Oct 2, 2021

"Midnight Mass": No Beefcake, No Bonding, Pentecostal Catholics, and Dead Kittens

 


I stopped watching Mike Flanigan's The Haunting of Bly Manor at the scene with the dead kitten -- I was too busy rushing to the bathroom to continue.  How could anyone associated with the film possibly believe that inducing vomiting was a good idea?  

I'm not going to watch his Midnight Mass for the same reason -- this time there are apparently lots of dead kittens!  Besides, I get annoyed by the tv trope that everyone in the U.S. is Roman Catholic.  Especially when the Roman Catholicism here is close to Bible-Belt Pentecostalism, with faith healing, soul-winning, Gospel hymns, and the Second Coming of Christ.  But I'll check to see if there are any hunks wandering around.

1. The protagonist, Riley Flynn (Zack Gilford), a former "venture capitalist" and ex-con, returns to his hometown, the small fishing village of Crockett Island, to reunite with his family and former girlfriend, and rekindle his faith.  


2. He has trouble reconciling with his Dad, grizzled fisherman Ed Flynn (Henry Thomas). Ulp -- the E.T. kid is now 50 years old.








4. He runs afoul of mysterious new priest Father Paul (Hamish Linklater), who can walk on water, heal the sick and make the dead rise again, but has an ulterior motive involving one of the ladies in the congregation.  And vampires.






5. The town sheriff, Omar Hassan (Rahul Kohli), is Muslim and disapproves of all the Catholic shenanigans.  Especially those involving vampires.







6. Especially when his teenage son, Ali (Rahul Aburri), acts like he's converting.  To Catholicism.  And to vampirism.








7. Omar is buddy-buddy with Riley's teenage brother, Warren (Igby Rigney).  But they don't seem to have a gay subtext, since there's a third friend, Ooker (one member of the group always has to have a crazy name).  Plus Warren has a girlfriend. 

 Spoiler alert: Only the heterosexual couple survives the Vampire Apocalypse.


8. Mayor Wade Scarborough (Michael Trucco) has a wheelchair-dependent daughter healed by the mysterious vampire priest.  

There's also an elderly lady with dementia healed by the mysterious vampire priest.  Elderly lady's daughter, town doctor Sarah Gunning, is a lesbian, the only LGBTQ character in the series, and not a villain.






9. No more hunks, unless you count Pasha Ebrahmi, who plays Parishioner #1.  

I would, except he doesn't take off his shirt.  Nor does anyone else on Crockett Island.

No beefcake, no bonding, Pentecostal Catholics, and dead kittens. This doesn't sound like a fun addition to one's tv viewing schedule.







9. 

Oct 1, 2021

"Black as Night": Black Vampires in New Orleans, with a Doomed Gay BFF


 Black as Night
: a teenage girl "driven by revenge" fights inner-city vampires.  I hate it when a movie title tells you nothing about the movie itself, but over 90% of movie trailers feature heterosexual kissing, and this one doesn't, so I'm in.

Scene 1: A homeless guy pushes his shopping cart through the run-down Ombreaux (Shadowy) Apartments.  He's attacked by a snarling gang of vampires.

Scene 2: Establishing shots of New Orleans: voodoo totems, skulls, the French Quarter.  On a rooftop, Shawna sunbathes with her swishy gay bff (shirtless, rather an unimpressive physique).  Representation matters: Shawna is black, and her friend is Hispanic.   She complains about how boring life in New Orleans is.  In a voice over: "This summer will be different.  I got breasts, and I fought vampires."

Scene 3: On the way home, Friend asks why Shawna didn't try out for the dance team: "They only pick Creole girls."  Uh-oh, overt racism!  Friend, meanwhile, has a track scholarship to a college in...ugh...Texas, but he doesn't want to go (good choice, bro!)  There's a party full of cute guys tonight.  Shawna doesn't want to go because she's awkward and unpopular, but Gay BFF insists.


Scene 4
:  Shawna goes to the Ombreaux to visit her mom.  She hates it: all run-down, and overrun by druggies.  Plus hot junior Chris Thompson? What's he doing here? 

