Sep 10, 2021

Kid Cosmic, Season 2: Is Stuck Chuck Gay?

 I reviewed the first season of  the Nickelodeon cartoon  Kid Cosmic early in 2021.  The premise: the retro comic-book- obsessed Kid (Jack Fisher) finds Stones of Power, which give him and his friends superpowers, but also make them the targets of various alien bounty hunters.  I hated the awful, low-budget animation -- unchanging background, all in washed-out yellow -- and found the setting claustrophobic: a junkyard, a diner, and the endless washed-out yellow desert.  

 I liked Stuck Chuck, the alien who got stuck in Kid Cosmic's trailer (and lost his legs), and spent several episodes making sarcastic comments before becoming an ally.  He had that "oh, snap!" fabulosity that often signfies gay identity, but there was no one around for him to become interested in: the Local Heroes consisted of Kid Cosmic (too young), Papa G (too old), Jo (a waitress at the diner), Rosa (a toddler), and Tuna Sandwich (a cat).  

The second season has just dropped.  I'll review another episode to see if "the gay problem" has been solved.  Episode 3: "Kid Cosmic and the Heist of Fire and Ice"

Scene 1: 
The diner has been zapped into space, and the Local Heroes are now intergalactic heroes, retrieving lost and stolen Stones of Power under the direction of the jellyfish-being Queen Xhan, with the ultimate goal of saving the galaxy from Erodus the Planet-Killer.  Jo is now the leader.  There are two new superheroes: Jo's Mom, who runs a catering business, and the hunky multi-armed Hamburg.

For this mission, they dress in fancy clothes and prepare canapes and cupcakes.  Stuck Chuck appears briefly, working in the kitchen.

Turns out that the campy voice was just his universal translator.  When he loses it, he sounds like a duck.

Scene 2: Their boss, Queen Xhan, explains the mission.  The evil crime lord Madame Fiona, who has two heads, wears two Stones of Power around her necks.  They will infiltrate her birthday party, held on a space station orbiting an uninhabited planet,  as invited guests or caterers.  Then they will perform a meticulously-choreographed caper, steal the stones, and replace them with fakes before Madame Fiona notices.  Mom hugs Queen Xhan, whom she calls Xhanny.  Is there a lesbian romance going on?

Scene 3:  The mission goes perfectly.  Afterwards Jo asks if they want to return to the party to celebrate, but the team is tired and wants to go home.  Queen Xhan takes Jo aside -- Mom looks jealous -- and explains that leaders don't ask, they command. So she commands them to celebrate.  Wait -- if Queen Xhan goes along on every mission, why isn't she their leader?

Scene 4:  Back at the party, Jo meets Madame Fiona, who is very interested and drags her onto the dance floor.  Maybe Jo is a lesbian?

Kid Cosmic argues that they shouldn't be mingling with the guests at a crime boss's party, since they are all criminals, but the team members are having fun.  Papa G is at the blackjack table; Rosa is arm wrestling; the hunky blond Hamburg is listening to the band; and the cat Tuna Sandwich has hooked up with an alien cat-being (probably female). 

Scene 5: Fantos, the "super-powerful, super-nerdy man-boy" who stole one of their Stones of Power in a previous episode, arrives.  Kid Cosmic suggests repeating the caper to retrieve it, but Jo refuses: missions take weeks of recon and practice.  Besides, if Fantos recognizes them, he'll alert  Madame Fiona   They need to leave! Kid Cosmic ignores her order and attacks.

Fantos easily defeats Kid Cosmic, and blows their cover:  "A team of superheroes has infiltrated your party and stolen the two Stones!" 

Scene 6: The Local Heroes have failed the mission and been captured, due to Kid Cosmic's reckless behavior.  But Queen Xhan tells Jo that it's her fault for being a bad leader.  Um...Kid Cosmic disobeyed a direct order.  What was she supposed to do?

Suddenly Erodius the Planet-Killer arrives to destroy the planet.  Joe is shocked to discover that Erodus is an actual planet-sized being!  How are the Local Heroes supposed to defeat that?

