Mar 26, 2022

Disney's "Parallels": Four Friends Explore Parallel Worlds

 Parallels, on the Disney Channel: four friends are separated into different parallel worlds.  Sounds interesting, and maybe one of the friends is gay.

Prologue: 2011.  In a rustic Disney Nature Show wilderness, a boy with a crutch looks at grasshopers through a magnifying glass.  Suddenly the world starts whirling around.  He drops his crutch and his magnifying glass, and vanishes!  

Scene 1:
2021.  A rustic school in France.  Some junior high students played by 25-year olds line up to be photographed.  A jock (Thomas Chomel, left) and his girlfriend, gaze at each other; the nerd (Timote Regault) who is secretly in love with the girl looks on jealously.   

Later a fourth, Victor (Maxime Bergeron), joins them.  He is a genius, and tried to skip up a grade to be with his older friends, but he didn't like it and wants to repeat.  Besides, if he's the youngest kid in high school, "No one would date me!"  He says "no one," not "no girl."  

"What about the little blonde in eighth grade?"  they want to know. Boy blond or girl blond?

He's worried that they will go to high school, then college, and grow apart.  "No, that will never happen.  I love you guys."  Foreshadowing!

Scene 2: A rustic mountain resort town.  The girl, Romaine, goes to the grocery store.  The checker, her Mom, has to work late, so Romaine has to pick up baby sister Camille.  Mom pops some pills -- she must be dying.

At their rustic cabin, Romaine and Baby Sister run into Dad (Dmitri Storoge), who is apparently in the midst of divorcing Mom.  The girls hate him.  

Scene 3:
A palatial mansion.  Genius Victor talking to Jock Sam, his older brother, who plans to ask Romaine to be his girlfriend tonight.  The way they were gazing at each other, I thought they were already engaged.  Victor:  "Hurry up and ask her, before I do."  

The parents (including Dad Gil Alma, left) yell at Victor for not living up to his potential.  Geniuses should be doing physics experiments, not playing video games!  Later, Victor and Sam argue: "I wish you would act like my big brother sometimes."

Scene 4:  We've seen three of the four friends' problems.  Next up, Nerd Bilal: his mother has to work late, so he's on his own for dinner, but they're going to the mountains this weekend. They live in a mountain resort.  How much more mountainous can it get?  

Scene 5: The four friends hanging out in the dark, scary woods (no coffee shops in town?).  They have a secret bunker with lights, music, food, and...booze?  On a Disney show?  They dance, play with sparklers, and generally frolic, until Jock Sam and Romaine pair off, and Bilal is stuck in the friend zone again.  Suddenly the lights flicker, the room starts to spin around, and everyone vanishes but Sam!

A middle-aged man crawls from behind the couch, groaning and holding his head.  Sam runs away.

Scene 6:  Nerd Bilal
looks in the mirror and is shocked to see that he's now Omar Mebrouk (left): middle-aged, with a beard and a ripped physique (which we see) and an enormous penis (which we don't).  And a boyfriend or girlfriend: there's a note in his pocket from "my love." So, is the adult Bilal gay?  People are out searching for the kids who vanished (already?), so he runs away.  

Scene 7: The Nuclear Research Institute.  A woman -- maybe Bilal's Mom -- determines that the latest experiment is a failure.  She turns off the giant Time-Tunnel machine.

Scene 8:  The police and search teams have found nothing: the kids just vanished.  They break the news to Sam and his parents, then call Bilal's Mom as she is leaving the facility.  

She gets into her car -- and Adult Bilal is there!  Of course she doesn't believe that he's actually her son, and calls for the security guards.  Adult Bilal runs away.

Scene 9: Police station.  The parents suggest that maybe Sam got drunk and became aggressive, and his friends ran away. Officer Retz (Guillaume LabbĂ©, top photo) interviews Sam and Bilal's Mom about the crazy guy who claimed to be Bilal, then sends them home.

