Dec 31, 2022

"The Glory": Bullied Girl Gets Revenge in Korea


As a victim of some rather extensive "fag! sissy! girl!" bullying in grade school and junior high, I can attest that the after-effects last for a lifetime.  I cringe when I hear someone laughing, even a stranger on the other side of a crowded room.  No one walking behind me can catch up; I'll walk faster, or break into a run if I have to. And I will not sit down until only a couple of seats are left. So I was curious about the oddly-titled Korean drama The Glory, about a woman who dedicates her life to getting revenge on her high school bullies.  I don't even care if there is any gay content.

Scene 1: 2022.  Driving in the dark, a woman wonders "Why can't I live a normal life?"  She passes downtown skyscrapers, all dark and deserted (interesting  In America offices are brightly lit to discourage burglars). Finally she arrives at the Eden Apartments, where she eats a sushi roll and waits. 

At dawn an elderly lady comes out, welcomes her to the apartment complex, and gives her a flower -- the Devil's Trumpet, because you can only smell it at night.  She begins smashing some pots, which causes the woman  to relive a bullying incident and shatter like glass on the sidewalk.

Scene 2: While the woman staples up some photos, her former classmate,  Weathercaster Yeon-jin, comes in and wants to know what she's doing: "That's Jae-jun, Sa-ra, everyone.  But who are you?"  If she doesn't know, what is she doing there?  This enrages the woman: "Don't you know me?"  She attacks with the staple gun. "I'm going to kill you, but first let me tell you my story."  Yeon-jin laughs: "You couldn't kill me, you worthless inferior!"

Scene 3
: 2004. The police commissioner is yelling at the teenage Yeon-Jin for bullying her classmate.  

Out in the main office, the  woman's teacher/guardian is yelling at her for calling the police over "a prank." Another boy claims that he needs a guardian because his parents are golfing abroad, so Teacher takes him, too.  

At home, Yeon-Jin's Mom is yelling at her for getting in trouble over the bullying. "I'm very disappointed in you!  You couldn't even handle a worthless inferior -- how can you compete with your equals?"  She attacks.  "Besides, the shaman said not to associate with people with o-names."

Scene 4: Still 2004.  A shamanic ceremony.  Mom is overcome with emotion, but teenage Yeon-Jin, bored, is playing a game on her phone. 

Cut to three girls and a boy, or maybe two boys and two girls,  dragging the woman -- finally named, Dong-eun -- into the high school gym.  Bully Yeon-jin is delighted.  She pretends to apologize for bullying Dong-eun earlier, and then burns her with a curling iron.  Dong-eun screams and cries, but the bullies continue. "Nobody will come to help a worthless inferior.  The gym teacher even gave us the key, so we could put you in your place."  (Actually, one of the bully girls stole the key while making out with him.)

"Why are you doing this?" Dong-eun asks.

"God, I'm so sick of that question?  Why do worthless inferiors always ask that?  Isn't it obvious?  Because you're worthless.  Everyone hates you -- us, the teachers, the cops, your parents."  They laugh and burn her some more, and the boy starts to rape her while a second boy -- not part of their group? -- nonchalantly plays basketball. Wow, I never got any bullying this severe.  They called me names, laughed, put things on my back and down my pants, shoved me into traffic, and once burnt me with a cigarette, but that was probably an accident -- the girl was trying to kiss me, to "cure" me of being "a fag." 

Scene 5:
Dong-eun in the nurse's office, asking for some hydrogen peroxide anaesthetic.  The nurse wants to know who burned her.  At that moment Bully Yeon-jin appears: "I did.  Why do you ask?" 

The nurse backs off. "Just curious."  

Left: Lee Do-hyun, who plays a character that hasn't been introduced yet, I assume.

Scene 6: In 2022, the adult Dong-eun accosts Bully Yeon-jin's preteen daughter: "I think about your Mom every day.  There's a type of hatred that's similar to longing."  Sounds rather homoerotic.

Cut to 2004: the Teenage Dong-eun goes home to her run-down, graffiti-covered residential hotel.  Not a safe place: the bullies are in her room, drinking, trashing things, and stealing her money.  They force her to dance while they laugh and call her names. After they leave, she tries to jump off a ledge, but she's too depressed. 

Scene 7: The bullies skiing.  Bully Yeon-jin announces that Dong-eun dropped out of school.  They all cheer.  "But...she told the vice principal that she's dropping out because of us!  He's angry!"  They are shocked.  "I thought the vice principal would be happy?  Doesn't he hate her as much as we do?"  

Apparently not.  Bully Boy Jae-jin promises to take care of it: he calls Dong-eun and threatens to kill her unless she tells the principal that she was lying.  

Scene 8:  The vice-principal berating Don-eun's teacher for letting her name the bullies.  "This could affect your performance review." Teacher, in turn, berates Don-eun: "You're overreacting!  Friends hit each other sometimes -- it's not a big deal!"  He slaps her about a dozen times, yelling, while the other teachers try to restrain him: "Stop!  You'll hurt your hand!"  

Scene 9: New World Hair Salon, Don-eun's Mom is being pawed by a male customer when she's called away: Bully Yeon-jin's parents are offering a cash settlement of several million won (about $5000), if she signs a document attesting that Don-eun is mentally unstable, and provoked her daughter.  Wait-- I thought nobody cared. She takes the money and scrams, abandoning Don-eun, who is now homeless.

Scene 10: Kimbap Paradise, a sushi take-out place, through season after season as Dom-eun makes sushi-roles.  One night she's in a lot of pain due to her scars and menstrual cramps, and the pharmacy doesn't open for eight hours, so she decides to jump into the river: the pain will stop, after all.  But she just cries instead.

Scene 11:  Back in 2004, the bullies are berating and burning a new girl in the gym, when Dong-eun appears.  "I can't believe the stupid idiot came here willingly, but let's berate and burn her!"  Instead, she points out their career goals: Sa-ra wants to paint, Hye-jeong to be a stewardess, Boy Bully Jae-jin (Park Sung-hoo, second photo) to own a golf course, Boy Bully Myeung-o (Kim Gun-woo, top photo) to be rich, and Yeon-ju to marry a hot guy and have kids. 

"So, what's your pathetic dream, stupid bitch?" Yeon-ju asks.  Dong-eun replies: "You.  My dream is you."   Still sounds homoerotic. They all laugh derisively.

Scene 12: Summer of 2006, two years later. Dong-eun is working at a textile factory and studying English. The boss berates her for not working hard enough. She gets her GED, takes the SAT, and is admitted to college.  Before leaving the factory, she meets sprightly, friendly 20-year old Seong-hi -- a hot girl!  This lady is definitely a lesbian!  

"You're so lucky! In college you can meet new people, get a boyfriend..."  "No!"  Definitely a lesbian.

Scene 13: Freshman year at the Euicheon University of Education. Dong-eun is still ruminating over Yeon-ju and the other bullies.  She tries to devise a revenge plan -- but what could get Yeon-ju, who thinks of her as less than nothing, to be afraid?  Cut to the present, with Dong-eun accosting the adult Yeon-ju's daughter.  Uh-oh. I was feeling sympathetic to Dong-eun, but not anymore.  The kid didn't do anything!

Cut to Yeon-ju doing her weathercast, and Dong-eun ruminating: "An eye for an eye, a burn for a burn.  Is that fair?  No, she has to lose more than that."  The end.

Beefcake: None.

Heterosexism: Hetero-romance doesn't seem to be on anyone's mind, and sex is just a tool used for humiliation and blackmail.

Gay Characters:  Maybe Dong-eun. At least she describes her hatred in homoerotic terms, and meets a nice girl. 

How Many Bullies:  Sometimes three, sometimes four.

My Grade: B+

Dec 29, 2022

"The Black Phone": Gay Subtext Boyfriends and Homophobic Stereotype VIllain in the Fall of 1978


The promo for The Black Phone, on Amazon Prime: "A sadistic killer kidnaps a teenage boy."  In 99% of these movies, it's a girl, and maybe the teenage boy will be old enough to be of beefcake interest.

Scene 1: North Denver, 1978 (the year I graduated from high school!)  A little league game, boys posturing for the girls in the stands. Finny (Mason Thames), the pitcher, almost strikes his opponent, Bruce.  He pauses to gaze at the Girl of His Dreams.  This seems to distract him, since now Bruce knocks the ball out of the ball park for a home run.  Finney is upset.  No beefcake potential.  Mason Thames is 15 years old, so he was 13-14 when he filmed the movie. I'll keep watching anyway, to check for gay subtexts.  Plus, reliving 1978 is fun.

