized, but they manage to put up memorials to their lost True Loves and go back to high school classes, museums, pop music, and restaurants. There's actually a scene in a group therapy session, where a guy talks about his first date since the Snap -- with another guy, making him the first and only identifiable gay person in any Marvel Universe movie.

In Avengers: End Game (2020), the surviving superheroes figure out how to go back in time and prevent Thanos from getting the Infinity Stones, thus bringing everyone back.  There are lots of tracking each other down and "we need to work together" scenes, and a long, long, loooo-ng battle.  The Snap is reversed, everyone returns, and the long, long, looo-ng batle continues, involving everyone who has ever appeared in any movie fighting with swords, monsters, and energy blasts. 

I fell asleep.  When I awoke, the battle was over, Thanos was dead, and about 20  superheroes are sitting by a lake, saying "I miss her" about True Loves who died before the Snap or during the battle (a slight exaggeration, but I did count five "I miss her" statements). 

But the movie isn't over: we have another 45 minutes depicting 2,000 other superheroes reuniting with their True Loves and setting up heterosexual nuclear families. Again and again and again!

Just when you think everyone is paired off or missing "her," Captain America has to go back in time to return the Infinity Stones to their proper place, so the whole thing doesn't happen again.  Except he comes back as an old man.  He explains that he decided to stay in 1947, reunite with his True Love, and live the next 80 years with her.  We close to the two in their 1940s Levittown tract house, dancing and gazing into each other's eyes.  

I get it; the sole purpose of being a superhero is to provide men and women with an opportunity to gaze into other's eyes forever.  This is the meaning of life, our sole reason for existing.  Gay people absolutely do not exist. Do you have to rub it in, over and over and over and over and over?

To be fair, Thor doesn't settle down on a farm with his True Love or miss Her.  He joins the Guardians of the Galaxy, fighting intergalactic crime with Peter Quill and Drax the Destroyer (both of whom miss Her).  

Jul 9, 2021

Shawn Roberts' Top 15 Boyfriends

How is it that I've never heard of Shawn Roberts before?  He's got the pecs and biceps that dreams are made of.  Nice delts, too. And he's been acting since he was 10 years old, in 1994.  Surely I've seen him in something. 

Turns out that he's usually surrounded by hunks, so his pecs and abs get lost in the shuffle.

1. Falcon Beach
(2006), a Canadian tv series about a resort town populated by girls in bikinis and "blond god" Steve Byers.

2. Flash Gordon: A Modern Space Opera
(2007-08).  A sci-fi channel tv series starring Eric Johnson's chest.  Shawn plays "Garus" in two episodes.

3. Left for Dead
(2007): Five fratboys are stalked by a psycho-killer. Shawn gets lost amid the Canadian hunks, including Steve Byers, Robbie Amell, Daniel Clark, and John Bregar (yow, look at those abs!).

4. The Virgin of Akron, Ohio
(2007). A tv series pilot about a model who returns to small-town Akron, Ohio (population 200,000), talks about God, and has relationships with various hunks, including Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (and Shawn).

5. I Love You, Beth Cooper (2009). 
Nerdy brain (Paul Rust) says this during his valedictory speech, so Beth naturally invites him to her graduation party, where he has to pull her away from her stereotyped obnoxious jock boyfriend (Shawn).

6. Resident Evil: Afterlife
(2010). The world is ending due to a virus spawned by an evil corporation. Some survivors are looking for Arcadia.  Wentworth Miller is the hunky lead, Shawn the villain.

7. The Music Teacher (2012).  A tv-movie (they still have those?) about a high school music teacher (naturally) who is facing the end of her music program due to STEM cuts (if it's not science and math, don't teach it).  So her former students, including Shawn and Kerry James,  put on a show to save the program.

8. Her Husband's Betrayal (2013).  It involves framing her for a murder.  With Shawn and Marc Bendavid.


9. I Do, I Do (2015): A girl relives her wedding day over and over until "she realizes what she wants."  Maybe the groom (Shawn), or his brother (Anthony Cupo)?

10. XXX: Return of Xander Cage (2017). 
 I don't know who Xander Cage is, or what he returned from, but he's played by Vin Diesel, whose physique might draw attention from Shawn.

