Sep 17, 2021

"Chicago Party Aunt": A Halloween Party at the Best Gay Bar in Chicago


Free spirit paired with stick-in-the mud, "life is a banquet" paired with "that's not a good idea", "it's only 2:00 am" paired with "I have a big test tomorrow," has been traditional comedy since the days of Laverne and Shirley and The Odd Couple, In this case, it's Chicago Party Aunt on Netflix, pairing the free-spirit middle-aged Diane with her stick-in-the-mud 18-year old nephew, Daniel. I watched Episode 4: Daniel tries to get his first kiss at a Halloween party.  No hope that either of the two regulars will be gay, but there might be some gay friends at the party.

Scene 1: Diane takes Daniel to get his first fake id: you have to order "two Chicago hot dogs" at a restaurant, then go through a secret door through the kitchen, a meat locker, another secret door, and into the basement, where a gangster-type offers the id for "his usual fee": a kidney.  Just kidding: $200.

Scene 2: Breakfast in their apartment. Oatmeal for Daniel,  Kahlua for Diane.  They discuss the upcoming Halloween party at Roscoe's, the best gay bar in Chicago.  Daniel is excited about his "first queer Halloween."  Daniel is gay!  I'm speechless!

He wants to get his first kiss from a random hot guy at the party: "I'll go up to him and say 'Would you like to kiss?."  That won't work, dude.  Diane gives him some cruising tips: open with a joke, then a compliment, then a smouldering look, then the kiss. 

"I can't stay out late because I have a dentist appointment tomorrow.  Ugh!  I hate it when Dr. Gluck make jokes with his hand in my mouth."

"Cancel it!  Tonight you're going to get more than a hand in your mouth!"  

Scene 3:
The hair salon. Everyone wearing Halloween costumes. Diane bursts in and asks if they are going to the party tonight.  No, they have other plans.  So who will Diane party with while Daniel is cruising hot guys?  "Why not ask Gideon?"

"Gideon??? That boring wet blanket?  No way!"  

Gideon, the salon manager, happens to be standing behind her, and criticizes her for her substance abuse and reckless behavior.  Hey, he sounds like Daniel's type.  Hint, hint.

Scene 4:  Daniel working at a coffee shop that sells beet juice and green algae.  I thought he was a teenager?  He tries cruising a hot guy, and fails miserably.   

Meanwhile, Gideon is on a lunch date with a guy he met on a dating app, who is discussing his bizarre diet.  "So, any fun plans for Halloween?"  "Face Time with my Mom back in Georgia," Gideon says.  His date is not impressed.

Back at the coffee shop, the manager asks about Daniel's lame cruising attempts.  He says that he's hoping to kiss someone tonight.  Manager advises against taking cruising advice from raunchy Aunt Diane: "She calls me Vanilla Lice, and I'm pretty sure she crop dusted the nut cheese aisle."  I don't know what that is.

Scene 5:  Gideon depressed, wondering if he is too boring to meet anyone.  

Daniel comes into the hair salon in drag, with a moustache: "Salvador Dali Parton."  Diane is going as a "sexy Blues Brother."  At the last minute, Gideon appears: he wants to go to the party with them, dressed as Medusa, with snake-hair that actually moves (a prop from Clash of the Titans).  He had all this in his office?

Scene 6: There is a long line to get into the party.  Gideon gets them in by claiming that Daniel (now dressed in a sexier costume that shows off his chest) is "the Number One DJ in Belgium."  

Chrome does not allow screen captures from Netflix, and Netflix doesn't work on Firefox, so I'm out of luck: no screen captures.  But Daniel is rather hot.  

At the party, Diane drinks pumpkin spice kamikazes and Gideon complains: "My lunch date said I wasn't fun.  I was at the last party at Studio 54!"  In 1986?    He would be a senior citizen.  "I was point man at Halston's biggest orgy."  

Daniel approaches a hot guy: "Your costume looks good.  It would look even better carefully hung up on one of my hangers."  Nope.

Suddenly a hot guy dressed as Zorro approaches him and asks "Would you like to kiss?"  Hey, that's the approach Daniel originally planned, before Diane's advice screwed with him. They kiss briefly and go to the foam room (not an orgy room).

Scene 7:  While Gideon is in the bathroom, his Mom calls.  Diane answers, and tells her all about the party they are attending at the best gay bar in town.  When he returns, he is furious -- Gideon is not out to his Mom!  "Well, you are now."  He rushes out in anger.

Meanwhile, Daniel and Zorro take off their masks so they can kiss better.  Ulp, it's Dr. Gluck, his dentist!  Ugh!  Embarrassed, Daniel runs away.  Dr. Gluck follows.  "You've been my dentist for 15 years.  Why didn't you tell me you were gay?"  So, he's going to come out to a random three year old?  "You're going to run into people from your past who are gay," Dr. Gluck advises.  "You can't let it throw you."  I would welcome it!  They decide to be friends.