Scene 2:
Switch to Bruce (Tristan Pravong), riding his bike home and pausing to flirt with girls.  So far this is heteronormative all the way down. Uh-oh, a black van drives slowly down the suburban streets -- Bruce is done for!  

Fade to a montage of missing child posters, old cars, a skinned knee, a spilled booze bottle, a girl licking up blood, and the obligatory empty swing set. 

Scene 3: Finny having breakfast with his criticizing, glaring Dad (Jeremy Davies), who works at a nuclear facility (this will become important later, I assume).  Sister Gwen, who looks like she belongs on Little House on the Prairie, opens the bread box too loudly, upsetting Abusive Dad.

They walk to school, discussing whether they would prefer to marry Fonzie, Richie, or Potsie from Happy DaysWait -- Finny is gay and out, in 1978? The missing person fliers from four abducted boys are back up, even though they disappeared six months ago.  "You think that they will find them?" Finny asks.  "Not the way they want."   Morbid girl!

Scene 4: 
They pause to watch a fight between two long-haired delinquents, Moose and Robin (Miguel Cazarez Mora, J. Gavin Wilde).  Robin knocks Moose unconscious, and continues to punch him until his face is a bloody mess.  The onlookers gasp.  

No consequences?  In 1978, juveniles were not punished for fighting, unless one of them ended up in the hospital.  

 Sister thinks Moose had it coming, as he is a giant bully, but Finny disagrees: "No one deserves that!"

Back story: The Grabber has grabbed several boys.  There's an urban legend that if you say his name, he will grab you.  Sister doesn't believe it, but Finny does.

Scene 5: Class about the layers of the Earth, with a slide show (remember those?). Finny gazes at the Girl of His Dreams again.  So not gay; he was just playing along with the "Which Happy Days character will you marry" game. Personally, I'd marry Potsie, f*k Fonzie, and kill Richie.

Scene 6
: After class, in the hallway, Finny attracts the attention of Bully Matty (Jordan Isaiah White) and his cronies.  He tries to lose them and hide in the restroom, but they follow, and complain that he's trespassing: this restroom is for boys, not "fags."  Wait -- are they using "fag" as an all-purpose insult, or is Finny actually gay? 

Fortunately, Robin from the fight in Scene 4 comes in to wash more blood off his hands.  He promises to protect Finny, so the bullies scram.  Finny immediately whips out his cock -- to use the urinal?  They discuss the fight with Moose and Texas Chainsaw Massacre -- "the best movie ever!"  Then a grinning Robin invites Finney to his house after school to study.  Study what, his cock?  Holy cow, those guys are dating!

Scene 7:  Sister Gwen is called to the principal's office to talk to two detectives (Troy Rudeseal, E. Roger Mitchell): she told Missing Boy Bruce's sister that she had a dream that he was taken by a man with black balloons in his van.  Big deal, I used to dream about David Cassidy.  By the way, marry Reuben, f*k David, kill Danny.  Two black balloons were found at the crime scene, but that information was not released to the public.  What else does Gwen know?  "Nothing.  It's just that my dreams sometimes come true."

Scene 8:
Finny and Gwen on the way home.  They pass the bullies, who nod respectfully.  Gwen has a sleepover, so Finny is responsible for taking care of Dad.  Uh-oh.  But all he has to do is pry the beer bottles out of Dad's hands,  turn off the depressing music, and eat ice cream while watching a horror movie. 

Left: Jacob Moran plays another of the missing boys, so doubtless all four appear later.  I'm sure that they are ghosts, however.  The black phone allows you to call the dead.

When Finny awakens at dawn, Dad is attacking Gwen!  He is upset because the police came to his job to interrogate him about the black balloons.  "What do you know about the missing boys?"  "Nothing, and if you hit me again, I'll smash your booze bottle!" Dad just hits her harder.  Intervene, boy!  I know your Dad is twice as big as you, but do something!

Whimpering, the two siblings go to the living room to watch Davy and GoliathMarry Davy (after he grows up), f*k his dad, and eat Goliath.

Cut to Robin in a muscle shirt (not very impressive) walking past a deserted factory at night.  A black van pulls up, and a man in a mask and cape climbs out to meet him.  Fade to black.  Wait -- what kidnapper would hang out at a deserted factory at night, on the off-chance that a kid might saunter by?  This must be a pre-arranged meeting.  Robin must know the Grabber!

Scene 9:  Finny and Gwen watching Emergency!  Marry Marco, f*k John, kill Mike. Dad gets a phone call and announces that Robin Not dead, missing.  He's been missing for a couple of hours, and everyone has panicked?  Shouldn't the parents be asking if he's with Finny?  

Cut to men with flashlights, searching around the old factory.   Finny stays home to be comforted by Gwen: "I know he was your...friend." "Don't say was," Finny complains.  "He's alive."  He asks Gwen to try dreaming about his whereabouts.

Gwen goes to her room, pulls out a secret stash of religious items (Dad is anti-religion?), and prays: "Finny needs his...friend. Help me have a dream that will let us find him."

Scene 10: With Robin gone, the bullies are free to attack Finny, but Sister Gwen rushes to the rescue, calling them "Cocksucking cowards!"  Ok, she's homophobic.  In 1978, even gay people were sort of homophobic.

Scene 11:  Time for the obligatory frog-dissection day.  Darn, Finny is not paired with the Girl of His Dreams: an unpopular girl sneaks in beside him.  

On the way home, Gwen is overjoyed that a girl likes Finny.  She leaves for another sleepover, so Finny has to walk home alone. Uh-oh, the black van!  It reads "Abracadabra Magic Supplies."  A long-haired man in obligatory dark glasses jumps out and spills a bag of stuff so Finny will help him pick it up -- and get chloroformed with black spray paint, squashed by black balloons, and grabbed!

He awakens on a mattress in a basement room.  The Grabber, now wearing a devil mask, complains that Finny hurt his arm during the struggle.  What did you expect?  He assures Finny that he won't be hurt, touches his face, musses his hair, and then goes off to answer the telephone. A stereotype gay pedophile villain!    While he is gone, Finny looks around for an escape: there's a bathroom, a dead telephone, a mattress, and that's it. 

I'm not going to watch any more.  I really want the gay subtext romance between Robin and Finny to continue, but Robin is gone, and Finny has gazed at the Girl of His Dreams four times so far, so I'm sure that there will be a heteronormative boy-girl gazing conclusion.  

Besides, that gay pedophile villain is extremely homophobic.  Writer/director Scott Derrickson attended fundamentalist Biola University, where he majored in Communications with an emphasis on film and theology, so doubtless he has a homophobic axe to grind.  

Dec 26, 2022

"The Most Beautiful Flower": How To Become Popular if You're Smart, Bisexual, and Living in Michoacan.


The icon of the Mexican comedy The Most Beautiful Flower shows what looks distinctly like two boys flirting.  But I've been fooled before, so to be cautious, I'll watch the second episode, where wallflower Michelle goes to a party.  Maybe the gay boys will be there.

Turns out that Episode #2 makes no sense without Episode #1:  Michelle is an unpopular outcast girl in her high school.  But while most unpopular kids wallow in self-pity, Michelle knows that she's fabulous.  The problem is, how to convince everyone else?  She's been dating popular Daniel (German Bracco) on the downlow for a year, but in Episode 1 she dumped him when he refused to come out to his friends.

On to Episode #2:

Scene 1: Procession of the Christ Child, held on January 6th in Xochimilco, a colorful, canal-filled suburb of Mexico City. Extravagant costumes, drummers, Dad carrying a Christ Child under a canopy while Mom, Grandma, and Michelle smile and wave.  Well, Michelle mostly grimaces. .  

Suddenly she sees a message in the sky -- Traviesa -- and rushes over to the Traviesa stationery store.  Inside, a hot guy is dancing by himself in his underwear (no beefcake). They gape at each other in intensive horniness.

Scene 2:
In between their desperate struggles to avoid tearing each other's clothes off,  the boy explains.  His name is Mati (Tadeo Tovar). His grandmother owns the store, and lets him come in after hours to practice DJ-ing.  He works at weddings, birthdays, quinceaneras, and coming up, a huge fundraiser for the town's Most Beautiful Flower contest.

Back story: Tadeo Tovar (right) is gay, and dating famous dancer Li'l Cuesta, who has 42.5 k followers on Instagram. 