11. Undercover Angel (2017): Big city girl moves to a small town and hires a handyman (Shawn), who helps her with repairs and "so much more."  Like going surfing with Matthew MacCaul?

12. Tainted
(2020). That's Alan Van Sprang as a former member of Aryan Nation doing one last job for the Russian Mob.  With Shawn as Koso.

13. Love Under the Olive Tree (2020).  Boy-girl heirs of duelling olive oil empires fall in love. One played by Benjamin Hollingsworth, none played by Shawn.

14. Heartland (2019-21). 
 A "family first" tv series set on a ranch in Alberta, with Graham Wardle as a noble veterinarian.  And Shawn as the evil owner of a rival ranch.

15. DC Legends of Tomorrow
.  Some superheroes, including Nick Zano (sigh), travel through time, repairing paradoxes.  Shawn plays Spartacus in one episode.

Of course, none of these guys actually played Shawn's boyfriends, but they were enough of a distraction to keep him in the background, in spite of his superlative physique.

Jul 8, 2021

One Night in Bangkok, Three Hundred Nights at Mugi

From 1985 to around 1993, I was in Mugi, the gay Asian bar in Hollywood, at least once a week, sometimes twice.  Probably 300 times in all.   And every single time I was there, they played "One Night in Bangkok."  It was ingrained into my brain; even today I often catch myself singing:

One night in Bangkok, and the world's your oyster.
The bars are temples, but the pearls ain't free.

Oddly enough, when I visited the real Bangkok in 1988 to "rescue" Alan, I never heard the song once.

I guess the owner was a little short on Asian-themed pop songs.  "One Night in Bangkok" was composed for the musical Chess (1984).

Yes, there was a musical about chess.  It was based on the match between chess superstars Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky at the 1972 World Chess Championships,an American and a Russian, one of the epic battles of the Cold War.

I haven't seen it -- reviews complain that it is over-long, over-wrought, clunky, and exceedingly dull.  And it sounds rather homophobic. .

Chess champion Freddie Trumpeter (played by Murray Head in the British version and Philip Casnoff in the American) must face gay "accusations."  His father states that he's "probably queer," and his Soviet opponent, Anatoly (Tommy Korberg, David Carroll) calls him a "fruit" (a "nut" in the American version), and steals his girlfriend.

"One Night in Bangkok" appears on the night before an early match between Freddie and Anatoly.  Freddie wanders around town, trying to stay focused.

He dislikes Bangkok, "Oriental city," with its "muddy old river," its decadence, and its evil: "I can feel a devil walking next to me."

He disapproves of the drag queens: "the queens we use would not excite you."

And especially the feminine gay men: "you'll find a god in every golden cloister, and if you're lucky, then the god's a she."

Not the message you want to send to patrons of a gay Asian bar!

But at least gay people and transvestites are mentioned, a rarity in the 1980s.

See also: The Theme Song of 1000 Nights in a Leather Bar.

Jul 6, 2021

"Beyond Evil": Gay Cops Chase a Korean Serial Killer


Two guys face each other.  Younger: "I'm going to move here."  They get even closer.  Older: "What about me interests you so much?"  They get even closer, their faces inches apart.  Younger: "What about me interests you so much?" 

Whoa, palpable sexual tension!  The hottest scene I've seen in months.  Is this a gay love story?  

No, it's Beyond Evil, a Korean drama about two cops, a serial killer, yadda yadda yadda.  0% of the action-adventure movies released during the last 20 years have had gay leads.  Each must think that the other is the killer, so their closeness represents not attraction but threat.  

But what about this shot?  Standard Korean gesture of gratitude?

I'm going in.

Scene 1: Night, in the marshes.  A young cop finds something terrifying.  Panicking, he yells for middle-aged cop Dong-Sik, who comes running.  Close-up of what he found (I can't tell what it is).

Scene 2:
Daytime, the year 2000.  A florist drives through the city and delivers flowers to a church. A choir is practicing.  Yu-yeon, a teenage girl, is playing the piano.  Two women discuss how wonderful she is -- intelligent, a good Catholic -- while her twin brother Dong-Sik is a lazy bum.

Cut to the young Dong-Sik playing the guitar and singing in an empty cafe.  The teenage girl in charge tells him to get out: he just bought one cup of coffee, which doesn't give him the right to sing for two hours.  They argue; he threatens to hit her, then leaves. 

