Feb 5, 2022

"Catfish Mexico": Antonio Gets a Text From the Mysterious Jauvier Every Night at Exactly 11:11 PM.

I don't usually watch reality tv, but I was drawn to Catfish Mexico on Hulu (originally on MTV Mexico), about snooping out lying and misrepresenting social media profiles, because two of the nine episodes seem to be about same-sex couples.  Besides, who knew that the term "catfish" was common in Spanish?

Episode 3: Antonio y Jauvier.   

The Catfish Hunters, Chapu (left) and Badalt (below), in their hotel room in Mexico City.  They scope out today's case:  Antonio, age 23. an aspiring model from Cuernavaca.  He met Jauvier on the internet six months ago, and they continue to talk every night at exactly 11:11 pm.  But Jauvier won't give his last name, or any social media information.  Sometimes the conversations last for an hour, but Jauvier never reveals any personal details, except for an occasional hint: "I have to go study."  So he's a student, and probably Antonio's age.  But who is he?  Why the secrecy?  Why the 11:11 pm fetish?  

1. Badalt and Chapu drive to Cuernavaca to interview Antonio in person, and get more detailed information.  He is afraid that maybe this six-month long relationship is just a prank.  

2. They check out the photos that Jauvier sent: his hands, a huge tattoo,  a field, and a few face shots.  Who else has them?  After some back-searching, they find Andres, who agrees to be interviewed via Skype.  The face shots are of a famous instagram influencer named Jhesus Aramburo.  Could he be the mysterious Jauvier?

3. Now it's time to Skype the influencer.  Nope, he's never heard of Antonio. So Jauvier is sending Antonio -- and maybe others -- the influencer's pictures.  Could he contact Antonio and tell him?  Sure.

4. Next they interview Antonio's friend Valeria (in person,for a change).  She thinks that the mysterious Jauvier is Antonio's ex, Emanuel.  They had a bad breakup, so maybe Emanuel is trying to "get even."  They can't find Emanuel's contact information online, but Valeria says that he hangs out at McCarthy's Irish Bar in Cuernavaca.  So....

5. McCarthy's is not a gay bar, but I guess we're living in a post-gay world.  Nope, no one at McCarthy's recognizes the photo of Emanuel, except one guy who tells them that he's seen him jogging on Lomas Street early in the morning.  So....

6. Early the next morning, they cruise down Lomas.  Lots of joggers, but none are Emanuel...wait, there he is!  Commercial break

Emanuel scoffs at their story: Antonio is too naive.  Who falls in love with someone online?  No, he's not the mysterious Jauvier: he and Antonio broke up six months ago, and haven't been in contact since.

Then why,  in one photo, is Jauvier wearing a ring identical to yours?  It's a class ring.  Lots of people have one.   What about the tattoo?  Wouldn't Antonio know whether the tattoo belonged to his ex or not?   

Emanuel doesn't have any tattoos, but some of his friends do.  He checks out the  photo: it's his new boyfriend, Victor! 

So Victor is catfishing his boyfriend's ex!  

7. Emanuel, Antonio, and the Catfish Hunters all meet in a cafe to confront Victor.  But he refuses to explain why he did it until Emanuel leaves.  Then: "When I started dating Emanuel, I suspected that he was cheating on me with other guys.  And one of them was Antonio.  So I started catfishing him.  Then we fell in love, but I couldn't tell him who I really was."  Wait -- Victor started dating Emanuel before the breakup with Antonio?  

8. The next day the Catfish Hunters arrange another meeting between Antonio and the Catfisher.  He apologizes, and wants to continue the relationship.  Heck, no!  Antonio throws him to the curb.

Follow-up: They interview Antonio a month later.  He's dating the old-fashioned way, by actually meeting people face-to-face.  And Victor: he's no longer catfishing.  The end.

Post-Gay World: Gay and straight are not differentiated at all.  Boyfriends are boyfriends.

Pacing: A little off: there's no reason to meet with someone, interview them, and then say "Let's go somewhere quieter," change locations, and interview them again.  