Michelle was not invited, because she is so unpopular, but she can't tell Mati that!  "Maybe I could sing at the party?" she suggests.  "Sure.  I'll see you there."

Scene 3: School.  For once, it's not a glass-and-steel palace with a 5-story atrium; it's a storefront with a colorful Aztec-style mural.  Daniel, who was dumped by Michelle in the last episode, enters the Chem Lab with three girls hanging on him, and finds a teddy bear at his work station: "For Michelle, from a secret admirer!" he announces.

The Mean Girls laugh; no way an unpopular girl has a secret admirer, so she must have sent it to herself!  Michelle is outraged at Daniel's obvious attempt to get her back, so she throws the teddy bear on a lit bunsen burner.  

Scene 4: 
After class, Daniel retrieves the teddy bear from the trash.  The head Mean Girl interprets this to mean that he is the "secret admirer" (which he is, of course), and advises him against dating Michelle, since dating an unpopular girl would make him unpopular, too.  She points out a table of popular kids on the quad: "So, which of these do you like as a boyfriend or girlfriend?"  Wait -- does she know that he's bisexual, or is she being inclusive just in case?

Left: More Tadeo.

Scene 5:  Michelle at study hall with her two friends, both girls, but one with very short hair -- maybe a lesbian?  They are outraged that Daniel would try to get her back.  Meanwhile, he moons over her from across the room.  She tells them about the big fundraiser -- their chance to go to a popular kids' party, a first step toward popularity!  They are not interested, but consent to go.

Scene 6: After school.  Michelle tells the girls that they have to dress as "beautiful flowers" for the fundraiser.  They think that the phrase is metaphorical, but she doesn't listen: flowers it will be.   

Cut to Michelle in her grandmother's room, stuffing her face, looking at old photos, and being yelled at by the sour-faced old lady. "Stealing my marzipan and my photos."  Michelle explains:  "I was invited to a fundraiser party for the Flower Contest, so I need to borrow one of your outfits."  Grandma won the contest several times, back in the day, so maybe one of her old sashes?  

Suddenly she is hit in the head with an object (I can't tell what).  Grandma notes that her little sister is visiting.  This enrages Michelle, who hates the little brat. She's in Michelle's room, touching her things and discussing human anatomy with their mother.

Back story: Mom and Dad divorced long ago, and both have remarried.  The Sister is from Dad's second wife, staying with them while her parents are at a conference in Europe.  

Scene 7:  Dad is out by the canal, fixing Michelle's boat.  She approaches: "I'm sorry I haven't talked to you for a long time, but I have a boyfriend now, and he takes up all of my time."  He asks about her two friends, Yadi and Tania.  "Who?  Oh, of course, we're still tight, but I have so many friends now, just simply tons and tons of friends, oozing with popularity, so I  don't see them much."  Way to disrespect  Yadi and Tania, girl!.    

Scene 8: Michelle and her two friends on a deck, complaining about a "Tell me you're popular without saying that you're popular" video.  It's ridiculous!  The only way to popularity is to go to parties, get boyfriends, and stick it to the head Mean Girl, who happens to be Michelle's cousin.  

Scene 9: Michelle and her two friends, wearing flowered headdresses, are dropped off at the giant event space by her stepfather Fer.  He forbids them from going in because two older guys -- college age -- are arguing outside. Also, no one else is wearing stupid flowered headdresses.  But Michelle doesn't listen. 

 They enter, to the stares and jeers of everyone, only to be turned away by the bouncer for not having invitations.  Michelle argues that she has a singing gig there, but the bouncer doesn't believe her.

Idea -- they can hide in empty speaker cases and be carried in!

Scene 10:
Stepfather Fer (Luis Fernando Peña) calls his wife to see what he should do.  She's in the midst of surgery -- literally cutting open a body -- so she tells him to just handle it.   He steals a boy's hat and jacket and sneaks in, badly disguised as a teenager.  

Daniel (the boy who was secretly dating Michelle) recognizes him, and blurts out way too much: he's been thinking of "kissing her...doing everything with her...out of love, of course."  Stepfather Fer forbids him from seeing her.

Meanwhile, having learned that Michelle likes Matti the DJ, cousin Mean Girl saunters up to the DJ booth to steal him.  

Scene 11: Uh-oh, the speaker cabinet won't open.  They yell and pound.  Finally Michelle manages to knock her cabinet down the stairs.  It bursts open, revealing her, with a stupid flower headdress, to the world.  Everyone laughs.  But Mati steps up, pretends that it was an intentional opening for her performance, and hands her a microphone.  She sings about being a masochist, and is a big hit.

(Don't worry, the two friends escape the cabinets, too.)

Scene 12:
Mati and Michelle discuss her performance.  He offers her a permanent job singing at his gigs, which she gladly accepts. Then he asks: would it be ok you think you" 

 "Yes????  Go on...."  

"Give me your Cousin Mean Girl's phone number?"  Psych!  The End.

Beefcake: None.

Gay Characters:  Two guys dancing together at the party, Daniel's bisexual reference, and in future episodes, Michelle herself recognizes that she is bisexual!  She ends up having to choose between two boys (Mati and Daniel) and a girl (not yet introduced).  

The Icon:  It's gone now, but I think it' depicted Daniel and Michelle with her hair pulled back, so she looks like a boy.

My Grade: B+

Dec 25, 2022

"A New York Christmas Wedding": A Gay Christmas Surprise

 Every year beginning on November 1st and ending abruptly on Decmeber 24th, the major networks and streaming services broadcast about 20,000 movies, all with the same plot:  A woman with a highly successful career in a horrible, heartless Big City is forced to spend Christmas in a Small Town.  At first she rebels, but gradually she is drawn in by the warmth, caring, and overall wondefulness of the Small Town.  Plus she falls in love with a local boy.  So she gives up her job and stays.

Moral #1: Small towns are heaven.

Moral #2: Women shouldn't work outside the home.  

But it was Christmas movies or more Halloween horror, so I picked A New York Christmas Wedding, wondering how they were going to get the girl to the small town. 

 Azrael, the Angel of Death  in Islam and Judaism, narrates.  He's going to show us his favorite "love story."  Does it end with death?

Scene 1: A middle-class home in Queens.  Jennifer, a Hispanic woman -- racial diversity in a Christmas movie?  -- is making Christmas cookies and eggnog while her father or husband reads the newspaper.    

Meanwhile, in an artsy apartment, Gabby a white woman, is getting a foot massage from her boyfrined, Vinny (not listed in the cast list, but there's an Anthony, played by Joe Perrino, bottom photo).  Closeup of them kissing.  Jennifer calls and yells at her: "You promised you'd be here to help decorate the tree!  You can't keep blowing me off!"

"I don't belong to you!  We're not dating!"

"Our friendship is over!  You're dead to me."

Wow, all that drama over not decorating a Christmas tree!

Scene 2: 20 years later.  What?  They were talking on cell phones.  The middle-aged Jennifer is the assistant to a veterinarian. They just euthanized a dog, and Jeniffer is triggered because her Dad and best friend died at Christmastime. This isn't a comedy, is it?

On the way home, Jennifer sees a lesbian couple on the subway and reacts with disgust.  We're here, we're queer, get used to it, homophobe!

Scene 3: Jennifer arrives at her apartment.  Her boyfriend David (Otoja Abit) -- African-American!  More racial diversity! -- grabs and smooches, even though she explained that she was upset over the dog.  Inconsiderate! The horndog is about to mount her right in the walk-in closet, but his parents are visiting. 

Elegant, refined Mom is being passive-aggressive critical  and helicoptering the upcoming wedding:, "Since you seem to be incapable of making decisions, I've arranged for a wedding dress from Vera Wang!  And we've booked the church on Christmas Eve!"

Um...aren't churches usually busy on Christmas Eve? Besides, Jennifer's father and best friend died on Christmas, so....

Jennifer rejects the idea, Mama's Boy supports it, they argue, Jennifer storms out.

Out on the street, a bicyclist -- the angel Azrael! (Cooper Koch)  --gets hit by a car..   Jennfier rushes to the rescue and pesters him: "Are you sure you're ok?  You might have a concussion!  Let me call 911!!  Are you sure?"  Then she pours our her problems to this complete stranger in the middle of the night in New York.  Not about the wedding -- about her fight with Gabby 20 years ago.  Which was your fault!

