Sep 4, 2021

"Diary of a Future President": Bobby's Coming Out Story, Part 2


When we last saw Bobby Cañero-Reed (Charlie Bushnell), older brother of future president Elena  Cañero-Reed in the Disney channel series Diary of a Future President, he was having trouble saying "I'm...I think I might be...", in spite of knowing about 300 LGBT people and getting endless "If you want to talk, I'm there for you" support from family and friends. Plus he had chickened out of telling his crush, Liam, how he felt.  What will happen in Season 2?

Episode 1:  On the first day of high school, Bobby and his friends discover that they can't try out for the tennis team: all of the positions have been filled by older students.  Bummer: tennis was his passion.  So they go to the Student Activities Fair to find a new extracurricular activity.  So you can just join one club?  When I was in high school, I belonged to six.  Ziggy joins the band, and eventually gets dropped from the gang; film buff Danny joins the Film Club; and Bobby's crush Liam joins the club his girlfriend belongs to (junior environmentalists).  Bobby looks at the booth for the Gender-Sexuality Alliance, but is afraid to approach.

(No beefcake in Bobby's plotline, so I'm filling in with pics of cute guys from the A plot (Elena the Future President) and the C plot (Mom).  Left: Kyan Zielinski as Elena's nemesis.)

Later, Bobby confides in Elena...about not being able to play tennis.  She repeats: "I'm there for you."  Darn, he's got more people "there for him" than I have Facebook friends.

Episode 2:  Everyone wants to know what club Bobby joined as a substitute for tennis.  He claims bowling, but Mom discovers that there is no bowling club.  He lied to them! Why, did he secretly join the Gender-Sexuality Alliance?  She seeks the advice of her friend Camilla, who says "Bobby is going through a lot right now.  Hormones, crushes...identity"  But oblivious Mom concludes that he's upset because her boyfriend is moving in.  Everything isn't always about you, C-plot character!

Meanwhile, Bobby's friends blow him off to go to club meetings, and Liam keeps talking about his girlfriend.  Bobby goes out to the back of the school and angrily hits a tennis ball around.  

Later, Bobby and the gang (with Liam's girlfriend tagging along) have tater tots. Whoops, there's a gay couple hugging at the next table!  Bobby grins.

Episode 3: 
All freshmen have to give a give a 2-minute speech on "something you're passionate about.  Speak from your heart.  Show us a window into your soul."  Bobby is horrified.  Dude, just talk about tennis.  Or being gay.

Left: Eugene Kim as a teacher.

At lunch, the guys reveal that it is even more horrifying: that speech is the key to your popularity in high school (really?).  If you screw up, you will be an outcast forever (really?).

Bobby spends the episode discussing his stage fright with the entire cast, plus Grandma, and ends up giving a speech  about how unfair it is to have one speech label you for the rest of your life.  "We should be able to pick our on labels, or decide if we want to be labeled at all."  Yeah, I've heard that before.  "I don't like labels" means "I don't want to identify as gay, even though I like guys."  This is just a ploy to delay the "I'm...." statement.

Episode 4: Bobby is still upset over his crush Liam having a girlfriend, but now things are even worse: his other friend, Danny,  has a crush on a film club girl!  The guys spend the episode trying to push them together.  When she turns out to have a boyfriend already, Danny is crushed.  Bobby tells him the he also had an unrequited love last year.  He won't say who it was.

Episode 5: Due to his epic Freshman History Speech, Bobby is chosen to be Mr. Manatee, like the homecoming king.  So he has to choose a Ms. Manatee to bring to the big dance. How heterosexist!

At school, girls are giggling and swooning over Bobby, and his friends are ecstatic.  "You're the top of the heap now!  You rule the school!"   They offer multiple suggestions about Ms. Manatee, but Bobby doesn't want to think about it.