Scene 10:  Morning.  Baby Sister Camille wakes up, and notices that Romaine's bed is empty.  Mom and Dad are in the kitchen, crying.  

Meanwhile, Adult Bilal confronts Sam in his bedroom and reveals a lot of personal details, including his friend-zone crush on Romaine (which everyone was pretending not to notice), and finally convinces him that he's really Bilal.  They search for clues to what happened.  Bilal's wedding ring is inscribed June 5, 2031, so he's from the future, but he has no memories of his adult life.  "So a woman in the future loves me," he says, definitively labeling himself as heterosexual.

We see what happened to Victor and Romaine: they ended up in the empty room together.  The end.

Beefcake: No.  Some of the stars are attractive.

Other Sights: It's all rustic mountain resort.  Would it really be so expensive to film a scene in Le Marais?

Gay Characters: No, no, no, absolutely, emphatically no!  Any hope for a gay character is eventually squashed by offhand comments about hot girls.

Heterosexism:  Lots.

Will I Keep Watching: 
I'm sort of interested in seeing how it works out. Is 15-year old Bilal trapped in his future body, trying to negotiate a job that he doesn't know how to perform and a wife that he's never met?  Will Adult Bilal try to continue his education, and apply to college at the age of 30?  (Hey, I went to grad school at age 40).  Will he and Sam stay friends, and how will that look to outsiders?  Will Officer Retz take his shirt off?

And what of Jules Houplain, who gets top billing on IMDB, but has not yet appeared?  He is gay in real life, and has more beefcake photos posted than the rest of the cast combined.  Will he provide some queer representation, at long last?

Mar 25, 2022

"One Piece": Buddy Bonding During a Quest to Own Everything in the World

 One Piece, a Japanese anime series on Netflix with a 95% "similarity" rating.   The only one-pieces I've heard of are ballet leotards.  Maybe it's set in a ballet school, with muscles and bulges.  

Prologue:  No such luck.  This is about pirates. Back story: years ago, the King of Pirates buried a treasure, "everything the world has to offer," so now thousands of pirate ships are scouring the oceans, looking for it.  Um...those would be scavengers.

Scene 1:  Some sailors see a barrel floating in the ocean, and pull it aboard, even though their shipmates are  screaming with rage and yelling "You suck!"  I can't imagine what their beef is.  

Meanwhile, at a fancy ball on a cruise ship  -- the same ship? -- redhead girl is asked to dance.  

Suddenly pirates attack!  Everyone at the fancy ball panics, except for the redhead girl, who just smiles.

The pirate leader, Iron Club Alvida, forces the crew to say that she's the most beautiful woman on the ocean.  They all board rhe cruise ship except for Coby, a frightened pink-haired boy.  She assaults him.

This is not what Coby looks like in this episode.  He must grow up.

Scene 2: The pirates have entered the ball room: "We won't take yer lives, but we'll take yer valuables." (That's what the subtitles say.)  

Coby runs into the kitchen, and finds the barrel that the sailors pulled out of the ocean earlier (the one that made their shipmates furious).  The pirates follow and break it open: it contains a boy!  They attack, but he easily subdues them, and introduces himself to Coby as Monkey D. Luffy.  Maybe they'll have a gay subtext buddy-bond.

Meanwhile the redhead girl puts on a pirate uniform and swings over to the pirate ship.  She kicks a guard in the balls, and smiles for about ten seconds.  

Scene 3: Luffy is hungry, so he raids the kitchen.  He explains that his ship got swallowed by the maelstrom in Scene 1, and he escaped by sealing himself in a barrel. Apparently he's a paranormal being, maybe a trickster god.   Coby tells us his back story: he was out fishing one day, when he was shanghaied by the pirate queen and forced to work as a chore boy.

Luffy: "Why didn't you just run away?  You're dumb and stupid, and a wimp.  I hate you!"  So much for the gay subtext.

Meanwhile, the redhead girl is investigating the pirate ship.

