Oct 23, 2021

"Voltaire High": GIrls Arrive at an All-Boys School, and the Boys Want Them Out

 


Mixte (Co-Ed), aka Voltaire High (2021), a French tv series streaming on Amazon Prime: "It's 1963, and Voltaire High has just gone...gasp..coed!"  Sounds like it will be extremely heterosexist, all about boys and girls staring at each other.  But maybe the subtitles will be hilariously inept, and maybe there will be some 30-year old fitness models playing high school hunks.

Scene 1: September 1, 1963.  While a girl gets dressed, a male voice narrates: "Our school is going co-ed.  I don't approve.  Mixing boys and girls is detrimental to education. The boys will try to act more civilized than they are."  


The girl finishes getting dressed, goes downstairs (her parents run a butcher shop), and leaves with her older brother, Jean-Pierre (Baptiste Messaline).  He gives her the rules: "Don't talk to my friends. Don't talk to me. We don't know each other."

Scene 2:  Outside the school, the boys are frolicking, smoking, staring into space, and buzzing with excitement.  "Girls are coming!  We're going to see girls! Maybe they'll be pretty!  Maybe they'll have breasts!"

Meanwhile, the faculty complain: "No boy will ever learn anything again!  This school will turn into a brothel.  They'll be running naked in the hallways.  Why should girls go to high school at all?  Learning Latin and history -- they should be learning how to cook and keep house!

Whoops, the new English teacher, Miss Couret, is a woman!  The Latin teacher is scandalized, rushes off in a huff, but Dean Bellanger (Pierre Deladonchamps, top photo) offers to show her around.  She tries a "scatterbrained" routine so he won't feel threatened, but he assures her that he is ok with women working; his wife is a nurse.


Scene 3: 
 The girl from Scene 1 -- Michele --arrives.  Lots of hostile stares, some pointing and jeering laughs.  Wait -- I thought the boys liked the idea of going co-ed.  Another girl -- Simone -- arrives, then a whole group.  The boys turn their attention to yelling insults at Pichon (Nathan Parent), calling him "piggy" and his friends "girlfriends." He can talk to the girls without dissolving into a puddle of hormones, so maybe he is gay.

Suddenly  the boys -- all of them -- stare, speechless, as The Girl of Their Dreams arrives, walking in slow motion, hair blowing in the wind.  How horribly cliched!

Scene 4: The homeroom teacher yells at the Girl for sitting next to Pichon, and then forces Pichon to move.  The boys jeer at him.



Scene 5:
Latin class.  The Girl is good at Latin, but the teacher nitpicks her translation.  Then he criticizes a boy, Lebrauc (Gaspard Meier-Chaurand, for passing notes and being in foster care: "So the son of nobody wants to graduate!  How ridiculous!" Michele from Scene 1 defends him, and the teacher sends them both to the Dean's office.

Scene 6: The Dean gives Lebrauc advice: "Since you belong to a despised minority group, people will always assume the worst.  You have to be better than them.  Don't give up -- I believe in you." Not having parents is a despised minority group?  Or maybe he's Jewish?  Was anti-Semitism common in France in the 1960s?

Next, he talks to Michele: "Since you are a girl, people will always assume the worst.  And you've given them proof by the horrible crime of criticizing a teacher!  You have to do better! Pretend that your teacher is a god, perfect in every way."

Scene 7: Michele's older brother grabs her outside the school.  "Everyone already hated you because you're a girl, and now you commit this...abomination!  You criticized a teacher!  And cover yourself up.  You look like a whore!"  She's actually dressed like a Puritan.

Simone from Scene 3 approaches to reassure Michele.  Sure, the teachers and the boys in our grade hate us, but the older boys -- the ones who have "discovered" girls -- like us being here.  They enjoy looking at our breasts.

Scene 8:  Ulp, no one thought of the bathroom situation.  Surely boys and girls can't share -- a girl might sexually assault one of the boys!  We'll have to dedicate a bathroom for girls' use.  Sounds like a reflection of current attempts to keep transgender girls out of girls' restrooms..

The Dean walks through the courtyard, and sees girls' breasts and butts, a girl seductively eating a peach, a boy trying to hide an erection, and has a panic attack.