The space station is disintegrating.  What should they do?  The team waits for Jo to issue an order, but she freezes, so they use their superpowers to get everyone into escape pods.

Scene 7: Back at headquarters, Queen Xhan yells at Jo.  "What kind of leader freezes during a crisis?"   Jo retreats to her room to watch alien tv in the dark.  

Later, Queen Xhan and Mom discuss Jo's depression, and her chances of becoming a competent leader.  Acting like Jo's parents?  Romantic couple!  

How can Jo be sure that she won't freeze again?  Suddenly she sees a commercial on alien tv for an upcoming MMA tournament: all comers against a lady warrior named Krosh.  Hey, maybe Jo can prove herself by defeating Krosh?  The end.

  Better this season.  The background is no longer a washed-out yellow. 

Beefcake: None.

Heterosexism: No one expresses any heterosexual interest except for Tuna Sandwich the Cat.

Gay Characters:  Mom and Queen Xhan seem to have a romance going on, but it's very understated.  Jo may be a lesbian, or not.  Nothing is specified, but the fan wiki tells us that "The Local Heroes are allies to the LGBTQ community."  

My Grade: C.

See also: Kid Cosmic Season 3: Fry and Hamburg are Gay. 

Sep 8, 2021

"On the Verge": Boys Who Wear Lipstick and Try on Mom's Shoes, but No Boy Named Gaga


The trailer for the "gal pal" sitcom On the Verge had Mom dropping off her kids at Dad's apartment for what is apparently the first weekend visit after a breakup.  Daughter says that she showed Gaga where to sleep, while the parents are talking about "breaking our son's heart," no doubt through the divorce.

Wait -- their son is named after Lady Gaga, the singer? 

On the Verge is about four middle-aged women who have been friends for many years in spite of their disparate life trajectories: "a chef, a single mother, an heiress, and a job seeker."  Now they are facing their midlife crisis with new jobs, new interests, and new relationships.  

I guess.  The series got a 5.5 rating on IMDB.  One review says "I feel insulted...feminism took three giant leaps backward."  Decider says "Skip it!"  But I still want to see if there are any hunks, and if the Boy Named Gaga is actually gay.  .I watched Episode #7, "The Human Condition."

Scene 1: Tight closeup of Yasmin's face and hands as she takes a call and shreds documents.  Tight closeup of her butt as she hides the cellphone amid the boots in her closet.  Extremely wealthy -- she must be the heiress.

Scene 2:
"My boys are home!"  Yasmin's husband William (Timm Sharp) and preteen son return from a trip.  She greets them in Farsi -- so they're Iranian -- and kisses her kid on the mouth! Gross!  I know that it happens in some cultures, but still, it turns my stomach.

They had fun on their trip; the son, Orion  (Jayden Hayness-Starr) met a boy who's a prince.  A new boyfriend?  Yasmin disapproves -- he's not supposed to be meeting "the 0.001 percent."  

Scene 3: I thought it was two women in bed together.  No, it's Yasmin in bed with her son.  Looks like he's naked under the covers!  Ok, I get that some mother-son relationships have sexual undertones, but this is an overtone!   Gross!  Sick!  Disgusting!   

Orion wonders why Yasmin is not gloomy and miserable, like usual.  She covers her Big Secret of the shredded documents and hidden cell phone --- "'m just happy to see you, My Love." Then she kisses him on the eye and leaves. At least she doesn't shove her tongue down his throat again.

Scene 4:  Yasmin drops Orion off at school and hugs and kisses another mother, the Chef,  I think.  They see the blatantly bulging John (Sean Carrigan, top photo) and hide: "Oh my God, he's such a jerk!  Who knew that he was a Dad here?"  

He sees them and approaches.  "I'm sorry my son Andy accidentally hit  you with a ball.  Can I do anything to help?"  "No, thanks, the doctor at the ER said it was fine."

Next a teacher talks to them.  The Chef's husband Martin has agreed to sketch the set for a school play, so why doesn't The Chef show any interest whatever in her kid's activities?  "'ve been busy with my restaurant."