More plot dump: Luffy is planning to become King of the Pirates, a title given to the person who "finds everything in this world."  That's a lot of booty.  No, wait, these subtitles must be off.  He's not looking for everything in the world, just a single object called the One-Piece. Sort of like the One Ring that gives you infinite power, and allows you to take over?

Coby has a goal, too: to join the navy, and catch bad guys like pirates.  Uh-oh, conflict!

Scene 4:  Having eaten, Luffy needs a new ship: "I wonder if they would give me this one, if I asked nicely."  But at that moment Alvida the Pirate Queen arrives.  He disparages her beauty, which makes her furious. He grabs Coby and flies to the upper deck.  There he subdues some regular pirates by stretching out his arm and boomeranging back.  

When Alvida approaches again, Coby stands up to her, disparaging her beauty and stating that he's going to join the navy, while Trickster God laughs.  She attacks, but Luffy deflects her blows onto himself, and of course he can't be hurt.  He punches her into the stratosphere.

Meanwhile, the redhead girl is leaving with the pirate booty.

Scene 5:  The navy arrives!  Coby and Luffy grab a small boat and leave to avoid capture.  Couldn't he just clobber them all?  

Luffy still needs a crew.  He suggests recruiting the pirate-hunter Zoro, who is incarcerated at a navy base. Coby is opposed to the idea: Zoro is a bad guy.  They argue.

Cut to the navy base, on a small island.  Zoro is tied to a stake in the courtyard.  He grimaces.  The end.

  No. But in the One-Piece movie, also on Netflix, all of the male characters are semi-shirtless, with spectacular physiques.  Maybe I'll review that next.

Gay Characters: Coby and Luffy have a gay-subtext buddy-bond, right now, but the redhead girl will no doubt be joining them, and become the object of  heterosexual desire for one or both.

Culture Clash:  Why were the sailors so upset over pulling a barrel out of the ocean?  

Why does Luffy insult Coby and say that he hates him, when he obviously likes him?  

 Why is a person who owns everything in the world called the King of the Pirates instead of The Emperor or the Supreme Leader?  

Why would a trickster god have to work hard to own everything in the world?  Doesn't he control it already?

Maybe these things make sense to Japanese viewers, or maybe they're explained in later episodes.

Will I Continue to Watch: Holy cow, there are over 1,000 episodes!  One a day for the next three years!  I don't think so.

See also: Three One-Piece Movies in One Sitting

Mar 24, 2022

Waltons: The Gay Connection

It's been off the air for 40 years, but people still point to The Waltons (1972-81) as emblematic of "good tv" about "family values," by which they mean it had no bad words, parental disrespect, or gay people.  Remember when President Bush told People magazine that we need fewer families like The Simpsons and more like The Waltons?

So we should all live in rural North Carolina during the Depression, have no money but an enormous house and chicken for dinner every night, have enormous numbers of children, and all go to bed at the same time, shouting "Good night" to each other across the darkened rooms?

I hate to be the bearer of "bad news," but even The Waltons had a gay connection.  

1. The central character, aspiring writer John-Boy Walton, was played by Richard Thomas, who starred in Last Summer (1969), about a three-way romance in the gay mecca of Fire Island, and Fifth of July (1982), about a gay paraplegic Vietnam veteran.

2. Will Geer, Grandpa Walton, was gay.  His lover, Harry Hay, founded the Mattachine Society, the first gay rights organization in the U.S., in 1950. 

3. Ralph Waite, John Walton, is heterosexual, but during the 1980s he ran for Congress, primarily due to the incumbent's lack of support for AIDS research and gay issues. 

4. Eric Scott, left (Ben Walton), has starred in two gay-themed movies, Defying Gravity (1997) and Never Again (2001).

5. I've never seen an episode all the way through, but I understand that there was a parade of hunky guys, sometimes shirtless.

