Apr 29, 2022

Let's Hear it for the Boy

In the early 1980s, I listened mostly to classical music.  I was too old for teen idols,  and adult music was dreadful, all about hetero-romance, hetero-sex, or large breasts.  Especially when MTV began playing music videos to illustrate the songs.

For instance, let's look at the charts for the spring of 1984, when I was working on my master's degree:

Phil Collins, "Against All Odds": a girl left him, and now he's depressed.
Lionel Richie, "Hello": a girl left him, and now he's depressed.
Ultravox, "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes": a girl left him, and now he's depressed.
Julio Inglesias, "To All the Girls I've Loved Before."
Nik Kershaw, "Dancing Girls."  'Nuff said.

But there were exceptions.  A dozen songs of the early 1980s could be appropriated, read as gay-positive regardless of what the performers intended.  Especially "Let's Hear it for the Boy," by Deniece Williams

The lyrics are standard pop hetero-romance, about the female singer's boyfriend, who is not rich, a fancy dresser, or a good singer, but nevertheless provides hetero-romance.  In the music video, however, she praises a variety of boys, starting with with a tap dancing little kid (Aaron Lohr, later photo), who of course is not her boyfriend.

Here's another recent photo of Aaron, in a stage version of  The Full Monty.

The scene shifts to a teenager who plays the piano and dances, badly, then to more teenage boys and adult men, playing chess, playing football, dancing with her, dancing with each other.  Some are athletic, some aren't, some are shirtless, some aren't, but all of them are beautiful due to their exuberance, their energy, and their fun-loving joie de vivre. Who has time to even think about muscles?

 Finally there are thirty men and one woman on stage.  The song has become a paeon to the entire male sex.

And that's not all.  It's the background music in the intensely romantic montage in Footloose (1984) where city boy Ren (Kevin Bacon) teaches redneck Willard (Chris Penn) to dance, and they end up posing, running, frolicking, hugging.

With the absence of a female focus character, it becomes a paeon to men loving men.

See also: Ocho Rios: Tracking Down a Jamaican Bodybuilder.

Apr 28, 2022

"Momma Named Me Sheriff": Making Fun of the Intellectually Disabled, Gay Predators, and Female Butts

The Adult Swim cartoons I watched in the 2000s were quite homophobic, but there were a few gems, such as The Venture Brothers.  So I went into the Adult Swim series Momma Named Me Sheriff" with some hope.  I reviewed the episode where the Sheriff has secret encounters with a man.  

Scene 1: Morning.  The Sheriff, who is middle-aged and grotesquely ugly, wakes up next to a doll named Abigail and cleans up his toys.  It's an extremely disquieting scene.  Is the show making fun of an intellectual disability?  But they don't act like children; their cognitive processes are affected, not their maturity.  What's going on?

Scene 2:  At work, the Sheriff photocopies the evidence that his room is clean.  He explains to his staff that if you clean your room on Sunday morning and bring photographic evidence into the woods, the Sunday Man will give you an ice cream sundae.  

When he leaves for his rendezvous, Yo-Guy, who wears his pants around his ankles (no nudity) and begins every sentence with "yo," worries that the arrangement is a set up: Sunday Man plans to kill the Sheriff, or rape him, or both.  Wife-and-Kids Guy thinks that it's just the Sheriff's Mama, tricking him into cleaning his room.

Scene 3:
Yo-Guy, investigating, watches as the Sheriff goes into the woods and meets Sunday Man.  Satisfied that his room is clean, Sunday Man prepares to give him the ice cream sundae -- by unzipping his pants!  He pulls a sundae out, but the implication couldn't be more clear: gay men are predators and pedophiles (sort of).  I'm disgusted.   Yo-Guy screams in horror, interrupting the activity.

Sunday Man: You told someone!  This was supposed to be a secret.  Now I'll never give you an ice cream sundae again!  Definite implication that the Sheriff is the victim of a pedophile.  But he's an adult, so sex would be consensual, right?

Scene 4:  Thoroughly traumatized by the sight of two men having sex, Yo-Guy is being comforted by the Sheriff's Momma and a girl showing us her butt. Momma admits that she used to play Sunday Man to get the Sheriff to clean his room, but she hasn't done it in years.  A pedophile (sort of) has taken over the role!

Scene 5:  Sunday Man running toward his run-down cabin, while the Sheriff follows, begging for forgiveness.  Sunday Man reveals that he's actually the Sheriff's father.  Pedophile incest?  When they were married, Momma's nagging about cleaning his room drove him to fake his death and move to a cabin, where he could be as messy as he wanted.  And the only way he could think of to see his son was to pretend to be Sunday Man, after Momma retired the role.   But now that he's been discovered, he has to leave town.