Sorry, I cannot find a single beefcake photo of any of the cast members, so here's a random hunk.

Mom lives in an apartment with several other strung-out crack heads.  She asks for money, but instead Shawna provides her next hit. 

On the way out, Shawna investigates a door marked "Keep Out."  A snarling person lunges at her.

Scene 5:  At home, Dad Steven is cooking dinner -- tuna casserole -- for Shawna and her hot older brother Jamal, who has the dets on Hot Chris:  he only likes Creole girls.  More racism!  "Besides, you ugly.  You look like Wesley Snipes with braids."

Scene 6: The party, in a run-down apartment.  Teenagers swaying.  Gay BFF -- Pedro -- makes it his life's mission to get her a boyfriend.  "Go talk to Chris!"  He's surrounded by girls, but Shawna makes an awkward attempt to say "hi." He and his girlfriends roll their eyes and patronize her, so she storms out, past BFF Pedro -- who is cruising a shirtless guy wearing a slave collar.

Shawna walks home alone, down dark streets strewn with garbage and graffiti.  A vampire attacks and bites her, but is scared off before it can finish the job.  She rushes home, hand on neck (not to the hospital?), and examines her wound. 

Scene 7: To avoid turning into a vampire, Shawna tapes newspapers to the windows (no sunlight!) and stays awake all night.  When Dad gets home, he doesn't question the newspapers -- he just tells her to take them down.  Apparently sunlight is ok, so Shawna goes to BFF Pedro's house. Big family -- at least three older brothers.   He's serving breakfast to his grandma (aww, he helps out).

In Pedro's bedroom (pride flag, but no pictures of divas), Shawna explains the situation.  He's   dubious at first, but comes around surprisingly quickly. Otherwise be lousy story.

Scene 8:  Surmising that the vampires' lair is at the Ombreaux Apartments, they go to Mom's crack house to rescue her.  But she's already been vampirized, and attacks!  Shawna tears down the curtains, and she bursts into flame.

Scene 9: They call the cops, who don't know if Mom's death was a homicide or suicide or accident. Shift to the funeral, and Shawna vowing to get revenge on the vampires who vampirized her mother.

Later, Dad shows Shawna the empty lot where their house was before Hurricane Katrina, 15 years ago.  They lost everything, which drove Mom into drug addiction.

Scene 10:  Searching for info on vampires, they go to a meeting of a vampire book club in an abandoned church.  All white girls.  The leader, Granya, discusses various theories of vampirism.  It's just basic stuff that everyone older than five knows, garlic and wooden stakes and such, but Shawna and Pedro act as if they are learning deep secrets.

Scene 11:  While Pedro gathers vampire-killing supplies, Shawna goes home.  Hot Chris arrives to deliver post-funeral food from his mom.  (Their moms used to "kick it" together which makes Shawna and Chris "peoples."  I love this slang!).  He offers to help out, if she find out who the killer was.   

Scene 12: Apparently Shawna explained about the vampires. She and Chris meet BFF Pedro at the Ombreaux.  They investigate the "Keep Out" room.  A vampire attacks, but Shawna subdues him, ties him up, and demands to know who turned her Mom.  

A vampire named Lefrack is vampirizing all of the homeless people and addicts he can find, to build an army.  And a new bit of lore: If the head vampire dies, all of the vampires he created turn back to human again.  

I'm out of space, so I'll just summarize the rest:  Shawna the Vampire Slayer and her Scoobies (Pedro, Chris, Granya, and eventually Jamal) go after the head vampire, who is not Lefrack after all.  They are assisted by some non-human-eating vampires.  

And, in the penultimate scene:  The old, hackneyed, homophobic Bury Your Gays trope.

Beefcake: Pedro and Lefrack have shirtless or semi-shirtless scenes.

Other Sights: Lots of establishing shots of New Orleans.

Gay Characters: Pedro, but he doesn't count, since HE IS KILLED.