Big Mystery: The significance of 11:11 is never explained.

Big Reveals: I was getting a little Jerry Springer style "I'm cheating on you with your ex!" vibe.  

Happy Endings: I was expecting a happy ending, but really, after six months of catfishing and cheating, who would continue the relationship?  Being "happily single" is good enough.

My Grade:  B

Feb 4, 2022

"The Student Prince": Cop and Prince Fall in Love. Or Not.


The Student Prince
(1997), on Amazon Prime: a BBC "comedy-romance" about a police officer assigned to look after a young prince attending Cambridge University.  His duties "soon go beyond bodyguarding"  Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.   

The two young men "learn about life, love, and themselves."  Is there any way to interpret that sentence, other than "they fall in love"?

 There's no LGTQ key word, although the 16+ rating suggests gay themes.  On the icon, the two men are separated by a woman, but I'll chance it.

Scene 1: Cop (Robson Green) is informed by his boss that he's been "promoted" to royal babysitter..um, er, bodyguard.  He grumbles at the assignment, but has no choice.  

Driving through Cambridge.  Cop's driver grumbles: "You'll actually have to share his room?"   No, that's not how bodyguards work.  Cop will get his own room in the Prince's suite.

Arriving, he has a meet-cute with a girl!  And a double-take as she leaves!  This guy has been established as heterosexual.  I'm not happy with this development. 

Scene 2: Michaelmas Term (Fall Semester):
  Cop finally arrives at the Prince's room, just in time to see the Prince (Rupert Penry-Jones) and the previous bodyguard hugging: "Goodbye, sir.  Don't forget to call your mother now and again."  Does this job involve hugging?

Cop and Prince have tea.  Prince (who goes by his family name, Windsor) asks polite questions, which Cop rebuffs, staring at his teacup.  Geez, what's wrong with this guy?

Out in the hallway, Prince talks to his book-carrying friend, Adams (Christopher Staines).  "I can't believe I've been assigned the room where Lord Byron wrote Childe Harold." They plan on getting together later.

Scene 3: At a reception.  Cop gets cruised by the nerdy Hargreaves (Mark Gough), a Natural Science tutor (instructor), who brags about his 3 A-levels. Soon Cop abandons him to flirt with the meet-cute girl from Scene 2.  Grrr... Meanwhile, the Prince gets introdued around: to the Dean, to his Tutor, and to a horny blond woman: "I'll bet every girl here is trying to get into your royal undies."  The Prince is entranced by her candor, and boobs.  Uh-oh, another heterosexual?

Scene 4:  Back in their rooms, Cop is unpacking, when the Prince comes in -- wearing a bathrobe -- bringing him some hot cocoa.  "But I thought we were going to a bar?"  It's a bit early in your relationship for a three-way, innit?   

The Prince tries some more polite questions: "What did you study at Uni?"  Cop scoffs: "I left school at 16. There's more to life than reading books."  The Prince is studying literature.  "And what will you do with those qualifications?" Um...become King of England? 

"So...um...do you like musicals?  Andrew Lloyd Webber played at my 18th birthday party.  Isn't he fantastic?"   Grimace, growl.  The Prince retreats. Liking musicals is gay-coded. Maybe they'll fall in love after all.

Scene 5:  Middle of the night.  Someone comes into Cop's room, so he leaps out of bed with his gun -- naked!  Nice butt.  It's actually just the housekeeper, here to change the sheets.  Wouldn't she usually wait until they're out of their rooms?  The Prince gets an eyeful of the nude Cop, and apparently likes what he sees.

Scene 6:  Prince and Cop arrive late to their class, where the Tutor is discussing a passage from Shakespeare about royals: "they're all a pack of lying, murderous, adulterous villains!  What do you think, Your Highness?"    

Scene 7:  The Societies Fair, where you can sign up for extracurricular activities like the Canoe Club and the Save the Foxes Society.  They pass picketers: "No royal privilege!"  Apparently the Prince got two D-levels, and would never be admitted to Cambridge if he weren't a royal.  

