Apr 2, 2022

Three One-Piece Movies in One Sitting: Will There Be Any Gay Representation? Or Beefcake?

 Having seen five or six of the 1000-plus episodes of the Japanese anime One-Piece, I feel qualified to watch some of the spin-off movies.  The premise: invincible trickster god-pirate Luffy and his ragtag crew are trying to find the titular object which will allow him to become King of the Pirates and own everything in the world.  In the episodes I watched, he ignored girls and had gay-subtext romances with two guys, so I am eagerly anticipating more gay content.

I'll just watch the first few scenes of each, to decide which to watch all the way through.

First up: One-Piece: Episode of Alabasta (2007):

Prologue: A hawk flies a blue-haired girl across a desert.  He explains that his job is protecting the country, which doesn't necessarily involve fighting.  Presumably this will be important later.

Scene 1:
The blue-haired girl has become a big-breasted, bikini-clad teenager lounging on Luffy's ship. She is called to help save a "man-woman" who fell off his ship.  Great, Minute 2 and we already have an "evil transvestite" stereotype.  At least he's not gay: he makes lewd propositions to both of the girls in the crew.  He explains that he can clone himself; as proof, he turns into a clone of Luffy and clobbers him.  Then he turns into one of the girls and gets naked (gratuitous female nudity).

Luffy, the Dog, and Long-Nosed Usopp cheer at these tricks; the other crew members are not impressed.  His ship sails by to pick him up, and he leaves.  

Scene 2:  Green-haired Girl points out that the man-woman's crewmen called him Sir Bon Clay: he's one of Crocodile's men!  Crocodile is a crime boss who stole an enormous quantity of the fobidden Dance Powder, which makes rain by stealing moisture from other regions  (so why not Rain Powder?), and then framed the King as the culprit, causing a war. 

Whew, this is complicated, and there's too many girl parts.  On to One-Piece: Episode of Chopper (2008).

Prologue:  We hear the back story: Before he died, famous pirate Gol D. Roger hid the One-Piece, which will allow you to own everything in the world, so hundreds of pirates are out searching for it, including the invincible trickster god Luffy and his Straw Hat crew.  They have almost everyone they need, but they are still missing a doctor.

Scene 1:
  Beefcake alert!  Zoro, a green-haired muscle-hunk, is doing push-ups with a 1,000 pound weight on his back.  Up on deck, Luffy, Long-Nosed Usopp, and a muscular speedo-clad guy are lifting weights, and two girls lounging, while Sanji, a blond guy with hearts in his eyes, serves them snacks.   

Sanji notices that one of the girls, Nami, has flushed cheeks, indicating romantic interest.  This makes him furious.  Who has stolen the heart of his crush?  Wait -- maybe she is in love with him?  He dissolves into a slurry of hormones. A bit too much hetero-romance here.  I'm looking for gay subtexts.

Meanwhile, Nami, who is the ship navigator, ignores him to order a change of direction.

Scene 2:  Nami steers them out of the way of a cyclone, then collapses.  She has a fever of 106 degrees; she needs a doctor.  Sanji is distraught.

I don't see any gay subtexts here. Let's try One-Piece: Strong World (2009).

Prologue: A giant rock with masts and oars floats over Navy headquarters.  Everyone panicks.  The commander says that only one man is capable of such a feat: Shiki the Golden Lion.  Everyone gasps in shock.  He was defeated and imprisoned, but he cut off his legs to escape the shackles.  He's been in hiding for 20 years.

Shiki the Golden Lion levitates a lot of navy ships and drops them on headquarters as "a warning," then flies away in his pirate rock.

Scene 1:  A crocodile-shaped car is chasing Luffy through the jungle on a desert island.  It is clobbered by a giant octopus, which takes up the chase.  Then a giant praying mantis takes over.  Then a giant striped bear.  I'd advise against settling on this island.

This redition of Luffy wears his shirt open, displaying six-pack abs.  Come for the giant monsters, stay for the beefcake.

Scene 2:
In a ruined city, the skeleton of a 1960s hippie, a speedo-clad barbarian with another six-pack, and a Japanese schoolgirl fight an army of ants with swords and a giant shark.  I don't know what's going on, but it's certainly inventive.

Scene 3:  As they discuss the craziness of their island, we pan out to see that it's floating in the sky, along with many similar islands, some surrounded by water bubbles.  Then we're introduced to Luffy's pirate crew: Green-Haired Zoro, a dog named Tony, Nico (the Japanese schoolgirl, actually an archaeologist), Frankie (the barbarian in a speedo), Brook (the dead hippie), Blond Sanji, Long-nosed Usopp from the previous movie; and a red-head girl, who is swimming for a ridiculously long time, giving us extensive female semi-nudity.  Her boobs fill the screen. Yuck!