Later, Bobby is all depressed about the necessity of dating a girl, and confides in his sister Elena, Mom's boyfriend Sam, and Mom's friend Camilla (who understands because had to date a boy for her quinceañera, even though she liked girls)

Finally...finally he confides in Elena again: "No one knows the real reason I hate Mr. Manatee so much."  Dude, everybody knows.  The hairdresser knows.  The lunch lady knows.  "I don't want to date a girl.  I want to date a guy. Because...(wait for it...)...I'm gay." 

"WHAT???  I had no idea!!!"  Just kidding.  Elena is happy -- and relieved -- that he finally came out.  So am I.

Episode 6:
Bobby meets a cute 11th grade boy, CJ (Donovin Miller).  Two people of color -- Bobby definitely has a type.

CJ makes the first move, touching his shoulder and inviting Bobby to join his crew, which plays tennis, dodge ball, and other games after hours in the school parking lot.  See what happens after you Say the Word?  The hunks come out of the woodwork!

Episode 7: Mom is going out of town again, but this year Bobby is old enough to stay by himself.  The boys pressure him into throwing a party, but he refuses.  Then CJ and the crew ask, and he's all for it.  This doesn't sit well with Liam and Danny: "You're abandoning us for your new friends!"

Episode 8: Liam's girlfriend breaks up with him.  I hope you don't try to get with Bobby now.  The boy has enough drama in his life.  Bobby: "If you want to talk, I'm here for you."  Of course.

Uh-oh, Bobby is grounded due to throwing an unauthorized party, so he can't play tennis with CJ tonight.  But Liam is free. Your new boyfriend dumping you for your ex!  Every gay guy's worst nightmare!

The next day, we hear that CJ didn't play with Liam...he played with another guy, and posted an instagram picture labeled "reunited."  Grr...CJ is already cheating on Bobby, and they haven't even dated yet!

That night, Bobby breaks curfew to confront CJ.  "Oh, that guy was my cousin. You don't need to be jealous."  Kiss, already!

Later, Liam gets tired of waiting for Bobby to come out and tells him: "If you and CJ are more than friends, it would be chill."  They hug.  I'd hug him, too, out of sheer relief.  Finally Liam can stop pretending that he doesn't know!

Episode 9:  Bobby comes out to  the other friend, Danny.  Another "What a relief!  Pretending not to know is stressful!" scene.  But there's a new problem: CJ thinks Bobby can drive, but he only just got his learner's permit.  What if he finds out the truth?  Yeah, like CJ is going to reject a cute boy just because he can't drive.  Time to learn.

While Mom is teaching him, Bobby informs her that he's into someone.  "His name is CJ."  She's shocked. "HIS mean, I'm happy feel comfortable sharing this with me...."  Weak smile. Gee, out of all the "I'm there for you" people, Mom turns out to be quasi-homophobic.

Episode 10: 
 Tired of waiting for CJ to ask him out, the guys pressure Bobby into asking. The top usually does the asking, and Bobby screams "bottom" from a mile away.  But what if he says no?  Or agrees to the date, then changes his mind halfway through?  Bobby spends the episode asking for advice from Camilla, Mom's boyfriend Sam, and just about everyone else.  By the way, Elena is running for Student Rep with the campaign slogan "Here for you," naturally. 

(Left: Rafael Torres as Cousin Tito)

We are spared the request and the date itself (it was to the tater tot place).  Cut to the guys sitting on the curb, eating the last of their tater tots. 

Bobby:  I'm glad we went on this date.

CJ (Joking): Was this a date?  Don't torture the poor kid!  

We see the kiss -- or at least the back of CJ's enormous Afro while he plants one on.  

Later, Bobby tells his friends about the date -- and the kiss.  They are ecstatic.  Danny says: "You must be totally over your crush from last year, whoever the guy was."  

Uh-oh, Liam looks suspicious.  "Why didn't you tell me about your crush?"  He wasn't out to you?  "Who was he?"   Fortunately, Bobby is called away before he can answer.  Liam stares...could he have figured it out? Will it be awkward to be friends with someone who used to like-like you?   

