May 27, 2022

"Louder Milk": Sobriety Can Be Funny, Sort of.


Amazon Prime has pushed a tv series called Louder Milk at me.  Curious about how milk can be loud, I checked out the promo:  It's actually one word, the name of focus character Sam Loudermilk (why?), a substance abuse counselor "with an extremely bad attitude."  Sam is played by American actor Ron Livingston.

Wait -- it's not British?  But only Britcoms feature jerks.  In America, they may be grumpy and even bigoted, but they always have a heart of gold, under the theory that you wouldn't want to invite a disagreeable person into your home every week for several years.  

Nope, it's American, actually set in Seattle.  And rather obsessed with boy-girl stuff, according to the episode synopses.  In the first season, Sam lets a young addict named Claire stay on his couch, plus starts a romance with Allison.  Plus boy-boy stuff appears to be abusive: group member Tom (who, in his late 50s, hardly qualifies as the "new kid in town" in the episode title) gets a sponsor named Cutter, who "makes his life a living hell."

LGBT people have higher rates of substance abuse than the heterosexual population, due to the stress of living in a homophobic society; generally they have their own support groups to avoid harassment from homophobic members, but maybe the tv series has some gay characters. I reviewed the Season 2 episode "Iron Man," in which "Claire learns a secret."  Secrets on tv are usually about someone being gay.

Previously:  Claire's mother and a priest telling Loudermilk that she is a "good girl," interspliced with scenes of her working as a stripper (yuck!).  Then the group is annoyed with her because she talks too much: "We've heard this story a hundred times.  Your Mom was cheating on your Dad, back when you were still a lesbian."  So Claire was gay, but then got cured?  That's way retro-homophobia.

Scene 1: 
 Loudermilk tags along while Claire shops for shoes before their sobriety meeting.  He flirts with the blond woman sitting next to him (why isn't she trying on shoes?), but is turned off when she starts bteastfeeding her ten-year old son.  

Scene 2; Back home, Ben (Will Sasso, left) and Claire or a lookalike (every woman on this show is blonde!)  wonder why Loudermilk is making groaning noises.  Is he getting laid?  No, he hurt his back lifting weights (very light dumbbells).  

Scene 3: At the coffee shop/record store, a song about Lois Lane plays, and Claire the ex-lesbian criticizes 1990s grunge music with her long-haired coworker.  Loudermilk hobbles in (still injured) and orders a coffee.  

A male-female couple comes in, and Claire shrieks and hides.  They see her anyway, so she is forced to be polite: "Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Enderby."  They offer condolences about her Dad; they miss seeing her parents at the club. So Claire's family is rich.  Figures.  

She claims to be the manager of the coffee shop/record store, but the boss blows her cover by ordering her to take care of a toilet emergency! Why do dead-end jobs on tv always involve cleaning toilets?  I'd rather clean toilets than go back to some of the "better" jobs I've had.

Later Claire tells Loudermilk that Mr. Endersby is the one Mom was having an affair with, back when she was a lesbian.  

Scene 4: A Catholic church.  The sobriety group is meeting. Not a lot of beefcake here: the guys are all rather unattractive, except maybe for Cisco (Tyler Layton-Olson, top photo).  And apparently heterosexual, as they are discussing hockey and women's breasts.  A woman named Brooke comes in and wants to join.  Loudermilk says it's a men-only meeting.  But what about Claire?  "Oh, she's a guy."  So gay men are "girls," and lesbians are "boys"?  But you forgot that Claire isn't a lesbian anymore.  

Loudermilk lets her join anyway.  Her story: she been sober for three years, she's run a suber-living group for the last two years, and she owns a chain of "wellness franchises."  They specialize in Eastern medicine, but also do chiropractic.  Isn't she a little advanced for this group?  She also lost her husband due to her alcoholism.  Of course, it's heterosexuals all the way down. 

Next up: Claire.  The night her dad died, she was at a sorority party and missed his final phone call.  If she hadn't been drinking and talked to him, maybe he wouldn't have....