Scene 9: Lunch.  The girls discuss their problems, teachers ignoring them or dismissing their answers.  I saw a study where when teachers call on students, they give boys more than twice as long to answer.   Pichot gets shoved around; Michele defends him.  The boys yell at her.  


Scene 10:
The boys rig a pail of water above the English class door, so Michele gets soaked.  It's like that scene in Carrie, but with water instead of blood.  I expect Michele to develop psychic powers and explode their heads, but the teacher takes her to the nurse's office to dry off.  Big Brother deduces what happened and rushes into the room to beat up the culprits.  Pandemonium.

One of the boys got glass in his eye, and is rushed to the hospital.  The others put their seats back, and Miss Couret begins English class.

Scene 11: In the nurse's office, Michele changes into new clothes (yes, we see it); only boys' clothes are available. Lebrauch comes in.  They smile and flirt.  She's not prejudiced against foster kids.

Scene 12: The Principal tells the Dean that girls and boys obviously can't mix without violence breaking out.  The girls will be returned to a girls' school.

Miss Couret feels guilty since she left the class unsupervised for a moment, and a boy lost an eye.  But it happened before class started, during the lunch break.

Back in class -- Latin again?  The boy stare because Michele is wearing boys' clothes.  

Scene 13:  The Dean yells at Big Brother for not protecting Michele.  Um...he beat up the boys who pranked her.  "You have to change.  Because in life, we have to live with girls.  Unless you become a hermit or..."  Are gay? No, "join a seminary." Gay people don't exist in this world.

The Dean goes home and talks to his wife about the events of the day.

Beefcake: No.  I couldn't even find beefcake photos of the cast.

Gay Characters: Nothing in this episode.  I went through Episode 5 on fast-forward: Jeanne, the school nurse, goes to the theater and meets the actress Irene, who "deeply moves her." In a lesbian way.  She even dumps the girl she came with to go to a gay party with the hot Irene.  They kiss.  And discuss the problem of having to hide their interest in women.

Heterosexism:  Looks like Pichon will hook up with The Girl, and Michele with Lebrauch.  

Were People Really That Sexist?  It sounds absurd to me, but maybe it was realistic for 1963 France.  According to"Réflexions sur la mixité scolaire en France" ,mixed-sex education was introduced in French lycees after World War II, and became mandatory by 1975

1963:  I didn't notice any 1960s-specific costumes, hairstyles, or pop culture references.  

My Grade: B

Oct 22, 2021

"In the Arms of My Enemy": What You Talk? They Gay, Yes? Very I Know!


 Which of these Amazon Prime "movies we think you'll like" would you actually click on?

Obviously In the Arms of My Enemy (2007), originally titled Voleurs de chevaux (Horse Thieves).  It has a barely literate synopsis about two sets of brothers in 19th century Russia who become Cossacks.  



The trailer shows a guy kissing a girl, but IMDB teases us with these photos.  

I'd swear the guys on the left are boyfriends, but anyway the beefcake is a sufficient draw.  I'm in.

Wow, the English subtitles are awful.  Planned yes to switch to French or Spanish, but they are so hilarious.  I give it with you some examples later in.

The brothers are:


1.-2. Protective big brother Jakub (Adrien Jolivet) and weak, fragile little brother Vladimir (Gregoire Leprince Ringuet), who join the Cossacks, and endure rigorous training with their shirts off.  Vladimir is bullied, beaten, and raped.  "Get to calm.  Must get stronger, otherwise you will not save you." 

After their initiation, they go to a tavern to dance and drink with their shirts off.  An older officer flirts with Vladimir, so Vladimir beats him up.  So they decide to go AWOL and frolick in a river. "Do you remember when we were small?  I was so hours."



3.-4. Over-protective, possibly abusive Roman (Gregoire Colin, left) and young teen-dream Elias  (Francois Rene-Dupont), thieves who live in the woods and don't wear shirts.  While Jakub and Vladimir are frolicking in the river, they steal their horses.  Vladimir chases after them, and Roman strangles him to death.  Jakub vows to get revenge.