Drama!  But it's the end of Season 2, and there may not be a Season 3.  At least Bobby said the word,  and got a back-of-the-head kiss.  The Disney Channel has come a long way from the "don't ask, don't tell" days  The Suite Life of Zack and Cody

Sep 3, 2021

"Diary of a Future President": Bobby's Coming Out Story, Part 1


The conceit of Diary of a Future President, on the Disney Channel, is that we're watching the memories of U.S. President Elena Cañero-Reed in the distant-past year of 2020, when she was in the sixth grade in a Miami middle school. As Elena negotiates the world of best friends, cute boys, and lofty ambitions, her Mom gets a new boyfriend (Michael Weaver), and her older brother Bobby comes out.  Very gradually.  Here is the first part of his story, from Season 1:

Episode 1:
 As they are riding to school for the first day of class, Bobby  (Charlie Bushnell, left) mentions his love of tennis and his friends, Ziggy (Sean Philip Glasgow)  and Danny (Nathan Arenas).

Episode 2:  The boys relish being at the top of the middle school food chain.  A hot girl says hello to Bobby; his friends gush with excitement.  A guy named Liam(Brandon Severs, below) offers to sign up for the team.  Bobby promises to go easy on him at practice, but he turns out to be great. No indication that he is attracted to Liam at this point.  

Bobby pranks Liam by inviting him to a party that doesn't exist, so he shows up at the gym all alone in a suit.  Then they both get locked into the gym.

Episode 3: Liam has joined the gang.  Bobby has a date with Monyca.  The guys practice how to take off a girl's bra, but the date just involves talking.

Episode 4:
Mom keeps interrupting Bobby and Monyca as they sit in the bedroom, trying to have their first kiss.  He complains to his friend that they can't get enough privacy, so they throw a party with a "Two Minute Tongue Tank."  Bobby emerges, having kissed Monyca, looking confused.   Later, Liam congratulates him, and he looks confused again.

Episode 5: Bobby and his friends on the tennis team, getting bullied by the stereotypic arrogant, racist jerk tennis superstars.   The big match, which is extremely well attended and apparently has cheerleaders.  

Episode 6:  Danny invites the gang to his house to riff on a bad movie.  Bobby says no, but when Monyca asks him out "to talk about their families" on the same night, he changes his mind.  Is he avoiding her?  

While watching the movie, Bobby feels bad.  Liam notices, and the next day asks what was wrong.  Bobby misses his dead father.  Liam: "If you want to talk about it, I'm here for you."  Ok, so he's not rejecting Monyca, he just didn't want to talk about families.

Episode 7:  Bobby and Liam get stuck in the supply room during the big match.  As they wait to be rescued, they discuss why Liam came to Miami to stay with his grandmother: he didn't get along with his older brothers.  They are sitting crosslegged on the floor, with their knees almost touching. Bobby notices and gets all flustered.  Then they are rescued.  And Bobby takes the ball they were playing with as a souvenir.  Ok, now it's obvious that he's attracted to Liam.

Episode 8: Bobby invites his friends to the big dance, but they don't want to go because they don't have girlfriends.  He suggests a prank, and they're up for it. 

Later, Bobby is waiting for his sister at the hair salon, when the swishy hairdresser insists on giving him a new doo.  "Are you going to the big dance?" he asks.  He knows about the middle school dance?   Bobby affirms that he's going "with some friends."  

"Nobody special that you want to look nice for?"  "Kinda...maybe." 

Hairdresser points out a photo of his hot husband, Bruno: they met at a middle school dance.  "Just kidding -- Fleet Week."  Bobby grins.  So he's aware that gay people exist.  

At the dance, the guys get ready to play the prank, when they see Liam dancing with a girl!  Bobby fumes with jealousy.  He rushes over and yells at him.  It's time for the prank!  You're abandoning your friends!  They end up fighting, and Bobby gets ejected.

Episode 9: 
As punishment for fighting, Bobby loses his phone for the duration of spring break, so he can't call or text anyone.