While the Prince looks around, Cop gawks at the ballerinas.  He runs into Shaggy (Jeremy Swift), an old friend that he..um...put in prison?  

Scene 8:  The Prince decides to go out for some sport involving running past a goal while carrying a ball.  Like football, but with a round ball, and apparently you can't throw it.  He's terrible.  The Cop and his Jail Friend stand on the sidelines, making fun of him.   Then the Prince is kicked, and Cop rushes to his aid.

Scene 9: The Prince in the bathtub (nice chest).  He yells at Cop for interfering with the game.  "I get teased all the time for being a royal.  I can take care of myself!"  

Cop sits down on the edge of the bathtub and for some reason notes that he's engaged to a woman named Lisa.  

Prince: "I've never had a proper relationship with a woman."

Cop jumps up in homophobic panic.  " Wait...you're not...."  

"Oh, no, of course not.  It just that there's always somebody watching."

They're both heterosexual.  I'm out.  

Feb 3, 2022

Harold Monro: Lost Gay Poet

The 1960s was all about heroic fantasy; hippies were all agog over The Lord of the Rings and its precursors and imitators, especially those published in Lin Carter's Adult Fantasy Series: The King of Elfland's Daughter, The Boats of the Glen Carrig, The Wood Beyond the World.  Beyond the Fields We Know.

 But by the disco era, we preferred stories about big, bright spaceships hurling through the galaxy.  So when Elsewhere: Tales of Fantasy appeared in Adam's Bookstore in September 1981, the start of my senior year in college, I bought it for nostalgia only.

The illustrations by Terri Windling involved ample nudity, mostly female, but sometimes you could see the curve of a male backside or the hint of a penis.

The stories were usually heterosexist, but I found something evocative in "Overheard on a Salt Marsh."  It's about a goblin who begs a nymph for her beads.  She refuses.

Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
Lie in the mud and howl for them.

I kept thinking that there was something gay about it, but what?  It's a male goblin encountering a female nymph, complaining that the beads are "better than any man's fair daughter."

Is it his gender-atypical desire for the beads, green glass, stolen out of the moon?

Maybe it's the desire itself, desire with all of the trappings of civilization removed, raw, savage, and terrifying.

I could find out very little about the author, Harold Monro, in those days before the internet.  He was born in 1879, opened the Poetry Bookshop in London in 1912, and managed it for the rest of his life, except for a few years of service in World War I.  He married twice, was plagued by alcoholism and depression, and died in 1932.

But as I read his other poems, I found more hints of an openness to male beauty:

Man Carrying Bale:
And the same watchful sun glowed through his body feeding it with light.
The muscles will relax and tremble.
Earth, you designed your man beautiful both in labour and repose

And same sex desire:

 Children of Love, about Cupid and Jesus meeting:
And now they stand
Watching one another with timid gaze;
Youth has met youth in the wood,
Are you afraid of his arrows, O beautiful dreaming boy?

Then in 2001, a biography of Harold Monro appeared, and I discovered that my impressions were correct. Monro was gay, but closeted, and his earlier biographers either didn't know or didn't want to tell.  Like most gay lives of the past, his was hidden, requiring you to read between the lines.

James Whitcomb Riley: Even Dull, Depressing Poets Can Be Gay

When I was growing up in Rock Island, teachers thought it their duty to lecture incessantly on local writers and artists, like Carl Sandburg, gay jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke, and Isabel Bloom.

My cousins in Indiana were hearing about their local writers and artist, of course, and whenever I visited, I had to hear about them, too: Theodore Dreiser, Gene-Stratton Porter, Hoagy Carmichael....

The one I hated the most was James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916), the "Hoosier Poet," the official poet laureate of the state of Indiana.

My Aunt Mavis scared me and my Cousin Buster to death with her rendition of "Little Orphant Annie":

The goble-uns'll git you ef you don't watch out! (The "git" was accompanied by a sudden grab.)

And "Nine Little Goblins":

You shan't wake up 'til you're plumb dead!