6. And frequent buddy-bonding.

7. The John-Boy doll didn't look much like him (it was a blond GI Joe in overalls) but it had a massive chest.

8. John-Boy had an almost total lack of heterosexual interest (before his wedding in a 1995 movie).

See also: My Crush on Richard Thomas

See Here, Private Hargrove: To Be Young Was Very Heaven

 When I was an undergraduate at Augustana College (1978-1982), there was a metal book rack in the foyer of the library marked "Take a book, leave a book."  There wasn't usually much of a selection: well-thumbed copies of The Godfather and Love Story,  romance novels, five-year old freshman composition textbooks.  But I found a small red textbook of Medieval Latin and Tarzan the Invincible (one of the later Burroughs novels).  One damp, cloudy Saturday afternoon during my senior year, there was nothing but an ancient, yellow-paged paperback, See Here, Private Hargrove.  

Army life during World War II?  Dreary!  But I was heading for a 5-hour shift at the Student Union Snack Bar, which was always deserted on Saturday nights, and I needed something to read.  So I exchanged it for The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin. 

I had a slight sore throat, a sort of lump that made swallowing difficult -- in the COVID era it would be inconceivable to go to work while sick, but back in the 1980s, unless you were dying, you went.  The Snack Bar was a desolate square space with about ten round white tables and a gleaming counter up front. I was the only one working.  We sold hamburgers, french fries, sandwiches, chips, sodas, and some desserts.

 From the cash register I could see the glass wall with doors leading outside, now dark and stormy with rain; the banks of mailboxes to the left, and Adam's Bookstore to the right.   From 5 to 10 pm, I had maybe ten customers.  I had dinner at my post -- a hamburger, french fries, and a carton of milk. 

 But mostly I read See Here, Private Hargrove.  It was a collection of humorous anecdotes, originally published in the Charlotte, North Carolina News, about Marion Hargrove's life as a private at Fort Bragg in 1940 and 1941: "The Boy Across the Table...",  "A Soldier Stuck His Hand....", "I Grinned Weakly...": chores, drills, bellowing sergeants, trips into town to go to movies.  The sort of thing that was popular during the Vietnam War: No Time for Sergeants, Gomer Pyle, Hogan's Heroes (not quite the same, but close enough).

I've done some research since.  The novel was made into a movie in 1944, starring Robert Walker (1918-1951). best known for the gay-subtext Hitchcock thriller Strangers on a Train (1951). He was married twice and had four children, so I doubt that he was gay in real life.

I haven't seen the movie, but according to IMDB, Private Hargrove gets a girlfriend (played by Donna Reed, future 1950s housewife on The Donna Reed Show) and a best buddy (played by gay actor Keenan Wynn).  So there may be some buddy-bonding.

Robert Walker's son, Robert Walker, Jr (1940-2019)., played the boy raised by aliens, Charlie X, on a 1966 episode of Star Trek.  He had three wives and seven children.  Probably not gay.

Marion Hargrove (1919-2003) went on to write two more novels, plus magazine articles and television scripts.  His credits include I Spy, The Name of the Game, and The Waltons.  His humorous account of trying to get a couch for the studio office was published in The Playboy Book of Humor and Satire (1965).  He had two wives and six children, so probably not gay.

Today, I have replaced the small paperback with a hardbound copy -- just to have, not to read -- I don't want any new memories to develop.  I want to see the book on its shelf and flash back to that night -- the sore throat,  the hamburger and carton of milk, gazing out through the glass windows into a rainstorm, all of it.  Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.

Mar 23, 2022

"Human Resources": Hormone Monsters, Logic Rocks, Shame Demons, and Love Bugs


Big Mouth (2017-) is an animated sitcom about middle schoolers negotiating puberty with the advice (good or bad) of hormone monsters, a shame demon, a depression kitty, and various other magical beings.  There are gay, bisexual, and transgender characters, and for a change, bisexual Jay actually dates boys and girls both, instead of just saying that he's bisexual and dating only girls (he even ends up with a boy!).  

  So I was interested in the spin-off series Human Resources, about the work and personal lives of the various emotion-monsters.  I watched the second episode.