When he returns to school, Ziggy and Danny tell him that Liam "needs a minute" to get over what happened.  He's had a week, dude. 

Monyca wants to know why Bobby ignored her during the dance, why they rarely hang out and never kiss.  "It's's just...Liam."  She suggests that he's more into Liam than her, but he scoffs: "No way!  I'm into you! you.  Want to go on a date later?"  

While Mom is in Tallahassee, Liam has to stay with her friend Camilla...and her girlfriend?  They discuss his fight with Liam: "You guys seem to have a good thing together."  When he leaves, the ladies discuss: "I think Bobby likes Liam, and the fight was misdirected passion.  We have to provide him with a safe space.  We'll be his fairy gaymothers."  So, half the people Bobby knows are gay, and he's having trouble coming out?  

Later, Camilla suggests "Instead of playing video games, let's watch tv.  RuPaul's Drag Race?  Or a documentary on Billie Jean King, the lesbian tennis star?"  Then they mention that Camilla is not out to her parents, so they have to pretend to be roommates.  "It sucks to have to hide who you are, doesn't it?"

Camilla: "If you every want to talk, we're here for you."

Later, Bobby breaks up with Monyca.  She's chill with it: "I know you're going through a lot of stuff with Liam. If you ever want to talk, I'm here for you."  Is that the new catchphrase of the middle-school generation?

Episode 10: 
 Bobby sends a text to Liam, then regrets it because now they have to talk.  He's so nervous that he skips school. 

He has a heart-to-heart with Mom's boyfriend Sam about telling "a person" that he likes them.  Sam suggests just talking, and letting the big reveal take care of itself.  To his credit, he doesn't assume that the person is a girl. 

Sam: "I'm here for you."  Ok, this guy is drowning in emotional support.  Why is he having so much trouble coming out?

Uh-oh, Liam got a girlfriend over spring break!  They're holding hands and everything.

But Bobby forges ahead with the confession anyway:  I've been've been feeling  confused..."  The oblivious Liam doesn't catch on.  

Later, Bobby talks to himself in the mirror: "I...feel stuff.  I think maybe I'm...maybe...I'"  Come on, say the word!  It's not that hard.

Next he talks to Mom: "Your boyfriend and I talked about some stuff.  Guy stuff." He doesn't mention what it is, but Mom promises to"here for you."

End of Season 1!

Next:  The saga continues.  Will Bobby finally say the word?  Will he ever tell Liam that he's into him?  Will he ever get tired of hearing people say "I'm there for you?"  Confused?  You won't be after the next episode of, I mean Diary of a Future President.

Sep 2, 2021

My Boyfriend Ed Asner and I Make Gay History

Hi, Boomer,

I'm Michael, from the gay synagogue in L.A.  Here's my gay celebrity romance story:

The episode "My Brother's Keeper" of The Mary Tyler Moore Show  (January 13, 1973) is an icon of gay history, the first time that the word "gay" was ever used on the air to mean a gay person.

The plot  is simple: When her brother Ben (Robert Moore) visits, the snooty Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) tries to fix him up with Mary, but instead he hits it off with working-class Rhoda (Valerie Harper).  Phyllis is horrified at the idea of Rhoda as a sister-in-law, until Rhoda says that it won't work out: "He's not my type."

"Why not?" Phyllis asks.  "He's witty, he's attractive, he's successful..."

"He's gay."  90 seconds of uproarious laughter from the studio audience, Phyllis looks confused, then relieved.  And blackout.

The original script didn't have a big reveal: Rhoda and Ben just weren't going to date.  But why not?  Various ideas were bantered about: he was married, he was a priest -- but they all raised too many questions.   Why hadn't he told Phyllis?  Was his relationship with Rhoda cheating?  Finally someone suggested "He's gay."

There's a dispute over who made the suggestion.  Some say Robert Moore.   After all, he was gay in real life, and had directed the gay-themed Boys in the Band in 1968.

Some say writer Dick Clair.  He was gay in real life, too.

Some say Valerie Harper.

They're all wrong.  It was my idea.