Scene 8:  Diane follows Gideon to a burger place. They argue.  The regulars agree that Diane was out of line.  How would she know that in 2021, a grown man would not be out to his mother?

Scene 9:  Back at the apartment, Diane is depressed over her breakup with Gideon.  She apologizes with two tickets to a Thelma Houston concert, but it doesn't help: "We are not friends, but we can continue to work together."  

Beefcake: A lot of hot guys.

Gay Characters: Are you kidding?

Raunchiness:  No worse than a Cartoon Network Adult Swim show.

Plot Twists:  After the episode devoted so much time to establishing that Daniel and Gideon had similar personalities, I was surprised that they didn't hook up.  Sure, there is a significant age difference, but Daniel was making out with a guy at least 25 years older (already a practicing dentist when he was three), so who cares?

I definitely didn't like Gideon not forgiving Diane for her blunder, and ending the friendship.  

Will I Keep Watching: Sure.  I want to go through Episodes 1-3 to see if Daniel is out from the beginning or comes out at some point. And the later episodes to see if he gets a boyfriend.

Sep 16, 2021

"Q-Force": Spy Spoof Staring Gay Stereotypes from the 1950s


I heard that Q-Force, the new animated series on Netflix, was horribly homophobic, brashly portraying screaming-queen stereotypes from 50 years ago, girlfriend.  One would expect blatant homophobia in a series produced by the, I mean Sean Hayes, the Uncle Tom who set gay rights back 50 years with his screaming-queen stereotype Jack on Will and Grace.  I wanted to review an episode to complain about how homophobic it was, but I had to wait until I was in a very good mood.  I'm in a good mood today.

Scene 1:  2011.  A muscular,  limp-wristed secret agent is killing people ("Bye, bitch!"), disarming bombs, and throwing rainbow-colored grenades.  The crowd watching cheers. "Best of the best!  He'll be fighting the Taliban!"  

Switch to the secret agent graduation ceremony.  Limp-Wristed Muscle Guy, Steve Maryweather (the I mean Sean Hayes), is the valedictorian.  He comes out during his speech ("I want to thank the Marky Mark videos for making me gay." ) I hate it when people say that seeing a hot guy turned them gay.  It feeds into the homophobic belief that we all start out straight, and then something goes wrong. And, of course, if you turned gay, you can turn "back to straight" through conversion therapy.

Everyone recoils in disgust at the gayness revelation, and the headmaster quickly names the straight guy Buck (David Harbour) valedictorian.  "Agent Mary" was expecting a plum assignment tracking down terrorists or drug lords, but because he is gay, he is assigned to the backwater agency branch in West Hollywood.

Why ON EARTH would anyone name a character Agent Mary, evoking an ancient slur that makes older gay men cringe?

Scene 2:  2021, 10 years later. Agent Mary gets up and exercises, while listening to news stories about all the terrorist activity he could be fighting.  Agent Buck calls to be homophobic.  After 10 years?  Why do you keep harassing the poor guy?

Agent Mary goes to work at the West Hollywood Agency, which is staffed by a team of homophobic stereotypes: two butch lesbians and a drag queen.  Role call: butch bodybuilder Agent Deb has designed a flying car; dour Agent Stat has located the Malaysian airplane that went missing several years ago; and drag queen Twink shows off his new "old lady" disguse.

In spite of all their expertise, they never get a case, so they all go home, depressed. Agent Deb is quitting the agency to work at Pep Boys.

Scene 3: Agent Mary in his underwear, preening before a mirror. He finds a gray hair!  Ahh, he's old, and he hasn't saved the world yet!  He calls the Deputy Director and asks for a case, but she says that she's powerless. 

A humorous scene with Agent Mary and the naked male-female couple who are staying at his Air B&B.  He maintains his cover by pretending to be an interior designer, but he complains about the homophobia that has kept him from interior design job for ten years.  "Is there a lot of anti-LGBTQ prejudice in the world of West Hollywood interior design?"    

The agents decide to go rogue and find their own cases.  Agent Twink reveals that last night, during her drag act, she met a guy with a briefcase chained to his wrist and a Kazakh tattoo that said "Anarchy will grow from the blood of the uninitiated."   Sounds suspicious! They look up his profile on Grindr.

Scene 4: 
The Director (Gary Cole) calls Deputy Director V to berate her for assigning a case to Q-Force.  She has no idea what he is talking about. "I told Agent Mary that there were no cases available."  "Well, the queers are in the field! They'll screw everything up with all their swishiness!  Fix this!"  She groans and jumps into her helicopter.