The horse thieves go to an inn to drink and flirt with girls.  One of them invites Elias to have sex (she gets completely nude, while we see a little of his chest). 

Afterwards, the girl wants him to stick around, but Elias tells her: "My brother cares a lot. He will come in my search and be mad."

On another night, the girl looks on jealously while Elias gets hugged and face-caressed by his male friends.  He sings; they say "I like a lot?  Huh, guys, like! Very!"  Maybe Elias is bi?


The stalking Jakub sees Elias, but doesn't know that he is one of the horse thieves.  He tells the other boys "Disappear! I want!", and starts flirting.  Then the other horse thief, Roman, the one who actually killed Vladimir, comes in.  Jakub recognizes him!  

After talking it over with the Girl, who asks why he is so interested in Elias ("No idea.  What you talk?"), Jakub decides to kill Roman, but spare the teen dream.  He stalks them while they are frolicking in the lake ("How to sniff, Roman!"), but Roman attacks first ("You acknowledge I should have killed there in river!").  Elias yells at him to leave Jakub alone ("Stop, are you going to kill you!  No kill!").   Is he just opposed to murder, or does he like Jakub?

Jakub comes into their bedroom while they are sleeping and brandishes a sword, but Elias covers Roman with his body, so of course Jakub can't attack.

He waits until Elias is not around, and attacks and kills Roman.  There's a long dying scene.

Later, Elias sneaks into Jakub's camp while he's asleep, and stares at him for a long time.  We think he's planning revenge, but no... in the next scene, Jakub and Elias ride off into the sunset together!  Wait -- the guy just killed your brother.  Even if he was abusive, isn't that a bit of an unlikely turnaround?

Beefcake:  None of the boys own shirts.

Heterosexism:  One sex scene.  

Gay Characters:  The two sets of brothers both have gay-subtext hugging, holding, frolicking, and cuddling in bed scenes.  When Jakub hooks up with Elias, you can read them as a gay couple, but another reading has Jakub seeing Elias as a weak, fragile younger brother, another Vladimir to protect.  The English title pushes the gay reading into the spotlight.

My Grade:  In a Belgian movie from 2007, the gay romance element should have been played up a bit more, turned into text instead of subtext and a teasing title.  B.

Oct 21, 2021

"The Magnificent Seven": Actually Nine, Including a Gay Couple


 Movie night this week was The Magnificent Seven (2016), a remake of the 1960 movie, which was in turn a remake of The Seven Samurai (1954), neither of which I have seen.  Apparently I'm not missing much.  It was 133 minutes of killing people.

In the Old West in 1879, snarling, sneering, moustache-twirling cartoon villain Bogue and his absurdly huge army of miscreants storm into the idyllic frontier town of Rose Creek, demanding that the townsfolk sell their land for a pittance and agree to be worked to death in his mines.  Anyone who refuses will be killed.  To show that he is serious, he kills about 20 of them on the spot, and burns down the church.

Cut to another town, where Emma, who lost her husband, and her friend Teddy (Luke Grimes, top photo) have settled.  When bounty hunter Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington) rides in and kills everyone in the town tavern, they ask if he would be interested in killing Bogue and liberating the town.  He hates Bogue, so he agrees.  He gathers a diverse group of marksmen to help:

1.-3. Teddy, Chisholm, and Emma

4. Mischievous scamp Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt)


5-6. Former Confederate soldier Goodnight Robichaux (Ethan Hawke) and his boyfriend, an Asian knife-thrower named Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee, left)

7. Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Mexican outlaw.  One of his colleagues doesn't like Mexicans.

8. Jack Horne, a retired Indian-killer who is not all there.

9. Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier, below), a Comanche who speaks no English, and uses a bow and arrow instead of a gun.  He bonds with Jack Horne, for some reason.

Chisholm is black in 1879, but his race is irrelevant.  It is surprising, therefore, that "learning to overcome racial prejudice" is part of the character development of at least four of the Magnificent Nine.  

And while I'm on the topic of plot inconsistencies, where, exactly, is this town?  Chisholm works out of Wichita, Kansas, but the Comanche territory was west Texas and eastern New Mexico, but the town is three days by horseback from Sacramento, California.  I guess the writers didn't bother to look at a map.  Exteriors were filmed in Louisiana, Colorado, and New Mexico.

