Aug 7, 2022

Thermae Romae Novae: An Anime about Ancient Roman Bath Houses

Thermae Romae Novae
: "The New Roman Baths," an anime based on a manga about bath houses.  And not the sexual kind, the ancient Roman/modern Japanese bath houses that you use when your apartment doesn't have a shower.  Sounds like a very limited premise, but there will doubtless be lots of scenes of semi-naked hunks.

Scene 1: Montage of people in ancient Rome getting hot and sweaty: a gladiator, a chariot racer, some guys at a feast.  A boy named Lucius (David Wald), running to bring lunch to his grandfather, is accosted by bullies.  The leader, Titus, throws the lunchbag over the bridge -- lost forever!  It's not that big a deal -- you're obviously not poor, and they had fast food stands in ancient Rome. Just buy him a new lunch.

Scene 2:  Sobbing, Lucius approaches Grandpa, an architect working on a new construcgtion project.  Grandpa consoles him, but Apollodorus, the manager, yells at him for being a wimp.  He runs away -- past a fast food place, where his teenage friend Marcus offers him a kebab.  

Scene 3:  Lucius and Marcus eating.  They discuss the new tower, built to commemorate Emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars (105=106 AD).   Marcus helped build it; he wants to be a stonemason when he grows up.  Lucius doesn't know what he wants to do. (Does he have a choice?  Don't Roman boys follow their fathers' careers).

Scene 4:  After Marcus' extremely muscular father drags him back to work, Lucius walks past the bath house, and flashes back to his own extremely muscular father telling him that thermae are not just places to bathe: "They're a celebration of our way of life."  I could say the same thing about gay bathhouses.  We zoom across the extremely muscular patrons, all men; two look like they're going to wrestle or have sex.

Next, Lucius flashes back to hearing about his father's death in a scaffolding accident.

Scene 5:  Lucius in his room, reading a scroll.  Grandpa announces that he's going to take a bath, and forces a reluctant Lucius to go with him.  Whoa, beefcake fest! A few butts, no penises.   

Grandpa explains the procedure: first a soak in the hot caldarium, then the cold frigidarium, then a body scrub and back to the caldarium.  Uh-oh, while Grandpa is off getting scrubbed, the bullies attack.  Lucius ducks under water to escape them, and comes up in a bath house in modern day Japan!  I hope there's a Latin scholar around.  

He screams, ducks under water again, and is back home, disoriented and confused.  "What just happened?"  

Grandpa is rhapsodizing about the bath house, "an essential part of our culture," where men go to "share moments together in hot water" (tell me more, tell me more, did you get very far?)   Flashback to his father going even farther: "We have the duty to build the future of Rome."  Ok, this is getting too hyperbolic.  It's just a bath house, not a temple.

After Grandpa leaves, the bullies return.  Titus insults the thermae.  This makes Lucius angry.  They fight.  The bully pounds him, until the other men pull him off.

Scene 6: Night.  Lucius and Grandpa stop by the fast-food stand for a beverage.  Lucius says that he wants to become a thermae architect.  Grandpa makes him promise to make baths "that wash away anger."  

Scene 7:
Years later, the adult Lucius (Hiroshi Abe in the 2012 movie) is living in Athens.  He goes home to visit his mom and grandma.  I'm glad he's not going to be a ten-year old through the series.  He wants to take a bath before dinner, so it's off to the old bath house of his childhood, where he runs into his former bully, the extremely muscular adult Titus.  They catch up: Titus is a butcher with a young son, and Lucius, of course, is a thermae architect.  

When Titus tells him that he is married with children, Lucius gets a strange wistful look.  Is he interested in Titus, or is he upset because he doesn't have a girlfriend?  

Postscript: A documentary about the manga artist, Mari Yamakazi, conducting research on Japan's bath house culture.  First up: the Kusatsu Onsen hot springs.  The water is so hot that it has to be cooled down through a splashing-technique called yumomi, which she will incorporate into her stories.

Everywhere, in the bath or out.  Except everyone has weird hashtag marks on their cheeks.  At first I thought they were dirt smudges, but they never go away.

Other Sights:  Lots of exteriors of ancient Rome.

Time Travel:  Barely mentioned.  One would expect it to be an ongoing theme.

Gay Characters:  No one except Titus expresses any same-sex interest, or any heterosexual interest. In the manga series, Lucius gets girlfriends in both ancient Rome and modern-day Japan, so maybe that will be happening in future episodes.

My Grade: B. 

Aug 5, 2022

Movies in the Fall of 1985: Tim Curry Plays Straight, Michael J. Fox Plays Homophobic, a Teen Nerd Bulges, and a Gay Couple Splashes

 I already covered the years 1984-85 and 1986, so this is filling in the blanks.  I move to West Hollywood in June 1985, found a small apartment (actually a one-room cottage) and three part time jobs, and began the whirl of life in a gay neighborhood: gay church, bookstore, supermarket, gym, laundromat, cookie place.  Apparently I had not yet been socialized into the rule of never setting foot outside a gay neighborhood, if you can help it, so I left often: 11 movies in theaters, as many in six months as I would see in a whole year later on.

August: Weird Science. Two nerds use weird science to build a woman, who becomes a big sister rather than a sex toy (not to worry, they both meet the Girls of their Dreams).  Lots of male nudity, including an underwear scene with Ilan Mitchell-Smith, who would go on to become a history professor.

August: Teen Wolf.  I had just met Michael J. Fox, so I was curious to see if there were any gay subtexts in this story of a boy who "comes out" as a werewolf.  Nope: "I'm not a fag, I'm a werewolf."

September: After Hours,  which would become one of my favorite movies. Griffin Dunne (previously seen in American Werewolf in London) get swept up in the bizarre, surreal world of New York City after hours.  Gay characters are presented matter-of- factly, and even kiss.  I guess the producers thought it would be ok if they only inhabited an underground night world.

October: Dreamchild.  The elderly Mrs. Hargreaves, who inspired Alice in Wonderland when she was a girl, deals with reporters, tabloids, and her conflicting memories of Lewis Carroll.  I went with a guy who had no idea what was going on, since he never heard of Alice in Wonderland.  How is that possible?  (He also didn't know that the Wizard of Oz movie was based on a book series.)

October: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. It was nice to be able to go to a gay-themed movie without having to drive 50 miles to a theater in a different city.  Unfortunately, this one closets the gay novelist, making his obsession with muscles irrelevant to his heterosexual identity. 

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.  Obviously the producers were expecting a blockbuster, followed by numerous sequels and an action hero as iconic as Rambo.  But Fred Ward (Remo) was no Sylvester Stallone. Hint: have him take off his clothes!

October: The Silver Bullet. I may have seen this one on tv later.  Teen idol Corey Haim, in a wheelchair, fights werewolves and wins the Girl of His Dreams.

November: My Beautiful Laundrette. A gay couple in modern Britain fight homophobia, racism, and culture clashes.  I don't remember much about it; maybe I was planning to see it, but didn't, for some reason.

November: Bad Medicine. Steve Guttenberg (sigh) goes to med school in a racist-stereotype Central American banana republic, butts heads with the evil Dean, and wins the Girl of His Dreams. It's hot down there; why doesn't he take off his shirt now and then?