Scene 6: The Sheriff doesn't care about any of these revelations; he just wants his sundae.  So Sunday Man/Dad sneaks him into the boarded up ice cream shop he used to own.  Unfortunately, after so many decades, the ice cream in the freezer has gone bad.

Suddenly three guys with bad teeth storm in: the Napkin Farmers!  "I had a feeling you weren't really dead!"  their leader exclaims.

Scene 7:  Yo-Guy and Momma investigate, and find Sunday Man/Dad's cabin. 

Meanwhile, the Napkin Farmers are holding Sunday Man/Dad hostage, threatening to kill him with napkins.  They explain that, many years ago, Sunday Man/Dad invented a dripless ice cream machine, so he didn't need napkins in his shop, thus hurting the business.  This made them angry, so they threatened to napkin him to death, which forced him to go into hiding.

Scene 8: The Napkin Famers force Sunday Man/Dad to take them to the cabin, so they can destroy the dripless ice cream machine.  Why do they care?  He's never actually used it, so their business is not threatened.  

Momma and Yo-Man are there; everyone fights.  Sheriff bites one of the napkin thugs on the penis.  Dad pulls off their faces with his ice cream machine. Then Yo-Man accidentally starts a fire, and they all burn to death.

Scene 9: Dad has re-opened his ice cream shop.  The butt-showing girl, apparently Sheriff's sister, wants to know why he visited Sheriff every week, but never visited her.  He claims that he did visit, at the strip club, every Monday.

Sister: So you're Monday Man....

Dad: No.  Who's Monday Man?

Beefcake: No.  Sunday Man/Dad is naked throughout most of the episode, but his sex organs are censored.

Gay Characters:  No, just the gay-men-as-pedophiles implication.

Heterosexism:  Wife-and-Kids Guy's only notable character trait is a framed photo of his wife and kids prominently displayed on his desk. Sister works in a strip club.  

Vugarity:  Lots.

Making Fun of an Intellectual Disability: Lots.

My Grade: F

Apr 27, 2022

Is Every Movie About Men and Women Kissing?

An April morning.  The last week of class, with the dreary, boring summer coming up.  The highlights will be a colonoscopy and a trip crosscountry to visit relatives.  I don't know which I'm looking forward to the most.

I've already checked Netflix, Hulu, and Disney for something "new and notable," and come up empty.  Now it's time to check the bottom of the barrel Amazon Prime for something that isn't terrible: no plots featuring detectives with dead wives or teenage boys trying to win the girls of their dreams, no trailers featuring men and women falling in love.

1. Deadly Promises: "At Castle Park High, both Dylan and Travis have a crush on Megan.  Of course they do.  Dylan is played by Julian Crouser, a Denver-based actor with only six credits on IMDB, including Beautiful Boy and The Sinister Tale of Scoopy Burger.  I'd watch those.

2. Only the Animals: A French movie about men and women kissing and men glaring at each other.

3. Adam and Evil: "A group of sexy high school graduates" go somewhere remote to be stalked by a psycho-killer.  There is an Adam in the cast (Sean Arnfinson). The trailer shows boy-girl couples all the way down.   

4. Tyfelstei: An Alpine Horror Tale: "After a serious accident, Michael Dorn wakes up in a village in the Swiss Alps."  Where he meets a girl.  Never, ever, under any circumstances, does a boy ever meet a boy.

5. These Streets We Haunt: 
Marcus, "a corporate artist who's lost his zeal for life, rents out his spare room to...."   Let me guess: a hot guy who restores his joie de vivre.  Nope, a girl.

Strangely, the actor playing Marcus is at the bottom of the cast list on IMDB. Top billing: Sam Brooks as Pedro, whose IMDB photo gallery has some pictures of a boy and some of a girl.  Maybe they transitioned.  

6. Shangri-La:  No connection to Lost Horizon, the 1937 movie with Ronald Coleman discovering the mythical Tibetan kingdom. Here "Shangri-La" is the last human refuge in a postapocalyptic world.  The trailer shows shooting, fighting, arguing, trudging through snow...and a man and a woman kissing...and tied-up girls in bikinis.  Ugh!

7. Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Happiness.  An "offbeat comedy" from New Zealand about a man and a woman kissing, hugging, lying on the floor, kissing again, and then fighting off a weird cult.  One of the IMDB reviewers trashes anyone who doesn't love, love, love this movie: they "are no doubt boring and devoid of any real joy in life."  Right, people who don't like exactly the same things you like are doomed to a life of eternal misery.  Sounds like the Birdy-philes who were so insistent that the movie Birdy contained the meaning of life.