After the colorful "gathering the gang" scenes, the Magnificent Nine roll into Rose Creek and kill about 300 of Bogue's men, plus the townsfolk who joined his side.  How are they better than Bogue?  

Bogue owns hundreds of towns throughout the Wild West, so he could just let this one go -- but no, he's snarling and unstable, so he decides to ride out himself with his absurdly huge army and kill everyone.  


It  takes three days to get to Sacramento, and three days to get back, so the Magnificent Nine have just under a week to whip the surviving townsfolk into an army -- a problem because most of them have never touched a gun before (in the Wild West?).  They also rig the town with booby traps and lots of dynomite.  

The Bogue army arrives, and everyone kills everyone.  Body after body, death after death, for about twenty minutes.  All of Bogue's army, most of the surviving townsfolk, and most of the Magnificent Nine die.  I'm wondering why you want to liberate a town full of corpses.  Teddy, Emma, Red Harvest, and Chisholm survive, and Emma voice-overs that the Seven were "magnificent." 

Beefcake:  No. A lot of close-ups of unshaven, sweaty men staring at each other just before they shoot.

Other Sights: Rose Creek is a stereotypic Hollywood one-street town, which nevertheless manages to support a hotel and a restaurant.  How many visitors other than assassins does it get?

Gay Characters: #5-6.  Apparently the writers intended for them to be gay, but the studio insisted on just a subtext, to allow for deniability: "What?  No, you're reading too much into it.  They're just friends. Gay people didn't exist in the Old West."

Heterosexism:  Surprisingly, there are only a few scattered references to heterosexual desire, and no one falls in love. I was very surprised that Emma didn't hook up with Teddy or Chisholm.

Body Count:  Endless.  

My Grade: I have a new rule.  No movies with more than 58 deaths.  How did anyone in the Old West survive?

Danny Greene: Professional Hunk of the 1980s

During the 1970s and early 1980s, producers started realizing that heterosexual women like to look at men, so they began marketing male physiques to them -- Playgirl magazine,  the Chippendale Dancers, Gregory Harrison in For Ladies Only , Jon-Erik Hexum in Cover Up.  Of course, gay men were watching, too.  The producers usually pretended that they were unaware of the existence of gay men, but the performers knew.





Daniel Greene (aka Danny Greene) rode in on the tide of "female" adulation of the male form.  He began making the rounds of guest hunks on tv in 1982: Trapper John MD, Alice, Three's Company, The A-Team, a sex comedy called The Rosebud Beach Hotel (1984), an aerobics movie called Pulsebeat (1985) (Yes, there were aerobics movies.)

It didn't matter, as long as he took his shirt off, or better yet stripped down to his underwear or a Speedo, and the camera panned out to shots of ladies lusting over his killer bod.








His biggest role was in the nighttime soap Falcon Crest (1985-86), playing Dwayne Cooley, a truck driver who somehow finds his way into the ultra-rich family and begins having affairs with the ladies (thus cleverly combining the trucker and glitz fads).  He was so popular that he even got fan mail from Governor Bob Graham of Florida, his home state.

Afterwards Danny played buddy-bonding man-mountains in Hands of Steel (1986), Skeleton Coast (1988), The Opponent (1988), and Soldier of Fortune (1990), but he really wanted to market himself  "to the ladies" (and the gay men) again.

 So he played Buck on the gay-themed Brothers (1985), Bob, mild-mannered hunk who is romanced by the saucy Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988), and "Fantasy Rusty" in the sitcom Babes (1991).



Not a lot of starring roles during the 1990s and 2000s, when every actor worth his Equity card knew his way around a gym, so a body by Michelangelo was no longer a guarantee of stardom.

Danny is married to actress/model LaGena Hart, and according to wikipedia works for a company called ACN in Florida.

Oct 19, 2021

"I Know What You Did Last Summer": LGBTQ Representation. For Two Episodes, Anyway


In the original I Know What You Did Last Summer movie (1997), four teens driving along the North Carolina coast accidentally hit and kill a pedestrian.  Instead of, say, calling the police, they throw the body in the ocean and get on with their lives.  But a year later, a slasher who "knows what you did last summer" starts slashing them and their friends, leaving only the the Last Girl, Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her boyfriend, Ray (Freddie Prinz Jr.), to smooch and declare their love for each other.




