May 14, 2022

"Welcome To Eden, Episode 2": Searching for LGBTQ Characters among the Eco-Cultists of a New "Lost"


Ok, based on a comment that there are gay, bi, lesbian, and trans relationships, I'm going to do something I almost never do: review the second episode.  Welcome to Eden, as  you recall, is a Latin American teen thriller about six young adults tricked into coming to a party on an island run by the weird cult leader or mad scientist Astrid.  As the first episode ends, they discover that they were given a drink to knock them out, and all of the other party guests have gone home.  They're trapped.

Scene 1:  On the boat ride back, one of the party guests notices that two girls are missing (in a party of 100, how could he tell?).  He is reassured: they can catch a ride on the employees' boat.

Cut to Fran, the bartender who screwed up in Episode 1, being chased across the island by employees on foot and on horseback.  If you screw up here, you're not just fired; you're killed. Eva, who likes him, finds him.

Scene 2:  Still pretending that they just missed the return boat, Sinister Astrid and her joined-at-the-hip husband show the five guinea pigs (one is missing) around the facility.  There are people doing tai chi, going surfing.  An employee glares at focus character Zoa.  "Everyone is here because they want to be," Astrid claims.  "No one is forced."  Ok, they aren't employees, they're cultists.

Cut to Eva, who likes Fran the Bartender, but still signals the others to come and kill him.  Ulp.

"Don't worry.  Another boat will be here to pick you up tomorrow.  Until then, just relax and have fun."

Astrid and hubby gaze at each other like they're about to rip their clothes off.  I'm getting really tired of this couple.

Scene 3:
Zoa's sister Gabi at home.  Her rather hunky Dad (Cesar Mateo, I think) and his female hookup emerge from the bedroom, swallow each other's tongues, and ask where Zoa is.  Gabi doesn't know.  They discuss Druggie Mom, who is out of the clinic and clean -- yet again, but keeps calling and asking for money.  Backstory drama.

Scene 4:  Ulysses, the muscle from Episode 1, shows the guinea, um...guests to their modules.  They balk; they want to stay together.  Nope, wherever there's a spare bed.

Zoa's module-mates are Claudia, who was upset by Fran the Bartender getting beat up last night, and Nico (Sergio Momo) (beefcake alert: he's wearing a towel).

Rebellious Aldo, upset over the "incompetence" of being left behind, complains to his new module-mate (a girl).  He wants to talk to the boss, but module-mate tells him to keep a low profile and don't ask questions.  

Scene 5: In the middle of the night, Rebellious Aldo wakes up to see his module-mate climb out of bed and make a mysterious gesture through the glass wall.   When she goes back to sleep, he leaves the module and looks around.  A drone spies on him!

Scene 6: 
Morning.  Medic Saul (Jonathan "Maravilla" Alonzo) extracts blood from them to check for viruses, and they are forced to put on cult uniforms.  "Hey, I thought we were going home today." "The boat, er...delayed due to bad weather.  You'll be here another day."

Influencer Africa has a contraband cell phone, and tries to call out.  Sinister Astrid's husband catches her with it, and confiscates it.  So that's what he looks like with his tongue in his own mouth.  They flirt, and show each other their tattoos.  

More weird antics and upset, crying cultists.  

Zoa stumbles upon the stables.  Orson, who had a three-way with her missing friend Judith and his girlfriend last night, is kissing a guy, Eloy (Carlos Soroa, top photo)!  He sees Zoa watching and get angry.  But she just wants to know if he has any clues to Judith's disappearance.  He denies even knowing her.

Scene 7:  Last night a girl approached Classical Music Lover Ibon as he sat alone on the beach.  Today he runs into her playing the piano (what a coincidence!).  They flirt for quite a long scene.  

Meanwhile,  Rebel Aldo gets a dune buggy and drives it over the island.  The scary gray-clawed fingers, monitoring him, report a perimeter break.  A girl tracks him down and flirts with him.  

Scene 8:  Zoa is still trying to find out what happened to her missing friend Judith.  She asks her module-mate Nico if he knows anything about it.  He doesn't.  