Scene 5: The meeting is over. Loudermilk is putting away chairs, when he collapses due to back pain.  Brooke rushes over to help, but he rebuffs her.  I thought for sure they would start dating. Father Michael, the priest at the church where the group meets, summons Claire to his office...

Where her estranged Mom is waiting!  With news: she's going to sell the house: it's too big, and she can't take care of it all by herself.  This upsets Claire.  Why would she care?  She hasn't lived there in years.  She has to come and pick up her things.  "Hell, no, growl, growl, growl." 

Scene 6:  Claire helps the injured Loudermilk into the house.  She then goes to her room, sketches a picture of her father, and looks up the University of Washington website.  How are these activities connected?  I don't know, but doubtless a regular viewere would.

Scene 7: Morning. Loudermilk on the floor in the kitchen.  Claire convinces him to call Brooke the Wellness Expert.  Then she bikes over to the opulent mansion, hoping to get her stuff while Mom is out.  Why would Mom need to take care of the mansion by herself?  Surely she has an army of housekeepers and gardeners to do it.  Mom comes in and asks why Claire hates her so much: "Dad killed himself when he discovered that you were fucking Mr. Endersby."  

But that's not it at all.  Mom reveals that Dad was having an affair with Mrs. Endersby!  And his suicide had nothing to do with the affair: his company was going under, so he was bankrupt.  

So now Claire hates Dad, not Mom.  Rather a judgemental type, isn't she?

Scene 8:  Claire leaves.  Biking through town, she runs into her old dealer, who says "we've missed you" and asks if he can get her anything: "my treat."  She looks torn.

Meanwhile, Brooke the Wellness Expert is doing chiropractic on Loudermilk.  She cures him; they flirt.  Ok, so the dating is happening.  

Scene 9:  On her way to the sobriety meeting, Claire sees Brooke and Loudermilk outside the church. She grins,  delighted that he's dating someone.

In the meeting, they all complain about Cisco getting a job as a bartender. Ever see "Cheers"?   Then Claire shares that she got into substance abuse due to guilt over her father's death.  She understands now that she had nothing to do with it, but she's still stuck.  She is unable to move on.  Well, it's only been a couple of hours...

Scene 10: Claire at home, going through the box of stuff she brought back from Mom's house: pictures, an old record album, a snow globe.  Loudermilk comes in and sees the University of Washington website on her laptop.  "I got in," she announces.  I guess she still has a trust fund to pay for it.  

Beefcake: None.

Heterosexism: To be a man is to be interested in women, as we see from the group meeting.  Loudermilk does a little flirting.

Gay Characters:
Only Claire the ex-lesbian, and she doesn't express any romantic interest.  

The "ex-lesbian" thing comes only from one line in the prologue.  Googling Claire always has her identified as gay or bisexual.  

Disagreeable:  True to American sitcom tradition, Loudermilk is grumpy but has a heart of gold.

Comedy: This is not a comedy, it's a drama with jokes.  Granted, the jokes are witty, although usually a bit vulgar.  

My Grade: C-.

May 26, 2022

"Fear the Walking Dead: Dead in the Water": Isn't it Great that Those Pesky Gay People Don't Exist?


There have been several tv series based on The Walking Dead, about a zombie apocalypse (but no one is allowed to call them zombies).  LGBT representation is mixed, usually gay characters who die immediately, or who never actually express any same-sex interest.  The latest, Fear the Walking Dead: Dead in the Water, is set on the claustrophobic world of a submarine.  An all-male environment is bound to have some buddy-bonding.

Prelude: Submarine officers led by an extremely craggy, unattractive former teen idol Nick Stahl (not the Nick Stahl in the top photo).  Apparently they're about to launch nuclear missiles.  Psych!  In spite of the sweat and grim looks, it's just a training exercise!