Clue: The logical-deduction murder-mystery game brought to life, with six strangers played by recognizable 1980s stars.  All have dark secrets, and of course Mr. Green's dark secret is being gay (except, in one of the three variant endings, he turns out to be a straight undercover cop).  Tim Curry plays the butler Wadsworth, who is also straight.

December: Legend: In a fairytale world, a princess and a bad boy (Tom Cruise) fight a demon played by Tim Curry.  Why did we keep expecting him to play gay characters?  He was obviously trying to disassociate himself from Rocky Horror by playing as many straight/masculine guys as possible. 

Aug 4, 2022

"Ghost Island": Submitted for Your Approval: Surly Boy, Swishy Boy, Hunkoid, Two Girls, and the Haunted Hotel Room


Someone asked me to review the third season of Nickelodeon's Are You Afraid of the Dark remake, entitled Ghost Island, to see if one of the kids is trans.  It's Nickelodeon, so probably not, but I have an hour to kill, and maybe some of the kids are old enough to be hunkoids.  I watched Episode 1.

First Story: The Tale of Room 13.  Isn't there supposed to be a frame story with the Midnight Society gathering?

Scene 1: In 1983, a young mother, her preteen daughter, and a baby try to check into the Veil Hotel.  The desk clerk says: "Sorry, we're all booked, except for Room 13, and we don't rent that one out."  Because it's evil and eats people.  "But you're the only hotel on the island, and it's dark and rainy.  What are we supposed to do?"  Make your reservations in advance, like everybody else in the world?  

When the desk clerk leaves, Mom sends her daughter, who has the bizarre early 20th century girls' book name Betty Anne - to steal the key to Room 13!

It's a lovely old-fashioned suite.  While Mom settles down to take a bath -- during a thunderstorm? -- Betty Anne's electronic spelling game gives her the words "Water" and "Danger."  Then she vanishes! The baby vanishes, too, and a disembodied voice tells Mom to "Run!" But it's too late: A ghostly figure jumps out of the mirror and grabs her.

Scene 2: Present day suburbia, but with lots more kids than one generally sees playing outside.  Kayla, a young-teen girl (actress Telci Huynh is 16), is twirling in her room, picking up random objects and tossing them into a suitcase. She accidentally knocks over some photos of her hugging another girl, and feels sad.  Then her swishy friend emerges from the closet wearing some of her clothes, and asks how he looks.  She rates him a 9.  Ok, there's a gay kid, or at least a "High School Musical"-style gay-vague kid.  

"Ugh, why are you bringing books to a tropical resort?" he complains. He sees the photos of Kayla and the Other Girl, and gets upset, but puts on a brave front.  I'm guessing a recently-deceased sister.

Kayla wonders if she should stay home.  Swishy friend -- Leo (Luca Padovan) -- admits that it won't be easy (to go to a resort?), but she has to try.

A car honks -- it's time to go. Switch to Kayla, Leo, Giggly Girl, Surly Boy, and their Mom frolicking on a boat, heading for the resort. This must be a flashback.  Mom is much older than the girl in the photograph, so obviously Giggly Girl is the recently-deceased one. She must have died on the island, which is why Kayla is reluctant to go back.  

Scene 3
: The arrive at the Veil Hotel from Scene 1, a rather industrial-looking two-story structure. Is this still a flashback?  Exuding enthusiasm, they talk about the unsolved disappearances at the hotel.  Mom introduces her boyfriend, Robbie (Jason Cao), which disturbs Surly Boy for some reason.  "How long has this been going on?" he demands. He must be upset because Mom is dating another guy soon after her divorce.

Mom gives them their room assignment: the four kids will share a suite, and she will be staying at Robbie's bungalow for, cuddling.  

Scene 4: 
They ask the desk clerk, Stanley, if the hotel is really haunted.  "Yes.  The hotel is filled with tortured souls like me." "Are you a ghost?"  No, working in the service sector.

He escorts them to their suite -- Room 14.  Kayla looks around. "Where's Room 13, where everyone disappears?"  "We don't have a Room 13.  Superstitious guests refuse to stay in it, so we number from 12 to 14."  

Their suite is nothing like Room 13 from 1983: open, airy, with giant windows looking out onto the beach.  Shawn Mendes stayed there!  They all squeal and hug. Leo is wearing pink nail polish, but everyone uses he/him pronouns, so I'm identifying him as a swishy gay kid, not a trans girl.  I just hope they hired an actual feminine-presenting actor not a straight guy playing up the stereotypes. 

Scene 5: While everyone is lounging around and calling their mothers, Kayla explores the suite -- and finds drops of blood on the sink!  She turns the thermostat down to 76, and a disembodied voice says "Help me! I'm cold."  So put on a ghost-sweater.  

Scene 6: At the beach, Leo and Surly Boy argue about the DC Comics Infinite Earths, while Kayla looks depressed.  She pulls out a picture of the five of them.  The Giggly Girl (don't they give any of these people names?) pops up out of nowhere and says "I miss her too."  So the flashback is over, and Mom is the dead one.  They could indicate these time jumps better.  

Her deathbed wish was to have the four friends return to the island, for some reason.

Scene 7:  Kayla reminisces that Bella was always the most fun,  Another flashback, except this girl is the same age as Kayla.  They're hiding under the covers with flashlights, discussing whether or not ghosts are real.  So Same-Age Bella is the dead one, and Mom is still alive, off "cuddling" with Robbie. Which of the earlier scenes was a flashback?  

Kayla awakens in the middle of the night (it's boys in one bed, girls in the other) and hears a disembodied "Help me!" Get your own sweater!  It's coming from next door -- Room 13!  Leo heard a baby crying from the same room.  Desk clerk Stanley doesn't believe them, of course: he demonstrates that the room next door is a linen closet!

Scene 8: 
The four friends hit the beach.  Surly Boy finally gets a name -- Ferris, (Chance Hurstfield, who played a gay kid on A Million Little Things).  He watches Robbie twirling Mom around, and wonders "what she sees in that guy!"  Um -- he's handsome and muscular?  

Leo: "Don't let it bother you.  You're handsome, too" Surly: "Do you think I have a chance with Jules?"   Wait -- that's his mother!  I guess she could be someone's older sister. Actress Sofia Reyes is 26.  

They play Never Have I Ever -- shoplifted, cut my own bangs, etc.  Surly Boy's never:  "Never have I ever been to outer space," whereupon Giggly Girl responds "No one has done that."  People have been going to outer space since 1961.  The first moon landing was in 1969.  Does this all take place in the 1950s?  

They see a hot guy walking nearby.  Leo calls "dibs" but Giggly Girl wants him, too.  They decide that Kayla, a neutral party, should go invite him over, but she's too shy, so Leo does it.  His name is Max (Connor Sherry, top photo).  

Scene 9: Night, around a campfire.  Surly Boy  asks Max to pass the marshmallows, and is surprised when he throws like a linebacker.  But he's not impressed, he's jealous: another guy who gets more action!  

Although they've been eating s'mores for a long time, Max is just getting around to asking the usual questions: "Where are you guys from?" Derby, Connecticut. He's a townie, working at the hotel for the summer.  

"Wow, that must be, like so fun!"  I guess, if you like picking up used towels and sheets.