She says she wants to go home.  "Why, you have a boyfriend waiting for you....or girlfriend?"  They both laugh at "girlfriend": obviously it's ridiculous.  Lesbians do not exist, just "girls gone wild" waiting for a man.

Back home, Little Sister Gabi gets a delivery "from Zoa."  The box says "Lyon."  Am I expected to know what it is?

Scene 9: Back at the modules, Sinister Astrid and the cultists are congratulating Eva for tracking down Fran the Bartender, so he could be killed.  As a reward, she gets to decide "who will do today's evaluation."   She chooses Zoa!  But...Zoa doesn't even belong to the cult.  How will she know what to do?

Oh, she's not leading the evaluation, she's being evaluated.

Two cultists sign that she's not ready for brainwashing; she needs to be observed more first.  

It's basically Astrid interrogating Zoe about her family, looking for a weakness.  When Zoa mentions that it's her little sister's birthday, the scary gray-claw fingers start typing, and arrange for the delivery of a birthday cake.  That's the Lyon package.

Aha, Zoe's Mom is a drug addict.  "How does that make you feel?" Sinister Astrid asks.  "Repeat after me: My mother doesn't love me.  She hates me.  Again!  Louder!  Louder!"

Back home, Little Sister Gabi gets a text from "Zoa": "I'm staying here for awhile.  I need some time.  Don't look for me, because I'm fine."   Gabi is suspicious, obviously.  I think she'll be saving the day.

Scene 10:
The evaluation over, Sinister Astrid and her husband swallow each other's tongues for 45 minutes or so. (Left: the only scene they have together where they aren't kissing.)

Everyone else hugs, except for Influencer Africa, the Rebel Aldo, and two morose-looking female cultists.  I don't know who; I got into this without realizing that the cultists would be important characters, so I never bothered to keep track.

Back home, Little Sister Gabi gets upset, yells, and breaks things.  

Scene 11: Zoa awakens in the middle of the night.  A little boy is staring at her through the glass wall (the closing credits identify him as Isaac, played by Max Sampietro.  But there are no kids on the island!  She follows him out, and he vanishes!  The end.

The Cult:  What kind of cult just wants five new recruits?  And why research the recruits in extreme detail?  Don't cults take anybody?

The Blue Drink:  Completely forgotten about in Episode #2.  I think it was just something to knock out the guinea pigs.

Paranormal:  None except for the little boy, who might be a ghost.

Ok, I was promised at least one each of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters. 

Bisexual: Orson kisses boys and girls.

Gay Male: Eloy, the boy Orson was kissing.

Lesbian:  Nico and Zoa think that the idea of lesbians is ridiculous.

Transgender:  No one mentioned.  Maybe Little Sister Gabi, back home?  No, according to the website Netflixdeed, it's Maika, played by trans actress Lola Rodriguez.  She ends up dating guinea pig Charlie.

Will I Keep Watching: Nope

May 13, 2022

Dennis Cole

Most heterosexuals go about their daily lives as if they are alone in the universe.  If asked, they will say "Sure, some men are gay, which means they're into men, not women," but in the next moment, they'll announce "There's not a man alive who wouldn't want a date with Angelina Jolie or whoever.

The IMDB biography of Dennis Cole assures us that "Females couldn't get enough of him," while males idolized his athleticism.  That's right, every woman and no man swooned over him.

What about his early modeling in beefcake magazines, notably the gay-oriented Physique Pictorial and Bob Mizner's Athletic Model Guild?

Or his work as the hustler Cowboy in a San Diego production of the gay-themed Boys in the Band?

Or King Marchand, the man who falls in love with a woman he thinks is a drag queen, in the national touring company of Victor/Victoria?.

He didn't play any gay characters on tv, but really, between 1965 and 1995, there weren't many gay characters to play, especially if you were too muscular to pull off a thin, willowy queen.  But he played around gay and LGBT characters:

"The Fourth Sex" episode of Medical Center (1975), with Robert Reed as a transgender doctor.