Scene 5:  Agent Stat hacks into Kazakh Guy's phone, and read two texts: a church emoji and the sign for Robertson Boulevard.  It's not hard to figute it out: he's going to the Abbey, an iconic gay bar!

Scene 6
: At the Abbey.  Lots of underwear guys on poles and screaming queens drinking cocktails.  As far as I know, the Abbey never had underwear dancers.  It is an upscale place for the A-Gays.   

Agent Mary flirts with Kazakh Guy to put a tracker on him.  The Kazakh dialogue is sort of funny.  But this prove unnecessary, as they can see Kazakh Guy getting a zip drive from one of the screaming queens.

Twink, disguised as Ariana Grande, distracts the crowd while Agent Mary intercepts the zip drive.  They fight; Kazakh Guy gets his zip drive back and escapes.

Scene 7: They jump in their flying car and chase him down San Vicente (sigh -- a memory of home!).  After another fight, they capture Kazakh Guy and bring him back to headquarters -- where Deputy Director V is waiting!  She fires them.

But Agent Stat has deciphered the zip drive: a lot of top-secret nuclear stuff, delivered by a guy who is an intern at the Senate. The Q-Force has uncovered a nuclear weapon deal with ties to the federal governemnt!  Deputy Director V re-hires them.

She gets the Director to ok the re-hire by saying: "You hate women in power, right> If they screw up, you can fire me."

Scene 8:  Agent Mary gets up, exercises, and goes to work at their new headquarters, disguised as an office in the Pacific Design Center.  He flirts with the bear from the office next door, Benji, who will apparently become a regular character (Good grief, even bears have limp wrists!).

Nice new high-tech office.  Ulp -- but their new boss is Agent Buck, assigned to "go babysit the sodomites."  Very odd slur.  There no indication that Agent Biuck is religious.  How would he even know it?

My Grade:  The story was actually not bad, and I liked the references to West Hollywood.  But every single gay man, except for Kazkah Guy, is a limp-wristed, "oh, Mary" queen.  Surely at some point in his life, Uncle Tom Sean Hayes has met a gay man who doesn't swish?  Presumably all lesbians are grunting, beer-guzzling butch stereotypes, but we don't see any except for the two Q-Force members.

It would get a D, except that anything with Sean Hayes in it makes me physically ill, so F.

Sep 14, 2021

See Here, Private Hargrove: To Be Young Was Very Heaven

 When I was an undergraduate at Augustana College (1978-1982), there was a metal book rack in the foyer of the library marked "Take a book, leave a book."  There wasn't usually much of a selection: well-thumbed copies of The Godfather and Love Story,  romance novels, five-year old freshman composition textbooks.  But I found a small red textbook of Medieval Latin and Tarzan the Invincible (one of the later Burroughs novels).  One damp, cloudy Saturday afternoon during my senior year, there was nothing but an ancient, yellow-paged paperback, See Here, Private Hargrove.  

Army life during World War II?  Dreary!  But I was heading for a 5-hour shift at the Student Union Snack Bar, which was always deserted on Saturday nights, and I needed something to read.  So I exchanged it for The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin. 

I had a slight sore throat, a sort of lump that made swallowing difficult -- in the COVID era it would be inconceivable to go to work while sick, but back in the 1980s, unless you were dying, you went.  The Snack Bar was a desolate square space with about ten round white tables and a gleaming counter up front. I was the only one working.  We sold hamburgers, french fries, sandwiches, chips, sodas, and some desserts.

 From the cash register I could see the glass wall with doors leading outside, now dark and stormy with rain; the banks of mailboxes to the left, and Adam's Bookstore to the right.   From 5 to 10 pm, I had maybe ten customers.  I had dinner at my post -- a hamburger, french fries, and a carton of milk. 

 But mostly I read See Here, Private Hargrove.  It was a collection of humorous anecdotes, originally published in the Charlotte, North Carolina News, about Marion Hargrove's life as a private at Fort Bragg in 1940 and 1941: "The Boy Across the Table...",  "A Soldier Stuck His Hand....", "I Grinned Weakly...": chores, drills, bellowing sergeants, trips into town to go to movies.  The sort of thing that was popular during the Vietnam War: No Time for Sergeants, Gomer Pyle, Hogan's Heroes (not quite the same, but close enough).

I've done some research since.  The novel was made into a movie in 1944, starring Robert Walker (1918-1951). best known for the gay-subtext Hitchcock thriller Strangers on a Train (1951). He was married twice and had four children, so I doubt that he was gay in real life.

I haven't seen the movie, but according to IMDB, Private Hargrove gets a girlfriend (played by Donna Reed, future 1950s housewife on The Donna Reed Show) and a best buddy (played by gay actor Keenan Wynn).  So there may be some buddy-bonding.