I was still in high school, a tall, slim twink with a smooth chest and a big cock, a drama club geek, a good little Jewish boy, the class clown, and o-u-t, out!

Well, not at school -- I had a "girlfriend," who turned out to be a big ol' lesbian later on.

Out to my parents, who were sending me to a shrink to "cure" me but otherwise were relatively accepting for the 1970s.

Out to myself -- Gay Liberation, baby!

And of course, out to my boyfriend, Ed Asner.

Ed Asner, who played gruff boss Lou Grant on Mary Tyler Moore, was 40 years old, a former football star, a big, burly Daddy, with a hard hairy chest, thick biceps, and a thick...well, you get the idea.

Ed was married -- 13 years, three kids.  But it was a marriage full of temptations and recriminations, infidelities, separations, suppressed traumas, and screaming matches.  They were both seeing psychiatrists.

And when the heartache grew too much for him, he drove out to Van Nuys and picked me up.  We went out to dinner, we went to ballgames -- when a reporter turned up, he introduced me as his "nephew." We checked into a cheap hotel and...

Yeah, I was a little bit in love with him.

Ok, a lot in love with him.

My parents were fine with our relationship -- they didn't know that we were boyfriends, of course.  They thought that having a big, macho man around would be a good influence on me, that is, turn me straight.

So, getting back to the story:

One night we were at a burger place, and Ed told me that they were having problems with a script:

"This guy, Phyllis's brother, starts spending time with Rhoda, but he's not interested in her romantically.  Why not?  Just not having chemistry won't work -- there has to be a big reveal at the end."

"Seems obvious to me," I said.  "He's gay."

Ed looked around to see if anyone heard.  "Are you kidding?  You can't have a gay guy on tv.  The censors would be down our throat!"

"It's the 1970s -- just don't show him making out with a dude, and it will be fine.  They had a gay guy on All in the Family last year."

"But they didn't use the word 'gay.'  It's the word that will get people up in arms."

"They just have to get used to it.  Watch -- gay!"  I exclaimed.  People looked around.  "Gay!  Gay!"

"Shut up!"  Ed muttered.  "My nephew is quite the kidder!", he told the couple at the next table with a fake laugh.

"You ever hear of Gay Liberation?  We're coming out of the closet, baby!  Better to deal with it  now than later, and better Mary Tyler Moore than The Partridge Family."  I grabbed his hand under the table.  He brushed me away.  "You could at least ask."

He shrugged.  "Ok, I'll ask, but I can't make any promises."

But everybody loved the idea of making Ben gay -- it was hip, it was edgy, it was "now." It went right into the script, and the rest is history.

Our relationship ended not with a bang, but a whimper: eventually Ed just stopped calling me -- I guess he decided to "work things out" with the wife.

But I'll always have great memories of my romance with a Hollywood legend.  And the knowledge that I was part of gay history.

The uncensored story, with nude photos and explicit sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

See also: Hip Sitcoms of the 1970s

Sep 1, 2021

"I Heart Arlo": Gay Alligator Boy in the Big City?


Arlo is a 15-year old alligator-boy who grew up in the swamps of Louisiana, but now lives in Seaside, New York.  He has a Southern accent that keeps slipping away, a penchant for bursting into song, the innocent joie-de-vivre of Spongebob Squarepants, and the friend-making obsession of Casper the Friendly Ghost.  Most of the episodes in I Heart Arlo (2021) involve Arlo trying to help a friend who is facing a crisis:

From left to right:

1. Alia, an irresponsbile tiger-girl, struggles to hold down a job.

2. Marcellus, a grumpy fish-man, tries to profit financially from other people's problems.

3. Tony, an Italian rat, doesn't want his parents to find out that he runs a pizza place instead of being a gangster.

4. Furnecia, a drag queen furball, is so stressed from working overtime at her hair salon that she begins losing her hair.

5. The giantess Bertie (not shown) wants "a room of her own," but every refuge she finds soon gets overrun by her friends.