It goes on and on and on.  Is this movie called Strong World or Girl Swimming?  She does a backflip.  Her butt fills the screen.  

I'm outta here.  

Or not.  The three movies are all rather obsessed with the female form, but it looks like the least heterosexist (at least in the first few scenes) is Strong World.  But I will definitely fast-forward past the ten-minute scene of heterosexual softcore porn.

See also: One Piece.

Mar 31, 2022

"Foundation": The Most Boring Novel in the History of Science Fiction Becomes Heteronormative TV

Every three or four years since I was around 15, I've picked up Isaac Asimov's Foundation (1951), lured by assurances that it's a magnificent accomplishment, a classic, essential reading, the book that propelled science fiction from Buck Rogers-style space operas to college literature classrooms.

So I start.  And it's just so darn bo--rrrr--ing that I give up after 10 or 20 pages.  Asimov is obsessed with politics, economics, and business, three of the dullest topics imaginable.  

We've seen the premise 100 times before, but I suppose that in 1951, it was brand new:  12,000 years after the beginning of the Galactic Empire, it is in decline.  Just like...um...er...the Roman Empire?   Asimov is not good at cultural changes, so people 20,000 or so years from now act exactly the way they did in 1951, smoking cigars, wearing neckties, and filling their offices with men only.  They don't even have automatic elevators.

There are five or six parts, each with different characters.  I've only read the first:  A  young man named Gael travels from the provinces to the galactic hub planet of Trantor.  En route, he explains in detail how the spaceship works, which seems ridiculous.  Do you usually spend your flight thinking about how airplanes work?

In the city, Gael befriends a man named Jalen or something (naturally -- there are only male characters).  I'm thinking  "Gay subtext!"  But Jalen turns out to be a spy of the Imperium, trying to get the dirt on his new boss, Hari Seldom or something.

Hari Seldom has invented the field of psychohistory, which can predict societal change.  Asimov obviously doesn't know anything about the social sciences -- societal change is a matter for sociology, not psychology.  He has determined that the Galactic Empire is falling apart, leading to 30,000 years of Dark Ages. 

This doesn't sit well with the Galactic Big Wigs, who think that Hari is trying to bring about the downfall.  So after a trial and inquisition, they exile Hari, Gael, and their workers (plus wives and children) to the planet of Terminus, on the far edge of the galaxy (20,000 years, and they still revere Latin?).

But it turns out that Hari has been manipulating the Galactic Big Wigs beind the scenes.  He wanted to go to Terminus, but he didn't think that his workers would go unless they were forced.  He needs a safe space to work on the vast Encyclopedia Galactica, which will preserve human knowledge and reduce the Dark Ages from 30,000 years to 1,000 years.  

Except it's all a trick.  A distraction.  The narrative switches to many years later, and a man named Salvor Hardin, who I thought was Hari Seldom's great-great grandson, but turns out to be just someone with an equally forgettable four-syllable name.  He discovers that the real goal of the Encyclopedists to start a revolt against...well, I don't know who.  By this point, I'm thinking "Life is too short.  I could be reading The Hobbit."

There's a new Foundation series on Apple TV.  I don't get Apple TV, but I don't think I would watch, anyway.  They add some hetero-romantic plotlines to the narrative.  And it's all economics, politics, and business. Let's just check out the hunks.

1. Jared Harris  as Hari Seldon, the guy who invented sociology...um, I mean psychohistory.

2. There are no women in the original novel, so no hetero-romances (no gay subtexts, either).  Here Gael has become a woman, to add some gender diversity and "love interests." Her boyfriend is Raych (Alfred Enoch, top photo), Hari Seldon's adopted son. 

3. Leo Pace (left) as the middle-aged clone of the doddering, decadent Emperor.

4. Cassion Bilton as the teenage clone of the Emperor.

5.  Salvor Hardin has become a woman too, so she can fall in love with a Han Solo-type named Hugo Cranst (Daniel MacPherson).

6. Reece Shearsmith (second photo) as an Imperial Agent who's always snooping around.

7. Elliot Cohen as Lewis Pirenne, the protagonist in one of the sections.  I never read that far.  

8. Mido Hamada as yet another Imperial spy.

9. Pravessh Rana as Rowan, an Anacreon soldier who leads an attack on Terminus.  I think Anacreon is one of the planets that split away from the Empire (20,000 years, and they still reference ancient Greece?)