Scene 3: The over-accomplished Yu-Yeon gets a text from her brother Dong-Sik, sneaks out of the house, and walks through the dark, scary marshes.  The street lights go out; there's someone behind her!  Cut to her body lying in the marsh, her hands tied so it looks like she is praying.

In the morning, Mom goes outside to get the newspaper, and sees all of Yu-Yeon's fingertips lined up!

Scene 4:
2020.  Top-of-his-class hotshot cop Ju-Won drive through town, passing a lot of posters about the missing girl (never taken down, even after 20 years?).  Meanwhile, middle-aged cop Dong-Sik (left) is investigating an altercation at a beauty parlor.  Suddenly one of the women grabs his hair, and he goes ballistic and arrests everyone.  "Him and his temper!" the guys at the station complain.  

At the station, the chief yells at Dong-Sik for wasting everyone's time. "They were gambling!"  "But only 10 or 20 won!" "So what?  Many a mickle makes a muckle!"  Where the heck did the translators find that obscure Scottish phrase?

Hotshot Ju-Won arrives.  He doesn't even start today, but he's so dedicated that he came early. 

While Hotshot is being processed, the other cops gossip.  He was top of his class at police academy, scored 100% on his fitness test, and he's handsome!  Plus his Dad is the deputy commissioner, the #2 Cop in all of Korea!  Dong-Sik fumes with jealousy. As a teen, he lived in his sister's shadow, and now this!

Scene 5: A man comes into the station complaining that his son didn't come home last night.  Maybe he was murdered, like that girl 20 years ago!  Dong-Sik tells him that in Korea, you can only report someone missing if they are a juvenile or mentally disabled.  They will have to classify his son as a runaway.  

Later, Dong-Sik is crossing the street when his hip injury acts up.  He takes his pain pills.  Hotshot Ju-Won, driving past, sees him hobbling along, but doesn't offer him a ride.  Jerk!

Scene 6:
  Manyang Butcher Shop. Dong-Sik and his friends having dinner.  All men, including his "best friend," the rather feminine Jeong-je....hmm.  Jeong-je's sister Ji-Hwa joins them.  They discuss who the Hotshot Ju-Won will be paired with. Jeong-je doesn't want him: "Not my type."  Does that mean the same thing in Korean as in English?

Dong-Sik doesn't want him either, because his father, Deputy Commissioner Han Gi-Hwan, stopped the investigation into his sister's disappearance, back when he was a local police inspector 20 years ago.  Grr!

Flashback to the Deputy Commissioner having dinner with his hotshot son.  Every graduate of the police academy has to spend  six months in a boring hick town.  After that, it's on to glamour and excitement -- if he doesn't screw up.  Apparently Hotshot is not so hot after all.  

Scene 7: Morning.  Dong-Sik introduces himself to Hotshot, who refuses to shake hands.  Jerk! 

Inside the police station, everyone except Dong-Sik volunteers to partner with the handsome Hotshot (wouldn't you?).  Hotshot says he'll take anybody except Dong-Sik the "nutjob."  The Chief thinks that guys who don't like each other are more professional on the job, so he partners them.  

Scene 8:
In the squad car, while the germophobic Hotshot (left) wipes everything down, Dong-Sik brings up the snub at the crosswalk.  He denies it until Dong-Sik remembers every detail, including his license plate number. "Be careful," he says threateningly.  "There are no secrets in this town. You are always being watched."

They get a report of Mr. Bang, an elderly man with dementia, wandering in the marshes, and set out to look for him.  Hotshot doesn't like swatting through six-foot tall reeds, or getting his brand-new spiffy shoes all muddy.  Eventually they find Mr. Bang -- someone Dong-Sik knew as a teenager!  He gets combative, and they have to roll around in the mud to subdue him.

Scene 9: They bring Mr. Bang home.  A middle-aged woman tells them that every October he goes berserk and tries to break into an old shed. "Aren't you sick of this?" she asks Dong-Sik.  "Don't you think he should go into a nursing home?" What does Dong-Sik have to do with an elderly man with dementia?