Arlo also has problems of his own: he sheds his scales, causing his friends to think he is a ghost; he gets sick with "swamp itch"; he tries to relate to his estranged father, a wealthy bird-man (Vincent Rodriguez III of My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend).

Vincent Rodriguez III is gay, of course.  So are Michael Woodard (Arlo), Mary Lambert (Bertie), Jonathan Van Ness (Furlecia), and Ryan Crego (the executive producer).  

Their Seaside community is built on friendship and acceptance of nonconformity, gender and otherwise.  When Dad finds Arlo wearing a dress, his only concern is that he will need a new pet name.  How about "Pumpkin"?

In the episodes I watched, no one expressed any heterosexual interest.  Or any same-sex interest, for that matter.  Romance does not appear to exist in this world.

Some reviews have suggested that, in addition to the general acceptance of difference, Arlo is gay, and his earlier movie (Arlo the Alligator Boy) a coming-out story.  What about his lack of expressed same-sex interest?  They explain that he is a kid, too young to have sex.

I've heard that one before: boys can gaze in awe at the girl next door a decade or more before they hit puberty, but you can't be gay unless you are sexually active. It's nonsense.  Gay boys have crushes in kindergarten.   For a fictional character to be identified as gay, they have to say or do something that indicates an experience of same sex desire.  Arlo doesn't.

However, lots of kids are nonbinary, transgender, asexual, aromantic, or simply gender-noncomforming.  They can respond message of radical inclusion rather than alienation and rejection, regardless of whether Arlo actually dates anyone.

Aug 31, 2021

The Coming-Out Episode of "Family Reunion"


Family Reunion is a sitcom about a family who moves from the Pacific Northwest to the South to get closer to their roots.  I reviewed an episode earlier to see if the boy Mazzi was gay (turns out that he just had feminine-coded traits).  One of the writers responded, saying that the show is gay-friendly, and a gay cousin will show up in a later episode.  That episode is "Remember When M'Dear Stole the Show."

Scene 1: 6 Weeks Ago.  The teenage Jade auditions for part of 18-year old Mimi in the musical that the whole family is working on, The Night I Fell in Love.  But her grandmother, M'Dear, has guilted Mom, the writer/director/producer, into giving her the part.

Scene 2:  Mom Cocoa complains that, with all her rewrites, M'Dear is changing the whole show.  The title is now The Night I Fell in Love with Jesus, and it's about a religious conversion rather than a heterosexual romance.  M'Dear: "But you begged me to be the star!"

Scene 3: 
They're all hanging out on the porch after rehearsal, eagerly anticipating the arrival of Cousin Barron (Nico Annan, left), a big-time songwriter who works with celebrities. Wait -- isn't Dad a celebrity?  So what's the big deal?

Backstory: Grandpa and M'Dear raised Cousin Barron after his mother died, and wanted him to become a dentist, but he insisted on a career in music.  

Cousin Barron arrives.  Hugs all around.  "Who's the cute guy with you?"  "Oh, that's Sidney (Sean Samuels), partner."  

Sidney and M'Dear bond over a Bible verse quoting contest.

Scene 4: They gather in the kitchen to watch a video of Cousin Barron and Shaka (the older son) dancing.  The youngest daughter asks "So, are you guys (Sidney and Barron) dating, or what?"  

Dad tries to shut her up: "That ain't none of your business," but Cousin Barron says "We're not dating, we're engaged!'  

Shaka: "Wait.  You can't be engaged.  You're not gay!"

Cousin Barron: "Well, I am gay."

Grandpa yells about how he's against homos and won't have them in his house. The rest of the family is supportive.

Scene 5:  Whoops, Shaka is homophobic, too.  He doesn't want to dance with Cousin Barron anymore.  "But I'm still the same person."  "No, you're not. Stay away from me!" He runs ouy of the room.

Scene 6: Opening night.  I used to think it was weird, back in the 1970s, when all of the regular cast and no one else would appear in community theater productions.  Well, they're doing it again.  