"Why is it called Ghost Island?" "Because it's dead in the off-season.  And also because of the ghosts."  Har-har.  "Do you want to hear the story of Room 13?  Over the years, everyone who stays there vanishes without a trace."

Scene 10:  Max does the classic Are You Afraid of the Dark opening: "I submit for your approval...".  We fade out to the year 1996, Christmastime, with a teenage boy -- Porter, the front desk clerk -- twirling around the hotel lobby.  The phone rings: it's Room 13.  A voice says "I'm cold!" and then "Let me out!" Nobody is staying in Room 13, but Porter figures that a guest stumbled in by accident, and can't figure out how to unlock the door.

On the way to check it out, he runs into coworker Ricky (Jordan Lister), and asks him out on a date -- to see the new horror movie ScreamMaybe he'll get scared and throw himself into your arms. Ricky agrees. "I'll meet you in the lobby in a few minutes."

Porter goes into the room. The water is running in the bathtub, and a mysterious figure swishes by.  The door slams shut -- he's locked in, forever!

Scene 11: The gang dislikes the story.  There's no climax, no denouement, no hand-from-grave teaser! So Max adds a scene where Porter tries to use the phone, but it's dead.  The handle comes off the door.  The window won't open.  And a ghostly form appears from the mirror and grabs him. Max wouldn't know any of this, but it's necessary for good storytelling.  

Now everyone approves -- except for Surly Boy, of course.  Kayla and Leo tell him about the sounds they heard from the room next door -- is Room 13 hidden behind a linen closet?  Max avers that it is, and offers to take them there.

Scene 12: In the morning, while Giggly Girl and Leo distract Stanley the Front Desk Clerk, Max steals the key to Room 13.  

Inside, it's always 10: 13 pm, during a thunderstorm, with a children's story playing on the radio that can't be turned off.  Max starts to freak out.  They agree that it's time to go, but then the door slams shut, and won't open.  Their cell phones are dead.  The bathtub fills with water, just like in Max's story.  

As they hug and whimper, a mysterious figure pushes out of the mirror.  Max is pulled toward it -- but instead of grabbing him, it screams and lets them all go!  Whew!  I definitely thought they were goners. 

 Spoiler Alert: They rush out into the hallway.  Max breaks from the group, runs out of the hotel, and stops to sit on the curb.  There's something in his pocket: two tickets to Scream.  Suddenly he remembers that he's Porter, the bellhop who vanished in 1996!  He's dead!

This episode is 1 1/2 hours long.  I don't usually do scene-by-scenes for episodes that run as long as movies, so I'll stop here.  

Beefcake: Robbie twirling Mom/Older Sister.  There are some shirtless guys at the resort.  Surly Boy takes his shirt off in the second part.

Heterosexism: The girls are all into boys.  Surly Boy is constantly upset because other guys are hotter, and therefore more likely to get laid.

Gay Characters: Leo, obviously, and maybe Max/.Porter.  It's possible to ask a friend to a movie, but on tv that's usually a trope for a romantic date.  And in the second part, we discover that Ricky was so distraught over his friend's disappearance that he became a paranormal investigator. 

Bella/Jules:  Where does the flashback to the other girl's death end and the present begin?  It's really not clear..  Maybe there is no flashback: the group frolicking on the boat is in the present day. 

Ferris/Jules:  I thought that Surly Boy was upset by Jules' relationship because she was his Mom, dating "too soon."  Turns that she's someone's older sister, and he wants her as a girlfriend.  She's 11 years older than him, and acts like a mother figure, so the whole thing is rather cringy.  Fortunately, there's no indication that Jules is interested in the 15-year old.

My Grade: B-

Aug 3, 2022

"Cautious Hero": A Reluctant Muscleman Spars with Big-Breasted Goddesses and Demons


While sorting through the dozens of new animes on Hulu, looking for gay texts or subtexts, I came across a premise description for Cautious Hero: Seiya "is obsessed with muscle...."  I didn't bother clicking on the rest: any anime featuring a guy obsessed with muscle deserves a look.  Episode 1: "The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious."  I assume that "overpowered" is a mistranslation; they probably meant "overly powerful."

Scene 1: The Unified Divine Realm, where gods and goddesses are in charge of summoning champions to save the various worlds of the multiverse.  Rista, a giggling, airheaded apprentice goddess with enormous breasts, has only saved five worlds, compared to the hundreds of veteran gods.  Yet she is assigned a Level S world, the most difficult!  Obviously someone is trying to sabotage her career; but she is up to the challenge.  Rista tells us all of this while her breasts are bouncing around in our faces.

She sorts through a pile of prospects (all from Japan, of course), evaluating their various skill levels as if they are in a video game.  She comes to Seiya, who is only on Level 1, but his special skill sets are off the charts.  After some training, he'll be perfect!  Besides, he's hot!

Scene 2: Rista summons Seiya (with her breasts still bouncing in our faces) and does the "Do not be afraid.  Doubtless you are overwhelmed by my beauty" spiel.  But he's having none of it: "What kind of freak zaps someone across the infinite realms without their permission?""  Not impressed by her breasts bouncing in his face.  I'm impressed.  Maybe he's not into women.

Shocked, Rista continues: "You are the Chosen One, tasked with saving the world of Gaeabrande from the Demon Lord."

He scoffs: "If you're a goddess, why can't you save the world yourself?"  

", there are rules.  It has to be a mortal hero."

After some wheedling and cajoling, Seiya agrees to take the job, "on one condition."  He takes off his shirt (nice chest).  Rista thinks that he means sex, but he's just doing push-ups.  The condition: "I get to decide when I'm ready.  I need more training."

What kind of hero is this?  Rista looks at his file again, and notices a comment: "Impossibly cautious."  

Opening Titles.  We are introduced to the team: Seiyu, Rista, a little boy, a little girl, a teenage girl with enormous boobs,  a muscular barbarian, and a mostly-naked Red Sonja lady.  Yuck -- there will be three sets of breasts in our faces during the adventure!  But at least Seiyu isn't interested in girls.

Scene 3:
Rista having tea with the teenage girl: Goddess of the Seal Ariadora. She complains that Seiyu keeps stalling: "I need more training."  The Unified Divine Realm exists outside of time, so there's no big hurry, but what champion doesn't want to start saving his world right away?  "And the longer he stalls, the more likely he'll botch the assignment, and my chance of getting promoted"

The theme song is "Tit for Tat."  I know that "tit" here doesn't actually mean "breast," but still, I found it hilarious.

Ariadora suggests a less authoritarian style of mentoring: treat him like a friend, not an inferior mortal.  Go with him on the mission.  "And by the way, have you provided him with the things humans need, like a toilet?  And food?"  

 "Ulp -- I forgot!"  Rista rushes out.

Scene 4:
She bursts into Seiyu's room while he's doing sit-ups, and gets distracted by his six-pack abs.  "Ever hear of knocking?" he snarls. She brought food, but he knows better than to eat the food of the underworld -- or Divine Realm.  

"By the way, getting more muscular won't increase your skill level much.  You need combat training."

Seiyu ignores her.  She zaps up a toilet, shower, bed, and more food.  "Ok, I won't come back into your room until you summon me."