Scene 10: After they clean up, the other cops warn Hotshot about marsh duty.  "Didn't your friends tell you about it?"  Hotshot says that he has no friends, just people who try to cozy up to him because of his family connections. Awww, a poor little rich boy.  Dong-Sik thinks he has no friends for another reason, being a stuck-up jerk. 

The Chief says he was thinking of inviting Hotshot out to dinner, but he wouldn't want him to think he was cozying up because of his family connections.

Scene 10:  Hotshot hesitates, but finally decides to go to the dinner.  Dong-Sik and some other cops are there.  The Chief introduces Jeon-je, the feminine guy from Scene 6, and makes sure they sit together.  Matchmaking?  Jeon-je's sister arrives and makes the faux-pas of mentioning Hotshot's famous father.  Hotshot tells them that he doesn't like hearing his father's name.  They make fun of him.

Scene 11: Leaving the dinner, Hotshot sees Dong-Sik working at the butcher shop.  He must not make enough money as a cop.  He asks what the woman in Scene 8 has on Dong-Sik, that she can call him with family problems, and he comes running.  "I killed Mr. Bang's daughter," Dong-Sik replies. When Hotshot gapes in shock, he says he was only joking. Or was he....

Dong-Sik: You're so gullible.  I like you.

Hotshot: I don't want you to like me.

Dong-Sik: It's not up to you, is it?  I'll like you if I want to.

Scene 12: 
 Hotshot having dinner with his former tutor Kwan Hyuk (that same night?).   Hyuk mentions a girl, and Hotshot says "I'm not interested."  "I know -- I meant for me.  I want to become the Deputy Commissioner's son, one who never lets him down."   Ok, that does it, Hotshot is gay.

Kyuk gives him the file on Dong-Sik's sister's disappearance 20 years ago, and he takes it to his elegant apartment to read.  Dad texts: "Keep a low profile until things calm down.  Do not disgrace me."  That does it, Hotshot is gay.

Scene 13: Nine months ago.  Hotshot lecturing to some assembled cops: 20 years ago, Dong-Sik's sister disappeared, and Mr. Bang's daughter was murdered, on the same day.  The cases we are working on now have the same MO.  It must be the same killer.  I believe that it's Dong-Sik!

 Scene 14: Dong-Sik supervises as they install a new poster about his missing sister.  Then he gets a call that Mr. Bang is wandering the marshes again, and sets out -- with his former partner, Ji-Hun!  The Captain sends Hotshot out anyway.

By the time he gets there, it's night.  We replay Scene 1: Ji-Hun finds the scary thing.  I still can't tell what it is, but Dong-Sik recognizes the remains of his sister. The end.

Beefcake: None during the show, but fortunately every Korean actor has some shirtless shots posted online.

Gay Characters: I think both Dong-Sik and Hotshot are gay.

Mystery: Who is the serial killer? Obviously not Dong-Sik, and Hotshot is too young. I'm betting on his father, the Deputy Commissioner who called off the search for the missing sister.

My Grade: A if they stay gay.  C+ if Hotshot gets a girlfriend,

(He doesn't.)

Oscar is Gay: LGBTQ Representation on the Duolingo Language App

The Duolingo language learning app gives you points for completing exercises, stories, and podcasts in your chosen language (or languages).  I've been using it for over two years, and tried out almost every language they offer.  Some are fun.

In Finnish, you learn the words for "wizard" and "shaman" right away.

In Portuguese, you learn "armadillo" before "dog."

In Swedish, you usually don't "eat" something, you "eat it up."  I wonder if English used to require that construction, too.

Remember all of those Arabian Nights stories where they say "O Vizier," "O Genie," and so on?  Turns out that in Arabic, you must begin direct address with "yah," so: "O Benjy, what time is it?"

 Sometimes I quit right away: in Welsh the speakers sound enraged, in Italian they speak in a monotone like robots, and in Latin the female speaker sounds like she's trying to seduce you: Ego...ooh...mulier sum.  How about it, baby?

Sometimes I go five or ten lessons, until things become too confusing.

Is the Arabic دوز pronounced duuz, du'iz, or duuza?  Different speakers say it differently, with no explanation.

The Korean "eo" and "o" are pronounced the same, as "i," but the lessons expect you to differentiate them.