Heterosexism: Fade-out kiss between Shawna and Chris.

My Grade: It was in the B+ range, until the gratuitous killing off of the gay guy, and the annoying heterosexist fade-out kiss.  F.


 



Sep 30, 2021

The Omen


The gay romance in The Omen (1976) begins in the first scene, when paparazzo Keith Jennings (David Warner) waxes indignant at the excess with which Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), celebrates the birthday of his five-year old son, Damien. But then he discovers a more serious problem: some of his photographs show ominous shadows pointing at people associated with Damien, and soon they end up dead!

Keith approaches Thorn with his findings, and for some reason the Ambassador believes him, and instantly drops his professional duties to accompany Keith on a jaunt across Europe. They interview  nuns, raid an old Etruscan graveyard, and sleuth out clues to discover the evil force behind the deaths: little Damien is the Antichrist!

Meanwhile their relationship becomes increasingly intimate, at least on Keith's part. He quickly drops the “Ambassador” for “Robert,” but Robert does not once call Keith by his first name. Keith frequently gazes doe-eyed at the handsome but troubled Robert, but Robert does not gaze back. Even in 1976, I could read the signs of unrequited love.

 

In the novel, Keith is a slimy, despicable cad, but David Warner plays him as quirky and likeable, as a somewhat naïve champion of the underdog. More interestingly, the novel spares us no detail about Keith’s rabid and perverse heterosexuality, but in the film, he displays not a hint of heterosexual desire; indeed, a middle-aged photographer who wears a colorful gabardine long after Carnaby Street has become passé, never glances at a woman, and casts doe-eyes at his male companion, could hardly be anything but gay.

Keith and Thorn share a hotel room – it is odd that the wealthy ambassador couldn’t afford separate rooms. After a heavy day of sleuthing, Keith returns to find Thorn lying on his bed, facing away; he has just been notified that his wife committed suicide. “Robert,” Keith says, tentatively. The camera tightens on Thorn’s face, obscuring the rest of the room as he struggles with his grief. I was certain that Keith had drawn him close and was hugging him tenderly.

In the novel, the conflict lies between Thorn’s “perfect” heteronormative world and gay outsiders attempting to destroy it. In the film, the conflict instead lies between a decayed, effete heterosexual practice and the awe-inspiring potential of same-sex desire. The Antichrist bodes the end of men loving men – “man against man until man shall be no more" – and that very love saves the day. The Satanic act that finally convinces Thorn to rid the world of the Antichrist (by killing Damien) is not his wife’s suicide, but the decapitation and symbolic castration of his male friend Keith. 



The discoherence between film and novel is especially interesting when one considers that David Seltzer, who wrote both, associated same-sex love with the Unpardonable Sin itself. In the novel, we hear that Father Tomassi, a missionary in southern Africa, “broke the primitive laws of God and Man” by having an affair with a Kikuyu youth. Realizing that God, who is evidently heterosexual, now hates him, he has no recourse but to join a satanic coven and help orchestrate the birth of the Antichrist.



Though Seltzer proved himself the antithesis of a gay ally, the rest of the cast and crew were somewhat more gay friendly. David Warner has played a variety of quirky outsider characters, recently specializing in villains with sophisticated accents (see him in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Gregory Peck, whose Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) was supposed to be about homophobia before studio execs closeted it into antisemitism, was a long-time champion of gay rights, and in 1997, at the age of seventy-one, he became a presenter at the G.L.A.A.D. Media Awards. 

Sep 29, 2021

Pen15: My Middle School was Not Nearly as Sex-Obsessed. Or Homophobic




Nostalgia tv is usually set about 20 years ago, when the producers were kids: Happy Days in the 1950s, That 70s Show in the...um, 1970s, The Goldlbergs in the 1980s.  Today's nostalgia is Pen15, on Hulu (apparently the title is meant to draw your attention by looking like "penis"):  besties Annie and Maya negotiate middle school in the long-ago year 2000. 