Azrael gives her platitudinal advice: "Never underestimate the power of love at Christmastime!  Life is full of love and hope!  In the morning, all your questions will be answered."  Very upbeat, for the Angel of Death.

Back home, Jennifer climbes in bed with David.  No sex.

Scene 5: Jennifer is awakened by a dog licking her.  But she doesn't own a dog!  David isn't there.  A woman she has never seen before is getting dressed, telling her to hurry or they will be late for their meeting with the priest.  Gabby!  Has there been a time reboot?

She goes out to walk the dog, runs into Azrael again, and asks "WTF?  What's going on?"  

Azrael zaps them to David's house.  He's doessn't know here.  He's married to someone else and has a daughter.  

Back.  Azrael explaisn that he's doing an "it's a wonderful life " thing, zapping her into a universe where Gabby didn't die and they fell in love and got engaged 20 years later.  You know, there are other women out there.  You could still be a lesbian without Gabby.

He continues:  compare life with Gabby and David.  You have until the end of Christmas to decide.

So she has until the end of Christmas to decide whether to be gay or straight?  I didn't know you had a choice.  Couldn't she just be bisexual?

I'd pick Gabby's world.  More people are alive.

I'll fast forward.

About halfway through, we get Gabby and Jennifer's wedding --at a Catholic church.  You know that Catholics don't perform same-sex weddings, right?  Maybe they do in this parallel world.

Then, back in David's world,  David and Jennifer  investigate what happened to Gabby 20 yers ago.  She got pregnant, and her family disowned her (in 2000?  really?), so she sought refuge in the Church.  They arranged for her to have the baby in a home out West, to avoid the disgrace (in 2000? really?).    But the baby was stillborn.  She named him Azrael.  

You know that angels aren't actually the ghosts of dead people, right?

So after all that, how did Gabby die?  Pregnancy complications?  Suicide?  No, car accident.

Then why go through all that back story?  Just say "Car accident." Geez!

Jennifer still can't decide on David's or Gabby's world, so Azrael offers to send her back in time all the way, 20 years, and have her start over.  Of course, then he will cease to exist.

If guardian angels can do all that, I have a few requests for mine.

She decides to go back.  Azrael tells her to click her ruby slippers together three times and say "There's no place like home."  Just kidding.  He tells her to say "Love deeply, trust your heart, and be brave."

Don't try saying it at home, or you might get zapped back to high school.

And Jennifer is back making Christmas cookies and eggnog and waiting for Gabby to come decorate the tree.  But this time, when Gabby blows her off, she doesn't get all dramatic and yell "You're dead to me!"  She says "It can wait."  And Gabby feels guilty, so instead of sex with Vinny, she rushes over anyway.  They kiss.  The end.

Whoa, that was not at all what I was expecting.  And the title was completely misleading.  I guess there was a wedding and it was set in New York, and Christmas happened, but...whoa.

Question: Was this all a fantasy in Jennifer's mind?

My grade: B for the movie, A for the suprise.

"Wednesday": Is the New Addams Family TV Series Gay-Friendly?


The various renditions of The Addams Family have the reputation of being gay-friendly, but I don't recall a single actual LGBT character, or even any significant gay subtexts: it's heterosexual romance all the way down.  I'm hoping that the new Netflix tv series Wednesday, which places the teenage Wednesday Addams in the Nevermore Academy, a boarding school for vampires, werewolves, and other magical types, will move into uncharted territory with actual gay characters.  I watched the episode with a school dance, to check for same-sex couples dancing, foreground or background.  .

Scene 1:  Wednesday and Thing (her disembodied hand companion) break into the coroner's lab to perform an autopsy on a victim of a monster attack.  About what you would expect: some defensive wounds, almost completely disemboweled.  Whoops, they have to hide as the coroner enters, with the sheriff, to show him that the two toes were removed from the victim's left foot.  By the way, this is Dr. Anwar's last week: he and the Mrs. are going to spend his retirement traveling.   He's doomed.  Nope, I looked it up: he only appears in this one episode.  So the retirement and the "Mrs." reference are irrelevant, except to identify him as heterosexual.

Scene 2: Wednesday's dorm room at the Nevermore Academy.  Her roommate objects to the forensic photos covering the wall.  She notes that the victims all had different body parts surgically removed: a kidney, a gall bladder, a finger. This is not a monster; it's an experienced serial killer!  

Scene 3:
Botany class.  Wednesday sits next to Xavier (Percy Hynes White, left), her gay bff or boyfriend.  He encourages her to invite someone to the big dance, the Rav'n (because it's the Nevermore Academy, get it?)   "I'd rather stick needles in my eyes.  I may do that anyway." 

She notices scratch marks on his neck.  He explains that he got them

Scene 4: To find out what's going on with Xavier, Wednesday and Thing sneak into his art studio, and find paintings of a sharp-clawed monster.  He must be the murderer! They steal a few -- oh no, he caught them.  The girl has no luck with secret missions!    Fortunately, he assumes that Wednesday came to invite him to the dance, but now she has to go through with it.  Oh, well, she can interrogate him about the murders.  

Scene 5: The Roommate is thrilled that Wednesday is exhibiting heterosexual interest (was there a question?), and starts planning an outfit for her.  While she is shopping, Wednesday runs into her therapist, who asks if she is going to the dance (the heteronormative imperative never stops, does it?)  Then she takes the monster drawings to Galpin, the police detective who does the standard "let the professionals take care of it" routine.  

Scene 6:
Roommate and two other girls at a diner.  Lucas Walker (Iman Marson), the mayor's son, drops by to ask her to the dance. 

Meanwhile, Wednesday runs into the Detective's son, Tyler (Hunter Doohan, top photo), whom she has an intense-stare crush on.  He was planning to ask her to the dance, but she's already going with Xavier, which upsets him.  "You keep giving me mixed signals.  I thought we liked each other, but then you pull something like this."  

Scene 7:  In a beekeepers' cabin, Wednesday is showing her evidence to Eugene (Moosa Mustafa), a Spanish-speaking boy who has a crush on her roommate.  Ok, everybody is heterosexual so far.  Eugene mentions his two moms, but a single sentence referring to non-appearing characters is insufficient.  Maybe there will be some same-sex couples at the dance. 

Scene 8: They investigate a mysterious cave and find manacles.  They make plans to skip the dance and stake out the cave tonight.

Scene 9: The DJ at the dance, who has a crush on Wednesday,  knocks on her door: Thing has pushed them together by dropping an invitation in his tip jar. This may be a new character, or it may be Tyler from Scene 6.  There are so many guys with crushes on Wednesday that I can keep track.  Is she like, madeo of video games?  

Thing has also provided an appropriately macabre outfit, so Wednesday quickly changes.  They are just leaving when Eugene (the beekeeping boy) shows up, livid over being dumped for the cave stake out.  Xavier (the monster-drawing boy) is also livid. 

Scene 10:
The dance.  Roommate arrives with Lucas, the Mayor's Son.  She accidentally spills punch on his crotch, then kneels to clean it up, so her crush Ajax (Georgie Farmer) sees him and thinks she is giving him a blow job.  

Background characters are all male-female couples.

Still 13 minutes to go, but why continue?  There are no LGBTQ people here.  Not one.  Not even a glimmer of subtext.  

So much for the inclusivity of The Addams Family.

Update:  One of the boys has two mothers, and when Uncle Fester visits, he says that Tyler has "clocked" him, but Wednesday immediately says "Tyler is not intersted in you."  Fester is on the run from the law, so maybe he means "noticed that I'm a fugitive," but Wednesday's comment suggests that romantic interest (he's 18, so ok for an adult to date).  

And that's it.  Miniscule representation.  Heterosexuals all the way down.

Dec 24, 2022

The Action-Adventure "Hazel"

Amazon Prime is streaming a lot of old sitcoms from the 1960s: The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, The Lucy Show, Dennis the Menace.  I can't wait for them to get around to Hazel (1961-66), with Shirley Booth as the maid for a middle-class family.  Not because I loved it.  Because it gives me a visceral sense of foreboding and dread, as if something is not right.  And I want to find out why.

I was only five years old when the program ended, so I don't recall more than a few snippets of episodes.  Maybe the premise itself is not right?  

.In the 1960s, middle-class households did not have live-in servants.  Single fathers might have a nanny.  Hazel is a bizarre throwback to an earlier generation.  