Scene 5:  The Heiress, who look exactly like the Chef, having lunch with her officious, overbearing mother.  I hate it when tw series cast two actors who look identical.  They don't have the cocktail Mom likes -- wine and beer only -- so she has a tantrum.  The n the Heiress and Mom argue over opening a new factory in Manila.  Even wealthier than Yasmin!  But I think everyone on the show is wealthy.  

Next the Heiress reveals that she and her husband have broken up.  Mom is shocked.

Scene 6: The Chef  in couple's therapy without her husband.  The therapist wants to reschedule, but she goes on, pretending to be her husband with a finger-moustache: "You're a terrible mother who is going to ruin our son's life."  I'm seeing a pattern here.  They're all terrible mothers.

Scene 7:  The Heiress goes to work at the clothing company.  Her workers tell a story about when her son Seb was born, the Heiress and her husband didn't want him circumcized according to Jewish tradition, so Mom grabbed him and rushed him to a mohel in an Uber (against his  parents' wishes?  That's awful!).  "It was awful," the Heiress agrees.  "For the first year my husband couldn't look at Seb's penis without crying."  So, he spends a lot of time looking at his son's penis?

Scene 8: 
The Single Mom walks through her messy house (mess equals working class?) to complain to two boys playing video games. They start fighting.  The older has the same hair as Orion, Yasmin's boyfriend/son.  A dog named Puddles humps Single Mom's leg.   A daughter, who also has Orion-hair, complains that she can't study with all the ruckus.

The younger boy, Kai, starts singing: "He has his lipstick!  He has his lipstick!"  So, the older boy, Oliver (Duke Cutler) is into makup?

The fathers of the boys (Brady Smith, someone not on IMDB) arrive to pick them up.  I don't see any makeup on Oliver.

Scene 9:  Yasmin looks for the cell phone she hid among her shoes earlier.  She has 2,000 pairs.  Whoops, it's gone! Orion has appropriated it to use in a spaceship model he's building.  How did he find it among Yasmin's shoes?  Was he trying them on?  

Yasmin tries to get Orion out of the living room so she can retrieve the phone.  Then her husband wants to take a photo of the spaceship, but she insists that he can't put it on the internet, because it would attract sexual predators to their son.  Wait -- why does she care?  Why would a cell phone reveal her Big Secret?

Dad and Orion discuss why Yasmin is so inexplicably happy, and worry that she'll sink down into depression again immediately.  So she's bipolar?

Scene 10: At the restaurant, the Chef talks to her coworker, Jerry (Giovanni Ribisi).  They're worried about Single Mom.  How does she manage to pay her bills?  

Sceme 11:
The Heiress keeps calling her estranged husband, George, and gets his voice mail.  When he finally answers, she yells at him: "Why didn't you pick up?" It was the middle of the night?  He was asleep?  "Are you fucking other people?"  He says "Don't be vulgar" and hangs up.

She hangs up, goes onto a dating app, and swipes the hottie Sam (Evan Holtzman). 

Scene 12:  Flashback to their date.  Sam reveals that he hates tomatoes.  I hate tomato sauce -- too sweet to go on pasta, but not sweet enough to go on ice cream.   Later, they have sex doggy style while Sam tells his Alexa app to play something romantic. 

Scene 13: At breakfast at the Chef or the Heiress's house, a new adult character named Gretchen bursts into tears and runs out of the room.  Who casts two women with straggly blond hair and glasses?  How can anyone hope to tell them apart?  The Chef/Heiress follows to ask what's wrong.  "Do you miss your family?"  No,   

"Did you have sex with my estranged husband?"  That won't help.  Both the Chef and the Heiress have estranged husbands.

"Yuck, no!  I'm pregnant.  I don't know who the father is.  There's been so many guys, usually two a week."  Girlfriend, I can do twice that many before breakfast.