A sequel was inevitable.  In I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998), the slasher continues to vex heterosexual college sweethearts Julie and Ray and their friends, including a token black guy (Mekhi Pfifer).  He gets slashified, but Julie and Ray survive, and get married. 

Someone said that tragedies end with a stage littered with bodies, and comedies end with a wedding.  






Eight years later, the franchise continued with I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006).  This time four teens accidentally kill a peer in a prank that goes wrong, and a year later the slasher starts slashing. The Last Girl's boyfriend (David Paetkau, left) gets sliced and diced, but she survives with a new beau (Ben Easter).

I never saw any of these movies -- they sounded heterosexist to the max, and besides, the slasher genre is stale.  But I watched the first two episodes of the new Amazon retread, I Know What You Did Last Summer.  This time the setting is a small town in Hawaii, and the squashed pedestrian is Allison, the straightlaced, uber-square twin sister of boozing, drugging, screwing wild child Lennon.  Or is it Lenon who was squashed, and Allison decided on a dead-sister masquerade?  And, for the first time in I Know history,  one of the teens is gay: Johnny (Sebastian Amoroso).  He even discusses dating a guy at the gym, Erik (Duncan Kamakana), although they're not shown kissing or anything.


Ok, I've tried 15 times to get that last name right.  Amoroso makes the most sense, since it's an actual Italian word, but Google doesn't have any images of an actor named Sebastian Amoroso.  Wikipedia says Amoruso, but it also calls Johnny "Jhonny."    Amaroso?  Amoruso?  Amaruso? Amando?   How about a photo of Duncan Kamakana instead?

Four episodes have dropped to date, but I'm only planning to watch two, because:

Johnny and Eric are the first to die.

Bury your gays.






Kalevipoeg: Gay Epic Hero of Estonia

When I was visiting Estonia in the summer of 1998, I couldn't go anywhere without hearing about Kalevipoeg.  There were a dozen public statues of him, a naked, muscular god carrying small people.

There was a Kalevipoeg Sculpture Park in Tallinn.

There was a Kalevipoeg Museum near Kaapa, which became a full Theme Park in 2007.

There was a chain of Kalev Chocolate Shops.

Teenagers were filming adaptions of his adventures for  school projects.







Kalevipoeg Imprisoned, Enn Poldroos
Museums were crowded with sculptures, murals, and paintings, often emphasizing the god's superheroic endowment.



















Kalevipoeg at the Gates of Hell, Kristjan Raud
Or muscular backside.

Bookstores were teeming with books that praise Kalevipoeg as "James Bond and Chuck Norris put together."

So who is this guy?

He's the son of the god Kalev in The Kalevipoeg,  the Estonian national epic, culled from ancient myths by Friedrich Kreutzwald and published in 1853.

The youngest of  Kalev's children, but the biggest, strongest, and most resourceful, Kalevipoeg has many adventures.  He:
1. Swims to Finland to rescue his mother from an evil wizard
2. Gets a cursed sword from the Finish god Ilmarin.
3. Wins the throne of Estonia in a stone-throwing contest.






Kalevipoeg, Amandus Adamson
From then on, his companion is Alevipoeg, with whom he:
4. Fights a water demon and a sorcerer.
5. Travels to Porgu (Hell) twice.
6. Seeks out the edge of the world.
7. Fights an apocalyptic battle with the demon Sarvik and his army.

When Alevipoeg is killed, Kalevipoeg is so grief-stricken that he gives up his kingdom and becomes a hermit.  When he dies, he goes to Heaven, but is deemed so valuable that he is tied to the gates of Porgu to keep the world safe.

Kreutzwald was inspired by the Finnish Kalevala, also compiled from ancient myths, and set to verse by Elias Lönnrot in 1849.

But there's a big difference: the Kalevala is all about the quest after the Eternal Feminine, the gods Ilmarin, Väinämöinen, and Lemminkäinen searching for wives.