 

Nostalgia tv is also usually gay-free, as writers search through their memories, don't find any references to LGBT people, and conclude that none existed 20 years ago (actually they were just being denied the knowledge).  But the Episode 10 icon shows the girls apparently sharing a romantic moment.  

To check for a gay subtext (or text), I watched Episode 8, "Wild Things," about a movie viewing party that "gets sexy."

Scene 1: During band rehearsal, Brendan passes a note to Anna inviting her to a viewing party for Wild Things, a 1998 neo-noir starring Matt Dillon (top photo).  Maya advises that her to go, because then she will have an opportunity to perform fellatio on Brendan (strangely, he is rather chubby, not the usual teencom "dreamy boy").  


Scene 2:
In the hallway, Maya continues to exult over the potential for penises.  Brendan (Brady Allen, left) and his friend approach to sell the movie: it's about "hairless snatch,"  The friend saw it in the theater, and "jizzed all over."  I really don't want to think about seventh graders "jizzing" to "snatch." 

Scene 3: The girls in their room, dancing.  Anna is worried about kissing Brendan; the last time, it felt "weird and unnatural."  Um..because you like girls?   They practice kissing on bed posts.  From jizzing to kissing?  This show is sending mixed messages about the sexual experiences of the kids.

Later, in bed -- they're sleeping foot-to-head, for some reason --  Maya worries that she won't have anyone to go down on at the party.  Anna suggests inviting a guy from the soccer team


Scene 4:
Soccer practice.  Maya tries to ask "dreamy boy" Sam (Taj Cross, left), but  while she is saying "um...there's...um...this party...um," another girl grabs him ("Maybe you can show me...your moves tonight, nudge nudge wink wink).

Scene 5: The party, finally. 3 boys: Brendan, his friend (Skyler), and Sam.  3 girls: Sam's date, Maya, and Anna.   This is "a bunch of us"?  Cousin Richard arrives with the movie, which he acquired with his brother's id: "It's X rated.  There are beavers in it."  

Ok, this is too disgusting.  I'm out.  I'll just skip to the dance scene in Episode 10, to see if Maya and Anna recognize that they are in love, or something.

Episode 10:  Maya and Anna have broken up; Anna is going to the dance with Heather instead.  

Parents take pictures before the dance: girl, boy, girl, and then two boys who look like they are holding hands.  But they're not.

Heather and Anna reconcile, but don't kiss.  They both swoon over cute boys.  Plus Maya insults a boy by telling him to "go suck a dick until it comes."

So it's ok for girls to "suck a dick," but it's humiliating for boys?Homophobic heterosexuals!  I'm out.


Beefcake: None.  The boys are too young, although the actresses playing Maya and Anna are in their 30s.  

Nostalgia:  Not a lot.  These stories could take place at any time.

Disgusting Dialogue: Lots.

Heterosexism: Both the girls are absurdly hetero-horny.  It's all "boys, boys fellatio, boys, boys, kissing, are we still friends?, boys, boys."

Gay Characters: These kids are all homophobic.  A reviewer states that there's a coming-out storyline (in Season 2, naturally), with Gabe struggling to understand his attraction to boys amid the "homos" and "faggots" of his classmates.  

What the Heck  is Pen15?   I thought it was the name of their junior high, but acording to Urban Dictionary, it's a prank where you trick a boy into writing "Pen15" on his hand, so everyone thinks it means "penis", so he's gay.  So they laugh at him.    

Why would gay men write "penis" on their hand?  They don't need a reminder.

Sep 28, 2021

A Gay Spider-Man in a Video-Game?


This picture seems to depict Spiderman on the subway looking at his cell phone, while his seatmate leans his head on his shoulder.  A romantic gesture.  Are we seeing a gay Spiderman and his boyfriend?

It's from a September 2018 article in Polygon magazine about the Spider-Man PS4 Video Game.  As Spidey goes about his adventuring, he gets phone calls from family and friends, but his voice sounds different depending on whether he's swinging or standing.  Voice artist Yuri Lowenthal recorded different versions of the same phrases to create the effect.