Scene 14: The Chef writing in her supply closet.  She chooses her home office instead.  Much better!  Her son, who also has Orion hair (who casts three kids with the same scraggly hair? I guess so they will look like their mothers?), tells her that Dad will be waking up soon.  She writes about the Human Condition, the void inside us that we fill with food: "Eat life before it eats you." The end.

Beefcake:  The husbands are all unattractive, and the sons are all preteens -- which seems odd for women approaching 50.  When my Mom turned 50, I was well into my 20s.  John has sex with his shirt undone -- not off.

Heterosexism: All of the women are married to men.  

Terrible Mothers:  Lots.  Three of the four central characters, plus the Heiress's Mom.

Gay Characters: Probably not, but I'm wondering about Orion snooping among the shoes in his mother's closet, and the jibe about Oliver wearing lipstick.  

And whatever happened to the boy named Gaga?  

Michael Forest: Playing a God of Masculine Beauty

The September 22nd, 1967 episode of Star Trek had the cryptic title "Who Mourns for Adonais?"

Even when I grew up and studied English literature, the title was still cryptic.  It comes from "Adonais," an elegy written by Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley for his dead friend, John Keats.

He took the name from Adonis, the ancient Greek god of masculine beauty.

So audiences were supposed to expect a god of masculine beauty?

They got one: 37 year old Michael Forest as Apollo, an alien who was mistaken for a god by the ancient Greeks, and who still expects worship.  It takes a femme fatale scientist to subdue him.

The heterosexist plotline didn't detract from the image of Michael Forest as Apollo, clad in a toga, with a laurel leaf, his bare chest, shoulders, and arms visible, one of the iconic beefcake shots of the Boomer generation.

Although never a beefcake star of the Henry Willson stable, Michael managed to display his bare chest several times during the 1950s, in guest-spots in Westerns (as an Indian) and swinging-bachelor dramas, and in horror-sci fi movies like Beast from Haunted Cave (1959), 

He fell somewhat short of the superlative physique necessary to cash in on the 1960s bodybuilder craze; his only peplum was Atlas (1961), directed by Roger Corman.

But he worked steadily through the 1960s, with guest spots across the tv dial, and starring roles in movies.

One of his most important was Deathwatch (1966), based on the Jean Genet play about two prison inmates, Maurice (Paul Mazursky) and Lefranc (Leonard Nimoy) competing for the affections the hot, muscular Green-Eyes (Forest).

That's right, Leonard Nimoy playing a gay character, a year before he became Spock.

(This actually wasn't his first; he played a hustler in Jean Genet's The Balcony in 1963)..

After Star Trek, Michael continued to take off his shirt a lot, playing Achilles (1972), a motorcycle thug (1972), a spaghetti Western Man with No Name (1972), and Agamemnon (1973).  Plus theater and lots of voice-over work (look for him in the 2008 documentary Adventures in Voice Acting).

In 2013, he reprised the character of Apollo on the web series Star Trek Continues (2013).

Apparently heterosexual in real life, he has retired to Walla Walla, Washington.

Sep 7, 2021

Bewitched, Bewildered, and Gay

You can always distinguish between gay and heterosexual Boomer boys by asking: Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie?

Jeannie (1965-70) offered the sexist fantasy of a man whose semi-nude, subservient genie called him "Master," while Bewitched (1964-72) offered. . .well, witches.  Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) has married the mortal Darren (Dick York, left, followed by Dick Sargent), who forbids her to use witchcraft -- but she apparently finds suburban housework infinitely more satisfying.

Or at least that's what she claims to the endless array of relatives who pop in to announce that they've just been to a fabulous party in the South of France or to the ostrich races with the Maharaja of Eyesore.

"I've got a secret" plotlines in the 1960s could always be read as metaphors for the gay experience -- especially when the secret involved so much fabulousness -- and the message, in spite of Darren's sputtering about not using witchcraft, was "be true to yourself. . .accept who you are" -- but there was more for gay kids in Bewitched. A lot more.

1. Samantha was nicknamed "Sam," so sometimes -- often -- strangers overheard Darren talking about being "in love with Sam" or "married to Sam," and their eyes bulged and their jaws dropped as they concluded that he was. . .you know.

