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 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

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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