I don't know anything about video games, but I googled "Spider-Man PS4 Game": it advertises Spider-Man in an "all-new adventure"!  Here Peter Parker is an experienced crime-fighter, not a sallow youth, and the iconic characters have been "re-imagined."  


1. Mary-Jane and Peter have a romantic history, but are not dating.  

2. Peter has a sidekick. fellow spder-person Miles Morales. He only appears briefly, in a back story.  But apparently neither has a heterosexual love interest, so they could be read as a gay couple.

You may recall Miles Morales from the gay-subtext film Into the Spider-Verse.  He stars in his own PS5 game, with no Peter Parker.  Apparently that game is gay-inclusive

But Spidey's seatmate is Yuri Lowenthal, not Mike Morales.  



Yuri Lowenthal is a Jewish boy from Tennessee who majored in East Asian languages at the College of William and Mary.  He has voiced many characters in anime and American animation, such as Ben 10.   He's also written a book on voice acting.

As far as I can tell from his "wife and kids" bio, he's heterosexual.  





No beefcake photos on his Instagram, but here's a cute guy waiting to see him at a convention.

The word "gay" appears twice in Yuri's Twitter account: first he explains that a three-way involving two guys and a girl "isn't gay" (of course not: it would be bisexual for the guys).

Scond, he responds to an unknown comment by screenwriter Zack Stenz: "What's a gay."  

So probably not an ally.

The intended meaning of the picture remains a mystery, but I'll take gay subtexts wherever I can find them, especially with iconic characters like Spider-Man.

What's Wrong with the Word "Homosexual"?

Some people who comment on this blog actually use the term "homosexual."  I delete their comments.

The word makes my ears hurt.  I will not permit it to be said in my classrooms.  I never use it in my writing.  I will purchase no book with that term in the title.

The English language didn’t have a word for people who are exclusively drawn to one sex or another until 1892, when the English translation of Richard Von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis appeared.  It divided human beings into two populations, the heterosexual and the homosexual, the one normal, natural, benign, the other contingent, abnormal, unnatural, purveyors of evil, victims of an insidious and destructive psychopathology.  Psychiatrists, criminologists, teachers, and journalists continued to talk about the dark, sinister “homosexual” psychopath for the next 70 years.

Meanwhile, in subcultures organized by people with exclusive same-sex desires and behaviors, the common term was “gay,” probably derived from prostitute slang of the 1890s.  We don’t know how early it was used, but at least by 1932, when Noel Coward wrote the song “Mad About the Boy”:  “He has a gay appeal that makes me feel there’s maybe something sad about the boy.”

Certainly by 1938, when, in the movie Bringing Up Baby, Cary Grant must answer the door in a lady’s nightgown, and he tells the startled caller, “I’ve just gone gay all of a sudden.”  The bisexual actor ad-libbed the line as an in-joke for his friends, assuming it would go over the  heads of the audience.

It was deliberately meant as a code term, used only by members of the subculture.  As late as the 1960s, you could say “I’m going to a gay party tonight,” and judge by the reaction of the listener if they got it or not.

Most outsiders preferred not to "name" same-sex desire at all -- it was much too sinister – but if they had no choice, they used the word “homosexual.”  The first gay rights organization, the Mattachine Society, used the word “homosexual,” reasoning that otherwise no one would know what they were talking about.

In 1969, the Gay Liberation Front, and the subsequent Gay Rights Movement, made two significant changes.  First, they believed that they were not psychotic, not abominations, not evil.   They chanted “Gay is just as good as straight."

Second, the word “homosexual” had to go.  It was old-fashioned and bigoted. It referred to a mental disorder.  Besides, it had to do with who you have sex with, and they were about so much more than that.  They were about living and working together, sharing a history and a destiny, being a community.  They were not homosexuals, skulking in the darkness, seeking out anonymous liaisons in t-rooms.  They were gay.