8. Iberion
:  "Joe is a loser who is in love with a woman who doesn't even know his name."  How do you love someone that you have never actually met?'  

I'm having a hard time finding beefcake images for actors in any of these movies: they're all obscure, with no social media presence, or they have the exact name as 30,000 other people.  So here's a random hunk.

9. Honeymoon.  I'm not even trying.

10. Ragnarok: Sigurd, his kids, and a colleague set out to discover the mystery of Ragnarok, the future battle that will destroy heaven and earth.  The colleague is...a woman.  Did you dare to hope that he'd invite a cute guy along?

11. Kopy Kings: The hilarious misadvetures of employees at a copy store in Austria.  Do copy stores still exist?  Do hard copies of documents still exist?  The only pieces of paper I see these days are in junk mail. But there are no men and women kissing each other in the trailer, so maybe it's not terrible.

12. Retreat:
"Kate and Martin (Cilian Murphy) escape from personal tragedies to an Island Retreat. Their attempts to recover are shattered when a Man is washed ashore."  Doesn't anyone learn about common and proper nouns in school?  By the way, the Man (Jamie Bell, left) is a threat.  It's kind, nurturing, compassionate women and glaring men all the way down.

13. Straight Edge Kegger:  "After his straight edge friends go too far," a young man goes to a party where a psycho killer awaits.  And he meets....a girl.  Wait -- I thought "straight edge" meant someone who always follows conventional norms, never breaks the rules.  How could a "straight edge" person go too far?

14. Maiden Woods: A town full of "Decent, hard-working people."  I'd like to see those towns full of indecent lazy people.  Then bad things start to happen (or as the blurb says, "transpire"), and former child star Lukas Haas kisses a girl.

15. Is It Just Me?
  A comedy about a gay man (Nicholas Downs) looking for love online, and in the ads in the gay news magazine Frontiers.  I used to read that in L.A. in the 1980s, but I haven't seen a copy for years.  Does it still exist?  The trailer mostly shows him hanging out with his female bestie -- interesting that even in a movie about gay men, you need to portray men interacting with women.

16. Flashback
.  Charlie, "a female lawyer who believes in nothing but herself," takes a cab into the past to "The French Revolution, the Glorious Thirties, and the First World War," where she meets famous women: Marie Curie, Jean D'Arc, Gisele Halimi. I've never heard the 1930s described as "Glorious" before: in the U.S. they're always about bread lines, Hoovertowns, and "Brother, can you spare a dime?"  The trailer shows Charlie getting naked and taking pratfalls, but not falling in love with her cabbie (Issa Doumbia, left).

17. All the Old Knives: "two CIA agents and ex-lovers (Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton)" broke up so they could get back together in this movie.  The gender of Thandiwe isn't obvious from their name, but 90% of the trailer consists of a man and a woman kissing, having sex, cuddling in bed, kissing, arguing, gazing at each other across a crowded room, and kissing.

18. Goodbye, Seventies.  "The Golden Age of Gay Porn."  The trailer features footage of Watergate, homophobic cops, and the Everard Baths fire, a lot of half-naked men, and a lot of women, for some reason.

19. Wrath of Man: "A mysterious new cash truck security guard surprises his coworkers during a heist with his precision skills."  What's a cash truck security guard?  What are precision skills?  The trailer shows him shooting a lot of people, in prison, in heists, and in an office, and talking to a woman but not kissing her.

20. Horizon Line;
"A couple that broke up so they can get back together again  (Alexander Dreymon and....you guessed it.  A woman) boards a routine flight to their friend's island wedding, but the pilot suffers a fatal heart attack, leaving them with no idea how to fly the plane."  The trailer shows them kissing and having sex, then boarding the plane. So when did they break up so they could get back together?  And why would they even get on a plane where the pilot looks like he fought in World War I?

Conclusion: Every movie is about men and women kissing, except when it is specifically aimed at a gay audience, and then it's about men and women talking. 

Apr 24, 2022

"Jellystone!": Closeting, Transphobia, and Yogi Bear


The early Hanna Barbara cartoon stars -- Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, Huckleberry Hound,  the Flintstones, Jonny Quest (and Race Bannon --sigh)  -- were ubiquitous in my childhood in the 1960s.  I don't remember much about their cartoons, but they appeared on an endless supply of toys and games.  There have been many, many parodies, revisions, and rehashes over the years.  Most recently, Jellystone!  (2021-22) puts all of them -- including the obscure ones you've never heard of -- into the same small town, for "slice of life"-style adventures.  There were virtually no female characters in the Hanna-Barbara universe, so some of them have had a gender change.  I heard that there is some gay inclusivity, including Jonny Quest and Hadji as a canonical gay couple.  So I watched the episode in which the two own a bowling alley.