There are two types of servants on tv: heartwarming nannies who bring joie de vivre to sullen children (like Fran on The Nanny and "Charles in Charge"); and sarcastic maids who skewer their boss's pretentions (like Florence on The Jeffersons).  But Hazel is neither.  

Accoding to the episode synopses, Hazel doesn't behave like a servant at all: she gets a job at a department store; she publishes a cookbook and goes on tour; a talent scout hears her musical group perform; she takes a job as a spokesperson for a cake mix.  When does she have time for cleaning the house?  Why does she stay a maid, instead of embarking on a career as an actress or singer?

Hazel actually works for two families.  During the first four seasons, lawyer George Baxter (Don DeFore), his wife Dorothy (an interior designer), and their son Harold (Bobby Buntrock).

I tried to research whether Don DeFore was gay, but only discovered that he was married several times and a staunch Republican who worked on the Barry Goldwater campaign in 1964 ("In your gut you know he's nuts.")

Bobby Buntrock retired from acting after Hazel, and died in an auto accident in 1974, at the age of 21. I couldn't find out if he was gay, either.

 In the last season, the network wanted to appeal to a younger audience, so they axed George and Dorothy, sending them off to Iraq (without informing the actors), and gave Hazel and Harold to a younger family: George's brother, real estate agent Steve Baxter (Ray Fulmer), his wife Barbara, and their young daughter Susie.  

Harold was now a teenager, so he started getting "teenage" plotlines about jobs, girls, and the generation gap, and he got a new best friend, Jeff (Pat Cardi).

Ray Fulmer has only a few acting credits on IMDB, notably a 17-episode arc on the soap opera Somerset and the 1963 movie Wild is My Love, about three college boys who fall for a stripper. 

None of this sounds very appealing, but it doesn't explain the visceral dread.  Granted, the snippets of episodes that I remember would be very scary for a five-year old: 

1. Some poisonous mushrooms accidentally ended up in the supermarket.  Some worried-looking government guys complain that not all of the packages have been returned; one is missing.  Whoever bought it doesn't listen to the radio or read the newspaper.  Cut to Hazel, turning off the radio and throwing out the newspaper as she prepares the mushrooms that will kill everyone.

2. Hazel is tied to a conveyor belt that will carry her through a claw machine to her death.  Her hunky, much younger boyfriend arrives in the nick of time, stops the machine, and unties her.  They hug.

But I have found neither of those scenes in the episode synopses, or in the complete acting credits of Shirley Boothe (in case I made a mistake). Hazel has a boyfriend in only four episodes, and it's the middle aged Mitch (Dub Taylor), not the young hunk of my memory.

Maybe that's the reason behind my dread.  I was peering into another universe, where Hazel was an action/adventure series, not an outdated sitcom about a maid.

Happy Trails to Homophobes: The Roy Rogers Show

When I was a kid in the 1960s,  my church didn't allow us to listen to rock music, go to movies, or read comic books or science fiction (I usually found loopholes in the rules).  Television was permitted, but preachers and Sunday school teachers railed against it anyway. 

Did The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ever ask God's guidance in fighting the Communists?
Did The Beverly Hillbillies ever bow their heads and say grace before eating Granny's vittles?
The Flying Nun tried to brainwash you into becoming an evil Catholic.

The only program they approved of was Roy Rogers, about a singing cowboy named Roy Rogers, played singing cowboy star Roy Rogers.  He never said grace before meals, either, but in real life he was a fundamentalist Christian who always mentioned God in interviews and included Christian songs in his live performances.

The preachers didn't realize that his show (1951-57) had been off the air for over ten years.  But I must have caught glimpses of the Saturday morning reruns (1961-65 or after-school syndication (1961-1972),  because I remember hating it.  Who cared about the Old West in the Space Age?  We were all about astronauts, not cowboys.  Besides, there was hardly any gay content.

1.  Roy didn't hang out with guys like "real" cowboys.  He had a wife, Dale Evans, who sometimes rode next to him in her petite cowboy skirt, but usually stayed home to run a restaurant.

2. This wasn't even  the Old West. They had electric lights, telephones, and cars. As a kid, I found that idiotic. Why would you ride a horse if cars were available?

3.  No beefcake of any sort.  Roy never unbuttoned a button on-screen.  There were a few semi-nude shots in movie magazines, but nothing memorable. The top photo, with Roy eating a hot dog, may look promising, but according to Darwin Porter's autobiographical novel, the "squinty-eyed homophobe" was not particularly gifted beneath the belt.

4. No dreamy boys or muscular men. I found Roy unattractive,  with a face like a mask and tiny, beady eyes. The only other male star was Pat Brady, the cook at Dale's restaurant,  a gawky, comic-relief character who drove a jeep named Nellybelle.

5. The closing song, "Happy Trails to You," sung by the disembodied heads of Roy and Dale, freaked me out.  I distinctly remember them singing it to "cheer up" some kid dying in the hospital.  Mememto mori, a reminder of the transience of life and the inevitability of death -- not what a four-year old wants to hear about while eating his Coco Puffs on Saturday morning.

The only gay content: some buddy-bonding potential, I guess.  Roy and Pat starred in many movies together during the 1940s, and were close friends in real life.

Dec 23, 2022

"A Storm for Christmas": 18 People and a Dog Stranded at the Oslo Airport. How Many are Gay?


A Storm For Christmas, an 8-episode Norwegian tv series about eight people stranded at the Oslo Airport at Christmas.  Let me guess -- one of them is dying, another having an affair, a third carrying stolen merchandise, and there will be a little girl asking Santa Claus to either reunite her divorced parents or bring back her dead parent.  It actually sounds kind of fun, and we'll get to see Norway.

Scene 1: A male-female Bickering Couple get off the train, fumble around for their tickets, and yell at each other and their surly teenage daughter.  (The guy is Sindre, and the girl Kaja).  Kaja must be the Christmas wish girl.

Scene 2: They gawk at a skinny black man with a Santa beard jogging up the escalator.   He runs across the airport, rushes through security, and jogs to "Santa's Corner" (in English), where a line of kids are waiting.  He's wearing mismatched, dirty clothes and acting bizarre, so I thought he was crazy.  But apparently he was hired to be Santa Claus. The kids want entitled things, like iphones and Burburry handbags. A young blond woman passes him.

Scene 3: The young blond woman stops at a kiosk for a Coke (yeah!  I could barely find any soft drinks in Europe.  It was or wine, even at McDonald's). 

Marius (Jon Øigarden), the middle-aged manager of the kiosk, steps out to make a phone call, muttering "No, no, no, no, no!"  His doctor's appointment today to discuss his test results has been cancelled!   The dying one!  He runs into the disabled bathroom and looks in the mirror and cries.  

Uh-oh, someone else wants in: a middle-aged man and woman, who smooch while saying "Mmmmm!  Mmmm!"  I guess they're kissing for the taste.  They start mounting each other, or whatever heterosexuals do, while fully clothed.  The affair couple!  

Scene 4: 
 A black-haired lady Celebrity sits in a car with a bearded man, Asle (Kalle Henne) , who is drinking.  She asks how tall he is. "6.4" (presumably translated from meters and centimeters.)  'Where's Ingvid?  She'll make us miss our London flight!'

Ingvid , the Affair Lady who was going "mmmmm...mmmmm" in the last scene, arrives and announces that all private flights are cancelled, but there are still some commercial flights left.  The Black-Haired Celebrity , Ida, fusses: "But then we'll have to go through security, like the nobodies!"  

On the way into the airport, where there is a two-story tall photo of Celebrity Ida advertising something, they pass a sinister-looking man who is smoking.  A sure sign of evil!  He must be a kidnapper or a terrorist!  

While Sinister Guy ( Dennis Storhøi) checks on his flight cancellation, a lady priest wearing an orange vest passes.  She stops to help David (Jan Gunnar Roise, left) , a bumbling man wearing a Hawaiian shirt.  They flirt over a discussion of hot dog toppings (he likes prawn salad on his).  Then he pauses to call his wife, who has already arrived in Malaga, Spain.

Realizing that she won't be taking him back to her hotel room tonight, Lady Priest moves on, past Sinister Guy, who tries to take the FastTrack through security.  But he has an economy ticket, so he has to stand in one of those endless monkey-bar lines.  

The Three Celebrities get to use FastTrack, but they still need to go through security, past star-struck grins, clicking cell phones,  and cries of "Oh, wow, it's you!"  Celebrity Ida doesn't handle it well. Back Story: She is a singer with a super-best-selling record album.