J'ai acheté des fruits must be translated as "I bought fruits," not the correct  "fruit," and hűtőszekrény can only mean "fridge," not "refrigerator," even though we never say "fridge" in America.

The problem is, five mistakes and you are not allowed to use the app again for 2-4 hours. And you're competing with others to see who will accumulate the most points by the end of the week and stay on your achievement level, and who will be demoted.  So you can't afford to have 2-4 hours off, and you end up doing the exercises in Spanish and French, languages that you already know, so you won't make many mistakes, and ignoring your Swedish, Czech, or Finnish.

But enough complaints.  Duolingo has one quality that makes it superior to any textbook I have ever seen.

Introductory textbooks invariably teach you with dialogues about heterosexual romance.  A guy visiting the country tries to pick up a girl.   Later lessons show them ordering in a restaurant, visiting a museum, and so on.

On Duolingo, most of the exercises are not about romance at all, and when they are, about 20% of refer to women's wives and men's boyfriends.    

Some of the languages come with 50-100 stories (brief dialogues that test reading comprehension and listening skills)  Several involve gay romance: 

A man is waiting for his date, but he's sick, so his friend suggests "The perfect man for you": a doctor.

A woman is introduced to her girlfriend's family: Mom has five sons but only one daughter.  Well, now two. Welcome to the family!

An elderly male couple listens to a song, which is very bad, but they like it because they heard it on their first date.

An elderly man is depressed because his daughter is away studying in Australia, but his husband has arranged a surprise visit.

In Spanish, French, and German, most of the stories involve a group of people living in the same apartment complex.

1, Eddy, a fun-loving, rather dimwitted gym teacher and physical fitness buff.  (They have the same names in every language.)

2. His son, eight year old Junior, who is always trying to figure out ways to avoid chores and homework and spend his time playing video games.

3. Lin, who doesn't really have a job: she rides her motorcycle and goes to rock concerts.  According to Duolingo, she dates men and women, but I don't recall any stories that show her socializing with anyone but Bea (below) and her grandmother:

4. Lucy, elderly but strong, forceful, and athletic, apparently a former spy.

5. Bea, an IT professional, a lesbian. She dates a woman who complains about everything, asks a flight attendant to help her find her girlfriend, and sees someone who she thinks is an ex-girlfriend (but turns out to be someone else).  She has a friendship or on-off romance with Lin.

6. Zari, a Muslim girl who is boy crazy, and her bff:

7. Lily, a Goth girl, who doesn't express any heterosexual interest and wears a suit instead of a dress to a wedding because she hates women's clothes.  

8-9. Vikram and Priti, a South Asian couple.  Vikram runs a pastry shop and is called in when another character has a problem in the kitchen; Priti seems to be an overworked professional

10. Oscar, an art teacher.  According to the Duolingo blog, he is gay, but I don't recall any stories where he dates men.  He mostly associates with Eddy. But they keep adding new stories, so maybe one will set him up on a date.

2 LGBT characters out of 10, 3 if you count Oscar, 4 if you count Lily.  A lot more representation than when I studied Spanish, French, or German.  Or Latin.  Or Chinese.  Or Russian.

Jul 5, 2021

Sex/Life: Rich Bad Boy or Rich Boring Guy?

 Netflix tells me that I am a 97% match for Sex/Life, a soap opera about the mom in a heterosexual nuclear family whose bad boy ex shows up.  The blurb sounds annoyingly heterosexist; I highly doubt that I will like it. But it's 4:00 am, fireworks kept me up all night, and I'm too groggy to say "no" (I used to have the same problem in bars around 2:00 am).

Scene 1:  Billie is a young woman in a dance club, holding her hair.  Blaring music.  Voiceover about when you are young, "the world is full of possibilities."  I remember lots of Saturday nights like that, except I never danced holding my hair.  She grabs a scuzzy-looking freakazoid, and they sneak into a booth and swallow each other's tongues.  Then he performs oral sex on her.  I remember lots of Saturday nights like that, except I was the one performing oral sex on the scuzzy-looking freakazoid. 