Scene 5:  Days (or the Divine Realm equivalent) pass.  Seiyu never summons Rista.  Finally she gets annoyed, bursts in, and checks his stats.  He's moved up to Level 15, just by working out.  Impossible!  And his special skills are up, too: Fire Magic Level 9, Boost Level 3, Scan Level 5.  

"I won't be ready until all of my special skills are topped off," Seiyu tells her.

"What???? Impossible!!! And completely unnecessary.  You're just stalling!  We're going now!"  

Finally Seiyu consents.  

Scene 6:  They zap into the countryside on the planet Gaeabrande.  The equipment they'll need is in the town of Edoma, a long walk away.  Why couldn't they just zap into town?

Seiyu worries that Rista's "exhibitionist" outfit will offend the conservative townsfolk, but Rista has magicked them into looking like they belong.  Then a little girl comments that Rista looks like a goddess.  "Ok, kids can see through our disguises."

Scene 7: At the weapons shop (muscular leather-clad clerk). Seiyu wants to buy three sets of steel armor.  "What??? That's too expensive!  Why do you need three?"  "The first to wear, the second as a spare, and the third as a back-up spare."  His file said that he was overly cautious; what did you expect?  

But he can't throw that much money around; it will raise suspicion.  Rista chooses for him: a purple hero outfit with metal epaulets.  

At the herb shop.  Same thing: "Give me 50 medicinal herbs and 50 antidote herbs."  "What??? That's much too expensive!  Why do you need so many?"

Scene 8: It's time to save the world.  They'll start slowly, in the next town over, which has just weak monsters.  Seiyu isn't sure, but the little girl concurs: "Even I can walk to the next town safely.  There's nothing around but a few slime monsters."

Scene 9:  Out in the countryside, they encounter a slime monster, a small blob with googly eyes. It looks perfectly docile, but Seiyu still hides behind some rocks.  "If it attacks, just hit it with a club," Rista tells him.  "Any level can do it."  Instead, he panics and uses his Atomic Split Slash -- several times -- exploding the slime monster and creating an enormous crater. "Stop it!" Rista yells.  "You're going to raise suspicion!"

Scene 10: Whoops, they were noticed.  The mostly-naked Red Sonja lady appears and introduces herself: Chaos Machina, one of the Four Heavenly Kings of the Demon Lord (so, like a duke?).   "Wait -- it's too early to meet a Heavenly King" Rista exclaims.  "The rules..."

"The rules don't apply on a Level S World," Chaos Machina tells her.  "The Dark Lord or his minions can attack at any time. Might as well be now, before your powers are fully developed."

"How do we fight someone so powerful?" Rista asks Seiju, but he's already running away!   The end.

Beefcake: Seiyu is shirtless quite often.

Boobs: Way too many.  It's hard to watch a show with those things flapping in your face all the time. 

Gay Characters:
Seiyu doesn't display any heterosexual interest, but he's probably not gay.  I suspect that he's heterosexual but conservative, disapproving of women who parade around half-naked.

Overly Cautious Hero: Is he cautious, or a coward? I found myself disliking him.

Will I Keep Watching: No.  The show is funny, and Seiyu is adequately hot, but the boobs make it unwatchable.

Aug 1, 2022

Paper Girls: Is There Any Beefcake in This Girl-Power "Stranger Things"?

 I ordinarily wouldn't be watching Paper Girls, an Amazon Prime tv series about time-traveling newspaper delivery girls, because the beefcake and (male) buddy-bonding potential are limited, but the trailer showed two of the girls kissing, and in the comic book series by Brian J. Vaughn, they become a couple (in issue #25 out of #30).  So I'll watch the first episode.

Scene 1: In a darkened bedroom, a middle aged lady drinking and being depressed.  Suddenly she hears electric crackling and rumbling, and the door opening.  She frantically calls someone on her landline -- and gets the answering machine! So she yells "What are you doing in my house?" and ventures out into the living room. Thud. Whimper (according to the subtitles).

Scene 2:
Hell Day: The End of the World as We Knew It.  Twelve-year old Erin awakens in her bunk bed in a suburb of Cleveland.  Not Hawkins, Indiana?  Time for her paper route.

Meanwhile, the other girls get ready.  They come from different  backgrounds: Erin (Chinese-American with overprotective mother), Tiffany (black with physician mother), KJ (Jewish), Mac (stealing cigarettes from passed-out mom).  Only two boy characters so far: the unnamed boy who dropped off the newspapers, and Dylan (Charlie Babbo), Mac's surly brother.  He's a tad on the young side, but I'm already feeling beefcake-deprived, and I'll take whatever I can get.

Scene 3: Erin starts her route.  Hell Day is the day after Halloween, and there are Bush-Quayle signs up, so November 1, 1988.  A man jumps out of his house with a baseball bat and racial slurs, accusing her of stealing his paper, but Tiffany comes to the rescue.  Then Mac rushes up to announce that some bullies are chasing another paper girl; they must rescue her. Why are they delivering to the same neighborhood?

Scene 4:
The bullies, three boys in Halloween costumes, have cornered KJ in a well-lit underground tunnel.  Three boys, three searches for beefcake photos.  This is Carter Shimp, with I assume his boyfriend.  The girls fight them off with sparklers and run.  

Scene 5: They all introduce each other and discuss why the paper is hiring girls instead of boys (they work cheaper).  KC turns out to be rich, with a grandpa who owns most of the town, so Mac hates her.  

They decide to deliver papers as a team, and communicate with walkie-talkies, so they can avoid the roving packs of bullies.  Won't that take four times as long?

Scene 6: Suddenly the bullies from before grab Erin, push her down, and steal her walkie-talkie.  They decide to get revenge, and rush to the gang's hideout, the basement of an unfinished house.  But the gang isn't there; instead, they attack two strangers!  

Scene 7: They run back upstairs and out of the house.  The sky is pink, with dark clouds, illuminating everything with a weird pink light.  They decide to take refuge at Mac's house.  Strange: her brother and father aren't there.  It's only 5:00 am.  Where could they be?  Maybe everyone was evacuated due to a nuclear attack, which would also explain the pink sky.  

The power is out, and the landline is dead.  Mac turns on her walkie-talkie, and hears a man speaking Russian!  Are you sure this isn't Hawkins, Indiana?  

Erin has to get home: her Mom doesn't speak English, and won't understand emergency instructions.  But the other girls won't let her leave,  until they figure out what's going on outside.  

Scene 8: The girls sitting on the kitchen floor (safer) and swapping stories of the crazy things they've seen on their paper routes.  Like the guy who opened the door naked -- it wasn't sexual, he was sleepwalking.

High-pitched sounds, bright lights through the window, a rumbling truck.  It's the Soviets!  Mac runs to get her brother's gun.  "Don't worry, it's not loaded," she says -- as it goes off.  And hits Erin. She drops to the floor, dead.  Wait -- there are four time-traveling girls, so she has to survive, right?

Scene 9: Erin awakens in the car. Tiffany is driving them through the pink light to the hospital.  To keep her conscious, they ask her to sing the theme song to the tv show Growing Pains (also the title of the episode).  They're stopped by two guys wearing face masks, who shoot some classic gray aliens before pulling them from the car.