"Star Struck," an episode of Three's Company (1983), with Jack Tripper pretending to be gay.

Early in his career, he went the buddy-bonding route, with two homoerotic detective partners: Howard Duff in Felony Squad (1966-69) and Rod Taylor in Bearcats! (1971).

Dennis was married three times, for a few years each (his second wife was Jacyln Smith of Charlie's Angels.)  When his son Joey was killed in a robbery attempt in 1991, he refused to be associated with any violence in movie or tv productions, which limited his options. He acted on screen only a few more times before his death in 2009, though he continued to work in theater.

May 10, 2022

"Welcome to Eden": A Wild Party, an Energy Drink, a Shy Boy, and Lots of Girls

Welcome to Eden,
on Netflix, seems to be one of those Latin American teen angst dramas with lots of hunks.  Ok, I wouldn't mind seeing some hunks.

Scene 1: A girl walks through a scary, rocky island, calling for "Judith," then for "anybody."  She finds a bottle and flashes back.

Two days before: The girl, Zoa, come home, ignores her mom's phone call, goes into her room, and undresses (gratuitous underwear shots).  While showing us her body, she gets a text: "Are you happy?"  Guys used to ask that while cruising.  I thought it a stupid question.  Who could possibly distill the innumerable tiny pleasures and annoyances of everyday life into a general sense of being "happy"?  

Zoa says that she doesn't know, whereupon the texter, whose grey clawlike nails we see typing, offers her a chance at perfect bliss: Blue Eden, a party full of attractive young adults dancing, swimming, and smooching on a tropical island.  So this resort weekend is free because...?

The scary boss interrupts the texter.  "This is the last one.  It was hard to get 100."  Not too many nitwits out there?  

Scene 2:
Zoa invited her friend Judith, even though the contract said "No guests."  Showing way too much skin, they take a cab to the scary, deserted industrial area where they're supposed to be picked up.  Run.  

They meet another "lost soul," Aldo (Albert Baro).  Suddenly a drone appears and leads them up some stairs, where a guy in a ski masks ushers them into a scary warehouse.  Run.  

Aldo tries to befriend another guest, but is rebuffed when he insults the guy's interest in classical music.  

The lights go out, and ski mask guy ushers them onto a scary black bus. Gulp!

Scene 3: There are no seats on the bus, so they pass the time by dancing, drinking, and taking off their clothes (the girls do, anyway).  Eventually they reach a beach, where they go through a metal detector and are forced to hand over their phones. Entitled influencer Africa balks.  

Judith is not on the guest list, so the ski-mask guys try to eject her, but the boss overrules them and says "ok."  You're going to wish you had stayed behind, as soon as the Squid Game starts.

Scene 4:
The sailboat taking them to the island.  More drinking.  Lots more drinking.  Some dancing.  Classical Music Guy (Diego Garisa) hangs back by himself.  Pan out to a shot of the boat lost and alone in the endless black ocean.  How sinister can you get?

Meanwhile, in the scary control room, Boss and her assistant are looking through the various profiles.  "Him!" Boss announces.  "Get the team ready, and tell Fran to do it right this time.  No more mistakes!"  

Boss explains to her assistant, who should know this already, that they will choose five semi-finalists, give them "the drink," and take them away.  The others will attend an actual party.

Scene 5:  Zoe and  Judith asleep in their state room.  This sailboat is bigger on the inside than on the outside.  They go up to the deck to see the island in the distance.  They've arrived!  Now they and dance some more?  

Watching them arrive, the Boss (I think) and her husband kiss.  Their smooch fills the screen.  Employees also watch.  A female employee gazes longingly at a male employee.  Ok, ok, everybody in the universe is heterosexual.  I get it.  You don't need to have every one of the background characters demonstrate.  Metal detectors, sinister wrist bands, and more...dancing.

Uh-oh, social influencer  Africa sneaked a cell phone onto the island.  We see her singing to a huge crowd; I can't tell if it's at the party or a flashback.  In the foreground, a boy and a girl kiss. Maybe she's Zoa or Judth -- I can't tell, because every girl at this party looks exactly alike -- thin, white, with long brown hair and multiple rings on every finger.   Oh, she introduces herself as Zoa.