Robert Walker's son, Robert Walker, Jr (1940-2019)., played the boy raised by aliens, Charlie X, on a 1966 episode of Star Trek.  He had three wives and seven children.  Probably not gay.

Marion Hargrove (1919-2003) went on to write two more novels, plus magazine articles and television scripts.  His credits include I Spy, The Name of the Game, and The Waltons.  His humorous account of trying to get a couch for the studio office was published in The Playboy Book of Humor and Satire (1965).  He had two wives and six children, so probably not gay.

Today, I have replaced the small paperback with a hardbound copy -- just to have, not to read -- I don't want any new memories to develop.  I want to see the book on its shelf and flash back to that night -- the sore throat,  the hamburger and carton of milk, gazing out through the glass windows into a rainstorm, all of it.  Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.

Sep 13, 2021

Fafhrd and Grey Mouser

When I was in college, the Bookstore Gang was all wild over Fafhrd and Grey Mouser, a sword-and-sorcery duo that Fritz Leiber had been writing about since the 1930s.  Their adventures were being collected in a series of anthologies:

Swords against Wizardry
Swords in the Mist
Swords and Ice Magic
Swords and Deviltry
Swords against Death

Fafhrd is a 7'0 Conan-style barbarian, and the Grey Mouser is a 5'0 sneaky thief.  They wander the barbarian world of Nehwon (i.e., "Nowhen"), stealing cursed jewels, fighting evil sorcerers and renegade gods, exploring strange new lands, brawling, drinking, and wenching.

Yes, they go "wenching."

It wasn't Tolkien.  There was no Dark Overlord to conquer, they didn't spend a lot of time singing mournful songs, and there was sex.  Or whatever stood in for sex in those days.

Eventually they both settle down with wives and kids, become domesticated, and their adventures end.

But in some of the stories, at least, they were a homoromantic pair.

At least, that's how I read it.

Fritz Leiber also wrote Conjure Wife (1943), about men in a small college town who discover that their wives are all witches, and out to do them in.  Nuff said.

"Clickbait": Gay Representation on the "Non-Stop Thrill Ride" about a Kidnapped Family Man


My viewing schedule is rather crowded with Korean soap operas, Disney Channel teencoms, and awful action-adventure movies, so I'm leery of giving the Netflix thriller series Clickbait (2021) a try.

The description immediately turned me off: "family man" Nick (Adrian Grenier) is kidnapped.  I hate the phrase "family man."  It's used to claim that heterosexual men who have reproduced are more moral, more industrious, infinitely more valuable than the rest of us.  So you've had sex with a woman.  How does that make you a saint?

But one of my Facebook friends, who is gay (like all of my Facebook friends except for a few relatives), called it a "nonstop thrill ride."    So I conducted some research.  Quite a lot of research, actually.

Beefcake:  According to the Parents' Guide, there is no male or female nudity, but several scenes where men and women kiss, and a woman takes her bra off.

Gay Characters: A search on "Clickbait," tv, and "gay" revealed numerous copies of an interview with Abraham Lim, who plays the reporter working on the case: "as a gay man," he feels marginalized whenever he goes into a gay bar, and faces anti-Asian racism.

Yes, but is his character gay?

A search through the cast list reveals that Family Man Nick has a wife and two children.  The older is played by Camaron Engels, who has a TikTok video labeled LGBT and "gay."  But I don't get the connection: it shows a space alien dancing.

Nick's younger son is played by Jaylin Fletcher, who definitely has something nonbinary going on, and has played gay characters (or the little brothers of gay characters) in Snowpiercer and Sunday Church.  Little Bro could be queer.

Phoenix Raei (Roshan Amiri, the detective investigating the case) is an Iranian-Australian actor who played a gay character on the soap The Heights.  It's refreshing to see someone of Middle Eastern descent play something other than a terrorist, but I doubt that any network suit will ok a character who is Muslim and gay.

An article on "10 LGBTQ Series to watch this fall" reveals that Nick's sister Pia is bisexual, and reporter Ben Park (Abraham Lim) is gay.  Ok, but do they actually do anything, or is it "bisexual but only dating men" and "gay means fabulous."?

Gay Representation:  Wikipedia has a much-too-detailed plot synopsis, which is why I didn't read it first..  I'm surprised it hasn't been flagged.  Of the 52 references to Pia, only one mentions her dating, and it's a guy.  There might be some female loves in the series, of course, but it is a very detailed plot synopsis.

Ben Park, however, gets a centric episode (#5), where he and his boyfriend Cameron (Jack Speer) argue over his callous handling of the case, and finally break up. Neither Cameron nor Ben appear in the plot synopsis after that.  

At least Ben is "ruthless" and "driven," breaking the stereotype that all gay men are fierce and fabulous.

Will I Watch:  Probably not.  I've already spent two hours on Clickbait, and I know about the surprise ending.

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