Switch to the present: Billie in bed with her baby, being awakened by her toddler.  I don't remember anything like this.  She goes out to the back yard of the gigantic mansion that passes for middle-class housing on tv, to see the butterfly that her toddler -- named Hudson -- has captured.   Husband Boring (Mike Vogel) arrives in a swank suit ("as gorgeous inside as outside," Billie voice-overs. "I've never caught him looking at another woman").  Nope, no recognition.  I couldn't care less if Bob looks at other guys.  In fact, I encourage it, especially if he brings him home to share.

Scene 2: Boring comes in the house -- wait, I thought it was morning.  He's just getting home.  He takes off his clothes while discussing boring heterosexual managerial-professional things.  Butt and chest close-ups, but full body is blurred.  Billie drools.  

Whoops -- he gets a phone call before they can swallow tongues. While Billie waits, she flashes back to the various guys she's known who were much better in bed.  We see their various sexual positions (some nice butts).  

Phone call's over.  Time for the tongue-swallowing -- nope, a peck, then hitting the shower without her.  No wonder girlfriend spends so much time thinking about past hookups!

So why marry someone so boring?  He had money?  Because the bad boys turned out to be bad.  We get a montage: one was abusive, another ghosted her, she caught one screwing a woman, and another screwing a guy!  You've got to see the disgust on her face.  Girlfriend is intensely biphobic!  

Scene 3:  Flashback to Boring and Billie moving into their mansion in super-ritzy Greenwich, Connecticut.  It's snowing.  I get the feeling that we're at the end of a Hallmark Christmas romcom, where the heroine chooses the nice guy over the sleazoid, and discovers that he's actually a prince.  

Flashback within a flashback of Boring meeting Billie's working-class parents (and actually liking them!), giving a lady his seat on the train (yeah, that will save the world), and at work, celebrating the company's "high risk, high reward" money-making something or other.  I get it; he's nice, and rich.  Who cares if he has a small penis?  

Flashbacks to getting married and giving birth.  Then we cut to the present day, with Boring watching football in the bedroom.  Billie finally gets him interested in inserting his penis into her  (gross scene of her breasts flappoing all over), but he keeps trying to sneak peeks at the game!  "Boring, dear...you don't seem to be into it. Go get my vibrator."

Scene 4:   While Boring snores, Billie gets up, pours some vodka into a coffee cup and calls her friend Sasha, who is still part of the party scene: "The band hasn't even gone on yet."

Billie: I hate being the mom in a heterosexual nuclear family! Of course, my kids are absolutely wonderful, giving my life infinite meaning, making every moment a joy.  Women who don't have kids are worthless, living drab, shallow, useless lives.  But otherwise, life with Boring is so darn boring!  I'm suffocating here!  (This contradiction is puzzling.  I'm wondering if some higher-up forced the "kids are the meaning of life" proviso onto the "married life is boring" speech).  I

When Billie admits that she's thinking a lot about Bad Boy, Sasha yells: "Oh, no, girlfriend.  You have a perfect life as the mom in a heterosexual nuclear family.  Millions of women would kill to get what you have (wait...90% of American women get married, and 86% have children).  You will not fuck that up!  She goes out into the club, where people are dancing and flirting, and starts cruising hot guys.  This life is drab, empty, and meaningless, believe me!  Sorry, gotta go."

Scene 5:  Billie starts writing a journal about how much she liked the old days.  Flashback to Billie and Sasha strutting their stuff. 

Side note: Sasha completed her Ph.D. and is now a psychology professor at their alma mater.  So she has achieved academic success, but her life is still drab, empty, and meaningless, because she isn't married with children?   

Flashback continues: every Saturday night they went to the Ludlow Street Cafe to try to pick up a member of whatever band was playing. On this particular night, Sasha hooks up with the rapper Kossi on an old pinball machine.

This is the second time a woman has said "hello" to an aroused penis.  Is that a heterosexual convention, or did the writers just make it up?

So Billie has to walk home all alone through grunge world.  A scuzzy biker tries to grab her, but just-as-scuzzy Bad Boy rushes to the rescue  

He explains that Kossi asked him to give her a ride home (did he actually stop the sex to go find Bad Boy, or what?).  

He turns out to be a rich record producer who lives in a ridiculously elegant apartment the size of a museum gallery (I've seen Liza Minelli's apartment in New York: maybe a tenth of this size). .And he's good at oral sex by the pool.  