Scene 5:  Bickering Couple, Surly Daughter, Affair Guy, Santa Claus, Three Celebrities, Sinister Guy, Hawaiian Shirt, Lady Priest, Coke Girl, Kiosk Manager. That's not eight, it's 13! The ones traveling are all in the security line, bickering, making jokes, trying to entitle their way past each other.  Sinister Guy cuts through the line and gets in, but it doesn't help: his flight is cancelled.  He tries the VIP Lounge, but his passkey doesn't work.  Sinister Guy has been demoted or fired!  He calls his agent, who tells him that he has indeed been demoted to business class due to a bad review and low ticket sales.  Back story: he's not a terrorist, he's a pianist.

Affair Lady is also looking at the Cancellation Board; her husband calls to berate her for having a cancelled flight, like it's her fault: "Just do what you have to do, and get here!"  Ok, I apologize, Affair Lady is not the same as Celebrity Ingvid; they just look alike, and viewers are deliberately misled when she arrives late immediately after the bathroom hookup scene. There are 14 characters, not 13.

Scene 6:  I guess 14 is not enough.  A suitcase goes through the chute and into baggage handling, where the only guy under age 60 in Norway,  Henrick (Valter Skarsgård, top photo), grabs it.  His friend asks when he's going to start a family.   "Never.  You have to have a wife to have a kid." Maybe he's gay, but more likely he's straight, and going to find love during the storm. 

Scene 7: A plane is landing in heavy turbulance.  A young Spanish-speaking woman and her young son are terrified, and start to pray.  Up in the cockpit, the pilots complain that the autopilot is out, so they will have to land manually, and visibility is nil!

Meanwhile,  Coffee Kiosk Manager serves Hawaiian Shirt.   They discuss Malaga.  And Young Guy is loading luggage, when he finds a dog in a cargo bay!  That's cruelty to animals, and illegal!  So he brings it inside to look for its owner.  

Scene 8:
Oh, no, not another new character.  Olav (Ravdeep Singh Bajwa), a nattily-dressed South Asian guy,  is strutting through the airport like he owns the place.  He's waylaid by a fellow employee, who states that he's on standby, so he can't go home.    

Hey, after all that set-up, we didn't get to watch the airplane land! Now the Spanish-speaking woman and her Very Sick Son are trying to get on their connecting flight ro New York for his Very Important Operation, but all flights leaving Oslo have been cancelled,  She begs the clerk to do something. Like what -- force the plane to take off? 

Meanwhile, Affair Lady is strategizing on how to get home to her abusive husband so he doesn't beat her up.  A boat?  Affair Guy tells her not to worry about it: "Let's just book a room so we can have more sex."  This enrages her.

Scene 9: Sinister Guy sits down at the kiosk, complains about the expensive beer ($11 U.S.).  Hawaiian Shirt recognizes him from a newspaper article -- next to him -- about how his career has tanked. Everyone at the kiosk gives him advice on how to re-start.

Meanwhile, the Lady Priest goes outside and prays for assistance, because there are so many people who need help in this airport, and she can't take care of all of them.  We see their faces as she prays.  The end.

Ok, there are 18 characters, not eight -- 19 if you count the dog.  Are any of the guys gay?  Several expressed no heterosexual interest during their stories.  I'm going to guess Coffee Kiosk Manager (a bit femme), Young Guy (story arc about a dog, not finding true love), or Nattily Dressed Olav.  Only time -- and the next seven episodes -- will tell.

Dec 22, 2022

Spring 1983: Reading Faulkner: Redneck Muscle and Boys in Drag

Nothing brings back my memories of college literature classes more than William Faulkner.  Other authors I can return to with respect, even with pleasure, but Faulkner is mostly incomprehensible, and the parts I understand fill me with disgust.

In the spring of 1983, I took a horrible class in turgid, heterosexist "classics."  First Ulysses (by James Joyce).  Then "The Waste Land," by T.S. Eliot.  Then...shudder, gasp... The Sound and the Fury (1929), by William Faulkner.

"Marvelous!" the Professor chirped. "Stupendous!  A masterpiece!  The greatest novel ever written!"

I doubt he has ever read it.  I doubt anyone has.  It is literally impossible to understand even a sentence.  Check out the first two sentences:

Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.  They were coming toward where the flag was and I went along the fence.

Benjy the Idiot (Faulkner's term) is standing on the other side of a fence from a golf course, watching golfers hitting balls toward the hole, which is marked with a flag.  I looked it up -- no way anyone could ever figure it out from the cryptic text, even if they knew about golf, which I didn't. 

As I understand it from extensive research, The Sound and the Fury is about three brothers in the dying, decrepit, depressed Compson family of Mississipi: Benjy, Quentin, and Jason.  I imagine they look like this.

Part 1: Narrated by Benjy, an "idiot" who has no conception of time, and jumps back and forth at random between events that he didn't understand in the first place.  He cries a lot, and he's obsessed with his sister Caddy's muddy underwear.

Gay subtext: The elderly "Negro" servant Dilsey warns her grandson Luster to stay away from the Man with the Red Tie.  Wearing red is probably a gay symbol, like wearing lavender today.  Maybe they're having a gay affair.  And hopefully Luster looks like this.

Part 2: Narrated by Benjy's brother Quentin, a Harvard freshman who's crazy, and whose mind jumps back and forth at random just like Benjy's. He's obviously gay, in love with his roommate, Shreve, who responds by grabbing his knee.  Someone even calls Shreve his "husband."

He claims to have committed incest with his sister Caddy, but he's lying to hide a worse shame -- she had sex with someone else.

Wait -- aren't you supposed to have sex with someone other than your brother?

This part is also completely incomprehensible.  Not even a single sentence makes any sense. I understand Quentin commits suicide.

Part 3: Narrated by Jason, the third brother, the only one who thinks normally and writes normally.  This part is sort of comprehensible, except for references to events from the first part that we don't know about because they were written in gibberish, and the fact that a different Quentin shows up -- this one Caddy's daughter.  Giving two characters the same name is taboo for fiction writers, as it inevitably leads to confusion, and this is already an incomprehensible book.  

Jason's story is about stealing money from Quentin #2 (Caddy's daughter).

Part 4: No narrator. Miss Quentin has taken the money Jason stole from her, plus some of his own, and run off with the Man with a Red Tie (the one Luster is having an affair with in Part 1).  So maybe Miss Quentin is a boy in drag.  Jason does get awfully upset when he sees "her" in a bathrobe.

The homophobic Jason looks for Miss Quentin, to get his money back, but finally gives up.  The end.

It took a lot of creativity and endless Cliff's Notes to get through!

And beefcake photos.  Here's a semi-nude William Faulkner, thinking up new and better ways to torture English majors.

There's a gay dating story about William Faulkner on Tales of West Hollywood.

Dec 21, 2022

"Falling for Christmas": Lindsay Lohan's Boyfriend Gets a Boyfriend in a Ski-Resort Romcom

Most Christmas romcoms depict a woman living a gloriously glitzy life in a big city, getting stuck in a small town for the Holidays, and falling in love with it -- and with a working class guy who lives there.  Coincidentally, 'tis the season where millions of people who have escaped to the City return to their horrible small towns to sleep in their old beds, spend hours talking to people who love everything they hate, and count the minutes until they can get back on that airplane.  Are these movies supposed to convince them to stay?  

Falling for Christmas substitutes poor- and -rich ski resorts for the small town and big city (there are poor ski resorts?).  It reputedly has a gay character, so I'll check it out.     

Scene 1. Lindsay Lohan, who I feel like I should know from something, awakens in her glitzy hotel room in a mountain resort.  Lots of other glitterati are arriving, including two hot guys getting out of a Lamborghini -- are they the gay characters?   Girls in swimsuits show us their butts in a heated balcony-pool.  And there are skiiers.  

Scene 2: Lindsay's boyfriend Tad (George Young, top photo), on the way to the resort, tells her to just say no to her dad. Back story: Dad, hotel magnate Beauregard Belmont (1980s soap hunk Jack Wagner), wants her to take a job as Vice President of Atmosphere (involving, I assume, decor, not oxygen). Guest Services Manager Terry and his "Glam Squad" arrive to do her makeup and hand-feed her caviar and wine.  

Meanwhile, "poor boy" Jake Russell (Chord Overstreet) asks Dad to invest in his struggling lodge next door.  Beginning skiiers choose discount lodges, and then move up to the big time as they improve, so investing in it will actually create some customers for Dad's mega-lodge.  He says no anyhow.