Backstage, Dad wants to know why Shaka has deleted Cousin Barron from his TikTok account.  

Shaka: "Because I hate him! Dad, did you know he was gay?"  

Dad: "Sure, I've known since we were kids."  

Shaka: "Doesn't it bother you?"

Dad: "No. And I'm surprised it bothers you."  Me, too.  In a family of allies --- even the super-religious Bible verse champion M'Dear -- how does the son turn homophobic?  I guess from Grandpa?

Shaka: "Well, I'm not gay, so I don't want to ever see him or hear about him again."

Scene 7:  M'Dear has turned the "tragic diagnosis scene" into a dance number.    Then she twists her ankle and can't continue, so her understudy, Jade, must go on!

Shaka seeks out his brother, Mozzie: "Can you believe Dad actually wants me to accept Cousin Barron!  He acts like hating gays makes me a jerk!"

Mozzie: "That's because it does.  Since when are you homophobic?"

Shaka: "Dude, I'm not afraid of gay people.  But if I  hang out with them, people will think I'm gay, too!"

Mozzie: "Some people think I'm gay because I'm so feminine.  Who cares?"

Scene 8:
Uh-oh, Jade has to go on in M'Dear's place, but she didn't learn her lines!  So M'Dear performs while sitting on a park bench.

Scene 9: Grandpa congratulating M'Dear on her performance.  "How did you like my duet with Barron?"  

Grandpa: "Grr, grr, Book of Leviticus, grr!"  

M'Dear: "Oh, he's a great singer.  And he and Sidney are so happy together!"

Grandpa: "I know what you're trying to do.  But I absolutely cannot deal with Baron being like that Isn't there some way to fix him, turn him normal?"

M'Dear: "He doesn't need fixing."  

Grandpa:  "What did I do wrong, for him to turn out like that?  I failed my sister, and I failed that boy."

M'Dear: "Barron is an educated, successful man of faith. You did a good job."

Grandpa: "But the Bible says that God hates him!"

M'Dear: "Don't quote the Bible to me.  I'm the Bible verse champ.  You can cherry-pick a few verses to suit your agenda, or you can realize that Jesus is about love."

Scene 10: The rest of the family is in the kitchen, eating ice cream.  Shaka has somehow turned accepting, and asks Barron to make a TikTok with him.  How did that happen?  

Scene 11: Barron and Shaka dancing, then posting the video to the internet.  Shaka apologizes for being homophobic earlier.  They hug.  

Scene 12: On the porch, saying goodbye to Cousin Barron and Sidney.  Grandpa comes out, so the family scrams.  Cousin Barron apologizes for being gay.  Grandpa says he doesn't get it, but "I'll be there for you."  They hug and leave.  M'Dear congratulates Grandpa on his ability to be civil in spite of his homophobia.  Hey, he can talk to a gay person without yelling!  Give him a medal!

Postscript: Meg DeLoatch, Co-Writer of the episode, dedicates it to her son Maxx, whom she "loves unconditionally."  Co-writer George Blake dedicates it to his "two best loves: my Mom and my Tommy."  

My Verdict:  Most sitcoms in the 1980s and 1990s had an episode where a visiting friend or family member comes out.  Everyone is fine with it except for the series jerk, who recoils in homophobic panic, but gradually comes around.  This was the same plot, except with two homophobes instead of one.  But there's no reason for them to be homophobic, when the rest of the family isn't.  It seems contrived, added just to get some conflict.  

  I liked the ultra-religious M'Dear being an ally, but Shaka went from ultra-homophobic to "let's hug" way too quickly, and Grandpa got off the hook way too easily.

Aug 30, 2021

"Haunted Hotel": 8 Stories from 8 Writers and 8 Directors. How Many Gay Characters?


Haunted Hotel (2021) is an anthology: eight decades, eight ghost stories (with eight writiers and eight directors) set in the same creepy English hotel, the Great White Horse in Ipswich, Suffolk.   There are two guys in old-fashioned nightgowns hugging in the trailer, so at least one of them involves gay people.  I assume. 