Scene 10:
The girls and the two guys, Naldo (William Bennett) and Heck 2 (Daniel Rashid, left, presumably with boyfriend and parents)  pull the unconscious Erin into a normally-lit wooded area.  

They explain, sort of: "You're a long way from home.  You've traveled -- and they're coming.  Just help us put her into the capsule.  We have to go!"

Too late -- they're here!  Phaser fight -- run!  They all scatter, even Erin.  No way could she run after being shot and losing all that blood.  She collapses, and a swarm of pink bees flies into her wound and heals her. 

The guys are both shot -- er, phased -- but before he dies, Naldo gives Tiffany a small box, a passage to the "underground."  

The girls run fast through the woods.  They stop to catch their breath and wonder what the heck is going on.  Suddenly Marcus, who wears a futuristic Jetson suit, points a bazooka at them.  "Are you with the Underground?" he demands.  They clobber him with a hockey stick and hide as other Jetson-suits sniff around.  No device that tells you the number of sentient life forms within a 100 meter radius? Star Trek had those.

Scene 11:  The girls run to Erin's house, the closest.  But Erin's Mom isn't there.  Instead, a middle aged lady demands: "What are you doing in my house?"  Tiffany asks "Erin, are you sure this is the right house?", and the lady demands "How do you know my name?"  

You guessed it: she's the middle-aged Erin (who apparently doesn't remember this happening before).  And the calendar on the refrigerator says 2019!  They've zapped forward 31 years!  The end.

Beefcake: None. 

Heterosexism: None.  None of the girls mention boys, except as antagonists. 

Gay Characters: No indication that KC or Mac are gay.  Yet.

Time Travel: Just the briefest of setups.  In the comic book series, they zap all over the timeline, but I think here they'll be stuck in 2019, trying to find a way back home without learning anything that will change the past (I already know that one of them will die of cancer).

Will I Keep Watching: We've had stories about dueling time travel organizations for years, most recently in The Umbrella Academy, but I'm still interested in seeing what happens next.  Maybe I'll watch until the death-bed scene.

"Good Trouble": How Much of the Trouble is Gay in this "Fosters" Spin-Off?


Good Trouble, on Hulu, is about eight friends who: "juggle career, sex, love, and friendship, while fighting for social justice and queer rights."   Except Hulu added the "social justice and queer rights" part; the promo just says it's about two sisters, Callie and Mariana, "embarking on the next stage of their life in Los Angeles."  So is it Friends with the Hollywood Sign, or Friends with LGBTQAIA characters?

Curious to see just how queer this series is, I investigated the Friends on wikipedia and the fan website.  I was unable to find any beefcake photos of the male cast members, but this is a spin-off of The Fosters, a teen-angst soap opera about a lesbian couple who adopt and foster a lot of kids, so I'm substituting some of the hunkier ones.

First up, of course, is Jake T. Austin, the stand-out hunk of the series, who played brother Jesus for several seasons.  Next, Noah Centineo, who played brother Jesus in later seasons, and no doubt will be the one who visits.  

Third: Danny Nucci, the ex-husband of one of the mothers, who had lots of soap opera plotlines of his own.  He is not the father of either of the two sisters, so he might not be visiting.

Fourth: Louis Hunter, who played Mariana's "unstable boyfriend": he set a warehouse on fire, stole his father's gun, held Marianna hostage, and so on.  Definitely not visiting, but nice physique.

On to the Friends in Good Trouble:

1. Callie, "a recent graduate of UCSD Law School." She's clerking for a conservative judge, fighting for representation, and dating Jamie (a boy).

2. Mariana, "a software engineer."  She dates Raj Patel and then Evan Speck.  These people are vastly more elite than the struggling actor, masseuse, waitress, and caterer of the 1990s Friends.

3. Gael an aspiring artist, is bisexual.  He has an ex-boyfriend (#8, below), but only dates women during the series, including Callie and "aspiring actress" Isabel.

4. Malika, a "bartender and political activist."  But not of the queer rights sort.  She's straight, dating Isaac. 

5. Alice, the building manager, a lesbian who dates several women during the course of the series.  

6. Dennis (Josh Pence), an "aspiring musician" with "a shocking truth about his past."  The truth isn't about LGBTQ identities: he's straight, with an ex-wife, Jennifer, and a girlfriend, "body positive influencer" Davia.

7. Joaquin, who shows up in Season 4, looking for his missing sister.  He gets a crush on Mariana.

8.  The only gay Friend I could find is Bryan, Gael's ex boyfriend, recurring in Season 1. "Openly gay," according to the fan wiki.  "Openly" was previously used to guard yourself against defamation charges if the person was closeted.  Is it really necessary in 2022?  

9. There's also a closeted gay guy in Season 4, Tommy Sung, one of the law firm's clients, a high schooler on trial for murdering his best friend, and as it comes out, his boyfriend.  Callie's problem is whether to out him at the trial; if even one juror is homophobic, he'll be found guilty regardless of the evidence.

More representation than on the 1990s Friends, which had only guest appearances from Ross's lesbian ex-wife and Chandler's drag queen dad.  But still, I'd like to see some male same-sex relationships, where the partner isn't now dating women.  Or dead.

Movies in 1982-83: Dustin Hoffman in Drag, Rob Lowe in Drag, Two Mighty-Thewed Barbarians, a Gay Murderer, and Tom Cruise


1982-83 was my first year in grad school at Indiana University.  Moving from a college with 2,000 students to a R1 Research University with 40,000, I went crazy.  Who cared that I was supposed to be working toward a degree in English?  Let's sign up for Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Russian Folklore, and East Asian Anthropology.  

I was finally old enough to go to bars, so I was at Bullwinkle's in downtown Bloomington two or three times a week, hooking up in earnest ( I was heavily closeted at Eigenmann Hall, so I littered my room with Playboy and Hustler magazines and pretended that last-night's hookup was with a girl).  When you have a choice of going to a movie or hooking up, which takes precedence?  Still, there were two theaters in walking distance,so I managed to go 13 times.  In retrospect, most of the movies were dreadful.

The Beastmaster.  Wouldn't you?  Conan knockoff Mark Singer has a whole coterie of helpers, including a post-Good Times John Amos, a little boy, the Girl, and two ferrets who are good at biting through ropes.

August: Querelle: "Each man kills the thing he loves."  An adaption of the novel by Jean Genet, promoting the myth that being gay (actually bisexual) disrupts your morality so severely that you are compelled to become a thief and a murderer, and betray everyone who loves you.  But it was a real gay-themed movie with real gay-themed sex scenes, and Brad Davis (top photo) was cute. I was too closeted to see it in Bloomington, so I drove into Indianapolis.

September: Endangered Species. Indiana University was similar to Augustana College in one way: ever to mention even a passing interested in science fiction or fantasy marked you as an infantile, boorish Philistine.  So I had to sneak around to see both gay-themed and science fiction-themed movies.  This one wasn't worth it: Robert Ulrich of Vegas and The Girl investigate cattle mutilations.

October: Android.  This one wasn't, either.  Klaus Kinski and The Girl fight androids in deep space.  I didn't go to another science fiction/fantasy movie until I was back in Rock Island for the summer.