My Cousin Joe had to read "My Bachelor Chum," about a guy who is old -- nearly 40 -- and fat, who claims that he loves being unmarried -- he can smoke and drink and stay out late, and there's nobody around to nag him.  But then he sneaks off to a private study, looks at a picture of a woman, and starts crying.

Not only heterosexist, but depressing! Can you believe that James Whitcomb Riley was one of the most popular writers of his era, and all of his books were best-sellers?

Glancing through a copy of the Selected Poems that was on every bookshelf in Indiana, I found nothing but death, despair, lost heterosexual loves, dying soldiers, and more death.

They loved that kind of thing in the 19th century.

Riley's most famous poem is "The Old Swimmin' Hole": an old man reminisces about how as a boy he used to enjoy skinny dipping with his chums, but now he just wants to die:

I wish..I could dive off in my grave like the old swimmin' hole

Wait -- he liked to swim naked with his chums?

Could Riley have been gay?

His biographer, Elizabeth Van Allen, says certainly not, but what biography doesn't try desperately to establish the heterosexuality of her subject?

She admits that he sought same-sex friendships through his life, and described them in passionate terms; to physician James Matthews, for instance, he wrote: "I love you, and no knife shall cut our love in two."

But that's just a 19th century convention, she explains: "he understood that there was a limit to what was socially acceptable between people of the same gender."

Of course there was.  The same limit exists today -- it is expected, encouraged, and demanded that same-sex relationship be platonic, and cross-sex erotic.    Being gay crosses that line.  But that simply means that gay people must spend a lot of time defending themselves against the accusations that they're trying to destroy the world.  It doesn't mean that they aren't gay.

Or that they never experienced glimmers of same-sex love while writing their dull, depressing poems.

See also: John Greenleaf Whittier and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Feb 1, 2022

"Legend of Vox Machina": Late to the Dungeons and Dragons Party


I have always found Marvel and DC comics immensely frustrating.  Each issue you buy is an installment in an ongoing story that lasted for 1,000 issues, across multiple titles, with references to events and people from even more titles.  You basically have to read every issue of every Marvel or DC title in print to figure out what is going on.

In September 1972, I bought Werewolf by Night, Issue #1.  I figured a new character would be safe from those endless, complicated interconnections.  Imagine my shock when the issue referred to previous events.  How can there be events BEFORE issue #1?  Turns out that Marvel often cast characters in multiple books before giving them their own title. According to the Marvel Comics Database, the Werewolf (Jack Russell) has been featured in 175 books, has made a minor appearance in 23, and been mentioned in 6.  

I got the same "late for the party" feel from the new Amazon animated series The Legend of Vox Machina, which sends a ragtag band of various species and time periods into Medieval sword-and-sorcery adventures.  And in the third episode, the 18th century, where they tangle with Gothic vampires.  They are:

1-2. Vax and Vox (Medieval), twin brother-sister "half Elf rangers" with a back story about getting revenge for their mother's death.  They are both apparently bisexual.

3. Percy (18th century), a swishy rich snob with a back story about getting revenge for his parents' murder.

4. Pike Trickfoot (Medieval), a lady gnome and "cleric of the Everlight" who had black hair before she died and was resurrected; now it's white.  She is the keeper of the Plate of the Dawnmartyr.

5. Keyleth (Early Middle Ages), a half Elf druid, a member of Ashari tribe, who guard the portal of the Elemental Plane of Air.

6. Scanlan (Renaissance), a horny Elf bard who shoots rays from his crotch and sings bawdy songs like "Pull my Love Beads."

7. Grog Strongjaw (Ancient), a semi-articulate "Goliath barbarian."

Overwhelmed?  You should be.  It turns out that the series is the latest in a completx universe of multi-platform crowdsourced web-based productions, all ultimately derived from a Dungeons and Dragons game played by a group of friends at Liam O'Brien's birthday party in 2015.  They liked the game so much that they began playing live online (I don't understand why it's fun to watch someone else play a game, but lots of people like it.)