The term “gay” was not without detractors.  Many famous homophiles, such as Gore Vidal, Christopher Isherwood, and Truman Capote, said it was much too frivolous for a bona fide minority group.  Many people said that it was sexist, like using “men” to mean “all people,” ignoring the women.  It also assumed exclusive same-sex desire, behavior, and romance, whereas the community also included bisexuals and transgendered persons.  Eventually LGBT appeared an alternative, and then "queer."

Regardless, “homosexual” was gone, and would remain out of favor among gay people for the next 40 year.  In an Advocate poll in 2000, in answer to the question “What should we be called?”, 95% of respondents said gay or LGBT; 3% homosexual.

There are over 5000 gay or LGBT organizations in the United States, and no homosexual ones.

Barnes & Noble lists 3,389 books with “gay” in their titles and 305 with “homosexual,”  most written to argue that “homosexuals” are bad, evil, and psychotic after all: The Homosexual Neurosis, Hope and Healing for the Homosexual, The Homosexual Agenda.

The Gay Rights Movement had a good precedent for a society-wide name change. In 1965, the Civil Rights Movement objected to the term “Negro,” then used by government agencies, journalists, and on the streets.  Negro was old-fashioned and bigoted.  They chanted “Black is Beautiful!”  They wanted to be called Black.

Mass media changed instantly.  Within 2 years, no one was saying “Negro” except for the incredibly old-fashioned and the bigoted.  In Julia, in 1966, the titular character is on the telephone, & identifies herself as “a Negro.”  The white man she is talking to, not wanting to appear bigoted, pretends that he has no idea what she means, forcing her to use the new term “Black.”

But “homosexual” didn’t change easily. Even though gay people yelled, picketed, conducted sit-ins, and so on, it took until 1985 for the New York Times to agree to substitute gay for homosexual.  In 1976, in the Doonesbury comic strip, Joannie’s law school classmate says “I’m gay,” and she doesn’t understand.

The American Psychiatric Association removed gay people from their list of dangerous psychotics in 1973, but refused to call them “gay” until 1997.  About 20% of scholarly articles today still have “homosexual” rather than “gay” in their titles.  In newspapers and magazines, “gay” tends to win out in titles, but in the articles “homosexual” pops in as if it an exact synonym.

Every time I tell students that the word "gay" is appropriate and the word “homosexual” old-fashioned and bigoted, they are astonished.  They tell me, “But every other teacher I have ever had in my life said ‘homosexual’ was good and 'gay' was bad.”   They then trot out a gay friend who says “I have no problem with homosexual.” I ask if they are aware of the century of oppression centered on that word.  They are not.  They think of “gay” as bigoted!

Sep 27, 2021

Looking for the Beefcake in All of the 2020-2021 Movies Entitled "The Inheritance"

 


The Inheritance (2021), 
 on Amazon Prime: A woman inherits a house in Europe where strange things happen.  She has a husband with her -- nice body!  I don't want to see the movie -- sounds derivative and heterosexist -- but I want to look Hubbie up.

That's when things get complicated.

1. The Inheritance (2021):  A young man (Eric Lockley) inherits a Philadelphia rowhouse from his grandmother.  According to Roger Ebert Reviews, Director Asili experiments with "legacy, heritage, and tradition, resulting in an engrossing, challenging film that allures and confronts you in equal measure."  Surely this isn't the same movie.

The top photo is bodybuilder Eric Lockley, maybe not the same person.


2. Inheritance (2020):
Roger Ebert Reviews criticizes its "nutty...don't-think-about-it-too-hard" premise.  This one sounds more like it.  Patriarch Patrick Warburton dies, leaving $20 million to his congressman-son  (Chace Crawford, left) but just $1 million to his district-attorney daughter.  So, political intrigues?  Wrong movie again!

3. Inheritance (2020): According to Wikipedia, "a thriller" starring Simon Pegg.  But Chace Crawford and Patrick Warburton are also in it, so this is the same as #2, with different packaging.  

So I search for every recent "inheritance" title on IMDB.


4. Inheritance (2017
).  "A young couple visits a property left from their late father's estate.  A haunted and dim past emerges." This sounds right, but it's too early.  Hubbie is played by Ryan Bowman (left), whose film credits include Bread Crumbs 2: Electric Boogaloo and Scream of the Bikini.