November: Creepshow.  A horror anthology meant to reflect the experience of reading those old EC horror comics, like Tales from the Crypt.  Five stories, mostly about about transgressors who get an ironic comeuppance.  The only one I remember stars Adrienne Barbeau as the abusive wife of milksop college professor Hal Holbrook.

December: The Year of Living Dangerously.  "You're in graduate school.  It's time to leave juvenile science fiction trash behind, and go to serious, artsy movies."  Mel Gibson and The Girl live through the Indonesian Revolution of 1965 and, like, think deep thoughts and stuff.  Notable for Linda Hunt playing Chinese-Australian photographer and voyeur Billy Kwan.  A woman playing a man was shocking at the time.

December: Tootsie: although men playing women was not a problem.  Tired of all of the discrimination men face in Hollywood, Dustin Hoffman becomes Dorothy, aka Tootsie, gets a cushy soap opera job, and teaches the women how to fight back against sexual harassment.  A guy falls in love with him (as Tootsie), and he falls in love with the Girl, so of course he has to come out as a man. The Girl is ok with lesbians, but the guy..."The only reason you're alive is that I never kissed you."  Intense homophobia presented as matter-of-fact.

January: None

February: None.

Spring Break.  The poster shows guys climbing a "mountain" that turns out to be a girl in a bikini.  The plot is about a guy falling in love with The Girl and saving his beloved spring break motel from his evil politician Dad.  So why did I go?  

I don't remember.  Maybe I thought there would be some beefcake amid the wet t-shirt and mud-wrestling contests.

April: Liquid Sky: a weird, artsy, surreal, postmodern movie about drugs, murder, reality mediated through film, and maybe aliens.  

April: Loosin' It: four guys in the 1960s including then-unknown Tom Cruise, trying to have sex with girls, including then-unknown Shelly Long .  It tries to key into the 1950s nostalgia craze, the "Smokey and the Bandits" Southern sheriff craze, and the teen sex comedy craze, all at the same time.  Again, I don't remember why I saw it: maybe looking for beefcake?  

May: Return of the Jedi.  The one with the teddy bears.  And Darth Vader's death.

June: Wargames. Matthew Broderick and The Girl think that they're playing one of those newfangled video games, but actually they're starting a nuclear war.  I saw this because I could go to science fiction movies again, and because of Matthew Broderick, the beefcake bonanza of the 1980s.

June: Twilight Zone: The Movie. An anthology remaking episodes of the classic ironic-horror series, which I had not yet seen. An anti-Semitic guy zaps into the Holocaust; elderly people get zapped into kids; a boy who can zap anything into anything has a bad temper; a man sees a gremlin on the wing of his airplane. No gay content.

: Class: College boy Andrew McCarthy falls in love with roommate Rob Lowe, and accidentally sleeps with his mother. Strong gay subtext.  For an added bonus, in the first scene, Andrew catches Rob wearing ladies' underwear, and assumes that he' know, before he explains that it's a prank.

July: Krull: another Conan the Barbarian ripoff, featuring another of Robert E. Howard's characters (he did write other things, you know).  Except this Conan, Ken Marshall, is not exactly mighty-thewed, and doesn't bare his chest (there are beefcake photos online, but after the first 6 warned that I couldn't "download them safely," I gave up.)

Jul 31, 2022

New Index: Movies by Year


I had no idea that I had completed so many "movies by year" articles: 16 so far, ranging from 1978, when I went to my first movies, to 2001, when DVDs took over.  There's a new index, "Movies by Year," to keep track of them.

Jul 30, 2022

Uncoupled: Neil Patrick Harris as a Depressed, Uncoupled Gay Man with Depressing Friends

Hookups are easy for gay men over 40, or over 50, or over 60: the twinks line up to get you into bed.  But relationships are a different story: everyone your age is partnered or happily aromantic, and the twinks don't want to partner with someone who talks about  how all telephones used to be landlines.  Or, so I've heard; I had no trouble whatever finding dates in my 40s and 50s.

That disconnect with my lived reality is one of the reasons that I disliked the Netflix series Uncoupled: I kept saying "It's not like that at all."

Another reason:  I can't stand Neil Patrick Harris (unless he's naked or in underwear).  His years as the absurdly hetero-horny Barney on How I Met Your Mother struck me as a betrayal; if the network won't allow you to play a gay character, at least play a straight guy who doesn't spend every waking moment thinking of boobs.  Harris also played "himself" as a horny straight guy in some of the Harold and Kumar movies, explaining that he just pretends to be gay to get more ladies. More betrayal

A third reason:  In Uncoupled, Michael is cisgender, masculine-presenting, and super-affluent, with a snazzy job selling high-end real estate, living in a fabulous apartment in Manhattan and going on fabulous cruises and ski-weekends. Sort of like Will from Will and Grace squared.  There is no homophobia anywhere, not even in a discussion of "the old days."   This denies the lived reality of most LGBTQ people, especially the feminine-presenting and people of color, who struggle from paycheck to paycheck, and face homophobic harassment and even violence every day.   

But I watched the first and last episode, and fast-forwarded in between.

The Setup: 
Michael's got a stereotyped sassy female bff and two retro-stereotype hand-on-hip "let's go, girls" gay friends, one of whom is dating a Cute Young Thing half his age (Gonzalo Aburto, top photo).  

Plus Michael has hot boyfriend, Colin (Tuc Watkins, who has a dozen beefcake photos online, but only this one can be "downloaded safely").

 Although they've been together for 17 years and New York has had same-sex marriage for 10 years, Michael and Tuc are not married; it seems odd, but maybe this is a 1990s project revamped for the 2020s.  

In the first episode, Michael and the bffs plan a fabulous surprise party for Colin's 50th birthday, attended by about 1000 Manhattan A-gays (and a lot of straight couples).  Whoops, Colin dumps him -- at the party, just before Michael has to make a celebratory speech!

What to do now?  The trailer promises wacky shenanigans, as Michael steps back into the dating pool in his mid-40s, after 17 years of monogamy.  His first Grindr hookup, with someone who lied on his profile (don't they all?).   A twink who turns out to be the son of a guy Michael dated in college.  "Someone from your generation" who turns out to be a 90-year old World War II veteran. These aren't plotlines from the show; I thought of them just now. If you want to hire me as a writer for Season 2, I can draw on some of the "dates from hell" on Tales of West Hollywood.

Handling the Breakup: Uncoupled actually contains no wacky dates.  Not much dating at all.  Instead Michael goes through the stages of grief, feeling resentment, betrayal, anger, self-pity, hopelessness, and resignation. He agonizes over what to do about their shared friends and the social occasions where they're bound to run into each other.  "And what if Colin finds someone new before I do?  I'll be humiliated forever!" (so, stay friends with him.  Maybe he'll invite you to "share" his new boyfriend).   

Finally, like gay men in a hundred movies and tv series before him, Michael finds salvation with a woman.  He doesn't turn straight, she just helps him psychologically as a fellow dump-ee, but thematically it's the same thing. Ugh.

Other soap opera antics
: There's a dispute about what to do with the apartment that Michael and Colin own together (a big deal -- it must be worth $2 million)/

Sassy BFF's son Kai (Jasai Chase Owens, left) tracks down his biological father.