Suddenly the music stops and the Boss appears in a pool of white light, like an Angel or the Messiah (or Lucifer).  She announces that the party is to launch their new energy drink, also called Blue Eden.  Only those who have an illuminated wristband can have some.  

Scene 6: Classical Music Fan is sitting on the beach by himself.  A girl comes over to allow him to demonstrate that he's heterosexual.  He explains that he doesn't like parties.  Then why did you come?

Flashback to his Dad, who seems to be the dictator of a small country, yelling at him for being a screw-up, obsessed with music instead of concentrating on his studies.  "This is a totalitarian state!  How will it look if my son needs re-education?"  They argue; Dad calls him a "useless little shit" and punches him. "And you're going to that party!  The torture will teach you a lesson!"

Scene 6:
The girl is called away by an argument: an aggressive guest is trying to get a drink from bartender Fran (Marti Atance), the guy the Boss was complaining about earlier. She pushes him aside and serves the drink, then brings the muscle Ulysses (Alex Pastrana, left) over to beat Fran up.  "When are you going to learn to obey?  One more mistake, and it will cost you your life!"

Meanwhile, Judith was so busy smooching with Orson (Joan Pedrola, top photo) that she lost  Zoa.  She asks around "Have you seen a girl about my height, with medium brown hair?"  Yes, every girl at this party, why?  

She stumbles upon the goon beating up Fran, and freaks out.  She rushes out to the beach and grabs Orson, to discuss the problem and kiss some more.  Eventually his girlfriend shows up, and they begin a three-way.

Scene 7:
Zoa wanders around being drunk and disoriented.  She almost falls off a cliff, but she's rescued by Employee Nico (Sergio Momo).

Meanwhile, Boss and her husband smooch and discuss their selections: Zoa, Influencer Africa, Aldo from Scene 2,  Iban (Classical Music Fan), and Charlie (the one who was arguing with the bartender earlier).  "They all feel alone in their lives, abandoned, rejected."  

"Who are you betting on?"  Boss asks.

Husband: "Zoa."  We see her profile: biology student, would be useful for maintaining the island's ecosystem.  

Boss is betting on Ibon, the son of a ruthless businessman, with frustrated musical aspirations.  But maybe Aldo would be a better choice: he's got leadership qualities.  Charlie is a complete mess, and Africa doesn't care about anything but social media and shoes.

Scene 8: Zoa awakens on a cliff.  Everyone is gone except for the five candidates.  A drone appears and leads them over the black rocks to a weird group of futuristic oval buildings.  Boss and the employees are waiting with sinister smiles.  Boss welcomes Eden.

Wait -- Judith was left behind, too.  As she searches the empty camp, someone grabs her.  The end.

Beefcake:  None, in spite of the hunks. The girls are semi-naked all the time.  Not the boys.

Heterosexism:  Lots.  Classical Music Fan Iban doesn't smooch any girls, but he probably didn't have time.  The five Chosen Ones plus Judith result in three boys, three girls, so no doubt they will all pair off.

Gay Characters:  There's some "girls gone wild" kissing as a prelude to kissing boys.

Wacky Machinations:  What's the point of the party? Just pick your five candidates and grab them.   I would be quite upset if I went to a party to launch a new beverage, and didn't get any.  

The Drink:  What was it supposed to do, just knock the five out so they could be left behind?

Will I Keep Watching:  Only to see if Iban hooks up with a boy.  

Update: He gets a girlfriend.