Part 1:
It's the U.S.S. Pennsylvania, on patrol in the Gulf of Mexico.  Nick stops in the galley and talks to the chef, who says "I hear you got a kid now."  In real life, 30% of LGBT have children, but on tv it's a coy way to demonstrate that you're heterosexual.  Next he talks to the radio guy, who's getting no transmissions.  Weird.  Then he goes to his bunk to look at a sonogram of his baby.  Pregnant wife.  This is going to be a tear jerker.

Left: Nick Stahl back when we were young and the world was fresh and new.  Pardon me while I get nostalgic. Can it be that it was all so simple then, or has time re-written every line? If we had the chance to do it over again, tell me, would we?  

The captain criticizes him for screwing up the training exercise this morning.  "If you want your own ship some day, you'd better shape up.  But I understand -- you're young and impetuous, with a pregnant wife back home."  Um...Nick Stahl is 42.  They discuss the importance of a wife and kids ad nauseam. 

New problem; Friedman needs an appendectomy, and the medevac isn't responding.  The medic, Park (Alexander Biglane, left), has to do it right on the ship, in the mess hall (you can tell by the conveniently placed bottles of ketchup and mustard).

The surgery: we see all the blood and guts.  Friedman flatlines.  They stash the body in the freezer until they get to port.

Darn -- so far Calum Sharman (below) is the only cute guy in the cast.  Maybe he'll come back in a flashback. 

Park explains that he died because the ship isn't equipped for surgery; a medevac is supposed to take you to a hospital.  Why didn't they respond?   Why hasn't anyone responded?  "Something is happening out there."  

Cut to the freezer, where Friedman is coming back to life!  As a zombie!

Part 2:  They discuss how terrible it is that Friedman died, because he had a wife and kids.  Ancient heterosexist propaganda: a man's life has value only if he has a wife and kids.  Single heterosexuals and gay men are worthless.   

Radio guy says they finally got a message from headquarters, after two weeks of silence: the army is being deployed due to medical incidents.  Something bad is going down.  Should Nick abandon his duties and go home to his pregnant wife?  

They need to clear the freezer to accommodate the body, so everyone gets ice cream sundaes in the mess hall (which was full of blood and guts an hour ago?  Gross!).  The cook hears something in the freezer -- and is attacked by zombie Friedman!  Two other guys are bitten before they manage to subdue it. They don't realize that anyone who is bitten turns into a zombie, so they just send the guys to get patched up.

I think this is a stand-alone mini-movie, not the first episode of a tv series.  Which means that in the last scene, they'll all be dead.  I hate movies where everyone dies, so I'll watch Part 3 and then fast-forward.

Part 3:  They finally get a complete message from headquarters: an order to fire the nuclear missiles.  As Nick and Radio Guy head toward the captain's office, they are attacked by another zombie!  They hit it in the head with a fire extinguisher.  But they aren't aware of zombies yet; as far as they know, this guy is just sick.

Next they encounter a roomful of zombies eating someone,  Nick turns on the alarm and rushes past them to the galley.  The medic is a zombie, too.  How did so many crewmen turn so fast?  How will anyone survive the next 25 minutes of screen time?

Nick and two other crewmen hide in the walk-in freezer.  They wonder whether this zombie epidemic is happening on land.  Our wives and kids!   Ok, ok, only heterosexuals exist, only heterosexuals have value, I get it.  You don't need to keep harping on it.  

Beefcake: None.

Buddy-Bonding: None.

Heterosexism:  Incessant.

Fast Forwarding:  Five or six crewmen survive.  They abandon ship and go out in search of their wives and kids.  Nick calls his wife (cell phones still work).  They discuss how great it is to be heterosexual, so their lives have value.  Then, suddenly....

My Grade: F-.

May 23, 2022

Pop Quiz about the H-Word


When someone tells you that a word causes them pain, what is the proper response:

a. No, it doesn't.  You are wrong.  I know what you are feeling, and this word definitely doesn't cause you pain.

b. I understand that the word causes you pain, but I'm going to continue to use it around you anyway, because I enjoy hurting people.

c. Ok, I won't use it around you.