No beefcake shots online except for the title shot of Jumpa X, whatever that is.



5. Inheritance (2021).
"After the murder of their parents, Nick and Steve Wellington must share the inheritance,  Then the Figure arrives to finish what he started."  

Right year, wrong premise, but I might just look up Christopher Sarrls and Michael Kenneth Fahr (Nick and Steve), and call it a night.

No beefcake images for either.  I took this Christopher Sarrls photo from his Myspace page (what we used for social media back in the 1990s).



6. Inheritance (2018). 
  Have you ever said a word over and over until it loses its meaning?   This one is the "story of how sons look to their fathers for identity, and how one son learns that true identity comes from a source deeper even than family."  Let me guess...God?  The sons are played by Andrew Cheney and Jason Collett.

No beefcake photos of either, but here's Jason (right) with a muscular friend.

7. The Inheritance (2020).  This sounds promising: a woman inherits a haunted estate in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Finally, the right movie!  Hubbie is played by Nick Wittman, whose previous credits include Terminator: Dark Fate (Pilot), Rambo: Last Blood (Hitchhiker), and The Spy Who Dumped Me (Bartender). 


No beefcake shots online, no instagram.  I had to go back to Amazon Prime, go through the movie on fast-forward, and take a screencap (and screencaps don't work on Chrome, so I had to go to...ugh...Firefox).  

To get Nick's only shirtless shot in the entire movie.

Was it worth it:






Sep 26, 2021

"Soul": Almost a Gay Subtext in the Afterlife

 


In the Disney-Pixar animated Soul (2020), Jamie Foxx plays Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher who dreams of making it big as a jazz pianist.  On the day of his big audition, he falls into an open manhole and dies.  But instead of going to the Afterlife, he accidentally ends up in the Before-Life, where human (or post-human) mentors help newly-created souls find their "spark" so they can be born. 

Mistaken for a mentor, Joe is assigned 22, a soul who doesn't want to be born, and has terrorized such previous mentors as Copernicus, Mother Teresa, and Muhammad Ali.  They manage to sneak back to Earth, but 22 ends up in Joe's body, and Joe ends up in the body of a cat!  They have to find some way to get to Joe's big jazz performance, deposit Joe's soul in the correct body, and send 22 back to the Before-Life before anyone in the soul-creating bureaucracy notices.



Throughout, Joe doesn't express any heterosexual interest.   He doesn't flirt with the female principal of his school, or with the female jazz saxophonist who gives him his big audition; there are no pictures of girls in his apartment; his mother berates him for being a "middle aged failure," but doesn't mention his lack of a wife and kids.



He visits his mother's dress shop, where the middle-aged ladies fawn over him, and hangs out at a barber shop with men.  

Originally unborn souls don't have a gender -- they are unvariegated round blue blobs who can use whatever voice they want.  Then the premise changes, and unborn souls have a gender after all: 22 is female.  But when she's inhabiting Joe's body, there are no gender-norm jokes or sudden expressions of heterosexual interest.    

Jamie Foxx doesn't have a great track record on gay rights, nor does one expect  fundamentalist Christian writer/director Peter Doctor to be an ally, so certainly Joe isn't canonically gay.  Nor is anyone else in the movie (Joe's barber shop friend specifically mentions a daughter to establish his heterosexual identity).  But the absence of expressed heterosexual desire and hanging-out-with-men is sufficient to read Joe as gay.

Almost.

Two scenes ruin the subtext.

While inhabiting Joe's body, 22 has access to all of his memories.  She asks "Who's Lisa?"  Joe doesn't answer.

Later, 22 says "I think you should call Lisa."  Joe responds: "I don't have time for a relationship right now.  I'm busy working on my music."

That's enough to ruin the gay subtext.

At least, at the end of the movie, when Joe learns the meaning of life, he doesn't call Lisa.  

By the way: the meaning of life is: enjoy the small things.

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