2. The disdain with which the witch community approached Sam's "unnatural" love for a mortal can be seen as a metaphor for 1960s race relations -- miscegenation laws were still being enforced in some states until 1967 -- but also for a same-sex relationship.

3. There was a never-ending parade of teen idols, including Bill Mumy, Craig Hundley, and Boyce and Hart.

4. Several characters were gay-coded -- flamboyant, theatrical, and utterly uninterested in the opposite sex, including Samantha's sarcastic mother,  Endora (Agnes Moorhead); her Shakespeare-quoting father Maurice (Maurice Evans), and her wise-cracking Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde).

5. Several actors were themselves gay, including Maurice Evans, Paul Lynde, and Diana Murphy (half of the twins who played daughter Tabitha).  And others were gay allies.

Dick Sargent, the second Darren, came out in 1991, and became the grand marshall of the 1992 Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade, along with his tv wife Elizabeth Montgomery.  My friend Randall in West Hollywood dated him.

(See  Dick Sargent, Cary Grant, and Groucho Marx in the Same Bed; Maurice Evans Hooks up with Walt Whitman

Bewitched was the inspiration for many "I've got a secret" series infused with gay symbolism, such as Out of this World and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Sep 6, 2021

The Gay-Free Provincetown of "American Horror Story: Double Feature"

 There was no new episode of American Horror Story: Double Feature last night because producers think everyone spends holiday weekends rushing madly from barbecues to picnics to beach blanket bonfires and not watching tv.   But the three episodes to date have been enough.  I could not be more disappointed.

American Horror Story is an anthology series; each season involves roughly the same cast playing different characters as they explore American horror icons:  a haunted house, a carnival "freak show," haunted New Orleans, a post-Apocalyptic nuclear winter.  There is usually good gay representation.  Not here.

Finn Wittrock, who has played gay characters in past seasons, here plays the annoyingly retro heterosexual Family Man Harry Gardner, a writer-with-writer's-block torn directly from Stephen King's The Shining, who descends upon the rustic Cape Cod town of Provincetown to work on a tv pilot.  He brings along his wedding ring, his wife Doris, who has an interior decorating job  and is about 300 months pregnant (that's all you need to know about her), and his piano prodigy daughter Alma, about the nastiest, most entitled, least personable child since The Bad Seed, even before she goes over to the Dark Side.

Provincetown is a gay resort, but you'd never know it, except for a throwaway comment about Bear Week, and some hustlers who hang out at the deserted docks asking passersby if they are tops or bottoms (because gay guys are all into street cruising, right?).

It's the off season, so everything is closed except for one restaurant and one grocery store.  At each, a crazed meth head named Tuberculosis Karen stalks Harry and yells at him to "Get out."  The town is overrun by snarling Nosferatu-style vampires, which everyone explains as meth addicts, although they look and act nothing like meth addicts.

No gay people exist in this world, except for the hustlers, who go both ways.     Mickey (Macaulay Culkin) is cast as a "gay hustler," and he does offer his services to Family Man Harry, but he spends the series hooking up with and hanging out with women:  romance writer Belle Noir, Tuberculosis Karen, Harry's money-obsessed agent. 

Famous writer Austin Sommers (Evan Peters), who comes to Provincetown every winter for inspiration to write another best-seller, says things like "Do you want me to shove it in without lube?", but he's not actually gay.  Every night he goes to the restaurant to sing love songs with Belle Noir (Frances Conroy).

The plot:  The famous writers give Harry a pill that will spark the creative juices, so anyone with talent will churn out masterpieces and become rich and famous;  the talentless turn into Nosferatus.

Ok, this is ridiculous.  First, how does a pill know?  Talent is on a continuum.  And subjective.

Second, churning out a masterpiece does not guarantee recognition.  Many great writers are ignored.  Melville died in obscurity, Moby-Dick forgotten as hack work until literary scholars discovered it fifty years later.   