Story 1:  In 1836, a young and very cute Charles Dickens (Reece Ritchie) is trying to sleep, but troubled by an overcoat that keeps moving on its own. He receives a mysterious visitor in his nightgown, who reveals that he got lost in the labyrinthine hallways and accidentally entered the wrong room and...well, you can read the rest of the story in The Pickwick Papers.  

Story 2:
 In 1985, the very hot hotelier David (Peter Barfield) welcomes the elderly Mr. Gibson to the hotel.  He takes his usual room, and meets his elderly wife for their 40th wedding anniversary.  They discuss how times have changed, have dinner, and have a dance.  You can guess how this one will turn out.

Story 3:  In 1924, a scary, well-dressed man (Patrick Marlowe) peers from the window as a flapper drives up to the hotel: Francesca Happer-Rishorn of the Ghost Club.  He helps her carry her heavy ghost-detection machine, the Spectre-O-Meter, to her room.  The extremely timid milquetoast Mr. Urlowe appears to tell her about a woman who murdered her husband, then killed herself.  Their ghosts haunt the hotel.  By the way, the machine doesn't work.

Story 4:  In 1973, the young clerk sits behind her desk, during a thunderstorm, reading a horror novel by Peter Fearless.  Suddenly a creepy elderly  man with bags appears: Peter Fearless himself!  He checks in to research his new book, Hunted or Haunted.   He calls his publisher, Malcolm, to tell him about it: a traditional ghost story based on Suffolk legends.  Oh, and he's recently had a nervous breakdown, and has to keep taking his medication.  Oh, and Malcolm is an aspiring novelist....

Story 5: 
 In 1952,  Eddie (Andrew Hollingworth) and his girlfriend Betsy register as Mr. and Mrs. Jones.  The dour desk clerk catches on that they're not married, but rents them a room anyway.  Unfortunately, it's a room with odd airplane noises and ash falling from the ceiling.  Betsy is too scared to continue with the sex.  Eddie tries to force her.  The desk clerk's wife appears out of nowhere and helps her get away.  Years later, Betsy returns with her new husband to thank the clerk's wife for her help, only to discover....

Story 6:
In 1997, the blowsy hotel manager gives new hire Maisy her nametag (which says Daisy) and tells her to report to her supervisor, the extra-cute and super-nice Tom (Joshua Dickinson).  She begins cleaning rooms. Room 116 was trashed; it takes forever to clean it.  Then, a moment later, it's trashed again!  She cleans it again; it's trashed again.  And why is there a nametag with her correct name on the bed?

Story 7:
In 1968, you can take a tour of "Suffolk's Most Haunted Hotel."  The manager has hired the wacky ghost Bob (Miles Jovian) to scare guests, but he just pops in and out of rooms.  "You can't just drift around.  You have to be scary!"   He tries dressing as Norman Bates in drag (from Psycho) and chasing a family with an axe, but that's too scary.  How about being headless?  Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  A bedsheet with eyeholes?  Being scary is not as easy as it sounds.

Story 8: In 2019, five elderly men who speak in Cockney Rhyming Slang enter the abandoned hotel with flashlights, and find their way to a room where the sixth, the young, hip Hobbit (Kyle Malan) is waiting with beer and money.  They congratulate each other, and get down to some sort of gangster business. The Boss collapses. When he regains consciousness, there are only five, and they don't remember that the sixth ever existed.  Then four.  Then three.

Beefcake: No. 

Gay Characters:  Nothing specified.  Bob the Ghost is a veritable drag queen with a hot pink bedroom and lots of wigs and things around.  The two hugging guys I saw in the trailer are Charles Dickens and Mr. Pickwick.

Heterosexism: In five of the eight stories, the major interactions involve a man and a woman.  Two of the remaining have men manipulating, betraying, and murdering each other.  Only one has a positive portrayal of men together.

My Grade: The stories are entertaining, but the incessant male-female dyads become annoying.  C.

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