The only reason to choose Boring over Bad Boy would be his money, but turns out that Bad Boy is even richer.  So what's the problem?  Marry him!

Scene 6: Next morning. Uh-oh, Billie forgot to close down the journal where she describes sex with Bad Boy in detail, and exclaims "I miss him so much!"  Boring sees it, and freaks out. He grabs her by the neck and yells "Who are you?" Hey, that's physical abuse!  Dump him!  Then: "I can be bad, too.  How about if we do it doggy style, right here in the kitchen next to the artistic bowl of green apples, where our kid can come in at any moment?"

While ramming, he yells "You're mine!  You're all mine, and don't you forget it!" Um..equal partnership?  Women are not property?  Does Billie object?  No, she likes it.

Scene 7.  Later, Billie looks at the bruise she got from the rough but apparently consensual sex, while a guilty-looking Boring puts on his boring suit. The minute he leaves, she goes to the train station and...runs into another nuclear family mom.  "Why, Billie, what are you going into New York for?  Do you have an appointment there?  With whom?"  She stumbles and murmurs and makes up a story about her Mom being sick.  Wait -- before, she said she moved to New York to go to grad school.  Did she grow up there? 

She goes to Sasha's apartment, explaining that she's basically having a panic attack.  She can't breathe, her heart is racing...about what?  She just fantasized about an ex.   But Sasha is not alone.  We zoom in to her half-naked houseguest -- Bad Boy!

So what?  Billie has been married to someone else for at least four years.  Why can't Sasha date her ex?  But Billie thinks of this as a gigantic betrayal, and rushes out. The end.

Both Boring and Bad Boy get shirtless and butt shots.  Bad Boy shows his penis in Episode 3.  The only other male character is a rapper who doesn't ake anything off, even while getting oral sex. Jonathan Sadowski (left) appears in six episodes, but not here.

Other Sights: Some establishing shots of New York City.

Heterosexism: Contradictory.  Sasha has a professional career and a hot boyfriend, but her life is presented as meaningless.  Billie's life with house, husband, and kids is presented as perfect one moment, meaningless the next.  So women can't find meaning in their lives, regardless of whether they choose husband and kids or career (apparently you can't have both).

Gay Characters: Obviously not, unless you count the freakout over the bi boyfriend.

Reflections of My Life: I remember some partying back in the day, but otherwise everyone's reactions seem bizarre.  Who cares if your wife writes a journal entry about an ex?  Or you friend dates an ex?  

Stacking the Deck:  Making Bad Boy and Boring BOTH ultra-rich?  Ridiculous!

My Grade: D.

Jul 4, 2021

"Bureau of Magical Things": Dumb Title, Cute Teencom


Is it possible to have a school of magic after Hogwarts, or will any attempt inevitably be compared and criticized?  Let's find out with the Australian teencom with the rather clunky name The Bureau of Magical Things.

Scene 1: Brisbane, night.  A teenage girl goes on a late night run (all by herself?  in America she would be risking her life).  While running through Captain Burke Park on Kangaroo Point, she sees a book floating in the air.  Instead of getting the heck out of there, she approaches and touches it, and gets zapped into unconsciousness.

Scene 2:  Jogger awakens in her room with a nervous, flibbertigibit girl in a nightgown standing over her bed.  She explains that she found Jogger unconscious in the park and brought her home.  Then she sprouts wings and vanishes.  

Scene 3:
24 hours earlier, at River City High ("we got trouble, right here in River City").   Jogger -- Kyra -- playing basketball.  Her team loses.  Eyeglassed Peter (Jamie Carter, top photo) tries to cheer her up.  She responds by insulting him. Harsh!  

Meanwhile, downtown, Mr. Bulge...um, I mean Mr. Maxwell (Christopher Sommers)...closes his bookshop and walks through the wall to a magical library, where he orders a ladder to fetch him some books.  Then he catches a nonbinary person trying to steal a book.  He gives them the job of cleaning the library. 

Scene 4:  In the park, Eyeglassed Peter tries to give basketball advice to Kyra and her friend Mathilde.  They point out that he believes in UFOS, so his opinions are worthless. 

They stop for smoothies and look for a free table.  Androgynous Guy -- Darra (Julien Cullen. below) says he was just leaving, so they can have his.  He runs away and zaps to the magical library.