Back to the plot, such as it is: even for the talented, the pill has the unfortunate side effect of making you crave human blood.  Soon Harry is going out with the writers on murder-and-blood-drinking runs; usually they feed on meth heads who are advertising stolen merchandise on craigslist, but sometimes they grab under-the-docks hustlers, and Belle Noir likes stolen babies.

 Another complication: Harry's bitch daughter takes a pill to help her become the greatest violinist in the world, so now she's craving blood, too.  

Setting this gay-free tale in a gay resort can't be just a coincidence; there must be metaphor here?  Heterosexuals should stay out of gay spaces, or they'll catch a disease?  AIDS?

Drag queen Chad Michaels, who specializes in Cher impersonations, is listed as a recurring character.  Maybe things will get better.

Sep 5, 2021

"Cruella": Everybody is Queer in the Iconic Character's Origin Story

In One Hundred and One Dalmatians (novel 1956, Disney animated movie 1961), Cruella DeVille is an evil fashion designer who kidnaps the 15 Dalmatian puppies belonging to the sentient dogs Pongo and Perdita, with the intention of using their fur for a coat.  In the 2021 recast Cruella, she has no such intention.  She rather likes dogs; in fact, she has two of them in her gang.

After her mother is murdered, Estella (Emma Stone) grows up on the streets of London in the Swinging Sixties and Glam Seventies, stealing and grifting with her gang, Jasper (Joel Fry, below), Horace (Paul Walter Hauser), and two non-sentient but very accomplished dogs.  But she dreams of becoming a fashion designer, so she cons her way into working at a posh department store, and then is hired by fashion superstar the Baroness (pictured: Kayvan Novak as her lawyer, Roger)

The movie then turns into The Devil Wears Prada, with the Baroness channeling Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly, except far more evil.  She terrorizes employees -- well, actually everyone -- while stealing their ideas.  She has committed murder to get what she wants.  

To get revenge on the Baroness, Estella becomes Cruella, a vigilante fashion designer who bursts into the Baroness's shows and benefits with radical, headline-getting outfits: "The Baroness is the past.  I am the future."   

Other than upstaging the Baroness, Cruella's chief goal is to steal back a necklace that the Baroness stole from her mother, which happens to contain the key to a big reveal.

She teams up with the gender-bending designer Artie (John McCrea), who is "openly gay" (the first character written as gay in a live-action Disney movie, but he doesn't do anything gay except be fabulous).  Plus Jasper and Horace, who disapprove of Cruella ordering them around; they liked it when everyone was equal.

Eventually Estella/Cruella finds a happy medium, becoming an effervescent, unhinged Harley Quinn.

 She does kidnap the three Dalmatians that the Baroness uses as guard dogs, but only because one of them has swallowed the necklace, and she is waiting for it to reappear.  But she treats them well; in the end they prefer her over the Baroness.

Anita and Roger, who in the novel and various movies own the dogs, have been transformed into a newspaper gossip columnist and lawyer, respectively, who don't know each other.   During the closing credits, Cruella gives them each a Dalmatian puppy.  Presumably they will marry, and the events of 101 Dalmatians will begin.  

Beefcake:  None, but there are several hunks in the cast.

Other Sights: Lots of mansions.  The Baroness's estate, Hellman Hall (which Cruella christens Hell Hall) is actually Englefield House in Reading, England.

Soundtrack: Interesting, albeit a bit obtrusive at times.  Does every movie set in the Sixties have to play "Time of the Season"? 

Continuity:  While there are hints that 101 Dalmatians is coming up, this Cruella does not seem capable of killing puppies. 

Heterosexism: None.  No one expresses any heterosexual interest anywhere in the film.  Estella doesn't even flirt with men to distract them during a grift.

Gay Characters: 
No one expresses any same-sex interest, either.   Although they've been together for over 10 years and have no intention of ever separating, Horace and Jasper do not appear to be romantic partners.  There's no closeness, no physicality, no intimacy.

I expected Artie and Horace to hook up: first Horace says "I like him," and then, the two work together to subdue a security guard. But they have no other interaction.

Everybody is queer, but no one wants a boyfriend or girlfriend.

My Grade: B+

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