Opening:  The spider-receptionist goes to lunch, only to find two Hormone Monsters screwing in the break room.  He tries to ignore them, but slips on the cum, breaks his legs, and ruins his chicken salad.  

A Plot:  The boss tells the Hormone Monsters that it's inappropriate to screw at the office, destroying other people's cubicles and leaving messes all over.  She calls Corporate, which sends an Empathy Owl to do sensitiivity training.  At first they seem to be responding to her role-playing interventions, but then Hormone Monster Mona rebels: their job is advising clients about sex, so of course they have to do it at work.  

B Plot:
  Experienced Lovebug Walter (Brandon Kyle Goodman, left) offers to take the newly-hired Emmy on a "ride-along," so she can see how love works. 

First stop: Client Brent, who is rather swishy and has a husband.  But the husband is fine; Walter was assigned to negotiate the love between Brent and his cat.  Who said that all love was romantic?

Next stop: A nursing home.  Yara, who has Alzheimer's and keeps flashing back to when she was a college student in Lebanon in 1972, and had a forbidden romance with Safi, a boy her parents disapproved of.  It was one of the highlights of her life.

The memory is interrupted by Yara's son Amir (Ahmed El-Mawas), who wants to know where the "good blankets" are. Walter is angry, until he, living through Yara, remembers that Amir visits  every day, and brought the rosewater tea that she liked in Lebanon. 

 C Plot:  Pete the Logic Rock (Randall Park), who looks like an Easter Island head, complains to Lovebug Rochelle that their client, Doug, signed up for a credit card with high interest rate, just because it's affiliated with a sports team that he loves.  She promises to talk him out of it, but instead she has him pimp out his car to look like the sports team.  Pete is furious.  But his fiancee likes it, and the team hires him to do promotions, so everything works out.

Beefcake:  These are monsters.

Heterosexism:  All of the hormone monster screwing appears to be heterosexual.

Gay Characters: When Lovebug Walter sings about love being "psycho," he morphs into various male and female beings involved in same-sex and heterosexual romances.  Brent in the B plot never appears again.  Yara's granddaughter Nadia, who appears in two episodes, is gay.  Herother granddaughter, Natalie, who appears in one episode, is transgender.  

Rauchiness:  A bit over the top.  I don't necessarily want to hear about jizz every ten seconds.

My Grade: B

Mar 21, 2022

Cary Grant: Hints and Closets in the 1930s

On November 29, 1986, Cary Grant died in Davenport, Iowa, right across the river from my home town of Rock Island.  I was living in West Hollywood at the time, but still, it felt weird to know that a film legend had died right next door.

Cary Grant had a brilliant career, usually playing suave, sophisticated types driven mad by a free spirit or a series of catastrophes.  Must-sees include Topper (1936), Suspicion (1941) directed by Alfred Hitchcock, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), To Catch a Thief (1955), North by Northwest (1959) by Hitchcock again,and  That Touch of Mink (1962) with Doris Day.  Many of his movies have gay subtexts.

In Bringing Up Baby (1938), his character answers the door in a frilly women's nightgown (because a woman stole his clothes), and declares "I just went gay all of a sudden."  He continues: "I am sitting in the middle of Time Square, waiting for a bus."  This is one of the first uses of "gay" in its modern sense, augmented by the reference to cruising.  It's an ad-lib, not in the shooting script. How would he know it?

The perennial question is, was he gay?

The facts of the matter are:

1. He met Randolph Scott in 1932, and the two lived together, on and off, for the next ten years ("to save on expenses," heterosexist biographers claim) and remained close friends for the rest of their lives.

2. But neither have been associated with any gay stars, or with the gay subcultures of Hollywood in the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s.

3. Friends and acquaintances noted that he was often seen in the company of young men.

4. He was married five times. His first two wives "accused" him of being gay, his last three denied the rumors, stating that they had sex a lot.