10. Nikhil Parmar as another Anacreon solder.  

You're probably wondering, with all the gender and racial diversity added to the cast, is anyone portrayed as LGBTQ?  

Answer: No.  

Mar 29, 2022

Jaws and Gay Romance

In 1975, I was too young to see Jaws. I saw it anyway.  All of my friends told me that it was terrifying -- and it was -- but no one mentioned the sizzling intensity of the attraction between police chief Martin Brody (43-year old Roy Scheider, veteran of many two-fisted shirtless roles):

And grad student shark expert Matt Hooper (27 year old Richard Dreyfuss, fresh from playing a high schooler in American Graffiti). 

Gruff Brody hates his small town by the ocean, and citified Hooper doesn't fit in among his intellectual grad student peers.  At their first meeting, Brody and Hooper feel an instant affinity: both are using the sea to escape from themselves. Later, Brody returns to his house, feeling guilty because he has not warned people adequately about the shark attacks. His wife tries to console him, but then Hooper arrives with bottles of wine in hand and asks, with compassion, “How was your day?” The wife, increasingly ignored as they seek solace with each other, butts out. 

For the next few days, Brody and Hooper are inseparable. They dissect a shark; they take a moonlit cruise in search of a lost ship; and they hire a sailor named Quint to help them seek out the killer shark. Hooper’s expertise is superfluous once Quint is on the case; but he stays at Brody’s side anyway, even though it means skipping a glorious eighteen-month long shark-study expedition that he has long desired. 

They sail out into the ocean and find the mad super-shark, and Hooper decides to descend in a shark-proof cage and shoot it. He gives Brody his glasses to hold, and since his hands are occupied, Brody puts them in his mouth. The gesture is amazingly intimate. 

The shark bites through the cage and attacks Hooper, who floats to the sea bottom, apparently dead. Then it eats Quint, and almost eats Brody, but he manages to fire his gun at an air canister it is chomping, exploding it. 

The original Peter Benchley novel is over, but the movie isn’t. As Brody floats, alone and heartbroken, clinging to the wreckage of the ship, Hooper reappears, unharmed. He swims over and places his arm atop Brody’s and smiles. It is their first deliberate touch, aching with joy and desire.

When the credits started to roll, I knew that the story was just beginning. Brody had found his redemption in Hooper’s smile, and Hooper had found a home in Brody’s arms. 


Mar 27, 2022

"Kotaro Lives Alone": A 4-Year Old Boy who Talks Like a Samurai and Lives...Alone


In Kotaro Lives Alone (2022), a 4-year old boy moves into the apartment next to struggling manga artist Karino (Yokoyama Yu in the live-action version).  By himself.  When questioned, he states that he is an adult, perfectly capable of managing on his own.  He speaks in the flowery language of a medieval Japanese warlord.  His t-shirt says "God" in English.  

I'm intrigued.  Is he the reincarnation of a samurai?  Is he God?

Karino has no time for this weird boy who acts like an adult, but it's sort of his duty to make sure that he doesn't get into trouble, so he starts tagging along, to the bath house and the grocery store, letting Kotaro watch tv on his set, helping him bandage his scrapes.  

At the end of the first episode, Tamaro, who looks like a gangster or a pimp, bursts in, and we think that we will get some answers -- maybe Kotaro is on the run from the Yakuza? But it turns out that Kotaro doesn't know him.  He's desperate to befriend the boy because he has lost custody of his own son.

This turns out to be a problem.  When Karino hangs out with the boy, everyone assumes that they are father and son, but when Tamano does, everyone assumes that he is a pedophile attempting to molest him.  He's constantly being questioned by security guards and police officers.

Another neighbor, Ms. Mizuki, works as a pleasure girl: men at a night club pay to hang out with her.  She wants to mother Kotaro.

That's three people helping Kotaro, and through helping him learning to grow, overcome their problems, and live their best lives.  

The explanations comes slowly, and they turn out to be mundane: Kotaro is not God or a reincarnated samurai.  He's just a regular kid, running away from an abusive father, living on his dead mother's life insurance money.  

But by that time, you're hooked on the stories.

Beefcake: Karino goes to the bath house a lot.

Heterosexism:  In the first scene, Karino is dumped by his girlfriend. After that, not much hetero-romance.  One expects Karino and Mizuki to get together and adopt Kotaro, but it doesn't seem to be happening.

Kotaro "selects" Mizuki at the pleasure club, so he may have a crush on her.  Or maybe he's not aware of what her job entails, and he wants to hang out with a mother figure.

Gay Characters: No one explicit, but Tamano gives Kotaro the standard "Closed-minded people always hate someone who's different" speech.  

My Grade: B

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