Intro: Establishing shot of the town of Jellystone, built in Swiss chalet style, with the inhabitants in a parade:  Huckleberry Hound, Yogi and Boo Boo, and so on, oddly animated but recognizable from the 1960s.  The characters who have turned female all have eyelashes, a standard signifier in animation since the 1930s. Suddenly a character I don't recognize causes the buildings to all fall over in domino style.  

Scene 1: Doggie Daddy, who still talks like Jimmy Durante, pushing his now-female  child Augie Doggie in a baby carriage, even though he knows that she is 11 years old.  She doesn't mind.  They stop for a kiss break. As she walks over to a snack cart for a sandwich, he's overcome by worry. A  tad over-protective.  

Scene 2: Yogi, Boo Boo, and Captain Caveman approach Doggie Daddy and ask him to a "grownups only" bowling night.  What, exactly, do they have planned?  He wants to go, but he's afraid of leaving Augie with a babysitter.  

Scene 3: Doggie Daddy's house, which is a lighthouse.  He has hired Jabberjaws, now female with a Southern accent, to babysit: "Don't worry -- it will be fun.  We'll talk about boys."  How does she know that the 11-year old is interested in boys?

Doggie Daddy can't manage to leave Augie, so he brings her to the bowling alley disguised as an "adult friend," Dave. Adding a moustache makes her unrecognizable, in spite of the eyelashes.

Scene 4:
Bowling.  Augie/Dave is bad at it, but  fits in by discussing stock options with Baba Louie (now female), and braiding Captain Caveman's hair.  He seems to be complaining that a guy he dated was inadequate in bed: "he said he would kabunga, but he barely even kawunga-ed."

When Augie/Dave finally knocks over a pin, Doggie Daddy kissses him.  The guys look on, shocked, angry -- are they homophobic, or do they suspect the deception?    Doggie Daddy explains that he kisses all of his adult friends, so they line up to be kissed.  I guess they're not homophobic  He is disgusted by the idea of kissing guys, so he tries to rush off.  They convince him to stay.

Scene 5:
Johnny and Hadji, now adults, drop a disco ball so the bowlers can dance.  They aren't named, and don't speak, so you'll only know who they are by reading the plot synopsis.  There's no indication that they are romantic partners.

Scene 6: Morning.  Making breakfast, Doggie Daddy muses that last night was horrible, but he won't have to do it again.  "Goodbye, Dave."  But Augie comes downstairs in her Dave moustache.  She announces that she is going to brunch -- as Dave.  Daddy is shocked and horrified.  He can't deal with having a nonbinary or trans kid!   

Always use the names and pronouns that people prefer.  "Augie" is a deadname.  He goes by Dave now.

A montage of Dave saying goodbye to go to an estate sale, out for tapas, and to watch the football game.  Doggie Daddy screams that he's lost his daughter!  But you've gained a son.  And maybe he was never a daughter at all.

Scene 7:  The bowling alley.  Ok, it's Quest Bowling, with the same font used for the old show, so fans will know that they are Johnny and Hadji -- if they ever show up again.  Dave is playing "Duck, duck, goose" with the gang.  

Doggie Daddy appears and announces: "Until today, I thought that my life was a bowl of cereal, with those little marshmallows in them.  But I realized that one of those marshmallows is actually..."  Something phallic?  Are you going to be accepting of Dave's gender identity?  Nope:  "A booger named Dave! I am not going to take this and pretend that everything is ok!  It's not!"  Way transphobic, Daddy. 

He challenges David to Hock-Ma, a mega-bowling game.  (Johnny and Hadji appear again to set it up).  "If I win, you promise to go back to being a girl. If I lose, I'll go live in that grave over there."  You're going to commit suicide rather than face having a trans kid?

The guys tell him that he's acting like a jackass, so Doggie Daddy loses deliberately.  But instead of finally accepting his son, he goes to live in the grave: "That's it!  I've lost my daughter forever!," he says in tears.   So Augie drops the moustache and goes back to being a girl.  The end.

What...no!  Boo!  What kind of message does that send about gender diversity?  Doggie Daddy should have accepted his child, boy or girl.  

And what about Johnny and Hadji.  The writers tweeted that they couldn't be explicit about the couple, but "in our minds they are happily married." So you can have gay characters as long as no one watching the show has any idea that they are gay. 

My Grade: F-.

See also: Yogi Bear and Boo Boo.

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