Kalevipoeg, Drisil Woan


But except for one short maiden-seduction early on (which, admittedly, gets a lot of attention), Kalevipoeg is oblivious to women.  When he rescues three maidens from Porgu, he busily tries to find them husbands, never attempting to seduce them himself.

He is all about masculine buddy-bonding, first with his brothers, and then with Alevipoeg.


A gay epic hero?









Kalevipoeg Mural, Tallinn
In addition to the many literary and artistic adaptations of The Kalevipoeg, there's been a ballet featuring the Kalevipoeg Suite, by Eugen Kapp, and a stage play, a "Cool Epic" starring Tanel Saar, that has toured Europe and the U.S.

See also: Kristjan Raud: Mesmerized by Male Beauty and Yuri and I Cruise in Estonia.

Oct 18, 2021

"Misfits": Teasing that It's Science Fiction, with Gender-Atypical Characters, to Lure in Viewers

 


A group of teenagers is forced to enter a "Transformation Station," which calculates their male and female percentages. One is 55/45; another, 83/17.   They emerge wearing sky-blue school uniforms. 

Is the Dutch tv series Misfits, on Netflix, science fiction? The plot synopses seem perfectly naturalistic: "Julie, Jason, and their friends prepare to submit their school project ideas"; "Julia is tempted by dreams of fame while Nick struggles to be honest."  

Are there any LGBTQ or gender-atypical characters?  Maybe Nick struggling to be honest, coming to terms with being gay or transgender or asexual?

The only thing to do is watch an episode.  I chose "BFF," the one where Nick struggles to be honest. 

I can't find this series on Wikipedia or IMDB, just the British Misfits series (2009-2013).  So I will copy the actors' names from the closing credits.  Unfortunately, their subtitle names are different, and a review gives completely different actors' and characters' names (probably the cast of the British series), so it will take some guesswork.

Scene 1:  Backstage at the rehearsal for the big school musical.  Julia is conflicted over an upcoming audition with the Music Academy in New York  (dull generic name).   Her friends trot out the costumes for the big school musical: slinky gold lamé numbers created by Rich Girl's famous fashion designer bud.

Scene 2: Headmistress's Office.  Glass walls and minimalistic decor. Julia refuses the audition: "I belong here."  Headmistress argues.  After Julia leaves, she makes a phone call: "The next phase is to begin immediately.  We must end this musical!"  Why does she care so much about a school musical?  Is it key to her plans of world domination?


Scene 3: Quad. 
Glass, bean-bag furniture, and random plants.  Giggly Girl gets a note in her locker asking her to meet at the rehearsal room.  She gushes with romantic ecstasy.  

Meanwhile, Nick (Niek Roozen, top photo) is advised by his friend, Chance (Vincent Visser, left, or Elyha Alteena), to "be honest." So he approaches Julia with eye-bulging, jaw-dropping, absurdly cartoonish hetero-longing.  He doesn't really need to "be honest," does he? Anybody could tell that Julia is the Girl of His Dreams from a mile away.

It's just a fantasy.  In real life, Nick is going to sing her a song that he wrote.  As he practices, Chance records him.  

Scene 4: Glass hallway.  Giggly Girl heads toward her rendezvous. Nope, it was just a fantasy.  She's too scared to approach the Boy of Her Dreams.  So far I don't see anything but cisgender heterosexual boys and girls mooning over each other.

Scene 5:  A masked vandal snips all of the fancy musical costumes to shreds.



Scene 6:
Julia, Giggly Girl, and Rich Girl suspect  their rival Jason (Noah de Noolj), "Mr. Perfect," and Giggly Girl's crush!  They track him, looking for evidence: he helps a boy on crutches go down the stairs (no elevator in futuristic glass world?), has an impromptu beat-box session, helps a girl open her locker, brings lunch to a boy who forgot his, and runs lines for the rival musical.

They decide to search his room for clues.  Wait -- if this is a residential school, how could a kid have forgotten his lunch?  Meals are covered.  But first they need his room key, which he wears around his neck.  And Giggly Girl is too overcome by absurdly cartoonish teen-dream lust to approach him.  So send Julia.  