"The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" becomes "Bel Air": You Win Some and You Lose Some

In the early 1990s, the violent crime rate was the highest of the century,  AIDS deaths peaked at 40,000 per year,  and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" allowed gay people to serve in the military as long as they stayed closeted.  Still, I remember it as the best of times: book readings at the Different Light, cruising at Mugi, brunch at the French Quarter, Friday night services at the gay synagogue, parties, dinners, classes, a world of infinite promise.  Not much time for television, although on Monday nights we might settle down to watch Murphy Brown, Designing Women, The Nanny, or Blossom, with a yet-to-hunkify Joey Lawrence.  Rarely if ever The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-96) starring Will Smith as a poor South-Philly teen sent to live with his rich uncle and auntie.  The premise sounded ridiculous, andWill Smith was openly homophobic, so we assumed that his show would be homophobic, too.  I only remember glimpses of a few episodes.

1. Will's Auntie Viv teaches a course in African-American spirtuals at his prep school.  She points out that many "slave songs" contained hidden references giving detailed instructions on how to escape to the North, and sings one to demonstrate.

2. Cousin Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), who bulked up in spite of continually being portrayed as a polo-shirt-wearing yuppie, performs as a stripper.  We watched this one after seeing the synopsis in TV Guide.

3. Will argues that Carlton has assimilated into white culture, and no longer remembers how to be black.

4. Sunday morning.  The family is preparing for church (Episcopalian), when Geoffrey the Butler enters after a night of carousing.  He is wearing a full South of Market leathman costume.  Wait -- is Geoffrey gay?

"You should come to church with us," Aunt Viv says disapprovingly.

"Maybe I should," he agrees.

The only gay reference in the series ends with the gay guy "repenting"?  A the time, the inference didn't bother us.  Seeing ourselves on tv was always a cause for celebration.

Googling "Fresh Prince" and "gay" reveals another gay-themed episode: "As the Will Turns" (April 10, 1995):  Will gets a job on a soap opera, but balks when he discovers that his character will be gay.

5. At a gay B&B in England, some guys were watching "The Crazy American Hour" on tv.  One of the segments was an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  We started to watch.  Someone criticized us: "You travel all the way to England, and spend your time watching American sitcoms."   

"Have you seen Carlton lately?" I responded.  "Major hunk."

That's all for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

The 2022 remake, Bel-Air, retains the basic situation and the names of all the characters, but makes it a somber drama, with Will fleeing South Philly to hide from a gang-banger who wants to kill him, Uncle Philip worrying that "ghetto kid" will ruin his political career, bullies using racist slurs and planting drugs in Will's bag, and so on.  In the first episode, Will flirts with the ex-girlfriend of Cousin Carlton (Olly Sholotan, left), who thereafter hates him.  The overt heterosexism didn't bother me in the 1990s, but it does now.

Oddly, for a show produced by the less-than-gay-friendly Will Smith, the reboot has a gay character, 12-year old Cousin Ashley.  In Episode #5, she tells her sister Hilary that she has a crush on a girl.  Hilary is supportive.

You win some and you lose some.

May 9, 2022

"Werewolf Castle": Mostly Gay Actors, Mostly Shirtless Scenes, and a Dead Wife


Werewolf Castle (2021) has popped up among my Vudu recommendations.  The trailer shows a werewolf eating a girl while Medieval villager Thorfinn (Peter Lofsgard) looks on in horror, but after that it's all beefcake and bonding -- seven shots of the shirtless Thorfinn, plus a scene where another guy grabs his arm.  Besides, who knows who the girl is?  She could be his sister, his mother, or a random villager. 

I'm still worried that I'll fork over $3.95 for a rental and spend two hours watching Thorfinn fight werewolves with his shirt off, only to see him fall in love with a girl.  Time for more research.

1. Getting pictures of his shirtless scenes proved impossible.  There are none on Google Images, and screen captures didn't work with Chrome or Firefox.

2. If "Peter G. Lofsgard" is the same as "Peter Lofsgard," he has a boyfriend.

3. Six of the top-listed stars on IMDB are men.  I am particularly interested in the buddy-bonding potential of Percy, played by Jake Watkins. 

Jake Watkins is also gay.

4. Or Osmond Blakewood (Derek Nelson).

Derek Nelson has lots of pictures of women on his Instagram, so he's probably straight, but he has a bedroom-cuddling shot with Peter Lofgard in Vampire Virus 

5. A second trailer on IMDB shows the girl getting werewolf-ized three times.  Once she's in bed with Thorfinn.  So the dead wife or girlfriend drives the plot!  Boo!  