Next came Critical Role (apparently a D&D term), a production company which streamed episodes on its own website and youtube: over 300 hours of content so far.  There was also a discussion show, Talk Machina,  a comic book series, and a set of action figures.

A crowd-sourced animated production, Critical Role: The Legend of Vox Machina, appeared in 2019. Amazon acquired the rights to produce a series, but it was delayed due to Covid,.  The first three episodes appeared in January 2022.

There's one minor gay character (the owner of the magic shop that the group patronizes), and two bi characters of the "I'll say I'm bi but never date anyone of the same sex" sort. Not worth coming in "late to the party" with an enormous amount of back story to conquer.

Jan 31, 2022

Sean and the World of Gay Leathermen

During the 1960s and 1970s, gay men carved niches for themselves, separate neighborhoods where they could be free from homophobic harassment, separate social institutions to replace those they were excluded from in the "straight" world.  And one of the institutions they devised was Leather, aka S&M.

The look: muscles, hairy chests, and clothing based on the motorcycle gangs of the 1950s: chaps, vests, boots, jackets.  Black, sleek, rigid, gleaming.  No fluffy sweaters, no chinos, no designer shoes, no perfumes, nothing but raw masculinity

The acts: erotic "scenes" involving dominance and submission, power and pain.

Leathermen were excoriated by the heterosexual press, which kept squealing: "Look!  Look!  We told you that gays were all perverts!"

In Cruising (1980), the subculture was savagely derided as a bunch of masochists and murderers.

Even the mainstream gay movement was leery, thinking that they would scare the heterosexuals and forestall the quest for tolerance.

But they survived.  During the 1980s, even people not into the culture started experimenting, since S&M activities don't transmit HIV.

It became commonplace for men hitting their mid-30s to shift their allegiance from twink bars to leather bars like the Spike, the Eagle, the Gold Coast, the Faultline, and Bill's Filling Station.

There were motorcycle clubs, leather clubs, S&M clubs, bear clubs, fetish fairs like Dore Alley, contests like International Mr. Leather, magazines like Drummer, Mandate, and Bound and Gagged.

All illustrated by a cadre of gay artists: Tom of Finland, Etienne, the Hun, Cavello...and their undisputed leader, Sean.

Sean, aka John Klamik (1935-2005), who was a fixture in West Hollywood from the 1950s, painting murals for leather bars,  publishing cartoons in leather and mainstream gay magazines, illustrating the novels of leather greats such as Larry Townsend, and publishing his own graphic novels.

He and his partner, Jim Newberry, were also well-known in West Hollywood politics, instrumental in planning each of the Gay Pride Marches and Festivals from the 1970s through the 1990s.

Sean drew his inspiration from the impossibly buffed, impossibly endowed Tom of Finland men, but he put them into much more graphic situations.

So graphic that it's hard to find one to illustrate.

And his themes and situations veer far from the jubilant eroticism of Tom's men. There are acts of torture, punishment, and revenge.    

For instance, the famous Biff Bound (1982), which I found at the adult bookstore in Bloomington, Indiana, is a pantomime comic book about a super-muscular, super-endowed blond who hitch-hikes in search of willing partners.  But instead, he is grabbed, tied up, and sexually assaulted by three toughs, who then steal his clothes and his suitcase.

He is rescued by a group of gay leathermen, who give him a new leather outfit, then help him capture the toughs.  They tie them up, have sex with them, force them to have sex with each other, and finally retrieve Biff's suitcase.  

Heavy stuff.  Is it promoting sexual assault?

Certainly not, Sean said in an interview.  "It's a fantasy."

It was about empowerment.  Gay men in the mainstream press of the day were portrayed as perpetual victims, of homophobic assaults, of discrimination, of AIDS, of their own "uncontrollable urges."  But they didn't have to be. They could be strong, powerful, in charge of the situation.  They could save the day.  They could triumph.

See also: Tom of Finland;  The Mystery of Cavelo; and The Bear with the Sweeney Todd Fetish.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...