May 22, 2022

"Boss Baby: Back in the Crib": Is Boss Baby Gay?

Boss Baby
 started as a children's book, then became two movies (2017, 2021) and a tv series (2018) about a secret baby-run corporation (the babies actually behave more like secret agents than business people).  In spite of the Hollywood mandate that every boy, regardless of age, meet the Girl of His Dreams, Boss Baby displays no heterosexual interest.  In the 2021 movie, he's all grown up; his older brother Tim has a wife and kids; but Boss Baby (aka Ted) never mentions a wife or girlfriend (at least, none are mentioned in the wikipedia profile).  

Now, on Netflix tv, Boss Baby is Back in the Crib, grown-up but reverting to a baby again. The promo is not promising:  he has a female counterpart, no doubt a girlfriend.  Has he finally given in to the heterosexist mandate?  To find out, I reviewed Episode 1.

Scene 1: The adult Boss Baby, real name Ted (JP Karliak), the CEO of an adult-run corporation, suddenly discovers that FBI wants to arrest him for embezzlement.  He calls around to see which of his employees is the real culprit.  Jaron?  "Yes, but I can't go to jail.  I have a wife and five kids."  Ted; "I respect your weird choices."  A guy married to a woman?  How bizarre!   

Bradley?  "All we did was take corporate money to buy stuff we wanted.  We didn't want to go to jail, so we framed you.  Is that cool?"

Ted runs.  There's no place to hide -- or is there/  He has a formula that turns adults into babies for 48 hours!

Scene 2: 
Now a baby, Ted approaches his grown-up brother, Tim (Max Mittelman), and his kids (baby Tina, preteen girl Tabitha), asking for a place to hide out for a few years (why doesn't he name his employees, who have all confessed?).  

He also needs a job at Baby Corp, so he can get more formula and stay a baby.   Tim is hesitant; his wife is not aware that babies can talk, and finding out usually scrambles adult brains.

Scene 3: Baby Ted gradually tells Tim's wife his secret, in spite of the brain-damage danger.  Bottom line: "I'm either a baby here, or a grown-up in jail."  

Scene 4:  Baby Ted and his baby niece Tina (not a girlfriend, sigh of relief) head to Baby Corp, where he's a legend.  Lots of hand-shaking.  He hugs Amal (Kevin Michael Richardson), an old co-worker. (Wait -- why didn't his co-workers from 30 years ago grow up?).

Back when he was CEO, Ted tried to increase the love for all babies, but new CEO Nannycam is only interested in the top 5%, the cutest babies.  Especially the Ultra-Baby Omega (UBO), whose cuteness level is actually toxic: after about eight seconds, you run away screaming.  Only authorized personnel are allowed to see her.  Reminds me of the Star Trek episode with an alien who drives anyone who sees it mad.  Is it too ugly, or too beautiful?

CEO Nannycam refuses to give Baby Ted a job, since he's actually an adult.  To win her over, Niece Tina, the head of field operations, invites him along on a mission.

Scene 5:
 A rogue cheek-pincher has invaded a library, producing grumpy, fussing babies and thereby reducing baby love.  Tina and her team, try various strategies to stop her, but fail.  

One of the operatives, Pip (Karan Soni), appears to be non-binary: both pink and blue in their jumper, never referred to with a pronoun. 

Ted goes home and asks his pre-teen niece, Tabitha, to help him get Tina demoted, so he can take her job.   She's a computer expert, and offers to hack into the Babycorp system. He's going to sabotage his own niece?

Scene 6: Back at the library, Baby Ted tricks the Cheek-Pincher into seeing the Ultra-Baby Omega on a nanny cam.  She runs away screaming.  Now the CEO will think that Tina hacked into their system, and demote her!  An eerie parallel to Ted's staff framing him.

Scene 7:  Baby Ted has a change of heart, and takes responsibility (naturally).  The CEO is so impressed that she makes him Co-Vice President of Field Operations -- he'll be Tina's partner.  But she's his niece, so there still won't be any heterosexual subtexts.?