Giggly Girl approaches as if she's a teenager in 1965 and he's one of the Beatles, and convinces him to let her hold his...um, key.  Then she does a switch.

Meanwhile, Nick gives up on Julia.  No matter how much he stares and drools, she won't be interested in him.  But his friend -- Chance -- has recorded his song and sent it to someone.  To help him, or to destroy him?

Scene 7: Mr. Perfect's Room.  Huge, fancy artwork on the walls.  If all of the students had rooms this big, there'd be no space left at the school for fancy glass classrooms.  

While Julia snoops, Giggly Girl distracts Mr. Perfect by stammering a math question.  He asks her out for a smoothie -- and kisses her cheek -- and she dissolves into a pool of lust.  "His actual mouth was on my cheek!"

Scene 8: Mr. Perfect's Room.  Julia finds a can of spray paint and some tiny cameras, proof that he's the saboteur.  He comes in.  She confronts him, but he's actually using the paint on a picture of his crush, Giggly Girl. And the cameras are her birthday present.  He's into her?  But she treats him like he's the Second Coming of Christ.  Obsessive lust is creepy, not endearing.

Scene 9: Smoothie Shop.  Smoothie Boy complains that the headmistress has locked the shop's menu until he can solve a complicated math problem. So Pigtail Girl solves it for him.  She is summoned to the headmistress's office.  Headmistress asks her to score 3,000 points at the inauguration ceremony so the school will be the best. I don't know what any of that means, but no doubt it's part of Headmistress's evil scheme to cancel the musical.  

Pigtail Girl refuses.  "Curses! Foiled again!"  

Out in the hallway, Pigtail Girl runs into Nick, the one with the crush on Julia.  They see the video that Nick's friend posted about him declaring his love.  Nick is horrified!  

Julia confronts him.  He explains that she is his universe, his only reason for living, and by the way, want to grab a smoothie sometime?  Come on, nobody's eyes bulge that wide, girl-of-his-dreams or not. 

Scene 10: Julia's Room.  She feels guilty because she only likes Nick as a friend, and he thinks of her as the Answer to Every Question, His Soul Mate for Time and Eternity.  She and Pigtail Girl discuss the problems they've had with the musical, with Headmistress constantly trying to sabotage it.  Why bother?  Because it's the only thing that can keep her from taking over the world?

Beefcake:  Some cute guys.

LGBTQ+ Characters:  Everyone seems absurdly, eye-bulgingly hetero-horny with the exception of Chance and Julia, but they probably didn't have time in this episode.  

Gender Atypical Characters: They're all gender polarized.

Science Fiction Plotlines:  I didn't see any.

Plot Arc: Two rival cliques with "How could you be interested in HIM????" West Side Story-type romances.  The Headmistress's Cartoon Villain scheme to take down the high school musical...and thereby destroy the universe?  

Teases:  Teasing gender-atypical characters, teasing science fiction.  The series is one big rip-off.

Oct 17, 2021

"Just Beyond": And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird

 The Disney Channel has dropped Just Beyond, an anthology of scary stories for kids, based on the work of R. L. Stine.  In search of gay representation or subtexts, I watched the episode "Parents are from Mars, Kids are from Venus," which involves two teen "bffs."

Scene 1: A generic small town.  The two
teen boys, Jack (Gabriel Bateman, no relation to former teen idol Jason Bateman) and Ronald (Arjun Athalye), complain that their parents are getting weirder and weirder, obsessed with solar panels and pillows.  They stop in Chris's Curiosity Shop, where Crazy Chris (Henry Thomas)  spouts conspiracy theories and tells them to "trust no one."


Scene 2: 
 Barbecue at Jack's extremely elegant house.  His Dad (Tim Heidecker) is obsessed with the pecan maple briquettes he's using to barbecue steaks.  His Mom makes lame attempts at teen slang.  Ronald's Dad (Parvesh Cheena, left) and Mom arrive, and talk about pillows.

In an interview, Tim Heidecker says "I'm not gay, but I love musicals, so I'm basically gay.  But I like guy stuff, too."  An annoying presumption that "gay" means "feminine."

Parvesh Cheena has LGBTQ and Transgender Pride Flags on his Twitter Feed. 