Scene 3:  Exterior shot past the girl-butts in the balcony-pool to Lindsay and the Glam Squad walking through the lobby in slow motion.  Poor Boy Jake, busy on the phone telling someone that Dad didn't buy it, spills his hot chocolate on her for a classic meet-cute.   Boyfriend, who has just arrived, complains that her couture is ruined. 

Scene 4: Having changed, Lindsay has breakfast with Dad and Boyfriend, whom Dad disapproves of.  Well, he works as a social media influencer.  Wouldn't you be leery of him dating your heiress daughter?

Meanwhile, Jake returns to the North Star Lodge next door, which looks quite elegant.  Back story: He's a widow with a young daughter, and a mother-in-law hanging around to help out, sort of like a 1960s sitcom.  And the resort will close after this season,  unless they get "a Christmas miracle."  He gloomily throws his business plan in the trash and recalls how much he loved his dead wife.

Scene 5: Lindsay tries to tell Dad that she doesn't want the hotel job, but she's distracted by a snow-globe belonging to her mother, Dad's dead wife, who died when she was five years old.  They discuss how much they loved her.  Dude, it's been at least 20 years, and you haven't dated anyone else?

Scene 6:  Guest Services Terry has reserved a gondola for a photo shoot, but Boyfriend won't hear of it: "Gondolas are for losers.  We'll take a snowmobile up the mountain."  He zooms up with his snowmobile in tow, running over a bellboy's foot.  "He'," Terry complains.

On the way up the mountain, Lindsay starts singing "Jingle Bell Rock," and Boyfriend criticizes her pitch.  What, exactly, does she see in this guy?  Is he hung to his knees, or what?

Meanwhile, Jake is taking a hot guy (Oscar Rudecindo) and his girlfriend on an actual sleigh ride, and Mother-in-Law and Granddaughter discuss how much they love each other (help -- saccharine overload!), and tag a wish onto the Wishing Tree. Santa Claus, watching, magically makes it float up into the sky.  Mother-in-law is Hispanic, and Hot Guy is black; at the Mega-Lodge, all of the guests shown to date have been white.  Is that significant?  

Scene 7:  High up in the mountains, Boyfriend zooms around on the snowmobile, while Lindsay gets slapped in the face with tree branches.  He accidentally zooms up a trail marked "Danger!  Do not enter!"   They arrive at the summit and take some photos, and Boyfriend asks Lindsay to marry him (with a diamond the size of a snow globe).  

Uh-oh, the wind whips up, and Lindsay falls off the summit!  So does Boyfriend.  They tumble down different sides of the mountain.  

Scene 8: Lindsay tumbles into Jake's resort.  She has lost her memory, and he doesn't recognize her from the meet-cute.  After the doctors check her out, he invites her to his resort to recuperate.  Couldn't he contact the Mega-Resort, to see if any guests are missing?  

You know happens next, right? Lindsay bonds with Jake's daughter, learns to appreciate "simple pleasures," uses her managerial skill to turn the resort around, and falls in love with Jake, but can't admit it because we still need a denouement.

Boyfriend, meanwhile, has a much shorter story.  He is rescued by a grinning, white-haired Santa Claus-type hermit, who can't drive him to civilization for a few days due to the storm. They don't fall in love, but they do some flirting: "I let you sleep in -- you looked so cozy."  "You're so strong!"  After Boyfriend is rescued, they promise to stay in touch.

Scene 13:  Boyfriend returns to Lindsay, who gets her memory back.  They return to the Mega-Resort.    

On Christmas morning, a terrified Guest Services Terry summons Boyfriend, because Lindsay is in the hotel kitchen, making her own breakfast!  And she's going to her after-rescue press conference in a regular dress, not in something designed by someone famous.  

Afterwards, Lindsay breaks up with Boyfriend because "she's not ready."  He's not heartbroken; in fact, he seems overjoyed.  What exactly happened in that mountain cabin?  She walks away; Boyfriend turns to Guest Services Terry, who is hovering around for some reason, and asks "What are you doing for New Year's?"  

That was fast.  They've said like three words to each other, and they only touched once, when Terry helped him on with his coat.  How does he know that Terry is gay (ok, he's swishy) and single, and ok with being a rebound hookup?

Scene 14:  Jake decides that he wants to wrest Lindsay away from her Boyfriend, so he sleigh-rides to the Mega-Resort.  He rushes up to an airport shuttle and says through the tinted window: "I know that we barely know each other, but I'm falling in love with you." 

 Suprise, it's Boyfriend!  "That's very flattering, but I have other plans."  He grins at Guest Services Terry (Chase Ramsey).  This perplexes Jake; apparently he is not aware that gay/bi people exist.  But Santa Claus points him in the direction of Lindsay.

So, is Boyfriend just realizing that he is gay or bi, or has he always been out as bi?   The ease with which he gets dumped -- and picks up the nearest gay guy -- suggests that he was not aware before. 

Of course, heterosexual viewers are denying that he is either, using the strategy that everyone must be presumed straight unless they are carrying a sign reading "I am gay. "

By the way, Chase Ramsey, shown here with his wife and kids,  is an "actor, writer, director, teacher, husband, and father," a graduate of Utah Valley University with several theatrical and film credits. They hired a straight boy to swish it up as Terry.

Dec 19, 2022

"Would You LIke a Cup of Coffee?": Korean Slice-of-Life with Cute Guys and No Hetero-Romance


I started watching the Korean tv series Would You Like a Cup of Coffee because dinner wouldn't be ready for a half hour, and because the star was the amazingly cute Ong Seong-Wu), a former member of the K-Pop Band Wanna One and "voted the #1 K-Pop Idol Among Gay Men." 

It's based on a web comic by Huh Young-Man (nicely coincidental romanization!), "Korea's most beloved comic book artist," with 215 series spanning four decades.  

Having studied all night for his civil service exam and failed once again, Go-Bi (Ong Seong-Wu) needs to clear his head and think of a new path in life.  He drops into the coffee shop (after reading its Yelp reviews, of course).  It's empty except for a middle aged woman working on a computer and a high school girl doing art; as they wait, another high school girl comes in with the croissants she baked.

Go-Bi orders his coffee, but falls asleep at the table before he can drink any.  Later, Mr. Park obligingly gives him a new cup and one of the high school girl's croissants. He takes a sip and is mesmerized.  It is a "God Cup," a cup that will change his life forever.  His goal in life is now to become a barista, specifically working for Mr. Park.

Later he approaches Mr. Park and his girlfriend, the middle-aged woman, to ask for a job.  Mr. Park responds that he doesn't need any help.  But Go-Bi seems to be on the autistic spectrum, and appears every day to ask for a job, meanwhile importuning the customers with questions, some coffee-related, some not.

Mr. Park finally gives in and lets him make a latte.  It's not very good, but Mr. Park gives him a job anyhow.  He bows about a hundred times and leaves.

Every episode introduces a different character, whose life is changed by hanging out in the coffee shop.  And that's all.  No paranormal powers, no gangsters, no no dark secrets, no major crises, just a few minor squabbles and some minor pleasures.  Like everyday life.  

Mr. Park and Go-Bi become close friends, but I don't see any romantic subtexts between them. 

 To see if Go-Bi gets a girlfriend, I watched an episode in which he asks to collaborate with the high school girl (the one who bakes) on a special drink.  She thinks that he wants to date, and politely rejects him, but that was not on his mind at all.  In fact, he doesn't express any romantic interest in anyone.  

And Mr. Park's relationship with his girlfriend is so understated that they could easily be platonic friends instead.  No one else expresses any romantic interest. Like everyday life, but without the incessant interrogations: "Do you have a girlfriend?  Do you have a wife?  What kind of girls do you like?  What girl?  What girl?  What girl?" 

My Grade: A

Dec 17, 2022

"Far From Home": Poor boy cheats his way into an elite prep school, almost gets fed to a hyena, and takes off his clothes a lot

This morning Netflix pushed a Nollywood tv series at me, Far From Home: a poor boy gets a scholarship to an exclusive private school "for the 1%," where posters advertise Chess Club and Choir.  The promo shows the poor boy walking into class: a Femme Boy smiles at him, an Arrogant Jock glares at him, a Mean Girl sizes him up, and a Nice Girl helps him tie his tie.  Wait -- Nigeria is one of the most homophobic countries on Earth. There can't be a gay character -- can there?  I'm reviewing the first episode to find out.  