"Now go home and make time for what matters -- family."  Ugh, I hate the "heterosexual nuclear family is everything" rhetoric.  

Is Boss Baby Gay? 
Obviously for  plot logistics, the adult Ted can't have kids of his own, or he'd be adventuring with his own daughter.  Only the avuncular relationship will work.  But he could easily have mentioned a girlfriend.  He doesn't.  

When Ted becomes a baby, baby interests kick in, so he could conceivably meet a potential partner at Baby Corps.  But he doesn't seem interested in the female CEO or the female members of the field team.  And what are we to make his statement that his employee's wife and kids are the result of "weird choices"?  

The voice actor, John Paul Karliak, has purple hair, a queer identity, and a twitter account full of fundraisers for trans youth.  That doesn't mean that his character is canonically gay: he's also voiced Wile E. Coyote.   Wait -- Wile E. Coyote was obsessed with "eating" the Road Runner, a boy....

Update:  When Ted remembers all of the birthdays he celebrated as an adult, he goes out to dinner and an improv club with his two "best friends," a man and a woman.  I think he's canonically aromantic/asexual.  

See also: Boss Baby: Rugrats Meets Dilbert

Summertime Beefcake at the Dunking Booth

Among my favorite summertime sights are the dunking booths at festivals, county fairs, Celtic games, school carnivals, summer camps, and various parties.

They are descended from the old dunk tanks used as punishment in the Middle Ages, where people accused of witchcraft or other "crimes" would be tied to a chair and dunked underwater.

In modern dunking booths, you just get wet.

The "victim" sits on a level platform suspended above a tank of water.  People line up to try a feat, like hitting a target.  If they are successful, the platform falls away, and he falls into the water.

Sometimes there's no feat; you pay for the privilege of pushing a lever and dunking the victim.

The tank is often made of clear plastic so you can watch him flailing around.

The victim is usually male, often a teacher, preacher, camp counselor, college football star, or other high-prestige figure, to make the dunking a kind of "revenge."

But don't worry: Dunking only occurs on hot days, when being dunked repeatedly is rather refreshing.

And you get to see a lot of attractive men in short pants or swimsuits.

See also: Celtic Festivals

Beefcake Boys in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"

What gay man of a certain age doesn't have a  fond memory of seeing The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)?  Dolly Parton as the madam, Burt Reynolds as the sheriff, and the entire Texas Aggie football team naked in the locker room, singing about how a visit to the whorehouse is their reward for a winning season. 

Male rear nudity!  Very rare in 1982!

It's based on a 1978 Broadway musical, with Carlin Glynn as the madam, Henderson Forsythe as the sheriff, and, again, the entire Texas Aggie football team dancing in their underwear.

The controversial subject matter makes most community and little theaters shy away from it, and no high school will touch it at all, but occasionally you can find a performance, with local hunks playing Aggies parading about in their altogether.

1. Diamondhead Theater in Hawaii.  I wonder if they changed the Texas Aggies to whatever team the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.

2.Frostburg Theater in Maryland puts the guys in pants rather than towels.  As long as their chests and shoulders are out, that's fine with me.

3. The Circle Theater in Chicago is cheating.  Underwear, but mostly t-shirts.  No fair!

4. Finger Lakes Musical Theater Festival in upstate New York gives us leaping cowboys.

5. Carpenter Square Theater in Oklahoma City, a real cowboy town.  But...white pants?

6. Hobby Center in Houston.  More cowboys, more white pants. 

7. Signature Theater in Washington, DC.  Pants, and open shirts instead of shirtless.  That's really cheating.

8.  The Broadway Rose Theater is in Tigart, Oregon, the other side of the continent from Broadway.  White pants and some t-shirts, not spectacular.

9.  The Palace Theater in Manchester, New Hampshire gives us some really buffed Aggies.  Too bad they can't lose the plaid shirts.

10. The Tokyo International Players hide behind a sheet.  Why don't they just draw a line across their penises, like Japanese porn?

See also: My review of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
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