Nonbinary person asks why he missed dinner last night.  He went to a goblin party: "Those dudes sure love to dance!"  So Androgynous Guy has been dating goblins?  

Lily is still missing.  She went on a tooth run last night, so she's probably sleeping in.  So Underwear Girl is a tooth fairy.  She comes running in, and the class begins, with Mr. Bulge as the teacher.  They have a big test coming up.  

Scene 5:  Kyra in her room, playing the guitar and singing "What if you were the one for me?" while the camera pans to the photos on her wall, mostly of her hugging Mathilde.  Wait -- is Kyra gay? Also her parents and various trophies -- big overachiever here! 

Whoops, smoke alarm.  Dad burned dinner again!   Besides, it was a week old --  Kyra will have to heat up a frozen pizza instead. I get it -- Mom has died, and macho Dad is no good at feminine-coded things.  

Meanwhile, Lily the Tooth Fairy is at the magical library, practicing her conjuring, when Nonbinary Person -- Imogen (Elizabeth Cullen) -- sneaks in, steals the book, and zaps to Captain Burke Park in downtown Brisbane, just off the Story Bridge.  Lily follows.  They magically fight over the book, just as Kyra comes jogging by.  She can't see them, just the book hovering in mid-air.  So she approaches -- zap!

Scene 6: 
 The next morning.  Dad brings Kyra breakfast in bed (gee, I never got that, unless I was sick).  She's late for her Saturday dog-walking job.  

Cut to Kyra walking some dogs through Captain Burke Park.  Suddenly she sees Androgynous Guy from yesterday, and gapes, astonished -- he's got pointy ears.  He's astonished, too -- how can she see me?  -- and runs away.  She pauses at the spot where she saw the floating book, and finds scorch marks on the ground.  It wasn't a dream.

Suddenly she overhears the dogs talking to each other, mind-to-mind.  They are astonished -- how can a human hear our thoughts?

Eyeglassed Peter shows up.  She tells him about hearing the dogs.  He thinks that she is making fun of him, and leaves.  

Scene 7: At the magical library, Imogen returns the stolen book (lame explanation for the theft: she needed it to cheat on the upcoming test).  Lily the Tooth Fairy confronts her: because of your irresponsibility, a human girl saw us.  "That's impossible! Humans can't see us unless we want them to."  "Obviously we did something to her, and we have to fix it!"

Scene 8: Peter goes to the bookshop to deliver a pastry to Mr. Bulge.  It's payment for a comic book he ordered.  (Funny, most small businessmen want their payment in money.)

Cut to Imogen and Lily arguing, then fighting.  A magic beam blasts through to the bookstore, and Peter sees it!  Mr. Bulge makes a lame excuse, shoves him out the door, and confronts the students.  They cover.  


They are an elf and a fairy, respectively, and the two species generally don't get along. Elves are dark, brooding, and gender-atypical, while fairies are light, frothy, and girly.

 But they have to work together to erase Kyra's memory

Scene 9:  In her room, Kyra notices that she can levitate objects!  Lily the Tooth Fairy and Imogen appear and explain: There are magical beings all around us, keeping us safe (um...global warming, the COVD pandemic,  white nationalist extremism... they're doing a rather poor job of it!)  But humans can't know that they exist, so they're going to erase her memories.  They advance menacingly and zap her with fairy dust.

It doesn't work!  Kyra can still see them!  She absorbed some magic when she touched the book, and now she has powers of her own.  She accidentally zaps herself to a snowy mountaintop.  The end.

 Some of the guys are cute.  Mr. Bulge is very noticeable in one scene, but not in the others.

Other Sights: Lots of exteriors in Brisbane.

Heterosexism: No one expresses heterosexual interest, except maybe the double-taking between Kyra and Androgynous Guy Darra.

Gay Characters:  Kyra singing "Are you the one?" to Mathilde, and Hot Guy Darra dancing with goblin dudes?  I imagine that those are just coincidences, and the two will hook up.

Story Arcs: The book theft was far less intriguing than I anticipated.  There doesn't seem to be any ongoing mystery to solve, or at least none was introduced in the first episode.

Will I Keep Watching:  Just to see if Darra and Kyra hook up with each other.

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