Scene 1: Ishaya's first art exhibition (all black-and-white portraits of expressive faces), treated like the Oscars, with paparazzi and fans clicking away as he walks up the red carpet.  He adulates himself: "Who would have thought that the dreams of a young boy from Lagos would come true?"    

Obviously this is a dream.  Ishaya (Mike Afolarin) awakens late for work.  Nice beefcake shot as he rushes to get dressed. 

Scene 2: Ishaya at his job cleaning a rich guy's house.  The rich guy clomps on his cleaning supplies; the teenage son throws a plate at him derisively.  After work, he tries to sell his painting on the street, but the rich people sneer at him.  

Scene 3:
Back in his horrible hovel.  Ishaya's friend Michael (Moshood Fattah) wants to know why he  needs money so badly: "I won a fellowship to study in London with the famous artist Essein, and I need to raise money for air fare."  Suddenly he remembers that he has to buy the cake for his sister's birthday party, and runs out.

Left: during Pride Month, Moshood Fattah promotes the use of PrEP on his instagram page.  That's quite gay-friendly for Nigeria.

Scene 4: The party is for Ishaya's sister Rahila, but the guests consist of Michael, Ishaya's girlfriend, and the parents.  They play cards and watch an advert for Wilmer Academy, the best school in Nigeria.  Rahila wants to go to the Open Exam Day to try out for a scholarship, but Mom forbids it. 

Scene 5
: Ishaya offers to sneak his sister into the Open Exam.  On the ritzy grounds of the Academy, they almost get smushed by a car.  The passenger calls them "gutter-trash" and yells "You don't belong here!"  I can't tell that they are poor by looking. Maybe in Nigeria you can.

Ulp, the registration fee is 150,000 naira ($336)!  They are shocked.  "Aren't scholarships supposed to help people who can't afford extravagant fees?"  "This is Wilmer Academy, you gutter trash!"  They slink out.  Next up: the guy who yelled from his car, and his surly Arrogant Jock son Denrele (Raymond Umenze, left, the one in drag).

Scene 6:  Ishaya offers to help her get the money, but Rahila has given up: "Having dreams only leads to disaster.  Dad wanted to become an artist, and it cost us our brother's life."  I want to know more about that back story!

 Cut to Ishaya's evening job as a waiter at a nightclub where men squeal as women's butts gyrate in their faces (three times!).  His uniform is sleeveless -- so men can gaze at his muscular arms after they finish with the butts?  On to his  day job cleaning houses.  And his side job painting portraits.  (Nice chest shot as he changes clothes.)

Scene 7: Government, the manager of the butt-gyrating club, slams someone for stealing drugs from his stash, and then feeds him to his pet hyena.  Ishaya comes in to ask for his paycheck.  

Scene 8:   Ishaya is still intent on going to London.  Girlfriend finds out that he was planning behind her back, dumps him, and starts dating one of the nightclub guys.  He roils with jealousy.  Plus the travel agent needs the full 300,000 naira fee now.  He can't go.  

Scene 9: At the nightclub, a customer asks for some bills to shove up ladies' butts.  Ishaya goes into the money room to fetch some -- and steals 150,000 naira! Not enough to pay the travel agent, but enough for the Open Scholarship exam, and since his sister is no longer interested....

Scene 10: Ishaya pays the fee, and memorizes the test answers in advance, so he's sure to get in.  Hey, that's cheating!  

Scene 11: 
 First day of school.  At the assembly, Ishaya sits in the only available seat, next to smiling Femme Guy (Emeka Nwagbaraocha). 

Carmen, the great-granddaughter of the founder of the school, gives a speech.  "That babe is fine!" he exclaims.  Femme Guy Frank: "Sorry, I can't see it."  Did you just come out to a stranger?  In Nigeria?

Ishaya is introduced as a scholarship boy who got 100% on the exam. Everyone wants to get a photo of him.

Scene 12:
After the assembly, Femme Guy is buddying up to Ishaya, when a Femme Adult named Atlas (Olumide Oworu) gushes over: "Frankincense, is that you?" "My name is Frank now." Arrogant Jock pulls him away.  I don't understand.  Has Frank turned straight, and rejects people from his old life?  

Time for a campus tour.  When they visit the school's art gallery, Ishaya flashes back to telling his father that he wants to become an artist. "Art is not permitted in this house!" Dad yells.  "It killed your brother!"

Scene 13: Principal tells Ishaya that they need the transcript from his old school. " school?"  

Meanwhile, Arrogant Jock's Dad is yelling at him for not cheating on the scholarship exam.  "Now the gutter trash who cleans our house won the scholarship!"  I wanted to do it on my own."  "You're an idiot if you think anything can be achieved honestly in this world."  

Scene 14: Ishaya needs 50,000 naira ($112) to buy a fake transcript.  His friend Michael gives it to him.

Meanwhile, Femme Adult Atlas arrives at Carmen's mansion.  He calls his Mum to ask her to pay the school fees, so he won't be kicked out (ok, he's a student.) and can apply to the London Art Institute.  Is everybody at this school an aspiring artist?   Her assistant blows him off: "Your mother is still in Paris.  She'll call when she returns."

Scene 15: While Atlas chats about art with her parents, Carmen is searching frantically through her room.  She orders the maid to fetch Mum:  "Give it to me!"  "You don't need any more painkillers  Your leg is fine."  Uh-oh, Carmen has a drug problem.

Femme Student Atlas and Girl-of-Dreams Carmen head to the car.  She complains:  "It feels like I have no control over my life. I can't wait for us to move to London."  He hugs and kisses her -- a femme boyfriend!  I knew he couldn't be gay.

Atlas is so angry about his mother that he drives erratically.  Carmen flashes back to the car accident a year ago that squashed her leg, and shrieks for him to stop the car.

Scene 16: 
 Ishaya delivers the fake transcript to the Principal. "Great, now we just need to call your old school to verify it."  " it?"  He desperately calls his friend Michael to ask him to pretend to be a school official.  

Meanwhile, Atlas and Carmen arrive at school, and are greeted by another power couple, Reggie (Natse Jemide) and Nen.  They go to "the shrine," a single-person restroom with a door that locks, where they can smoke marijuana.  Carmen wants to know why they've been ghosting her for months.  "We're"

Scene 17: Ishaya rushes into the bathroom, changes into his school uniform, and rushes into class late.  This is the scene in the promo, with Arrogant Jock glaring, Femme Guy Frank smiling, and a purple-haired girl helping him adjust his tie.  

After class, Purple-Haired Girl, Zinna, asks if he likes Carmen, since he drew a portrait of her in his notebook.  Arrogant Jock introduces himself, but she snubs him to flirt with Femme Guy Frank.  He is thrilled.  I knew he couldn't be gay.  

Scene 18:  Art class.  Ishaya is busily drawing instead of listening to the lecture, so the teacher confiscates his notebook.  "This year the three best students will be permitted to apply for the London Art Institute Grant."  A grant to get into the school, and now a grant to go to another school.  Aren't these rich kids who don't need grants?

Scene 19:  Ishaya in the Bursar's Office, getting his grant money.  After subtracting the cost of his school uniform and textbooks, he gets 5,000 naira ($11.00).  Even in Nigeria, you can't survive on that!  He rushes into the bathroom and takes off his shirt and cries.

Scene 20:  Back home, the manager of the butt-gyrating club has taken Ishaya's family hostage.  He wants to know why Ishaya stole 150,000 naira from him.  "You have one week to pay me back, or your sister will become one of my prostitutes. We'll take her now, to save time."

They leave.  Dad, understandably upset, kicks Ishaya out of the house.  The end.

Beefcake:  Ishaya, frequently.

Other Sights: Lots of establishing shots of Lagos.

Heterosexism:  Atlas-Carmen-Ishaya, and I think the Surly Jock is into her, too.  Everyone else pairs off into boy-girl couples.

Gay Characters: Frank has a gay-subtext romance with Ishaya, but he's mostly busy fallin gin love with his sister.  Feminine appears to signify "rich" rather than "gay" in Nigerian culture.  The "frankincense" line was just an all-purpose insult.

My Grade: Ishaya comes across as a jerk: "I really want to become an artist" is no excuse for stealing, cheating, and (later on) helping your boss kidnap your best friend.  But the juxtaposition of the "who's dating who?" teen angst and the "feed him to my hyena" mob plotlines makes for an interesting drama.  And there is A LOT  of beefcake.  B
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