Scene 3:
Jack's extremely weird black-walled room, which looks more a museum display than a boy's bedroom.  Dad drops in to talk about "the changes that are going on in your body."  If he means puberty, he's a little late -- Gabriel Bateman is 17 years old, and has a muscular physique.   He means puberty.  At least he doesn't talk about "discovering girls." 

Dad tries to hug him, but Jack  insists on shaking hands.  Dude, that's harsh.

Scene 4:  Ron reveals that his dad tries the same talk, but it ended with a kiss on the lips.  Kissing your dad -- gross!   It's game night, so Mom and Dad head off to Ron's parents' house.  The boys stay home to play video games.  

Ron left his headset at home, so they go to retrieve it.  They see their parents performing a ritual in front of a glowing orb.  Suddenly the coffee table levitates!   Are they witches?  In a cult?

Scene 5:  While his parents are out, Ron goes into their elegant, black-walled bedroom to look for clues to their bizarre behavior.  He pockets a mysterious glowing stone.  

Scene 6:  Crazy Chris identifies the stone as Zugarian.  Plot exposition: aliens have been abducting town residents since the 1980s, and replacing them with duplicates. Then they wait until their kids mature, and eat them.  Uh-oh, puberty!   To be sure, he tells them to get a DNA sample and put it in a yellow liquid that he provides.

Scene 7:  The boys acquire a sample from a hair brush in Mom's bathroom.  She catches them, and wonders why they were in her bathroom -- together.  But she looks more annoyed than suspicious: "Boys, if you want to make out, go to Jack's room."

Next, they snip off a lock of Ron's Mom's hair while she's exercising.  They deposit the samples in the yellow liquid, which turns red!

Scene 8:  All that was circumstantial evidence.  Ron and Jack wait for the next game night, and spy on their parents.  Now the orb is displaying a sinister face.  And the adults all have tentacles!  The boys scream and run away -- but the adults notice!

Scene 9:  Jack in his room, researching aliens on the internet, when Dad comes in: "We're leaving now...to go...um...to the lake," he says sternly.  

Psych!  The two families are actually on their way to the lake.  Ron and Jack in the back seat, looking nervous. 

Scene 10:  They reach the cabin.  Dad points out that "It's just us.  No one else is around for miles and miles." Gulp!  Mom takes away their cell phones.  Gulp!

Mom: "You're a couple of mature specimens, aren't you?  Old enough to join us for Game Night."   

Scene 11:  The boys at Game Night, petrified with fear. The adults discuss what they should play -- Canasta?  Bridge?  How about Crazy Eights?  

While they're playing -- and gulping -- Jack's Dad goes to the kitchen and returns with a gigantic butcher knife -- which he puts down next to the cheese.  Psych!

Game over.  Ron's Dad picks up an axe and stares menacingly at the boys.  They grab the car keys and try to flee, but Jack has never driven a car before -- he puts it in reverse and crashes through the cabin wall.  

Scene 12: Time for explanations.  "Guys, we're not duplicates.  We really are your parents.  We're all aliens.  When you mature, your tentacles and telekinetic powers come in."  They come in.  The boys are delighted. Those tentacles could be interesting in the bedroom.

Since the cabin is wrecked, they have to head home. Except the van turns into a spaceship to take them to their real home, the planet Zugaria.  

In the last scene, we discover that Crazy Chris is an alien, too. 


Beefcake: None.

Heterosexism: The parents are hetero-horny, but the boys display no heterosexual interest.

Diversity: A family played by South Asian actors, but named the Gusmans.

Plot Holes:  If Chris is an alien, why did he spread misinformation and scare the boys to death?  Who is the mysterious figure in the orb, that they were apparently communicating with?  Why were the aliens on Earth, masquerading as humans?  Why do they get to go home the moment the boys' tentacles come in?

And why did Ron's Dad pick up the axe?  

Gay Subtext:  No. The only physical interaction between the boys is a bit of knee-knocking.  They don't hug, even when scared.  They behave more like brothers than boyfriends.

My Grade: With a plot that makes no sense, no beefcake, and no gay subtexts, what do you think?

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