5. He sued Chevy Chase for suggesting that he was gay.

6. His daughter stated that he liked the rumors, because they motivated women to "cure him" through sex.

7. His last movie, Walk, Don't Run (1966), is obviously about a gay romance.

8. He never acknowledged his gay fans.

9. My friend Randall claims that he had a three-way with Cary Grant and Groucho Marx in 1958.  The story is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Answer: there's a ton of evidence for both gay and heterosexual identity.  Most likely he was bisexual and highly closeted.

Mar 20, 2022

"Jennifer's Body": Beefcake and Gore, but No Body

This week's Movie Night was Jennifer's Body.  I can't imagine why Bob chose it, or even researched something that sounds like a heterosexual porno.  Don't worry -- we aren't actually subjected to any lady parts.  But the movie is still awful.

Needy (Amanda Seyfried) has been in a mental hospital/prison (they can't decide which) since "the killings began two months ago."  No way you could get through a trial and found guilty or insane in just two months.  After assaulting a guard/ attendant, she is placed in an impossibly Dickensian solitary confinement hole, and tells us her story.

Cut to Needy as an absurdly stereotyped high school nerd (everything but taped up glasses) living in an impossibly stereotyped small town, with a puppy-dog-cute boyfriend (Johnny Simmons, top photo; we see a lot of his body).  She has an unstated romantic relationship with Jennifer (Megan Fox), who is apparently the epitome of gorgeousness and therefore rules the school.  

Don't take the unstated romantic relationship as evidence that this movie is gay-friendly.  It is otherwise heteronormativ: every boy, without exception, oozes on Jennifer.  And homophobic: "gay" is used as an all-purpose slur, most notably in the line "Something gay and evil has arisen in our town."

One night Jennifer talks Needy into going to a dive bar to hear a musical group no one has ever heard of.  The lead singer, Dirk (Juan Riedinger), thinks that Jennifer is a virgin, and therefore useful for his diabolical plan.  How on Earth did he get the idea that this girl who is sashaying around the bar, flirting with every guy in sight and drinking enough booze to get Godzilla drunk, is a virgin?

Suddenly a fire breaks out, and everyone in the bar burns to death except for Jennifer, Needy, and the band, which whisks Jennifer away in their van.  She returns later that night, bloody, laughing, and violent.  

And she starts seducing, killing,  and eating boys.  First Jonas (Josh Emerson, left), best friend of one of the guys who died in the fire. (While forest critters watch, for some reason).   We see his chest and belly as Jennifer undresses him prior to sex/death.

Then Colin (Kyle Gallner), a swishing, swaying, multiple-rings-wearing queen whom I thought was gay.   Jennifer lures him to a deserted house in a scary, deserted housing development.  He actually has to break a window to get in.  I'd be running the other way.  (We don't see any of his body.)

Jennifer explains that the band sacrified her to Satan to further their musical career, but she didn't die.  She just gets very weak and sick, until she drinks some human blood; then she's super-strong and seductive.  But she won't hurt her best friend -- yet.

Trying to figure out what's going on, Needy turns to the high school library's very well stocked occult section, and discovers what happens when you attempt to sacrifice a virgin to Satan, but she's not a virgin: a demonic being takes up residence in her body.  

Uh-oh, the big dance is coming up!  A perfect opportunity for Jennifer to eat every boy in sight.  Nonsense.  She only ever eats one boy at a time.  So Needy stalks the big dance (all boy-girl couples), while Jennifer is busily luring her boyfriend to a deserted swimming pool (overrun with weird alien vines).   Needy figures out the truth and bursts in just as Jennifer has killed Chip.  But he resurrects long enough to help subdue the demon. Almost.

Finally Needy accosts Jennifer in her bedroom, and ends up killing her, and being blamed for the fire and the murders.  Ulp -- Jennifer bit her, and you know what happens when you are bitten by a demon, right?  

This movie is not only homophobic, but racist.  At the tavern, Jennifer makes a big deal of Ahmet from India ((Amal Johal) -- that's how he's listed in the credits.  Wondering what an Indian cock looks like.  They don't belong to another species -- cocks are cocks.

There's a teacher with a hook hand, for no reason.
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