6. A review on Dread Central complains about having a "flamboyant" gay-coded villain, Wolfstan (Reece Connolly, who is gay and flamboyant in real life).  Maybe it's not a stereotyped gay villain so much as the luck of the draw: when you hire mostly gay actors, some of them are bound to be swishy.

7. Who is hiring all of these gay actors?   Writer/director Charlie Steeds has produced 15 movies, including A Werewolf in England, Vampire Virus, Death Ranch, An English Haunting,  and Escape from Cannibal Farm.  They usually have a heterosexual-romance primary plot, with gay characters or gay subtexts in the background.

I've now spend more time on research than it would take to watch the actual movie.  But sometimes research is a lot more fun.

May 8, 2022

10 Things I Hated About Summer (and Still Do)

Final are all submitted, graduation is over, the students and faculty have scattered.  Summertime is here.  Three months of boredom, sitting in the house all day every day except to go to the gym, nothing to do but prep for the fall and gain weight.

It was the same way when I was a kid.  My favorite season was fall, when school started, with new books and classes, and the leaves started to change, and there was a little chill in the air.  And it was marked the beginning of the great holiday season that began with Halloween, picked up momentum with my birthday and Thanksgiving, and careened into Christmas.

Winter was great, too, with bright skies and biting cold air, wrestling tournaments, sledding, and snow men. I even liked shoveling snow (my brother and I started a snow-shoveling business).

Spring was ok, but a little rainy and muddy, and no good holidays.  Valentine's Day?  St. Patrick's Day?

And summer -- don't get me started!

Here are the Top 10 Things I Hated About Summer  

1. With school out, there was nothing to do.

2. It was too hot.

3. But my parents insisted that I play outside. 

4. I could get sunburned in 10 minutes (in those days, we didn't use sunscreen).

5. There were thunderstorms almost every night, so we had to unplug the tv, thus missing our favorite programs.

6. There was nothing good on anyway, just reruns.

7. I had to go to bed when it was still daylight, and I could look out the window and see all the other kids in the neighborhood playing.

8. My parents kept holding barbecues, picnics, and other activities where you had to eat outside, off paper plates, with the bugs and the dirt, and the wind that  blew everything away.

9. We always went on a horrible week-long camping trip, with nothing to do but swim in muddy water, hunt rabbits, and walk around in the woods.  What gay kid wants to mess around with that gross stuff?

10. And I spent another week at Nazarene summer camp, sleeping in drafty cabins, with nonstop sermons (mostly about boys liking girls) and sports, and the bathroom down a mosquito-ridden path

But there were a few things that made summer bearable (almost).

See also: the Kensington Runestone.

Searching for Beefcake in Shakespeare's Hamlet

Hamlet (1603) is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays.  It's heavy-laden with gay subtexts, from the tortured Hamlet's buddy-bond with Horatio to the  backstage chumminess of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Many contemporary versions, parodies, and pastiches have a queer mentality, too.  Remember Mary Anne on Gilligan's Island as a drag-king Laertes listening to his father pontificate?

But I never thought of watching it for the beefcake, until I saw this still of Filip Adeyev in a Russian version of the tragedy.

Aranui High School often wins out over other productions in New Zealand's National Festival of Shakespeare in Schools.  In 2006 they gave Hamlet a Maori context, with Te Awhiroa Kuka-Sweet as the Prince of Denmark.

In 2014, Hiraeth Artistic Productions in London mounted an all-male Hamlet set in a Liverpool prison, with both buddy-bonding and multiple shirtless shots.

The Theatre de Vanves in Paris went even farther, with Hamlet (Robin Causse) completely nude throughout (the other players wore clothes).

Earlier this year, chestworthy actor and reality-tv star Tom Sandoval appeared on the Bravo talk show Watch What Happens Live to perform the "To be or not to be" soliloquy with his shirt off.  Presumably the intended audience wouldn't pay attention any other way.
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