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.


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 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.


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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