Retro Stereotype #1 gets dumped when he makes a hookup date with a random guy right in front of his twink boyfriend, and has an existential crisis.

Retro Stereotype #2 has breast cancer, and an existential crisis (men get it, too, although his friends decide to cheer him up with transphobic jokes).

Spoiler alert:  The series (or season) ends with everyone going home after the lavish wedding of the Two Jonathans.  Retro Stereotypes #1 and #2 sit in the back of their limo, being depressed for different reasons.  Sassy BFF goes into her house, looks shocked, and yells "Oh, my God!"  I'm guessing someone is dead; primer for a second season?  

Finally, having resigned himself to being single/miserable forever, the continually depressed Michael returns to his apartment, only to find Colin there: "I think I made a mistake."  So they broke up just so they could get back together again.  Way to play the cliche!

My Grade: D

Jul 29, 2022

"Ultra Violet and Black Scorpion": Retro Teencom Selling Gay-as-Problem, Single-as-Miserable Myths


Ten years ago, Disney Channel teencoms were mostly about girls who wanted to become pop stars.  Now they're usually superheroes.  Next up: Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion: a Hispanic girl gets super powers from a magical luchador mask.  I watched Episode #7, which reputedly has a gay character.

Scene 1: A middle aged thug on a motorcycle steals a woman's purse.  Ultra Violet, who has violet hair and a violent luchadora mask, turns on her super-speed and retrieves the purse.  Fellow luchador superhero Black Scorpion (JR Villareal), who wears a scorpion mask and a muscle t-shirt,  apprehends the bad guy.

Angelic music plays as Black Scorpion recognizes the theft victim!  He sees her engagement ring, gets all flustered, drops his deep superhero voice, and lets the bad guy get away!  

Ultra Violet wants to know what's wrong.  "Nothing!" he sputters.  "I don't even know Lily."  He zaps away.

Scene 2:
 Family breakfast with Violet, Mom, Dad (Juan Alfonso), and Brother Santiago (Brandon Rossel, left).  

The top photo is a different Juan Alfonso, unless he's lost a lot of hair and gained a few pounds. 

Violet asks about Lily: she was Uncle Cruz/Black Scorpion's girlfriend, but he wasn't out as a superhero to her, and she couldn't deal with him constantly lying about his activities, so she dumped him.  

"That's why he's always so cranky," Violet deduces.  "He's single.  If we get him a new girlfriend, he'll be easier to live with!"

Brother Santiago suggests that maybe he likes being single, but the rest of the family shoots him down: "No, impossible!  To be single is constant misery, whereas people in relationships are in constant ecstasy."  That's so breathtakingly stupid, I can't even think of a response.  Mom and Dad demonstrate by smooching several times, causing the kids (and me) to become nauseous.

Scene 3: At school, Violet and bff Maya discuss finding Uncle Cruz a girlfriend/ constant ecstasy.  

Suddenly angelic music plays as a dreamy boy named Alex smiles at them.  "Did you see that?" BFF Maya exclaims.  "Alex totally has a crush on you.  You should go over and start a convo."  Violet dismisses her: "No, that's impossible."  Wait -- Violet and Maya are single.  Why aren't they living in constant misery?  Maybe they're too young -- the misery kicks in at age 30?

Scene 3: In class, the girls notice that Coach Park is female, single/miserable, extremely cranky, and a gym rat. Perfect for Uncle Cruz.  But how to get them together?  They ignore the possibility that she could be gay.

Scene 4: Home.  Mom mentions that she needs to find a substitute gym teacher. Hey, why not hire Uncle Cruz?  Then he'll be working with Coach Park all the time.  Cruz doesn't want to do it -- being a superhero luchador keeps him busy -- but Mom guilt-trips him into agreeing.  

Scene 5: In the school gym, Uncle Cruz is angrily coaching volleyball, and Coach Park is angrily inflating soccer balls.  "I can't stand to see him spend another moment as single/miserable," Violet exclaims.  "Let's introduce them."  But Uncle Cruz refuses to be introduced: "I hate meeting new people."

Scene 6: After class, Uncle Cruz is in the gym, eating a pizza pocket.  Maya thinks he looks ok, but Violet insists that he's miserable.  In other news, Maya has arranged for them to eat lunch at the table next to Alex from Scene 2, so it will be easier for Violet to move toward getting a boyfriend/constant ecstasy.

But Violet wants to continue matchmaking.  Turning into Ultra Violet, she moves around the "wet floor" signs to channel Coach Park into the gym, where Uncle Cruz is now playing basketball by himself.  Whoops, the basketball crashes into Coach Park's lunch! Uncle Cruz offers to buy her a new one, but she refuses and storms out.

Guidance Counselor Catalina saw them whole thing, and thinks it's hilarious: "Coach Park is so nasty, she deserved it."  They flirt, gaze into each other's eyes, eat empanadas.  Darn, I thought Cruz was going to end up happily single, to dispute the message that everyone must have a romantic partner.

Mom, who works at the school, spies on them.  She is delighted. Finally her brother Cruz will get a girlfriend/wife/constant ectasy!

Scene 7:
Home.  Violet isn't aware that Uncle Cruz is into Guidance Counselor Catalina, so she continues to strategize ways to push him and Coach Park together. while Brother Santiago tries to ignore her.  

Left: Jaylen Moore, who appears in two episodes as the villain Duplitio.  I thought this review was a little weak on beefcake.

Scene 8:  Violet's next plan: Give Coach Park flowers, and pretend they're from Uncle Cruz.  Meanwhile, Maya is happy because Alex from Scene 2 is sending her funny memes.  Wait -- I thought Maya wanted Alex for Violet.  Sounds like she now wants him for herself.

Mom runs into Uncle Cruz in the faculty lounge, and teases, giggles, and nearly swoons over his newfound girlfriend/ecstasy.  I heard enough of that growing up; every time I talked to a girl or mentioned a girl, my parents would high-five each other and congratulate me for finally understanding the Meaning of Life. 

Speak of the devil: Guidance Counselor Catalina comes in.  She flirts with Uncle Cruz; Mom starts planninng the seating arrangement for the wedding reception.

Then Coach Park comes in, outraged at Uncle Cruz's disgusting, insulting act, sending her flowers? Cruz insists that he didn't do it, but Guidance Counselor Catalina thinks that he's romancing both of them and rushes out.  So, she thinks they have a monogamous relationship after one flirtation?  She's as bad as Mom, who is already researching preschools for their kids.

Scene 9: 
 Chasing Guidance Counselor Catalina into the hallway to explain, Uncle Cruz runs into Violet, who thinks that her matchmaking scheme worked.  He blows up at her: "Stop meddling in my life!" 

"But I just wanted you to stop being single/miserable and get a girlfriend/constant ecstasy!"  "Well, you succeeded at wrecking my one chance!"  Right, because he'll never meet another single heterosexual woman.  There are only two in the world.

Scene 10: In her room, Violet muses: "I'm the worst matchmaker ever. Now, because of me, Uncle Cruz will not get either of two single heterosexual women left in the world, and be single/miserable forever!"   

Maya counters: "What about you?  You're single and miserable, too.  Don't you want endless ecstasy?  I'm telling you, date Alex!  He's cute and smart and funny."

Violet: "It sounds like you have a crush on Alex.  That's ok, you take him."  

Maya agrees, but no weird matchmaking schemes, please: she'll just tell Alex that she likes him. 

Scene 11:  Uncle Cruz/Black Scorpion on patrol.  Ultra Violet zaps in, wanting to talk about him being single/miserable, but he doesn't want to.  He zaps home; Violet follows.  "What did I do wrong?" Violet whines.  "I just wanted to get you a date with Coach Park, so you wouldn't be single/miserable"  "But I'm not interested in Coach Park!"  Violet wonders why the person matters; won't any girl provide you with the constant ecstasy?  

He admits that he likes Guidance Counselor Catalina, but please don't try any weird matchmaking schemes.  

Scene 12: Violet doesn't listen.  The next morning she shows up at Catalina's office to do some before-class matchmaking.

Scene 13: In gym class, Violet asks if BFF Maya talked to Alex.  She did, and he definitely has boyfriend potential.  But not for her, because he's gay.  You have time.  Single/miserable won't kick in for at least a decade.  Meanwhile, Catalina asks Uncle Cruz out on a date.  The end.  Ugh.

Everyone Must Be Partnered:  The message that being single=misery and being partnered=constant ecstasy is odious and destructive, leading the unpartnered to depression, low self esteem, and panicked attempts to find someone, no matter what, and the partnered to think that there must be something wrong with their relationship when they're not in constant ecstasy. Guess what: both partnered and single people are happy sometimes and sad sometimes.  

The corollary, of course, is that everyone MUST have a partner.  But aromantic and asexual people exist, some people lose their partners, and some people can't find anyone that they want to partner with, yet manage to live happy, fulfilled lives.  No one disputes the myth except for Santiago, and he is immediately shot down.

Gay Characters;  Alex appears in one shot, has no lines, and exists only as an obstacle for Maya.  Totally retro. They had the same plot on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1972: "I'm not going to be dating your brother because...he's gay."

My Grade: F.

Jul 28, 2022

Going to Movies in 1981-82; Two Gay Kisses, One Homophobic Slur, A Fake Drag Queen, Tarzan, Conan, and Dolly Parton

1981-82, my senior year at Augustana College!  Time to decide what to do with a double major in English and Modern Languages.  My parents: go to work in the factory!  The Career Counseling Center: find a job in publishing!  My professors: no, you're smart, you should go to grad school!  

I applied for jobs at publishing companies, and got an interview at Hallmark Cards (we used to give or mail cards to commemorate special days).  And I applied to grad school:  English at Notre Dame and Indiana, Spanish at Tulane, and Linguistics and Near Eastern Languages at Chicago.  They all admitted me, but only Indiana University gave me a scholarship, so it was off to Bloomington.  

With all that activity, plus my job at the Student Union Snack Bar, my internship at a military-manual publishing company, Spanish Club, German Club, Writers' Club, the gym, an occasional class, and a very occasional hookup, you'd think that my movie-going would suffer.  But actually it was a banner year: 14 movies in theaters, many with gay characters and themes.

 Tarzan, the Ape Man: Heavily promoted due to marble-statue Miles O'Keeffe, who doesn't have any lines.  He just glowers, smoulders, flexes, and has sex with Bo Derek. 

August: An American Werewolf in London. College students Griffin Dunne and David Naughton (sigh) are attacked by a werewolf on the Scottish moors.  Griffin dies -- but returns in increasingly decayed states.  David survives -- for awhile, anyway, to meet the Girl of His Dreams and give us some glimpses of his butt and penis.  In 1981, we considered his infamous homophobic slur,  "Prince Charles is a faggot!", a triumph.  LGBT people were mentioned in a big screen!

September: None.

October: Shock Treatment, reputedly the "sequel" to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but with none of the same characters, no gay references, and a supremely heterosexist plotline.  Still, I loved the (accidental) evocation of life as tv .  And the songs, especially the beefcake potential of Janet's "Looking for Trade."   I saw it five times (this was before you could buy movies on VHS or DVD to keep, so once it left the theater, it was gone for good).

November: Ragtime.  I read the original novel because everyone in the English Department told me that science fiction and fantasy were trash; I had to read "serious literature," by which they meant Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, John Cheever, John Updike,  and E. L. Doctorow.  No gay characters in this evocation of the social problems of the early 20th century.

December: Ghost Story. Elderly New England Ivy-Leaguers played by Hollywood legends like Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Fred Astaire, and their sons, are haunted by the ghost of a young women they killed 50 years before. Ponderous, incoherent storytelling, but the homophobia of the original novel is gone, and there is a lot of budy bonding.   

January: None

Making Love.  In Rock Island, the only promotion we received was this poster of the three stars naked, implying that Kate Jackson is cheating on her husband (Michael Ontkean) with Harry Hamlin.  My ex-boyfriend Fred called to tell me that it was really about Ontkean coming out; after some hand-wringing, sobbing, and Gay 101 lectures, Kate is ok with it.  Being highly closeted, I drove to a theater in Iowa City, 45 miles away, so no one would recognize me. 

March: Fitzcarraldo: Klaus Kinski builds an opera house in Iquitos, in the Peruvian Amazon, and has sex with his girlfriend.

March: Deathtrap, a murder mystery, because it starred muscular Superman Christopher Reeve.  I didn't know the plot twist: Christopher and Michael Caine's character are boyfriends!  When they kissed, the entire audience, including me, gasped in astonishment, and one guy yelled "They're fags?  What the f____!"  

Victor/Victoria: I went in knowing that this one was about "a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman" in 1930s Paris, with a positively portrayed gay mentor (Robert Preston) who fields the standard Gay 101 questions.  Although he and Alex Karras are shown in bed in the most un-romantic way possible, they are shown in bed. Gay men have sex -- a startling revelation in the days of frilly little lacy things.   

May: Conan the Barbarian.  Sword-and-Sorcery was everywhere in the early 1980s: He-Man ruled Saturday mornings, Dungeons and Dragons was causing a conservative panic, and the Robert E. Howard Conan stories, originally published in the 1930s, were being revisited in both Ballantine paperbacks and Marvel comics.  All we needed was a flexing Schwarzenegger (top photo) to bring the mighty-thewed  hero to the big screen.

The Chosen, because among the "serious literature" I read to rid myself of the science fiction/fantasy habit was Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev, about a boy torn between his artistic talent and his conservative Jewish heritage.  I could relate.  Here Orthodox Reuven (somebody I've never heard of, buried far down the cast list) and Hasidic David (Robby Benson, sigh!) have a buddy-bonding romance so obvious that it brought tears to my eyes.  

Poltergeist:  suburban nuclear family harassed by evil ghosts: "They're he---ere."  Notable for Zelda Rubenstein, who would star in safe-sex ads in gay communities, as a Southern-fried psychic.

June: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  I heard that "Chekov is tortured," so I imagined a BDSM scene, with  shirtless Walter Koenig tied up and struggling like Bomba the Jungle Boy.  Hot!  The torture actually involved an ear-worm.   

July: The Best Little Whorehouse in TexasDolly Parton as a sassy brothel owner.  No gay content, but you do get to see the entire Texas Aggie football team naked.

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